Atheists Pastoring Christian Flocks?
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
Labels: news item