Why I Left My Church

The more I read the Bible, the more I’ve been questioning things that I’ve been told since Sunday School, things that as an adult either don’t make sense to me or don’t align with the Jesus I’ve come to know through the gospels. If I’m to take what Jesus said seriously, as mentioned in a previous post, I can’t continue to ignore what’s happening here on earth and just feel good about the place God has for me in heaven. This has changed how I feel about church and about what should be happening every Sunday as we gather to worship, read scripture, and tell stories about God. 

As I attended small groups and talked with others, including the pastor, I came to see that there wasn’t room for different interpretations or honest discussions about the Bible. I was told that politics don’t belong in the pulpit, was cautioned against the ‘social justice gospel,’ and was told things that seemed to be the opposite of God’s message of inclusion, love, peace, and justice. While I hoped that being on the Leadership Team would allow me to bring about change to a small, non-denominational church with declining membership, I realized that it didn’t seem like anyone other than me was interested in change. A month or so ago, I made the decision to resign from my position and stop attending.  When I wrote my resignation letter, my hope was that it would open a dialog, that it would be shared with the church membership, and most of all, that people would reach out to me to talk about why I left and how they felt about the reasons. That didn’t happen so I thought I would write a post and see if the folks who read this would have any thoughts to share with me.

What follows is the letter in it’s entirety. Comments on social media and in the comments section of the blog are welcome – I’m also happy to meet with anyone who lives nearby. Also, if you too have questions but don’t want to speak out in a public space, please feel free to email me at ca.sparks@nakedonthetundtra.com and I will respond as soon as I can.

I think as Christians, we often assume that we are all on the same page politically, biblically, socially, and morally. Indeed, I made this assumption and was surprised to learn this is not the case. In the past couple of years, there have been many times when I as a follower of Jesus could not understand how fellow Christians could take a particular stance or seem so insensitive to the critical needs of marginalized people, especially those who didn’t have the good fortune of being born with white skin.

Our sanctity of life sermons, social media postings, and conversations focus only on abortion but I believe they need to include the thirteen thousand lives lost to gun violence last year, the hundreds of thousands of people killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the fact that people are still being executed by the state because the death penalty is legal in thirty states. Are these lives any less sanctified?

We want to prevent refugees from entering our sacred borders but I want to acknowledge that the very ground on which we sit was stolen from indigenous people and we have no intention of giving it back, making reparations, and in fact, continue to steal lands when it benefits those with money or power. We need to remember our call to give sanction and asylum to the alien who seeks a better life. I believe there is more than enough for everyone.

We are called to be stewards of the earth yet we blatantly ignore the damage done to the environment by our daily lifestyle choices and continue to colonize and pillage third world countries to ensure that we have a never ending supply of whatever it is that we want when we want it. We refuse to take even the smallest steps to reduce our impact because it inhibits the freedom we feel we so richly deserve here in America. I believe this should be a priority for everyone – our very lives depend on it.

Our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are welcome to come to our church, but I believe they should be able to marry, raise children, and not have to remain celibate. We welcome people of color as well, but I believe we need to recognize and stand against the blatant racism, poverty, and premature deaths that are a part of their daily existence. We welcome women to lead but I believe we also need to talk about the harm that is done to them by men in positions of power at home, at work, and yes, even in the church. 

I understand not everyone is called to be an activist and I understand the danger of speaking against injustice inside and outside of the church, but I also know this: our silence on these and other issues of justice and equity can only be interpreted to mean we are just fine with things the way they are. I believe we as the church must start speaking out. In the late eighteenth century, it was the church speaking out against slavery that caused it to be abolished. We can’t admire and take pride in that if we are unwilling to do the same thing today.

I love the church and believe in the necessity of community for proper spiritual growth. For a long time I’ve been bothered by the lack of interest at NewSong regarding issues I’m passionate about as well the resistance to talking about and wrestling with social issues and interpreting passages of scripture. While others have opted to leave NewSong, I thought that my serving on the Leadership Team might enable me to help to bring about change and revitalize a church with dwindling membership. I now painfully recognize that the changes Iʼm most passionate about will only cause division. As I am unwilling to cause any additional harm to this body, I am resigning my position effective today. While I am choosing to seek out a new community, my NewSong brothers and sisters will always be the witnesses to my baptism and for that I am eternally grateful. I pray that in time any wounds I have caused this body will be healed and our friendship in Christ will remain.

Grace and Peace to all