Marilyn and I knew we had to leave the denomination, but where would we go? This question led to another: Where am I going to find a job as a minister? I purchased a book that listed the details of all major Christian denominations and began evaluating several of the denominations that interested me.
I’d read the doctrinal summaries and think, “This one is nice, but I don’t like their view on baptism,” or “This one is okay, but their view of the end times is a bit too panic-ridden,” or “This one sounds exactly like what I’m looking for, but I’m uncomfortable with their style of worship.” After examining every possibility and not finding one that I liked, I shut the book in frustration. I knew I was leaving Presbyterianism but I had no idea which was the “right” denomination was to go into. There seemed to be something wrong with each of them. “Too bad I can’t customize my ‘perfect’ church,” I thought to myself wistfully.
Around this time a friend from Illinois called me on the phone. He, too, was a Presbyterian pastor and had heard through the grapevine that I was planning to leave the Presbyterian denomination.
“Marc, you can’t leave the church!” he scolded. “You must never leave the church. You’re committed to the church. It shouldn’t matter that some theologians and pastors are off the wall. We’ve got to stick with the church, and work for renewal from within! We must preserve unity at all costs!”
“If that’s true,” I replied testily, “why did we Protestants break away from the church in the first place?”
I don’t know where those words came from. I had never in my life given even a passing thought as to whether or not the Reformers were right to break away from the Catholic Church. It was the essential nature of Protestantism to attempt to bring renewal through division and fragmentation. The motto of the Presbyterian Church is “reformed, and always reforming.” (It should add: “and reforming, and reforming, and reforming, and reforming, etc.”)
Another great section is when he's attending a talk by Scott Hahn (the same Scott Hahn he'd known from Gordon-Cornwall Theological Seminary in the 80's, the staunch anti-Catholic Calvinist). He writes about his discomfort at entering the church where Scott was presenting:
I was nervous as I pulled into the parking lot of the huge gothic structure. I had never been inside a Catholic Church, and I didn’t know what to expect.
I entered the church quickly, skirting the holy water fonts, and scuttled down the aisle, unsure of the correct protocol for getting into the pew. I knew Catholics bowed, or curtsied, or did some sort of jig-like obeisance toward the altar before entering the pew, but I just slipped in and scrunched down, happy not to have been recognized as a Protestant.
Such honesty and humor. It's a great read, really.