When people leave an unhealthy church, they are often concerned about fellowshipping ‘backsliders‘. They’ve been told we are bitter and want to strike out or pull them out. That may be true of a few, but many of us went to great lengths not to strike out. What we have said has not been said in anger, but to reach out to others who were hurt.
I was United Pentecostal for 19 years. I was thrown out of a church in 2000 on false accusations based on only the pastor’s word or decision. I moved to another state to join a different UPC to avoid saying anything to anyone about what had happened, under the pretense of going back to college. Only the new pastor and his wife were aware that anything had happened, and I refused to blame the former pastor. The new one knew I’d been thrown out, and knew the accusation. I wouldn’t defend myself. I thought that somehow he must have discerned sin in my heart that I wasn’t aware of.
At the new church, people questioned my move and didn’t accept me. I ‘held on’. In 2003 my new pastor died. The man who took his place eventually started doing things that concerned me. In 2009, I left there after being named in a lawsuit by someone who had told me personally that the basis of their lawsuit was false, most probably as a supporting witness. I left rather than perjure myself or be thrown out for not backing the suit. I tried to find a different UPC. One pastor wanted to ‘swap stories’ about what this church had done to us. I refused. Several others wouldn’t take me without a full explanation of why I was leaving. And so I left UPC.
All that to say this: My story isn’t so different than others’ here. Many of us swore we’d never leave. We left behind friends and sometimes family. We loved God and church and the people there. We stayed as long as we could. But at some point something happened and we were forced to make a choice we didn’t want to make and didn’t plan to make. Most of us experience anger and confusion, but also a deep sense of loss. These boards can be a sounding board for those who are angry or confused, or disoriented by the culture shock of leaving, but more than that they are a place to sort through things, to discover, to learn, to grow… And when needed, to mourn together a loss that most of Christianity can’t comprehend, though the loss originates from some form of religion.
Blessings and peace to you all in the new year.