Let me begin by saying that this is not intended to be a "personal testimony" nor an apologia for my own ecclesial choices. That is not the point of this particular post.
What I DO want to talk about are what seem to this observer to be very typical reactions to those like myself who have left the CEC for another Christian body (regardless of what that body happens to be. Contrary to the opinion of many within the CEC all those who leave do NOT go to Rome -- but that is a possible subject for another post.)
The three comments I am most likely to hear, go something like this:
"You left us because you were never one of us in the first place"
"You never understood the mission of the CEC in the first place"
"Okay, you've left us. Now go away and leave us alone; how dare you make any commentary at all."
All three of these statements are ones I'm personally very familiar with -- and all are fallicies. None stand up to honest critique and debate.
To suggest that "one left because one was never 'one of us' in the first place" first is just not logical. Does this mean that although Newman left the Church of England for Rome "he was never truly an Anglican"? Historically, that just won't wash! Or that Richard John Neuhaus was never a Lutheran, because he became a Catholic? Or that Father "X" was never a Baptist, because he felt called to the CEC? The list could go on and on -- and never make any more sense than these examples give. Unless, of course, the one making the statement uses "one of us" in a gnostic sense -- as in, "you never really had the true insight" or "you never spoke in tongues enough, so you weren't real" or (with apologies to Groucho Marx) "you never said the secret word"! If THIS is what is meant -- then the theological dissentions within the CEC are worse than I thought.
To suggest that "one left because one never understood the true mission of the CEC" is a similar, but not identical argument. On the one hand it suggests that the "true mission" was, again, some sort of secret to which only a few were privy. I honestly don't believe that the leadership -- past or present -- of the CEC would truly wish to go down that road. On the other hand, such a statement has been used -- both in my hearing, and to me personally -- as a deliberately deragotory remark, as in "you never did get it right -- let me fix you".
This suggestion also ignores two potential realities. 1) That many of the people who have recently left the CEC are NOT "Johnny-come-latelies" but rather have served in the CEC for a decade or more. (Considering the denomination has only a 14 year history, this point is rather telling). 2) That perhaps the VISION of the CEC HAS changed -- and what is being expressed now is NOT what many of us originally "signed on to" way back when. This suggestion takes any responsibility for the turmoil currently being experienced in the denomination away from denominational leadership -- and blames the poor bishop, priest, or deacon who actually did believe in the ORIGINAL VISION.
Finally, the "okay, now you've left us; go away and leave us alone, and don't you dare even comment etc.," sounds, I must admit, extremely petulant. There are two potential problems here. 1) When this type of statement has been used (at least against a former member of the clergy) it has been used to try to silence that clergyman -- while behind him, and against him, the rumor mill can spin. I have first-hand experience with this. When I left, I kept my mouth closed for many months -- only to find out that there were some who were deliberately using my silence (which I had promised to give) against me. 2) Frequently, from a managerial standpoint, the reason why a person has left an organization is considered important! Perhaps the person actually had valid points! Perhaps the organization needs to take stock and figure out where the problem really lies. (The Scripture passage: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend" comes to mind.)
I know that I speak for many when I say that I truly hope and pray that the CEC can solve its own internal difficulties -- difficulties which, in my experience, are largely of its own making. I know that I speak for many when I say that I honestly wish no one in the CEC harm. But as I said in my 2006 paper (and in a previous post)
The Convergence Movement as a whole, and especially the emerging denominations, must end the hostility -- and I say end, because the hostility is already there -- toward those who have found the movement to be a bridge and not an end in and of itself. Libel and slander, open shunning of church members who have been called elsewhere, degregations and depositions of clergy without due process etc., are abominations which must cease at once. Such actions destroy lives, scandalize the faithful, and are unworthy of those who bear the Name of Christ.