Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Atheists Pastoring Christian Flocks?

"The world needs and expects believing priests."

This rather self-evident statement was made to the clergy of the Diocese of Georgia by then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey at a clergy conference at Honey Creek. I agrre and can say as clearly as possible that I know in my bones and it does not contradict what I know with my brain, that there is a God who made us, loves us and wants to redeem us. I believe the Bible that we read here each week and try to pattern my life to follow its teachings. I do not have to cross my fingers when saying the Nicene and Apostle's Creed.

George Carey went further though. He said, “Do I doubt? Of course. Every thinking person doubts. The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.” Carey said doubts and uncertainties can be God’s spirit leading us beyond the lesser truths where we have stopped along the way to a fuller understanding of who God is and how God acts in our lives. He went on to say that the faith we should have then is an active faith not afraid of working through doubts and uncertainties to greater truth. I also agree and in my ministry have tried to encourage folks not to pack doubts away, but to ask questions, find answers, using the doubts learn and grow.

I mention all of that because I ran across two newspaper articles that caught my attention. Religion News Service article tells that a regional body has reviewed the case and determined that a self-proclaimed atheist can continue to serve as a local pastor of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. Pastor Klaas Hendrikse first made news with his 2007 book, Believing in a God That Does Not Exist: The Manifesto of an Atheist Pastor in which he said that God does not exist, but refers to God instead as "happening." The article, Dutch Aethist Pastor Won't Face Discipline quotes the pastor as saying he has reached a goal and is "very satisfied with the result."

In Australia, there is news of a Roman Catholic priest not being removed from the priesthood, but being forced out of his Brisbane Church in the article Priest Doesn't Believe in God from the Rockhamption, Australia paper The Morning Bulletin. That article quotes the priest, Peter Kennedy, as saying,
He doesn’t believe in the priesthood anymore, nor the virgin birth, nor the infallibility of the Pope. In fact, he doubts that Jesus ever existed and although he is the spiritual leader of a 500-strong Christian community, he says he no longer prays because there’s 'no one to pray to.'
His church was large by Australian standards with 500 members, and was growing at the time he was forced out.

I find it sad that these Christians leaders became unbelievers and continued in the pastoral and preaching roles. And I am certainly not lashing out against their denominations as retired bishop John Shelby Spong of The Episcopal Church has published similar and if we went poking around, I am sadly confident we could find others who have come not to believe who continue as pastors in most denominations. But to do so would take a look at the heart, which only the Holy Spirit can do rightly.

I wish they would find it within to go sell shoes or something. If your doubts have overpowered you, find another way to make a living so that the life-changing, life-giving message of the Gospel can be proclaimed.

That's my take. What do y'all think.

A convinced Christian, trying to live it out best I can



  • At 2/19/2010 7:38 AM, Blogger James F. McGrath said…

    I suppose what I wonder is how a minister should deal with doubt. Should they not talk about them from the pulpit? Won't that give the congregation the misleading impression that a minister is a person above such doubting, as well as preventing either side from getting the comfort, support and conversation they need in such circumstances?

    I guess the key question is at what point a minister ought to decide that his or her beliefs have changed so radically and permanently that they ought to leave the ministry...

  • At 2/19/2010 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    These people's hypocrasy is astounding! Wolves in sheeps clothing!Even more astounding is that their chuches/denominations do not defrock them.

  • At 2/19/2010 9:41 AM, Blogger A Christian Kvetch said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 2/19/2010 9:45 AM, Blogger A Christian Kvetch said…

    I am a retired Baptist pastor now attending and occasionally preaching at an Anglican Church.

    During the 1960's I was active in the civil rights and anti-war movements. Several friends of mine who were agnostics or atheists enrolled in seminaries when they finished their undergraduate studies. Why? Because seminary students and pastors were exempt from the military draft. They had originally planned on careers in psychology or social work but changed to pastoral ministry to avoid going to Viet Nam.

    I had a long talk with an agnostic just weeks before he went to Union Theological Seminary in NYC. He rationalized that he could do the counseling in the church that he otherwise would have done in an agency or private practice had he gone on to a doctoral program in counseling psychology.

    I knew several other young men who made similar choices to avoid the draft, even though they did not believe in the gospel they would soon be preaching.

    I think that explains a lot about the state of the church in the United States today.

  • At 2/19/2010 6:30 PM, Blogger Clarence said…

    Friday, February 19, 2010
    I was in the Episcopal church before I was born. To me, there are no gray areas in the word of God. And the instructions I read in that word is, Bet not only my life on this word, but my soul as well. What can I do? Pray! Not only for them, but also for me. Are their sins worse than my sins? Every Christian church in the world has left the written word of God and inserted the word of Man in it's place. The story is obeying God's ten commandments will not get us into heaven. Maybe not! But not obeying them will certainly keep us out of heaven. My question is this. Does what these unbelievers do diminish the power of God? Somewhere it's written, "Have we not done wonderful things in your name" (Jesus)Do you remember the reply?

  • At 2/22/2010 3:53 PM, Anonymous Susan Church said…

    George Carey said:“Do I doubt? Of course. Every thinking person doubts. The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.” I am more worried about those who pastor with rigid certainty for I think that there are far more of them though they rarely get news coverage.


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