In some ways I have been eager to write about this and those nearest me have probably heard about it from word of mouth. Why? Well, its a bit dramatic and cathartic to talk about the stressors in my life, and in a certain sense stressors ultimately drove me to this point.
On the other hand, I want to be careful to be as honorable as possible while also being honest about what has been my experience as an ELCA missionary in Japan. I want to honor the eighth commandment as best as I understand how it might restrain a full telling, in order to protect the reputation of certain persons. So rather than give a narrative I will give some themes and give vague accounts of what occurred and how it spurred me to come to the place where the only choice I felt I could do and keep either my integrity or sanity was to leave the work at the school and congregations I had been called to accompany.
This was the biggest reason I left. In every corner I turned I found unbiblical teaching present. Although I believe in the the Moravian sense of In the essentials unity, in the nonessentials diversity, in all things charity, I consistent came across things that I discerned violated fundamentals of the faith or by the open preaching and teaching thereof erode the faith of the faithful. There were various issues of praxis that arose that as far as visibly possible remained unrepentant including remarrying while a relationship with the former spouse still exists, drunkenness, contempt and hatred towards a brother (of whom I was the recipient), disregard for avoiding idolatry or its appearance in the name of experiencing the culture, philosophical materialism, belief that polyamory is acceptable for Christians married or unmarried, the praise and advocating of abortion, assumed universalism, the open confession and practice of fornication (hooking up) from one involved in local leadership, the teaching that Christians are not called to holiness or to live a holy life, whereby the doctrines of grace become a license to sin (basically a form of antinomianism), and finally the disparaging of the sacred scriptures which were given for our salvation and the open teaching that they are not worthy of trust, and the private counsel from a said leader that he does not believe in most of the Bible, not even all of the Gospels, just the Jesus that he apparently picks and chooses out of the Bible.
It might seem crazy to some that I even remained as long as I did given such a long list of things but the only thing I can say is that I felt there was also a corner or base from which I might stand together in witness to the truth and join in the work of discipleship that had regard for the whole counsel of God. But at the end it seemed like I had no partner in this and I was totally alone and given that the final revelation put me in direct and consistent work with one who taught against the scriptures quite openly, despite my external call to continue in the ministry the internal call resonant with scriptural teaching (see 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Ephesians 5:3-6, Titus 3:10) drove me to resign in order that I could leave what has become a spiritually toxic place for me, and sadly I felt, most who would come under the tutelage of those about me.
Some of this did not come from those in the number of those called saints but most of it did. I had come out of a church context where I was in some ways kicked out because of coming out as queer (and celibate) and I had not quite come over that when I was finding a gaggle of people opposing me. The first opposed me because I had a Pentecostal experience which they found threatening, another because I was pro-life, and then for little reason, I became the target of bullying at first by a teacher at my school and also outright contempt and hatred from one of my colleagues. This was very hard. Some have given me counsel that worldly Christians are often easy conduits for demons to attack you through and that couldn’t better describe and summarize what I was experiencing on a daily basis for two solid years straight, and I mean that just about literally. I had to work with some individuals on a virtual daily basis who hated me for no reason other then I didn’t fit their jibe.
This is the nature of many jobs in Japan, and these are often referred to as black companies. Most teachers in most modern nations I know often work an absurd amount of hours and this is often why its called a calling. Although I felt personally called to accompany the church in Japan I did not realize how much more or less I was simply an English teacher at a high school. And although this is very good work, and maybe even more rewarding if you are called to it, it was a challenge to try and ignite passion for it especially given the above two issues I was constantly facing. Why am I doing this? If its for God, or the church, or the mission, okay but then what is actually being built here? And am I doing this for people who don’t care enough about me or the well being of the team members to make the systemic changes needed to align the work with a Christian ethos? Maybe that power isn’t in their hand but it was too much to take the work load, even as rewarding as some of it was, with the toxic environment that had remained. Some of the experiences I had at the school were honestly traumatizing and it was not possible to get rid of the association of that pain with what had become for me the lonely land cold halls of Luther.
“I’m now much less of an asset to the company than I could be. I keep my head down and for self-preservation just do my work with little conversation with anyone. Yet the irony is this: in my self-preservation, I’m actually destroying myself. In bottling up my unexpressed feelings, I’m making myself sick emotionally and physically.”― Gary Chapman, Rising Above a Toxic Workplace: Taking Care of Yourself in an Unhealthy Environment
Chapman writes very well about how I was feeling more and more everyday including the fight or flight responses. So, that is why I left working with the Lutheran stuff in Kumamoto and boy am I glad to be done even thought its still very sad and I am still grieving. I gave a hallmarky thank you in my last newsletter so next month I might write a more substantial one about the good that did happen and I also want to write about where I have moved to and what is next.
I am so thankful the Lord has the last Word.