Sunday, 19 October 2008

Future directions???

I have written before on this blog about several very hard decisions Jeff has made during his time at Trinity moving towards future employment. If you haven't read either of these posts (first here and then there) feel free to back track to understand what I'm going to say here. Or you might not want to bother with the background, that's fine by me. Anyway, what I have to say here might come out in a quite rambling, incoherent manner (even more so than my usual posts) so I apologise ahead of time.

Jeff spent all day on Saturday in a series of panel interviews with the Uniting Church. These interviews were designed to determine his suitability to become a "Candidate for Ministry of the Word" within this denomination.

For those who don't know us in the flesh, so to speak, I'll explain that Jeff has been employed for over two years part-time for our congregation, within this denomination, as a "Ministry Intern", which was our congregation's way of saying Jeff was in training to be a church minister (without yet doing so within the official system). Jeff has been closely mentored by our minister, Steve, throughout this time. For most of the past year Jeff has also been mentored by another ordained minister who is a member of our congregation (who is a chaplain at a denominational school). His "work" in the church over this time has also been closely watched by three other ordained ministers (some retired, some working for our congregation) who are members of our congregation. Every single one of these ministers has gone on record as saying that they think Jeff is an ideal candidate to be the minister of a church, given his gifts, abilities and most importantly strong faith, which they have seen in action. Most of these ministers, as well as many, many members of our congregation, have been very encouraging and supportive of Jeff's hope to become a minister of this denomination.

There have been those who know us well who did not think it was a "good" idea for Jeff to pursue ministry within this denomination. Jeff did not grow up within this denomination. Here in WA, as in many places, the Uniting Church is quite liberal in many areas of teaching and leadership. Yet our congregation, (the largest in WA in this denomination) is determinedly evangelical. In Darwin, Jeff was supported in his university ministry by two evangelically-minded Uniting congregations as well. On the other hand, the hierarchy of the UC here is vehemently liberal, and we have been concerned at whether Jeff would be able to work as a faithful Bible teacher in this atmosphere. We also considered the difficulty of raising strongly Christian kids within a liberal denomination. We did go into this process with our eyes open about the challenges - but we knew that there were many faithful people in this denomination who are waiting earnestly for someone to preach to them again from the Word of God. We also hoped that, if Jeff was able to open doors to this denomination for one evangelical, other evangelicals might be able to follow in his footsteps.

Yesterday Jeff was told he would not be accepted as a "Candidate for Ministry" within the Uniting Church.

The panel could have given Jeff a qualified acceptance; they could have told him not yet, but to try again later. Of course, they also could have accepted him without conditions. Instead, with six "no"s and one abstention, they chose to reject his application for candidacy completely.

So you can probably understand when I write that I am very unsure about what the future holds for our family right now.

Two things I am sure of: God has spoken - and He does not make mistakes!

I am sad, and disappointed, especially for Jeff. I am confused, because so much of what I thought might happen next year will not come to pass (and quite a good bit thankful there as well, because I wasn't looking forward to more years of study for Jeff). I am also full of joy at the thought that the road ahead just got a lot smoother, in many ways. We will no longer have to battle against vehement, outspoken liberalism, because we will look for ministry directions within some other denomination which holds confidently to the Scriptures. (But which one?) I am heaving sighs of relief at the thought that we will not be struggling to raise our children in a denomination which does not uphold the Bible. I am thankful for all the things we have learnt during our time within this denomination, especially the opportunity for Jeff to be mentored by two ministers who have taught him many things which he would not have been able to learn in our previous denomination (things he really needed to learn).

Yet what was our presumed future path, although seen dimly as through the haze of distance, is now completely closed to us. And in its place all we see is a wide open plain with many possible paths, none of which we know anything about.

I am thinking about Proverbs 3:5-6, Romans 8:28-30,and of course James 4:13-17. It is God who has planned good works for us, as it says in Ephesians 2:10, not we who plan works for Him. I am thankful that my gracious, sovereign God is in control of every moment of our lives.

Today, I look forward with an eager heart to the future plans God has for our lives, and particularly for Jeff in his ministry to the people of God, whomever God may choose for us to serve. Please pray for us.

5 comments:

argsmommy said...

Sharon,

What an encouraging post, despite the tough news. You've picked some great verses to reflect upon.

Because we've moved several times, we have been members of several churches including a couple that were solid churches in very liberal denominations. Despite the efforts of those churches to try to reform from within, it is easy to see how the liberalism has crept into those solid churches in subtle ways. So I think you are right -- in the long run you will be more comfortable raising your family in a denomination that is more in line with what you believe.

I'll be praying for you -- you have had a lot to deal with lately.

Blessings,
Kellie

Mrs. Edwards said...

I, too, will uphold you and your family in my prayers. Just this morning in the Sunday School class I taught, the lesson stressed that although we follow God in faith, somewhat blindly, we are wise to do so because He is so trustworthy. He is faithful to keep His Word.

Perhaps God is offering some protection for your family in this direction.

Blessings-
Amy

Sharon said...

You are so right, Amy, when you say that we are wise to put our trust in Him. I know His plan is working itself out to a glorious conclusion... it's just such a struggle to be not there yet, and knowing it more clearly some days than others!

And thankyou also Kellie, for your kind words. It is a balm to my heart to know that other people understand our situation and are praying for us.

Thankyou both.

~ Sharon

mom24 said...

*hugs* to you as you look for wisdom in this unplanned turn of events. Be glad that God has been so clear at least in closing the door on plans that aren't the best for your family! He has good things in store and knows exactly what you need even when you feel uncertain.

Keep fervent in your prayer and I will pray for specific guidance for you as well!
Blessings,
Andrea

Sharon said...

Thanks Andrea.