A Success Story
John Dorhauer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Nov 21, 2006 at 03:01:11 PM EST
One of my staff colleagues is the Rev. Sheldon Culver. Together we have worked untold hours over the last four years researching attacks on our churches from renewal groups associated with the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

We are finishing the manuscript on a book that is due out next spring, and are available for workshops and seminars on the subject. A month ago we presented such a workshop to a group of about 75 delegates from the Missouri Mid-South Conference.

We always hope that such an effort will, at the very least, provide active church members with some new insight and some good, hands-on information designed to equip them for the difficulties they will face should their church ever come under attack.

This time, it worked.

In the short time since we made our presentation, we have heard from one of our local churches, which talks about the immediate and direct impact the presentation made on their church.

In this church, a woman had come to their council meeting just the month before and asked that they cut all funding from the local church to the denomination offices. Her argument was that as long as they are struggling to meet the needs of their own budgetary expenses, they should not be so inclined to send money to any outside agencies - including the denomination.

Now, one never knows when one hears this whether or not the person making this proposal is on the level. It could be that they really think that this is the logical next step to keeping their church out of debt. And it is because of this - that is, because of the fact that it is an easy and logical thing for local churches in financial straights to consider - that attack agents will use this proposal as a tool for separating a local church from the denomination. That is certainly the case in a denomination like the United Church of Christ - which adheres to a free church polity and allows every local church to be fully autonomous. If they WANT to send us money, they do. If they DON"T want to send us money, they don't have to and we might not like it but ultimately there is little we can do about that.

In the church in question, the Council president was not sure whether or not the request that came from a council member to cut funding to the denomination was one made innocently - in other words, simply as a way to cut the budget in tough times - or with more sinister intentions in mind - in other words, to try and move the church away from a denominational affiliation. We name this as an early warning sign that a move to take over a church might be happening.

The Council president attended our workshop, and heard what was going on in other churches. She took a CD of our workshop to the woman who brought the recommendation to the council to cut the funds, and waited to hear back from her.

She did hear back from her.

She told her that she had no idea anything like this was going on the wider church - or that the very thing she was trying to do was used as a ploy by activists to drive a wedge between a church and its denomination. She said that she wanted to withdraw immediately her request, and that of course the church should continue to fund the denomination, even if it meant more of a burden on their budget. And finally, she reported to the Council president that if there was ever any inkling that any activists were trying to take over their church, she was to called as soon as possible and she would be counted on to fight for and defend their church from takeover.

I am not now in a place to say one way or the other what was going on prior to this new revelation - that is not the purpose of my writing telling this story.

The point to be made is this: we made a calculated decision a long time ago to treat the matter of church takeovers as a pandemic affecting even our strong, healthy, and covenantally connected churches. We have gone to great lengths to teach and train and equip them to fully engage in protecting and defending their church from hostile takeover. Some argue that the less said about this, the better.

But I believe for too long our silence about this has cost us. And here is direct evidence that the strategy to equip church members with information about what may be happening in their churches is in our long term best interests.

We will continue to do everything we can to empower churches to defend themselves against these new age marauders who find themselves on a crusade to destroy our churches in the name of an intolerant God.




Display:
of how people equipped with good information, used it wisely, and are the stronger for it.

I think that people want to know about organized threats to their communities and expect their leaders to help them sort out the real from the imagined and the facts from the rumors.  This is a story of how effective leaders made that possible.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Nov 21, 2006 at 05:17:28 PM EST

at how many leaders - church or judicatory - think that it is less troublesome to keep information FROM the public rather than equip them with it.
Shalom, Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer "Time makes ancient good uncouth; we must onward still and upward who would keep abreast of truth." from Lowell, "The Present Crisis"
by John Dorhauer on Tue Nov 21, 2006 at 07:34:34 PM EST
Parent


Is there a monetary requirement churches must meet to send to the denomination office? If a local church is having trouble meeting that requirement (if there is one), can it be reduced so the local church doesn't lose 'standing' with the denomination office?



by ecoflame on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 11:57:38 PM EST
For Question. That is not the UCC polity. There are no explicit strings. Other mainlines I suspect. Methodist and Presby come to mind.

On another note, I think that this whole story is one of the importance of education and transparency in our churches. I don't think it is one on stewardship. In my past church when I served as chair of Stewardship we faced budget shortfalls that had to be made up and they were made up also in our mission budget unfortunately. We did not drop OCWM as a line item but we did make a percentage reduction. The next year we re-routed ourselves and it was reinstated at the past level. I believed then and still believe now that was good stewardship.

I don't want anyone to get the idea that this column is only referencing some folks shouting that the "sky is falling" when budget adjustments often are realistic and good for the organization.

How do we get on the advance copy list for the book, for that matter get a copy of the CD? William

by williambrandes on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 04:05:51 PM EST
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