Saturday Symposium: Challenging Pastoral Care Situations

Hello, Readers. It’s Saturday once again, and this has been a very busy week on the blog. Thank you all for the thoughtful comments and emails. We’ll get back to all of you as soon as we can.

This week, we have an important announcement to share: beginning on Monday, we will be scaling back to three regular posts per week plus our Saturday Symposium question, so four posts in total each week. We will release our posts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays before 12pm EST, and of course Saturday Symposium will be released on Saturday mornings. Occasionally, we might feature a Tuesday or Thursday post. When we began blogging in January, writing six days a week served many beneficial purposes for us, including giving us something thought-provoking to do during our rare bits of spare time after Lindsey’s job loss in December. As we’ve been working multiple tutoring and babysitting gigs in addition to Sarah’s regular job, writing daily has given us the opportunity to cope with multiple stressors positively. Now that we’re looking toward a new job for Lindsey in August and both of us are beginning our summer workloads, this seems to be the most appropriate time for scaling back just a bit. Additionally, we’ve heard from readers that they would appreciate some extra time to read and comment on our existing posts. We’re grateful to all of you who have engaged us in edifying conversation each day and have supported us during the past few difficult months. We look forward to many more positive interactions in the future.

Now it’s time for today’s Saturday Symposium question:

How this works: It’s very simple. We ask a multi-part question related to a topic we’ve blogged about during the past week or are considering blogging about in the near future, and you, our readers, share your responses in the comments section. Feel free to be open, reflective, and vulnerable…and to challenge us. But as always, be mindful of the comment policy that ends each of our posts. Usually, we respond fairly quickly to each comment, but in order to give you time to think, come back, add more later if you want, and discuss with other readers, we will wait until after Monday to respond to comments on Saturday Symposium questions.

This week’s Saturday Symposium question: This week’s question comes from a comment we received on our About page. On Thursday, our reader Anya shared the following story with us:

My moms didn’t know anything about Christianity until I was 10. They adopted me when I was 2 because my birth mom was a drug addict. Anyhow, my moms went to church for the first time when I was 10 and we all got saved on the same day. The pastor told us the only way to make God happy and the only way he would baptize us all was if my moms split up. They wanted to obey God so they did what the pastor said. My life changed in hard ways and I thought being a Christian was supposed to bring me happiness. I didn’t find God again until I grew up and found him on my own. I still talk to both my moms and I love them but now they are part of ex-gay ministries and they are unhappy. They haven’t seen each other in years but they pray for each other.

We’re interested in hearing your responses to this story. If this situation were occurring within your faith community, how would you react? What sort of pastoral care do you think your own pastor/priest might offer to a family like Anya’s? If you are a pastor or priest and you witnessed a fellow member of the clergy in your tradition giving this sort of advice to a family like Anya’s, how would you feel about this? How might you discuss a situation like this one with your fellow clergy members and your parish?

We look forward to reading your responses. If you’re concerned about having your comment publicly associated with your name, please consider using the Contact Us page to submit your comment. We can post it under a pseudonym (i.e. John says, “your comment”) or summarize your comment in our own words (i.e. One person observed…). Participating in this kind of public dialogue can be risky, and we want to do what we can to protect you even if that means we preserve your anonymity. Have a wonderful weekend!


Sarah and Lindsey

Comment Policy: Please remember that we, and all others commenting on this blog, are people. Practice kindness. Practice generosity. Practice asking questions. Practice showing love. Practice being human. If your comment is rude, it will be deleted. If you are constantly negative, argumentative, or bullish, you will not be able to comment anymore. We are the sole moderators of the combox.

7 thoughts on “Saturday Symposium: Challenging Pastoral Care Situations

  1. Wow…I am literally crying reading that. How horribly sad. I have no words to say (profound or otherwise) at the moment about it, as the crappiness of that whole situation is evidently too emotionally overwhelming for me at the moment.

    • Sorry it’s taken us so long to reply to comments on this particular post. Anya’s story cut us to the heart as well. Thanks for taking time to read the post and join your grief with ours!

  2. I am horrified by this story because I simply do not understand how even a “traditional” sexual ethic would condone ordering a lesbian couple to split up. Why would it make God happy to see this? Granted, one might, according to a traditional ethic request that the couple to refrain from sexual relations, but being propelled into ex-gay ministry is something different entirely.

    What’s interesting is the way that happiness features in this account…

    1. The couple is told that splitting up will make God happy. (But no account is given for that here…)

    2. Anya considers that as a child, Christianity was supposed to being her happiness (it appears not to have done, in light of her parents’ split)

    3. The couple are, to this day, unhappy.

    I think it untrue that Christianity will being us happiness (or health or wealth), but our life in God is supposed to bring us peace and joy. If one’s life does not manifest those gifts (even when external circumstances are tough), there is a problem with the theology. I find it hard not to render this story as one in which God delights in human unhappiness and we know that not to be true!!

    If this story happened in my own faith community (it wouldn’t as I’m part of a church that doesn’t ask questions about families and sexualities), I would strongly advise against the couple splitting up. There is no biblical teaching that indicates that child rearing need be done by a man and a woman (were that so, Christians would never have run orphanages). To be honest, I’m less fussed about the sex aspect here than I am about the life of 10 year old Anya. I think I’d have encouraged the couple to explore the breadth of the born-again tradition to seek a variety of counsels rather than just accept the first bit of advice given.

    • Hi Angela, thanks for your comment here. There is a lot of breadth in the born-again tradition.

      Some churches emphasize “turning from sin, no matter what the cost.” We’d posit that the pastor who advised the couple to split up was probably trying to exhort the couple to turn from sin. However, it’s hard to see where the pastor drew lines around what is “sin” relative to Anya’s parents.

      Another common emphasis of the born-again tradition is the need to pursue inner healing. Because ex-gay ministries have frequently capitalized on desires for inner healing, it’s hard to predict how this situation might have played out had the pastor emphasized healing. Perhaps the pastor was of the opinion that the desire for baptism indicated that everyone was a “new creation” in Christ where radically reconfiguring life was possible.

      Perhaps the most charitable of all in the born-again tradition is the idea that Christianity involves a “long obedience in the same direction” where the central goal is to keep Christ at the center. Focusing on Christ first seems to be at the heart of more inclusive stances like Generous Spaciousness or Ken Wilson’s Third Way.

  3. I am so greatful you asked this question. I will show my moms. I know there have to be more people in the world with the same thing that happened to them that happened to us.

    • Thank you so much, Anya, for sharing your story with us here. We know that there are likely many families who face the same demands from Christian leaders. We continue to pray for you and your moms.

  4. It was very sad when it happened. I’m glad other people can see how sad it is. I don’t talk about it much except to my new pastor.

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