Prayers for shattered hearts – resolute souls
As many of you may know, my wife is a UMC minister. She is, in fact, a “probationary elder”, which means that she is in the three year (minimum) period of commissioning before full ordination. Her Board on Ministry has approved he for ordination in June, after the minimum three years.
She has been positioned in 3 churches in 3 years. The first was not actually a church – it was a parish of 5 churches served by one minister – a parish in which the two smallest “family” churches rode rough shod over the silent majority in the others, and in which the former minister, who was enabler, retired and moved across the street. My wife’s conference wanted her skills present there (like me, she’s a gender-bender, and she’s very gifted in “masculine” traits) and she accomplished what they desired. She was also vilified by some of the authorities who do not want to see change, but would rather have change happen (???) while doing the same, comfortable things.
Her next was a sick church – counting among its body count, three ministers who have left ministry as a result of their stints there – one by eventual suicide. They wanted to know what was really going on. She found out and exposed it. In the process she was vilified yet again, and threatened multiple times. The bulk of the bishop’s cabinet supported her throughout, and voiced their intention to withdraw participation in the union church (2 denominations in one). After her job was done, they moved her again.
We have been in a new home since November. Between the time of the move and now, the leadership of the bishop’s cabinet has been revamped, with all the change agents replaced with those who think the best way to deal with problem churches is to appease them. My wife is no appeaser and, as such, she was recently visited by her District Superintendent and told that the small number of parishioners who are resisting any change have stated they don’t want my wife as the minister. Never mind the overwhelming majority that do, this small group has the money and power.
So Jenna has been told that, unless she ceases fighting for change and just “keeps everyone happy”, she will be replaced and will not be reappointed or ordained. She is being blackmailed into keeping the status quo. It has come up in conversations with some of the local church leaders, that this same D.S. met with the church council privately and told them he suspects my wife's sexuality, accused her of abandoning her children (which are now with their father under court-decreed shared parenting rules),and of abusing the other two churches she was in. She has been, in my mind, been set up because she does not represent the “vision” of the conference that now seems to worship money and peace over honesty and change – the very change she was requested to make.
My wife is heart-broken on one hand, and resolute on the other that she will not acquiesce to a sick system. She is also very concerned because, until I find a job in an area where church and other jobs are in short supply, she is the “bread-winner.” She is conflicted. She is also conflicted about staying in a system in which another female minister she knew, who was also gifted with “masculine” traits committed suicide as a result of innuendos spread by her new D.S. and picked up by her church. Another woman minister, who is also a straight GLBT advocate, is currently also being vilified by some in her church and threatened by her D.S. The pressure is on in Iowa.
We need prayers. I support my wife in whatever decision she makes – actually that may not be true – if she stays and accedes to this abuse, I will be sorely disappointed. I am encouraging her to leave, as she is encouraging me to broaden my search for a job. The larger questions are almost overwhelming. To where would we go? If I got a job, what would she do? What are the prospects for us? We are both disillusioned with the church as it is, and both very passionate about changing that. But how? And where? And how do we survive in the meantime?
Please pray for both of us, and for my wife in particular, as we wrestle with visions of being in ministry, and the idealism that we share. Together, at the moment, we just seem to hold each other and weep. That’s good for now, but we needs God’s direction to be made clear.
Thanks for reading this, BTW.
- Andy's blog
Sins are always worse when they're different than mine