Monday, November 24, 2008

From a touch down to a mis-kick ...

If I doubted for even a moment the failure of the "powers to be" to grasp the reality that is Minnedosa United Church the comment left on my blog tonight is ALL THE PROOF I need.

Years ago one of my colleagues stood up at a Presbytery meeting and said - "when did we let the lawyers take over the Church?" ... and we engaged in an ongoing conversation about the legalism that had settled in over the Church.

It is that same legalism that dotted ALL the appropriate 'i's and crossed all the appropriate 't's, and that continues to set the agenda for any conversation about the Future of the Church ... I was tempted to just ignore the comment that I will copy below when I found it because it is obviously written by someone from within the United Church who stands in condemnation of me without knowing the full story of Minnedosa and what has transpired there ... for what it is worth the blue text is the anonymous comment - the green is my reply ... (***editor's note - I've changed the colour scheme so as not to confuse some into thinking that I presume a messianic complex for myself ...)

If this were yesterday's Grey Cup, this comment would rank as a major missed field goal ... too many assumptions are being made, a complete failure to grasp the complicity of toxic people, and defending the indefensible underscores what BOTH Blake and I and others have been saying for years ... The Church is dying ... and people like this anonymous poster are just interested in rendering palliative care ...

I don't see it in your comments, but I'm sure you reminded your correspondent that the plans for the new church were developed and finalized under your leadership. (Shall we discuss the lame-duck role I occupied on the Building committee and the complete inability to provide ANY input to the conversation??? The Building Committee was driven by a very narrow agenda that sought to build an edifice future generations could be proud of ...) Undoubtedly you reminded him/her that there were imposed deadlines based on a series of dates related to you and significant dates in your life. (Actually, the dates were NOT being set by me ... my suggestions were being overlooked and ignored - the BFM was driving that particular bus ... I was (both figuratively AND literally) hanging on for dear life ...) And, considering your stated understanding of the church of Jesus Christ, that you used your pastoral and prophetic skills and concerns to assure your correspondent that the church is not the building, it is the gathered people of Christ - who presently gather in another building, continuing to be the church and to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ. (CONTINUING TO BE THE CHURCH AND TO BE FAITHFUL ??? You can't be serious ... that statement alone misses the WHOLE point of what I've said ... and it definitely misses the point of what my friend Blake wrote ... there is little faithful in the actions of the leadership of Minnedosa United Church - that line got crossed when the Board Chair responded to a major crisis by DOING NOTHING and caving in to toxic people who wanted their way imposed on everyone else.)

As for the 12 who seem to have followed you to Neepawa, I do pray that you are taking your responsibility as a minister of The United Church of Canada seriously and are discouraging them from leaving their community of faith to follow a person who is not Jesus Christ. The boundary issues evident when a minister does not discourage such action are legion. (I have never actively encouraged anyone to leave their faith community, nor would I. What I have consistently said here is that the "Faith Community" has left them ... these twelve are NOT alone in being abandoned by thier church. I have not encouraged them to leave, but I will listen when I once again hear of a Congregation that slaps on a happy face and pretends everything is alright when the evidence to the contrary is not only compelling it is BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS) It seems to me that your responsibility is to use your pastoral skills to encourage those people to worship in Minnedosa and for you to share their names with the incumbent so that person can follow-up with them. (My responsibility is the The Church - NOT the United Church of Canada and NOT to Minnedosa United Church, but to The Church as the Body of Christ, and the incumbent in Minnedosa would know who these people are if he/she took time to get to know the community of faith and to HONESTLY listen to the people. I will encourage them to worship in Minnedosa, or Brandon, or Neepawa - to worship where they feel comfortable and welcome - I will no longer encourage ANYONE to confine themselves to a United Church if it is NOT a place they feel at home.) To do anything else is to encourage a personality cult (and from what I have read in some of your writing, that is not your stated vision of the church) and to inflict pain on the body of Christ in Minnedosa and Neepawa. I see no evidence that those folk have been silenced, the only evidence is that by following you they are silencing themselves and harming the well-being of the Minnedosa congregation.(They are not being silenced - they are being IGNORED ... the leadership of Minnedosa United Church is remarkably good at that - they did it in the early 1960's with a minister that they ran out of town then, and the children of the Board members who enacted that sacrifice learned from their parents and 30 years later DID IT AGAIN. The harm to the congregation of the United Church in Minnedosa is being invoked by the leadership, not by those who have spoken out, only to be ignored ... I have thier letters that were written to Presbytery, Conference and some even to National ... and not one of them was ever answerer with any thing other than empty platitudes ... they have cried out to stop the harm and they have been ignored!)

I could go on about the effects of grief and the responsibilities for those who are ministers within the church to provide both and pastoral and prophetic care to those grieving the loss of the building at Minnedosa and the loss of your ministry in their lives, but your writing leads me to believe that you have not yet dealt with those realities and, as a result, are not able to provide that care to others. (The funny thing is - when the fire happened I contacted the ONE person who had written on Church fires and he offered to come and help us in our journey ... I tracked down every resource I could find on the effect such happenings have and found people willing and able to come and help ... it was NOT I who rebuffed any of it - it was a leadership who assumed the stance of an ostrich and said - "we're fine - it's only a building" ... I carry deep grief over the loss of that beautiful building, and over the loss of many other things that departed from my life from that horrid day in 2006 ... I continue to seek healing and wholeness ... I have never sat in the ashes and simply wept for what was ... but I also have not slapped on a happy face and pretended everything was all better ... Having said that though, I will never ignore the call of the wounded and the hurting wherever they may be. My willingness to help is 90% of the problem that lead to my FIRING - I shall not speak of the toxic family I crossed paths with in Minnedosa and ALL that they did by using and manipulating my willingness to help ... suffice to say - I've learned from that horror) I would suggest that the healthiest reaction to the correspondence is not to be humbled but to be saddened - saddened for the person who wrote, saddened for Minnedosa United Church and saddened by the fact that you have not been able to provide effective pastoral care to enable this person to move on and move into the renewed life of Minnedosa Church. (I carry great sadness - but it is not sadness for the people who have walked away from Minnedosa United Church. It is sadness that the Church in Minnedosa has been so insensitive to THEM, that those twelve, and the dozens of others I've spoken with have found no alternative open to them except to walk away ... they've moved on - AWAY from the Church, not because the Church is unimportant to them, but because they remember the others who have experienced the SAME thing from the SAME church - it's been a generational thing - each generation has learned its lesson well and repeated it - over and over and over. My sadness is for the Greater Church failing to have the leadership and courage to stop the abusive cycle and give the Church back to the faithful people rather than the political ones - but the anonymous commenter will never understand that because they can't step outside their narrow field of view and see the big picture ... I was not the first minister to be treated this way. I am not, nor have I ever claimed to be, innocent - I made some huge mistakes, and I did some stupid things - but I have been called to account for MY actions ... There are many others who have never been called to account for THEIR actions - and until THAT oversight is addressed, NO ONE will be able to move on ... the toxicity will continue to fester until the next time ... until the toxicity is gone, there will be no renewed life in Minnedosa - just a dying congregation, a vacant lot and the dillusion that "everything is all better and ALL our problems are his fault" (meaning me) And that my friend, is what ALL of us should be most sadden about - Minnedosa United Church is being killed by its own people. I wonder though - after re-reading your comment if you would have been one of those who told Dr King to "wait" in his call for justice? - would you have been one of those he wrote to from his Jail Cell in Birmingham? And would you be one of those who saw NOTHING wrong with the white churches in South Africa supporting Apartheid? Legalism is a dangerous place to stand my friend - for as Augustine reminds us - "an unjust law is not a law at all" and in all of this - the legalism has only helped destroy a congregation ... but even as I write this, I know in my heart the anonymous commenter will never understand what it is that I'm writing because they are more concerned with preserving the status quo than seeking justice and faith ... and that is the saddest thing of all ... the loss of what could be ...)

It's time to open our eyes to what is before us ... I pray it may happen before it is too late ...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This may not be particularily on topic with this post, but I saw this video and thought of you. It encompasses so much of what you believe, what you speak and what you care passionately about.. When I originally heard the song, I thought it was a love song, and then I saw this (the official video) and realized that well it may be a love song, it is a different from of then what I'd imagined. If you haven't seen it, go have a look, I think it's worthwhile. Take care,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-KZyn3ep9U

Kara

yourownpersonal said...

Classic, red text. Yeah, we all know where this is going.