I am often asked by my more pragmatic friends why I don't just suck it up and get a job outside of the Church. Believe me, I fully understand the logic of this line of thought; it is the obvious and sensible course of action. The simple answer to the question is that I don't want to. The full answer would include stuff about who I believe myself to be and whether or not life is worth living if you are just treading water. But how did I get to the stage where I find it impossible to consider "moving on?"
A couple of days ago I received a pertinent comment from Pam over on Facebook.
I replied with the following comment which I don't think would have got my friend running to put on her tin hat.
I have known many people whose lives have been permanently damaged after being turned down for the priesthood. To be manipulated into truly believing that God has spoken to you and then told that you were just making it all up and that you were putting words into God's mouth, is a terrible thing to have to live with. In fact, putting someone into such a situation is downright cruel.
If I was to stop being a full time priest (which is what I was "called" to be) then I would be facing the same existential crisis that rejected ordinands have to deal with. My pain would be no worse than theirs but I do have the added problem of having been indoctrinated with the concept of the priesthood being a complete and irreversible calling for over twenty years. This concept is so embedded in my personality and thinking that to remove it would be like removing my heart and my fear (to be honest, my certain knowledge) is that there is no new heart available out there with which I could replace it.
There is a simple answer to this conundrum, if not for myself then for future candidates in the discernment process of the Church of England. Ditch God and the Spirit of God from the equation altogether. When asked why you are seeking ordination the answer, "Because I want to be a priest and I believe I could do the job well," should suffice. Of course, this would mean that both the candidate and the Church would have to accept that they are personally responsible for their own decisions and actions, no longer could either party dump the responsibility onto God if things went wrong. And no longer could they claim God's involvement if things went well. In my opinion that would be a definite change for the better. Being served by priests and bishops who did not believe they were God's gift to the laity would make the Church a much more pleasant, cooperative organisation to belong to for everybody.