The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Bullying the pastor

Incivility is on the rise — in congregations too

Editor's note: Real names of some people interviewed for this story were not used to respect their privacy.

If hindsight is 20-20, Pastor Mary's husband, Paul, has pretty good vision. When the chair of the call committee phoned his wife to tell her the congregation was calling her — but the vote "wasn't unanimous" — he got the first clue of what was to come. He recalls with candor the tumultuous years that followed.

And he remembers back some 17 years ago when his wife first told him she wanted to be a pastor. He supported her call to the ministry, and they narrowed her seminary search to where he could get a job.

But even before the first year in her first call ended, there were rocks on the road. When Pastor Mary gave the nod to another new face to try her hand at education ministry, longtime members became resentful and angry. Mary wanted vacation Bible school to be less about parties, more about faith formation. And she wanted to take a fresh look at the urban neighborhood in which the church had been situated for years.

michael d. watson"She wanted to build connections. It is in those connections that we meet and do ministry. But that requires the congregation," Paul said. "There were people who were supportive, but they were all in the outer ring of influence. The inner ring just wanted a chaplain, not a leader."

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February issue


Embracing diversity