You’ll see from my previous article that I’ve publicly left the church of England – I do not give a capital c for any church, save when speaking of all God’s people.
I’ve been circulating this to the media as well as among personal contacts around the world.
I won’t be mentioning names – especially individuals – but here’s some of what’s happened so far:
I’ve been thanked for my thoughtful loving words and also told I was too negative. Let us never confuse positivity with passivity. Speaking out is positive – it is a form of love. It’s not more spiritually evolved to never criticise – it’s a kind of spiritual calling.
I’ve been asked if my new church, Between the Stools, will be based on what I do want, rather than what I don’t like. Of course – this stage is about speaking out.
I’ve been told that a church’s door is open should God call me to return – not of my own volition and inclination – and then swiftly closed. No responsibility or interest was taken in my experience – even under that vicar’s roof. He told me that Sunday was his day for the community I’d announced I’d left – ie don’t expect me to even email you today.
A friend said they felt pain on just hearing that – and it wasn’t even said to him. It both invited and felt like a slap. Given the circumstances I’d just revealed to this minister, this was an especially appalling response, and confirmed I was right to withdraw. And this from someone who self describes as “ever the listener”! Not to me.
I am pleased with my reply to him, which included the fact that he had not attempted to know me whilst I was part of that community, and:
“If I were the vicar of a church where a congregant felt so strongly that they left publicly with such needs unmet and sometimes exacerbated by us, I would want to reach out and understand and ameliorate.”
I waited to post this, in case of a better response – which I would have been glad of. And if I ever get one, I’ll amend this accordingly.
The bishop I mentioned was only concerned that he might be indentifiable and that he claimed I’d misquoted him. He didn’t assure me that he didn’t mean what had clearly been gleaned regarding his statement on parish share. I removed the paragraph as requested – not because a bishop has any authority over me, nor am I intimidated by one – but because I will never quote or publish on anyone unfairly. I pointed out that he hadn’t cared about the many charges brought about the church he represents, not least the damage done to me and others. He hoped I’d come to love the church again, but gave me no incentive to do so.
Editorially, I’ve been told I don’t fit a publication’s style. Well, I’m always proud of that.
I’ve been attacked by the editor of a Christian magazine in the very manner of that which he accused me of doing to the church. But I’d expected attempts to belittle. Several publications seem too conservative to take this on.
But I’ve also had lots of: well done, you’re brave, that’s what I feel… at least in part. And some of those are in the church, even ministers.
What I’m certain of is that I’ve done the right thing.
I’ll be posting the director’s cut of my extended articles on here, expanding some of the points. It may become a book to buy and will be offered to the media.
For now, I close with what I said to a church who asked me to pray:
I pray that these communities and their leaders become all that they can be, see through the fug of institutionalisation to love and support in grace and openness, learning from courageous responses, and healing wherever they see a need.