An Open Letter to a Shepherd I know


Dear Jesus;

It is time for me to apologize.  Not confess, or repent or prostrate.  Just apologize.

I am sorry that I have participated in so many lies about you.  I am sorry that I wore special clothes and big crosses and a habit so as to appear holy.  I am sorry I pretended to believe what the Church has been saying about you.  The part that is a lie.  Pretty much anything other than that you were a kind, loving man who asked us to be kind and loving.

Did religion begin when the first scoundrel met the first fool? I don’t know when it began but it is slowly ending in this century in favor of spirituality – the sap from the tree.

I am sorry that I once kissed a Bishop’s ring because he expected it.  I am sorry that I once wanted to climb the ranks of the Church because of my insecurities.  I am sorry that I allowed my bishop to bully me and others for so long and that I never bothered to expose his lies about fundraising.  I am sorry bishops do not have term limits and very glad presidents do. I am sorry that I let my priest steal all those books and then let my bishop cover it up.  I am sorry that I collaborated with my bishop to get my priest elected just so that his election would get him out of my bishop’s diocese.  And for covering up clergy adultery so often.  I am sorry that I kept so many secrets so that I could get along in my “career”.

I am so very sorry that I was impressed with purple shirts, miters and gold croziers when you were a man in a tunic with sandals. I am sorry I created so many rituals when you suggested only one or two. I am sorry I spent so much time in church when “church” liturgy was never once your suggestion.  I am so sorry that I was too afraid of poverty to challenge the authority of the church and risk my pension and its benefits.  I am sorry that I let my colleagues bully me rather than stand and fight.  I was just too tired. Am too tired.

And on behalf of this church to which I have given my entire adult life of four decades, I am sorry that people bow to clergy and that clergy get off on it.  I am sorry that clergy wear silks and satins and gold brocade when you called us to serve the sick, poor and ostracized.  And I am sorry that the good clergy end up in tiny backwater parishes, blocked from church councils and in poverty. 

I am sorry people pray to a box with a red candle on it.  I am sorry that our way of following you is to dress up and process into churches rather than wear jeans into homeless shelters to wash the massage the feet of the despairing.  I am sorry we spend millions on church hierarchy and liturgy and libraries when people starve.  I am sorry our bishops travel with an entourage when you so often modeled walking alone on dusty roads, talking with people. Prostitutes for example. And lepers.

I am sorry that I bought icons, crosses, and books and that I invested in church building campaigns so that my name appeared on their donor lists when I could so easily have written a check to disaster-relief.  I am sorry I went to seminary to save souls when I could have stayed in fundraising and made more of a difference for those who need help.  I am sorry I was seduced by clergy who promised advancement or friendship when drinking with friends in a pub would so much more have fed my soul.

I am sorry I worried so much about laws,  commandments, and old testament warnings rather than just living and loving.  I am sorry for teaching children to be afraid of God in a church when they needed to meet God in a playground. I am sorry for not reporting clergy who hung around public parks at night idling their cars, waiting. I am sorry I did not report clergy who gave their deacons so much pot that they fell into convulsions and passed out.  I am sorry that I did not call an ambulance so that it would not be a matter of police and ambulance record. I am sorry I let senior clergy bully members of the congregation who tried to stand up to them. In short, I am sorry I did not punch their lights out.

I am sorry for the mess Constantine and his mommy made out of Christianity when they made it imperial. I am sorry about the way the Latin church bullied the Celtic church into submission.  I am sorry about the money and time spent on cathedrals when people were so hungry.  I am sorry that the church went to bed with aristocracy and royalty in order to sleep their way to the top.  I am sorry for every person tortured or burned alive for believing the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong place under the wrong prince or bishop.  I often wonder what it was like to burn alive at a stake surrounded by clergy and bishops. I expect it sucked, big-time. It still does, though flaming faggots and torches have been switched out for other, more sneaky and cowardly tools of administration. 

I am sorry about the Inquisition.  And about making “natives” into Anglicans.  I am sorry about parochial schools and about the way the church aided the crown in colonization.  We needed neither more people to use a prayer book nor more people to use a teacup. And I am sorry about the Crusades and about Prince Bishops’ armies that circled Muslim cities and slowly starved them to death.  I am sorry about monks who stood around people like John of the Cross in a circle with whips because only one monk whipping him was too tiring for the monk and his dainty, tiny wrists and un-calloused hands. 

I am sorry for the billions of dollars raised for clergy salaries when they could have been tent-makers and held a job alongside their ministry. I am sorry we delegated clergy to visit people rather than just sharing the responsibility (and doing a much better job). I am even sorry for the suffering of the clergy these days as Covid-19 and generational-change conspire to collapse the entire ecclesial system before our very eyes by slowly starving it to death.

I am sorry for so much.  So much that I have done with my life these last 20 years of “ordained ministry”.  I am sorry I joined an institution when you invited me into a movement. Oh, and that reminds me that I am also sorry that some are “ordained” and some are, well, “not.” 

I am sorry I begged for forgiveness on cold stone church floors when half my “so-called sins” were bad choices and the other half were really fun times that I do not regret for a second.  I am sorry that mean old church-ladies were allowed to get away with being mean simply because they were big pledgers. 

And I am sorry for so many other things that I will not remember until I email this to you in heaven.  And I am sorry for pretending I believed in satan and heaven and hell and the virgin-birth and that we should not eat shell-fish – especially now that I live on an island.  

I am sorry for pretending for 20 years to be sure of a mystery.  Mostly, I am sorry about that. Yes, mostly for that.

Much love and kisses,

Charles

(you may know me as the friend of “Kai-the-dog” with whom you were so close.)

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