Did I Think About Staying?

In Church by Caris Adel13 Comments


Photo Credit: kjgarbutt

give me the heart of an archeologist,
that I may dig until I prove that I exist.
a subterranean cathedral in my midst,
where echoes come to rest.
where echoes come to rest.
is this where echoes come to rest?
-Sleeping At Last


A year ago I said leaving Evangelicalism probably wasn’t the answer for me.  I thought there was a danger in abandoning ship, value in working for change.

But I was wrong. 

I ended up leaving.

It’s been a very hard year.  Adjusting to a new job, losing that one, moving far away, adjusting to a new (better) job, and completely changing church traditions.

The past 6 months have been incredibly healing, and after so much stress, I’m trying to soak it in.  I am enjoying so much not being an evangelical.

Someone asked the other day on Twitter if those of us who left had thought about staying.

I told my priest the other day I should have tried being an Episcopalian years ago.  But that’s not exactly true.  These past 7 years of wrestling have been intense, but incredibly formative.

I’ve spent nearly 7 years figuring out, for the first time, what I believe about God.  How I relate to him best.  I’ve spent 7 years falling in love with Jesus.  And 7 years of trying to reconcile the Jesus who continually showed up in the wilderness with the Jesus I was continually handed on Sunday mornings.

Did I think about staying?

For approximately 340 Sundays, yes.

How do you deal with systemic issues?  I can’t check out of systemic racism.  I can’t ignore systemic gender inequality.  Can I break free of systemic dehumanization done in Jesus’ name?

That became a big part of the issue for me.  It wasn’t necessarily about the people (although there was that).  I know many kind, loving people still firmly embedded in evangelical churches.  And I know there are parts of my current tradition that have their own issues.

But I was treated as if I didn’t matter.  I was never taught to know and love other people, different people.

There are several different reasons I could give for leaving, some of which I’ve written about, many that we all recognize.

But what all those reasons boil down to is the system is designed to entrench leaders in their own little world.  And if you do not agree with their world, then you don’t matter.

And if the people who question the status quo are not respected, known, and loved, then the status quo is full of shit.

I don’t know how one or two people scattered amongst individual churches can challenge that mentality.  Hell, they know thousands upon thousands of us are leaving and they still don’t care.

I just cannot be a part of a movement that so blatantly casts people aside.

Did I think about staying?  Yes.

I stayed.  And stayed.  And then tried a new church.  And through all of it, I clung to the Jesus I was coming to know.  I clung to the ideas of redemption, restoration, the renewal of all things, the idea that Jesus came to reveal who we were made to be, and that the point of love God, love others is that we love the unlovable and forgive the unforgiveable, but I couldn’t find that in the evangelical church.

So how long do I wait?  How many churches do I have to try, how many rejections must I stack up before it’s enough?  How long do I let my kids be shaped by the same kind of system that’s destroying me?

If I can’t find Jesus in the system that claims to own him, then what’s. the. flipping. point?

I left because I was becoming very bitter and very angry.

I am still bitter, the anger has faded to hurt, and I’ve found a model of authority I can sit under because the system is not designed around it.

Am I sad that I left?

Honestly, no.  My soul is so, so, so free now.  I am sad that I feel like I’m giving up on part of my history.  I worry that friends think that my feelings for a system are the same for them.  I stress over having my family participate in something so uncomfortable.

But do I ever think I’ll go back?

After last week?


I had a dark night of the soul last summer, when I had to decide what kind of Jesus I was going to follow.  Was I really going to walk away from the Jesus I had been given to follow the Jesus who drew me in?  What if I really was worshiping a god in my own image, sliding down the slippery slope?

After much sobbing and agonizing, I came to the decision that if they are right and I am wrong about the Jesus I follow, I would rather be wrong and find myself in hell, then worship the kind of god I had been shown.

Fortunately, if I am wrong, it seems the Episcopal church is just as wrong, and hell will be filled with good company.

God, it has been quite a year-
I’ve lived a little bit and I’ve died a little more.


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  • Dani Kelley

    I love this. I love this. This is very much my experience, though I ended up leaving Christianity altogether. But I’m so thrilled you’ve found a spiritual home, and I’m so grateful that you’ve put into words why.

    • Caris Adel

      thanks, friend. Definitely understand how you chose your path. Here’s to happiness for both of us!

  • kim

    Yes. exactly. So glad for your transition. and the sense of peace that seems to be finding you.

    • Caris Adel

      Me too! Thanks for following my journey :)

  • Elisabeth Grunert

    That last bit, that fear of being wrong and going to hell for it… that’s the main cord that has to burst. Once that bursts, you’re free, and you can act out of love and joy instead of fear. And, welcome to the Episcopal Church, which has also become my foster family!

    • Caris Adel

      I hope so!

  • Jennifer Neyhart

    I think I’m on a very similar path as you, only a little ways behind… I’m still teetering at the place of “this is all I’ve ever known!!!” and wishing and hoping I can help change it from the inside… but I’m just not sure…

    • Caris Adel

      I think it’s really worth sitting in that struggle. When I wanted to leave last year, it definitely was out of anger and frustration and almost a selfish, ‘fine I’ll just take my toys and play somewhere else’ kind of attitude. Those extra 6 months of really trying, and evaluating it all helped me get to a place of resignation, and the feeling that I really did do everything I could, tried everythign I could, and it just wan’t a fit for me anymore. I was able to leave without condemning everything and everyone in it, which I would have done a year ago.

      • Jennifer Neyhart

        It is a twisting, winding journey, that is one thing I know for sure! :-)

  • Mary Beth

    I loved this, Caris. It’s easy to say I want to stay and bring about change, but I find that instead of really pursuing change I’m busy pretending everything is great and hiding my true heart and fighting internally the entire time. I can’t have my entire experience with God be about them versus me. I need the community that is currently only available to me outside the evangelical world.

    But I miss it.

  • Emily Heitzman

    Thank you for this, Caris. I hear a lot of your story in mine. Though I didn’t grow up in the evangelical world (I actually grew up Presbyterian USA), I entered it in college when I joined my campus ministry. This was tough because I started to feel called to ministry as a high school student but then was told in the campus ministry that I couldn’t because I was a woman. I stayed because I was a young twenty-something year old and was impressionable. I stayed because I was afraid of what others might think if I left. I stayed because I feared losing community and being alone. And I convinced myself that the messages I was hearing about myself were true: that I was not fit to be a pastor. I was a woman, for goodness sakes.

    But thankfully, God kept calling me, and sometimes even shouting at me. And I eventually had to respond to God’s call and make the choice to leave evangelicalism.

    It’s painful at first, and most who do will experience some bit of pigeonholing and persecution for it by others. But then it’s liberating and empowering. And those first scary steps of moving on become easier and easier.

    Thank you for sharing your story! I believe it’s easier for people to take such steps when they know they are not doing it alone.

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  • Nurya Love Parish

    So glad to have found your work – and to be honest, I am not even sure exactly how I stumbled upon your words! Am posting this to the Acts 8 Moment facebook page. Blessings to you.