Over the last several weeks, I have been contemplating my ministry and this number from the Broadway show Chicago comes to mind.
As I reflect on my many years of ministry are things that I left behind in my social work degree, my masters degrees, and my doctorate.
I received a BA in Social Work. We spent many hours learning about one of the founding people of the Social Work movement, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, founder of the Hull House, Jane Addams. She was an amazing advocate for the poor, the uneducated, the people around her.
I did my graduate work at Methodist Theological School in Ohio. As an United Methodist, we spent many hours learning about the Methodist Movement and John and Charles Wesley. They were focused on Social Justice and Social Piety. Charles Wesley wrote about 6,500 hymns. John Wesley preached daily in England. During his lifetime, he published most of his sermons. He was eventually banned from serving a parish in The Anglican Church (though he died an Anglican Priest). He had no other option except accept an occasional invitation to preach in an Anglican Church. Most of his preaching work was carried out in fields, near coal mines in England (an aside, he had a disastrous trip to the English colonies we now call The United States of America).
I had the honor of taking a course from Bishop Peter Storey. He worked hand in hand with Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Storey’s wife was, at one point Tutu’s personal secretary.). Together they helped end the racial Apartheid in South Africa.
I completed my doctorate at Drew University. We spent a long time talking about and with present day theologians and their work in their specialized areas and how that applies to local congregations today.
This is a long, personal history lesson, filled with the modern day equivalent of footnotes. Sorry for so many Wikipedia links–I know those are not primary resources, but secondary ones, and not able to be cited in academic papers. However, they are close enough for what I am about to say.
If you trust my history and my story, and I hope you do, you will see that I am steeped in radical inclusiveness. I live out, to the best of my ability to take care of the least among us, give food to the hungry, serve those in need, welcome the stranger (Matthew 25)…
This is where I have fallen down. As a parish pastor, I had to keep charge of the sheep in my care (yes, a Biblical reference). I could encourage them, push them, keep them beside still waters (terrible exegesis by the way), and nourish them, but keep them. To keep my job, I had to mind my tongue. I could not ruffle feathers.
I have 99% of my sermons archived, 20 years worth. I would never preach another of them again. To continue in the agrarian theme, I felt cowed in what I could say and how I could say it. I had to please the people, keep attendance up, pay the monthly bills, and primarily my salary.
As bishop, I have finally found freedom. I can say what I want, when I want. Sometimes, on social media, I don’t say things as nuanced as I would like (I can be seen as arrogant), but if I am standing in front of a congregation, if it is 15 like my first one, or 300 like my penultimate one, you better bet your britches (yes, I live in Nevada–bet is the key word there), that I will bring it, with humility and grace
I am human. I make mistakes.
Correction: Editor’s note: Kirk is an arrogant asshat. He admitted that. We had to make a couple of small changes from the initial post, because his first post was supposed to be placed in the draft file, not the publish file.