Thursday, July 21, 2016

Challenging an assumption

Rev. John Dickson recently proposed on Facebook that poor teaching by clergy would lead to the clergy being “sacked by their organisation”.  It is a neat comment and it fitted well into Dickson’s overall post:

“Do these evangelical preachers think that this Levitical penalty
 applies in our own times, after the teaching and ministry of Jesus?
 The answer is an unequivocal NO!

 These guys would be sacked by their organisation
 (the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches)

 for teaching this - and I would join in the chorus of condemnation
 against them. But this just isn't what they teach or think.”

However, I don’t believe it to be true.

Two jokes that I’ve heard said of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney play out the point.  In both jokes it is the congregants that are the butt of the joke.  More specifically, it is the lack of the congregant’s discernment that is under the spotlight. The first joke is all the more compelling in that it was said by an Anglican Diocese of Sydney Minister to his congregation.  The Minister's use of the joke was to promote his congregants to a suitable level of discernment:

Joke 1:
In the Sydney Anglican Diocese a Senior Minister
 can only be replaced if he commits heresy, is certified
a lunatic, or dies.  In some parishes all three
 events occur and still the congregation don’t notice.

Joke 2:
Bob and Pete, two long serving congregants, are
 seated in the rear pew before the Sunday morning
 service commences.
  With all attendees seated the Senior Minister makes a rather
 extravagant and loud entrance. 
In front of the parade of the Senior Minister are two male drummers clad only
 in red g-strings and two young woman in skin-toned body stockings. 
The young women are casting rose petals from cane baskets. 
The Senior Minister is wearing a pink lycra body-hugging
 suit with a gay pride t-shirt,
his hair dyed in different colours of the rainbow. 
Behind the Senior Minister the elders of the church
 carry a chair for the Senior Minister –
a purple upholstered chaise longue
 and the members of the Ladies Committee
 have bowls of grapes to feed the Senior Minister once seated.
Bob turns to Pete and says: “One more thing Pete, just one more thing,
and I am going to leave this church.”

The point is dismissal of clergy requires quite a few steps and quite a few turns of fortune:
1.      Someone has to report the matter
2.      The report has to be to the right person who can take action
3.      A sound structure of dealing with complaints needs to be in place
4.      There has to be an absence of a culture of cover-up
5.      The compliant needs to be correctly coined (transferring it from a general notion to one of church regulation)
6.      The complaint has to have a fair and complete hearing
7.      A conclusion of dismissal has to arise (rather than say a conclusion of issue of an apology)
8.      The finding has to be sound and actionable
9.      Any grounds for appeal have to be exhausted
10.  Action needs to be carried out fairly
11. The complainant has to be willing to pursue civil remedies if the church process falters.

Evidence before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse indicate that 1 to 7 are often very problematic.  For instance, many complainants were troubled by absence of structure (step 3).

The jokes give insight into how complaints often do not get to step 1.


Note: links good as of 21 July 2016

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