Sam Hodges with the United Methodist Reporter has written more about the situation at St. Luke Community UMC that also mentions some of the challenges Rev. Greer has faced–including people putting sheets of paper defaming him on cars at Cockrell Hill UMC, where Greer now serves as Local Pastor. This harassment happened before he filed the lawsuit.
Hodges has written a balanced article that respects the fact that the lives and voices of the alleged victims, as well as the life and voice of the alleged perpetrator, need to be honored.
I am aware that I will probably face complicated consequences for making the bold statement I’ve made criticizing the way this situation was handled by Conference authorities. I wrote those things and stand behind him because it seems to me, in the attorney-directed restrictions placed upon our speech, we effectively say to those who have been damaged, “we are only interested in protecting the reputation of the former Rev. Gordon, not in the painful honestly of seeking truth and healing in the devastation he may have left behind him.”
Now, all this will come out in court, with every word vetted by attorneys, weighed for possible consequences and truth barely emerging, if at all. It should not have reached this point, although I do very much support Rev. Greer here in the decision to file a lawsuit.
But in the community we call “church,” when sin is exposed, we who call ourselves Christian have been given the gift of repentance: the heartfelt soul agony that acknowledges wrongdoing, seeks forgiveness and reconciliation, and choose tight accountability when necessary to live with integrated holiness.
The giving and receiving of forgiveness happens only in a context where loving truth can be told across the table. It rarely occurs when a position of significant power is at stake.
And Gordon had power. A lot of it. If he were to admit to wrongdoing, especially of such an egregious nature of sexually predatory practices, he would put his position of power in major jeopardy. At this point, not just for him, but for all of us, the human tendency to hide and blame leaps forward and takes center stage. This tendency connects us to the story of the first man and the first woman. ”Not my fault! The women, (or the serpent or the young man) tempted me! It’s her fault. It’s his fault. It is its fault. They have conspired against me!”
I also know that people in power are excruciatingly vulnerable to attacks made with no factual foundation, spurred instead by anger over differences or perceived hurts. I have at least one letter of complaint about my clergy incompetence in my file. I’m grateful for the sensitive way it was handled, with both parties being given voice, both with legitimate perceptions of the situation.
My youngest son phoned yesterday and I told him about what was going on and that the fact that my original post about this went viral (nearly 40X the usual number of hits after a blog post). His comment, “Well, Mom, only someone who is close to retirement can find the freedom to write that. I’m guessing you are still employable elsewhere else.”
One of my church members came to me yesterday, barely controlling her tears, having seen too much in the RC church, and said, “I know you are going to be in trouble here–I’ll help in any way I can.”
So I ask myself, “how much do I need to protect my own position of power here?” Realistically, I don’t have much power: an obscure pastor of a delightful, alive, Christ-centered church, but just barely into the medium membership church category, and in a semi-rural area. But even so, I love this place and have served it with my heart, soul, mind and strength and wish to continue to do so.
But if I chose to protect myself rather than stand on the side of holy, loving righteousness, then I am no better than the most degraded of human beings.
May God be with us all, from accused to accuser, from onlooker to active participants, so that grace informs what we do, knowing that grace not only offers forgiveness, but first must open our eyes to the need for it.