Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Last weekend I attended a national gathering of my church. It was an ordination service – a consecration of people to ministry within my corner of the Christian faith.

I found myself amongst my colleagues. Here, amidst the greetings and the reunions, I discovered our deconsecration. We were the Presbyters – those appointed to lay hands on the Ordinands. But in between laying on hands and taking Holy Communion we spent the afternoon comparing financial statistics and numerical attendance; we dropped names and compared influence; we gossiped shamelessly; we wore the clothes of royalty, and left the event in cars of luxury. And I felt……deconsecrated.

Today I found another pastor who is as distressed as I am: Eugene Peterson, writing in Working the Angles, tells of pastors who have become
"a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper's concerns--how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money. Some of them are very good shopkeepers. They attract a lot of customers, pull in great sums of money, develop splendid reputations. Yet it is still shopkeeping; religious shopkeeping, to be sure, but shopkeeping all the same. The marketing strategies of the fast-food franchise occupy the waking minds of these entrepreneurs; while asleep they dream of the kind of success that will get the attention of journalists
You see – I discover these things in my heart too. I am seductively distracted by these things. But I am determined to be different. I see how this church is turning me into something that I do not want to be. And so if being an ordained minister is about church politics, status and power, then I do not want this. So I hereby declare myself ‘unordained’…..cut off from this kind of church practice.

But there is a glimmer of hope: those who made their ordination vows last weekend bring a breath of fresh air with them. I celebrate new colleagues such as Ecclesia, and Hilton, and Delm. They seek to be different. And I look to them to keep reminding me that the pastoral ministry is a response to the call of God, and not of this deeply flawed institution. Pray for me, that I may respond to life with a God pleasing integrity.


Wessel Bentley said...

Pete, I am as frustrated. A few weeks ago at the Barth Conference I made it clear in my lecture when I said "The institutional church is one of those holy cows that needs to be slaughtered".

It is Barth who, whilest being frustrated with the (c)hurch, found that the (C)hurch gave its clearest expression in the life of the individual. This gives me hope and is the reason I will pray for you and ask you to do the same for me.

digitaldion said...

A holy discontent. I love coming across these! They tell me of someone's great passion, their deep love - that which makes them sensitive to a perversion of something true and dear.

This discontent makes you such a precious gift! You formed most of these people for their ordination! In fact, I'm getting my 'post ordination' training from you!

I say this too often. But it is easy to say when it is true - you're a gift!


(lyrpt) - I'm going to start putting the word verification words at the bottom of my posts. I believe that they contain hidden meanings about the coming of a fourth testament. If I could just find my special golden glasses, I would be able to decipher them and tell you all 'the truth' ;-)

Gus said...

Can I hear an Ay men.

God save us from the institution... I'm listening to a song by Charlie Peacock on his album, Kingdom Come. These are the words:

"Cheer up church!
You're worse off than you think.
Cheer up church!
You're standing on the brink.
Cheer up church!
Don't despair.
Grace is near."

God give us grace, protect us from systematic theologians who think that word verifications are a newer testament... (kicyfn)

Murray & Gina UK said...

you know for the last two minutes I have been trying to figure out what weird theology you guys have been learning at John Wesley.
It was only when I had to re-type the word verification that I got what the hell you were on about.

Yes, I'm still on holiday, but only for another 8 hours