Thursday 15th February, 2001: In which it is all in the open

There are now no more secrets.

At tonight’s open meeting of the church council and elders of the Knox congregation, I told them everything about my journey to the point where I am at the moment. It was a difficult thing to do. I told them that although I would have liked to have kept the reasons for my resignation personal, to talk about only in private with those who would like to know, that the District President's email to the pastors has put this into the public arena, and that they would hear from someone else if not from me.

There was some shock, I think. [X] was the first to speak, saying that no-one should really be surprised given what I had been preaching over recent months. [X2] reacted very much according to his experience of the Catholic Church in South American—sprouting out some very negative stuff. [X3, an elder] had had some warning, so she was a rather moderating influence for a change. So was [X4], although she may have already known, since I had a very frank discussion with her husband up at Martin Luther Homes last week (he had guessed what it was all about). [X5] said she would follow me wherever I went—I hope she wasn’t serious! [X6, another elder] expressed some concern that now he did not know what to do—and he would have to consider worshipping elsewhere until such time as I had completed my ministry at Knox.

There was some discussion regarding the three month period until the conclusion of my ministry at Knox, some thinking it would be best if I went straight away rather than dragging it out. I assured everyone that I would continue to be bound by my ordination vows in the conduct of my ministry, just as I always have been. In fact, my sermons and teaching will probably be less controversial than before. Some expressed disappointment at this!

It was really hard to tell them, and now I cannot really believe that I have. Can everything that I have held so close to my heart for so long really now be public knowledge? How do I conduct my ministry now, knowing that they know what I really am? Never have I been so honest about my Catholic faith. I feel good about it—but also scared, because this drives a very real wedge between me and the congregation.

Yesterday I met for our usual Wednesday session with Peter Holmes and P., but this time at the Doncaster manse, since Peter was looking after his two children while Suzie was on a three day retreat. I challenged P. up front for not objecting to the District President's draft of his “Pastor to Pastor” letter. P. said that he was perfectly happy with the proposed approach. He said “He has treated me as I deserve”, to which I mumbled “You must be a dog then...”.

Someone asked me tonight if I felt betrayed by the President—and yes, I think I do (not for the first time either!). Still, P. is now talking a very different tune. He wants to prepare some statement or do some ground work before the “forum” (or “Diet of Worms” as Pete calls it), and said: “We’re all in this together.” That certainly is a different approach to the one he has taken so far. And he hasn’t even met with Fisher yet. This time it was us who had to tell him that we are all coming at this from different ways (Peter: What is truth; Me: Historical continuity; P.: realism vs nominalism), and with different consequences.

Last night, I had a phone call from Pastor BA [himself a convert to Lutheranism from Presbyterianism]. It was hard to tell this dear, sainted father in the faith, under whose hands I was ordained to the office of the ministry, my reasons for leaving. He said that he had once considered Rome as a student, and also that he was very distressed by the LCA’s current situation, but still he could not imagine going to Rome. He feels very strongly the injustices of Rome over against the protestant martyrs. I didn’t raise with him the issue of those who were Catholic martyrs under Henry and Elizabeth...

Then this afternoon, Father Greg Pritchard invited Peter and me to have dinner with him and with his new assistant priest, Father Paul, who is a convert from Anglicanism. This was a delightful occasion, and I especially valued exploring with Greg the ramifications of being a divorced and remarried Catholic for parish life. I appreciate the care that Greg is showing toward us.

So now it is almost midnight again. I am tired. I have to go and wake Cathy up—she was putting Maddy to bed, and is probably asleep herself as usual. I am aware that there are great gaps here in my journal, and that I have not written down all that has been said (eg. at today’s luncheon). But, like St John, I feel that if I wrote everything the whole world could not contain it.

One thing I do need to say is that I find it hard to take a starting point for my story when I need to give it, and furthermore, that I find just about impossible to come up with a single statement of why I have decided in favour of the authority of Rome over against the authority of the Lutheran Church. The argument, once started however, easily rolls on. Again, it is a problem with starting points.