got mercy

mercyflatlineAs I listen to the voices of the Nation, the inability to extend divine love (many followers of Christ are perpetuating the problem) is where there appears to be a problem.

Because of the inability to extend forgiveness, there is a continued lack of communication. Mercy is the hardest; compassion compels the Christ follower to love humanity even those who have caused great hurt. Mercy requires forgiveness and extending kindness to those who may not “deserve” it.

In Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus gives the church instructions. Followers of Christ are called to be a part of the mission of God in “sharing the gospel” if we believe in Christ we are challenged to go to the people. God sends believers into the world. Believers are challenged to go to all kinds of individuals because the message of repentance and forgiveness, the good news is for everyone. And believers are empowered by the Holy Spirit to share this particular message.

In our going followers of Christ discover where mercy is needed. Essential parts of going are to assist and to be sensitive enough to notice and discern where people are hurting, struggling, and in need and making ourselves available to help. Being good neighbors to ALL people even those we “justifiably” deem as unworthy.

The church is not being the Church if it is not demonstrating genuine, unconditional acts of Christian compassion. When the Christ follower extends mercy, that is what makes him/her “not of this world.”

“I didn’t take on their way of life.  I kept my bearings in Christ.  But I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view.  I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.  I did all this because of the Message.  I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” (I Cor. 9:19-23 The Message)

How much further towards unity would “we the people” be if we tried to experience things from the point of view of our enemy? How close would we be if followers of Christ got in on the bridging the divide as opposed to digging deeper trenches? I contend that in the experiencing and being in on it, is when we see God move for the betterment of ALL. Somewhere along the way, certain factions of the Protestant church have become to believe that they have cornered the market on righteousness. And this erroneous belief has caused more harm to an already divided Republic.

I love having conversations with people who disagree with me, notice I am speaking of talks, not arguments. As an undergraduate, I had conversations of race with suitemates who had never encountered an ethnic minority, yes, those places existed and still exist in America, I did not label them as ignorant or write-off their questions. Even today my friends, colleagues, associates, and others often say they can have conversations with me that they would not have with others. These conversations challenge me to be in on it, to check my bias. As long as the parties play fair discussion of divergent views can be rich and lead to growth, healing, and unity.

America is unkind, and no one people group has cornered the market on treating humanity well or caring. The democrat, republican, independent, firearm owner, anti-gunner, kneeler, stander, or anyone who stands in agreement or disagreement is not the problem. The problem is a lack of mercy. Our inability to view an issue from the other side, continues to and may always keep the Republic divided…

Closing Thought: I am not naïve, I do not believe that we will ever reach a place of agreement, I am just hoping for common understanding.

seminary dropout

seminarydropout

If I do not tell my truth, someone may attempt to rewrite history. There are multiple sides to why I am a seminary dropout and why I may one day drop back in, here is a tidbit.

After months, of “floundering,” I believe it was time to pick another path. I understand my call and know what I walked away from, it is painful, and it hurts beyond measure. I had a wealth of encouragement from pastors, family, friends, mentors, and prayer partners saying stay the course. However, staying the course in a system dominated by familial generations in which breeding and race seem to be precursors for having a respected voice seemed unwise. I am not the daughter or grand-daughter of anyone of denominational significance thus I may always be on the outside. I am not deterred. In the grand scheme of things, I am just taking a more “realistic” approach to what lies ahead, as I live out my life in ministry.

With those thoughts, I dropped out of seminary.

I enjoyed my courses, professors, and course mates. I miss seminary. However, as my husband said, “I need time to recover from the words, mistreatment, and craziness of the past few years.” Unfortunately, seminary coursework does not allow time.

In departing seminary, I found myself on the receiving end of care, the type of care I had not received in my denominational district. As someone who worked with divinity students and offered a listening ear for words of lament, I am appreciative of the excellent care shown by my academic advisor, professor, and other officials I encountered.

There is a piece of me that wholeheartedly desires to finish the degree. If for no other reason than to feed my thirst for knowledge and theological conversation.

I held my initial withdrawal email in draft form from November 4, 2017, because I did not want to send it. My family has invested and sacrificed, and it seems ridiculous to walk away without a degree. And for naysayers who might somehow paint a false narrative of my inability to cut it in seminary, be assured the grade point average is strong.

Alas, I believe there was more integrity in walking away than staying the course and burying my truth. Walking away took the pressure off, it has allowed me to clear my head away from the demands of the next due assignment and the quest for an A/A- because anything less is unacceptable.

I was at a denominational school, and while the seminary had not “harmed” me, I was in a “system” that in my opinion did not value me. I would have been contributing to my abuse, hypocritical and positioning myself to lie to remain without taking the time to rethink end game. I have too much respect for the call to ministry to lie for the approval of others. To say, all is well, just to get along would have been counter to the voice that God has given me. To say all is not well, means I am planted squarely on the outside. For me leaving the ordination process meant I needed to back away from seminary. The school I love feels somehow tainted. 

Dan Galloway posted the following on LinkedIn recently, “every exit is an entrance somewhere else,” and “you will be too much for some people, those aren’t your people.”

I may one day choose an entrance to another seminary, hopefully, I will not be too much for the next group.

script of my ministry

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“All pastors would be better off to admit what many women pastors know from the start – expect some hostility and resistance to faithful ministry.” – Will Willimon, Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry

I learned that a pastor was hired in part because he comes from “good stock.” And while I have had tried not to allow this statement to bother me, it continually gnaws at my core. I think of stock regarding soup, animals, or bonds; however, I realize this comment has everything to do with familial breeding and denominational heritage.

And by this definition, I will never be qualified for service. So, it begs the question, why do I continue to serve? 

I find It is a bit of oxymoron to select pastoral staff based upon breeding. If for no other reason, it is contrary to scripture.  The message of the Gospel says we are adopted and made new. God himself, destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, (Ephesians 1:5, NRSV). As well as, so if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new (2 Corinthians 5:17, NRSV). Apparently, in some Christians circles, this means absolutely nothing. The message of the Gospel say, we are all well-bred.

This nothingness has me longing for days in any of the offices I occupied as a human resource professional or program assistant. The racism, prejudice, misogynism made sense in those settings, and I could navigate what I saw coming. I understood what it meant to walk into a room and have the gentlemen say that I was not what they were expecting. Or to have to prove myself over and over to the same people I had worked with or lead on multiple successful projects or to get the crap assignment because the minority was expected to fail.  There is nothing like overhearing your director inform your colleague that the expectations were different for you, the bar was intentionally higher and the challenges intentional, nothing like being set-up to fail. I digress. However, I never failed, was never terminated, never faced corporate discipline. Still, I walked away from people and places that others would never leave, because there is a limit to the level of disrespect I can tolerate.

The local church and ministry are a different arena. I do not mind the resistance that Willimon speaks of; my skin is thick. I may not be well-bred, but where I come from there is no room for weakness. I have turned the other cheek, tolerated a level of disrespect and maltreatment because of my love for God’s people. If this had been my former professional life, I would have walked away from it a long time of go. Alas, I had hope. Don’t miss that; I used the word had. I always believe that there is room for God to move. However, I have always been aware that in the heart of man lies bias, prejudice, and racism. I believe most of us in ministry without familial, generational ties, or who are members of the other undoubtedly find ourselves only able to achieve an average amount of respect if we are lucky. Sadly, luck is a term often associated with gambling, an activity frown upon by the church. Many of us find ourselves hoping to get lucky in ministry.

I was part of a denomination that affirms women. And even though I found myself in an affirming body, I did not always feel affirmed. I was very much on the outside looking at “the in crowd.” I tried to fit my call into the predetermined box, I served in hospitality and led a women’s small group, and decided to focus in the areas where women belong. My experience is one in which I find leadership being welcoming of diverse congregants. However, the leadership structure lacks diversity in race, ethnicity, or gender. Therefore, as a Black/African American woman there continues to be the question of belonging within a primarily Anglo-Caucasian denomination? I have never had an issue with being the first or the only one but in the being the first or the only one, I just do not want to be the ethnic minority checkbox. And that could be the problem. I am not playing my role and staying in my lane.

I am not content to ignore the social ills of the local church or worship at the “black” church because that is where I belong or be the token minority seen but not heard. I did not play the role of the token when I worked in the corporate and academic arenas, and I am not going to play it for the local church. I contend that the local church cannot be a bridge in the community unless the body deals with our internal strife and division.

I was not born in my previous denomination. My religious life was eclectic during my childhood and youth; furthermore, my family of origin is not the “best.” I am either quiet or opinionated (there is no in between), I do not particularly care for women’s ministry or children’s church, my husband is the head of our house, but my validation does not come from him. The script of my life (ministry) has not been written by men or women; however, they seem to have predetermined my place.

And with this predestination has come blatant disregard for the things God has put on my heart, and disrespect for the knowledge, skills, and abilities I possess to accomplish those things. Leaving me with one recourse.  I live entirely the truth that God called me, not a denomination, man, or woman. I get my orders from God, not from a man or woman. I am both sinner and saint, I have no stones to cast, but I do have a message to share.

Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” (John 4:29 The Message)