The Clumsy Dance Partner . . . Or: Sometimes We Screw Up

I wrote yesterday about “dancing with the ones who brought us” – my metaphorElaine dancing for moving cooperatively with the church entities that oversee our ministry.  In my case, that middle judicatory is called The Presbytery.

Presbyteries  – in my tradition – support congregations, help them in times of crises, celebrate with them in times of joy.  We grant money for special church projects, assist pastors in financial trouble, offer pastoral support to pastors, and shepherd congregations in pastoral transition.  But sometimes we screw up.

Someone rightfully suggested yesterday that Presbyteries (and Bishops, District Superintendents, etc.) need to be transparent, honest, and supportive – and sometimes we are not.  Part of this is a result of living in a litigious culture.  Examples:

  • A pastor is incompetent and needs to go, but he threatens to sue if he is fired.  And we make the mistake of fearing this pastor more than God.
  • A church leader is falsely accused of misconduct and – while never formally charged much less found guilty – the Presbytery is so terrified of being sued by somebody that we fail to support this innocent leader.
  • A congregation is never told why a pastor has left their church because the pastor has asked that the truth not be told.  The truth is that the pastor is suicidal or addicted or going through an ugly divorce or sick with a brain tumor.  But The Presbytery simply says that “the pastor had to leave” because that pastor has threatened legal action if the truth comes out.  Rumors abound, but we can’t share the truth.

In addition, Presbyteries and other overseeing leaders drop the ball occasionally.  We inadvertently give erroneous information to Pastor Search Committees which slows down their process.  We lose forms.  We abuse our power – such as it is – because we are weak and immature.  We insist on procedures that make no sense.

I am fortunate to work in a healthy church institution – or at least it’s as healthy as any I’ve known – but we still make mistakes.  We forget that relationships are more important that regulations.  We show favoritism.  We are clumsy.

And we will try to do better.

Image of Elaine Benes dancing.


3 responses to “The Clumsy Dance Partner . . . Or: Sometimes We Screw Up

  1. The flip side of this is that congregations know that churches can’t always give full information so even when they do tell the complete truth about why a pastor or other employee chooses to leave, members often refuse to believe what they hear and assume that there’s more to the story.

    • Trina – you are totally right about this. In the worst situations, gossipy parishioners will just make up stories with their best guesses about the truth. Makes things worse.

  2. amen and amen. thank you for your honesty, integrity and hope

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