Pontius Pilate: What is truth? John 18:38
I remember running into a friend in Marshall’s once, and – because I was a pastor – she immediately and rather breathlessly shared Church Information with me from her own congregation on the other side of town.
Breathless Church Lady: Our associate pastor was just fired because the senior pastor was so jealous of him! Can you believe that?! Everybody loved him. He was the Real Pastor, if you ask me.
Me (in my head): Actually the associate pastor got fired because he was having an affair with three different members of the choir.
I knew this because I was on the team that had received this report. But I couldn’t share that truth with the Breathless Church Lady. All I could say was this:
You don’t know what you’re talking about.
In my travels to visit different churches through the years, I have heard lots of misinformation:
“The Presbytery just took our pastor away and we never were able to say good-bye.” (Actually, the pastor was dying of AIDS and he himself requested that he leave quickly and that the Presbytery not share his health information. And he didn’t want to say good-bye in spite of what the Presbytery had advised.)
“The intern is having an affair with the pastor. That’s why our pastor’s getting a divorce.” (Actually, the pastor and his spouse had been secretly separated for a year and there was nothing going on with the intern.)
“Our educator is so inept, she must be having an affair with the pastor. That’s the only way she’s keeping her job.” (Actually, the pastor’s having an affair, alright, but with a liturgical dancer in another state.)
Notice a trend here? Yes, lots of misinformation is about sex. But there are also inaccuracies that display basic mistrust, fear, and meanness. Power issues abound.
What does the pastor do all day? I don’t think she ever visits people! (Actually she spends a lot of time talking with those dealing with everything from addiction to unemployment to depression, but she can’t report that and nobody sees her do it.)
The Presbytery doesn’t do anything to support us. (Actually The Presbytery’s dealt with behind-the-scenes mediation, helped you cover some emergency expenses, and made it possible for your church to find a new pastor.)
I think our treasurer is skimming money from church contributions. He’s retired and his wife doesn’t work, but they just got a new car. (Actually, he inherited the car from a relative and he pledges more money than you do.)
Why do we in the church share erroneous information? Do we have too much time on our hands? Can we not believe that our pastor is doing her best? That men and women can serve on the same staff together and not be romantically involved? That institutional leaders are working hard to help congregations thrive? That we are all on the same team?
Yes, we’ve seen abuses. Sure. But most of us trying to serve God are doing it with integrity. Or we are trying.
(Note to abusers/liars/crazy-makers: Servants with integrity love you, but we won’t let you hurt people. Love = holding each other accountable.)