The Clergy Club

The Clergy Club

As a former church lay leader (elder, Sunday school teacher, youth leader, church president), I have had occasion to deal with pastors with serious personal problems who have literally torn the congregation apart. An interesting observation for me was that members of the clergy tend to have an unwritten code to protect one another. Akin to the code of silence that police officers often have, the clergy staunchly protect one another from their congregations, even when they are absolutely wrong.

As naive sheep, we often defer to the wisdom of the clergy in many matters. Interestingly, even those who have no religious affiliation whatsoever, confer a profound respect toward the clergy. This is not warranted or deserved. While there are many good examples of loving pastors who really care and have the best interests of their sheep in mind, there are many more examples of authoritarian oligarchs who work tirelessly to control others. More importantly, religion is false, therefore those who propagate religion fall into one of two categories–those who intensely believe (they have been fooled) or those who know it is false but still continue. In the first case, no matter how nice he may be, we are following a fool. In the second case, we are following an intentional deceptor. Either way, we are the bigger fool!

sheep2Why do the clergy work so hard to protect one another by moving wayward priests and supporting the denial of wrongdoing? It is very simple. It is in their collective best interest to do so. As an example, a bishop intervened in a local pastor problem (half of the congregation had left and the decline in contributions put the church in financial jeopardy). Though the details would lead any reasoning person to conclude that the pastor was narcissistic and most certainly out of line, the report from the bishop’s office was that there really wasn’t a problem.  The pastor was subsequently moved (and created problems again in the new place). The needs of the congregation were dismissed in favor of the needs of the pastor. The bishop’s office in this case is an elected position. He was elected by other clergy! If his practice was to go after wayward pastors, they and those in their circle of influence would not re-elect the bishop. There is no penalty to the bishop if the needs of the people are not met. In addition, the clergy really do regard themselves as having a higher status than the people they serve.

It is only when we begin to question that authority, and the basis for that authority, that we can stop being a sheep–and dismiss the Clergy Club.





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