Friday, May 29, 2009

Just Let them Die

I've read two blog posts this week on the same subject. Horribly conflicted, dysfunctional congregations chewing up and spitting out young naive inexperienced pastors right out of seminary. First it was Wounded and Healing (whose entire blog is devoted to getting over her tramatic experience at one of these disasters) and then Madeline's Egg has weighed in

They both have the same advice "Don't send another inexperienced pastor to these people" and of course the Bishop or whoever is in charge of these things always does. I've had the same experience.

I don't blame the Bishops. This is the thing. I'm an experienced, older, wiser pastor. I could take these people on. They would have a hard time pushing me around. But why the hell should I subject myself to that again? Been there, done that, have the scars to prove it and I'm not going back thank you very much.

Maybe we should just let these places die. That's what we do for people. We don't force painful, tramatic life-saving measures on people that don't want it. We make them comfortable and we let them die. So I say send these sick congregations a nice old chaplain to preach on Sundays, visit their old people and leave them the hell alone otherwise. And let them die. And start over.

This was actually my thesis for my Doctor of Ministry. I had a hard time selling it. They kept wanting me to write about how to "fix" these places. I say some illness is terminal. And even the guy who is dying of lung cancer because he smoked like chimney or liver failure because he was an alcoholic or diabetis because he refused to take care of himself deserve loving pastoral care and to hear the Word of Grace.

We believe in resurrection. We understand human beings are not meant to live forever. Why do we assume congregations should live forever? By all means lets stop tramatizing our young seminary graduates but let's not waste our wise, creative leaders on congregations that don't want wisdom, creativity or leadership for that matter. If they want to die, give them hospice care. And let them die. So that a church that wants to actually be the church can rise.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. That whole thesis writing thing was very traumatic. Made me realize I don't want to do graduate work. I hate having to just quote other people and not say what I think. Hate having to write just because there there are minimum pages that must be written. And then they wanted me to shorten the whole thing for a theological journal so I did that and then the editor died and that ws the end of that.

  3. There is also a problem with bishops (or whatever a church body calls the leaders of their regional jurisdictions) being either unable or, more honestly, unwilling to discipline leaders or members of congregations who eat pastors for Sunday morning brunch, or Tuesday evening dinner. It seems that some of the leaders who insist on sending people to "fix" such communities, won't put any real teeth behind that fix, assuming it is all about getting the right pastoral leadership or the pastor working to change structures or climates, while steadfastly avoiding dealing with problems who are also people.
    But, yes, I agree. Sometimes the best thing is to provide the equivalent of hospice care. Keep preaching and the sacraments available, and care for the souls of the members. This is something that churches have been remiss in doing, especially when it means a responsibility of the church body (and other congregations) to their brothers and sisters in Christ who are in these communities.

  4. I used to blame bishops or the inability of bishops (I really don't think they have the power in our system)to discipline congregational trouble makers. But really, that is the responsibility of the community itself. And if they are not willing to do it - then the bishop is powerless and the community should take the consequences of their cowardice.

    That was the problem in my last parish. There were only about 5 trouble makers. But the community gave them the power they had.

  5. sounds fascinating, Joelle...