Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Virgin Voyage Into the Blogosphere

I'm not sure how to christen properly this virgin voyage into the blogosphere, except to say that I've been noodling for some time now on entering the communal discourse that a blog affords.

I am presently emerging from a complex pastoral experience that defies easy interpretation, and requires the input of my larger community to make sense.

I recently resigned the senior pastoral position at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, a big-steeple fellowship in the rigors of a congregational culture change at the heart of our 8th largest American city.

Five years ago, I followed a noted minister of 42 years in this pulpit, and faced all the dangers that such a transition entails. It is an axiom of church life that ministers of such lifelong tenures simply do not let go of their pastoral position and platform, and that such leadership transitions on the whole are difficult, at best.

In the technical parlance of our field, the succeeding minister in such a situation is called an "unintentional interim." There was no misunderstanding of this challenge coming in. We waded in, eyes wide open.

That alone, would have been daunting enough. But, there is more.

Trinity was an almost exclusively Anglo congregation in at the heart of a city of more than 700,000 Latinos. For years, she had been in numerical decline, as young, middle class families moved further and further out into the suburban regions of our city. Even a casual observer of the demographic context would have concluded that, in order to maintain a dynamic ministry in San Antonio, Trinity had to move from a monocultural to a multicultural constituency. That is, we had to become a family of faith that looked like God's great family at large in San Antonio: brown and black as well as white, class inclusive as well as affluent, interdenominational as well as Baptist. In short, just as all the major freeways in San Antonio converged at our church's physical location, so all the defining and difficult demographic indicators in American social life came to bear on our church's spiritual self-identity.

In the great cosmic Kitchen of the Lord, God pitched us off in the middle of big diverse metropolitan melting pot.

And then proceeded to stir the stew.

It is this concoction of vulnerability and possibility that I want to publicly digest in this space over the coming months.

I look forward to your input.

CFJ

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

testing 3

Anonymous said...

Test---just trying to get involved in the Bloggerarma business. I tried to send you an E-mail at the new address that Kathy gave us but it didn't go through.

Anonymous said...

Reference previous test---For now we well use You the code name "Jack Bean Stalk". Think you will know what we are referring to.

Red Mud Hunter said...

Respond if you copy.........

Jack Shull said...

Charlie is terrific. He will be missed terribly.

Godspeed my friend.

Anonymous said...

An Hispanic Baptist? An Africa-American Baptist? Isn't that like being an Arabic Jew? Why would you want to worship with people who don't want you in their neighborhood?

Speed01 said...

>>Why would you want to worship with people who don't want you in their neighborhood?<<

An interesting question, answered repeatedly through out the 4 Gospels and Paul's and others' letters in the New Testament--start reading!

Anonymous said...

Wow! You are a real live blogger, Charlie. Actually,yours is the first blog I have ever visited. Thanks for the P.S. directing me to it. I think it is a superb way to explore yourself as you write about the machinations of your heart and mind and to elicit reactions to them from those that care enough to comment. Both parties in that transaction of ideas and thoughts can learn and grow.
Couple of comments:
1. Great to hear of your whereabouts. I imagine being in the Austin pulpit 7/2 was a bit like walking on the bannister of a very high catwalk for a bit but am not surprised that you got the cadence, rhythm and hearts of the congregation in resonance in a hurry. You have so doggone much to offer so many.
2. It was wondrful to learn how the Lord set the hook in you. I had never heard that story.
3. You are really missed around here. You are a rock that splashed into the pond and created some big ripples that are undiminished from my observations. ripples on the pond.

Keep us informed. And all our good wishes to Janna as well.
Wayne

lmk4jc said...

amen! to the created some big ripples that have gone undiminished

Anonymous said...

Charlie,this is also my first time to care about somebody's thoughts enough to wade into a blog. It was a joy to hear you preach in Abilene, and I hope my comment in passing that transition often leads to transformation did not sound dismissive of this as a challenging period. Your preaching & writing remind me so much of James Forbes at Riverside. What gifts you have and will share with students this next year!
Your longtime(if inattentive)fan, Susan Imke susanimke@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

You say, "ministers of such lifelong tenures simply do not let go of their pastoral position and platform"?

Nothing can be further from the truth... and you know it. But since when has truth mattered to you? Like cream, the truth eventually will rise to the top.

The pastor you followed left a wonderful church family and "platform" which you did your best to destroy. Why not take some of the medicine you dished out over the years.

With a recipe filled with lies, deceit, half-truths, mistrust, and unethical charm, you have an uncanny ability to serve a Kool-aid that some people crave and drink at the demise of their own integrity.

Keep blogging... "Empty trucks always make the most noise."

Anonymous said...

Clearly, the rut your San Antonio church was in was so deep that people are still climbing out with looks of shock on their faces! Amazingly, some would gladly jump back in to the bottom!

Livingston said...

Shame on you "empty trucks"....What's in your Kool Aid?

Hi Charlie...hang tough my friend. You are a man of God and a true poet. I sat in that congregation, watched and listened...it was more than obvious they were not ready for you. But I was, and my family was, and so were many other people who's lives were changed...because we opened our hearts and truly listened to God's message. "A church for ALL people"...you make me very proud. Can't wait to see what God has in store for you next...continue to soar, my friend...people are watching, always!

M. Lieck said...

Hey, Charlie! Good blog! I just found it. We are many who miss you here! You left a very large vacant spot. God had a purpose in sending you to us, and his purpose is still in process, for us and for you. We pray for you and Jana and your children.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, i hope you use this year to work on your mental health. Charlie,you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.Charlie you burn bridges at churches when there is no need to burn bridges. Please take your depression medicine. You have talent but at times you are backsliding. You need to set the example in a church. You have dissapointed a whole lot of people at your last church. Please seek help before you decide to pastor another church.We care about you.

Anonymous said...

Charlie does not drive this truck anymore.

Anonymous said...

Charlie:
As I read both the loving and vindictive comments, I gain a greater appreciation for the difficulties a pastor faces.

You are brave to open this dialogue. I love you and am proud to know you.

A Lubbock friend.

Anonymous said...

I see how it works...if you post a supportive message it is loving, if you hold Charles accountable it is vindictive. Many times it is the people who care the most who won't let you slide past the truth. Charles, can you admit any truth or do you just want to hear from groupies?

Anonymous said...

here's a concept,maybe the groupies have already forgiven him

Anonymous said...

You can forgive but not forget.

Anonymous said...

then they are not groupies, but true friends. I just pray Charles does not betray that friendship or take it for granted, that is his history with many. you may not have dealt with that, some have and forgave anyway but at great cost. my concern is not for them, as they have moved on, but for Charles and his turning his life around and for the ones he will hurt next.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion Charles has a heavy case of narcissim. This tends to get in the way when you are pastoring a church.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, it looks as though God has plenty of help judging you.
;)

Anonymous said...

Charles has asked for comments and input and wants to stir the pot through this website. Hopefully Charles will take this input and become a better pastor. If Charles does not want contrarian input then this Connectivity site should be called a fansite.

Anonymous said...

Now I know where my family and I can reach you when we need you. You will always be a huge part of my family and will always be remembered as a pastor who tried with his heart and soul to make a difference... you did in my life!! WE love and miss you and will continue to pray for you until we meet again.

gvravel said...

Charlie, it seems as if you were determined to build and mold Trinity Baptist in “your own image” as fast as possible. It seems like it didn’t matter if you had to tear down and destroy the church first in order to rebuild it. You said, in your own words to the San Antonio Express News in February 2005, “The deconstruction is over and the reconstruction can now begin,".

I liken it to a marine recruit in boot camp who is torn down and then gets developed into the image of the Marine Corp. The problem is the church did experience “deconstruction” but there was no "reconstruction" nor was there any hope of it being reconstructed.

You needed to keep the base (long time members) of the church while expanding the demographic differences of the congregation. You essentially tore down the base and it was never rebuilt nor did it even have a chance of being rebuilt.

To blame Buckner Fanning (“It is an axiom of church life that ministers of such lifelong tenures simply do not let go of their pastoral position and platform”) for your failings is the most pathetic thing I’ve read on your blog site. The fault lies with you PERIOD. By the way, have you ever seen “The Caine Mutiny”? You remind me so much of Lt. Cmdr Queeg (Humphry Bogart).

This comment comes from someone who has been looking “from the outside – in” without any “ax to grind” because of any personal experience.

Gerald R. Vimont

Anonymous said...

CFJ- Lets be honest. Your tenure at Trinity Baptist was a failure. Because of you TBC became Charlie centered church versus a Christ centered church because of your ego.

Anonymous said...

To my fellow TBC members who are spewing hatred and venom at Charlie...

You do not speak for me, nor are you representing our church well.

Forgive and seek forgiveness.

Your brother in Christ.

Anonymous said...

I am not a member. Just giving an opinion like you. No need to be so defensive. Relax.

Speed01 said...

This is just absurd. Clearly, the people who ranted and flailed at CFJ while he was in S.A. are not going to stop now that he's left--they've merely moved to "anonymousville." The dysfunctional group dynamic is mind-boggling!
If I were CFJ, I'd shut this bad boy down and open up a web forum for diverse discussion on things political, social, and theological, with people who's insight and conversability I could at least respect, if not enjoy--by invitation only.
Welcome to Atlanta! Time to shake the "anonymousville" dust from the bottom of your shoes and move on!

Anonymous said...

If that happened it would be just you and Lt. Commander Queeg and Miller Lite.

Anonymous said...

to the guy thats hung up on humphey bogart,while watching the movie at any point did you ever feel any compassion for the lt.commander who took on a huge responsibility ,but fell under it's weight

Anonymous said...

What's with this "sabbitical" business? I thought that ws something granted a minister after long tenure!
Isn't this just a way to "spin" what has really happened?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure...what is a "sabbitical?" I would suggest that if you're going to attempt to use such 'big words' that you might give Webster's a try before you start popping off again. Also, define a long tenure...40 years + is about 25 years or more past time to go...and the horrible culture, habits, silos and cliques that it leaves behind makes a revamping of every part of its being necessary and healthy. Remember, the church exists to further the mission of Christ..not Buckner's or Charlie's. I have a questions....Does God drive a pick-up truck....or a Lexus (or own his own school)? Perhaps we should ask Buckner. Spin that chief...

---a disgusted TBC member ready to get on with life.

Anonymous said...

I have been a member since Brother Mac was the first Pastor. Could some of you please explain to me how Pastor Charlie "tore down the base"? Please give specifics, not all these general statements that mean nothing to me. I learned more in the 5 years Pastor Charlie was there, than all the other years since Trinity opened it's doors. Hey how about Buckner's 52 sermons on the prodical son?? Didn't any of you LISTEN to his sermons?? What knowledge I learned!! What personal stories he shared with us! From what I am hearing, it's Trinity's loss, and Charlie's gain. I have no idea where these vindictive remarks are comming from. What a shame for Trinity!

Anonymous said...

Charles needs our prayers for some deeply personal problems. He is an excellent preacher in the pulpit on Sundays. Enabling him will not help him with his problems but prayer will. Not everyone is vindictive. Tough love means you really care as a friend.

hopehaar said...

yes charlie brought many good changes to TBC changes that needed to be made and I hope that it wil continue on as the Lord did not intend for us to seperate ourselves from one another because of color social statics or whatever else may be out there.we are trying to come together as one family in Christ with love and concern for one another and those of us that belive in this will continue to carry on as charles wanted us to be becuae that is alos what our Father wants from us yes we forget sometimes that he is our father everyone can say that God is his faather so that makes us sisters and brothers in him.I miss Charlie very much and I do pray for him and most of all I thank God that he allowed us to have him for the short time which we did.God is an awesome God and he take s care of his children need one say more no, God will find a way we will just enjoy the ride and wait for him so far he has brought us such wonderful speakers which only shows us that he cares so much for us and he is with us always, that is his promise.Amen!!

Anonymous said...

Grace says hello.

Anonymous said...

Huh?

Anonymous said...

Charlie: WHERE ARE YOU?

Anonymous said...

I would like to read some thoughts on Grace. Anyone?

Anonymous said...

who wants to know?

Anonymous said...

No one special, just someone who is interested in the viewpoints of others. This is a particularly vulnerable area for me, so the anonymity helps me to more easily expose my weakness. The description of the blog at the top of the page says it is about the intersection of faith and real living. I think my question fits within the scope of this blog and might be helpful to others as well. I don't need to know who is giving input to appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

sorry,i didnt mean it rudely i was just thinking of grace.i dont even know her and felt the urge to protect her. blog on brother

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I was referring to the grace of God, not the Grace who said hello.

KAZ said...

Mental Health?! You anonymous ones are speaking of mental health?! Stop worrying about Charlie's mental health. It sounds like YOU need some serious therapy. Maybe once you are perfect, which will never happen, you can point the finger at others. But until then, just stop it! Geeeezzz. . . you sound children!

Anonymous said...

FYI - my post only says "anonymous" because I am not a member of Blogger... I'll identify myself below my comment.

I am deeply saddened and disturbed by those who would follow a former pastor onto his blog and then take potshots and jabs, seeking to harm him further. What good will that do? You who are doing this give the church a black eye by what you are doing and saying. Charlie clearly is damaged by what happened - why seek to damage him further? I know it takes two to tango (so to speak), but it's over now. What seems most Christ-honoring to me is to now let all discourse be sprinkled with love and grace and honor. My guess is that Charlie wants to use this blog to heal and learn, not to rehash and rehash and rehash what happened - let alone hear from the anonymous hate-spewers...

Charlie - Godspeed, my friend...

Gavin

Dr Randi Fass said...

How heartbreaking to read additional comments laced with venom in the aftermath of Charlie and Jana having left TBC. I've been a member there for over 30 years, moving in and out of town with the military. I've watched some wonderful changes and seen the need for even more. I love the family there so much, and have been the recipient of much love and support over the years. I find it incomprehensible that - even if it were all true - forgiveness does not come naturally from some people. Why carry the burden of bitterness and hatred? Personally, I loved Buckner and Martha, but was happy when Charlie and Jana came in behind them. The sort of backbiting seen here, and experienced there, has no place in the Christian walk. Charlie: much love and healing to you both. TBC family: show this city what you are really made of. Love thy neighbor, friends. Love thy neighbor.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the comments by Dr. Randi Fass. I am not a member nor have I ever been a member so I truly have no legitimate perspective except my parents were members for many years. There was a time at FBC SA almost 20 years ago when the anger and visciousness was much like what I have read today. I can assure you that the pain and damage is still felt and known by some. From where does this hatred come? Where is Christ's love? How can Christians seemingly hate each other to the point of destruction? Why? Why? God help us.

Keith Vaughn said...

Hi Charlie,
I know that I'm reaching back in time reading last June's blog during February, but I felt drawn to come and read your early postings.

There are many posts for this particular blog entry. You and I both know that some are positive and uplifting and some are just downright disgusting. Hasn't the church at large always been this way? There are people on both sides of the street. Some throw stones and some grab you and hug the love right out of you.

Words are powerful Charlie. They move and shake us; often to the very core of our being. But words can bring not just pain and anguish, they can bring healing and wholeness.

I wasn't in Texas and didn't meet you until last fall in Atlanta. It was a blessed day when you came into my life. Thank you for who you are and all you have taught me during the past months. I consider you a gift from God. Your words to me and the others in our small community of learning are as a tree of life green and in full bloom and bearing its fruit in its season.

Peace to you my brother. Peace to your lovely wife Jana whom I have never met but only heard about. The Peace of Christ be upon you.

Your Brother and fellow pilgrim.
Keith Vaughn

Geraldine said...

You are truly a blessing to us at First Baptist Brownwood and especailly to me. I wish you could stay forever. After reading some things about you, I believe God has a bigger plan for you. Maybe you have already determined what path God wishes you to follow. May God bless you and lead you.
You cannot emagine how much I agree with your view of most everything. Of course since you agree with my views, you have to be correct. Geraldine