And the Darwin Award for Ecclesial extinction goes to…

Any church leader in Sean Tuckers new book “Unlearning”. Well, not all of them, but Sean’s debut is a litany of insensitivity, crassness and downright toxic religion, which I am now reminded, has been alive and well over this last decade.

The key sentiment, told in flowing, compelling, and yet matter-of-fact narrative, is his cry

“I’m an adult, and I suppose at this point, I should be gaining some momentum on my life path, but I feel completely stalled”.

Sean recently turned 30, and as one who has felt a call to pastor, he has responded enthusiastically throughout his 20’s, preparing himself for the task, including 4 years at seminary. In heartfelt anticipation, he has made himself available, and been employed in several churches. But the outcome of his energetic attempts at christian service within the institutional churches has been spectacularly disheartening.

He has repeatedly been asked to join church projects and then, to leave, mostly in crushing rejections from older men, whose change of heart usually involves reservations about Sean’s intentions and innovations, be they placing a projector screen across the crucifix, having long hair (!? thought that issue went away 30 years ago), or being “too white”. His qualification into the ministry was blocked at the last hurdle on a charge of “emotional instability” from a particularly threatened individual.

And if his account is to be believed, you don’t get much worse than this pastoral welcome:

“You won’t hear from me, unless something goes wrong. That’s my leadership style. Good luck”

That makes Deism look like a pretty rosy option.

So how do we explain this pain? I think it is one of 2 things.

Firstly, Sean is psychologically unsound, innately rebellious, or aggressively iconoclastic. Well, he frankly confesses to and owns his own weaknesses, frailties and errors. (And in my only meeting with him, which to be fair does not mean I know him intimately, this same lack of guile pervades).

Or secondly, this institution we call “church”, at very least in its modern form, is fundamentally flawed.

Needless to say, there is a contingent who cry foul at his whistle blowing. I know this move only too well – if a church leader doesn’t like what you are saying, he can respond very negatively, or he can try to appear gracious and blames it on the fact that you “have been hurt”. But in neither of these do I hear ownership for the real problem – discredited, outmoded, desensitised, dogmatic, junk religion.

Despite it all, Sean acknowledges those he has encountered within his church experience who have given him hope. So the “rant” (to which I wholeheartedly assent) is not without grace and reason to remain positive. Furthermore he is at pains not to directly impugn any individual, pointing rather at the systems they represent.

I very much hope that Sean Tucker is right in his closing observation:

“A growing number of people in churches are opening their eyes to our attempts at hiding away in the womb-like institutions we build for ourselves. They are feeling the call of the Great Task in a plethora of ways, and challenging their churches to respond.”

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