Discover more from a sorcerer's notebook
I am voluntarily resigning my rostered minister status
And Merry Christmas
A reprint of a letter sent , received, and then very kindly acknowledged by my Bishop today.
To Bishop Jaech of the Southwest Washington Synod of the ELCA:
I want to start this letter first by thanking you for your help, kind words, challenges, and reflections through this little over one year period of discernment about my future as a “rostered minister” in the ELCA.
(Also to inform you I am sending this letter to you early but will publish it on my blog as you acknowledge receipt. I am hoping this will stop the public harassment from detractors I have had since 2018. This is doubtful.)
I am writing to tell you that I am voluntarily resigning my rostered minister status in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America effective 12/23/22.
I am aware this means I am no longer authorized, according to this church's “authority” to administer the sacraments within the confines of the ELCA denominational structure, or its churches, or in its name, or as one of its ministers.
This decision is borne out of the same Spirit that led me to accept Rev. Tim Johansen’s invitation for me to share my story at his church in Havertown PA, the first time I had ever walked into an ELCA church, in 2014.
This Spirit of Radical Love, that transgresses our imaginary boundaries. This Spirit that dismantles, deconstructs, and disavows white supremacy, the prison industrial complex, and property values on stolen land. This Spirit that I believe asked me on that day to serve the ELCA, and led Rev. Tim to listen in discernment with me later.
At the time in 2014, my work was as an avocation: community work, sharing with people the radical power of God, dreaming of a better world, trying to articulate and live out what I thought liberation to be. The thought that my months alone in solitary confinement as a juvenile, my time as an invisible citizen of this land, as ignored refuse, (often by people who looked like the people in Rev. Johansen’s assigned call) could be put to some use — It was, and is, an intoxicating dream.
From that first 5 minute homily I gave to the incredibly supportive congregation of Temple Lutheran Church at 8:30 am that morning, until this day, I have tried to serve this church faithly. I have used my gifts in ways that I felt I was called to from deep in my bones, in my heart, in my spirit.
I have tried to do this “in the old ways” — With good form, character, dignity, mercy, and ipa pwele. I always tried to balance the vows I took at ordination with the very real needs of the people on the ground.
I am quite sure I have failed at this at times.
I’m also quite sure God has done things with my ministry beyond my awareness, ripples of life, good, and love that spread in the waters of our baptism as a church.
I hope in the postscript of my ministry one may see that trying to hide my failures, my flaws, or my problems with the leadership, structures, and trajectory of this church was something I did not do.
Because I am a public leader, the errors I have made means people pay the price. I have felt each one of these mistakes professionally and personally deep within my soul. I have tried to be accountable and be better. I leave the judgment of the results of those instances to better minds, hearts, and souls than mine.
I never claimed to not be broken by this world, its systems, or my own choices. I personally think that's a big part of Jesus' narrative, and part of the power he is calling us all into.
In my ministry I have given my words, my love, my support, endless hours of worry, my body's sense of safety, my authenticity and my best.
While I will never regret the Rev. Tim Johansen’s invitation, nor deny that it has led to some of the greatest moments of my very hard life, I can no longer stay in this church as a minister or as a member.
This is because I believe the COVID-19 pandemic, the uprisings for Black liberation in 2020, and the rise of Christo-facism are apocalypse events. Unveiling of true natures.
Or perhaps more accurately, these events have been a series of apocalypses for my personal and continued formation.
I also believe these events have ontological impact for much of the country and the world.
On May 30th 2020 in front of the Justice Center in Portland Oregon, I realized that:
Every major American mainline denomination failed us at a critical time in salvation history. Every leader.
As a result we are now faced with a world where the name Jesus Christ fills almost half the country with either terror or apathy. I don’t think this is the people's fault. However, I think for the ELCA, and much of the mainline church, it means “Jesus has left the building.”
These apocalyptic events have changed the ways I experience the living God and the struggle or movement towards liberation as a Black person. It has also changed how I experience this church's disposition towards my ministry, and certain members, ministers, and Bishops' dispositions towards me personally.
I believe I have experienced what has been called “the Obscure Night” in ancient circles. It describes a period of one's life when every construct, epistemology, cosmology, and tradition one is using melts in the harsh glow of the realities of this world. What one has wrought, what one has sown, who one has loved, who they failed to love, and worse yet, who they loved poorly, all comes to bear on the person at once during an Obscure Night.
Bishop, when you called me the week of this Christmas to yet again register, explain, and clarify a complaint about my social media and public comments from yet another faceless detractor it healed something inside me.
It helped me let go of public life — to let go of having a “say” in this church, its life, or it’s eventual timely death.
Your call helped me ask the pointed question: Why should we keep doing this? I know you don't want to call me on the week of Christmas with these complaints, and I certainly don't want to discuss my instagram posts the day before the birth of Christ.
The question was so pointed in my mind because last Christmas I wanted to write this letter. But I waited. I listened.
As suggested by queerly beloved lovers, I have spent a year of discernment asking myself in prayer and eboo that question: Why?
Why keep an “employment status” within a church where people lurk on my social media, accuse me of anything they think might stick? Why stay somewhere even objective observers might agree almost half the people don't want you there?
Why stay in a church where most of your detractors, progressive and conservative, aren’t outraged by the system itself but are simply upset that they aren't on top? Why spend so much time among stiff necked peoples, who don’t recognize my basic humanity?
I received less death threats in correctional facilities than I have in my time as an ELCA minister, and I think that is the epithet of my time here.
I am glad I waited.
Thanks to the Rev. Priscilla Austin, I got to spend time walking with her community during her sabbatical. I spent a summer proving to myself I could still do this work if I so chose to.
I was grateful to re-discover my love of people of faith, and this love is connected to my decision to leave.
For the most part, every second serving the laity and the people of this church, even the challenging moments, will be some of the happiest moments of my life.
I write this to you with a full heart and wide open horizon Rev. Jaech. I am grateful that you are my ministry's last official witness, a duty I know you will treat with the sacred dignity it deserves. I also know you take no joy in circumstances such as these. I covet your prayers.
I am grateful that at the end of this year of discernment I can write these words to you without malice or spite towards the church, but certainly a lot of pity.
This is not the end of my story with the Divine, or building communities that are based on sacred encounters, concentric circles of mutual aid, or creating larger counter systems in resistance to empire, white supremacy, and the shadow spreading across this world.
It’s just the end of my story with the ELCA.
Written in love and liberation,