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Church ‘Homelessness’ Must Not Be Grieved Too Quickly

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It’s okay to mourn what’s lost without losing hope for what’s to come.

This piece was adapted from Russell Moore’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

In his New York Times column this week, my friend David French wrote about what it was like to be “canceled” by his denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America. He later told me how stunned he was by how many people responded immediately—grieving their own “cancellations” from churches or ministries they’d loved and served.

I was not surprised at all.

Most people, of course, aren’t canceled in the way we typically use that word, but in a way more like the situation described by the late Will Campbell. He wasn’t “fired” by the National Council of Churches, he would joke. They just unleashed a swarm of bees in his office every day until he voluntarily left.

Similarly, many people who feel “homeless” these days aren’t told by their home churches or traditions, “Get out!” Instead, they face a quieter form of exile.

They face those they love, who expect them to conform to new rules of belonging. Sometimes, that’s to some totalizing political loyalty. Sometimes, it’s to a willingness to “get over” their opposition to whatever their church or ministry leaders now deem to be acceptable sins. Sometimes, this doesn’t even happen to these people in their own churches but in their larger theological or denominational homes, or vice versa. It’s confusing. It’s disorienting. It’s sometimes angering.

What it really is, though, is grief.

People who’ve faced this in their own contexts often ask me, “How long does it take to get over this?” I usually quote the landslide-losing presidential candidate George McGovern …

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