Advice on how to minimise conflict on moving Church, from Conservative Evangelical

AuspiciusofTrierAuspiciusofTrier Shipmate
edited April 2018 in All Saints
First of all, as a long-time lurker I wanted to thank everyone for the amazing and generally graceful discussion here ... you cannot know how much it has helped inform me, and often made me laugh. So, my question and first, but not last, post here.

Having attended a Conservative Evangelical church (pre-election, limited atonement, whole Calvin 5-point shooting match, no women in leadership, homosexuals ... well you can guess!!) for well over a decade and most of the time as a member I have increasingly felt the last few years my own perspective on faith moving. Now I'm at the point I really, really, really need to leave. Or go mad.

Then spend time in a few other more mainstream Churches and seeing what fits, no rush.

I know I'm not the first to have trodden this road but the evangelical orthodox culture and worldview now feels quite alien to me. The "inerrant" Bible is preached in a certain way, without context. Well that's actually not true ... more accurate is that context can be used, but only when it supports a conservative evangelical view. Then of course no one asks real or tough questions ...

I know it's not a bad place, the minister/pastor is good, ultra-serious, sincere, knowledgeable and of course very biblical. I'm not angry and have already moved on in heart and mind, and now hope to move Churches with minimal conflict ... and guilt-tripping.

My best guess is that after a polite resignation letter or informal pre-chat there will be a "why don't we have a longer chat??" To be briefed (after pleasantries) what the Bible says interpreted by the evangelical playbook. Of course I don't want to get sucked into that game, it's why I'm leaving! 1. Submission to the church. 2. What is a valid reason to leave a church? i.e. doctrinal only. 3. Analogies on spiritual divorce. 4. I will be amazed if Hebrews 1:23-25 is not thrown in with "local church" rather than "assemble" or "universal catholic* church". SIGH.

I COULD say with some truth that I no longer hold to a couple of points on the Statement of Faith (e.g. biblical inerrancy, nature of hell) but he'll want to debate those too, and in truth it's bigger than that.

Thoughts, advice, perspectives and experience appreciated from all here on how to handle moving Church in a way that minimises conflict??

Thanks!

(Moved to from Purgatory to All Saints by Barnabas62 -see Host Post below)
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Comments

  • Hi and welcome!

    Um, do you have to go into details with the pastor? And why a resignation letter? Unless you hold some sort of church office.
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    I'm wondering if you have to go into great detail about your specific reasons for leaving. I know this may feel a bit devious, but being specific may open you up to well-intentioned (but invasive) questioning.

    The trickiest part about going through a change is that some people will say "change back."

    We had a couple in my church who gradually started missing a few worships here and there, and then eventually said they'd found another church. They were so gentle in telling us how much they liked us as individuals and so happy about their new church that we really didn't feel abandoned.

    Now, if course, they are not you and your church may not react well, but I admired their style. No hard feelings expressed (and they may have had some). On our end, we felt that it would be in poor taste to set up a us v. them dynamic in responding to their departure.

    I wish you well in your transition, and hope you find the right way to make it. I certainly hope the church you are leaving can embrace your journey rather than argue you into staying.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    edited April 2018
    I'm with the ever-wise GK: the resignation letter, to me, seems a bit over-the-top. Unless it is the usual practice where you are.

    I left a not-as-evangelical-as-yours church nigh on 15 years ago. I found the theology stifling and the preaching dreary and not relevant ("If you are a Christian, well done; if you're not, become one" was how I summarised it to a friend).

    I had visited other churches beforehand, once a month, and made my plan as to where I was going to go.

    I had a good hard think one Saturday and wrote down reasons I was going. I then worked out how to judiciously phrase them, while still getting the point across about why I was leaving. I had been there a while, and was close to him, so I felt I owed it to him. GK's question about needing to go into details is a good one. Check yourself, and think what would best suit you.

    One Sunday I asked to speak to the minister afterwards and said what I had written out yesterday. He let me speak. He then had some warnings for me about "those types of churches" [Anglo-Catholic], instructions to read my Bible regularly and a comment that I'd be welcome back. It went a lot easier than I'd thought. And I just left.

    I messaged friends there throughout the week to say I'd still catch up but I would be no longer attending church there. Very few asked questions. And I remained in contact with very few - for someone whose social life revolved around church this was a jolt and an adjustment. Something to bear in mind if your life is similar.

    I wish you all the best, and may you find a suitable church home.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    Forgot to say: I did the same thing when I moved to the Orthodox from the Anglo-Catholic parish.
  • Thanks - that's already some useful input. I don't hold any church position btw.

    I have heard that some ministers/leaders/pastors prefer a letter, and it can avoid mis-interpretation later(?) Anyway I am hoping it doesn't get detailed (best case - he accepts it as a done deal) but I also know him a bit, so thinking about the worst case and how to gently deflect, manage or encourage.

    I don't have a specific church in mind, just some candidates. My current thinking is to attend a few over time, and keep an open mind before settling.

    Wider reading (including SoF!) has given me far deeper perspective on the stunning diversity of Christian faith. Parts of Dave Tomlinson's books like Post-Evangelical have encouraged me hugely e.g. Peck's/Fowlers stages of spiritual growth, how literal black/white evangelical thinking leads to unconscious legalism. Most important is I am not alone in this, and know a move may challenge a few.

    It feels both energising and liberating as I head down this route - it's just managing the leaving part well that makes me a bit nervous!
  • I think the only time I've heard of someone leaving a letter behind them is when there's a major problem. I think that's been discussed on the Ship.

    I think people often just drift off to their new church. They might not say anything to anyone; or they might just tell church friends and anyone who might worry if they don't show up.

    One option might be to, on your last Sunday there, tell the pastor and shake his hand as you go out the door. (In some churches, it's common for the pastor to meet attendees as they're leaving, and maybe shake hands.)
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    I'd just stop going. Making a point about it is just inviting a load of spiritual blackmail trying to make you come back.
  • It's a tricky one because in churches like that people don't 'just stop going' by and large but there's an expectation that if someone moves on there has to some kind of explanation.

    There's a balance here between respectfully fulfilling the expectations of the particular church culture and 'unto thine own self be true.'

    It's not easy.

    I have moved church in similar circumstances and it took a long time. We'd invested a lot in there and had strong and lasting friendships. In the end we had to go in the interests of sanity. Looking back, when we finally grasped the nettle things went a lot better than we'd feared and the process was less painful than we'd anticipated. We left on good terms with everyone.

    I think each case is different though and it's hard to be prescriptive.

    On the letter aspect ...

    The advantage of that is that it gives the opportunity to provide a clear and concise case. The disadvantage is that it leaves something tangible that can be debated, mulled over and challenged. It's not the same as splitting with a partner but I've heard that the received wisdom is that if one or other party is going to end a relationship it's best not to do it in writing. It leaves an artefact that could cause further distress.

    I don't think there's a right or wrong answer to that one in this instance. I'd advise caution though. I've heard of some pastors / church leaders reading selective passages from such letters to defame the person who has left! I'd be surprised if that happened in this instance but a letter could be counterproductive.

    Writing one may help you marshal your thoughts though, even if you don't send it.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    It's a tricky one because in churches like that people don't 'just stop going'

    But they could, so why not just do so?

    It might mean avoiding people a bit, but it sounds to me like you're going to have that problem however you do it. Making a simple break by not going any more leaves you able to tell them to mind their own business. Problem with a letter is you're making it everyone else's business.
  • Sure, I get that KB but my point was about respecting the particular church culture even as you are leaving it. If writing a letter forms part of the normal process in this context then it's worth considering, given the provisos and caveats I've outlined in my post.

    It also comes down to context. This church sounds like one where detailed or written explanations are expected. That has to be considered even if it's an option a departing individual chooses not to take.

    Simply disappearing could appear impolite.
  • I think that giving some kind of explanation - as suggested by Gamaliel - is necessary, as it not only demonstrates integrity but shows that you're leaving after careful consideration and not because you've "got the hump" with someone.
  • greenhousegreenhouse Shipmate
    edited April 2018
    We (myself plus family) left our open evangelical church last year. We'd been there around 15 years and were heavily involved. I won't explain the reasons, but we did choose to go and left on good terms.

    We didn't write a letter - to me a letter is the sort of thing the persistently aggrieved church moaner would send to the leaders, and it also seemed a bit formal. We were on good terms with everyone and just explaining our reasons seemed enough.

    That said, we did make a list of our reasons beforehand and came up with a simple synopsis of why we felt it was time to go. That was what we used in conversation, and we could expand on parts if necessary.

    Try to make it about you and not about them. Be clear that it's you who has changed; that you still like the church members, you want to remain friends, you want to keep in touch, you will always have good memories of you time, etc. Do it with a tinge of regret, you don't feel you have any choice, you've got to be honest with yourself.

    This approach also helps avoid deep debates about your reasoning. If someone pushes too much for more information, just say you don't think it's helpful to go into it any more, you've taken the decision.

    People will be concerned about you. You'll be asked where you are going to go instead. Be honest that you will try a few others places to see where you seem to fit, maybe drop the names of a few churches that aren't 'beyond the pale'. You can even say that you're going to spend some time visiting other churches to explore where God is calling you to next, which puts a nice spiritual gloss on the whole thing! If your current church has an annual Christmas service or something similar, say you hope to pop in to that, or something else that you can keep in touch with, even if you don't.

    Be aware that you might find it a wrench. We were surprised how much of our social life was linked to the church. You will have to be very intentional to keep in touch with the people you want to keep links with.
  • It’s over 18 years ago now that I did this. I did the letter and the interview. Like you, I felt I owed some sort of explanation. In retrospect I don’t think I did and I’m not sure whether it achieved anything, except that I was able to feel I’d behaved honestly and respectfully, which mattered to me.

    Go with what feels right to you. This is hard to do and so you need to feel ok with how you do it. But I’d echo what other people have said about politely limiting discussion. You will go round in circles; some people will be angry or distressed and not listen and that can be very hard.

    Be kind to yourself. I needed a ‘church detox’ for a couple months where I went nowhere (except sometimes to early communion at the Cathedral, where I knew I could just come, go and be without question). Go gently.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    AuspiciusofTrier

    A very warm welcome to the Ship and I hope you enjoy your membership here.

    We're going to move this thread to the All Saints discussion forum, since you're asking, quite reasonably for some personal advice and support, rather than a serious discussion on the more general issue.

    My very best wishes to you as you navigate these tricky waters

    Barnabas62
    Purgatory Host
  • LothlorienLothlorien All Saints Host
    Welcome aboard, Auspicius of Trier and also welcome to All Saints. I know from personal experience that there are many here to support you, both now and in the future.

    Lothlorien, AS Host
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    Now posting as a Shipmate.

    A letter can be quite hard to write under these circumstances. Expressing thanks, admitting it is a painful but necessary decision, hoping that friendships can continue, but being honest that you have moved on in personal understanding, and no longer feel comfortable in membership. Good to avoid any suggestion that the existing leadership is teaching error (even if you feel that).

    And, yes, avoid getting dragged into more detailed discussions about the issues causing discomfort.
  • Good advice from Greenhouse and Barnabas I think.
  • KarlLB wrote: »
    I'd just stop going. Making a point about it is just inviting a load of spiritual blackmail trying to make you come back.

    Having read others' thoughts, this seems to be the most pragmatic advice!

    Perhaps a brief 'So long, and thanks for all the fish' note/parting remarks to the pastor (and other friends?) might be polite, though.

    IJ

  • I had to do this many years ago - did the letter and got the visit, which felt more like an interrogation, so I wouldn't choose to go down that road again. I think, if I had to go through it again, I'd say (person to person) that I was sorry I've come to realise that I just didn't fit there any more. And leave it at that. (No regrets, btw, it really was the best decision for me and my family, so trust your judgement.)
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited April 2018
    ISTM that there may come a point where you really have to say to your church/vicar/pastor (delete as appropriate), 'You are peddling a load of shite. I want nothing more to do with you'.

    That's the easy bit - saying it politely is not easy.

    I seem to be currently facing the need to do this myself, sooner, rather than later, so I shall watch this thread with interest.

    IJ
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    I hope you will post again once the deed is done to let us know how your journey is evolving.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    ISTM that there may come a point where you really have to say to your church/vicar/pastor (delete as appropriate), 'You are peddling a load of shite. I want nothing more to do with you'.

    That's the easy bit - saying it politely is not easy.
    :mrgreen: If you find a way of squaring that particular circle, you should copyright the letter!

  • GwaiGwai Epiphanies Host
    One reason to do something besides just stop going is if you are in the sort of church where anyone who stops going is visited.
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    I and my former vicar got through an entire bottle of gin while I told him why I was leaving.
  • Purely from a personal perspective, I would be wary of letter writing, other than to inform your own thoughts. The problem with all communication in writing (as here on these boards) is that writing does not convey the tone of the remark, or your facial expression when it was made. Something written in complete innocence can be interpreted in an entirely different fashion.

    Another snag with letters is that they leave permanent evidence. This may be both good and bad - not knowing your circumstances in detail, I hesitate to say which I think it might be. There is much the same snag with the spoken word - it can be misheard, or misreported, or misrepresented - so there are pros and cons to any approach.

    Again purely my personal approach, I would be inclined to just quietly drift away, gradually tapering off attendance at your current fellowship, whilst researching alternatives. If asked where you have been, you can say, quite truthfully, that you are wondering whether God is suggesting that you move to another fellowship where you can continue your growth in Him after a different fashion, and have been investigating what this different fashion might be. There may well come a point when a clean break is necessary. To my mind, it would only be honourable to tell your current leadership that you have reached that point, but little good will be served by detailing why. Just leave it at the statement that it was time to move on.
  • cliffdwellercliffdweller Shipmate
    edited April 2018
    On the letter aspect ...

    The advantage of that is that it gives the opportunity to provide a clear and concise case. The disadvantage is that it leaves something tangible that can be debated, mulled over and challenged. It's not the same as splitting with a partner but I've heard that the received wisdom is that if one or other party is going to end a relationship it's best not to do it in writing. It leaves an artefact that could cause further distress.

    I don't think there's a right or wrong answer to that one in this instance. I'd advise caution though. I've heard of some pastors / church leaders reading selective passages from such letters to defame the person who has left! I'd be surprised if that happened in this instance but a letter could be counterproductive.

    Writing one may help you marshal your thoughts though, even if you don't send it.

    I would agree with pretty much everything that's been said here.

    You should know that you are absolutely, entirely free to just walk away. You don't owe anyone an explanation. You are free. That needs reinforcing even in a soft-patriarchy structure where the control is a bit more subtle. You are free.

    As a pastor, I would say a letter is helpful. It provides closure and clarity. Personally, I think the benefits outweigh the risks-- you can be clear, you can write everything out in one vomit of emotion-- then go back and edit/change things more prudently and non-defensively as desired.

    Most of all, the fact that it IS a written record guards against misinterpretation. I have often found (am dealing with this right now in fact) that a leaving (particularly a high-profile leading) is often latched upon by people with all sorts of agenda who will interpret your leaving thru their own agenda/ pet peeves rather than yours. You could easily be highjacked into a number of causes you don't necessarily support. A clear, non-reactive letter spelling out precisely why you are leaving (without blaming or attacking, just noting the differences) guards against that. And it helps provide the closure needed to continue whatever sort of relationships you may or may not want to continue outside of church.

    But that's a gift to them. Totally your choice if you want to give them that or not. You'd don't owe them.

    If you do write a letter, they may or may not follow up-- and it's hard to know what is worse-- ignoring your letter as if you don't matter, or using it to try to badger/shame you into staying. Either way, the key is to be emotionally detached enough that you can let that go-- it's their issue, not yours. If they want follow-up, remember again it's your choice, not theirs. You've said your piece, you don't owe them any more. And if you've been honest in your original letter there's probably not much to be gained. You can politely refuse the requests (even those that come disguised as demands) for follow up meetings, you can delete their emails/voicemails.

    That's the key. Know that you are free.
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    First of all, as the other AS host, I'll add my words of welcome to Auspicius of Trier - good to have you on board!
    Leo wrote: »
    I and my former vicar got through an entire bottle of gin while I told him why I was leaving.
    And I should imagine that your reasons became clearer the further down the bottle you got ... :naughty:

    I, too, have been in the leaving one church for another camp: I was brought up as a Baptist, but by my mid-teens (over 40 years ago :astonished:) I realised that their particular brand of hellfire-and-brimstone theology (along with a certain cliqueyness) wasn't for me. It coincided with my discovering proper church music, and the only local place I could get that was at the (Church of Scotland) cathedral.

    I started going there, leaving my parents to pick up the pieces with the Baptists (it never occurred to me to write a letter). I think that after the original surprise, their explanation that "Piglet's studying music at school, and she finds the music at the Cathedral inspiring" was by-and-large accepted; at any rate, no-one came round begging me to return! In fairness, I think there was more surprise amongst the Cathedral congregation - I grew up in a very small place where everyone knows everyone else, and they all knew that my family had been Baptists. Again, a brief explanation was all that was needed and I felt accepted very quickly. A few years later, I joined the choir and nine years after that I married the organist ... :heart:

    I continued to attend the evening service in the Baptist church for a little while (mostly to please my mother), but not long after that they got a new minister, and my parents gradually drifted away as well. As I said, it was rather cliquey, and despite having worshipped there for over ten years, they never felt completely in.

    They followed me to the Cathedral, where they remained until they died, with my father even becoming an elder.

    As for what you'll do next, I think your idea of occasionally attending your local cathedral is a good one* - they tend to be places that are friendly enough without laying any expectations on you, and will be happy for you to attend occasionally without any questions being asked.

    * Old hands on these boards are probably thinking "Piglet always says that", and they're right. :blush:


  • No church will fulfill all your spiritual needs as you grow in understanding of The Way. That is why it is a mistake to expect any group of people to fulfill your expectations. What teaching, fellowship, support etc. we get from one church, we can get elsewhere. The only thing to consider is whether your contribution to your current church will be detrimental to the ministry Christ intends for it. If it will be relatively unaffected by the loss of your contribution, then it is your spiritual responsibility to seek a community which more reflects the type of outreach and expression of community that you have 'grown into' in your walk with Christ.

    Our allegiance is first to Christ and his service, not the church we attend. That is a secondary commitment flowing out of the first, and it is provisional. The first commitment is not.

    Our main responsibility as disciples of Christ is to discover his purpose for us in ministering to others. If that entails finding a like minded community to support you and to gain from your contribution to the 'bringing in of The Kingdom of God', then no explanations are needed other than to explain that you are trying to discover God's purpose for you and are seeking the right context in which He wants you to operate. No church, denomination or sect has the right to imply that only IT can supply that context, or that IT has exclusive right to your presence and membership. Where the Spirit is, there is FREEDOM.

    Just don't imagine that you will ever find the perfect church. You will only be constantly disappointed.
  • Gracious RebelGracious Rebel Shipmate
    edited April 2018
    Another one here who can say 'been there done that'. I have been in churches very similar indeed to that described in the OP. Leaving was hard, but staying was even harder. In my case I did write a letter (well actually I think it was an email the last time around) but didn't go into too much detail as it would have caused unnecessary hurt (for the pastor/church) and awkwardness for myself (partly because one of the major factors was the gay issue, but at the time I left the church I was not ready to 'come out', just wanted to find somewhere more sympathetic where they wouldn't say things like 'God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' in the sermons).

    For me, I am the sort of person that finds it easier to express myself in writing than speaking face to face, and as others of said it offers a chance to keep editing it until you feel that you have best captured what you want to say, without being affected by the reaction of the person you are writing/speaking to. A difficult personal situation will almost certainly be dealt with by writing a letter, at least as a conversation starter. But that's just the way I am, and I realise others don't find it useful or effective.

    The other thing to note about this type of church, which would be a good reason for writing a letter, is that it will almost certainly be the sort of church that has a formal membership roll. So at some point you will need to resign your membership - whether you do that at the time you stop attending, or at some time later (maybe in response to a letter from the church itself), there's no escaping it! In my case I felt I had to formally resign in order to be able to start looking for another church - it is hard to start attending other churches when you have regular responsibilities at your own church!

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Some very wise words on this thread. Not sure whether I can add anything useful.

    I'd be inclined not to write a letter, but I suspect I live in a different culture from yours. We don't have that many dogmatically 5 point, limited atonement Neo-Calvinists round here - and I wouldn't go near them if we did.

    I'd also be inclined to do my looking before actually cutting loose. Whatever Abraham might have done, as a general principle for life, if possible in life, I reckon there's a great deal to be said for not moving until you know where you're going.

    I'd also say that if you've got a wife/husband and family, keeping them together, all going in the same direction and happy about things is more important and takes priority over not putting up with sitting through some boring, irritating or even anger-making Sunday mornings.


    As an aside, there's a lot to be said IMHO for making occasional visits to other churches in the neighbourhood from time to time, just to get a fresh take on things.
  • sabine wrote: »
    I'm wondering if you have to go into great detail about your specific reasons for leaving. I know this may feel a bit devious, but being specific may open you up to well-intentioned (but invasive) questioning.
    It's always best to be open and truthful - however intrusive that may feel. Anything else and your motives, etc will be questioned even more. If you do talk then you take control over what is said & done.

    On the other side - don't you owe something to those with whom you once shared close fellowship. They will grieve too.

  • Please think very hard about writing a letter (or e mail) and leaving it at that. I know that some find it easier to do things that way but do we all deserve the respect of a face to face meeting however tough that may be? {most people wouldn't be very happy if the roles were reversed - ie someone being asked to leave by letter].
  • I agree. Face to face with a written explanation with back up support if necessary. Whatever style or theology of church we're talking about, there will be relationships involved. People matter. Even if we disagree with them or have diverged in our thinking they deserve to be treated with respect. Unless it's an abusive or cultic situation, I wouldn't recommend simply slinking away unannounced.

    Looking at the various responses, I think there's a lot of accumulated wisdom here, even where it may appear contradictory at first glance. The key thing is that it should feel 'right' to you and also respect the good faith and integrity of the others involved.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    I'm probably a bad person to take advice from on personal relationships, but if a long term church member stopped attending then I might be curious as to why but it would not occur to me for a second that they owed me any kind of explanation.
  • No, they probably wouldn't, but, as a rider to that, I would (as a Lay Minister with pastoral responsibilities) try to find out why they had left.

    I agree that they wouldn't owe me any explanation, but I'd like to be able at least to assure them of our best wishes and prayers for the future.

    If it turned out that they had been put off, offended, or upset by something or someone at church, I'd try to address that as discreetly and respectfully as possible.

    We do have at present a very transient congregation - people come and go, perhaps worshipping with us for just a few months or weeks, before they move on because of work/school/housing problems - so maybe I'm more than usually fidgety about this issue.

    IJ
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    sabine wrote: »
    I'm wondering if you have to go into great detail about your specific reasons for leaving. I know this may feel a bit devious, but being specific may open you up to well-intentioned (but invasive) questioning.
    It's always best to be open and truthful - however intrusive that may feel. Anything else and your motives, etc will be questioned even more. If you do talk then you take control over what is said & done.

    On the other side - don't you owe something to those with whom you once shared close fellowship. They will grieve too.

    I think it depends on how close that fellowship actually is. The OP already mentioned a real fear of being hounded after revealing the reasons for leaving. I imagine it would be up to AuspiciusTrier to determine how much he/she wants to subject themselves to that treatment, how much that treatment signifies "close fellowship," and what is owed to those who don't acknowledge and embrace someone's spiritual journey.
  • If the 'fellowship' really is sh*te, then the OPer might do worse than simply walk away.

    No point in stirring the sh*te unnecessarily.

    IJ
  • Thanks to everyone on this! I'm starting to think a considered email might be best i.e. not too formal, and simply avoid requests for immediate follow-up but suggest a coffee in a few months (offsite, not at church) if he wants.

    The fellowship is fine just I no longer share the literalistic views, and I certainly won't be hounded!

    Simply that my minister may want (imo will likely want) a bible-based discussion on why I'm leaving ... I have moved on beyond that already so it won't be helpful I feel.

    Agree totally that I need a detox, I'm also sure that any churches recommended by my minister/pastor will be "hardcore" Evangelical Alliance! In fact I could guess them already.

    Thanks for all the support, it helps. There's no rush and I will probably tick the boxes for a little and move on in the summer.

    It's good to hear from you all and especially church leads. I do think SOME kind of communication is needed or misinterpretation can happen.
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    Glad to see you're thinking so positively, AoT - all the best with whatever decision you make as to where you'll end up.

    Let us know how you get on!
  • sabine wrote: »
    sabine wrote: »
    I'm wondering if you have to go into great detail about your specific reasons for leaving. I know this may feel a bit devious, but being specific may open you up to well-intentioned (but invasive) questioning.
    It's always best to be open and truthful - however intrusive that may feel. Anything else and your motives, etc will be questioned even more. If you do talk then you take control over what is said & done.

    On the other side - don't you owe something to those with whom you once shared close fellowship. They will grieve too.

    I think it depends on how close that fellowship actually is. The OP already mentioned a real fear of being hounded after revealing the reasons for leaving. I imagine it would be up to AuspiciusTrier to determine how much he/she wants to subject themselves to that treatment, how much that treatment signifies "close fellowship," and what is owed to those who don't acknowledge and embrace someone's spiritual journey.
    They have been a member there for over 10 years so I would assume some closeness.

    A fear of being hounded may be just that - fear. In any event if things are that bad a face to face meeting may help the church to recognise the real (or perceived error of its ways).

    We don't, after all, know why the OP writer has left their former beliefs behind - it's probably all very clear and correct irl but it might just be something else we do not know about. What's the one more fact here we don't know?

  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    edited April 2018
    Thanks to everyone on this! I'm starting to think a considered email might be best i.e. not too formal, and simply avoid requests for immediate follow-up but suggest a coffee in a few months (offsite, not at church) if he wants.

    The fellowship is fine just I no longer share the literalistic views, and I certainly won't be hounded!

    Simply that my minister may want (imo will likely want) a bible-based discussion on why I'm leaving ... I have moved on beyond that already so it won't be helpful I feel.

    Agree totally that I need a detox, I'm also sure that any churches recommended by my minister/pastor will be "hardcore" Evangelical Alliance! In fact I could guess them already.

    Thanks for all the support, it helps. There's no rush and I will probably tick the boxes for a little and move on in the summer.

    It's good to hear from you all and especially church leads. I do think SOME kind of communication is needed or misinterpretation can happen.

    Thanks for the update. You obviously have thought about the best plan for you, and I hope it goes well.

    I also hope we'll see more posts from you now that you've pulled back the cloak of lurking. :)
  • Thanks Sabine (and all), it certainly won't be my last contribution.

    For now I will continue to consider and value all the good inputs here, and let folks know how it goes downstream ...
  • GrayfaceGrayface Shipmate
    Barnabas62 wrote: »
    ISTM that there may come a point where you really have to say to your church/vicar/pastor (delete as appropriate), 'You are peddling a load of shite. I want nothing more to do with you'.

    That's the easy bit - saying it politely is not easy.
    :mrgreen: If you find a way of squaring that particular circle, you should copyright the letter!

    I'll bite.

    Dear Friend (member of the same Fellowship - you understand I would actually cross the street if I saw you coming)

    You and I are both people of integrity (you actually believe the rubbish that comes out of your mouth, don't you?) and faith in Our Lord (mine's called Jesus, I might introduce you to his recorded words one day instead of the stuff you got from a Chick Tract) and I'm sure you are aware that our One Church (cough) allows many legitimate opinions on matters theological (and some right illegitimate ones, like yours).

    Honesty compels me to confess to you (I wrote that with a straight face, honest) that we disagree on some matters (everything) and whilst I have great respect for your principled approach (you just can't let it go, can you?) I feel called to express my faith in another context (as far away from here as I can get).

    I thank you for the effort during my time here (it was a real effort for me to avoid telling you what I really think, I can assure you) and would like you to know that I will continue to pray for you (as St Paul said, enjoy the burning coal hair-do).

    A pox on your House and may you repent from your heretical nonsense
    (No, hang on, best leave that bit out).


    No charge.


  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    Grayface, that's a work of evil genius! :naughty:
  • UKCanuckUKCanuck Shipmate
    I grew up in a similar church to that described in the OP. Membership was an official status one applied for as opposed to simply having attended the church regularly for years on end. As such, leaving the church with no intention of maintaining an ongoing official relationship required resignation of membership by letter.

    In order to avoid a pointless meeting designed to challenge my reasons for leaving (which, let's face it, would only rehearse the very same sincere and long drawn out internal questioning that had brought me to this point in the first place), I'd plan on determining when my final attendance would take place and date my resignation letter accordingly, handing the letter over on that day. As for the letter itself, I'd keep it strictly to the point of declaring my resignation, effective today, and wishing them well. The official requirements satisfied, I'd leave any explanation for my departure to be made in person, if I felt so inclined.

    I think it's important to say that I'd feel no necessity to explain myself to the church's representative (board of deacons/trustees or minister) on an official basis as, having already resigned, I would not be a member and have no obligation to them. If I felt that any individual person with whom I had a personal relationship deserved to know - be they another ordinary member or attender, a deacon, the minister, or the organist's cat - I'd insist that such a conversation would be on a strictly informal, personal, and unofficial basis between friends, with whatever level of confidence I felt it merited agreed beforehand.
  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    What you must never do is write an anonymous letter. The wrong person can fall suspect and that is horrible. If you can't put your name to something, then don't write it.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited May 2018
    What Chorister said.

    I've been the recipient of an 'anonymous' letter, and, even though I knew very well who had written it, the effect was painful. What with that, and other pressures from a group of Horrible People at Our Place (some years ago), I ended up being diagnosed with clinical depression.

    Not nice.

    IJ
  • Penny SPenny S Shipmate
    edited May 2018
    I am now feeling guilty about the letter I did not write on leaving the Congregational Church a long time ago. My mother had been hounded from the place for some unspecified reason, while I was at college, and the rest of the family had gone around the local Free Churches, and then the Quakers, and then the parish church with a lovely Welsh vicar. I remember being told at one point that the unpleasant minister and deacons had communicated something negative about the good standing of my family to the other Free Church ministers, who had all gone out of their way to be welcoming. The Spirit, however, was calling them to the Anglicans.
    So when I got the letter from the membership secretary about my absence from Communion possibly causing my membership to lapse, I couldn't write back. She was a very nice person who had been a friend, and was not part of the Presbyterian lot who wanted my Mum on the naughty stool like Rabbie Burns. (It was something to do with the Sunday School, apparently.) I wanted to write that there was no way I wanted to be part of a group that sent my mother out of their meeting in tears and then tried to queer the family membership of any local church, and to expect it was despicable. But I couldn't write it to her.
    I should have done two letters, a covering one to the friendly person, and the strong one to the church in general.
    Can't do anything in retrospect. After turning into the only place welcoming the asylum seekers who turned up off the boats, and being castigated in the local paper for doing so, they sold off the building while joining another local church, and it is now a roofless ruin.
  • No, don't feel guilty. Least said, soonest mended, and it sounds as though you were well out of the place, as far as you yourself were concerned.

    Pity they fell foul of the gutter press over asylum-seekers, though - at least they tried to do something positive for the poor souls.

    IJ
  • UKCanuck wrote: »
    I grew up in a similar church to that described in the OP. Membership was an official status one applied for as opposed to simply having attended the church regularly for years on end. As such, leaving the church with no intention of maintaining an ongoing official relationship required resignation of membership by letter.

    Hi Canuck, yes you understand well ... thanks.

    Maybe resignation "deserves" rather than "requires" a letter - as this type of formal Church membership in itself can be seen biblically as a stretch?

    As of now I am thinking to make a point of on my last day (not for a few months) thanking him personally for his Sunday sermon afterwards outside, then drop him the resignation email afterwards in the evening, or perhaps Monday.

    Slight digression but I wonder - and will be very relieved if wrong! - if my Church and others like it may be heading down the 9Marks (Mark Devers) route long-term. If you don't know what that is, google it and also the controversies around it. I know that the last 2 years my minister/pastor has been attending annual UK "9Marks - Growing Healthy Churches" conferences. It sounds great ... until you look at the very authoritarian model it puts in place, "Church Covenants" for members, and a lot of abuse and fallout in the US.

    That digression aside, it remains essentially a pretty good church, although it's become subtly more legalistic over the last few years. And at the same time I'm seeing things less black-and-white, so it's time to move on in order to continue to grow in faith.

    When I do leave it will be with sadness of course, as I can still see the good things.

    The process of posting here and receiving input is both encouraging and cathartic ... many many thanks.


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