Ok, a little foundation on the things I’ve discussed so far. This post will be about the Pastor of the UPC (United Pentecostal Church) church we started out in.
He was a wonderful, elderly man. Elderly physically, and Elderly in the sense of meeting the Biblical qualifications for an Elder of the church. A true shepherd, loving and kind. I’ve often wondered how he came to get involved in the UPC.
I was a child when under him, so there may have been doctrinal issues with his preaching that I don’t remember, but children recognize and identify with a kind spirit, and this is what I remember about him. His preaching was always delivered lovingly.
When he baptized me, I remember being very surprised. Everyone who’s been in the UPC knows what a big deal they make about the words that are said when you’re baptized – “it HAS to be in Jesus name, or you’re not saved!”. But, when this Pastor baptized me, he said “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, which is Jesus Christ”.
My Mom complained endlessly about this pastor. He was too old-fashioned, and also not old-fashioned enough (in her opinions). Even though she was a fellow preacher, he wouldn’t talk to her in his office without someone else present and she took this as a slight against her character. (In reality, he was protecting them both against gossip and slander and generally making a good practice of common sense.) He objected to suggestions of hers that would offend many families in the church, and she saw this as “political pandering”. He saw it as loving your brothers and sisters in Christ, to take care to preach ‘the truth’ in a way that would not hurt people.
Mom and the other female preachers in the church would meet at our house and spend hours on end talking about what they didn’t like about this Pastor. These sessions are something else that I would get punished for interrupting if me or my sister needed things, like food or maybe a band aid for an injury. How dare we interrupt the workings of God! Because to them, all this gossiping was just “sharing concerns to be prayed about” and this was of God in their way of thinking. It seems that gossip and slander wasn’t possible for them, because everything they said about somebody no matter how bad, damaging, or unfounded it was, was only for the purpose of prayer. The only time the concept of gossip seemed to even exist to them was if something bad was said about them.
Another thing about this Pastor – many of the men on the board of the church didn’t believe in female preachers. But he did, and he overrode them to allow Mom and the other women to preach in his church. This seems pretty progressive to me, and also very different from the “political pandering” he was accused of by them. If you have a group of people in a mindset of extremism, often giving them a leader with a good heart still can’t sway them away from their extremes.
At this point in my childhood, I already knew that there were major problems with the UPC beliefs and lifestyle I was being taught. I could see them so clearly with the non-jaded vision of a child. But, because our Pastor was such a kind man, I felt that the problem was the people in the church (like my Mom) who refused to be Christlike in their actions. I didn’t see yet that my Pastor was actually a major exception to the rule when it came to the personalities of UPC ministers.
Edited to add: I forgot to mention that this Pastor was the presbyter of our UPC “section”, so he was big in the organization. I’ve never seen anyone else like him in the UPC.