Content Warning: Sexual Abuse, Ordination Exams, Trauma
Bad Theology Kills
There are nicer terminologies to make
and there are definitely complete lexicons and entire books written of theology
Karl Barth has a really complete theology of love
Elie Wiesel asks tough questions about genocide war and abuse
Just today, Amanda Palmer
a somewhat Radical Feminist, who is all too imperfect herself (might I add) cited a quote her friend’s book
who quoted the famous theologian Fredrick Buechner
Amanda Palmer says “I feel this sentiment in my core today. I have seen, heard, been privy to so much darkness lately. I feel honored to stand near it, but also see – laid painfully bare, more than I ever have – the unfathomable and sometimes unbearable wounds of trauma. The depths. The seemingly unhealable.” She says this not knowing that this is a theological quote, but Amanda Palmer, pop star, gets it
that Life is a Terror text
And for me Theology is how you practice your Christianity;
It is where the rubber meets the road
Not being afraid means, dealing with the trauma as it comes, but also acknowledging that the trauma is real. One cannot pretend it isn’t real.
Because the reality is–Bad Theology kills
White Page that says Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid–Frederick Buechner
But for me…
When you force the people you want to be pastors
to sit in a room
with what is possibly the most traumatic text in the Bible
I guess I should start with this: I believe in apologies. I believe in full and complete apologies. I believe in confession. I believe in stating fully who you are, what you have done right and wrong and trying to fix what is wrong so that we can fix that wrong things, and make things better. It is a core theology of mine.
I think that there is confusion
Those who are hurt do not want an apology for the Bible
The apology would be for the trauma
And when you don’t apologize
And you say–we have done such things before
And that does not make you examine how you have done things before
And when you feel like the entire weight of the church
and the denomination
is on your shoulders
And that does not make you pause
Maybe there could be
a more life-giving
way to do this
And when person after person
has come to me and say
This is the last straw
And these other people tell me
I’m leaving ministry
and the process of becoming a minister
because of this test…
To pretend we have all sufficiently dealt with trauma
On the eve of the third anniversary
Of a worldwide pandemic
Is ludicrous–there is not such thing
as an untraumatized person right now
So yes, we know trauma is real
We also do not want to practice bad theological practices
Because Bad Theology Kills
We know this!
It is different to deal with a text
Where you know in advance about it
When you can call your therapist
When your entire job is not on the line
When you can ask for help
If you don’t think that the Judges 19 scandal
Isn’t cut from a similar cloth as the complementation scandal the Gospel Coalition is dealing with…
You are missing how women continue to be subjugated and ignored via the Bible…(See Also: How is this coming to a head when trans bans, drag bans, books bans, teaching history bans and rest is happening gives a lot of food for thought)
Because Bad Theology Kills: it is Killing calls to ministry right here and now
Picture of a women facing a panel of just men who say: It’s not that we don’t believe your story. IT’s that we don’t care. Cartoon by NakedPastor
Welp..I guess you were right..
I guess this test is that important
But not in the way you thought it was
If more self care is needed for pastor
By God, let’s do it!
I’m all for it!
What resources can we provide
Let’s hire full time Sabbatical pastors,
a therapist and a Chaplain, One for every
Synod or for General Assembly
If you want to be generous
For every Presbytery!
You think more education is needed?
Great lets open up free schools!
Let’s provide arts clubs and places of music & PE
all those things schools are cutting
(Fun fact Sunday School taught kids to read
When School was inacessable, because kids had to work;
what could Sunday School be for the arts now–
If we took that as our model?)
Lets be the most educated denomination
In the land. Let’s get that equity going!
I bet all the kids would enroll
In free college classes
In LGBTQIA and Community Organizing
What more could we provide–could we give free virtual classes in the Bible?
What about classes about theology? The latest books? The Nap Ministry?
This Here Flesh? The Possibilities are endless.
Faith Seeking Understaning, we could learn so much together!
Lets help support all those Black and Brown Churches
The ones we’ve been ignoring for years
What resources do they need?
I bet they could tell us what they need, and why,
and give us a host of ideas, quick!
Let’s start it tomorrow.
You think everyone is overworked and tired?
Great, lets start pay equity and healthcare,
Could we provide healthcare for our support staffs
even more than we do now?
How much more can God do?
How is that Family Leave Overture going?
I can tell you every pastor I know is looking
at if your Presbytery has it before they consider moving there
Did your Presbytery, Synod or Leader agree or disagree
with the Judges 19 test?
Is your area dealing with a pastor shortage?
I bet there is a more experience oriented,
Justice-giving, innovative Matthew 25 way to
Educate and Support Pastors.
Did you know most pastors are older, LBGTQIA, POC?
They are not going to be the married white man
with children, and that is great, because most
ministries are going to be different from here on out.
If we are going to reach the community,
We are going to have to ordain pastors beyond the pews.
While we are re-imagining what it means to be a minister
(Hint: look at all the ways to minister in Matthew 25)
It might be time to rethink how we evaluate ministers:
I don’t know about you, but while I am running my church’s
3 nonprofits, and taking care of my congregation,
I don’t have time to conjugate Greek and Hebrew verbs–
I love the vocabulary, but the community is just a bit more important
(Don’t worry its just me, I preach 48+ sermons a year, 13+ years, Princeton Trained, but my credentials matter less than my ministry work)
And while we are speaking of that and entry level ministry
How many entry level ministers go to a flourishing ministry
with associate ministers who take care of other things,
while they sit in the office and work on their sermons,
My theology is to take care of the people first
Of course I do that about talking about the Bible
I reference (and study) the Bible EVERY single day
But I don’t do that in Greek and Hebrew
I do that by sitting by the Well and listening,
and Walking in the Community and meeting people where they are at
every chance I get to Community build and partner..
I’m just following the example of some Rabbi I admire…
I hope you have time to do that too
And maybe someday, we will realize that our goals are the same
To be a Matthew 25 Church
And to serve God and God’s people, together
Article by Pastor Katy Stenta
Feel free to use/share with attribution
2 thoughts on “Here is the World, Beautiful and Terrible Things will Happen, Do Not Be afraid…”
Wow, Katy, wow. You have taken on the giant but you are not required to fight Goliath on your own. I hope all ordination candidates will stand up against the choice of this passage. Surely there are others less dangerous that can be substituted on the exam. Surely someone on the board has ears to hear and a heart that cares. Or maybe not. In which case I will pray for a Moses/Miriam to bring down plagues.
Thanks. We have a little ad hoc group of people so hopefully we will make progress together. We probably won’t change everything but I think that ministry can look more holistic and life giving in general and you know me. Always full of ideas 🙂