This is a time of transitions for me.
After being in my latest teaching position for two and a half years, I decided it was time for me to go back to the area of English Language Teaching in which I experienced the most fulfillment, namely English for Academic Purposes (EAP).
After being involved with my faith community in Seoul for five years, four and a half of those in some kind of leadership role, three and a half as the Pastoral Leader and serving as an ordained pastor in the Progressive Christian Alliance, and just over a year as an ordained pastor in Metropolitan Community Churches (during which we’ve had four changes in location), I’ve decided that I have done as much as I can for Open Doors Metropolitan Community Church, and I have resigned as Pastoral Leader to allow the community itself to decide its next steps in its ongoing presence in Korea.
It was difficult to be in a situation where many of the learners I taught were of lower language ability and limited motivation. There are people who can do this well – good on ’em, Korea needs more like them. I’m not one of them. Moreover, there aren’t all that many opportunities to teach EAP in Korea, so I thought I would take the opportunity while it was there.
It was difficult to be leader of a faith community which couldn’t find the combination of factors it needed to grow to a point where it could sustain a regular ministry presence in Seoul. It wasn’t an ideal situation to begin with. I joined a community where the founding pastor was foundering in terms of his faith stance, going between a deep Christian commitment and hard atheism and many places in between, which attracted and repelled many at the same time. I myself was developing a progressive Christian stance in my return to the church after being away for seventeen years, which seemed to satisfy neither the evangelicals nor the atheists in our midst. My not living in Seoul itself and not being a member of a queer community didn’t help either, I’m sure. Our church has been doing our work and trying to grow without a denominational mission support fund or a sponsoring church to help. There was always head office staff support, and they helped us any way they could, but a point came where I decided I need to let go of this role.
I’ve found it difficult to fulfill the implied expectations placed on me as an English teacher in my most recent position. They were there, even if higher-ups might deny this. ‘Keep teaching from the supplied textbook to a minimum’ – well, why have a bloody textbook in the first place? ‘Always incorporate an English for Occupational Purposes (EOP) approach, bringing in things from students’ majors’ – how does that work when I don’t have a background in that major, and I get different majors almost every semester? ‘Ensure students make progress in the levels of the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR)’ – how is that possible while keeping this EOP focus, when students at many of the lower levels of the CEFR simply don’t have the ability to accomplish tasks which are academically or professionally related?
I’ve found it difficult to understand how it is that many persons of faith in the SGM communities want to hang on to traditional, even conservative, Christian beliefs. In at least one case, an attendee cited my not being ‘traditional enough’ as their reason to stop going to Open Doors. I realize that many SGM Christians of an evangelical background are trying to hold on to what they believe to be the ‘treasures’ of this faith expression while tossing away the ‘garbage’. If there is a way to do that, then bless ‘em – the evangelical world needs more of them. I freely admit that I’m cut from a different piece of cloth. I have always struggled to understand how persons of an evangelical Christian persuasion, regardless of whether they’re SGM or not, can persist in using certain expressions, postures of worship, hermeneutical styles, etc., in the 21st century world. With the election of the 45th President of the US, and the almost unquestioning support he received from white American evangelicals, I think it’s perfectly fair to ask if the evangelical brand has a legitimacy crisis, as some have. Add the SGM element to it and I’m left asking, ‘Is this just wanting to have one’s cake and eat it too? Has the cake simply “gone off” and needs to be thrown out?’ Or to use a more Gospel-influenced image, ‘Should we be forcing new wine into old wineskins?’ I’m not saying people don’t have the right to express their faith as they wish. I am questioning whether the classic expressions of evangelicalism can serve persons of faith well, especially if they are members of an SGM, in a 21st century context.
I don’t know what’s going to come next for me. All I know is that I am in a new country, at a new school, waiting for full-time work to appear sometime (that in itself is another story for another time!). I also know that I have almost a quarter-century of teaching experience under my belt, and I’m ready to offer that, and the skills and abilities that go with it, to those who are willing to take a chance on me.
I don’t know where my next ministry opportunity will be. At this point, I am connecting with an ecumenical, lay-led international church in Hanoi which has made room for me. This may lead into a longer connection, or I may go into new ministry directions that I have not even anticipated yet. What I am assured of is that I will go into the future, trusting in that Love which has not let me go, even when I was a ‘done’ for seventeen years. I will continue to write, including on things MCC and things SGM. And I keep in the forefront of my mind the lines of a hymn from the priest and hymn-writer Herbert O’Driscoll:
‘In (our) agony and glory,
(We) are called to newer ways
By the Lord of our tomorrows
And the God of earth’s todays.’
 There were in fact measurable objectives for this goal – at least linguistic ones.
 I can’t find the exact source, but I read a table for the expected academic and occupational tasks which people at the different CEFR levels should be able to do, and it was suggested that learners at the lower A1 and A2 levels, where many of the students we have are, are not ready for many of these tasks.
 Two of the most soul-searching critiques I have read have come from within the evangelical movement: from author Sharon Hodde Miller (2017, February 19, Evangelicals and the Loss of Prophetic Imagination, in Mere Orthodoxy [online], retrieved 19 September 2019 from https://mereorthodoxy.com/evangelicals-loss-prophetic-imagination/), and Dr Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Theological Seminary (2018, 20 April, Political Dealing: The Crisis Of Evangelicalism, in Fuller.edu [online], retrieved 19 September 2019 from https://www.fuller.edu/posts/political-dealing-the-crisis-of-evangelicalism/).
 From O’Driscoll, H ‘From the Slave-Pens of the Delta’, in The United Church Publishing House (1996), Voices United, hymn #690.