Unifaith sheds many tears over the crisis calls it receives from clergy. One of our frequent tasks is to stand in solidarity with a hurting colleague in ministry and their family. We have all seen this tragedy reflected in the recent Observer Question Box, and in the Isolation in Ministry Report a few years ago. Some pastoral charges house bullies. They may be a volunteering committee chair or a parking lot meeting convener. Unifaith has seen -
Our Bullying in the Church Workshop:
Examines the realities of abuse happening in our United Churches today Identifies the warning signs
Shares proactive, protective and defensive strategies
Reveals what help is available and where to obtain it
Brings clergy and their families together in a secure, supportive and respectful environment
Five D's of clergy killers:
Destructive: Intentional destructiveness. They do not just disagree or criticize, they insist on inflicting pain and damaging their targets. They use; sabotage, subverting worthy causes, inciting others to do their dirty work, and causing victims to self-
Determined: Do not stop. They may pause, go underground, or change tactics, but they will intimidate, network, and break rules of decency to accomplish their destruction. They insist that their agenda has priority.
Deceitful: Manipulate, camouflage, misrepresent, and accuse others of their own tactics. Their statements and negotiations are not trustworthy.
Demonic: Are evil, and may be mentally disordered. Spiritual leaders become symbols and scapegoats for the internal pain and confusion they feel.
Main line churches and popular culture have essentially discarded the concept of evil by labeling sin and evil as mental illness or human failure. It is important to regain a spiritual understanding of this and to use spiritual gifts of enlightenment, grace, discipline and courage to confront evil. (See M. Scott Peck's People of the Lie).
Denial: This is where the church colludes in the agenda of the clergy killer. Most are unwilling to admit to the reality of clergy killers (and abuse), nor is there acknowledgement of the intentional damage caused. There is a belief that "This shouldn't happen in the church." This leaves the clergy killer unrestrained and the whole church vulnerable.
Why bullying is unacceptable
in a community that calls itself the church
Bullying in the church is unacceptable because spiritual health (wholeness) is the missing ingredient whenever there is abuse within the community. Jesus' ministry included exorcizing demons from the community. In order for a community to be whole, those factors that serve to disrupt the life of the community must be identified and dealt with in appropriate ways.
We must be prophetic in the biblical sense of identifying evil and fighting to rid the community of its influence and consequences. In order for a community to be a witness to an alternative vision in the world, the community must first discern (Rediger's sixth D). The spiritual gift of discernment is God's grace, used to see and understand the presence of evil.
Discernment is followed by confronting evil. Confrontation works best in a healthy congregation.
If the community is not willing or able to discern and confront evil and abuse, then the community is destined to be consumed by it and ultimately be destroyed.
Some conflict in the church may be normal. But some types of conflict are abnormal and abusive. Within some congregations there are personalities who seek to unsettle the relationship between minister and congregation.The late G. Lloyd Rediger offers strategies to prevent abuse, support clergy, and to build healthier congregations.
The Abuse of Denying Abuse
A form of abuse occurs when abuse is denied -
I'm aware that you believe you were bullied.
Oh, these things happen, you just forgive and move on.
Dealing with difficult people is part of the job.
No pain, no gain
You've got to put the past behind you and move forward.
The problem is not the bullying, but your inability to cope with it.
Inability to cope with stress is a sign of spiritual inadequacy
Depression is a spiritual problem
Pray harder and it will all go away.
Bullying doesn't happen in the church -