Associates in Advocacy
Reconciliation and Restoration Where Possible
This series of letters is entitled “Death by a Thousand Cuts.” I’ve asserted that many good people left the church because of poor handling of complaints. It is a part of the outflow that ranges from demographics to theological differences to pastoral misconduct. For the blame to be laid only on pastors’ alleged incompetence is foolish.
Worse, it is part of a pattern born in the late 1970s which led to the decision by the 1980 General Conference to change the role of superintendents and bishops to being the complaint handlers. That change killed rapport between pastors and the ones who were supposed to be their pastors, mentors, and outside help in times of trouble. This happened at a time when bishops were choosing superintendents not from the pool of older experienced pastors but of younger more ambitious ones who knew how to be“team players.” These younger pastors could use the Cabinet to be stepping stones to large churches and to the episcopacy. Helping pastors was not their goal.
That breakdown in collegiality led to the ministry in our denomination becoming one of the worst workplaces imaginable. Pastors ended up with no support. The morale among clergy dropped precipitously. Without any assurance of back-up in an increasingly antagonistic environment, good pastors lost heart and average pastors found no help to improve. Blaming pastors for incompetence only further worsens the atmosphere. As I suggested earlier this year, check out the ones coming out of seminary. They are no longer the very best students. Those “brightest and best” are earning MDivs and applying them outside the church. The most talented don’t want any part of the “organized church.” The bishops have set in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Please help end this foolish drive to presume pastors are incompetent. Pastors are unable to get away from criticism. Cabinets, particularly bishops, can slough off criticism and ignore it without any consequences. Pastors cannot.
If I have brought insight to the true problems of the denomination, you have already begun to see ways to ameliorate the situation. More tomorrow.
In the covenant of the clergy,
Rev Jerry Eckert, AIA contact person
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.