Welcome to my space.
Can I be really honest with you for a second?
Oh thanks. I appreciate that.
Those of you who have been reading for a while know that my husband confessed to habits of pornography and deception in mid-2020, and was removed from church leadership for a minimum of one year. He has not been reinstated to that position, and he offered this letter to our church at the end of 2021. I am sharing it with you, with his permission, because he is better at words these days than I am.
It matters to me that our family walks with honesty and integrity before the people in our lives. That is, that the online people don’t get the sunny all-is-good version while the local people think, Why are they not talking about the big stuff?
So here’s a window in.
To my brothers and sisters at Meadville Mennonite Chapel –
I respectfully ask to be released from my ordination as an assistant pastor.– Ryan Zook
I shattered your trust first through my sin and deception. Then my critical spirit toward the pastors during my time of discipline further eroded their confidence in me. They have accepted my sorrow and repentance for that criticism, and extended forgiveness toward me. But rebuilding trust takes reliable behavior over time, including a change from the patterns that broke trust. I cannot rejoin the team and lead effectively anytime soon.
I am grateful for the grace that has guided this journey. The path has been excruciating at times. My original offense was pornography, but repentance laid bare my misplaced identity, my desire to control, my fragmented relationships, my faulty communication, and my neglected soul. I know less and have less to say than I did, but I know more about who I am—that I am the beloved son of my Father.
Thank you for your love and kindness toward us over the time of my discipline. Thank you for your patience with me as I grew in honesty and spiritual maturity. That journey goes on. I hope to continue my recovery, nurture my family, and build relationships as a brother in the church.
I am open to preaching in turn as the non-ordained brothers are sometimes asked. I do not intend to accept a nomination in the upcoming ordination. I am laying down any expectation of being restored to leadership at some point.
I am deeply grateful for my wife’s presence and support. Through no fault of her own, she has shared in my shame and my discipline, and her commitment to me and her faith in the good hand of God are both remarkable.
We believe in God and His work in the world. That work goes on in His church, and our hope is in Him.
I objected to the paragraph about his wife, particularly the “no fault of her own,” since God knows she has plenty of faults, but he told me with firm love that it was his written statement, not mine.
I am not sharing this letter to ask for your pity, censure, or validation, but to acknowledge where our family is at. It’s been hard not to acknowledge in this space the process as it unfolded, but the story belonged to more people than me, and I chose to protect their honor and privacy. (Also, I didn’t know where it was going.) Also, full disclosure, I was protecting myself from saying it badly and getting in trouble. Truth.
Sometimes it’s a relief to have biblical precedent for choosing silence.
It’s a copout, too.
But also a relief.
I think you’re old enough to know that church stresses take a toll, for all involved, and eighteen months of not functioning on the leadership team made it clear that the path back was going to cost too much, for everyone.
Our story, and especially this semi-ending, has raised lots of questions for us. What is God up to? What about his call on my husband’s life? How will our children do with all of this? Who has the authority to write the narrative as the facts unfold? Are we the good guys or the bad guys? Where do we fit at church? And what’s next?
My husband pastored for fourteen of our eighteen years of marriage. I still feel like a pastor’s wife. I am now a former pastor’s wife. I still feel like he’s my pastor, and in our home he is.
Rewriting an identity will take time. Even talking about loss will take time, as we uncover more layers. Meanwhile we love Jesus and the people in our church, and they love us, and we go on. God is never done working with us.
Thanks for listening. In the old-fashioned words, which I always loved mocking, we covet your prayers.