28 September, 2008

Petty Politics

Petty minds and petty politics are the root of most division in the church. Power is the name of this game. Where there is power envy, there will be dissent and division.

She is his wife. He has a problem with women in positions of authority. Including his wife. He rips the posters off the wall of the room where I teach confirmation. He has disparaging words about me whenever my back is turned. I have named his need for power and control. I have reined him in on too many occasions: twice. I allow him a lot of slack; I refuse to argue over things of no consequence to the future or well being of the church. It's simply not worth my energy. As the janitor of the church, a voluntary position, he refuses to clean the offices or even empty the trash there. He does not sit in worship; he remains outside the doors in the gathering area and chats through the worship service with 3 other guys whose wives attend.

He is her husband. Her third husband, to be exact. She buried the other two. She is the Treasurer of the church and, currently, the temporary bookkeeper. She refuses to pay the capital expenditures from borrowed money. She's paid them from general fund. There's no longer any money in the general fund, so she cannot pay the regular bills; specifically, she cannot pay the pastor's salary, pension, reimbursements (including the items purchased by request of the governing board), or mileage. There's $50K in the credit line for the capital expenditures, but since these things are not capital expenditures, she refuses to transfer the funds.

The larger issue is control. The larger issue is power. The larger issue is going to destroy the morale of the congregation and close the church.

So I continue to do what I do best: kill the source with kindness. Suffocate the strangler with recognition and laud for the positive things they do. Emphasize the positive. Quietly work the ropes to counter the negative.

Jesus asked whose face was on the coin. Give to Caesar what is Caesar's. Give to God what is God's. Today, we give to abusers what is theirs: their methods, their negativity, their demise. We praise God for the power of love.

18 September, 2008

The Shack

The image of God is one that will both comfort and stretch you: a black woman.
The image of Jesus is shallow and predictable, but familiar and comfortable: Sallman's Jesus but in carpenter clothes.
The image of the Spirit is exciting from HER very name.

The hows and whys are not always deep. I found the forgiveness between father and son to be shallow and a forgery.... there simply wasn't enough to it: Cheap B Movie material.
But the forgiveness between daughter and father, father and murderer was better handled with the real pain and agony of it shown clearly.

The Plot left a lot to be desired. But, the theology contained therein was worth it.

Unfortunately, when a movie comes out, it will be more like "touched by an angel" than like Joan of Arcadia.

Here's a link to an interview with the author on Oregon Public Broadcasting's Thinking Out Loud. http://tinyurl.com/3j5wz4

07 September, 2008

Stealing Dead Sheep

A certain pastor has repeatedly become entwined with members of other congregations following the death of a loved one. He works part time for the local funeral home, offers to do the funeral and then works to sever all ties between the church and the family. His wife owns a wedding coordinating service in the area. So whether it's a Match or Dispatch, this man has his fingers in the pie for the sake of evangelizing the "heathens."

This afternoon I learned that this happened yet again, this time with a longtime member whom I've been visiting with for the last year; I buried her daughter in the first month I was in this church. My elders have been visiting on a weekly basis. When she called in hospice to help, I helped her plan her funeral. The woman died on her 100th birthday. The funeral home never called the church, though they listed her church membership in the obituary. The niece who was present through the hospice process was not able to convince the son from out of town (who grew up in the church) that his mother had made plans.

And just how does a pastor respond to this? A nondenominational church has no system of accountability for such unethical behavior. There is no one to whom to report him. His congregation has a vested interest because they can only afford his salary because he supplements it this way.

Frankly, I don't have the "free time" to do a funeral this week. But I would have made the time because I honor the woman, her wishes, and the relationships she had within the congregation. I mourn for these, for the relationships this pastor will sever in his vision of evangelism, and for the reputation of the Gospel because of his ill-will.