Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Beat Goes On

In this season when Joy and peace are the ideals of the day, it distresses me to hear of churches wounded so long ago, still causing damage to their pastors and being self-destructive. Well intentioned clergy, honestly trying to perform ministry in a mine field, are getting demolished without the church having the ability to look at why its history is so conflicted and painful. I weep for might be, and cry for what is in many places. What puzzles me is when a church forces out pastor after pastor, saying it is all their fault that the church is in such turmoil. How can a church have succession of six or seven "bad" pastors in a row? Something is wrong with this picture! Just heard from a person ready to give up on pastoral ministry because of the way they are being treated. Most of what is wrong has nothing to do what the ministry offered by this pastor. Yet the focus of anger is directed at the clergy serving at the time. The assumption being that if the church just gets rid of this pastor, everything will be alright. That is rarely the case, unless there is identifiable clergy misconduct. Ministry to wounded churches and wounded people is difficult, demanding and frustrating. Unless one is trained and prepared for this work, it should be avoided. The cost is high, the toll is great and the rewards are few and limited. One case I heard of recently happened over 30 years ago and the church is still limping along, chewing up pastors and dying off without new people joining (why would any become part of this unhealthy community?). Another case where the clergy misconduct was long ago and happened multiple times, is being served by a pastor who prefers to remain at a distance, not involved in the community life of the people who gather at the church. This pastor does whatever service is requested (weddings, funerals, Ecumenical worship services etc.) then disappears immediately after it is over. This pastor does not engage in fellowship activities and is anly available only by appointment (in a small rural community). This approach is becoming counter-productive rapidly. My hope, prayer and dream is that one day efforts will be in place to perform healing ministries with these hurting churches and we can, more effectively, be about the real work of ministry; nurturing wholeness, challenging people to grow, engage in creating mission and evangelism for our time. Be sure to check out my web site:

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Hidden hurt

In the past few days, I have heard of more churches injured by clergy misconduct. Some of them were years ago and just being known now, while others are recent victims of abuse. My passion for these wounded churches and wounded people is deep. I cringe every time I hear of another faith community damaged by clergy misconduct. I wonder how many churches are struggling with the after effects of abusive pastors. Unhealthy dynamics which are produced will likely last for years, or even decades.

I thought I understood my calling 30 years ago, and I fulfilled what I knew then. As my pastoral ministry unfolded, I kept running into this strange land of wounded churches; what I have come to understand as the "twilight zone," (where things are not as they seem). The church is a wonderful institution, but it is subject to abuses of power and sexual exploitation like any other institution. Wounded churches need healing, compassionate leadership and recognition of the injury they have received. This is my new understanding of my calling, to offer aid, guidance and wisdom from my own experiences offered to others filling the pastoral role in wounded churches.

I would like to hear from any clergy serving wounded and abused churches; tell your stories and I will listen and offer any insights from my journey and studying this subject. I have been blessed by knowing some of the national leaders in ministry to churches with clergy misconduct in their past. Now I want to share this with others.

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