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Monthly Archives: July 2009

Let’s Get This Straight

I’ve been trying to allow this blog to reflect my journey day-by-day — that means that I have some good days and some bad days and it all gets reflected here.  I am also trying to not get too involved with rumors flying around, etc.  I can’t really control all of that and it is not worth the time and energy that it would take.

BUT…

There is one rumor/misconception that I have heard a couple of times that needs to be addressed head on.

So let’s get this straight: I AM A FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST.

Without a doubt and without apology.

Nothing that has happened changes that reality or committment.

I love Jesus as much — if not more — today than ever before.

I am not bailing on my faith, the church, or discipleship.

I am a follower of Jesus Christ and always will be.

Nothing can or will change that — I am His, He bought me at a great price, and He loves me despite my sin and brokenness.

I am not sure why people speculate otherwise, but let be said as clearly as I can: I AM A FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST!

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Felix Culpa ("Happy Fault")

I got this in an email from a good friend today. It was really powerful to meditate on, so I am passing it on to to you:

We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking. The journeys around the edges of sin lead us to long for a deeper life at the center of ourselves.

Ruthless ambition can lead one to the very failure and emptiness that is the point of conversion. Is the ambition, therefore, good or is it evil? Do we really have to sin to know salvation? Call me a “sin mystic,” but that is exactly what I see happening in my 40 years of pastoral experience: Darkness leads us to need and admire and make room for the light, and the closer we get to the light, the more the real darkness becomes apparent.

That does not mean that we should set out intentionally to sin, but we only see the full pattern after the fact. Blessed Julian of Norwich put it perfectly, she said: “First we fall and later we recover from the fall—and both are the Mercy of God.” How did we ever lose such unique Biblical wisdom? It got hidden away in that least celebrated but absolutely central Easter Vigil service when the deacon sings to the Church about a felix culpa, the “happy fault” that precedes and necessitates the eternal Christ. So often the church does not know how good its message really is!

Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 257, day 267
(Source: Radical Grace, “Center and Circumference”)

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Posted by on July 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Church?

 

I have started going to a Men’s Accountability/Support/Recovery group called Pure Desire. It has been a really good and really hard experience. I posted on twitter the other day that I have never had a small group experience like I did the other night at this group. Everyone in the group shared their personal histories/stories and it was one of the most powerful and grace-filled things I have ever experienced. And it made James 5:16 (“Therefore, confess your sins to one another…”) really make sense to me for maybe the first time ever…

In response to my tweet, a good friend sent me this that I wanted to pass on to you all:

Over the weekend I read some comments Frederick Buechner made about a support groups in his book, Telling Secrets. Here are some excerpts:

“In one sense they are strangers who know each other only bytheir first names and almost nothing else about each other. In another sense they are best friends who little by little come to know each other from the inside out instead of the other way round, which is the way we usually do it. They do not know each other’s biographies, but they know something about each other’s frailties, failures, fears. They know something too about each other’s strengths, hopes, gladness and about where they have found them. They do not give each other advice. They simply give each other stories about the good and the bad of what has happened to them over the years. . . . they tell each other their secrets, and as you listen to them, you hear among other things your own secrets on their lips. . . . They sometimes make serious slips. They sometimes make miraculous gains. They laugh a lot. Once in a while they cry. When the meeting is over, some of them embrace. Sometimes one of them will take special responsibility for another, agreeing to be available at any hour of the day or night if the need should arise. . . . I do not believe that such groups as these which I found my way to . . . are perfect . . . but I believe that the church has an enormous amount to learn from them. I also believe that what goes on in them is far closer to what Christ meant his church to be, and what it originally was, than much of what goes on in most churches I know. . . . These groups I speak of are more like what families at their best can be than most families are . . . They are more like families because in them something which is often extraordinarily like truth is spoken in something that is extraordinarily like love. . . . One of the luckiest things I ever did . . . one of God’s most precious gifts to me . . . was to discover that I was one of them and that there were countless others like me who were there when I needed them and by whom I also was needed. I have found more spiritual nourishment and strength and understanding among them than I have found anywhere else for a long time.”

This was exactly what I felt when I left that group.  It is a powerful thing.  I also believe that this is what the church can be and should be… someday, I hope.

Thoughts?

 

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

What was my sin

This might not matter to other people, but it has been an important issue for me to work through myself.  When your world blows up, sometimes it can take some time to sort through the mess and figure out what really happened — was the real problem was, what the collateral damage is, etc.

I know a lot of people won’t agree with me, and I am OK with that… but I am beginning to have some clarity from God about all of this and that is good.

What was my sin?

Well, being gay was not my sin.

Inappropriate sexual activity was.

Lying and keeping secrets and hiding my struggles… those were sins too.

This might not seem like a very big deal to others, but sorting through those issues… that was 17 years in the making.  I suspect if I had dealt with those issues better 17 years ago, a lot of this crap in my life could have been avoided.

But I am trying not to despair over the last 17 years, and instead focus on what God wants to do in and through me over the next 17 (and hopefully more) years.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Conditioned to Hide

In James 5:16, we are taught: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

Pretty straightforward and pretty powerful.

Yet hard to do.

I don’t know about you, but I am discovering that I have been conditioned to hide pretty much my whole life.  Perhaps this is part of the human condition… it is certainly Adam’s modus operandi in the Garden after he is discovered.  But I also think that we really are conditioned by our culture/community to hide and that it is a discipline to break that mold.

And I think every culture/community has certain issues that are more “conditioned to hiding” than others.  While that might be understandable, it is not healthy.

So these days I am working hard at not hiding.  It is taking a lot of work for me.  It means being more raw and transparent and open about my junk than I used to being.  

It is hard, but it is also necessary.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

My Resignation Letter

Here is a copy of my resignation letter I submitted to the Board on July 3rd:

 

Dear Board:

I hope you will share this letter with the Board and our members.  It is with great sadness and regret that I am writing this letter to you resigning as Lead Pastor of St. Paul’s Collegiate Church.  Serving as Lead Pastor these past 4 1/2 years have been both the greatest joy and privilege of my life.  I will be forever thankful for the opportunity to serve God in this way and will continually rejoice in the fruit that He brought forth and in the memories of partnering in the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the most amazing people I have ever worked with.

Over five years ago, we started with a simple idea: what if the local church really is the hope of the world?  What would that look like lived out in our generation and in our part of the world?

From that vision came a dream: A church where all are welcome; where hurting, depressed, frustrated, confused, under-resourced people can find love, acceptance, help, hope, forgiveness, guidance, encouragement and practical assistance; where forgiveness and grace are lived out practically; where both believers and seekers gather together for authentic community — all as part of living out God’s purposes in our generation.

Today, despite all that I have done and all of my failings, I believe more in that vision and that dream than I ever have.  And I will pray daily that St. Paul’s continues to pursue that dream and continue to pursue the vision and God’s call to BE THE CHURCH in Northeast Connecticut.

For all of us who were there at the beginning, it was never about us or our vision or our dream.  It is about God’s vision — and His dream, His mission.  It is His church, and He builds it, and it will prevail.

Personally, two things were always clear for me: (1) that my hope was that St. Paul’s would be my last job — I hoped to minister at St. Paul’s for 30 years; and (2) that I was committed to step out of the way if I ever became a hindrance to the work God was doing.

It is now clear to me that my hope of working at St. Paul’s for 30+ years, and my commitment to never hindering that work, have now clashed.  It is my commitment to God and the vision that must trump my dream.

And so, with more regret, sorrow and heart-brokenness than anyone will ever know, I hereby resign as Lead Pastor of St. Paul’s Collegiate Church.  I believe that not to resign would be a hindrance to the work God is doing.

I want to note that I am not resigning or withdrawing my membership at St. Paul’s at this time; I am just resigning as Lead Pastor.  My hope and desire is that St. Paul’s will continue to be my community of faith and a place where I can find healing, wholeness, forgiveness, grace, restoration, and new purpose.

While I have failed to uphold the ideals of our Community Life Statement and Membership Covenant in the past, I am fully committed to affirming and living by both as I move forward.

There are so many memories I have of all the good things God has done at St. Paul’s — baptisms and new conversions, Imagine Christmas and Good Friday services, the “Easter Door” and our prayer/healing services, our Saturday Serves and trips to Panama.  Memories of our membership meetings and Easter dinners and New Community; of worship at the Alumni Center and prayer at the Dinsmores; events like Starving Jesus and Porn Sunday; and just late nights hanging out and talking and dreaming and laughing and crying and praying and doing life together.  That is what church is all about.

I also remember vividly the service we did with our founding members back in January 2005.  I remember baptizing Josiah and Ashley, I remember all of us signing the Covenant together; and then the first act of the membership was to officially call me from the congregation to serve as Lead Pastor.  I was a member first, and only then was called from the community to serve as lead pastor.  I know my time as Lead Pastor is now finished.  Now I would like to simply return to being a member of the community and serving Christ and our church in that capacity.

I want you to know how deeply painful my failings are to me.  But I am not defined by my greatest failures or sins, but by the Cross of Jesus.  And I cling to that reality and truth which is core to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I know this letter is both long and long-winded, but it may be my only opportunity to say these things that are on my heart.  I do hope that I will be afforded the opportunity to share in person with the members of St. Paul’s my sorrow and desire for forgiveness at some point.  And I do again hope and pray that St. Paul’s will be for me what it has been for so many others — a community of faith, healing, grace, and reconciliation.

Under His Undeserving Mercy,

Ben

 

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Where Have I Been?

I know I haven’t been blogging much or even posting updates as I promised.  Life is pretty unsettled at the moment and I am trying to unplug a bit these days.

I will start blogging and updating again after my two week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard in August.  I will still post between now and then, but not regularly.  And I will probably keep the site “closed” til then… and then open everything back up.

Thanks for being patient with me!

In Christ,

Ben

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2009 in Uncategorized

 
 
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