Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith ~ by Barbara Brown Taylor, 2006
Baylor University named Barbara Brown Taylor one of the twelve most effective preachers in the English-speaking world. After ordination in the Episcopal Church, she served as a priest for two decades, and now she teaches religion at Piedmont College and is an adjunct professor of Christian spirituality at Columbia Theological Seminary. She is also a writer, having published more than ten books and now serving as editor-at-large and columnist for The Christian Century.
The title of this book may surprise many people who think "leaving church" means walking away from church. Did she? Yes, and no. Yes, she put away her collar, left the church she was serving, and didn't go back. Not going back is required of clergy in some denominations, like hers (Episcopal) and mine (United Methodist). We don't go back because people would continue to go to her or me for the pastoral care we had been giving them. But on the other hand, no, she did not leave God, which is what many think "leaving church" really means.
The book is divided into three parts: Finding, Losing, and Keeping. Taylor says the central revelation in her life is "that the call to serve God is first and last the call to be fully human" (p. xi). In this book she explores what that has meant to her "in a world where religion often seems to do more harm than good" (p. xii). She could see that "human beings never behave more badly toward one another than when they believe they are protecting God" (p. 106).
Taylor addresses the reason I don't usually tell people up front that I am an ordained minister when she says, "If being ordained meant being set apart from them [the people] then I did not want to be ordained anymore. I wanted to be human" (p. 120). Many pastors seem to enjoy being considered something special, but Taylor and I both see ourselves as one of the people. I was especially interested to see that, after leaving her position as pastor of a church, she began to teach religions of the world. While I was still pastor of my last church, I did the same thing.
This book will give you a look at what being a pastor is all about, the struggles as well as the joys, and "look[ing] at life through the windows of the church" in a context "so tightly focused that even my junk mail was Christian" (p. 168). I rate the book 9/10, excellent.
An opposing point of view: http://jameskasmith.blogspot.com/2007/04/leaving-church-for-what.html