Monday, April 14, 2008
For those of you who do not know me personally, I have for the last 17 years provided leadership for a small fellowship in Toledo, Oregon. Toledo Christian Fellowship (TCF) is an all-volunteer church; I derive my personal support from my business. I have greatly enjoyed serving my friends as an elder and as the main teacher over these years. These pictures were taken three weeks ago at our Resurrection Day dinner, where we reenacted the Jesus story with a candle ceremony. The pictures might help to give you a feel for TCF, my church fellowship.
In October of last year, I declared my acceptance of evolutionary biology to the TCF body, and spent some time explaining why Genesis 1 must be read in light of its Ancient Near Eastern cosmological context. I knew that many of my TCF friends were committed to YEC (I had taught YEC over the years!), I mistakenly believed that, on the strength of my endorsement, these friends would be open to considering the possibilities of evolution. However, for many of them, their commitment to YEC was much stronger than I had thought. I had hoped that TCF might be a place where various views could be openly discussed, where we could think suppositionally (asking the "what if" questions), and that we could serve as a model of how a church might deal with the difficult issues raised by science today, even if we did not all agree. Instead, I found that my revelations served mainly to inflict pain on my friends. Many, perhaps most of them, felt a sense of loss and betrayal, and a deep emotional wound which has still not healed. I now deeply regret the manner in which I presented my view on that day, a manner which, in retrospect, could be characterized as almost cavalier. I regret the deep pain I caused. Over the last six months, I have become convinced that it will be impossible for me to continue to lead this fellowship.
There is no question of my love for these friends, nor of their love for me. But when so many of my brothers and sisters believe that a YEC position is vital to Christian faith, it is too much to ask them to follow a leader who rejects YEC in favor of an Evolutionary Creationist model. So, last night, I laid down my place of leadership, and officially resigned from our eldership.
As the now well-established science of evolution settles down upon the fundamental and conservative evangelical wings of the church, the resulting paradigm shifts in Biblical and theological understandings are bound to be extremely stressful. I fear that the inevitable struggle will result in many broken relationships, and divided churches. Much evidence of this painful battle can already be seen and has been noted elsewhere. It was my hope that TCF could navigate these waters successfully, and help others to do the same. I still have hope this might happen; but it will not be under my leadership.