As a pastor I’ve counseled couples in crisis. One day a couple stopped into the office looking for help. Their thirty year marriage was in jeopardy. On their wedding day they exchanged vows to stay together. This couple had children and grandchildren. They had given their lives to each other. They were heavily invested in each other. And yet, here they were, struggling with a major disagreement. Through the recent election cycle, one voted Republican, the other Democrat. The disagreement between the two was like a deep chasm. After listening to their story, I took a deep breath. Here’s what I told them.
“You two should get a divorce. Leave each other. It’s clear. You are no longer in love. Why are you putting up with each other? Go find someone else to love and spend the rest of your life with.”
Isn’t that a stupid thing to say to this couple? Do you think after the love and life they’ve shared they should split because of one disagreement?
Okay. You got me. I made up the whole story. But I’m making a point.
In the last couple of years I’ve lost count of how many people who asked, “Why do you stay in the Church of the Nazarene?” Others are a little more direct and demand I leave. Why? Because I have become affirming of members in the queer community. The church and I disagree on this one issue which isn’t even addressed by any of the Articles of Faith.
I’m 69 years old. I attended my first Nazarene service when I was three days old. The family I was born into made me a fifth generation Nazarene. Grandpa was a Nazarene preacher. I graduated from Olivet Nazarene University and Nazarene Theological Seminary. At a District Assembly, leaders ordained me by the laying on of hands into ministry. I served as a pastor for 35 years in the denomination. I’ve invested my life into the church that I love.
And now, after one disagreement, you think I should leave? That’s like suggesting to the ficticious couple they split and go find someone else to love. It’s crass and cruel. It’s silly and thoughtless. And, in a moment of weakness, I confess that it’s hurtful.
So why am I staying? I’m staying because I’m in love with the Church of the Nazarene. She’s been the only church love I’ve ever known. We’ve held hands together. We exchanged vows. We’ve walked through deep waters side by side. Together we’ve wept and laughed through decades of ministry.
You want me to walk away from the church I love? I guess you don’t know me very well. Nope. I’m not leaving. I’m staying, even if we disagree on one issue. Who knows? Maybe the church and I can work things out. Or how about this:
How about we agree to disagree and get on with the real business of the church?
That’s my answer. And I’m sticking to it. How about you?