Leaving the Church

What do I do with my church? I have been a Presbyterian all my life. Last year the PCUSA senate chose to ordain homosexual clergy. I’ve been praying about it all year, but I don’t have a clear answer. Do I stay and fight it out or do I go look for a church that doesn’t compromise the gospel? I have 4 children to consider, 18, 14, 12 and 4, plus one on his own.

Hi Mark.

Because you feel that ordination of homosexual ministers (by which I presume to mean individuals have homosexual relationships because they consider the matter “culturally bound” within Scripture, as opposed to those who have homosexual desires and therefore choose to remain celibate because they believe, as I do, that what the Bible has to say about (homosexual) sex is universally relevant) is a distortion of the gospel, I cannot see you staying, especially as it is unlikely that you will be able to “fight” this decision in a way that will cause an overturning of the PCUSA’s decisions and actions regarding this matter.

If that rings true to you, I think the question is: how do you leave? Leaving a church is difficult, and as you say, you have children who are invested in relationships with their friends at church and so forth. I think it is important to talk to your friends and to the leadership, especially if it’s a smaller church and you know the pastor personally, about why you are leaving in a way that is not accusatory or hostile. This is hard to do when you are passionate and care deeply about the issue that caused the rift. The key is to let that passion and care find more expression in sadness than in anger. I imagine you are sad about the thought of leaving the denomination you’ve been in your whole life. It’s a loss you will indeed have to grieve. Let your disappointment and sadness find expression. Be honest about why you’re leaving, but leave as generously and compassionately as you can: “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14).

The next question, I think, is: What about my kids? Again I think the key is communication. Talk to them about it. The older ones, especially the one on his own and your 18-year-old, are at places in their lives where they need to make their own decision about this, and it’s important to respect their decision, even if it disappoints. Hopefully, that won’t be an issue, but you’ll need to prepare yourself so you don’t find yourself merely reacting. I know I’m not at my best when I find myself reacting to being blindsided. Obviously you don’t need to discuss gay ordination with your 4-year-old—you can/should be more generic—but you do need to have an open and honest discussion about it with the others. Be gracious with them and patient. It will be just as much of an adjustment for them as it is for you, perhaps more so in some ways.

Finally, you may be wondering: Where to now? You’ve been a Presbyterian your whole life. Where do you even begin to look. A good starting place might be the Anglican church. You may be aware that the Anglican church in America recently split from Episcopalians for the very same reason you are considering leaving the Presbyterian church. In the Anglican church, you will generally find some of the same liturgical practices you enjoy in the Presbyterian church, so it would be a smoother transition, I would think, than say, trying to assimilate in a Baptist church, for example.

I hope that is helpful, Mark. Please write again if you’ve found this useful and/or encouraging, and of course, if you feel I didn’t really answer your questions or if I can clarify in any way.

God’s peace,

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7 Responses to Leaving the Church

  1. Brian says:

    I agree with all of Renea’s points about how to deal with this: honestly, openly, and directly, with both your current church and your children.

    As far as looking for a new church home, which wouldn’t be a huge denominational or liturgical shock, you should consider the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The PCA broke from the PCUSA in the 1970s when some of these issues (ordination of practicing homosexual clergy; rejecting authority/innerancy of Scripture, etc.) began to become major issues.

  2. Val says:

    A solid and gracious response, and of course, I’m all about the Anglican shout out. Love to you!

  3. mckenzie5 says:

    well said Renea and said from an understanding heart that not only believes the truths uttered but lived it out.

  4. gundam says:

    thanks.very good blog and very good share.

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