I found myself sitting in front of an ordination committee five years ago as I was seeking to become an ordained minister.
It had been a long and difficult experience for me. While I had finished my educational program to become an ordained minister, a learning disability made it difficult for me to pass the required ordination exams.
While the committee worked with me for a while, they came to a point where they didn’t know what to do.
And when one of the committee members suggested I get a career in something other than ministry, I felt as if she was dismissing a call I felt from God.
While today I’m an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which has nurtured me despite my disability, I still recognize the hurt I felt in my previous denomination.
Although I was able to express the anger I felt toward the committee, I wish I had done so differently.
Anger is an emotion that has caused many to leave a church or, in my case, a denomination.
For some, their anger stemmed from feeling betrayed by their pastors following a scandal.
Others may have felt alienated by their congregations because of their identity. This is something especially true for those in the LGBTQ community.
However, while anger is an emotion we all experience, as Christians we seem to struggle in allowing ourselves to express it.
Instead, we often associate expressing the emotion of anger as being at odds with our Christian beliefs.
Contradictory to this is the story of Jesus expressing his anger in the temple toward the money changers.
Even though Jesus was sinless, he expressed the justified emotion of anger at the injustice he was witnessing.
They were, in his mind, desecrating his Father’s house, which was supposed to be a sacred space of prayer.
Because flipping over tables in the churches that hurt us may result in having security called on us, how can we as Christians express anger in a constructive manner so we can begin the process of healing?
Recently, a friend of mine felt immense hurt when his church where he had been an elder for several years would not allow him to have his same-sex wedding in the church building.
For him, it felt like a betrayal by those to whom he had ministered and shown love as fellow brothers and sisters of Christ.
However, during his painful experience, my friend engaged in a process that allowed him to express anger, but through a constructive manner.
His process is one we can use to express our anger to those who’ve hurt us, especially to fellow Christians.
The first step my friend took to express his anger constructively was to express his anger non-constructively.
Through friends who gave him time to decompress without making him feel judged or restricted, he was able to use unfiltered words and express raw emotions in a safe environment without seeming revengeful or in denial.
“Allowing myself to purge the raw human initial emotion was the first healthy step in the healing process,” he said.
After some time had passed, he learned to take that anger and express it in a more helpful way to his church leaders through writing a responsive letter.
This gave him a medium where he could constructively control his anger, in a way to which his readers would be receptive, but it also gave him another venue for expressing his pain.
The final step was finding closure and ending the relationship amicably. “If you are given a place where you can express your anger constructively, you can find closure in the parting of ways,” he added.
Much like Paul and Barnabas going separate ways during their ministry after they had a disagreement, we must part amicably if we can.
For my last meeting with the ordination committee in my previous denomination, this is something I wish I had sought.
Because even though they caused me pain, they did so out of ignorance and not malice or viciousness.
Granted, if we’ve experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse, an amicable parting of ways should not be expected of us.
But if those who caused us pain had not done so with ill intent, parting ways in peace allows us to continue to recognize those who hurt us as brothers and sisters, giving us closure and allowing us to move on.
Even though we expect our faith institutions and faith communities to resonate exactly with the life of Jesus Christ, in reality this is an impossible task.
Even churches and clergy with the best intentions will at some point hurt someone unintentionally.
But while there is no perfect church, denomination or faith-based institution, we must recognize these are simply institutions of governance created by imperfect people.
However, while the institutions that represent him may fail us, Jesus Christ will not.
Christopher L. Schilling is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister, hospital chaplain, and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserve.