Tuesday, December 26, 2006

reasons to quit

The L.A. Times reported the other day on the response of evangelical church leaders to the recent spate of scandals involving megachurch pastors and same-sex activity. (Hat tip Hullabaloo.)

I think this piece is pretty well done. Isolation is a persistent problem for ministers, because of the nature of the work (embodying virtue and optimism, at least to their flock) and the type of people who go into it (demanding of themselves). The problem will play out in different ways in different kinds of church context. I strongly disagree that gay sex is a sin, but many people do believe that, and the Times reporter takes those people seriously and on their own terms. The story ends with the "ex-gay" minister and his strategies for how not to act on his same-sex desires, as if he were trying to give up cigarettes or trans fats. That gets right to the heart of the matter.

The best bit is right here:

In his 14 years at the helm of a conservative Baptist congregation in Colorado Springs, the Rev. Benjamin Reynolds found it almost impossible to have an honest conversation with his deacons. He set up a monthly "check-in," but everyone responded to his questions with a reflexive "I'm blessed."

"I wanted to say, 'Please! I feel like crap!' " Reynolds said. "I felt like I was not dealing with human beings."

Talking with members of the congregation was even harder, he said; they held him to such a high standard that he could set off a round of gossip just by running out for a carton of milk on a Saturday night — a time they expected him to be home in prayer, preparing for Sunday worship.

Reynolds, 45, struggled for years on his own with the realization he is gay.

That Stepford-like optimism that a lot of evangelicals have--I sure couldn't deal with it every day. Reynolds ended up coming out to his congregation, then resigning his position. I would like to know what he's doing now; the story doesn't say.

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