What started as an appreciation post to my readers became a rather heated debate, largely around whether or not I qualify as a pastor, especially within the Vineyard movement. It evoked 79 comments. That discussion pretty much indicates the wide variety of reactions nakedpastor arouses. But I want to address one reaction in particular. That is, some people feel that since I am a pastor of a local congregation, I should keep my sometimes heterodox and dissenting thoughts to myself, for the two are incompatible to each other.
So the underlying message is that, no matter what I am thinking or struggling with, I must conform to the status quo. I am expected to comply to the vast variety of everyone's expectations of what a pastor should be, and our church is expected to align with what everyone thinks our church must be. In other words, no matter what I really am, it doesn't matter. They don't want to hear about it. Just behave! No matter what your struggles are, present yourself as equal to our expectations. We don't care what your community is really like. Because it is a church with an evangelical, charismatic and renewal history, and because it is a Vineyard church, this is how it should be!
One of the things I highly value is the freedom of thought and speech within the church. I am passionate about providing a place where people are free to explore their own faith, discover their own spiritual path, and to do that with the benefit of community without fear of judgment, both locally and online. This, in my opinion, applies to myself as well. If religious exploration is something I value and encourage, then I will model it. And our church community will do the same.
One of the most recognized features of the church by those inside but especially those outside is its propensity for hypocrisy and duplicity and its use of power to protect these. I have exercised it and been a victim of it. I challenge it. And one of the best ways to do it is to live in the opposite spirit. That is, with truth, honesty, and humility. I have found that it is very difficult to do so within the church because hypocrisy, duplicity and power are often the gravitational pull of organized religion. I know I am not consistent. I most often fail. But I try because I believe in the church and the communion of saints, in spite of all blemishes. No matter how many times I am asked to reconsider, I intend to press on.