The Poor, Mistreated Pastors of the Renewal Groups
John Dorhauer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jul 25, 2006 at 07:31:55 AM EST
John Dorhauer, Talk To Action writer
One of the principle claims of renewal groups is that clergy with conservative theologies are persecuted by judicatories: they are kept out of pulpits, denied ordination rights, tried on trumped up disciplinary charges and not given a fair hearing.

This particular claim is attempted on the Faithful and Welcoming website (FWC being a newly created Renewal Group functioning within the United Church of Christ), who try hard to lend credibility to this claim.

Here is how they present it:

"We recognize two common problems in the UCC. First, pastors who consider themselves to be orthodox, evangelical, or conservative in contrast to official UCC policy, or who become active in renewal efforts, sometimes have difficulty with Church and Ministry Committees when seeking license, ordination, standing, or fairness in disciplinary procedures. Second, congregations committed to the historic faith often have difficulty finding a pastor within the system who is theologically compatible with the congregation."

Principally, there are four major flaws in the argument presented here. It is worth pointing them out.

Flaw #1: "pastors who consider themselves to be orthodox, evangelical, or conservative have... difficulty with Church and Ministry Committees."

While it has become popular for renewal groups to portray themselves as victims, popularity does not amount to evidence.

In my time (now over ten years) in service on Church and Ministry committees I have seen liberal and conservative pastors examined for ordination: it has been my consistent experience that those with more liberal theologies gave the committees on which I served more pause than conservative ones - even though in the end it was ALWAYS AND WITHOUT EXCEPTION a matter of the candidates ability to articulate and defend a theological perspective rather than the particular theological perspective espoused that determined one's fitness for ministry.

In my time in service on the these committees I have seen conservative and liberal pastors brought in for disciplinary reviews: NOT ONCE was a candidate's theological perspective asked about, challenged, or considered in any way when testing whether or not one's ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, or ETHICAL PRACTICES would deem someone unfit for ministry in and on behalf of the United Church of Christ.

The problem here is that some pastors involved in or connected with `renewal groups' have been trained to act in ways that are not ethical. For that they will be disciplined. The claim that they are singled out because of their theological beliefs is unfounded, and is a tactic meant to obfuscate the truth and deflect attention from the unethical behaviors of some among them who believe that because of the truth they shepherd, some noble end justifies their less than noble means and exempts them from punishment.

Flaw #2: "In contrast to official UCC policy."

We are a free church with a covenantal polity. Which means that every member, every church, every conference, every office within the denomination is free to determine its own policy, practice, principle, and theology.

I am not sure to what the author refers when writing about "official UCC policy'" (I note that they refer not to theology here, but policy) but I will presume he or she is writing about our General Synod actions. No church, no pastor has ever been disciplined or persecuted or shunned for not following the direction of General Synod which, as every UCC pastor knows, does not speak FOR the church, but TO the church. Even when churches, at the behest of their pastor, vote to break covenant by cutting off their funding to the United Church of Christ because they disagree with the "official policy," no disciplinary action is taken. Churches in covenant with the UCC are free even to cut off their funding without consequence.

Flaw #3: "Congregations committed to the historic faith often have difficulty finding a pastor."

There are two problems here. The first is the arrogant assumption that the narrow theological territory that pastors are permitted to inhabit by `renewal groups' like FWC reflects in toto "the historic faith." It does not.

The second is that churches that are more conservative (and there are many in the United Church of Christ) have difficulty finding a pastor. This is most certainly not true. Churches that underpay their pastors have difficulty finding one. Churches that have a reputation for being clergy killers (and any who have served in ministry know what that means) have a hard time finding pastors. Churches in isolated rural towns often have difficulty finding pastors. But no church has a hard time finding a pastor because it is committed to the historic faith.

And finally what I think is the most serious flaw in the argument:

Flaw #4: all of the problems listed are peculiar to those "involved in renewal efforts."

The flaw here is the naming of their tactics, their efforts, their intent as one of "RENEWAL."

The United Church of Christ is rich in the tradition of the Reformation. It is constantly seeking to renew, reform, and revitalize its mission. It is not now, nor ever has been, opposed to reform or renewal. It invites it. It seeks it out. It longs for it. In fact, the more we change, the more renwal groups grow irate. Kind of ironic, no?

What the UCC cannot tolerate are the guerrilla tactics employed by some who believe that their theological perspective gives them the right to destroy rather than renew; to deceive rather than revitalize; to disrupt rather than reform. Believing that a theology empowers one to act in ways beyond reproach is both arrogant and dangerous; and it would be a fool who would entertain such practices without some level of accountability.

Renewal groups have a history and a reputation of seeing themselves as bastions of truth and orthodoxy, and some among them believe that such righteousness makes them impervious to the sound judgment of those who disagree with their theology.

Their narrow vision of what is possible, and the arrogant notion that outside of their orthodoxy there can be no truth, make it difficult for them to entertain the notion that their practices, their actions, and their behavior may in fact be seen by others as detrimental to the health and vitality of the body - and that for that they will be held accountable.

When I've seen these complaints by groups like BWF, I've always read them as part of the larger right wing narrative about the "war" on conservatives, or the "war" on Christians.

The right wing has been selling a narrative of themselves as an oppressed majority for years - they see themselves as the victims of liberals and liberal groups.  Like the War on the Christmas, it's total crap, but it fits a larger mindset in which conservatives, no longer culturally dominant, can whine and cry and carry on about their hurt feelings and refuse to engage in any meaningful debate.  It's also a way of attempting to control the entire conversation.  If we're spending our time either refuting their claims that they're being oppressed and victimized or soothing their hurt feelings, or simply sitting back in stunned silence at their arrogant presumption and astonishing misunderstanding of what it means to oppressed, then we trapped in a dynamic in which the conservatives are in control.  

I've argued before in other fora that if conservatives wish to be taken seriously, they have to grant the right of every UCC member to be at the table in the UCC.  Rather than admit, for instance, that gays and lesbians can belong at the table, conservatives will passionately claim that they are being oppressed by being denied the right to gay bash.  Like a child throwing a tantrum, it focuses the attention and energy of every person involved in the tantrum, and cripples our ability to actually accomplish anything.

by glendenb on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 09:43:04 AM EST

You have written some really good articles John, but, I would have to say this is the best to date. It puts the ball back in the other court and shows the importance of transparency, responsibility, truthfulness, a grasp of the free-will concept and pluralism that these other groups such as F&W do not have in their tool-box. They are also sloppy in thinking. Something I would not expect from the go-to person when it comes to theology (I would expect a heck of alot more from MY pastor). The sad state of affairs is that they do not give a free hand in a search for a faithful journey to others as the UCC gives to them.

On other forums, I have heard all of this context, of which you provide well thought out and researched material, that folks are just reaching for conspiracy theories OR looking to finding blame for their own shortcomings. If the truth be known, there is a lot of good going on in the UCC and speaking to those issues, as any respected lay or ordained should do in defense of their home, should be an ongoing task. In fact, expected. If no one does it, who else will?

You are dead right (my experience) that C&M committees are partial, if anywhere, to traditional orthodoxy. Thanks for all you do. William

by williambrandes on Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 08:01:34 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 (367 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 (190 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 (109 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 (98 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 (113 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 (144 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 (125 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 (113 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 (236 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 (62 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 (159 comments)
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 (173 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 (56 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 (63 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 (216 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-- I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (252 comments)
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 (107 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 (190 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 (154 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 (159 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 (165 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 (153 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 (126 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 (265 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 (144 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 (85 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 (208 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.