It’s official: I am now an exvangelical.
To be clear: I haven’t walked away from Jesus. But I have walked away from the particular church I once thought was teaching His word and His love.
This evening, I sent an email to my former pastor, resigning my membership in the church I’ve been a part of for more than 20 years.
Over the past several years, the hard right crowd in this congregation has gotten more vocal. Early in the orange monstrosity’s regime, one of the worship leaders told me quite matter-of-factly that he had no problem with a Muslim ban. Another person in leadership was less blunt, but the same message came through.
Way to show the love of Christ, guys.
The pastor tried to walk the tightrope between the two factions. After all, he couldn’t tell half the congregation they had their heads up their asses and that their ridiculous political notions were about as far from the teachings of Christ as they could get. So he waffled. Last summer, he preached a series on racism–and he got pushback from the conservatives. Imagine that: Christians giving him shit because he said racism was bad. That’s how far things had gone.
In addition to all this, the church has been restructuring over the past couple of years. Instead of an executive board, elders now run things. Deacons are a lower-level group. Which wouldn’t be a problem, except that this church has decided they’re “complementarian”, meaning that men and women have complementary roles, but (wait for it) women must be subordinate to men. In other words, only men can be elders, while men and women can be deacons. Put another way, solely because I am a woman and I don’t have a penis, I can never be in authority over a man (no matter how stupid or incompetent he is), and so I could never be an elder.
Last night was the last straw. The church had a business meeting at which they considered two motions. One sought to have women included as elders; the other sought to say that women couldn’t even be deacons. After the first motion was submitted, the pastor held a class to explain why the church was complementarian.
I didn’t attend. Couldn’t bring myself to do it. A friend who still had hope live-messaged it to me.
Valiant women stood up and made excellent points, apparently not realizing the conclusion was foregone. Sure enough, in the end, the complementarian approach won. Only men could be elders, while women and men could be deacons. Nothing changed. It was as though nobody had said a word.
Enough was enough.
So I’m out of there. In all fairness, I was looking around for a new church pre-covid anyway, so it’s not that much in the way of news. I’ve just never made it official like this. Until today, I was merely sliding away, and even though I spent 20 years on worship team and in music ministry and a dozen or so as a deaconness, nobody seemed to notice I wasn’t there. I could have left that quietly, with no noise or statement.
But I wanted to make a statement. I didn’t say why I was leaving, just that effective immediately, I was tendering my resignation as a member. I have no idea whether I’ll hear anything back. Part of me doesn’t want to, and another part feels like, “Do you even care that I was there and now I’m gone?” Which speaks volumes about the church, and some about me, too.
I’m not certain how I feel tonight. I’ve never been divorced, but in a tiny, tiny way, I wonder if this is what it’s like. Kind people have told me that grieving is appropriate, and I know they’re right. Of course I’ll grieve the loss of this body of believers. Once, they were my people, and now they’re not. It’s a loss, no matter how I paint it.
I wonder whether I’m the only one who will walk after last night. After it was over, I talked for a long time with the friend who live-messaged the meeting. She still loves that church and all it’s meant to her, and she’s willing to fight for it. I admire her. There’s a time when I might have been like that. But now, I’m tired. I want a church where I truly fit, not one where I’m constantly readjusting to avoid offending people.
Fourteen years ago, when a very dear friend from church died, my mother told me that she and my father and my sister were going to come to the funeral to support me. No need, I said. I’m okay. These are my people. And back then, in 2007, they were.
But the times, they changed.
I don’t know what the next step will be. The Episcopal church beckons; I’m not certain why. A Catholic friend said, “Maybe you just like liturgy and good music.” Maybe. All I know is that I’m embarking on a journey. Not one I was really ready for—seriously, didn’t I have enough on my plate already? But here I am, and here I go. As houses of worship open up post-covid, the time has come for me to find a new faith community. A new place in which to worship, to practice my faith, to know God.
Tonight, I’m sad that I had to break up with my old church, but I don’t doubt the rightness of that decision, and that has to count for something. It’s Step #1.
And as that great philosopher Scarlett O’Hara said, tomorrow is another day.