The sky was clear but my mind was in a fog as I drove across the plains of northwest Oklahoma. I had just passed my last interview and was headed home. Later in the spring the Bishop would lay his hands on my head during a special worship service and I would be fully ordained in the United Methodist Church. I had worked so hard for this that I should have been happy.
I mean, I was happy. Really. I think.
Okay, I was confused.
I had been a pastor for another more conservative denomination when I transferred to the United Methodist Church. Although I didn’t qualify for full ordination I could still serve at a small congregation while I completed my credentials.
It took nine years
It takes a lot of effort, education, and aggravation to become fully ordained in the United Methodist Church. While I worked full time at the church, I also worked on my Master of Divinity, which is twice the size of most master’s degrees (85 credit hours). Then there’s a three year period of examinations, questionnaires, readings, interviews, and an intense psychological profile.
Many people wash out, but I didn’t stop until I was done.
Like I said, when I was done, I found myself confused. I should have been pleased but I found myself falling into depression. Eventually, I shook it off and focused on my pastoral duties.
But another nine years have gone by now.
Earlier this week, after a leave of absence, I wrote to the Bishop and my District Superintendent and relinquished my hard won credentials.
I didn’t leave because I was hurt or angry. I didn’t leave because the church is full of flawed people. I didn’t leave over the conflicts that threaten to divide the denomination. I didn’t leave because I was failing at the work.
I left because I finally admitted to myself that I don’t believe God exists.
I tried so hard. Life would have been much easier if I just continued to force myself to believe.
But I couldn’t.
I still love the people to whom I ministered. I got angry with them at times but the last thing I ever wanted was to hurt them. I still care for them. I still want to help. I miss them.
I just can’t believe with them.
It has been a long time but the fog is lifting.