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St. Asinus has told his own story of forced exit from ministry in another homily. It was hard, it was tragic, and it was mostly his own fault. Since then he’s been in a position to walk with a number of leaders and churches who have either experienced it or come within hair’s breadths of doing so. All this has left him with the strong suspicion that the Church may benefit from someone being willing to talk about the lessons—good and bad—that are learned through the experience. I don’t mean data. The saintly mule is not doing research or presenting the findings of a study. In this series of reflections, he wants to speak candidly about the experiences of the various parties when things go south between a Christian leader and their church or organization, and with particular emphasis on the times when it’s primarily the leader’s fault. I take this emphasis only because it’s what I have most experience with. I wish to tell leaders who are experiencing or have experienced it some things that I hope will help them endure and find their way into the next chapter of life—for live they must.

I wish to tell leaders who are experiencing or have experienced forced exit some things that I hope will help them endure and find their way into the next chapter of life—for live they must.

Further, I wish to tell those church leaders who are left behind to clean up the messes some things they probably won’t realize until it’s too late. I want to help them act sanely, justly, and redemptively in the midst of all the unpleasant tasks that have been dumped on them, and above all, I want them to know how to not make the suffering worse. And occasionally I wish to speak to other parties in such break-ups—congregations, spouses, friends, and the larger Church. The series is entitled “Jilted” because in my experience, the word describes how every party in this equation inevitably feels. The exiting leader will always feel jilted by the community that does not (in truth, cannot) end their employment with anything like grace. The community and its remaining leaders will certainly feel jilted by that exiting leader who “if they had only chosen differently” would not be causing this pain to everyone. The spouse and family will certainly feel jilted by everyone.

I intend to be candid and a bit raw when necessary, because the cost of silence is too great. I may not be right in everything I say, and certainly not everything will be applicable to all situations, but if this series of reflections helps any leader, any church, any spouse find a way forward through the darkness that has come upon them, it will have been worth the risk. The Church of Jesus Christ is a beautiful thing. She is perhaps never more lovely than when she suffers well. Let not our suffering be wasted…but only let us suffer well. For suffering, if endured with patience and faith, has a singular power to conform us to the cross. And the holy ass’s greatest discovery may be that this is true even when the pain is self-inflicted.

So welcome to Jilted by St. Asinus.

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