The Role of the Pastor: The Protector
John Dorhauer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 11:11:07 PM EST
Image hosting by Photobucket
I have served in our Conference's judicatory office for three years now, and shortly after my arrival I began circulating information to our pastors about church takeovers. Many of the churches in the Conference were currently under attack, and my colleague - Rev. Sheldon Culver - had done years of research on the nature of these attacks. Her work has been invaluable.

Pastors, upon encountering this information, would typically go through a series of reactions: denial, off-handed interest, disbelief, curiosity, recognition, and finally a demand to know more. At first, there can be the appearance of grand conspiracy theories thought to be fed by a perceived paranoia. Few want to believe that their church could intentionally be targeted for a takeover. But we have been persistent with our message, thorough with our research, and before too long the preponderance of the evidence leaves no doubt as to the intentions and tactics of those who target churches for attack.

We have become dependent on the cooperation of the Pastor to save, to preserve, and to protect their church once they have been selected for such ignominy. As I have written in past weeks, there are times when the pastor is at the eye of the storm and is orchestrating the attack. (See article on the Pastor as Aggressor, Feb. 13) There are other times when the pastor's own needs or internal composition make it hard for the pastor to do anything at all as the church decomposes. (See last week's article on the Pastor as Pacifier).

But in many churches, we find pastors willing to be coached, willing to defend their congregation from external aggressors and internal malcontents, and willing to muster enough courage to stand up in order to protect and preserve the integrity, the heritage, and the health of their church. And what always happens when they do this is they empower a host of allies in their church who come to the aid of their pastor and their congregation, and who help silence, remove, or defeat those intent on destruction or disaffiliation.

Rev. Dan Wilson, pastor of Ivy Chapel United Church of Christ in Chesterfield, MO is the perfect example of this. Last July, members of his church began to conspire to orchestrate an attack. Remembering a pamphlet we circulated two years earlier that listed the early warning signs of an attack, and a request to involve the Conference Office as soon as any of the early signs were detected, Dan called my office asking for advice about how to deal with the attack.

Members of his church, including one man on the Council of the church, had been having clandestine meetings and talking about resolutions to bring to the council, who would then call for a vote of the entire church. Dan was able to name the attack, and the men involved. He was coached to do a number of things, each of which he did: name to the council the players involved; name this as an attack on their church; stand in the pulpit and talk about his clear commitment to the United Church of Christ, its mission and vision; and state with the clearest possible conviction that if this congregation ever votes to leave the UCC, the church of his heart, they would have to find a new pastor.

The reaction was immediate. I remember Dan's wife calling me the day after he preached that sermon. She asked what I told him - that she had never seen him speak that way before. She was so proud of him. Almost as one, members of the church and the council voiced their support of Dan and his ministry, and their full support of the denomination.

Rick Meyer is the pastor of Carondolet UCC in South St. Louis city. I have been to his church a number of times in the past year to help him as his church has been under attack. Rick is another great example of a pastor willing to do whatever it takes to protect his church. Rick is in constant conversation with our office about the actions and machinations of those members who have threatened to remove him and remove the church. He has responded to every invitation we have offered him to defend his church.

At the end of last summer, Rick was getting a number of harassing phone calls from one particularly abusive member of his church, who was also working behind the scenes to stir up controversy among the members of the church around the UCC's openness to homosexuals. Rick was sick about this, and at a loss as to what to do. He was coached to name the behavior at the next Council meeting. As this man was on the Council, it would mean doing that with him present. He was coached to speak out loud the nature of the abuse he was receiving at the hands of this man, and to say to him in front of all the others that while he might not like what the pastor thinks or says, that kind of abuse would never be tolerated in this church. Rick won the immediate support of his council, and so enraged the gentleman that he resigned his membership on the spot and left the church.

Dan and Rick are both humble, gentle, quiet spirits. They are pastors in the fullest sense of the word. Entering the fray of battle and conflict is not something they do with ease, with comfort, or with any kind of bravado. Doing this kind of work causes them great stress and anxiety - it takes them far out of their comfort zones.

But when asked to stand up and defend their churches, they did it without hesitation. I know how incredibly difficult that was for them, but they counted not the cost to their own psyche and soul and spirit. Their love for their church, and for the integrity of the congregation they were called to serve, compelled them to honor their baptismal vows and ordination promises by standing in the fray in order to protect their church. In both cases, they did it not knowing who stood by them or what the result would be. And in both cases they were relieved to know that they had a good deal of support; that their members were proud of them for doing so; and that they had empowered others join them in the defense of their church.

One last word about this: both of these churches quieted down for some months after this initial attack. Both churches in recent days have reported new attacks. Both pastors have returned to my office to report the attacks, and both have been coached again on strategies to defend their church. When does this end?




Display:
I suspect, when the church falls, or when it no longer appears to be vulnerable. Given that these issues often move through deeply entrenched families, that can take a long time.

by pastordan on Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 03:53:37 PM EST

The Conference often provides substantial funds for new church starts and revitalization projects for existing congregations. Can't we begin building loyalty into these agreements such that congregation who leave the UCC must reimburse us the lost assests? Shouldn't there be a "cost" to such discipleship? We'll give you loans for your building project but if your congregation pulls out of the denomination, then the loan is called and the congregation is assessed financial fees for lost investment opportunities.

Is it possible to protect our congregations more aggressively in these areas?

I know a church in Illinois which received a bequest that included a parsonage. In receiving the gift, the congregation had to promise not to join the UCC. If they did join the UCC, they forfeited the property to another non-profit organization named in the will. There were also clauses in the gift that prevented the congregation from selling the property for 99 years! The Church is still affiliated with the CCC.

by An UnGodly Pastor on Wed Mar 01, 2006 at 12:31:06 AM EST


Obviously, church polity has some bearing on how the IRD targets denominations for "renewal".  Denominations with a congregational polity -- like the UCC, DOC and ABC -- are extremely vulnerable to having their congregations picked off one by one.  An additional challenge to pastors in these denominations in protecting their churches is the vulnerability of their jobs.  In more connectional denominations -- like the PC(USA), UMC and ECA -- not only does the denomination own the church property (so the members can not simply take their property and leave) but pastors cannot be fired easily by their congregations (sure it happens, but the power of Bishops or Presbyteries makes it more difficult).  I know that's a huge generalization.  But I am curious about what kind of power denominational staff in the UCC have to assist your pastors, beyond offering strategy, to fend off IRD orchestrated takeovers.

by Rusty Pipes on Wed Mar 01, 2006 at 03:38:59 PM EST

What John is describing in this article happens probably hundreds of times a year in churches across all denominations. Ten years ago, we called it "clergy abuse". It's aweful and unhealthy for the church and the pastor, but it doesn't automatically mean that there are outside forces conspiring to take over a church.

The EMR resolution (which I supported) was raised in my church after General Synod and it provided a great deal of meaningful discussion and it came from genuine concern, not the IRD or some outside group. I am in consultation with two other pastors whose congregations seem pretty set on withholding OCWM funds from the Conference and by all accounts, this came about from a grass roots concern after the EMR resolution was approved. In our polity, this is acceptable if still regrettable and becoming more common. Many churches simply aren't equipped to manage conflict, which is really what this is all about.  John's advice on this good - conflict management calls for open discussion with specific issues and concerns raised while avoiding the ad hominem. "Clergy abuse" crosses a distinct line and again, John's advice is really good.

by Rev Minnotti on Thu Mar 02, 2006 at 12:33:17 AM EST



WWW Talk To Action


Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (6 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (5 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (0 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (4 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (6 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (0 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (4 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (3 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (6 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (6 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (7 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (21 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- http://www.talk2action.org/story/2016/7/21/04356/9417 I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (5 comments)
Fear
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (6 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (6 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (8 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (5 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (3 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (5 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (3 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (2 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (13 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (5 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (8 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (2 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (2 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (3 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.