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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Loving the enemy

An increasing number of fragile and vulnerable people are in our pews

St. Mark Lutheran Church is moving along in the call process with seminarian Rick Sorensen. After stuffing himself at one of their famed buffets, he answers questions from the congregation. When asked about his attitude toward change, he repeats the wisdom of a favorite professor: "I won't make any significant change in the first year. I want to get to know how you do things around here."

Sorensen receives the call and goes about getting to know the people. He finds that younger couples, as well as middle-aged and older members, have interest in a contemporary worship service. He appoints a worship task force to look into the matter. Before long, the church council approves this second worship service and hires one of St. Mark's guitarists as coordinator.

So many members are happy about the change that Sorensen is floored when his bishop phones to tell him that he received a rage-filled letter from a parishioner. Bill Anderson accuses his pastor of being "a liar and a wolf in shepherd's clothing." Anderson is also venting with some older, long-time members. Sorensen becomes increasingly depressed and anxious, uncertain of how to approach this angry member.

getty imagesWhat's going on?

As an ordained or lay leader, how do you make sense of this fictional situation? How would you resolve the situation? Your answer to the first question determines your answer to the second.

A decade ago, author and Presbyterian pastor G. Lloyd Rediger called people like Anderson "clergy killers." He saw them as "Destructive, Determined, Deceitful and Demonic." Today, influenced by the alarming trends among adolescents, some label Anderson a "bully."


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