A friend of PubTheo sent me a link to an article about a church pastor on the west side of Michigan, in Holland, who has walked away from his pulpit in reaction to the politics of his congregation. Here’s how the article starts:
HOLLAND — Keith Mannes has given his life to the Christian Reformed Church, serving as a pastor for more than 30 years. He’s done so happily and thankfully.
But on Sunday, Oct. 11, Mannes gave his last sermon and walked away from ministry among increasing political tension and divisiveness.
I will let you read the article to get the specifics on the politics that Mannes said had forced his hand. If you guessed that the president has a part to play in this story, you’d be right. But regardless of our own personal politics, or who you think is in the right in this particular case, there are interesting questions here for us to think about.
We’re all familiar, and, I think, comfortable with the idea that members of a congregation may walk away from a church, or feel alienated from it, when the politics intrude into community’s life of worship and fellowship. But does a pastor have the same freedom? Or are they under a different obligation? As Mannes tells the story, the pressure within his congregation became too much for him, and for them, to bear.
As the tension in his heart and the world around him continued to grow, Mannes said his feelings began to show in his sermons, causing discomfort for some parishioners.
Trying to keep his thoughts internalized became more and more difficult as time went on.
“What it was really doing was tearing me up,” he said. “I’ve had to be very careful to not speak about these things directly with members of the church.
“It’s not only me, but quite a number of pastors I know are just like, ‘This is it? All this preaching we did about Jesus and there’s this big of a disconnect?’ I think that’s a real burden on a lot of pastors’ hearts. I love these people, I love God, I love Jesus, I love the church, but there’s something happening here.”
Mannes sat down with the elders of his church in September to express the tensions he had been feeling. After a long and emotional meeting, they agreed it was time to part ways.
Last week we talked about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s call for the church to be conscience of the state, and that idea factored into Mannes’ decision to step away from a church he had served for decades. Do you think he made the right decision? What should a member of the clergy do when they find themselves in such a situation? By following his conscience, has Mannes lost the opportunity to try to turn the hearts and minds of his congregation?
We’ll talk about this, and probably a lot more, in our online conversation tomorrow evening. Join us at 7 pm, virtually, by clicking on the Zoom link below.
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Topic: Pub Theology, Oct. 27, 2020.
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