I’ve been a minister for twenty years. For the past two decades I’ve spent nearly every Sunday in a local church, caring for people, listening to them, speaking to them, sharing life with them. And for the last four years I’ve also become virtual pastor to a growing community of people around the world who’ve felt unwelcome or abandoned by the places they once called spiritual home—or attempted to call home.
And though this road has been filled with countless joyful moments, these have become more and more tempered by times of tremendous grieving. With each passing year I’ve watched the Church I love become polluted. I’ve watched it slowly grow more and more malicious, more and more bitter, more and more toxic. I’ve watched it devolve into something that often barely resembles Jesus—and it’s been heartbreaking.
As someone who pastors in the name of this Jesus, I feel like I owe many of you an apology on behalf of those who may never speak such words to you but who should:
I’m sorry that the Bible has been used as weapon against you by selective fundamentalists, who wield the Scriptures like a hammer when it suits them—and discard and ignore it when it inconveniences them.
I’m sorry for the men and women who have leveraged the power of their position to coerce you, to diminish you, to manipulate you, to abuse you—and to act as if God consents to it all.
I’m sorry that the life-giving, planet-altering message of the Gospels has been reduced to a 30-second prayer to avoid damnation, that you’ve felt pressured to pray.
I’m sorry that the prevailing message you’ve heard from the lips of religious people has too often been that you are evil, that you are dirty, that you are an abomination, that God is angry with you.
I’m sorry that the Church has been silent in the face of your suffering; for the times it refrained from defending you, advocating for you, or seeing you because of your skin color, your gender, your religion, your sexual orientation.
I’m sorry that you’ve had to endure the cruel disconnect of a people daily professing a God of love while beating the Hell out of you.
I’m sorry that the loudest voices of this faith seem to be the ones who are creating the most oppression, bringing the greatest condemnation, manufacturing the worst violence.
I’m sorry for the pastors who pretended to know what they didn’t know; when they dared to act as if speaking as experts on your sexuality, your mental health, your physical ailments, your marital struggles—and it magnified your pain.
I’m sorry that the brutality and hypocrisy of Christians has caused you to wash your hands of a benevolent, humble Jesus who is really nothing like them.
I don’t speak these words because I’m trying to win you for Christ, or to lure you back into the fold, or to cash in on a belated salvation transaction. I don’t speak them to line my pockets or fill my pews or pad my numbers.
I speak these words to you because of the Jesus who I believe has pulled me out of bed for two decades; the one who tells me that the world is far less loving, compassionate, and decent than it should be—and that I should do something about it, even when it is difficult.
I speak these words because I still believe that the real Church has something to contribute that is not politically motivated or financially self-serving; that it can be a place of redemptive, sacrificial community for all people who wish to make their home there.
I speak these words because I believe the true people of Jesus will always be the those championing diversity, defending the marginalized, demanding equality, practicing love.
I speak these words because it may have been a long time or perhaps forever, since a pastor, priest, or minister has told you that you are loved; not with any caveat or condition, not with stipulations or qualifiers, but simply because you are—and you are.
I speak these words because I believe the voice of Jesus that you’ve heard in your head because of too many hateful people is not his voice. And for that, I am very sorry.
May you hear that voice again or for the first time, speaking of your worth, of your goodness, or your beloved-ness.
A flawed, discouraged, reluctant, but still striving pastor