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hope for churches in stress

Resignation with Integrity

Twelve years ago, David Hall resigned as senior pastor of the Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (hereafter, EBIC). By reading and study, David's theology had coalesced around the core convictions of the historic Church; and he chose the Roman Catholic Church as the best representation of these truths. The increasing disconnect between himself and EBIC was stressful for him and the church; and he chose to resign—with integrity.

In his letter of resignation (and all subsequent communication with the congregation), David took full and personal responsibility for his resignation. He did not blame the church, impugn congregational leaders, or denigrate the BIC faith community. He said simply: I have come to a different place theologically and for your sake and mine I need to leave.

David took care not to draw people away from the congregation. He did not launch a new church nearby. He did not join the staff of a church in proximity to EBIC. His aim, born out by responsible action, was to leave in a way that the church he had served for eighteen years would remain whole and strong.

Similarly, David did not disparage the longstanding convictions of the wider faith community. Though his own convictions had changed, he never spoke disrespectfully of the core beliefs of the Brethren in Christ. Even as David articulated reasons for his own theological shift, he endorsed the beliefs and values of the BIC as the next best alternative to his own chosen theology.

There are times when separation between a pastor and congregation is necessary. Without question, resignations are difficult. The ensuing stress can deteriorate into acute distress by self-serving and irresponsible speech and action, which leave a pastor and/or congregation badly wounded.

When resignations are managed with integrity, both pastor and congregation can move ahead in wellness; and the holy, catholic Church in its varied expressions is built up as every faith community is sustained in health, strength, and mission (Ps 69:35-36).

With his supportive wife, Libby, David Hall has served for the past seven years as Pastoral Associate at St Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg.

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