The other night several people were sharing a quote on twitter from someone named Paul Tripp. Apparently he said, "If your response to reconciliation is 'I want to cover my butt legally,' then you're not interested in reconciliation." I think that is superbly accurate.
The irony immediately sprung into my mind because, when I finally got some denominational people to meet with us (actually, it took Lance to get it done), the very FIRST thing the Regional Director said was something along the lines of, "Well, it took us awhile to respond because first we had to see what our legal responsibilities were." That didn't surprise me, but is totally pathetic nonetheless... especially for a group of church leaders. And especially when all we wanted was to find a sense of closure and possibly some encouragement.
Although that is at least more understandable to me than the response I got from the church leader who seems to be running things at our old church. When I mentioned reconciliation, she said, "Sometimes reconciliation just means moving on." Really?! That doesn't seem like reconciliation AT ALL, but more like, "Why can't you just go away and leave us alone?" The typical disposable mentality of our day and age. If you can't get along with your co-workers - just find another job and forget them. If you can't get along with your spouse - just get another one. If you get tired of your pet - drop it off in a ditch or in front of the animal shelter.
That's probably the thing that has irritated me the most about this whole situation with our former church. There has been absolutely NO interest in reconciliation or restoration from the leaders (both denominationaly and with the local church leadership group). Not only was I the pastor there for 14 years, but our entire family were friends with the people there. Apparently that means nothing to some people.
And I'll go on a little personal rant here... The person who seems to be in charge of our old church has run their life just like this. She always gave the impression she was divorced. We have since heard that she is, in fact, not divorced. She just chooses not to live with her husband. She also has a history of jumping from job to job - often leaving the organization in a shambles when she goes. Add to that how she would constantly tell us that as soon as we left the church, she would be right behind us. How she complained about how incompetent the board members were; how backwards so many of the people were. She would consistently ask me why I stayed there as pastor. She wondered why the denomination didn't just shut the church down. I could go on...
So imagine our surprise when we found out that she, along with her brother (both former Apostolics), share almost all of the preaching now. I suppose she thinks she's found the only two people fit to lead a church she could be part of --- herself and her brother.
Interestingly enough, she is also the only one who had any contact with either Jane or I the entire time I was on sabbatical (it was with Jane, not me). She was also the only board member who came to our house when she and the interim pastor told us we couldn't return. So I suspect she is the source of much misinformation; and I also suspect some outright lies. I have heard from numerous people that she insists I was not going to return from my sabbatical. That is totally untrue. I also clearly remember on the night she came to our house when she said, "Dan, surely you didn't think your return was just up to you?" We were dumbfounded, because we certainly didn't think it was just up to me either. We didn't know there was any question about it! The entire board had agreed on a 3-month sabbatical for me. Why else would there have been a start date and a return date? Why else would we have made a 3-month contract with an interim pastor? It just kind of blows my mind how someone who had only been a board member for 4 months could change things so easily and quickly.
Now, I know it's possible that maybe I have been given some misinformation myself, or that I could be a little skewed in my thinking... But all we've ever asked for was an explanation of why we were booted from the church so we could try to find some closure. And all we've ever been told is, "We don't think that would be in our (their) best interest." So, again, absolutely no consideration for reconciliation or restoration. And, the way things are in our denomination, no accountability either.
So, yes, I admit it would be hard for me to ever trust or believe anything this person said again. I also openly admit that we are still having a hard time coming to grips with the whole thing. The dismissal, the lying, the deceit, the lack of concern or remorse, the being discarded and ignored... Yet for some reason I still hold out hope for reconciliation. I am more than open to it with just about everyone in the church (other than a few). My heart is still pretty fragile and I'm not sure I could muster forgiveness with those few on my own. But I'm at least praying that God might make that possible. It just doesn't seem right that, as followers of Jesus, we can not believe in the hope of reconciliation. Or that our first instinct is to want to cover our butt legally.
But... as usual... what do I know? And I'm sorry if this was too much information to share. We have had it bottled up for over a year now, and I'm tired of worrying about what other people think. It's the truth. I am still slightly angry; I am still very frustrated; but I would still like to think we can do all things through Christ. Sometimes I have my doubts though. Such is life.
What a long strange trip it's been.