I’ve wanted to write about my reasons for leaving the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) for some time. Some years ago, I received a survey sent out to LCMS and ex-LCMS youth. I was just within the age range of people they wanted to respond. I filled it out and sent it in. Reading through some of the results from that survey, it looks like approximately 1-in-3 millennials who were in the LCMS in their younger years have remained. I am not surprised by this. I’m one of the ones who left.
It is difficult for me to write about these things for a few reasons. The first reason is because there are many people I know and love within the LCMS, and there is such complexity in my feelings, thoughts, and beliefs about that. I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. I am a people pleaser at heart, and I don’t like to be disliked. It is hard to be rejected, and much harder to cause pain to others, intentionally or not. I know that writing about these issues will bring pain to some. My hope, though, is that it can also bring understanding, conversation, and peace to others. I have received several anonymous (and not) e-mails and messages from people reflecting on some of the same issues I have and sharing the same concerns. I’m writing this, in part, for you. But I also write it for those who remain in the LCMS, because it is important to know what at least some people are experiencing therein, and why we are leaving.
The second reason it is difficult to write about is because I know that I will receive backlash. I have already experienced in person chastisement and insults, and received letters and e-mails, Facebook messages, and more from allegedly concerned LCMS leaders and laity. Nearly all of those conversations included some form of saying that I would be going to hell (though not always using those exact words). The reason for this was not because I rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (He is); it was not because I stopped affirming infant baptism (I do affirm it) or real presence in the Lord’s Supper (I do affirm it); the reasons were not because I rejected the Lutheran Confessions (which I continue to study to better understand). No, all of these messages were sent with their concern that I’d be going to hell because I’d left the LCMS for reasons other than these. It is not easy to be told time and again you’re going to hell. But I trust in Jesus Christ, who is Lord of the Universe, and in whom I trust for my salvation, far more than I trust people in whose interest it is to maintain the status quo and silence dissent from their insular denomination.
I also haven’t written about this more publicly for years because it is traumatic. I have experienced spiritual trauma from my time in the LCMS and from leaving it. Typing that remains difficult for me, not because I don’t believe it, but because it is so hard to acknowledge and name. Spiritual trauma and abuse aren’t easy to pin down and point at, and people so often try to wave it off and cover it up. Naming it as traumatic and difficult is part of the way to heal from it and move forward.
I am now at the point in my life in which I feel mentally and emotionally prepared to do this work. The work I refer to is to share my story in hope that it will benefit others who have similar experiences, thoughts, and concerns. The church should be a place in which Christ’s work is done. My hope is that by sharing my story, I can inspire others to continue to do Christ’s work. I also know that there are parts I still don’t feel ready to share. I am nervous about this, and I pray for peace and courage as I write.
For those reading this silently, for those who are reading and not commenting, I pray for you as well. I pray that my story will be edifying and enlightening. I pray that I don’t bring harm. I pray that if I “cause trouble,” that it is good trouble.
Next in series: a short history of my time in the LCMS.
Formerly Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) or Wisconsin Synod (WELS)– A Facebook group I’ve created for people who are former members of either of these church bodies to share stories, support each other, and try to bring change. Note: Anything you post on the internet has the potential to be public and shared anywhere, so if you join and post, be aware of that.
What’s Wrong with Apologetics? – I take a look at some of the issues I’ve found to be broadly true in apologetics-related circles.
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