The Problem with Power

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.

4 thoughts on “The Problem with Power

  1. you people kill me, with your judgemental attitude. I pray you or your child will never be accussed of something and you have others judging you without knowing the entire story(truth). Jesus would not do what you are doing.

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  2. Please know that I am willing to stand with you in any way I can. It will take many of us calling for accountability and willing to be vulnerable to ever change this system. Bless you for your posts and your ministry.

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  3. Thanks for the post. Sam used to write for the Dallas Morning News, but got down-sized when the did away with the Religion Section. He is an excellent writer and I am glad he’s at the UM Reporter.

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  4. Prayers are with you and for all who have been or will be touched by this tragedy. I believe that you have done the right thing by speaking out about this in the way you did. What you said was not said to hurt, but instead done to speak truth and to offer the love of Christ to all. You speak of accountability and of repentance and the offer of forgiveness. God gave you the words to say and then he gave you the courage to speak them so that they would be heard. A voice of truth spoken with a divine love and compassion for all. Once again you set aside your personal safety and position and said yes to God’s call. God Bless You Christy for being an example to all of us in your obedience and faithfulness to your vows of ministry and God’s call on your life.

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