It's not often that a faith leader apologizes in an open letter for hurting parishioners and for exhibiting negative behavior, but that's exactly what James Noriega, a former pastor at a Mars Hill congregation in Seattle, Washington, recently did in a Facebook "confession."
James Noriega (TheLightsHome.org)
Noriega, who willingly left Mars Hill West Seattle in 2011, admitted in a post on the social media site that he offended and hurt people in the church and that his newfound public appeal and admission of fault constitute an effort to officially begin the healing process.
"I no longer want to protect myself because there are some people in the church I have hurt and I want to repent to them and expect the blood of our great Savior to heal them from my sins against them," he wrote August 31. "I don’t want to just repent here on my FB page but give you access to me so it can be more personal. I believe I needed to 'start' publicly but end more personally."
In an interview with TheBlaze Wednesday, Noriega said that he decided to write the very personal confession after he recently found himself joining 20 other former Mars Hill pastors in signing a document accusing the church — and its embattled pastor Mark Driscoll — of misconduct.
Noriega said that, upon signing the document, he became convicted over his own behavior during his time as a pastor at Mars Hill, feeling as though he had to address past personal mistakes if he was going to be able to publicly tackle Driscoll's purported infractions.
"I wanted to make sure that I didn't have a plank in my eye when I [was pointing] fingers at Driscoll," he said. "I wanted to be sure that I reached out — I was reaching out to the people I didn't know, so that I could do this with a clear conscience."
In the patently honest Facebook message, Noriega apologized to those who "felt abused and hurt" and asked them to come forward to speak with him personally so that restoration could take place.
"I don’t want your hurt from my sin to linger in your soul any longer. I am so sorry. I am so sorry I got in the way of the Cross of Christ in your life," he wrote. "Please forgive me. I am so sorry that I may not know who you are. I have counseled hundreds of times and hundreds of different issues … I am asking the Holy Spirit to bring into light those I have sinned against but I may need your help."
Noriega told TheBlaze that he worked at Mars Hill for six years and that he counseled many people along the way — some of whom he may have treated too harshly. Since posting the Facebook message, he has received responses and has reconciled and apologized.
"I've been amazed," he said. "It's been hard, but I've been amazed."
The pastor, who now runs The Light's Home, a Christian counseling ministry, didn't go into detail about why he left Mars Hill three years ago, saying that he and his wife "just felt led out."
"There were a lot of changes that were going on that weren't necessarily wrong, but not the direction that we felt God calling us to," Noriega said.
Read Noriega's entire apology below:
I know going public with my confession as a pastor can put me in a precarious place. I no longer want to protect myself because there are some people in the church I have hurt and I want to repent to them and expect the blood of our great Savior to heal them from my sins against them. I don’t want to just repent here on my FB page but give you access to me so it can be more personal. I believe I needed to “start” publicly but end more personally. I also want to note that going public could result in self-elevating. I am in a constant heart check. I can honestly say I am more willing to humiliate myself than elevate myself.
I want to clarify this confession of self-preservation, pride, arrogance and heavy handedness (I will be more concise of these sins in a moment) is from me and about me only. I will not speak against Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill Church because the sins I committed there as a pastor were mine and mine alone. Additionally, I don’t want to add to the rock throwing party that is going on in the media. I did not come into Mars Hill Church innocent, I brought sin in with me. I did not get brainwashed, I was a fully functional pastor. I was just comfortable in my sin. I am a self-centered man who doesn’t need help from anyone to sin. God have mercy on me.
I also want to clarify who I am writing this confession to. I saw God work in so many lives while I was a pastor at Mars Hill. So, those who were healed and transformed while under my care, please hang on to what God did for you. Please don’t allow my sin to take away what Jesus accomplished in you. I am writing to those I have sinned against.
For those people who felt abused and hurt by me, please let me hear you. Let me hear how I have sinned against you. Let me ask for your forgiveness. I don’t want your hurt from my sin to linger in your soul any longer. I am so sorry. I am so sorry I got in the way of the Cross of Christ in your life. Please forgive me. I am so sorry that I may not know who you are. I have counseled hundreds of times and hundreds of different issues…I am asking the Holy Spirit to bring into light those I have sinned against but I may need your help.
My sin: I have many sins, but here are some of the big ones that are on my heart:
• If you didn’t agree with me you were in sin.
• I was more interested in being right than ministering to your soul.
• I sometimes used my “office of pastor” rather than using The Crucified Christ.
• I was sometimes impatient to those who needed to time to digest my counsel.
• I operated in self-protection at times in confrontation.
• I was heavy handed-handed at times I didn’t need to be.
For the people I have sinned against in these ways or in other ways please forgive me; I so am sorry I hurt you. I hope and pray God heals you. Please message me and let me hear you out. Please don’t be afraid of me any longer. I understand if you are. I absolutely want healing for you; not more hurt. I do love you.
My hope is that this post does not lead into bantering and that my heart for reconciliation and restoration for those I’ve hurt does not get lost. I am ok with being criticized. I just want those people I sinned against to hear my heart for them and nothing else.
Again, this is an invitation for you to reach out to me personally so that I can personally repent and ask for your forgiveness. Please message me or ask me if you need my number and I will give it to you.
I give you my permission to share this post as you feel led. My hope is to find those who may be hurting from my sin.
(H/T: Christian Today)