Wednesday, October 22, 2014

honesty Pastors must often step outside the status quo

Posted on Feb. 11, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

In response to the Jan. 26 column written by Terry Mattingly, “Pastors often fear honesty,” I could not help but feel a genuine empathy for those pastors to which he refers. If 18,000 pastors annually vacate their posts one has to ask the ultimate question: Why do they fear to be honest when of all places, the pulpit is where honesty should have the deepest root and manifestation? Alongside that number of pastors opting out, consider the fact that a third of adults younger than 30 age are no longer identifying themselves as religiously affiliated. These ‘Nones’ may still have a spiritual grounding but are devoid of attachment to traditional religious practice. Why has it come to this?

I am increasingly convinced that pastors’ fears to be honest rests on the familiar “better safe than sorry” cliché. If the church does not accept the challenge to upgrade its thinking and expectations in light of 2,000 years of research, scientific progress and scholarship grounded in archeology and the best of textual criticism, then what can a pastor do but remain fearful, silent, and probably “stuffy”? The only other option is to risk stepping outside the status quo and daring the church to slam the door in your face.

Jesus apparently faced similar options, but he did not let resistance of the religious authorities inhibit his revised message. If today’s pastors, with authentic academic credentials, will dare to preach and teach in norms that incorporate their own integrity, the pews may be emptied, but the bored absentees will come back to reconsider religion’s relevance.

If school teachers are expected to continually promote both the new and the true in the classroom, does not the same principle apply to pastors?

B. Harry Dyck

Elkhart