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Monday, July 12, 2010

Has Something Changed Along the Way?

After reading Dr. Jim Simon's recent pronouncement at the TEC Executive Council Meeting to Canon Kearon, Sec'y to the Archbishop of Canterbury: "Currently, there are over 100 priests, deacons and one bishop canonically resident in the Province of The Southern Cone as well as another Bishop canonically resident in the Province of Rwanda functioning in our diocese without licenses and laying claim to some of our parishes", I thought it might be helpful to look back and compare what Dr. Jim previously has stated about parish property.

In a New York Times article published on October 5,2008, we read:"The Rev. James Simon, a conservative who is the remaining member of the Standing Committee, said he had heard from many people who hoped to avoid litigation with a compromise on the property issue, as a symbol of healing after the split. But Mr. Simon did not sound hopeful. 'I wish it were that simple,'he said".

Dr. Jim also posted on his blog on June 28, 2008 an apologetic piece he wrote titled, "Reasons for Staying in the Episcopal Church" His seventh of ten points is this: "Property Issues: Perhaps the most distasteful aspect of the proposed realignment would be the inevitable lawsuits which will arise over parish property. While many of us who wish to remain with TEC have no desire to enter into such suits, it remains to be seen how TEC will respond".

You make the call: Has something changed along the way?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ten Highly Effective Strategies for Crushing your Pastor’s Morale

I picked this little gem up from "Retired Pastor Ruminates" blog. He is a retired UCC pastor so some of it needs translation for the Anglican context but for the most part it works. Fortunately for me most, if not all, of this doesn't personally apply, Thanks be to God!

In the past most congregations’ attempts to demoralize their ordained leadership have been haphazard and ad hoc, although still surprisingly effective. In the interest of bringing more rigorous and systematic approaches to these efforts here are some of my modest proposals:

1. Schedule a weekly meeting for your pastor to sit down with the treasurer (or, better yet, the assistant treasurer) to “go over” every business expense. Be sure to inquire if certain expenses are legitimate, such as the purchase of a Marilyn Robinson or Gail Godwin novel from the pastor’s book allowance (“Should we really be paying for your chick-lit?”) Or a long-distance call to a neighboring pastor friend from seminary. Do such expenses really profit the church? And what about this big expense for 14 volumes by this Barth guy? Do you really need all of these? And his title sounds so, well, dogmatic!

2. Plan a regular talk-back session after worship so that members can query the pastor about her sermon, or the worship service, or about anything else, for that matter. It is always good to question why the pastor chose scripture lessons that are so negative, referring to such old fashioned concepts as sin, unrighteousness and repentance. Suggest more uplifting themes in the future. “And, by the way, why don’t we ever sing Christmas carols in Advent?”

3. Make sure to have an annual customer satisfaction survey where every member of the congregation fills out an anonymous questionnaire about their views of the pastor’s performance during the previous year. Make sure all the negative (or ambiguous) comments are read aloud at several meetings, and publish them without attribution in the church newsletter.

4. Vote to hold all meetings in the living room of the parsonage during the winter as a way to save money on heat, but be sure to pitch the idea as good stewardship of God’s creation so your pastor will feel too guilty to protest.

5. Cut the mission budget to balance the budget. Better yet, ask your pastor to choose between a raise in salary or an increase in the mission budget. This would be a good subject for an extended conversation at a congregational meeting. You can never talk too much about clergy compensation at a congregational meeting.

6. Set up a pastoral oversight committee to regularly monitor the pastor’s performance. Focus attention on any negative (or ambiguous) comments from the questionnaire (see # 3). Make sure to put into place measurable metrics and target goals for new members received and money raised. Hourly work logs are always effective as well.

7. Whenever your pastor goes away and returns from denominational meetings or continuing education events never miss an opportunity to ask, “How was your vacation?”

8. Make sure the pastor is made aware of the two biggest complaints, namely, that he is never in the office, and he doesn’t make enough home visits. That the two cannot both be true will not diminish their use as morale crushers.

9. Tell the pastor that there are anonymous complaints that a. your sermons are too long; b. your voice is too soft to be heard (especially by the deaf); c. your spouse is not involved enough (or too involved) in the life of the congregation; d. your child shouldn’t have been given the lead in the Christmas pageant; e. your lawn needs mowing; and f. you were seen in shorts at the supermarket. This is just a sample list. Use your imagination.

10. Constantly compare your pastor to his long-tenured saintly predecessor, with special attention made to his never asking for a raise for himself or his staff.

If your pastor balks at any of these attempts, just mutter words such as “accountability,” “transparency,” “standards,” or “professionalism. Pastors are loath to appear to be against any of these concepts so cherished by the managerial class.

(Picture: “The Scream” by Edvard Munch)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sad News

My longtime friend and mentor, Merle C. Hansen's wife Audrey died last night. She was in her eighties and had been in declining health in recent years as has Merle. Merle and Audrey were members of All Saints' Church in Aliquippa in the early 1980s while Gale and I were new members there. We were in a house group that met in their home and have stayed in touch ever since. The Hansens were used to moving. They moved 25 times while Merle was a naval officer and at least a half a dozen times since. He was the skipper of a diesel submarine in the 1950's and commanded the last submarine division comprised of diesel boats. He was also the officer in charge of designing the rescue of the USS Mayaquez, a merchant marine ship taken captive during the Vietnam War. He tells great sea stories.

The Hansens moved to Aliquippa because Merle was tasked with moving the Brotherhood of St.Andrew Inc. office from York PA to Ambridge in 1983. He was the Executive Director of the Brotherhood after retirement from the Navy. Christopher Leighton the rector of All Saints' convinced them to move to Hopewell Twp rather than Sewickley and become members of All Saints' rather than St. Stephen's -- quite a coup for young Fr. Leighton!

Merle was my mentor and trainer in Evangelism Explosion(EE)and recruited me to serve as his successor as the BStA Executive Director. We often taught the Brotherhood Evangelism Program "Articulating Our Faith (AOF)" side by side with a little help from Christopher Leighton -- the Three Musketeers or Three Stooges -- take your pick. Audrey and he were married for 55.5 years and last lived in a retirement community in Groton CT. Their son Mace was also a submariner (nukes) and now works for Electric Boat in Groton overseeing construction and refitting of submarines.
Christopher will be conducting a memorial service on July 17 at the retirement community.