Leaving church

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  • Shannon
    June 11, 2023 at 8:52 pm #1123082

    I have been attending my church for 9 years and I want to let my pastors know that I want to take the time and visit other churches. I’m currently very involved in the church and with all honesty if I were to leave everyone would be very confused. This is relatively a small church with about 150 members. The reason why I want to leave is because I’m currently going through a break up and I thought I would be leaving this church to go to my boyfriends church once we got engaged but things took a turn. I don’t want to be at my current church because I had a situationship with my pastor’s son for about 5 years before my current relationship. It was a relationship full of lies and nobody could confirm we were in a relationship but they had their speculations. Throughout this relationship he was in a relationship with a girl who didn’t live in the same city so he would often lie to me on their relationship status. He would always make it seem like we were such good friends and would tell everyone at church that I was like his sister. There were times where I felt so much shame because if we really did have a platonic relationship then he wouldn’t make the advancements he made with me. There was a time where I found out he was lying again about his relationship and I confronted him about it and told him I would end up telling her the truth because he had been lying to both of us. He beat me to it and confessed before I had the chance so this girl never knew he was unfaithful with me. Long story short lies continued and our situation didn’t end until he proposed and he had the nerve to invite me. He cleared his tracks at the time by telling me that he was sexually abused by his cousin and that’s where his hyper sexuality came from and that he was sorry for lying to me but that he really did care for me as a friend. At the time I was so shocked that he confessed something so horrible to me and I felt bad for him but it didn’t take away the horrible heartbreak I felt. That I thought we could somehow workout or that he was in between both of us and would some how chose me but he chose her and is now inviting me to his proposal!! I told him that if I were her I wouldn’t want me there and ever since she came to my church I felt like I didn’t fit in. I just always felt awful and like I would shrink at this church because I knew the truth that her husband was unfaithful with me. I stopped hanging around as much with our friend group because I felt so much shame with this huge secret I was carrying. Once his wife came to our church months later he told me during a service that his wife kept wanting to know who the girl was that he was unfaithful with. She wanted to know if this girl was at this church or if she would come across her and he decided to tell her that this girl didn’t come to this church and that she wasn’t important and she would never come across her. I remember after this day I did feel unimportant and like a dirty secret. I didn’t know what to say I just stayed quiet and walked away. I’m going to meet with my pastor’s in a couple of days and I just feel so nervous to even bring this up because it’s about their son and he’s now married with a new born baby. I’m just so involved at this church that I feel like any other excuse I were to come up with they would try to fix it but at this point I don’t think this is fixable. I am worried that they won’t take me message well or might even think “why bring this up now” ? The truth is I haven’t been feeling like myself here for many years and I don’t want to exit by marrying out or through a relationship. Any thoughts or advice are welcome , thank you.

    June 12, 2023 at 5:43 am #1123083

    It sounds more like you’re wanting to get revenge on the pastors son you were involved with than healthily dealing with what happened. Surely this happened some years ago if he’s married with a child now. What are you going to achieve by bringing it up to his parents? They probably won’t change their opinion on him, but could make life difficult for you. Is it the current break up that has sent you into a spiral?

    If you want to find a new church, then just miss the odd service and visit some other places till you find somewhere that’s a better fit. If you’re meant to be doing things for the church, it’s ok to say you can’t make it or are stepping down from a team. Leaving doesn’t need to be a big announcement or scandal.

    I don’t think you can blame all your current issues on the pastors son though, and talking to a therapist outside of religion would be helpful to work out why you put up with all his bullshit in the first place.

    June 12, 2023 at 8:12 am #1123084

    I’m of the mindset that you’re an adult and can choose to go to whatever church you want or no church at all. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Will people talk? Maybe, but that’s their problem.

    I do think it would be in your best interest in the long run to take ownership of your decisions. You call your relationship with the pastor’s son “a situationship” but let’s call a spade a spade: He was having an affair with you.

    And don’t let him blame his “hypersexuality” on his molestation. He told you that as a deflection so you wouldn’t be mad at him. That’s really insulting to victims of sexual abuse.

    June 12, 2023 at 9:12 am #1123086

    Good advice above. Just as a side note, maybe stepping back from church altogether,taking a break,could be a good thing. See how it feels and then if you miss it,go to different churches to find a good fit. You can also attend church without enmeshing your whole self and life with the pastor and people there. Then you may not feel like your “eggs are in one basket” and you have nothing if something goes wrong. And judging by your story,not all church people are models of morality.

    June 12, 2023 at 9:51 am #1123087

    By no means I am trying to get revenge that’s why I wanted to exit this church once I got engaged but I shouldn’t have to rely on someone else to make decisions. I have had many opportunities to get my revenge if I really wanted to but I’m simply looking for my sanctuary where I don’t carry shame. I have forgiven the pastor’s son but I don’t want to reconcile with him or try to co exist in a place where I have felt at my lowest. Of course his parents will love him no matter what they know about him and for that same reason I never wanted to speak my truth because it’s not their fault. I just feel like I’m in a situation where if I don’t explain why I can’t feel free or safe enough to heal in this place my pastors will try to make it work. Like I’m mentioned I’m very involved and have been attending for 9 years…

    June 12, 2023 at 9:52 am #1123088

    You don’t have to tell anyone anything. You can just stop attending. I think it’s a patriarchal “it’s the right cultural thing to do” that you have to tell them, ie “get their permission” and give them a chance to talk you back into serving and attending. Why do that? Are you in fact a child, or a grown adult, able to make your own choices? You can just stop going, really. It’s okay. They will all get over it, I promise.

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    June 12, 2023 at 10:19 am #1123089

    Going to church isn’t you job. You don’t need to give anyone notice that you’re going to stop going and you are under zero obligation to give any sort of exit interview. Just stop going. arm fade out – going every other week for a few weeks and then once a month until you’re done completely by the fall. Find a different church if that’s meaningful and important to you or just see how it feels not going to church. Maybe there’s a different type of salvation or community out there for you without all the church baggage.

    June 12, 2023 at 10:52 am #1123090

    If you’re worried they will take measures like coming to check on you at home, send them a letter that for personal reasons you don’t want to discuss, you’ve left and that you prefer not to be contacted. The end.

    June 12, 2023 at 11:35 am #1123091

    If you are signed up for committee duties like idk teaching Sunday school or ushering or whatever, then you need to tell those people you can’t do those duties anymore.

    Why do you need to meet with these pastors? Can’t you just let the people you have obligations to, if any, that you will be attending a different church going forward, and then just stop attending this church and try out new ones? This isn’t confession time, and the pastor doesn’t need to know his son is a womanizer.

    If you do need to have this meeting, just give them as little info as possible, and keep repeating that you have appreciated being part of this community but as you’ve grown and changed you’ve realized you need to explore and find the next right place for yourself. End of story.

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    June 12, 2023 at 12:04 pm #1123092

    You don’t mention your religion — and TBH I doubt I’d know much about your church even if you did — but yes, a reminder that even if it is the kind of environment where people customarily only leave a church when they “marry out,” you don’t owe anyone details about why you’re leaving. Even if this church and your religion are/have been a big part of your life.

    Everyone else has great advice, I’m mostly just chiming in to say that it sounds like you haven’t fully dealt with the emotional baggage from your five-year affair with the pastor’s son, even though it sounds like it has been at least a few years since that ended. Your second post also mentioned that you’re seeking healing. Therapy! Therapy can be help you process that experience and why you let that situation continue for five(!) years knowing he was lying to both of you.

    June 12, 2023 at 12:48 pm #1123093

    Do you want to find your new congregation before you leave this one? Or are you committed to leaving this one, regardless of what you find?

    If it’s the former, then I recommend letting your pastor know that you are taking some personal time to think, reflect and recharge your faith and that you will be less available. Start going to other churches to see if their approach to faith resonates with you. Keep your old church at arms length. When you are ready to leave, just send the pastor a note saying how much you appreciate his commitment to his congregation but circumstance and reflection have led you to another flock and you wish him all the best.

    If it’s the latter then just switch the steps. Write to your pastor letting him know that you’ll be leaving for personal reasons and that you wish him all the best. If you think he or anyone would hound you to return, you can add that you don’t wish to be contacted and your decision is final. Then you can take your time visiting new churches.

    Miss MJ
    June 13, 2023 at 6:08 pm #1123110

    You don’t need the pastor’s approval or permission to leave a church. You can just, well, leave. All at once or gradually, it’s entirely up to you. And if you feel the need to close the loop (or want to avoid being harassed to rejoin the fold) a note, like others have said, is fine.

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Leaving church

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