Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Deemed An Unfit Parent

Photo Credit
This should have come as no surprise.  They found me unfit.

I knew the "rules" and I had broken them.  Most people do break them, you know.  However, some maintain proper documentation while breaking the "rules" and I, on the other hand, let my paperwork expire years ago.  Many years ago.  On purpose, for that matter.  Their so-called "rules" seemed silly to me.  Not all of the "rules", to be sure, and I certainly did not find the people silly.  I loved the people.  The institution, however, rubbed me the wrong way.  So, I did what many have since chosen to do and left in search of a different expression.  But either way, I broke the rules, my papers expired, and for that, they deemed me unfit.

Really though, this should not have come as a surprise in the least.  I know how they operate.  I could have produced 'falsified' documents as many, many do but that is not my style.  What would be the point?  My own mother, who had faithfully followed all of the "rules" up until her final days on earth was nearly deemed unfit for a "proper burial."  The Roman Catholic church where she devoted her entire adult life almost denied her the necessary "flags" to enter the cemetery where she was to be buried when they found out {GASP!!} that a Methodist hospice minister...and a woman at that...would be conducting her funeral {hold your breath} outside of a Catholic church.  In the days following my mother's death, I actually listened as the Catholic priest yelled at the funeral director (unbiased third party) for allowing a non-Catholic woman to conduct the funeral.  How sad.  How very, very sad.

So, when the Catholic church told my sister that I was unfit to become my nephew's Godmother at his baptism, although being very upset, I was not surprised.  Never mind that I have devoted my life to Christ and seek to follow in Christ's footsteps in thought, word, and deed on a daily basis.  Never mind that practicality.  The Catholic church wanted a letter stating that I was a practicing Catholic.

Soapbox Alert: What I wanted was a letter from the Catholic church telling me what exactly a practicing Catholic looks like.  New flash:  your practicing Catholics very well might not be practicing Catholics.  BUT, they have a letter and I don't.) 

Well, unless a letter from 1995 counts, I am out of the running.  Would a letter from my seminary count?  How about a letter from the pastor of my current church?  What if I provided a document detailing my sacramental theology?  N.O.P.E.  None of that will work, silly girl.  It's Catholic or bust, don't you remember?  Oh, could I forget?!  

Honestly though, this doesn't make me angry as much as it makes me sad.  The Body of Christ, that is,  all Christians in the church universal, is supposed to operate collectively.  We are supposed to be one body in this world.  Yet, we are fragmented from here to the moon...and back.  And because of that, our impact in the world is lessened.  No, even more than that, because of our fragmented organization and broken body, we are neglecting to bring the full force of God's kingdom to earth.  Our energy and loyalty is divided.  We often care more about being right than being love.  Could you imagine what we could accomplish if we were to set aside our polity, politics, and differences in interpretation and instead choose to incarnate Christ in the world?  Can you imagine?  What a difference we could make.

If Jesus was here today, would he really care about a piece of paper or would he just want me to profess my commitment to him and to care for this child in the event that his parents could not.  When looked at that way, can we possibly see why so many are choosing to leave mainline denominations or the church in general?  If we can't get our act together internally (and collectively), how on earth (literally) are others supposed to find Christ in us?  I pray that we, the church, realize the potential and beauty in unity and diversity.  Our differences can actually make us stronger and more unified, if we could just learn to appreciate them and embrace them.  There is only one God, right?  Paul hits this topic dead-on in his letter to the church in Ephesus.  Perhaps the church today, more than ever, needs this reminder...

Ephesians 4: 3-7
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called to one hope when you were called;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 


  1. I had to get a letter to become my sister's son's godmother about 5 years ago. At the time I still didn't understand faith and hadn't surrendered my life to Christ, but I knew as much as I knew, having grown up Catholic, thinking that was probably good enough. We had all of the documents showing my own Catholic baptism and schooling and sacraments but it wasn't enough. The whole thing made me feel angry.

    I dragged my feet to a local Catholic church and told them I wanted to become a member and they mailed the paper on my behalf. Being there inspired me -- I felt like I could do it, but a few days went by and I didn't go to that church again after getting the paper.

    Today, being saved, I now look back at the fact that, to my sister's family, I'm a godmother, and ask myself what I'm doing to share God's word and my faith with my nephews. That's all I focus on and pray about at this point.

    In a way, that church was doing what they thought (hopefully) was best. There are some Catholics who love the LORD and some who don't know the LORD. There are some people attending nondenominational services who love the LORD and some who don't know the LORD. We just have to keep praying about it and trusting that God's will prevails as it always does.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing and for your thoughts! I completely agree...doing God's will and sharing our faith with our nieces/nephews, etc. is what is really important. I also understand the need for the local church, in any denomination, to have some sort of process for discipling and administering the sacraments.

    I do wish, however, that the church universal, would realize that we would accomplish so much more the kingdom if we would agree to disagree about certain things and present a unified front to an increasingly secular world.

    My thought is that God operates in and through various forms of Christianity. Shouldn't we all strive for that too?

  3. I love this: "Could you imagine what we could accomplish if we were to set aside our polity, politics, and differences in interpretation and instead choose to incarnate Christ in the world? Can you imagine? What a difference we could make."
    Yes, I can imagine. We are diverse and there is more than one path to Christ. There are many paths, but they all have to do with love.
    Thank you!