Am I a Christian?
At Buffalo Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, they are joining the Evangelical Presbyterian Church today. There is a "Welcome" service handled by the new Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic and they will be ordaining the church elders in the new denomination. I am sitting at home writing this. Why, you might ask?
At Buffalo, almost two years ago we began the process of disaffiliation from the Presbyterian Church USA.. The PC/USA will not just release a church, they will only dismiss you to join another Reformed denomination. After much discussion, we chose to join the EPC. It is much smaller than the PC/USA, but much more conservative. As the end drew near with the PC/USA, the EPC scheduled Leadership Training for the church elders.
The training program was a twelve week experience. We met at Memorial Presbyterian, a nearby offspring of our church, who were also going through the process. I had received a copy of the training manual a couple of months earlier and looked through it. I was excited about the chance to improve my religious knowledge.
After the first Sunday, I knew that I was in trouble. My problem was simple. The more that I learned, the more questions that I had. My friends tell me that I over-analyze everything. The more that I tried to understand, the less that I understood.
It soon became obvious to me that I was in the midst of a spiritual crisis. Things that I thought that I understood, I didn't. Everything that I believed was suddenly in doubt. I spoke to a couple of pastor friends about this, but that didn't help. Other friends have tried to help, but nothing has worked.
As the church struggled through the disaffiliation process, I struggled with my own spiritual issues. It was a great day for the church when we were finally released in February. For me, the joy of being released from the PC/USA was offset by the feeling of impending doom about joining the EPC.
A few weeks ago, the date was set for the "Welcome to the EPC" weekend. Yesterday we had orientation and examination of elders. I have been almost spastic the last three weeks worrying about this. A few days before, I finally realized that all I could do was go in and answer the questions honestly. On Friday night, I read the words from a hymn that calmed me a little. "Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour."
I arrived at the church yesterday about ten minutes before the program was scheduled to start. I was feeling bad, suffering from a cold. I had worn a coat and tie since I assumed others would dress like they were joining a church. Some of the women were dressed pretty well, but the vast majority of people were very casually dressed. I immediately felt out of place. I took a seat at a table by myself so that I could see the door (phobia) and not spread my cold to others. I felt so out of place and uncomfortable that I started to just get up and leave. I already knew what would happen at the end of the day.
The point came in the program where they started discussing the ordination vows for elders. They passed out copies for us to review. Instantly, I realized that it was all over. There was not just one, but several vows that I could not respond to positively. I should have just got up and left at that point.
We broke into four small groups for the examination process. Our group was led by Howard Shockley, the Presbytery Administrator. He was very nice. The first topic of discussion was "tell us how you came to know Christ." I was the second person in the rotation to answer the question. As I listened to the first person to answer, my mind raced as I searched for something to say that would be acceptable. I could think of nothing.to say. I think that the current slang is "I got nothing!"
I started by saying, "I don't think that I belong in this group." and it went downhill from there. Howard tried to help and offered me several chances to give the needed answer, but I just could not do it. The woman assisting him tried to explain it. I told her that I understood the line of questioning, but that I could not honestly answer in the affirmative. Mercifully, they moved on to the other people, all of whom had a better response than mine. I know that it didn't last forever, but it seemed to last that long. When it ended, I grabbed my coat and left.
When I got home, I sent an e-mail to all of the other Session members resigning. I didn't need to wait and be humiliated today.
I believe that if we could all live by the principles of Christ, the world would be a better place. I have tried to help lots of people. At work, I have hired people that no one else would. I have helped people with problems far outside my responsibility as their employer. At church, I do as much as I can. I have spent more than three years at Buffalo cooking dinner on Wednesday nights. I do almost anything that is asked of me. I go visit people who are sick. I did a website for the church when no one else would.
Despite all of this, I don't have that relationship with Christ that everyone talks about. I don't have the faith of those people that I heard speak in yesterday's group. I don't hear God talk to me. All I have is what I do. My grandfather N.S. Hardin, was a Baptist minister. He told me once," I would rather see a sermon than hear one." I have lived my life like that, only to find out that Christians think that I am wrong. Yes, I don't understand.
Will I go back to church? Yes, I will be there on Wednesday night to cook dinner. I made a commitment and I will honor that. Maybe I can resolve my spiritual issues now that the pressure has been relieved. I just don't know. I will have to wait and see.