Pt. 1 of My Case for a Holy Hypocrisy
This month John Suk announced his intention of resigning from the CRC, my denomination. John was a former editor of The Banner, the official CRC magazine. The announcement really didn’t take me by surprise given what he wrote in his recent book entitled, “Not Sure: A Pastor’s Journey from Faith to Doubt”.
Some, including myself are sending their sympathy and regrets. Others are a bit relieved. Many have applauded his integrity for taking this difficult step. This posting on his blog expresses more of what is behind his decision and the complexity of it.
I am very happy in my local church. I’m very happy in my classis and in my cluster. I feel very much at home in my confessional situation. I’m not going anywhere, but I do fantasize sometimes.
Fantasies are things that attract us but more reasonable parts of our psyche are pretty convinced they wouldn’t pan out in reality. My fantasy is to lead a church with no boundaries or rules about thought or behavior. I imagine this would be somehow liberating and I would be able to live out the true power of the gospel in a way that my current confines don’t permit.
I’ve actually had this fantasy for a long time. I’ve thought “if I joined the Unitarians what could they kick me out for?” In the church world “non-denominational” has a meaning and expectations that seem to pretty much mirror a denomination and not really the denomination I want to be a part of.
Is it really the rules?
This paragraph in John’s post really struck me.
The irony here is that if I was not the pastor of this church, if I was just another member, sitting in the pews from Sunday to Sunday, I’d probably never leave. I’d be able to keep my intellectual doubts to myself. Non-leaders have much greater latitude to have differing sentiments. But as a leader, my deepest convictions are supposed to find expression in my preaching. I’m supposed to define the benchmarks. I can’t do that anymore. And if I I tried to do so, I would end up rocking the boat badly. That wouldn’t be good or fair to the congregation. I wasn’t hired to be a loose canon.
Part of me thinks “yeah, I can feel those restraints sometimes” but another part of me knows that I pretty much get to say and do what I think. Even though John was taking some heat on the Internet for some of his thoughts, as a pastor of a local church that loves him the odds of a witch hunt are pretty slim. This shows John’s integrity and love for the CRC. He wants to honor it even if it means leaving. I admire that.
We Can’t Fully Quantify “Fit”
Whether it’s epigenetics or oral tradition, whatever we have on paper, whether in mission statements, confessions, or church order the church is a thing we know but can’t fully explain. No matter how many rules you create gross sin and calamity will always find a way to living within your laws. This is of course the wisdom of defining the law as love of God and love of neighbor. When our innate ability to sniff out loop holes requested the definition of neighbor Jesus was merciless.
Seeing this I imagine that “liberty”, that hallowed ideal of American culture, defined as absence from constraint is as simple a thing as elimination of regulations. I’m too old to see it that way. Civilization, culture, and community all require norms. They will emerge whether they are made explicit or become oral tradition.
John Suk, the next CRC Astronaut
John will head out of the airlock into space like many who have gone before. Since he’s a good writer who has taken up blogging and has a demonstrated capacity for honesty it will be good to hear his tales of adventures outside the CRC atmosphere. A good many of us wish him well.
Track records for CRC insiders who left have not always been cheery. I pray that the Lord bless and keep him, and that he keeps in touch with his old tribe.