There’s an old bumper sticker with the words “Question authority.” To which the proper response, of course, is: “Says who?” As that reply suggests, suspicion of authority, however well advised, does not solve or clarify the problem of authority. Whenever we want someone to heed what we’re saying, we end up invoking or assuming some kind of authority.
There is nothing like writing a book called Leaving Church for discovering how many things people can make of a title like that. The church of the title is Grace-Calvary Church in Clarkesville, Georgia. Leaving is what I did in 1997 when I resigned from parish ministry. In the year since the book came out, I have received thousands of letters, most so poignant that I have to hold my heart while I read them.What I read above all is a rich mix of love and grief: love for the mainline churches that have formed the faithful, and grief that so many of those churches have run out of holy steam. The love part makes the grief part hard to articulate.