What Do I Do Now?

The first thing I ever wanted to be was a pastor.

That’s weird, right?

Not a fireman, not an astronaut, not a kangaroo.

A pastor.

Though that ambition changed over time, when I came back to it in my twenties, it was in one of those moments when I audibly heard the voice of God asking me “what was the first thing you ever wanted to do?”. From that point on, a path seemed clear.

Yesterday, Pittsburgh Presbytery decided that they would not restore me to good standing. While not outright stripping me of my ordination, it returns me to a state of limbo where I could one day seek restoration again if I so chose to subject myself to this process again.

I know what I did was wrong. I had a relationship with a parishioner, one of the cardinal no-no’s in ministry. And it cost me. It cost me my family, my dream job, my reputation. And it hurt lots of people. People in the church, my family, people at my work.

But from the time I self reported until yesterday there was always talk about grace, restoration, “God’s not done with you yet”-language. There was always hope. Yesterday that hope was dashed. Even my ex-wife, the person hurt most by my actions, was saddened by the news.

I’m glad that I don’t believe the things about myself that were written in the discernment committee’s report. They painted this picture of this unrepentant monster, who lives blissfully unaware of the lives impacted by his decisions. They took shots at my character and my family. They used my honesty against me and questioned my spiritual maturity. Most importantly, they ignored the recommendations of people who know me best and made decisions based on their subjective impressions instead of on the objective steps I’ve taken to get my life back in order. It was among the most hurtful experiences of my life. I don’t understand how this presbytery, which at the last GA made a public stand on doing ministry to black men could so callously throw me away. I mean… I do understand… it just hurts.

I don’t know what to do now. My life as a Presbyterian minister is likely over. I could switch denominations, but that’s not a move I consider lightly. Also, I’m disgusted with the institution right now, and I don’t know how I feel about exchanging one set of hypocrites for another. I don’t know what I’m gonna do…

The first thing I ever wanted to be was a pastor.

I spent most of the last two decades working toward that end in some form or another.

Now it’s all gone.

What am I supposed to do now?

10 thoughts on “What Do I Do Now?

  1. All I have are sighs that are awfully deep. And arms willing to help carry the grief and sorrow and anger. I see you and am here to double down on loving you. Every damn day and twice on Sunday.

  2. Sighs too deep for words. This makes me sick to my stomach. I hate this for you. I pray for God’s presence, wisdom, courage, love, mercy and hope in the midst.

  3. I’m sad with you, my friend. I’m almost in favor of like “sentencing guidelines” for offenses against one’s ordination vows.

    It seems to me, based on my extremely limited contact with ordained ministry boards, that the people in the inner circle can do morally repugnant things and get off with extremely light to zero punishment whereas the “disposable” are…well…

  4. Try not to blame anyone else or an institution for your pain. You may regain your faith in institutions and people you respected before, even though you feel punished now. It hurts to fail yourself and others. Be reminded of God’s grace and those who love you.

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