Re: Finding a minister American style
- From: Gareth McCaughan <Gareth.McCaughan@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: 03 Nov 2005 00:24:00 +0000
>>> A neighbor's church recently split because the preacher, whom everyone
>>> liked, was having severe marriage problems, his wife was having an
>>> affair, then she moved out, they were seeing a counselor. The elders
>>> said the Bible says a preacher whose house is not in order should step
>>> aside for a time until things are back in order. Preacher, who for 15
>>> years had said the elders run the church and the Bible is the
>>> rulebook, refused, said it's his church. Big shock to the elders!
>>> Most of them left (and close to half of the church).
>>> No amount of courtship or background check would have revealed this
>>> possessive side of the man. It took an unusual situation to bring it
>> It's not clear that "possessive" is a reasonable description
>> to apply to someone who, when told that it's his fault his
>> wife has left him
> Most marriage problems are due to fault on the part of both people.
> He certainly is not someone I'd want to be married to! He does not
> see women, does not value women. A wife who feels cherished by her
> husband rarely feels a need to go looking elsewhere for love! Her sin
> is more likely reflecting a troubled relationship than something that
> has nothing to do with him.
That's possible. (And also new information to me, of course.)
>> and that he should therefore be deprived
>> of his job and prevented from exercising what he takes to be
>> his calling, looks for a way not to have that done to him.
> He's the one who made the rule that the church is to be run by the
> Bible including that the elders are the boss.
> Just because someone has a calling, others have to support him in
> whatever he does or fails to do?
Er, no, obviously they don't, and I'm not sure what
makes you think I think they do.
> Besides, I don't think a calling to, say, be a preacher is the same
> thing as a calling to preach every year, nor to preach in "this"
> church "always."
> He is a licensed painter, quite capable of earning a living in or out
> of the church if the elders didn't offer a paid sabbatical.
> No one was trying to punish him, only to do what the Bible says - give
> him the time to work on his marriage, to get his house in order so he
> could meet the Bible's stated qualifications for clergy.
(See below for some comments on "only to do what the
>> Inconsistent, yes, given what you've said about his earlier
>> teaching. Possessive? Well, maybe if I'd been there I'd see
>> why you're right. Right now, it looks like a natural reaction
>> to the elders choosing to kick a man when he's down.
> If removing someone from a position for which he is no longer
> qualified by the rules of the game is "kicking him when he is down"
> then no one can ever be terminated from a job?
It isn't clear to me whether you (or the elders of
this church) are saying that he ought to have stepped
down for *his benefit* ("to give him the time to work
on his marriage, to get his house in order") or
*as an obligation* ("removing someone ... no longer
qualified by the rules of the game"). The two feel
quite different to me.
Sure, people can be removed from their jobs if they
aren't doing them well. But what's being described here
is removing someone from his job because his marriage
is in difficulty. Now it may be, as you say, that this
person's marriage was in difficulty because he was
mistreating his wife, which as I say is new information
to me. That might be an excellent reason for removing
him from a position of authority in a church. But as
a general principle, "if your marriage is troubled
then we kick you out" is pretty harsh.
> We may have a cultural difference here. In USA there is zero job
> security, except for rare union jobs, some government jobs, and
> disappearing tenured professorships. Other than those few, anyone can
> be terminated from a job for any reason (other than discrimination
> based on age, race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation). If the
> boss just doesn't like you, you lose your job. Happens all the time -
> told on Friday at 4 PM "Your job ends at 5 PM today."
> Why should a clergy person have guaranteed job security if no one in
> the congregation does?
I'm not suggesting that clergy should have guaranteed
job security. (Though I *would* suggest that the way
things are at present in the US is deeply dysfunctional.)
I'm not saying that this person has some inalienable
right to keep his job. I'm saying that firing him
because he is having trouble in some other part of
his life is (on the face of it) cruel, and that even
if it's in fact the right thing to do it's understandable
if he tries to stop it happening.
>> (I do not mean to exclude the possibility that the elders
>> may have been right. I'm just saying that even if the preacher's
>> response was wrong, it doesn't seem to me to have been wrong
>> in the same way as you say it was.)
> A switch from "the elders run the church" to "This is my church, I run
> it my way" the first time the elders disagree with him, is not
You didn't mention before that it was the first time the
elders disagreed with him. For all I could tell, he'd
deferred to the elders any number of times before, and
was taking a different approach now because the alternative
was being removed from his job.
> I didn't write the Bible, I'm not the one declaring the Bible is the
> manual for determining who can be clergy of that church.
Sure. You're also not someone I'm criticizing here. (Unless
you were one of those elders, perhaps.)
And the Bible *doesn't* say "relieve a preacher of his
duties if his wife leaves him". It says that an episkopos
(bishop, overseer, whatever) "must manage his own household
well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in
every way" and says something similar about a diakonos
(deacon, servant, minister). In its context this is clearly
talking about the *appointment* of episkopoi; it's not
at all clear that the criteria for remaining in post should
be as strict as those for getting in in the first place.
(Stability is good.)
> He ignored
> his wife's unhappiness for years,
New information, again.
> told the elders he is only one of
> the elders with one vote just like them, but changed his tune when
> they believed him. He was well liked, no one was trying to hurt him,
> only to do what he had taught - look to the Bible for the rules on who
> may be clergy.
They were not only doing that; they were also choosing
a (controversial) *interpretation* of what the Bible says
about who should fill certain roles in the church. Maybe
it's the right interpretation, or at least *a* right
interpretation, but let's not pretend that they were
just following clear instructions written in the Bible.
They were taking a rather vaguely expressed principle
found in 1 Timothy, and making from it a rule not found
there or elsewhere in the Bible.
> Maybe if he had believed his job depended on his marriage he'd have
> paid attention to his marriage? God created marriage long before God
> created clergy.
> Maybe loss of literalism should happen - most of my remarried friends
> had bad first marriages and good second ones. But to preach
> literalism and refuse to apply it to oneself suggests a problem of
> some kind.
Sure. But not necessarily the same kind as you originally
said. Now of course you know the man, and the situation,
and I don't; perhaps indeed he was possessive and controlling
and all the rest of it. I was just observing that, on the
basis of what you'd said at that point, there was another
very plausible explanation of what was going on.
..sig under construc
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