Monday, April 17, 2006

Letter from a Leader (2003)

This is quite an old letter but it still applies today. See also the insightful reply below the letter.

Letter posted by RoseGvr.
Recent response (4/2006) by Chava123

As background in case you don't know me - I was baptized in XXX in
l9XX, moved to XXX on the mission team in XX, worked as a XXXX for XXX, then went into the ministry at XX years old. My husband and I married in XX, and we moved wherever we were asked (more times than I can count), and sold everything to move Overseas for XX years before returning to the U.S. and coming to back to U.S.

We resigned from the ministry after over many years. I felt so much pressure to produce numbers, look a certain way, dress a certain way, have a beautiful home, make the stage at church beautiful, have beautiful people singing on stage, etc. - in short, a lot of emphasis on all the wrong things, but I didn't realize it at the time.

Having been in the ministry for a long time, and now having worked in
secular jobs for over XX years, I feel I have a unique perspective. I had no idea while I was in the ministry how out of touch I was with what "real" or "normal" (for lack of a better word) lives were.

I don't think anyone who has been in the ministry for years, especially if they went into the ministry straight out of college and never worked, can really grasp this until you've experienced it. I cannot emphasize enough to not underestimate how difficult it is to change the way you have thought when you have been in the ministry for years & years.

I hadn't taught in the Sunday school program since l983, although I had counselled (and corrected and rebuked) people on their attitudes about teaching. I had no idea what it was like when Wednesday night classes ran late, and what it was like to try to pick up the pieces of 2 tired children on Thursday morning at 6:45 trying to get them to school.

After only my first week working at the Medical Center as a XX for 12 hour shifts, the realization hit me how demanding I had thought my schedule was when I was on staff - now every day was much more intense than that staff meeting Tuesday as I went to work, tried to cook dinner before I left in the morning, arranged childcare for my children, etc. I was used to always being right, always having my opinion be the right one, telling people what to do all day long, and thinking I always knew better.

After resigning, it was the best thing that ever happened to us to stay where we had led (not go somewhere else, and certainly not to go somewhere else and accept another ministry job! that certainly wouldn't fit the definition of resignation) and learn the MANY lessons that we needed to learn. It was humbling and difficult to be on the other side of the pulpit, but you get a different, and very valuable view from there.

It's hard to explain the mindset that occurs when you have been in the
ministry for a long time. I really thought that being in the ministry was the only thing worth doing, that only the "best" people could do it, and so I looked down on everyone else for not being "sharp" enough to be in the ministry.

I was used to always being right, making judgements about big, little and totally unimportant things and expecting the people around me to do things my way, always having people help me with my responsibilities in life, being able to delegate anything I didn't want to do, having babysitters always readily available, using people to get my goals accomplished and make me look good (although at the time I thought it was sincere and best for them), etc. The pride and arrogance were overwhelming.

It has taken years to understand that no one else in the church has this carte blanche lifestyle. (We could sure use some of those babysitters now!!)

Recently, a couple we are close to came to us asking for a short term loan to be able to buy their child glasses. The husband has a full time job and a masters degree and the wife works part time. It hit me this is how most of the middle class in the United States lives - one thing goes wrong (a broken transmission, needing new glasses, an unexpected medical bill) and you are unable to meet your financial obligations. When you're in the ministry, all of your needs are met: medical insurance (even co-pays), mileage allowances for travel, expense account allowances for housing and entertainment, and so you are shielded from this kind of financial pressure.

So we asked people to be sacrificial, when really we weren't experiencing any real kind of financial sacrifice ourselves, as all of our needs were always met.

Myself, as well as all of the "old-timers" who have been in the ministry for years, have built a crumbling mess. It has not been easy to "fix" me (especially my thinking) and even after 4 years out of the ministry, I'm still not "fixed" because I have been trained in elitism, arrogance, harshness, judgementalism, and pride.

I am extremely concerned about the rushing stampede to hire Sam Laing to come to Athens. It is obvious the many strengths that Sam and Geri have to offer - their marriage, family, counselling ability, etc. But, from my viewpoint after having been in the ministry for over 1/3 of my life, having had 32 years in the ministry is not a plus, but a serious minus.

I have nothing against Sam & Geri Laing, but I have seen the mindset, priviledges, lifestyle and thought process that a leader on his "level" or "tier" in the ICOC system has been steeped in. I also believe many of these mindsets will not even be obvious to Sam for a long time, because we have been thoroughly indoctrinated in that way of thinking.

I believe that Sam is sincere in wanting to repent and that the Triangle church in many ways wasn't as oppressive or controlling as some of the ICOC churches have been, yet it will take time, and many painful conversations, to learn a new way of thinking and dealing with people. Leaving a church after resigning to come somewhere else without staying and learning the lessons there is a red flag to me too. I don't even think it is possible to know what those lessons might even be except with the passing of time.

I haven't seen any evidence of repentance, or even openness, about finances or leaders lifestyles. And although it hasn't been said, I wonder if this rush to hire the Laings has a lot to do with when their severance package expires. I don't want the church to make any huge decisions rashly and without everyone feeling great about the decisions, especially because of money issues.

As someone stated above the identity of the person was not carefully concealed. I knew eactly who it was after reading the first paragraph. If you were in the Athens church there is only one person who this could be.

While her humility seems genuine and I agree with a lot of what she says I think you have to look at the actions of the person. This WML is acting as if she had a major revelation and is truly humbled and sorry for her actions. But you have to look at her actions now.

Many people in the church here have a lot of feelings about her and her husband because while other leaders stood and and apoligized to the entire congragation, they did not. They left the church and many people here believe they owe them an apology. True they were not in the ministry at the time, but they were for years. For years they had been part of the emotional abuse that went on in the church. Often they were the ones that were being abusive. They never apoligized. I worked under her for years and was victim to her abuse. I have seen her several times since she has left the church and never once has she offered an apology or expressed any regret.

So while the letter sounds nice. I would still say she doesn't get it. She has no idea. It's not enough to write an anonymous letter to a website and expect that to make it all right.

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