Changing Denominations

Wow! I had made it through my SARS scare unscathed and could now fully concentrate on my new job. There is a congregation of the Church of the Nazarene in Saskatoon. My good friend Doug Cooney had returned from Manchester and had accepted the assignment to serve as pastor in the Louise Street Community Church. Like many Nazarene churches, it was small and had few people who weren’t retired. Because of my job, I wasn’t able to regularly attend worship services. This was to my liking. I still had some healing to do. Two to three Sundays each month I would be on the road, preaching in churches across the province of Saskatchewan. One winter Sunday, when I was away from home, Iona made the cross-city drive to church. On a slippery street, she was hit by another automobile. She wasn’t at fault. No one was hurt and the only damage was a slightly dented front fender. She was shaken and didn’t feel like completing the trip and drove back home. West Portal Mennonite Brethren church was walking distance from our home. So that’s where she went to worship. The first person she saw was Erma Barkman, the wife of the senior pastor. Iona told her that she had come to West Portal by accident. I had preached there once or twice as part of my job, so I knew a few of the people. A relationship with the church was beginning.

My friend Doug Cooney had resigned from the pastorate and had taken a position as a chaplain with the Royal University Hospital. He was no longer my pastor. We began to think about formally and officially becoming part of the West Portal congregation. I had pastored in Nazarene churches for almost 20 years and breaking that relationship would be very difficult. I loved the denomination. I felt that I was ethically aligned with the Mennonite Brethren especially in the area of non-violent resistance. I began a journey of changing denominational affiliations. I asked the area minister for the MBs if they would consider accepting and recognizing my credentials even if I had no intention of ever pastoring again. He said they would, but could I leave the only denomination in which I had ever served? Yes, I thought I could.

I was going to Calgary for one last meeting of a committee on which I served. I was planning to have a private conversation with our District Superintendent to let him know I was leaving the denomination. I sat in a meeting and looked around the room at men and women that I had served with for so long, and I just couldn’t do it. I left the meeting still a member of the Church of the Nazarene. I was a Nazarene pastor that was serving a para-church organization and attending a Mennonite Brethren congregation. I just couldn’t continue with these diverse commitments. I finally decided I had to formally dissolve my relationship with the Church of the Nazarene.

I notified the district office and was told that my credentials would be filed with the international headquarters in Kansas City. Filing credentials is different than surrendering them. Credentials are surrendered when a pastor, because of an indiscretion has had his credentials removed. I could still resurrect my credentials as an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene, if I wanted to. I met with a credentialling committee of the Mennonite Brethren and began the process of having my credentials recognized.

I was asked a question that was very important – why did I want my credentials recognized, why had I wanted to be ordained? Couldn’t I just as easily serve without being credentialed. The answer I gave this committee is still one I believe very strongly. I believe I needed an outside entity to acknowledge the call I believe that God had placed on my life to serve in vocational ministry. I don’t trust myself to be objective. Did God indeed call me to full-time ministry, or was that just a figment of my imagination. My credentials were recognized, and I was now a Mennonite Brethren. So, what exactly was I? Was I now a Mennzarene or a Nazanite? Iona and I formally joined West Portal and I was learning how to keep the Son in my eyes in a new setting.

3 thoughts on “Changing Denominations

  1. erinpatreyahoocom

    The Apostles didn’t need anyone to tell them they were disciples of Christ, just Jesus (and the Holy Spirit to guide them. I understand your need for confirmation though. Your journey is very interesting.


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