Why I left my previous church

They had NO idea this was going down, which was the whole idea.

I started looking for a church to attend in Albany shortly after I had sung in the church choir back in my hometown of Binghamton, NY (Trinity AME Zion) in May of 1982 for my maternal grandmother’s funeral. I used to attend there regularly, but for over a decade after high school, I fell away for all sorts of reasons.

The first visit to Trinity United Methodist was June 13, which I remember because the pastor, Stan Moore, spoke positively of the anti-nuke demonstration in Manhattan I had attended the day before.

Not only did I join the choir that December, but eventually became president of the Administrative Board (think Congress) and the Council on Ministries (think the US Cabinet) at different times, not to mention leading a social group called the Ogden Fellowship and participating in a book club for well over a decade. I even put together the church’s community page online.

But the subsequent pastor was pushing for a more “efficient” form of church governance, one that was allowed by the United Methodist Church. I specifically remember one church member, one of the choir folks, ask, reasonably, “Where are the checks and balances?” More than one person shouted him down; “give it a chance.”

So the church was then run my the pastor and his small cabal. There were no regular church meetings unless called by said group or by 10% of the membership, and the latter meeting could only be done about that stated topic. That 10%, BTW, included shut-ins and members who were away, so it was a difficult threshold.

So when the SECOND Spanish-speaking congregation was forced out in January 2000 by the pastor, with the ascent the District Superintendent, less than two months after the English-speaking congregation overwhelmingly agreed that they should stay, I was furious. Extra copies of the letter to the Hispanic congregation from the DS I was passing out to the “Anglo” congregation, because they had NO idea this was going down, which was the whole idea.

I was attending the Hispanic service only because the choir for the Anglo service had been suspended by the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, which had no authority to do so – long story, but it was basically bogus. And the meeting in March to try to “reconcile” the situation was one-sided and terribly handled.

But I didn’t leave over the choir suspension or the Hispanic congregation getting the boot. I left because the church, in ceding its power to essentially one person, provided no way to respond to the injustices. No Administrative Board to appeal to.

The new system WAS more efficient. Efficiency in church governance is HIGHLY overrated.

I brought this up now for a specific reason, which I’ll write about soon.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

10 thoughts on “Why I left my previous church”

  1. actually “efficient” on the surface maybe but it created a morass of problems, which thankfully, we have managed to climb out of but it took years and we may be still climbing but are thankfully closer to the summit. Governing by committee like representative democracy is messy but much more efficient in terms of what is best for all of us.

  2. Without giving any of my own details, I’ll just say: Church politics are the worst.

    (Academic politics are a close second, but I still think church politics are the worst because the people arguing & offering vitriol in Board Meeting are then the ones you sing alongside of, or serve at the Lord’s Table with, on Sunday. Then again….maybe there’s a lesson in forgiveness there. Sigh.)

  3. Because, Daniel, initially I thought it would be rectified. Later, I had moved on, but there were still people there I cared about. Time allows for things to be said that you can’t say in the moment.

  4. I knew Stan Moore from 3rd grade until he died at age 93. He wwas the ultimate man of God. The most amazing man I have ever met. He opened every youth group with a prayer and then the question…How did you use your hands to do Gods work this week. His legacy will live forever.

  5. My church’s pastors are retiring and we’re really lucky to have dodged most of this Game of Thrones s### this far.

    However, as head of trustees and a member or the governing board I may be saying that from the perspective of King Robert…

  6. I second the comment about church politics! At the last church I belonged to, the long-time pastor had left, which was not a bad thing (he and I did not see eye to eye on lots of things). The pastoral search committee that was appointed conducted all its meetings in secret and provided no reports of any kind to the larger church body and went out of the way to avoid getting any kind of input from outside the committee. I was part of a group that staged a mini-coup and managed to get a couple of people added to the committee and a promise of more transparency. Alas, it was too far into the process to have much impact. Needless to say, the candidate that was chosen by the committee and presented to the church was completely inappropriate for the church in many, many ways. When the time came to vote, the church, by a large majority, actually voted no. There was major fall-out over the vote, but the search process was revamped entirely as a result. The chair of the old search committee, as it turns out, had been pretty much dominating the process and steering in a specific direction, over-riding the other members. He left the church shortly after the no vote.

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