I must say that I watched another train-wreck happen on Facebook. Each time I view one, I promise not to look the next time, yet here we are!. Facebook has helped me stay in contact with family, friends and former parishioners across the country, as well as stay in touch with friends and acquaintances from around the world. I will be out of the country for a few weeks serving at a Bible College while on sabbatical. Facebook will more than likely be the way I stay in contact with people back home. Yet I am sickened by some of what I witness on Facebook in particular and social media in general. Whereas Facebook is an excellent tool to stay in touch with people, it is a poor tool for resolving conflict and beating down the opposition to see the merit in our positions.
The event in question is a parishioner on his way out of local church venting about the pastor. Let me say I do not know the people involved personally, but in one case I know the family of the man and I know Tara Beth by her reputation, speaking and I have read things that she has written. Several issues came to mind as I read the post:
Women Clergy. This has been settled in the Church of the Nazarene from the beginning! Women were being ordained in the holiness movement pre-dating the Church of the Nazarene. It is based on taking the Scripture in its entirety and not lifting a “proof-text.” Women were pastoring and ordained in the Church of the Nazarene before women had the right to vote in the USA! So it is not a political issue, it is again a Biblical issue. My great grandmother was converted circa 1918 in Paulding Ohio, and the one who led her to the Lord was a woman preacher! My wife is an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene. I was speaking at a meeting of Nazarene Chaplains in Colorado in 2003 when she went forward and answered God’s call upon her life. I have seen her sacrifice and prepare for the ministry that God has called her to, and today she is serving as a full-time hospital chaplain. So, any parishioner who has a problem with this does not have a problem with a local pastor, but is out of line with the entire denomination!
Conflict resolution. We have strayed from the Biblical pattern as set forth by Jesus in Matthew 18. First, if we have a problem with someone, we should go to them and seek to resolve the matter. If this does not work, then we need to take someone with us and again try to resolve the conflict. If this does not clear things up, then we go our separate ways. I have no idea if the person and the pastor in Pasadena had such meetings, it is clear that sharing things in a public format and not sharing it with the person is horrible and I might add “sinful.” Having pastored for many years, I understand that there is conflict in the best of families. Yet we seek to work things out. If someone goes to a pastor and does not feel they were heard or understood, all of our local congregations have governing boards. Talk to someone(s) in leadership and see if the disagreement can be worked to everyone satisfaction. Without sounding self-serving one could even contact the District Superintendent. In this case, the DS could have given the Biblical and ecclesiastical reasons for embracing the God-called woman. There have been times in my ministry that some just felt that they could no longer “support my ministry, or sit under my ministry.” No doubt it was hurtful to me, but with prayer and encouragement, I sought to bless the folks and wish them well. Even when we do not like something does not give us the right to leave with a “scorched earth” policy.
Holiness. We are a holiness church. We understand today that this has nothing to do with the manner of dress or keeping a set of rules alone. It has to do with having our hearts “purified by faith.” Starting with myself, I am asking God to help me love people who have different opinions and preferences from me. I am asking God to soften my heart and spirit. Holiness people should have some kindness! I don’t pretend to infer that we never have a bad day or get upset or speak before we think. I plead guilty at times to all of these infractions. I read that “If I have not love”, I am a lot of hot air sounding like an out of tune cymbal clanging in a nerve-jarring way.
Social Media. First, People are watching and listening to us! Second, Vitriol seems to be more intoxicating than liquor! Third, what has happened to us? I have miscommunicated on Facebook, just because it is hard to give your entire take on a given situation. We are a nation divided. Maybe we need a set of rules for what is proper and what is improper for FB posts.
Common Sense. My grandparents who were the biggest influences in my growing up years had differences of opinion. One was a Democrat, the other a Republican, they knew when they voted they canceled each other’s vote. Never did I hear them call each other names, or tell each other that if they loved Jesus they would not have voted as they did. Did they discuss and disagree? Yes! Never were they mean or disrespectful to each other. How can we move ahead together as a society, if it cannot be modeled by believers?
Pastor Tara keep on serving and loving God and people. God bless you! Ministry is not for the faint-hearted. I thank God often for the woman of God who helped my family find the Lord 100 years ago! Sisters and Brother we can do and be better. I love you regardless of what you think of this blog. I cry for my nation, world and at times my church