Hypergraffiti

Where I spray-paint my thoughts…

Confessions of a Conflicted Church Lady

14 Comments

If you know me at all in real life, or even here on the blog, you know I am practically the incarnation of Dana Carvey’s famous SNL character, The Church Lady. I do not miss church if I am near a church and I do not brook excuses for missing church (from my family. The rest of you can do what you like). I have been a Sabbath School teacher ever since I finished being a Sabbath School child — in fact, there was a bit of an overlap, because when I was a teen our wise Sabbath School teachers let us teens pretty much run the show, so I’ve been a church youthworker ever since I was a church youth. I help organize Pathfinders and I make dishes for potlucks. I am as churchy as you could possibly imagine.

But while I love my church, I’m also conflicted about it, because I often disagree or question. I’m not one of those easygoing  Church Ladies who can accept everything without question, which is why I end up blogging about things like why some of the other good Church Ladies can’t become Lady Pastors, or why two Church Ladies who love each other (or two Church Gents for that matter) can’t be made welcome in our pews, and other sticky subjects that trouble me.

Believe me, nothing about this is easy for me. It seems easy for others — for those who say just to be quiet and believe what I’m taught without question, or for still others who say to walk away and leave the whole mess behind me. I cannot wrap myself around either of those options, so here I stand, a tangle of questions as always. Which is what my new column at Adventist Today is all about. Go read it, and for goodness sakes — whether you’re a Church Lady or a Church Gent, or a Churchless Lady or Gent, or a Formerly Churched Lady or Gent — whoever you are, if you’re kind of a remotely sane person, log on there and leave a comment. Because sane comments are always good.

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14 thoughts on “Confessions of a Conflicted Church Lady

  1. Sigh… you have no idea whatsoever what relief it is to hear that it isn’t easy for you. Because for me, also church-lady extraordinaire (hahaha, not really in the past year, I’m taking a vacation for now after 14 years of church-lady hardship in this here country! yeeehawww!)… it has become so so hard that sometimes it hurts. I have so many questions, so many problems with countless issues that I cannot even begin to articulate. The worst part is that I don’t have ANYONE that I feel I can talk about then with. I say a few things to my dear husband now and then, but the botomless pit of questions and quiet despair upsets me lots sometimes. It doesn’t help that my personal conflicts has prevented me from even trying to read any websites or blogs or anything that is by churchpeople. You’re the very first church person whose blog I’m reading. And I’ve been seriously addicted to blogs & blogging for over 7 years now.

    OK, anyway… I apologize for the long comment, but you said comments are good, so I’m heading over there now, checking your writing out and hopefully commenting.

    P.S. As per your recommendation, I bought Phil Vischer’s book and my husband LOVED IT. I will read it soon (I hope). Thank you so much for blogging about it.

    • I know what you mean about the not having anyone to talk to. For me, blogging has been a life-saver because it’s the one place I feel I really CAN be honest, but I also understand that it might be necessary to avoid “churchy” blogs and websites at times. I personally dislike the discussion aspect of most SDA websites — I really struggled over whether to become an Adventist Today columnist when I was asked — because I find a lot of judgemental people on both ends of the spectrum. There are conservative Adventists who are judgemental of anyone who asks questions, and ex-Adventists who are judgemental of anyone who stays in the church. It can be a very difficult environment in which to express doubts and questions. For me, some non-Adventist discussion boards (generally Christian, but open to everyone) have been a Godsend as I have felt free to explore my own ideas there, be exposed to the ideas of others, and see how wide the range of thought on a lot of issues really is. I do have very few people in my “real life” that I feel comfortable discussion most of this stuff with. Thanks for reading and commenting here!

  2. It would be of interest to track the careers of those kids who basically ran their own show in that Youth Sabbath Schoool. You’re active in your local church; Grace Marx is legal counsel for SDACC; Barry Bussey is in Religious Liberty with NAD; Greg Bussey was most recently Principal of Kingsway College. These are the ones who spring to mind, there may be more.
    Maybe what the Church needs to do more often is give teenagers a little bit of guidance, give them the ball, and let them run with it.

    • Don’t forget Sherry G (manager of VOAR radio), David J (pastor in BC), Bob W (pastor in Newfoundland — I have heard Bob make this same point about the stellar careers of some of the people from our small church youth group in St. John’s) … and others I’m sure. Unfortunately I can name just about an equal number who aren’t in the SDA church at all anymore (in some cases the siblings of the people mentioned above, which just goes to show there’s only so much family influence can do), and of course there are some I’ve completely lost track of since they moved away. I’m not sure what it proves in terms of what we ought to be doing for our youth but I do know you were the best youth leader ever, Dad, because you did so little and let us do so much!! 🙂

  3. An excellent column.

    Here’s a pastor (and a church lady) that avoids Adventist web discussions and as a matter of fact most other discussions on the web as well. They are so very seldom civil. I prefer blogs that have well mannered discussion (such as yours).

    I also am a bit eneasy with the fact that you were called to the platform about your views. Unless the issue is somehow really hot in the congregation, of course. But even then I’d like to see different people with differing views presenting their ideas and a discussion following that.

    At the heart of Adventist theology and faith is freedom of conscience which, naturally, also applies to church members. Agreeing on every doctrinal statement or other values commonly upheld by the church (members) is not a test of membership in the Adventist church. (If I remember corretly, Ellen White has a strong comment about this, too.) It is natural and positive that we do not see eye to eye on everything. If we did, it would be strange indeed and look a lot like a weird cult. Doubt and questioning – in love and respect, of course – are an integral part of faith.

    Recently a new member joined our church. S/he is mostly in agreement with adventist theology but not especially with one typically adventist doctrine. I explained to this person that the point in case is very dear to many adventists and actually, for some, the main reason they are members. This person honors that and we honor his/her position. Our elders were happy to recommend this person to be a member saying: “You are welcome to join this group of imperfect people.”

    It would be odd to merely require a long list of intellectual “agreements” as an entry point/grounds for staying in church without room for growth and freedom. This person may or may not grow to see this issue the way we see Bible teaching it. But s/he also honors the understanding of the church and will not make a big fuss about it and try to convert the church on this issue nor use this point as a way to destroy the community.

    Unity is not based on being in agreement on everything. It is based on Christ and God’s love. I am glad people like you choose to be part of this (very imperfect) body of Christ.

    • Ansku, like Sharon posted below, I wish I went to your church (although the part where everything’s in Finnish would probably confuse me a bit … though apparently I have written a book in Finnish, but it hasn’t helped my comprehension!!)

  4. Ansku… I think Trudy was called “on the carpet” not the platform. Called on carpet means ..ummm…a person of authority speaking to someone on perceived wrongdoing. It implies something a little harsh. I wondered as well where it took place and later in the article she mentions the pastor’s office. I assume that it is where it happened.
    I want to go to your church. It sounds wonderful.
    During last month’s potluck I was sitting with some members who I would like to get know better. The conversation got a little odd and vague despite I was asking fairly clear questions. I forget exactly how but finally they almost whispered…”Well, don’t make this a public announcement but we are …DEMOCRATS.”
    Yep, I want to join your church.

    • Oh, right — “called on the carpet” is a bit of an idiomatic expression, isn’t it? I was invited to a private conversation with the pastor, nothing public or shaming about it. For the record I think it was appropriate for him to do so, and it was not actually harsh at all, but very diplomatic.

      • Sorry, I misunderstood that part. There’s always something to learn with the English language. 😉 With my newly gained understanding I do agree that it was appropriate!

  5. Ha! I’d like to know what happened after that point in Sharon’s conversation at her church (did they think or assume that she was Republican, for example?). Interestingly enough, she brought up a point which has become literally a thorn in the flesh for me, not as an SDA, but as simply a Christian in the past 10-15 years: the way religion and politics in the U.S. of A. have been strangely conflated. The way that Christians are SUPPOSED to be Republicans and care about the (not central) issues they’re emphasizing (i.e. same sex unions and abortion).

    I’m not overly political, but I lean to the left because I believe in social justice and social issues very very strongly (and I grew up in another country too and academics in Brazil are mostly rooted in Marxism so I was exposed to that a lot at the university), so… yeah. I’ve been having a really hard time with this whole thing in this country. I remember the Sabbath after Obama’s election in our small church. People looked and sounded very somber and upset, some people mentioned the political situation and prayed for the country up front. I felt horribly out of place, feeling that I was the only person in that group who was actually thrilled by the significance of that election.

    In any case… that’s only ONE of the tons of tangled and confused threads in my poor exploding head. Sigh. The other one (which last year when I was thinking one day I felt was related to the above problem) is the extreme views within the church, the “conservatives” and the “liberals” and how it’s impossible to get any dialog going. I hadn’t thought about the opposition and hostility of the ex-adventists who want to destroy the church and cannot accept that anyone who’s reasonable is still in it. See? I have very good reasons to avoid these forums.

    And the whole thing with blogging for me is/ has been mostly about making friends and connections. It helped me immensely to find other “all but dissertation” mothers trying to finish their phds and share experiences. Now most of these women are academic moms like me, it was just amazing to find so many like-minded people. OK, I’ll stop here for now because I have to go write a blog post — I haven’t written in a week. 😦

    • Lilian and Sharon, thank goodness that in Canada (my part of it anyway), while we have many disagreements and struggles within the church, we are spared the centrality of politics that is such a factor of US religion! I don’t think I could cope at all if people in my church knew or cared how I voted. As you’ve seen from my other blog posts we’ve just had a pretty controversial election here in Canada but I feel confident saying that people in my church probably ran the full gamut in how they voted (including some who might not have voted at all), and I find that here, “conservative” theologically does not necessarily line up with “conservative” politically, at least not in every case.

  6. Everyone, thanks for the great comments — I really wish the discussion at the actual Adventist Today site were as lively and thoughtful. Perhaps it will improve. I do think that the requirement there for people to register and log in before they can comment tends to restrict commenting to a few of “the usual suspects.”

  7. Well, after the Democrat comment, I confessed that I was a democrat. Then the discussion went to how in the 70’s the prevailling concepts in the church seemed to lean towards the left side of the political spectrum. Now it bearing heavily on the right side.
    Another thing that annoys me about THIS congregation us that they congratulate those members who have become Americian citizens. I think it is a big deal for those who have made it their goal but the pastor listed it as “a major life event like baptism and marriage”. And you get flowers for it…too bad all of you silly non-Americans aren’t experiencing this event that is so similar to baptism. (please note the heavy sarcasm) Grrrr….

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