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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Clergy killers

They are determined, deceitful and destructive, but they can be stopped

As a rookie parish pastor, I occasionally heard my elders disparage certain "problem congregations." Whenever a new pastor came to one of those churches — a frequent occurrence — they'd shake their heads and mutter something like, "I wish him luck. Hope he makes out better than George."

Often George's fate — fights, heartache and, finally, banishment — befell the new pastor, upon which my elders would sigh and continue muttering as the ugly cycle started again.

G. Lloyd Rediger hears hundreds of variations on this sordid tale during his church consultations and workshops. The problem, he suggests, often rests with a few members who are "clergy killers." Weary of the immense pain these individuals wreak upon pastors and congregations, Rediger, a psychologist and Presbyterian pastor, wrote Clergy Killers: Guidance for Pastors and Congregations Under Attack (Logos, 1997).

The clergy killer phenomenon can't be avoided, he says. Consider: 23 percent of U.S. pastors say they have been fired at least once; 70 percent said a faction (typically fewer than 10) forced them out; and 41 percent of congregations who have fired pastors have done this at least twice before.

But be advised, Rediger counsels, not only are there clergy killers, there are also killer clergy.


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