Another casualty of contemplation

I am sure, like me you have been examining your life and your heart in this season.

Maybe you revisited old hobbies and tempting booklists. You tidied crammed drawers and cupboards, box-rooms and sheds. Then George Floyd was senselessly killed. And quite rightly, our world protested at the disproportionate violence forced so casually upon him.

I fear that in these throes of super-sensitivity, a hero of mine made the mistake of apologising. Which is a strange statement to make of a Christian – surely one who should be well versed in repentance?

Two days ago, news broke that a significant city church leader had resigned after nearly 30 years of sacrificial and generous service to the region. It will be his abrupt departure from a cutting-edge creative culture, sending shockwaves across many physical congregations and online communities.

Toppled leadership is nothing new

Tragic as this is, there are many such versions of relegation. Whether tainted by financial scandal, sexual misconduct or misappropriation of power. they hurt those ‘taken out’ as well as those left behind.

I could not have been more stunned by this leader’s Instagram announcement called “Longest Resignation Speech ever”. Characteristically, it was packed full of praise at the qualities of the people he loves and the future awaiting them.

I trust the calibre of the people he mentored and mantled with this news. And I am sure their church and its network of city churches will continue to flourish.

He is someone I deeply admire for his honesty, sense of fun, youthful energy and compassion. A more authentic communicator of absolute joy for life and celebration of people, you could not find. He is one of those six figure-head people I would have around my fictional dinner-table for the conversation of a lifetime.

As in his oft-quoted summary and principle of the Christian life, he will continue to rise in ever increasing cycles.

So, what went wrong?

I’ve been stung by the implications, only imagining the pain felt by his family.

I am not saying he didn’t put a foot wrong. He must have recognised a blind spot; patterns of institutional exclusivity he’d been responsible for and not proud of.

His apology was too easy, it has been said.

If it was too easy to say – then it was too easy to reject, discount and instantly cast aspersions over a generation of investment.

Hollow apologies are meaningless. If he made any mistake – it was to publicise what would best have remained a private repentance, rather than becoming bloodily scapegoated for it. Was it not enough for him to handle it before God and those he perceived he had injured? I don’t know. Though he took private steps to investigate and confess fault, in this current climate he became dangerously vulnerable by exposing such a flaw upon the very same social media platform he has built over the last decade.

They say a week in politics is a long time. Church politics can be equally and brutally exacting.

Prejudice is contextual, enigmatic and paradoxical. We cannot know or assume the right to judge how authentic he was. He has the right to examine himself – having found himself wanting as he reflected on the narrative of his church life’s leadership. We simply cannot know the gravity of his findings or the depth of his repentance. We must take them on trust of his word, accept his apology and his sorrow with the weight it deserves.

Please, do not allow new depths of untouchable political correctness bring condemnation or solidify your precious opportunity to fluidly search your hearts in this turbulent time.

Respect each other’s wounds – and respect any attempts at reconciliation.

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