Events of the last few weeks, and in fact, the last few months have left me feeling uncertain at best about the church I grew up in as a kid and decided to return to as an adult after college. While I can see the path that has been laid out before us, I am not completely sure how I got on it or why it looks so strange to me. Today1, we, the congregation, will vote on the following motion2:
That the congregation of University Presbyterian Church approve the request of Rev. Jason Santos and the Session to dissolve the Associate Pastor relationship with the church.
Jason himself has noted, “I am, therefore, submitting my resignation and would ask that you would honor this decision.”
This leaves me at a divergence of two roads in a yellow wood, with both paths sucking hard-core. On the one hand, I want to honor Jason’s decision. However, I also do not believe that I can, in good conscience, vote to accept the recommendation of Session to dissolve the pastoral relationship.
In many ways, I feel like I can sympathize with how Pontius Pilate3 must have felt:
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
I so very much want to be able to wash my hands of this situation — and of this vote. Things have been done that I’m not happy with and that I don’t agree with. I want to be able to distance myself from this so I can say, “Ah ha! See! I told you so.”
But that would be the easy way out, and Christ never promised me an easy life.
Sometimes I wish Pilate would have done more. And yes, I know that Pilate plays a critical role in Christianity in this regard, he’s even mentioned by name in the Apostles’ Creed, which is significant. But I still imagine Pilate feeling helpless, and frustrated, and sad, and maybe even a little bit sick to his stomach — as I am now, because I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to vote.
But I can’t simply sit on the couch and let the vote pass me by. Instead, this is where I take the road less traveled, the road that Pilate chose not to take. I’m choosing not to wash my hands of this.
If I could be awesome, like Paul was4, I would have written a letter like this to the congregation of UPC:
12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us. 26 Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
I know this letter doesn’t say anything about how to vote. That would be easy. Instead, I see this letter as a reminder of how we are to act. We are to be supportive and patient, thankful and prayerful. We are to check out everything and not be gullible5. We are to remember that our God is faithful and he will do what he said he will do.
Tomorrow’s vote isn’t going to be easy. It’s going be hard. The next several months, and probably even years, are going to be hard and they’re going to require hupomeno — perseverance under misfortunes and trials while holding fast to one’s faith in Christ.
Maybe it’s for the best that I’m not Pilate. My hope is that if I don’t wash my hands of this, I can somehow do something good in the long run. My hope is that I can be part of the healing process, even if I was part of the problem.
Hope is a pretty powerful thing. I know God has a plan; and I know it wasn’t his first plan because we screwed that one up a long time ago, but I choose to believe that this plan will still be awesome.
and I’m not trying to subtlety suggest that Jason is Jesus Christ. If you think that, you’re missing the point ↩
you might also remember that Paul’s life was not easy either ↩
as Eugene Peterson’s The Message puts it ↩