When we showed up this time, the pastor seemed to have a somewhat defensive posture as we entered the room. We started with some small talk again, but it was awkward. I asked if I could pray, and we did. So then we got down to business. I had prepared a paper listing several of my concerns, many of them being over statements made in sermons, hoping that it would be a springboard for discussion. He was surprised, and said that no one had ever questioned his preaching before. He also stated that he went over his messages with his preaching group, and they did not have a concern with anything he had to say either. He pointed out that one of them held a Ph.D.
When we left the meeting, the pastor assured us that he would take our concerns seriously, and that he would discuss this with others and we would meet again. That meeting did not happen. What did happen is this: As time went on, my wife and I continued to discuss what we needed to do in regard to membership. We decided that even though things were not perfect or resolved, we needed to stop dragging our feet and put our membership in. I stopped our pastor after a Wednesday night Bible study and told him our intentions. He asked if we had received a letter from him yet. We had not, I told him. He said we might want to make our decision after reading that letter.
On Thursday we received that letter. In it, Steve stated his appreciation for our courage in confronting him, and the manner in which we did it. However, he also quoted 2 Timothy 2:14, "Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen." He also went on to state that if we could not have confidence in his preaching, that perhaps we would be more comfortable at another church.
Really? We had bared our souls and made ourselves vunerable again, and this was the response of a church where "Christ is the Master and People Matter."
On Saturday of that same week, I sent him a strongly worded response, and offered to meet with him and anyone he felt appropriate. He responded quickly, asking me to meet with him and 2 elders that Monday following Journeymen, a group I was a part of at that time. On Sunday, we transferred our membership because we did not believe that our issue should keep us from where we felt we needed to be.
The meeting, in my opinion, was a formality at best and an intimidation at worst. None of the issues addressed in my letter were mentioned, only that the letter was too long and therefore inappropriate. I am not even sure if the elders present read the letter. The bottom line message of the meeting in my opinion was "we just need to get along."
I went home and tried to digest the meeting. I tried to honestly look at myself and my wife. Were we causing trouble by having questions? Were we a problem? Is this what church should be like? Is this a place we can comfortably worship God?
It was shortly after this development that we decided to take a "vacation" from UCC. Once again we felt we needed a break to pray, check out some other places again, and sort things out. We ended up coming back mainly because we had forged some friendships, and were not ready to give up on them. Maybe the pastor and some of the leaders don't want to deal with things, but we can still worship there because that is about God and not people. Perhaps you have seen me during services now, putting in my headphones during the message. In all honesty, I find it difficult to listen to someone who refuses to dialogue with me. I know that some have seen me. To this point no one has said a word. Perhaps you will choose to dialogue with me. Or maybe this will help create a dialogue with the pastor or leaders. Or maybe I will be asked to leave. All I know is that I feel a responsibility to say what is on my heart. Anyone care to listen? Does anyone care?