Recently, I listened to NPR’s Fresh Air host Terri Gross interview Barbara Brown Taylor regarding her recent book Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith. It was an interesting interview. Based on that interview, the book seems misleadingly named. Taylor has not left the church in the sense of surrendering her ordination credentials, nor has she denounced her faith or her participation in a church on Sundays. This is about her decision to leave pastoral ministry, not church or ministry altogether. That said, with the proliferation of articles and findings last spring about the drop in persons moving into or sticking with pastoral ministry, her book would seem to be a significant contribution from an acclaimed writer. Though I haven’t read her yet, I have added this book to my reading list.
You can listen to the Fresh Air interview here.
Here’s a review of her book I read in the United Methodist Reporter (scroll down and click on “Pastor Commens: Another One Bites the Dust”), one by Lauren Winner in the Dallas Morning News, and an old Christian Century article by Taylor from 1999 not long after she left the pastorate to teach at a college.
2 thoughts on “leaving church pastorate”
If Taylor is an example of a trend, I’m not particularly worried. I understand quite well how one’s understanding of one’s calling might change with the passage of time – or how opportunities to respond to that calling might also change.
I’m with you, Richard. Simply having the manifestation of one’s general baptismal call to ministry and particular call to ordained ministry change over time is not terribly unsettling. In seminary, many of my profs were ordained persons and many were lay persons. Not to mention that pastoral experience can be quite beneficial to any area of academic religious teaching, and all the more so if students are working at discerning a call to ministry.
One thing I’m curious to hear more about and understand better Taylor’s reflection on “public truth” and “private truth.”
Here’s what she said in a Christian Century column a couple months back:
“As gladly as I served the public truth for years, I had a lot of private truth left over. Some of it was petty, some of it was shameful and some of it led me to question the public truth I proclaimed on a regular basis, so I boxed it up and put it in my spiritual basement. Then one day when I was looking for a place to set a new box, I realized that some of my best stuff was down there, and that going up and down the steps was wearing me out.”
Once I go ahead and read her book I hope to understand more what she’s saying here.