31 days: hold your tongue

**Disclaimer: This is a topic that I was not going to speak about, but my DH has encouraged me to share my thoughts. When I protested, he said, “my point exactly.” Hence, a blog post.**

A number of things have happened in the national and local media that have caused me to want to speak out, but given my position as the Pastor’s Wife, and understanding that I’m an extension of him, I’ve chosen to do otherwise. Instead, we discuss and debate one another. It gets old after a while, debating the same opponent all the time, especially when the opponent and you have extremely similar viewpoints 99% of the time. Either way, I continue to discuss and debate with my husband because there are times when I don’t feel I have the liberty to share my thoughts outside of the home.

Which has caused me to stop and realize that there will be times in this marriage, times as both a pastor (hopefully, one day…) and a pastor’s wife that you will have to hold your tongue so to speak. Not because it might cause a rift, but because of confidentiality for either you & your family or for a member of the flock. When my husband counsels someone, I am not privy to that information, and most times I don’t want to know that information. But there are times when I happen to be around and someone says something to him in confidence, knowing that I’m there, that will require my silence.

One of the biggest examples of “holding your tongue” for the sake of your family is during the PCUSA call process. Pastors are free to seek a new call at anytime, but there must be strict confidentiality in that search process. If the congregation were to find out there could be some serious ramifications with the knowledge that your pastor is planning to leave the flock. For the sake of the family, however, it’s just like the news of any new job or any new addition to the family…you don’t go public with the information until it’s set in stone. Most of the time you just want to have your ducks in a row before making the big announcement – for many reasons, least of which is fear of criticism and lack of respect from others for your decision. (Which all ties back into the post about family decisions earlier this week…)

At other times things will happen in the congregation, community, state and even nation and world that will require you to keep mum unless you are given the permission to haven an open discussion about such things. We’ve all heard the old adage about the carpet color in the sanctuary, but I’m here to tell you folks, don’t criticize it openly or you might be burned at the stake as a heretic. Same goes with talking about the type of music in a congregation, the traditions and the “way things have always been.” And most certainly, in a Presbyterian church, don’t talk about people. It’s a good measure to practice NOT talking about people anyway, but in case you didn’t know, the Presbyterian church is like one big extended family. Even when the sides are feuding, everyone knows or is related to everyone else and they take major offense to you talking about said person…even if you are asked pointblank what you think of a certain someone. My suggestion, hold your tongue…

On a personal note, recently there was an article published about the Boy Scouts of America denying scout membership & an Eagle Scout award to a 17-year-old young man because he came out as gay in July. I do not know the full story, only what has been published, but what I know is that this young man became a Scout when he was 6-years-old and has met the requirements to receive the Eagle Scout award. To read the story for yourself, go here. I think the worst part about all of this is that the BSA is claiming that because of his sexuality, he no longer abides by the “Duty to God” tenant of the organization.

This greatly upsets me as a mom to a son, as a Christian, a ministry worker who served in a church that encouraged BSA openly, a pastor’s wife at a church who openly supports BSA as well, and as a former Girl Scout. I posted this article link on my Facebook page and noted “this is one of the many reasons I will not allow my son to participate in Boy Scouts of America,” only to have received some interesting comments from very surprising places, honestly. No matter what you believe about homosexuality (and we’re not getting into this here), I cannot stand for an organization telling a teenager that they don’t believe in God or respect God because they happen to prefer the same gender over the opposite. Invoking God here is totally unacceptable and unfair to the family that has encouraged their son to both pursue the Eagle Scout and also be himself, the other Eagle Scouts and Boy Scouts who might be struggling with gender issues and are simultaneously seeking God’s guidance, and Christians everywhere who believe in an accepting God.

You might think it’s odd that I, a ministerial candidate and a pastor’s wife, oppose the use of God’s name in such situations, but I vehemently oppose using the name of my God, our God, to exclude others no matter the reason for exclusion. A friend and seminary colleague posted this yesterday (mainly discussing the church and gay rights) and I want to share it, “we nod in agreement when the Boy Scouts tell this 17-year-old kid that no matter what good he does or what kind of life he leads, if he’s gay he’s not even worth acknowledging. If Jesus did anything, he saw people others overlooked, and he loved people others condemned. Instead of allowing the BSA to continue treating people this way (often under church roofs), we should be saying ‘Ryan Andresen, we see you. And we love you. You are a good kid.'” Thank you Megan for sharing this. The reason I oppose the use of God’s name in exclusions is the very reason she points out in her statement – Jesus loved those who were condemned. As a disciple and a servant, it’s our job to continue Jesus’ ministry, which means loving those who are overlooked, bullied, treated poorly for being different, and shunned.

As the wife, I’m allowed to share my personal opinions, but often times I chose not to for fear of harming my husband’s ministry, reputation and name. After all, I am an extension of him. I am not in a place to discuss the fact that our church supports the Boy Scouts of America in the building for free as a service to the community. Having served a church where the BSA were able to basically run the show, I’ve had reservations about the organization. I do not like the theology that the BSA shares and I do not like the fact that they are openly encouraged to do so in our church buildings, and then celebrated on Scout Sunday every year.

That is an example of a time when I need to hold my tongue in the church. It’s not my place to speak out, and it’s not my place to encourage my husband to be swayed by my thoughts. I can be very stubborn and I am highly opinionated most of the time. It’s hard for me to be in a position of having to hold my tongue now, but I’ve also come to realize that it gives me a chance to allow the Spirit to work through me rather than me being a noisy gong or clanging symbol. As one of my friends posted in comment to my statement about the BSA, “Keeping Luke out of the Boy Scouts does not keep him away from self-righteous people. And separating yourself from any group because of their beliefs isn’t helping anyone. Maybe if he were a part of it they would see what grace looks like.” While I still stand by my decision about my son in BSA until I see major changes, I do have to agree with his last comment about showing grace. His comment actually hit me like a ton of bricks…and I’m thankful for his comment.

Often we can get so bent out of shape about our own personal agendas or platforms that we fail to see God at work in the midst of it all. Sometimes it takes a slap in the face to make you realize your behavior and thoughts. Sometimes it takes us being “forced” to be mum, to regularly hold our tongues, to realize that God really does work in all things for good and that we just have to be patient and allow ourselves to be the vessel. Patience is not a virtue I was born with (I’m convinced!), but it’s something that I’m working on and I’m hoping I’m becoming better at showing and living.

Who knows, maybe holding my tongue and thoughts to myself will help me learn patience, and even acceptance, a wee bit better and faster.

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