Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Church rejected me. . .

No one who has admired British documentary television is unaware of the name Diarmid MacCulloch.  There is an article, really a preview to the article, which discusses a few things about this person who has brought so much good stuff to TV.  But the article is less than satisfying and, if it represents an authentic view of MacCulloch, it also represents a sadly parochial view of things not parochial at all.

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."


Anonymous said...

The church rejected him.

One cannot serve two masters.

He served another master.

Anonymous said...

I have been rejected TWICE for ordination. The first time was ten years ago, the second time was three years ago.

The first time came as no surprise, because I did not make a good job of the selection interview. (My sense of calling was to the diaconate, but I was put forward as a candidate for the priesthood, and all of the questions were about being a priest.)

The second time I was put forward as a vocational deacon. And I know I said and did the right thing.

So it came as a huge surprise when I was rejected.

It did not help that someone senior in the diocese took me aside and told me my rejection was entirely due to church politics.

I still feel called.But I also know my calling will not be affirmed until we have a new bishop.

Evander said...

multiple churches have rejected me even as a fill in preacher because I am a single man (never married). I will never forgive them or God for deceiving me with a calling that has been unfulfilled. When churches reject then it's time to reject them and have nothing to do with them. I will not support them with prayer or my presence since they are bigots and lack respect for someone who is called to remain single.

Remaining single is as valid of a calling as marriage. Since they reject me as bigots I shall treat them as what they have proven themselves be. The more churches that close and more young people who walk away the better for everyone.