Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Church: Never a place for secrets

Many years ago when the earth was young and I was a very green cleric I stood up infant of my new congregation and told them that I regarded Church as a place where secrets were taboo and that whilst some things needed to be kept as confidential, that was the way I intended to work whilst with them.

Over the years this has brought some great challenges to the way I worked and there have been times when colleagues have told me that it is a policy that, "Whilst great in principle is dangerous in practice!" There have been times when I have also been cautioned regarding the fact that I will speak the truth in love and unless faced with something that needs not to be told, will tell the truth. Time and time again friends have told me that being open and honest is a dangerous path to tread - but regardless of their council I have continued as best I can down my chosen path.

The problem is that whilst I know many in church leadership who operate on the same principles as me and yet, if what I hear from others is even half true, the practice of many on the other side of the altar rail is quite markedly different!

It is a sad to say this but it seems that many in Church are pretty poor at telling the truth and the rumour mills and doublespeak factories are, in some church congregations at least, working overtime. James (chapter three) says this of the tongue:

"A small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. 

People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.

Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!

Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 
Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? 
No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring."

I have been greatly challenged by the secrets and the potential divisions I have been made aware of recently - is it any wonder we struggle to build our congregations if we cannot be open and honest with those whom we call brother and sister?

How can we hold before us the image of the invisible God and offer up curses against them?

How can we sit in our pews and stand in our pulpits if we have more faces than Janus?

God calls us to an integrity of living and the pursuit of a character that seeks to follow and emulate Jesus, the Christ.

May those who have ears, hear and those who have tongues use them wisely and for the edification of the whole Church and their own church families in particular.

And a word of encouragement to those who minister and have told me of their struggles: Never lose sight of who it is that vindicates us and intercedes for you. Truly we have one who stands between God and man for us.

Hallelujah or what?

1 comment:

UKViewer said...

Sadly, your's is a commentary on human nature and not the devine.

That double speak that you tell off is quite prevalent in human society and those in Church aren't immune from it.

I'm a great believer in openness as it builds trust and when done with integrity helps to build the Kingdom her on earth. Discretion is obviously needed to protect the confidentiality rules, but secrecy for it's own sake isn't a boon, it's a destroyer of trust.

The church is a bit like that, particularly with changes of incumbents you're motoring along quite happily, when you hear out of the blue, that your incumbent is off to pastures new. The damage that this does can be huge, people's expectations shot down, initiatives for mission or training of laity put on hold and a need to manage a sometimes lengthy vacancy, perhaps in the hands of those who shouldn't be managing a barrier in a car park, let alone a church.

While we know that the terms of common tenure dictate a move at appropriate intervals, why than all of the secrecy. An incumbent should be free to let his or her parish know that they are due to move say within 6 month or 12 months, and than keep them informed of the progress of what is happening, even if they're not free to disclose which new role they might be taking on, whether parish, chaplaincy etc.

Also the secrecy attached to the Crown Nominations Process in terms of seeking to discern who might be the next diocesan or suffragen is, due to the secrecy surrounding it, discredited in many eyes. Why the need for secrecy. In the end, it' open competition, candidates can apply or be nominated, so that should be public. Sure interviews would be private, but announcements out of the blue are not the way to do things. We should be informed as soon as a candidate is selected and receives royal assent, not being announced when it's thought to be politically expedient (church politics).