I’m a suspicious character in Church World even before I utter a single word because I serve on a Presbytery (i.e. Middle Judicatory Church) Staff. Not that I’m oozing with power or anything, but I can make people’s lives easier or more difficult based on what I say in an ordinary reference check or personnel meeting or phone call from a Big Deal Church Nominating Committee. Also, I grew up in the PCUSA in North Carolina (read: Montreat) and I have a big Presbyterian family and I am blessed with lots of churchy friends and so I Know Things.
Some of the things I know break my heart.
Anybody familiar with Church World knows that rumors abound, cattiness is rampant, and all of us are prone to wander (and not just from Jesus.) We are pretty good at sharing kudos, but we are not so good about holding each other accountable. Often this is true because we simply don’t trust each other.
For example: if you observe me eating donuts every day for dinner or if I am drinking too much or I am flirting with someone who is not my HH or I am kicking the dog – and I trust you – please know that you have my permission to – and that I have a serious expectation that you will – Say Something To Me About It for the good of my own body and soul and the well-being of the community. Hold me accountable. Pull me aside in love and tell me you are concerned. Remind me who I am and to whom I belong. For the love of the God, say something.
So here’s my quandary as a generally distrusted Institutional Church Suit: How do I hold my friends and colleagues accountable? Options:
- Over coffee, I tell you that “everyone knows” that you are being unfaithful to your spouse.
- In a private corner after worship, I let you know that I saw you staggering out of a bar last night.
- I talk about you behind your back. (Note: I hate this option and will not do it, unless I am so angry that I can’t stand it anymore.)
- Keep the rumors/possible truths to myself.
If you trust me and I trust you, we can talk as a sister or brother in Christ and we will understand that we are not trying to shame each other or ruin each other’s lives. But trust is a rare commodity in many of our churches. Parishioners do not trust their pastors. Pastors to not trust their parishioners. Colleagues do not trust each other.
How can we build trust in our communities of faith? We start by being trustworthy ourselves.
Image of Volume 27 of Encyclopedia Americana. Because sometimes we are merely dazed and other times we are engaged in random sinfulness.