Monday, July 27, 2009

by Sue

I was 62 years old when I left the Church of Christ. It was the most painful decision of my life, and the best thing I ever did. I was 50 years old when I began to question the traditional teaching about woman's role. My father had been an elder. My husband was an elder. My son was a deacon in the church. My roots were long and deep. We studied. We prayed. Many others shared our understanding, but were unwilling to change a tradition for fear of upsetting someone. Never mind that many were already upset and the tradition was not true to scripture. We were called all manner of names for questioning and challenging. The atmosphere in our congregation felt like a war zone. We had been actively involved in our congregation for 40 years. It was home. Leaving was like a painful divorce. We floated through many different churches after leaving. We now worship with a Presbyterian church were we can worship and once again feel part of a church family. We have found a new home. There is life outside of the C of C. There is a better way. My sons and daughters are welcome to use all of their talents here. One daughter is an elder. The other has preached on several occasions. I still teach Sunday School and teach the children that Jesus loves them. I am a woman recovering from the Church of Christ and finding joy in church again.
Sue Evans
Bowie, MD

12 comments:

JTB said...

"Many others shared our understanding, but were unwilling to change a tradition for fear of upsetting someone."

Yes. Yes, yes. This is part of what I want this blog series to highlight: that "many others share this understanding." I think more people have these experiences, questions, convictions, than we know, because we don't talk about it. This is part of why we just need to start throwing caution to the winds. We can't find each other, we can't hear each other, if we keep it all to ourselves.

Lara said...

"It was home."

Thank you, Sue, for sharing this. Right now, I can't yet imagine my "is" turning to a "was." I just keep holding out hope that if I try, again, to call for change, it might be possible in my "home" faith.

But if one day I decide it essential to look for a "life outside the C of C," I hope you won't mind if I call on you for encouragement.

jduckbaker said...

God bless you Sue. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and being honest in your pain and now your confidence.

lisa b said...

Sue, I also want to thank you for sharing your story. Like Lara, I hope -- no, long -- for this quest not to take me away from the C of C. I love so many things about it. It's my family, both spiritually and physically. I'm not a "Church of Christ only" person -- I don't think I ever have been -- but this is my home and it's the fellowship I long to give back to.

Carolyn said...

Thank you for sharing this, Sue. My heart aches for what you have been through, but I am glad that you have been able to find joy at church after so many years of pain.

Karen Luttrell said...

Sue - thanks for sharing your story. I live in Bowie as well! We don't worship at a CoC either, even though my husband and I both grew up in it. I'm glad you were able to find joy again in a church home.

jch said...

Sue, thanks for reassuring folks like me who are just now leaving that there can be a place that we call home sometime soon.

Michael said...

When I gave my Mission in Brooklyn several Protestants became Catholics. Among them there was a very highly educated and intelligent Virginian. He was a Presbyterian.

After he had listened to my lecture he went to see his minister, and he asked him to be kind enough to explain a text of the Bible.

The minister gave him the meaning. "Well, now," said the gentleman, "are you positive and sure that is the meaning of the text, for several other Protestants explain it differently?"

"Why, my dear young man," says the preacher, "we never can be certain of our faith."

"Well, then," says the young man, "good-bye to you: If I cannot be sure of my faith in the Protestant Church, I will go where I can," and he became a Catholic.

We are sure of our faith in the Catholic Church, and if our faith is not true, Christ has deceived us.

I would, therefore, beg you, my separated brethren, to procure yourselves Catholic books.

You have read a great deal against the Catholic Church, now read something in favor of it.

The One True Church
By Fr. Arnold Damen S.J.

JTB said...

Michael,

This blog is a personal blog of a born-and-raised deeply rooted Church-of-Christer. The women and men contributing to this series on women in the church are also part of this denomination, or have been. The issues and experiences being discussed here are highly particular to this denominational context, and this must be understood as an "in-house" conversation.

Further, the space I am hoping to create here is a safe one, in which no one will be condemned, even implicitly, for the feelings or stances or doctrines they currently hold. I mean to maintain this safe space, and that means that comments like yours, coming from someone outside this context and unconcerned with the actual subject of discussion, are not actually helpful.

Further, speaking only for myself, it has been a long personal journey for me away from the kind of sectarianism displayed in your comment. I grew up being told that I was part of the one true church, and everyone outside that church, even if they thought they were Christian, was not saved and was not really Christian. That one true church was the Church of Christ. Having moved away from this mindset, it is both intriguing and disturbing to see it proclaimed in nearly the same terms by someone else.

We "separated brethren" (and thank you for the honorary sex change, I guess) around here do mourn the fragmentation and division of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. But Michael, we in the CofC have "been there, done that" in terms of the misbegotten strategy of preaching unity through sectarian hegemony. The unity of the church is a mystery: something rooted in the very being of God, also a mystery of unity and trinitarian differentiation. It is not procured by doctrinal agreement or certainty. It simply is.

So here's the deal: having already deleted your comment once, only to have it reappear, I will let it stand, along with this reply. But please, do not repost, or hijack this safe space by making it a sectarian battleground. We are weary of battle. We long for the Jesus who promises us, everyone, rest. We are putting down our swords. You can too.

kbeck said...

You wrote: "I was 62 years old when I left the Church of Christ. It was the most painful decision of my life, and the best thing I ever did."

I was 40 years old when I left the Church of Christ. DITTO the rest of your statement.

Your second sentence is what is not understood by most...The decision to leave is painful. Those of us who stayed TOO long trying to promote gender justice from within were reluctant to leave. After all "this is MY church too", I would tell myself. However,I finally realized that God wanted me somewhere where I could be used and that the battle from within was not to be mine.

I will complete my M-Div in May, and through a painstaking process of searching, my family and I are now worshiping with the UMC.

Still asking God to show me how best to serve, but so happy to be somewhere supportive of my gifts. It is amazing to be accepted for who I am, something I hid and denied far too long as a member of the CofC.

JTB said...

kbeck,

congrats on the MDiv. That is one crazy long degree! I opted for the less painful MA myself.

I do hope you're considering a longer version of your narrative but I wanted to respond here to say that I think there are many people who find that "the battle from within" is not theirs, and that God is indeed calling them out. My husband is one of those, and I know many, many others. It's my opinion that we need people to go and people to stay, and that there is no inherent virtue in choosing one path over the other. I just think we need both witnesses--and which witness is your own is something determined by your gifts and how best to use them. I am very, very glad, that you have found your answer to this.

AM Kingsfield said...

I'm so glad you finally had the strength to leave, Mom. You were the only reason left for me to stay. What a relief! Of course it was hard. But now that we don't have to waste time wrestling with this illogical limitation, there is so much more to explore about God.