gentry13

Moving Beyond, Hopefully with the Blessing of, the CCOC

In Uncategorized on March 12, 2011 at 4:06 pm

the infatuation started at bishop kelley high school. before my first day at this fairly well-regarded – for academics and adolescent substance abuse – parochial school, my mother warned me, “just don’t become a Catholic.” sure enough, four years later i graduated with a decent academic record, an inexplicably clean criminal record, and without becoming a Catholic.

although i didn’t participate in rites of christian initiation for adults (RCIA) during high school, i didn’t escape without a fascination for the liturgical practice of the faith. father dan mueggenborg was a trusted guide who could handle the ambivalence of my life at a time when the youth ministers at christview christian church either didn’t know what to do with me or were tempted, by their own admission, to hit me in the face. moreover, in my christian church, churches of christ (ccoc) tradition we practice communion on a weekly basis. the moment when we sang the doxology, the men of the church filled the aisles with Christ chicklets and Welches, and we remembered the ultimate sacrifice of our Lord had always been the center of worship for me. this focus on the communion, which i later learned to call “the eucharist,” was only intensified when father dan raised the host during mass and broke it in full sight of the congregation. it broke my heart every time. it breaks my heart still.

the years that have followed have held many twists and turns. after trying my damnedest to become an alcoholic during my first year at oklahoma state, i made a rash, reactionary decision to attend lincoln christian college (even after slowfo tried to dissuade me by showing me pictures of the women in soybean bible’s settle for book). by God’s grace, that decision turned out to be a good one. although i was never entranced with the social life at lcc or its reflexive embrace of the eeevangelical subculture, i was became fascinated with theology and unexpectedly freighted with the call to preach the gospel.

in the decades since college graduation, i have made some horrible decisions like leaving l’arche for gordon-conwell, and many great decisions like serving at manchester christian church, marrying kellie, co-leading a home church in beverly, reconnecting with inclusive community by working at Triangle, and, for the last four years, serving as an assistant pastor at the gathering in salem. throughout that time, almost all of my pastoral leadership took place outside of the christian church, church of christ tradition. although i have found it almost impossible to stay connected to the tradition in new england on account of my evolving theology, suspicion of pragmatism as ecclesiology, geographic location, and adamant refusal to kiss the local ccoc kingmaker’s ring – i have struggled to maintain my connection with the ccoc due to my gratefulness for the graciousness of my home church, my appreciation of lcc, my ongoing connection to elders such as uncle neal, and my ordination within the tradition.

over the past two months kellie and i have transitioned out of the gathering. we loved our time serving that Christ loving, quirky community in salem and will always consider ourselves members of their larger tribe. however, we both felt called to a more liturgical tradition and had a strong sense that it was time for us to move on.

after a few weeks of exploring different communities we’ve decided to walk forward with our friends at christ church, an episcopal church in hamilton. i’ve attended services there on an occasional basis for more than a decade and together we have participated in lenten services for several years. christ church is a wonderful congregation that intertwines progressive evangelical theology, meaningful liturgical spirituality, and a commitment to social justice in a way that is deeply meaningful to kellie and i. i’ve long said that if God had asked me, i would have been born an episcopalian (or maybe a catholic, if they weren’t so obsessed with authority issues, pastoral celibacy, and outdated views on women in the ministry*). maybe moving towards membership in the episcopalian church is what God had in mind all along.

with little bitterness, okay, maybe with a little bitterness, i can say that the episcopal church in this area has long been more welcoming to me and affirming of my ministry than the ccoc has been. i hate to cut the mooring from the tradition of my youth, which in many ways has served me so well, but it appears that is what i am doing.

i’ve always had a contrarian bent. i’m pretty sure that’s the reason why the confused, 23-year-old youth ministers of my youth either wanted to hit me or avoid me as much as possible. if i was simply a contrarian, this decision would not be that difficult. however, married to the contrarian is a deep-seated loyalty streak that never want to betray a friend or becoming a foe.

for that reason, i’m pretty conflicted as we start this new journey. i’m thankful for the grace that the ccoc has poured into my life and it is painful for me to leave. but i think that’s what i’m doing. i think that’s what i need to do.

so our family is starting a new journey together. your prayers along the way are appreciated.

* the latter issue being the primary reason you would not find our family at an anglican mission in america congregation either.

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  1. Knowing you the way I do, you are not one to make a decision like this lightly. I am certain beyond all doubt that you’ve put a lot of thought and prayer into making this move…more than I probably would have. We all must absolutely go where we feel God is leading and I think you are doing the right thing. My prayers go with you guys as God finds new ways to have your life of ministry flourish in a new setting. Thanks for taking the time to write a well-written account of your thought process. I pray it will be helpful for others in a similar situation.

    Christ chicklets……classic.

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