Recently, I was sent to the Bishop’s Office. By God’s grace I survived to tell about it.
It reminds me of a “traumatic” experience from my childhood – the time I was called into the Assistant Principal’s office.
I’m in Junior High School. My mom buys me new gym shoes that are to be worn only for gym class. At the end of class, I place them in my basket in the locker room and make sure the combination locker is set. The next week when I go to gym class, the shoes are missing. I tell my mom about it when I get home from school. I tell her my shoes were locked up, but now they’re missing. She’s upset because we just spent a lot of money for those shoes. The next day while I’m at school, my mom calls the school office and complains.
I’m in math class when someone brings a red note to the teacher. The teacher comes over to me and says, “The Assistant Principal would like to see you.” My hand starts shaking immediately. The Assistant Principal is a big man with a deep voice. He’s the one shouting at kids to behave in the lunch room. He’s the one who administers corporal punishment to misbehaving students. I say, “Are you sure, he wants to see me?” The teacher says, “Yes. It’s you.”
I have no clue why the Assistant Principal wants to see me. I couldn’t think of anything I might have done wrong. I’ve always been a “goody two shoes”. I am a first born rule-follower and people-pleaser. But the Assistant Principal wants to see me.
I walk down the hallway to his office taking shallow breaths. When I sit down in his office, my hand shakes like I have tremors. I’ve never been this close to this imposing man behind the desk.
Of course, the Assistant Principal wants to talk to me about those missing gym shoes. Unfortunately, he is not gentle with this terrified boy. He makes me feel like I am the criminal.
Fortunately, I never had to return to that office.
I thought of that experience when I opened up my mail on August 29th. It was a letter from the Bishop’s office. It said, “You are asked to come to the Bishop’s office on October 2nd, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.” The letter explained that it was the first meeting in the supervisory response process. A complaint had been filed against me for officiating at my daughter’s same sex wedding on August 17th. It is a chargeable offense according to the United Methodist Book of Discipline.
In the weeks to follow, I heard about another pastor in the Detroit Conference who was going through the same process as myself for a wedding he performed in June. He told me, “I’ve invited my friends and supporters to join me in prayer at the Area Center a half hour before our meeting. You can join them if you’d like.” I did.
As my own ‘big day’ draw near, I began to let more people know about my situation. I said, “I need you to pray for me and for our meeting.” I invited a few of them to pray with me at the Area Center before the meeting.
I had just entered the Facebook world the month before. I was starting to build a list of friends. I posted a brief notice there inviting people to pray for me as I met the Bishop.
Before I went to bed the night before my meeting, I checked my Facebook site. I couldn’t believe all the people who sent me a message telling me they were praying for me. I copied off a list of all the personal notes that were sent. I put it with my material I was going to share with the Bishop. It would remind me I was not alone.
That night as I was trying to sleep, I thought of all those people praying. I imagined their prayers like a cushion surrounding me. I was able to relax and trust that God would use this process to bring some good out of it.
When I arrived at the Area Center on October 2nd, I was pleasantly surprised to find over a dozen friends and supporters in the meeting room. They greeted me with warm hugs. Soon I stood in the center of the circle. They laid their hands on me and prayed. As they were praying, I could literally feel the weight of their love and concern pressing on me. I was surrounded by this cushion of prayers.
Fortunately, the trip to the Bishop’s office was nothing like my earlier trip to the Assistant Principal’s office. Bishop Deb was gracious, soft-spoken and kind. She allowed me to share my questions and my message. She listened carefully and caringly.
We are in the midst of working toward a ‘just resolution’. Pray that God will bring good for all people out of this process.
P.S. If you were one of those people who prayed, thank you!