We, at Crossroads, are always thankful that God gives us an opportunity to support questioning SDA pastors and those who are on the journey to resignation. It always helps to talk to someone who has traveled this road. The following interview tells the story of the journey of one such pastor who is on the cusp of resigning. What is his journey like? Why has he decided to make such a drastic move? Read his answers below. For obvious reasons, we are not sharing his identity. Part 2 will be posted next week.
Q. How long have you been a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and what made you start questioning the doctrines?
A. I have been an SDA pastor for 10 years. I grew up in a home where you didn’t question what you were told, you simply did it. However, since childhood there have been many questions in my mind. I continually noticed that there were “loopholes” and many inconsistencies with doctrinal points, but just held it all to myself.
Q. What kind of tension has this created for you as an SDA pastor?
A. I’ve always advised folk who were contemplating Sabbath employment to choose their conscience. I advised them to never choose income over conscious. This is the tension it has created for me – it is now my turn to take my own counsel. Sometimes I feel like I have chosen income over conscience. I don’t believe in what I am doing and it is causing me to have a “distant” disposition. My elders and church board have been saying for the last few months that I seem distant & disinterested. Most of the tension has been internal, as I feel like I am living a double life. At times, I feel like I am 007 James Bond – a double agent. I am ready to get off this roller coaster and live life free for Jesus Christ.
Q. What types of things do you do to share the Gospel with your
members, on the sly?
A. I have already informed my church that I am on a journey with God and that it is my duty & responsibility to bring them along with me. Most recently, I preached a series on the Ten Commandments. When we spoke on the Sabbath commandment, I shared with them how many times SDAs turn the Sabbath into an idol – therefore, breaking commandments 1 & 2. I also informed them that many SDAs are more concerned with “religiosity” than “spirituality.” Anytime our focus is on the “what” of the Bible rather than the “Who” of the bible, we become self-righteous. I was bold in my statements and I preached with conviction. You could tell that the members were a little surprised that we spoke on it from “that angle,” but no one complained. A friend advised me that if I keep that up, I’ll probably get fired before I actually resign. I suppose.
Q. What are some of your fears about leaving?
A. I think I have 2 main fears. The first fear is the potential financial instability. I am about to plant a church and because of the denominational employment, I am accustomed to a bi-weekly check. My family has 6 people and my wife isn’t working outside of the home, so this is a HUGE jump for us.
The second fear is loneliness. I believe, based on what I am currently noticing, that family and friends are going to shun us as “heathens” and “lost sheep.” It hurts me to know that families are willing to split with each other because of doctrinal differences.
Q. How does your wife feel about leaving the SDA Church?
A. She has said to me that she has mixed emotions – happy & fearful. She is happy because she finally gets to worship God without inhibitions. The feeling of reading her Bible without “SDA scales” over her eyes is rewarding. She says continually that she loves the feeling of grace. She has fear because of how she feels she will be viewed by her family. She comes from a family of strong SDAs and fears being ostracized and disowned because of her new understandings.
Q. Have you discussed these issues with anyone? Do you feel free to? Who can you talk to?
A. My wife and I mostly talk to each other about it. I do have a few friends (former SDA pastors) that I have begun reaching out to. I really enjoy talking to them because they “get it.”
I haven’t told too many people that I am leaving, but the very select few that I have are happy for me. One prominent SDA minister said, “If I knew then, what I know now, I too would have left a long time ago.” My colleagues are middle-of-the-road. I believe there are many of them that want to do it too, but are afraid, so they are remaining where they are.
I have become much bolder in opposing what isn’t biblical. Before, I wouldn’t speak up too much against what the brethren say; now, I am the first in opposition. Feels good to finally have the courage to speak out!
Q. What is keeping you in the SDA ministry right now?
Find out the answer to this question and more in Part 2. Click here to receive Part 2 in your inbox. Do you have questions for this pastor as he contemplates his exit? Ask in the comments.