Sunday, July 27, 2008


I just, finally, wrote and sent this letter. I think it's absolutely the right decision, but it's also hitting me harder than I expected; after all, I've been wrestling with this, in one way or another, for five years.

I felt a little shaky, cried a little bit, and got hugs from Gary. Now I'm eating lunch, and when I'm done, I'll go swimming.


To the Right Reverend Dan Edwards, the Commission on Ministry, and the Vestry, Clergy and People of St. Stephen’s:

I have decided to withdraw from the process of ordination to the diaconate. Instead, I wish to continue and deepen my lay ministries: preaching, hospital chaplaincy, and writing, especially as a healing discipline.

Many of you know that since I was called to ordination five years ago, I have had a number of struggles, both within and outside the church. These difficulties undermined my trust, not in God or Christ, but in diocesan personnel and procedures. I decided to forego ordination quite a while back, but although I made the choice for many good reasons (including a simple lack of time in my very busy life), I was also in a place of pain from which I felt it would be unwise to do anything irrevocable. We've all heard the acronym HALT, which instructs us not to make large decisions when we're Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. Because I was in one or several of those states fairly continuously for several years, I held off on writing this letter.

I have now, I hope and pray, arrived in a healthier place. I have come to believe that God wants me to remain on my current path, doing the work I'm already doing. I believe that ordination would interfere with that work, rather than empowering it. I am blessed by my current ministries and don't want to stop any of them, although I recognize that God is already leading me along new paths, and will continue to do so. Let me emphasize that I have no intention of leaving St. Stephen’s, which has been a continuous source of healing and support for me even in the depths of my frustration with the larger institutional church.

I am relieved and grateful to be able to write this letter from a place of joy and abundance, rather than bitterness. I still have misgivings about certain aspects of Church as Bureaucracy, and I persevere in my hope that I and others can work to correct those situations. At the same time, however, I am deeply thankful to the many people in the church -- especially Bishop Dan and many friends at St. Stephen’s -- who have remained patient and compassionate with my sometimes tortured discernment process while continuing, quietly and lovingly, to affirm my gifts.

Thank you all, and may the Lord lead each of us in the paths of peace, wisdom, and justice.

Yours in Christ,

Susan Palwick


  1. Anonymous12:36 PM

    Dear Susan,

    I think you're very brave - making the decision, writing the letter, sending the letter, sharing the letter on your blog.

    Whatever you call your calling, you are doing wonderful work.

    Wishing you peace of mind, a light heart, and an easy spirit as you continue on your journey,


  2. Anonymous12:43 PM

    change (and/or admitting change has happened) almost always brings some kind of pain, I find. Maybe it's therapeutic? Or simply makes us stop for a bit and honor our path?

  3. Thank you so much, Jean!

  4. Susan, I think you made the right decision. I believe you'll be happier making your own path and designing your own service to God. In the mean time, I'm sure that if you want to make changes in the church authority structure you'll find a way to do it that works for you and has a positive effect on it. It's probably just a matter of time before an opportunity presents itself.

    Peace! Hope! & Joy!

  5. I admire your courage to follow your true call. While I made a different decision myself and was ordained a deacon last month, ordination isn't for everyone. Ours is a clerical church and so focused on ordination that it takes real fortitude to listen to where the Holy Spirit is leading. I'm a frequent reader of your blog and a great admirer of your chaplain work.


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