Saturday, February 20, 2010

Reporting Religious News

The local newspaper prints press releases from churches and other submitted information but doesn't report religious news in the community. Long ago, even small newspapers had religion reporters who interviewed subjects in person and researched issues. Not now. Just press releases and info from the wire services.

What would religious reporting do for our community if we had a savvy reporter on the beat? Could the information in a genuine religion section make a difference?

What would happen if newspapers published which churches dismissed pastors and why?
We've had several blood-lettings where churches dumped pastors for the goofiest of reasons. Granted, no one tells the real truth about these dismissals and churches do not think they are accountable to the larger (and outside of their faith) community.

A religion reporter keeping a tally of clergy crushing churches would be interesting.
Add a tally of which pastors extorted money and abused congregations and perhaps accountability would increase.

Pastors note among themselves which churches stomp on pastors and recall the pastors who continue to get employment despite bad behavior of all sorts.

How would it be if religion reporting told the community all the news about churches and faith groups?




knittinpreacher said...

it would be helpful for pastors coming into a community -- sometimes these things are systemic within a community, sometimes not. It would also be a fascinating look at how the church and secular lives of communities intersect.

Jules said...

The problem with reporting the reasons why a pastor is "let go" is that nobody tells the truth and often the pastor does not know what the truth is.

Plus, who would want to be humiliated in print like that?

Not me.

Deirdre said...

I think this is just another example of the collapse of local news reporting as a result of constant budget cutting in a shrinking newspaper market. Counterproductive, imo, as the only reason I suscribe to my local paper is to get reporting on local issues (national I get mostly on the web).
I am also struck by how hard it is to "match" a pastor and congregation...In my own church, there was a quiet, hidden struggle between "factions" that most members were unaware of. We adored the retiring head pastor and were unaware that a significant part of the membership did not. Those unhappy with the previous pastor dominated the search committee. The result has been a replacement pastor who is a reflection of what the search committee was looking for but is a poor fit for the overall church. 4 years in, the divisions have become worse, not better, with financial support of the church declining as many members become less involved. I feel sorry for the pastor (even though I would never have chosen her for our church and have attended very little since her installation). In retrospect, the issue was so few members really becoming involved in the search and our failure to understand how unhappy a small, but powerful segment of the membership had been with our previous head pastor.
If I were a pastor, I think I would insist on meeting multiple times with a wide range of the congregation rather than just the search committee and trying to get a handle on why I had been selectied: How am I different from your departing pastor? What did you love about him/her? What were you less happy about? How would you describe your congregation? Etc.
In short, I think that what often happens is the incoming pastor believes she has been welcomed by the "whole" congregation, when in fact, few of the congregation know much at all about him/her--their information has been filtered by a search committee which may/may not reflect the whole congregation. On the congregation's part, I think a more open critism of the retiring pastor must happen in order for the whole membership to agree together on what they desire in a replacement.

Lydia said...

St Casserole,

I have taken the liberty of posting my last blog entry as it spaeks to what you are writing about

Friday, February 5, 2010

The past comes back to haunt . . .

It has been almost six years since she told me about how uncomfortable he was making her . . . he had already started working subtly to break down my confidence so I felt impotent to do anything to help her . . . I went to the moderator of the appropriate committee . . . he did nothing . . . oh, yea . . . keep documentation . . . as the weeks go on I observe more things and I keep documentation . . . I also keep calling . . . finally, I am threatened with my job. In the end it costed me my job . . . six months of my life defending myself against charges that I had lied to get rid of him . . . friendships.

I have worked slowly to forgive . . . more about my moving on . . . he left the area . . . oh, yea he did lose his job . . . the investigation resulted in "boys will be boys" and "no body was hurt" -- my intrepretation. . . the church secretary felt so unsafe she quit her 15 year job . . . a church was torn apart . . . and we have no idea about what other wounds were inflicted.

I heard about two and 1/2 years ago he was called to another church . . . I prayed hard that he had changed . . . I had seen how God had redeemed the experiences for the church secretary, for myself and even the church . . . they called a wonderful solo pastor . . . I hear that he has done well in healing them . . . even though we have met he never reached out and, in fact, when I was invited over 2 years later to a celebration for the 50th anniversary of the church he had me uninvited . . . what a message to the value of my 4 year ministry there.

Last night for some odd reason I google his name . . . a lawsuit has been filed against him . . . a member of the congregation he served has accused him of false imprisonment and rape . . . the church who called him, the judicial body over that church and the denomination are also named in the suit . . the lawsuit contends that people should have known . . . the article contents that when people were told they chose not to act . . . the article related that he told her that others had tried to hurt him but they were unsuccessful so she better kept her mouth shut . . . there is also a criminal investigation.

And we wonder about the state of the Church . . . if the judicial body who had oversight of him six years ago had taken the complaints seriously . . . if the investigative committee had done their job . . . was told last year by their chair that they didn't see the documents where he admitted everything . . . of course, we just misunderstood . . . why didn't they see these documents? . . . boys will be boys . . . no one was hurt.

Now, we have an 80 year old woman who relates she was hurt . . . imprisoned, raped and threatened alledgingly . . . and again the church was unwilling to respond . . . the Church failed this man . . . I believe that he is hurt and broken . . . and how did we show him love . . . by ignoring his pain and brokenness . . . to preserve the institution

The past has come back to haunt me . . . the pain and anger is back . . . and I wonder, what do I do with what I know . . . and I am praying . . . for this woman, his other victims and for him.


Songbird said...

The necessary work you describe is the reason we have interim ministers in my denomination. An intentional (and hopefully trained) interim minister guides a congregation through the process of finishing any unfinished business regarding the departing pastor. I understand why you wish more people in the church had met the next pastor, but you cannot expect a candidate to expose himself or herself to a swath of the congregation and risk losing a current job simply for interviewing. The search and call process is closed in large measure to protect the candidates.

St. Casserole said...

Thank you all for your comments. I appreciate your discussion.

Lydia, your blog entry fits here.

DeirdreTours said...

Songbird, we have the interim process as well, but without imput from more than as small committee it just didn't work for us. I understand your point about protecting the privacy of the candidate, and I don't have a solution to it. But it has been my observation that the current process doesn't work well. I think often both the pastor and the congregation are disappointed by the fit.

1-4 Grace said...

I actually miss the Religion section in our local newspaper. Some stuff needs to be shared and told. And granted, some stuff maybe not. Deidre, good stuff to think on as I seek a call. I know some things need to be kept confidential.
However, it would be helpful to know some of the problems before you get in a church as a pastor. Accountability is a big buzz word in many areas. It should apply to pastor, elders(or whatever denominiatonal leadership you have) and the members. If you only come to church once in a blue moon, but give lots of money, your opinion should not count so much.
I know of several situations where knowing the background would have been so helpful.
After a recent bro-ha-ha here, I would have been grateful for some honesty in the situation.
There is the trouble, as Jules mentions, with truth telling and sadly this does not always happen on both sides. Pastors are asked to leave without good reason and some finally leave after a lot of damage is done. I've seen both and neither one are pretty.

1-4 Grace said...

oh and a good interim is worth her/his weight in gold. Srsly, in three situations I know of now, an interim would have done wonders.
It could have made such a big difference to have proper interim work done.
If we take true interim ministry to heart, it should not just be a low cost, maintenace only position, but one of true transition, where proper ground work is done and where necessary problems are handled regarding previous ministry(or lack there of).