A few days ago I posted a link to a website which shared some information from members of a congregation who felt that they have been marginalized by the denominational hierarchy in their annual conference. As I stated in that post I fully recognized that they represented one side of what is very likely a complicated issue, and I invited others to share information that would be helpful to understanding the situation. As the comments have rolled in from folks on both sides of the issues, its clear that there are hurts and misunderstandings from all directions, which is often the case in broken church relationships. My own experience in serving a wounded congregation is that the factors that contributed to the issues at hand here will be surfacing for years to come.
Last month, on May 1, the Rev. Matt Lacey was appointed to serve as the Senior Pastor of Church of the Reconciler. Matt has a tough assignment ahead of him, and he absolutely needs to be in all our prayers.
This afternoon, Matt sent me a note which he has given me permission to share:
We don’t know each other but have some mutual friends. And, as one would expect, when those friends saw your post about Church of the Reconciler, they had some questions concerning pastoral changes, the Bishop, cabinet, a group of people who were hurt at Reconciler, etc.
Suffice it to say, it is not an easy situation to explain or navigate through, but I wanted to reach out to potentially clear some air around the subject.
I want to be perfectly clear: even in the midst of all this controversy the ministry here at Reconciler has not missed a beat. No one has missed a meal, addiction class, worship service, housing meeting, medical check up, hospital referral, or a ride on one of our vans. I owe this to a group of great volunteers and staff who’s primary focus is on ministry.
Has all this controversy made my job harder? Sure. Has it caused there to be questions among the staff and volunteers? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, we have realized that we are reaching out in radical hospitality because we believe that is the work of dedicated followers of Christ.
I also want to make another thing clear: it is evident there was a group of church members and non-members who were hurt by the transition. I have promised them, as their pastor, that I would listen to them and speak with them about their hurt, and have been doing so. I care deeply for the spiritual and emotional needs of whoever walks through our doors. However, their fight is not my fight, and they do not speak for me or anyone else at Reconciler, only themselves.
I think the fact that ministry carries on here is a testament to the power of the Holy Spirit even in the midst of uncertainty and brokenness. I encourage anyone and everyone to participate in the life of our ministry. Lives are being changed everyday at Church of the Reconciler. I hope folks will keep up with us online at facebook.com/churchofthereconciler or contribute via our website at churchofthereconciler.com
Matt lifts up the thing that grabbed me the most in the open letter that the wounded members of the congregation sent to the North Alabama Annual Conference — the willingness to remain engaged in spite of their perceived attacks. In a world in which consumerism rules supreme, and in which people often leave churches at the drop of a hat for a round of “church shopping,” it speaks highly of the culture of Church of the Reconciler that folks are so committed to the ministry of that congregation that they remain and provide financial support no matter what happens. I trust that Matt will be with them as a pastor and friend through it all, and that God is already engaged in redeeming hurt and pain into something miraculous.
May God’s Spirit be with all involved in this situation, and may his glory be revealed in spite of our brokenness.