CLEARWATER — Kirk Minor grew up in a Baptist church in Alabama, where he remained a loyal parishioner …. until, that is, his beloved pastor got kicked out. And Minor went with him.
“I was raised in a Baptist church and really loved the church and loved the people and loved the pastor,” he recalled. “I was 15 years old at that point, and I did think the pastor was absolutely great.”
The church’s elders eventually decided otherwise.
“An elder and a deacon came up with an interpretation of one verse of the Bible that I really feel was the wrong interpretation,” Minor said. “The deacons and elders in that specific church, they make the decisions there. The pastor has very little to say because he can be out the next week just by a vote of the deacons.”
That’s exactly what happened, Minor said, when his beloved pastor took a different interpretation of that lone verse. He suddenly found himself out of a job.
“Out he went, so I said ‘Poof!’ out I go, too,” Minor said, “It was a disagreement over a verse and how he interpreted it. He said one thing, and the church said another. The word ‘predestinate’ keeps coming into my head. He proposed one thing and they preached another. So he was gone.”
That single act has set a pattern in Minor’s life that he’s seen repeated over and over again. Now a retired pastor himself, Minor said he’s increasingly frustrated at how often religion divides rather than unites people, and how quickly entire congregations zero in on their differences rather than what unites them.
“A lot of my personal belief is that people do a lot more antagonistic arguing over scriptures rather than really trying to find out what the scriptures are saying,” Minor said. “I have seen instances where churches have split and they have thrown the pastor out over the two sides’ interpretation of one verse.”
Minor has taken his criticism of religion and written a book, “Journey Across The Tiber: My Many Rooms,” which is available through www.createspace.com.
He earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Alabama in Florence, a Master’s Degree in social work from Florida State University in Tallahassee, and a Doctorate of Ministry from Lake Charles Bible College in Lake Charles, Louisiana. A licensed certified social worker for the mental health system for 25 years, Minor was also a pastor with the United Methodist Church for two decades.
Minor said he decided to write the book because he can still remember a time when churches were centered around people, not rhetoric. Those seem like distant days, he said.
“I like the church to be very, very, very biblically oriented, to be spiritual,” he said. “I like for people, if they say they’re going to do something, to do it, and do what you believe. I think the church is the most important institution in the world. I love it. And I love a very quiet, dignified worship style.”
But that’s not what he finds today, Minor said, as too many churches compete with one another commercially for new parishioners, and change their views as social attitudes begin to alter.
“My relationship with God was there, but I could not tolerate this secular humanism that was invading the church,” he said. “Secular humanism in church to me means basically everything is acceptable, as long as there can be some in the churches who are accepting gay pastors. I am not saying I have a tremendous problem with that. The behavior is different form the person. But the secular humanism says ‘Everyone is doing it, so that makes it right.’ “
Minor said he’s witnessed this trend in churches for years – always with plenty of justifications from the pastors and elders.
“Their explanation was there was just a need for pastors, so they allowed the females to become pastors,” he said. “That, to me, is an injunction where the Bible says no. I may be a bit fundamentalist there, but I don’t think we should do this. The humanistic approach is like people living together. This is so prevalent in our culture today. Well, I have taught Bible studies where I would go over Paul’s 13 biggie sins, and I would say no to this.
“Why are we allowing it to happen? That didn’t make sense to me,” he added. “That was not walking the walk. You say one thing, then do the other. That just perplexed me. Then I became more disenchanted with the people’s lack of knowledge of the scripture, lack of knowledge of the beliefs of the church.”
Minor remains a skeptic, and doubts this trend can be easily reversed.
“I am sorry to say so, but I don’t think so,” he said. “When I ride down one road close to my home, and there are four Baptist churches within a mile of one another, that tells me something is not right. Those churches are all pretty close to one another in what they believe.”
So Minor opted to share his concerns about the direction of the church today with a wider audience.
“I decided to write the book the more I became aware of the lack of information regarding one’s relationship with the divine trinity,” he said. “The more I became aware of that, the more I understood something needs to be done here.”
Minor believes there’s a vocal contingent of religious leaders using the Bible not as a teaching tool, but as a bludgeoning tool. The key to reversing the trend, he said, is to use actions more than words, for people of faith to quietly do the good things called for in the Bible’s teachings.
“That, I think, is a very important point in my book,” he said. “Two churches can be sitting side by side, and yet they will fight over scripture. Churches bled over scripture. Too many people, I think, go to church, but they do not study – it’s kind of like ‘I’ve got my one hour a week to fulfill, and I will fulfill it, and then I’m ok.’ “
He also feels frustrated at those who use scripture to divide rather than unite.
“They will use scriptures to really beat other people over the head with it, which I think is completely contradictory to what scripture teaches us,” he said. “There is nothing Christian about it. Jesus always accepted people from where they were. He didn’t crush them. He didn’t put them down. He didn’t try to destroy their lives.
“We need to really look at what the original Bible said, what the oldest version said, and then bring it up from there,” he added. “I have spent as much as 12 hours on one verse, to be sure I understood what that verse was trying to say to me. I was raised in a very religious family. I didn’t have many excuses not to go to church. I have loved the scriptures and I have always taught it. What I would really like is for people to sit down, rather than argue and beat each other over the heads with scripture — which so many people do. That is not a spiritual thing for me.”
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