Still Too Much Silence?

Photo by nicmcphee via FlickrThis morning, we received a comment on the “Too Much Silence” post, which has already generated its fair share of comments and reactions.  I’m bumping this response to the top because I think it prompts the kind of honest dialogue that we desperately need.  The comment as written:

My parents went to Hunter’s Glenn Church. I went once in the late 80s. It was a typical “Plano” church. They were a 501c business, in a very well to do town, with a reasonably client base. Look, I’ve been burned by “Christians” too many times. My bet is his gay lover was about to “out ” him, or he was molesting a child or something was about to be brought into the open.  At least he didn’t kill his family.  – Steve

I’ll lead with my response, but I invite everyone into the dialogue.  It’s an important one.  How will you respond?

Steve,

I’ve posted your comment in its entirety, without redaction, for a number of reasons.  First off, you’re not the only person who feels this disenfranchised with the church and church leadership.  Without taking too many liberties, I can safely say that many of us who are a part of the CR movement and the CPRpastors movement in particular have been a part of the problem before trying to be part of the solution.  For my own duplicity and hypocrisy while serving as a leader of churches, I offer you a most sincere amend (an apology plus a declaration of having examined my ways and chosen to be transparent, living in accountability).

Secondly, the Celebrate Recovery movement and its sibling, the Celebrating Pastors in Recovery movement, are unfortunately a rarity amongst typical pastoral communities in that I have found them to be a safe place to be real, to be broken, to drop the facade, and to heal in community.  There is a phrase floating around CR: “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” – it succinctly captures why your comment needs to be read, examined, and responded to by those who are in the community of church leadership.

Though I have no particular knowledge of the Hunter’s Glenn situation other than what has been reported by the media, I can offer much less dramatic, yet nonetheless salient, pieces of my own experience as a leader in the church.  You may (or may not – I make no assumptions out of respect for the wounds you have sustained by those who are “Christians,” as you have written) be surprised to learn that many church cultures of which I (and my colleagues over the years) have been a part actually preferred the facade of being “fine” worn upon their pastoral leadership rather than the authentic patina of human, fallible leaders called to serve.  The church culture placed both unrealistic and wholly unhealthy expectations upon leaders.  Let me be absolutely clear: such a climate of expectation and denial in NO way excuses the behavioral atrocities that have made the headlines, nor especially the behavior of leaders that continue to exist in protected obscurity.

The responsibility to address this corporate and cultural denial is twofold: the churches must reexamine the notion of authentic, Biblical servant-leadership; and leaders finding themselves in such cultures of denial and duplicity must no longer ignore the responsibility to seek a healing community where transparency and rigorous self-examination exists in the company of leaders seeking to live out the truthful ways and means of Jesus.

In my experience and observations, sick cultures breed isolation, which in turn skews sensitivities and quickly leads to an uncalibrated life.  We, the church, have a sound Biblical model for living in community, but it must be one that transcends an hour on Sunday morning and that doesn’t vilify discussion of the human condition.  Celebrate Recovery makes a viable attempt to drop the pretense, to create a safe venue where Jesus can meet us where we are, and to draw us in and through community to a place of greater honesty, humility, self-examination, and service, just as Jesus models.  Rome wasn’t built in a day – it has taken decades and even centuries for some of these cultures of denial to calcify and to cement their ways as normative with a distorted yet powerful coefficient of “God” – an unfortunate phenomenon.

Hope is rising – communities like Celebrate Recovery and Celebrating Pastors in Recovery (CPRpastors) are opening their doors to the wounded and the wounded leaders.  In some church communities (I’ve been spent a lot of time in Richardson and Plano, Steve), it might mean an expansion of the ecclesial lexicon to include the utterance of words like pornography, binging and purging, alcohol, emotional abuse, rape, incarceration, control issues, anger, and many more.  We know these issues to be prevalent in our communities.  If we are not explicitly addressing genuine issues in the gathering of the church, what, then, are we left to address?  Has our dance of avoidance become so sophisticated that we are no longer in sync with the music we must face?

Steve, and others who have been “burned” or wounded by the church, I can only hope that you see a genuineness in the likes of CR and CPRpastors to embrace the wounded as Christ would, but to also catalyze a movement of grateful followers of Jesus Christ who may struggle, but continue to grow in community, living examined lives, and inviting others into this way of living.  I don’t pretend to think that a few words in response to your genuine declaration of hurt, disenchantment, and eventual dismissal of the church on a blog could even begin to be enough.  I do write with sincerity, Steve – I am truly sorry that you got burned.  If it means anything, I did too.  Thank you for taking the time to post your experience.  My first hope: that you would give us another chance to show our sincerity through our actions and our words.  My second hope: your honesty will open some dialogue. – Cavett

Have you been hurt?  Have you been a part of a church culture that hurt people?

2 responses to “Still Too Much Silence?

  1. Excellent reply. As a preacher’s kid, I’ve experienced first hand the consequences of a culture that does not allow Ministers and their wives to seek help for any problem. The result? After 34 years of marriage, my parents divorced. An icky, ugly, family-splitting, name-calling, destructive event that has left it’s mark on yet another generation – my children. The stigma of a minister finding help for an issue or their family seeking counseling resulted in so much pain and in their parishioners being hurt as well.

    Me? I left an entire denomination after some of the Ministers I’d known my entire life shunned me. I was 31 and my parents actions were not a result of my own. Everyone – ministers families included – has experienced hurt in the church. Yet now, I am at peace because I am not held accountable for their actions, only praying for them in their struggles. My primary responsibility at this date – this stops with me. My children will not know the pain I’ve known of seeing the enemy destroy their parents, their ministry and their marriage.

    After my dad’s involvement with CR he found healing. Oh, he’s not perfect (I’m his kid and know him too well!) but he is a fine example of striving to do better. Of overcoming a stigma to get help. He is now married to a lovely lady that we are proud to have in our family. My mom? She still lives with the concept of not needing help – she was a minister’s daughter and wife after all! She lives in and daily practices rehearsing the hurt of the past. Polar opposites in their reaction to trouble.

    We have a wonderful saying in our home – “throw them some grace.” After all, our Savior has forgiven us, who are we to hold someone in contempt. It does not excuse someone’s actions, but it does allow us to see them for who they really are – a human in need of a Savior’s love and forgiveness.

    Steve, I pray you find the grace and that you do not allow the enemy of your soul to keep someone else’s struggles from finding the true love, peace and forgiveness in our Savior’s arms.

    ~ Kim

  2. I had forgotten about posting here until an email note was sent. I guess I should say “sorry” for being so ugly about the dead pastor, and I do feel bad, but I wasn’t being dishonest. It wasn’t my intent to cause an argument or “stir the pot.” You see, I too am a survivor of suicide. I
    found my brother with his head blown off , but he was hardly in his 20’s.I’ve had to put up with “Christians” letting me in on a little secret, my brother is now in hell because he “murdered” himself. I am not so thin skinned to be cross w/ Christians because of a couple of incidents. If one thing has been seared into my heart by my brothers’ death , it is time is fleeting. I don’t have time to deal with social clubs anymore. Maybe this is a good thing you all have going on here. That’s fine, and it isn’t my intent to belittle or berate, the blog. I try to be a follower of Christ, although I have given up on the franchise brand Christianity so common today. I read my Bible, say my confessions, and pray, I just don’t attend church anymore. My apologies if I was out of line or if I hijacked the thread. Best regtards, Steve

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