Tuesday, April 14, 2015
The Church rejected me. . .
Read the whole interview here. . . I have excerpted a portion for comment.
MacCulloch’s life has in fact been significantly moulded by the two subjects that make up his latest programme. Aware from a young age that he was gay, MacCulloch – a parson’s son – considered this no barrier to entering the clergy. The Church was unsure how to treat his relationship with his boyfriend but ordained him as a deacon nonetheless. He says he thought of his relationship as more or less identical to that of any other clergy marriage, however disconcerting this was for his more conservative colleagues. It was when he was on the verge of being ordained as a priest that things came to a head: the presiding bishop said that he couldn’t go through with it “until the fuss dies down”, in MacCulloch’s words. Refusing to accept that he should have to compromise his sexual relationships for his career in the Church, MacCulloch walked away from his ordination. “What it represented was the Church rejecting me,” he tells me. If today he has any regrets, he hides them totally. For these reasons and more, he says that this series is “extraordinarily personal – it reflects what I want it to say”.
Let me begin by saying that no one has a right to be ordained or to have a "career" in the Church. It is a privilege and a gift bestowed upon rather few. Secondly, rejecting the ordination of someone is NOT rejecting the person or even judging them in the place of Christ. The Church discerns God's guidance and acts to affirm the inner call of the few to the public order of the office of Word and Sacrament. To fail to affirm the inner call is not to judge or condemn the individual who is not ordained. It happens all the time. Sometimes the candidates themselves come to a different conclusion and other times the Church does.
What must be singled out, however, is the repudiation of compromise or sacrifice for the sake of the vocation of the Pastor. MacCulloch seems to believe, as many do today, that the Church must affirm everything about the individual or the Church is rejecting everything of the individual. Here again the burden is always placed on the Church. Why is the Church the evil one for requiring any candidate to live up to certain standards of moral life and conduct? Furthermore, is it the Church or is it Scripture? Is the problem with narrow minded sex obsessed church leaders or is the problem with broadminded sex obsessed people insist upon the freedom to live as they choose AND serve the Lord as they believe they are called?
If you make certain things (gender and sexual orientation) the non-negotiables when requesting ordination, you automatically make it hard on the Church. For the pastoral vocation is recognized in part by the selflessness of the will and the shape of service. This is even more profoundly true when you make the rejection personal. We have given into the idea that ordination is a right, that this is the arena in which we must be allowed to serve or we are personally rejected, and that every aspect of the Church's life must be conform to the idea of rights, demands, and personal choice. In doing so we leave people with the mistaken idea that if they cannot have it on their terms, they are turned away. In truth, they were headed in the wrong direction from the get go.
No, Mr. MacCulloch, the Church did not reject you. You made it impossible for the Church to be faithful to Christ and to affirm your calling. But you can take some comfort in the fact that you are not the first nor will you be the last to stand before the Church and insist that they must take you as you are or not at all. Not just in this case but in every case when people make such demands, I only pray the Church has the wisdom to politely but firmly say "thanks, but no thanks."