In prior article What I Expect, What I Want I wrote about how one of the things I expected and wanted from the church was repentance and forgiveness. Given the church’s past conduct I expected the status quo to continue in blissful stonewalling silence.
It was with a bit of surprise that I read the most recent edition of “From the District President” (FTDP) and found an article by President Schaeffer apologizing for the way he characterized people that had left the church. The statement in question was discussing a recent report of people leaving the Lutheran church:
A 2.8% decrease in 2017, in baptised membership, translates into 1,596 baptised sons and daughters of our heavenly Father who have become prodigal.
I can see how people would object to this characterization – particularly in cases when it was the church’s behavior that caused them to leave.
Here’s his letter in its entirety along with some commentary from me:
I owe you an apology. In last week’s “From the District President,” as I lamented the almost two decade downward trend of people leaving Lutheran Church – Canada, I referred to the 1,596 people who left LCC in 2017 as “prodigals.” To label all 1,596 people as “prodigals” is an over-generalization and uncharitable, especially to those people who left LCC for another church. While it may be true that some of the people who have left LCC may be engaged in wild, reckless, extravagant living and while some of them may be spiritually starving to death, I should also acknowledge that many of the people have who have left LCC, for any number of reasons, are attending another Christian church. While I did not intend to mischaracterize people with a label,…
I would note that “didn’t intend to” is the same defense offered by Mr Ney with respect to the personnel that brought us the CEF / DIL debacle.
…I can’t help but think that such sweeping generalizations are one of the reasons why some people leave our churches. So, I owe you an apology.
I (we) would do well to contemplate why it is that people, especially young people, are leaving the Christian church in which they were nurtured.
Or you can look in the mirror, ask what you or the people under you’ve done to cause people to leave the church, and then do something about it.
In his book, You Lost Me (see the “Resource of the Week” for more information), David Kinnaman, explores the reasons for why many people are leaving the church of their childhood and rethinking faith. Based on his research, Kinnaman identifies three types of people who are leaving the church of their childhood (p. 25):
- Nomads: These are people who walk away from church engagement but still consider themselves Christian.
- Prodigals: These are people who lose their faith, describing themselves as no longer Christian.
- Exiles: These are people who are still invested in their Christian faith but feel stuck (or lost) between culture and the church.
I would add one reason that is glaring by its absence – people that’ve been mistreated, abused, and betrayed by the church and had to choose between the church of their youth and preserving their mental, psychological, and spiritual health. One of the darkest accomplishments of the whole CEF / DIL mess is the faithful multi-generational Lutherans that have been driven from “the church” by “the church’s” own actions.
In future “From the District President” articles, I plan to explore, and do some self-reflection, on this issue, using ideas from Kinnaman’s book and other sources like Autopsy of a Deceased Church (Thom Rainer) and Built on the Rock by Ted Kober.
I would also suggest spending some time with past members that used to be CEF/DIL depositors. I’m sure they can provide some excellent insight into why people have left LCC.
It is my hope that you will accompany me on this journey with a goal that we will love and disciple people in such a way that their faith in Christ is nurtured and that they feel loved and valued by their Christian family of faith. And, please, if you are a person who has left Lutheran Church – Canada, I would love to hear from you … to learn why you left the church and are “rethinking” your faith. You have thoughts and experiences that surely I (we) can learn from!
I say the CEF and DIL depositors as well as their families and friends should take President Schaeffer up on his offer and educate him in no uncertain terms about how the way District’s treated them and their money has impacted their life, their health, their faith, their ability to provide for themselves, and their trust of the church.
You can reach the ABC District office via their contact page here.
Or – send me your story and I’ll post it here – unedited, uncensored, and anonymous if you wish. All I ask is that the content be appropriate for all ages.