29 years ago I was ordained a pastor in the LCA, now part of the ELCA. Today, my former synod is meeting in assembly in my last congregation, 3 miles from where I sit.
I’m not there because a few months ago my denomination took me off the roles as a pastor because I no longer serve in a ministry position. It was a process, and it took years, but I’m out.
Do I miss it? Yes. And No.
I think it’s a terrible mistake to take experienced and quality clergy off the roles of the church simply because their call took them out of the parish and into different ministry. I do think of my work as a therapist as holy work. Even better than my work as a pastor. But in our denomination, ordination is to Word and Sacrament, and once I left the parish, I was more a word, healing and service person. I wasn’t preaching weekly, or celebrating baptism or Holy Communion regularly. My work is in the world, not the church. So I am out. So I miss that role, some of that work, that chance to lead in my own way in the ELCA.
And No. The life of a pastor, the way church employment works, the daily politics of the job, and the distressing and disrespectful last years of my life as a pastor were soul-killing. The only way to save my life was to leave. Had I been allowed to take my first and only sabbatical in 20 years, I probably would have had room and grace to re-organize myself as a pastor in a changing church. But my proposal was rejected by the power that was immediately over me, adding to his pressure on me to leave the position. So I did. Making that power quite happy, and me relieved to have a new chance at being the vocational leader I wanted to be.
So Yes and No. And happy ordination anniversary to me. It’s an important day for me, and means little to anyone else now except my family. I saved my life, and left the clergy system. Good luck to everyone who stays in.