The History Of Clergy Killers Theology Religion Essay Example
The History Of Clergy Killers Theology Religion Essay Example

The History Of Clergy Killers Theology Religion Essay Example

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  • Pages: 18 (4805 words)
  • Published: October 7, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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There is a hidden evil within the church system that often goes unnoticed and remains silent.

However, in some cases, this damaging behavior is obvious but goes overlooked, tolerated, and even encouraged. This has negative consequences for the local church, the curate, the community, and the larger Christian religion. G. Lloyd Rediger identifies in his book "Clergy Killers" that signs of such detrimental behaviors have been documented as early as 1960 (Rediger, p19). Nevertheless, if we examine Biblical history closely, we can find evidence that Moses experienced this kind of abuse mentioned by Rediger. The Israelites constantly whined and complained, even threatening bodily harm to him.

(Numbers 16) The conflict between fold and curate has been ongoing, but we are witnessing increasingly intense attacks. It is crucial that we acknowledge the problem and find ways to combat it. The quoted


source, The Vocal Wire, specifically discusses the presence of booby traps in pastoral ministry. While I am uncertain if this was the intent of the authors, the vocal directly addresses clergy abuse issues.

In the beginning of a new pastoral alteration, there is often a "honeymoon" experience that gives the illusion of peace and tranquility. This is not typically the case for female ministers in rural communities. They face little acceptance and support, with the congregation making it clear that they do not want a female pastor. While some smaller communities have more diverse denominations, the prevailing mindset aligns with Baptist or Fundamentalist beliefs, which reject the idea of a female appointment. This intolerance is widespread throughout the community.

Disillusionment with the destructive actions of church members is not exclusive to female clergy. The song, by the Christian grou

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Third Day, portrays a situation where people come to hear the preacher's message, but it is unclear if they are motivated by a desire to witness success or failure. The person worries that any imperfection would lead to others merely spectating their downfall (Wire, Third Day). It appears that everyone is supportive until they are not.

In an ideal situation, clergy members would have equal opportunities for success in every new assignment and a period of time for the congregation and clergy to get acquainted without any bias. However, the reality is not so favorable. There are toxic individuals who falsely identify as "Christians" present in all communities, towns, and cities, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to mistreat another member of the clergy.

According to Rediger, there are six characteristics that can be found in a clergy slayer:

  • Destructive- they are conscious of the pain and harm they cause
  • Determined- they persist, adapting their tactics while maintaining focus
  • Deceitful- they manipulate and pressure others to support their plans
  • Demonic- evil and potentially mentally unstable. They look to assign blame for their internal anguish, often targeting symbols of the Christian faith. Rediger suggests religious conflict plays a role within clergy slayers.
  • Denial- due to the belief that such events couldn't occur in a church, many choose not to acknowledge its possibility within their place of worship.
  • Discernment- clergy slayers often believe they act in the best interests of the church, its members, and the community (Rediger, p9-10).

(According to Rediger,) personality disorders can be attributed to individuals responsible for the abuse.

The text suggests that various factors such as antisocial behavior, paranoia, delayed adolescence,

a history of domestic violence or perversion, or a combination of these could be the driving force behind an abusive individual (Rediger, p10). The root cause of this behavior is an illness, which the individual may deny. Some ministers mistakenly believe they can address this situation in two ways. Firstly, by ignoring the problem and hoping it will disappear. They believe that as long as the church maintains its current state and most people are content, the issue will remain unimportant.

The alternative is to try to handle the situation without the proper tools. Normal responses and rational thinking will not suffice when dealing with someone who has mental issues. It would be like attempting to extinguish a wood fire with a small amount of water in a thimble. As stated on Clergy Assistance Ltd's website, a clergy slayer is defined as "a person in a church hierarchy who emotionally abuses a minister, often resulting in their forced exit from the church, leaving their ministry, experiencing severe emotional distress, and sometimes even committing suicide" ( The website also provides alarming statistics:

  • 61% of churches have compelled a minister to depart.
  • 42% of ministers have been forced out at least once.
  • 83% of ministers consider their ministry as a calling from God and the Church.
  • 83% of spouses want the clergy spouse to leave pastoral ministry.
  • 80% of ministers reported receiving no support from peers.
  • 90% of clergy across all denominations will not remain in ministry long enough to reach retirement age.
  • 50% of ministers indicated that they would leave the ministry if they had another means of making a living.
  • 70% of ministers report ongoing struggles with depression.
  • 1,500 clergy members leave pastoral ministry

each month.

In the United States, a minister is either forced out or dismissed every six minutes.

Research from Texas Tech and Virginia Tech Universities suggests that clergy members who are forced out of their positions often experience wellness issues, self-esteem problems, and depression. The growing number of clergy slayers indicates that not only are the congregations resistant to acknowledging the issue, but national research also supports this claim. The proposal to end guaranteed assignments in the United Methodist churches has caused concern among some ministers who fear being forced out due to problem congregations. There is a belief that years of successful ministry will be forgotten when faced with the challenge of serving a troubled church (The Arda web site). Reverend Randolph Kanipe, director of the Association for Stressed and Abused Clergy, has focused on a small group of individuals within the church who respond to stress in unhealthy ways, becoming hostile and even violent towards pastors. Kanipe refers to these individuals as otherwise "normal" members of the congregation who have inexplicably become fixated on destroying their clergy.

Darcy, in her blog post, argues that curates are easy targets for toxic congregants due to their regular presence, their expectation of patience, love and forgiveness, and their professional obligation. According to Darcy, curates' job is to deal with such behavior. Kanipe, on the other hand, believes that these individuals are angry with God and seek to undermine the credibility, reputation, and profession of curates while also attempting to exert control over the church. Kanipe also reveals that a significant percentage of his ordination class resigned from ministry for various reasons. Reverend Paul McKay reflects on a time when

clergy held moral authority within both the church and the community.

When colleges and other establishments sought leaders, they often selected curates to be their presidents and serve on boards of managers. While many clergymen still enjoy authority and influence, this influence has declined over time. In the 1980s, televangelism tarnished the reputation of curates, and the scandals within the Roman Catholic Church have done little to regain trust.

Today's young people are exploring alternative paths to professionalism, such as business, finance, and law. These careers not only offer better financial prospects but also help them avoid the stigma often associated with ministry. Jim Ketchum argues that denominations should take proactive measures to address these harmful practices. It is all too common to see ministers receive little or no recognition and support, causing them to question their effectiveness in any setting. This mistreatment leaves individuals feeling lost and vulnerable.

According to Ketchum from, there is a widespread belief that Christians should rise above pettiness and politics within the church. Additionally, it is commonly believed that church leaders should not seek power and glory. Before entering ministry, Reverend Ed Lantz of Tyler Street UMC was advised to ensure that he had no other desires. He was told that this calling should consume his life from morning until night. Many individuals who choose to serve God in this capacity spend years in education and continue to dedicate themselves throughout their lives.

If the church is your calling, if it is your spiritual place and the center of your engagement in your community, and the church attacks you, where do you go? (Sarahlynn weblog) Who do you turn to? This issue

with clergy slayers is much more prevalent than we would like to admit. In a survey of two churches, referred to as church A and church B, we examine the experiences of six clergy members, specifically curates W, X, and Z. In church A, we first focus on curate Ten. This particular curate had a relatively positive experience. Curate X spent 2 years in this role at church A. Overall, his tenure was successful.

The church experienced some growth, but faced challenges due to conflicts with one specific family within the church. Their differing opinions on how to run the ministry for children and young people caused some tension, although the situation was resolved without significant harm. Pastor X completed his term and moved on. However, when Minister Z arrived, the same family, still dissatisfied with the previous minister, became a regularly vocal presence within the church.

The new curate possessed extensive experience and demonstrated excellence in both delivering sermons and serving as a pastor. However, his downfall lay in his desire for all individuals to get along and his reluctance to confront troublemakers promptly. As a result, after two years of dealing with staff turnover and discontented parishioners, Minister Z retired from his ministry. A group of individuals from his previous congregation gathered some allies and began criticizing every action the minister took or attempted. They addressed him as if he were merely a hired employee, lacking respect or dignity.

The maltreatment increased when curate W became appointed at church A. She was the first female curate for this church and community. Before she arrived, a committee of long-time members visited her church to evaluate her. The

negative comments started then and continued for two years until she asked to be relocated by the territory overseer. One Sunday, a prominent member of the church and community refused to shake the curate's hand after worship.

The congregant carefully selected the opportunity and patiently waited to be in front of the entire congregation to make his point. Outside the church, the community leaders joined the crowd and worked together to convey the same message by excluding her from community worship activities. In this situation, I don't believe that any mental illness caused the problems, but rather hateful individuals who wanted to control the affairs of the church. They wanted the church to serve their own agenda. In church B, Pastor X had been present for several years before ministers W and Z.

Pastor X experienced a distressing situation in a place that had always been known as a "preacher feeder church". Aside from being poorly treated and verbally attacked, Pastor X decided to leave town after receiving death threats. The church had recently experienced a death, causing intense emotions, but it is difficult to understand how someone could become mentally unstable enough to threaten the life of the church's pastor. Shortly after receiving the threat, the pastor was removed. Before Pastor Z arrived, the church had gone through several pastors, often accompanied by some level of drama surrounding their appointments.

Some of the assignments were difficult due to the clash between the personalities of the curates and the fold. This continued for years until an older curate was appointed, who had a successful tenure for a couple of years. Eventually, the choir and Sunday school

departments expressed their desire to have more influence over the church. When the curate resisted, the church also resisted.

The church experienced a war of wills that resulted in a significant division and weakened the church. In this situation, there are indications of mental impairment among church members. The belief that the previous clergyman somehow caused the death of a congregant is irrational. Concerning the current clergyman, there was a feeling among the congregation that he overstepped his boundaries by insisting on being consulted about music selection and interfering with Sunday school matters. As a result, he left and was replaced by clergyman W. Once again, we observe a female clergy entering not just a small town, but also a congregation that had recently experienced another rupture, with the blame for the previous incident placed on the clergyman.

While facing the impossible task of working in a small town in Texas with a broken and deteriorating church, she had no excitement about the assignment. She attempted to offer administrative ideas to rebuild the church and bring integrity, but this was not going to happen during her time there. As witnessed in church A, the congregation was not prepared or receptive to having a female clergy. This sentiment was shared by the community as well. Consequently, her stay was brief but disruptive.

Pastor W departed the church with more bitterness than when she arrived. Later, curate Z was appointed. By then, many of the older members had left, only to occasionally reappear. The previous years of sorrow and conflict had left their marks on those who remained loyal.

After many years of criticism for being ineffective and uninvolved in the

community, and more recently for female clergy, a new minister arrived at a place where the congregation was finally seeking healing and restoration. I believe that the new minister only needed to have a presence. Almost anyone could have come in and achieved instant success. Pastor Z, fully aware of the history, arrived with a straightforward policy that stated "we simply don't have time for that." And the congregation embraced it.

He believed that all the pettiness and all the scores were simply an obstacle to the work that needed to be done for the community in the name of Jesus Christ. Recently, the curate has witnessed the former members coming back, often causing more trouble. But now, the congregation is not willing to be part of the problem. Their desire is to worship and serve and do the most good. Now, the other church members will intervene before things escalate.

Reverend Kanipe, mentioned above, believes that aggressive behavior helps explain the high abrasion rate among clergy. According to him, "About 90 percent of curates currently serving in churches are not expected to stay long enough to reach retirement." He states that abusive and intense conflicts with congregations are directed towards the curates. Clergy members should follow Jesus' instruction in Matthew 10:16, being "as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves," to handle opposition from people.

The Rev. Bill Denham, curate of First United Methodist Church in Grapeland, Texas, believes that in recent years church members have become more aggressive and are more likely to curse or raise their voices at clergy. This might be due to the overall trend of disrespect within the culture.

He has experienced it

himself, and he has heard many narratives from colleagues, some of whom have left the church as a consequence. (UMReporter) Most frequently, the mistake lies with the fold. But on occasion, there are curates who are toxic to folds. According to Rediger, these curates are called "slayer clergy."

They are known as vocational curates who rely entirely on the church for their financial support. However, some of these curates become dissatisfied with their role and try to improperly take control of the church. Such clergy are sometimes referred to as "agents of immorality" (Rediger, p101). According to Rediger, evil clergy are uncommon and are typically identified and removed during the process.

However, it is necessary to address and handle evil clergy just as clergy slayers are dealt with in order to improve and sustain the local community and the wider church. It is also important to address mental illness among clergy, as it is a common issue that needs attention. To initiate a dialogue with the leaders of various Christian denominations, I reached out to multiple organizations.

The responses obtained were quite straightforward and similar. Initially, I reached out to the Catholic Church's Diocese of Austin. Although they were friendly, they declined to discuss anything "on record." Additionally, they stated that I should contact the Diocese of Dallas as my primary point of contact. They assured me that their church did not have concerns regarding clergy offenders. The spokesperson mentioned that the diocese has no authority in assigning or removing priests. The individual wished me luck with writing this paper.

Secondly, the Episcopal Church instructed me to find written material on the subject. They did not confirm

or deny the existence of job positions within their church. The public relations representative for the Southern Baptist Convention stated that they have no job positions and declined to speak further. Other denominations' representatives I contacted seemed unaware or unwilling to acknowledge the presence of such positions within their folds. However, research reveals otherwise. A study from October 1984 shows that the Southern Baptist churches reported the termination of four hundred ministers in an 18-month period. Ninety percent of these terminated ministers claimed that there were warning signs of these job losses.

According to Fowler (1985), 44% of those who were terminated stated that they received very little warning. Additionally, an interesting set of statistics reveals that 78% of the churches had terminated previous curates or staff members, while 63% had experienced two or more terminations. Among the curates who went to churches that had previously terminated other curates, 60% were unaware of the church's history of terminations. Furthermore, a third of them were not fully informed about the church's history. It is worth noting that there is one church that has fired five curates in the last 11 years. These findings lead one to assume that the Southern Baptist Convention has either made significant progress in addressing this issue within their denomination or they are actively attempting to downplay the seriousness of the problem.

While I cannot provide statistics from other denominations, I am curious if this study would also reflect similar issues within them. A former member of the Church of Christ shared with me that she left a COC church after the elders dismissed a young minister, leaving him and his young family without

income or a home. This leads me to question if the lack of statistics is more indicative of a reluctance to acknowledge the problem rather than an actual absence of the problem. The only open communication I have received is from within my own denomination.

The Bishop of the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist church, Bishop Mike McKee, and my District Superintendent, Reverend Dr. Marvin Guier, both agreed to an interview. Following a phone conversation, I had a meeting with Bishop McKee in his office. I shared how I got to this strange subject and the Bishop appeared interested in the topic.

The Bishop is familiar with the situation and has witnessed others affected by it. According to Bishop McKee, he believes that every church has adversaries, even if they are not apparent. The difference between the adversary becoming a clergy slayer or not depends on the response of the minister. Often, ministers enter a new assignment with the intention of changing the church to fit their own vision or the desires of a particular group.

However, the current adaptation involves trying to conform to the place that you are in. "Sometimes you just have to be," said Bishop McKee. "Change is not always possible. There is something to be said for simply maintaining the good work."

Often, folds may not be interested in significant changes, if any changes at all. Bishop McKee also expressed that sometimes we just take things too seriously. Perhaps, if we approach a tense situation with some well-placed humor, it can help break the tension. McKee emphasized that while a good theological education is important, acquiring the skills to deal with

conflict will be essential for ministers in any setting.

He expressed his intention to meet with the internship coordinators to discuss this matter and help prevent such an environment in our churches. The Bishop acknowledged the importance of this issue. Recently, I also had a conversation with Marvin Guier, my District Superintendent, who took the time to consider the topic and was ready to share his thoughts with me.

According to him, the problem could be divided into four main parts. He considered the first part to be the underlying and fundamental philosophy. He expressed that we all have a "ministry of all trusters." This means that, through our baptism, each one of us is called to serve.

Not all individuals are designated for pastoral ministry, but everyone has a calling. In the modern church, it is important for church administration to acknowledge that clergy cannot handle everything and they should not have to. The belief is that each member of the church contributes in their own way to achieve the goals of honoring God and advancing the Kingdom. Dr. Guier has personally witnessed this principle in his own ministry.

Dr. Guier emphasizes that the Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) in our Discipline is specifically designated to support the curate. It is their primary responsibility. The SPRC is intended to represent the congregation, assuming that the congregation is in favor of the commission. The SPRC serves as the initial line of defense for the curate.

It is therefore the responsibility of the congregation to support the priest to be effective. If the priest is effective, then the congregation is also effective. On the other hand, if the priest is ineffective, the

congregation is also affected. Thirdly, it is important to understand that the Bishop and the Cabinet have a role in the appointment process. Each appointment must be made with a reasonable chance of success. Due to the system of itinerancy, congregations will receive priests who have different gifts, skills, and talents.

No single person perfectly fits every mold. Multiple churches believe that the allocation process is nothing more than an old boys' system where favors are exchanged and personal agendas are fulfilled. Bishop McKee assured me that the "process is intense." He stated that a significant amount of time, reflection, deliberation, and prayer is invested in the process and it is treated with great seriousness.

It is widely agreed that efforts are made to match the right curate with the right congregation, but no placement is flawless. Human judgment plays a significant role. Dr. Guier asserts that a capable and impactful curate will succeed regardless of their assignment.

Regardless of the severity of the situation, it is the minister's responsibility to fulfill their duty. It is often observed that ministers may not even realize that they are falling short in their responsibilities. The primary duty of a minister is to connect with and understand the congregation by meeting them where they are. This also involves getting to know the community itself. Rather than attempting to change the congregation, it is crucial to have a willingness to adapt to the church's way of life.

Joining the church offers opportunities that are not available to those who are isolated from the community. Showing oneself and being more present will greatly resonate with many members. In order to become acquainted with this

community, the minister must communicate their love and concern for the members. This must be demonstrated consistently in addition to verbalizing it. Challenges will continue to arise, but establishing a relationship first allows the minister to love and help them work through these issues.

Curates are encouraged to redesign the fold. It is important to note that Dr. Guier believes it is important for the District Superintendents to get to know their curates and their folds to the best of their abilities. With our larger territories, it becomes challenging to visit more frequently, but Dr.

According to Dr. Guier, it is necessary for District Superintendents to prioritize constructing and maintaining relationships. This sociological perspective proposed by Dr. Guier is crucial in resolving the issue of clergy slayers.

The underlying questions in this inquiry are "what is causing friction and hostility within the church?" and "how can we effectively address and stop this issue?" A pastor's ability to handle conflict within the church determines their effectiveness. As mentioned earlier, there are deeper roots to the problem in every case. We have observed situations where multiple pastors face hostility, leading to short tenures or requests for transfers. It is known that individuals seek control in their lives, and when things become uncontrollable in their homes, work, and personal lives, they look for an outlet to express their frustration. Bishop McKee has highlighted that people often tend to blame God but feel guilty about placing any blame on the Creator.

The aggression of individuals, possibly driven by feelings of disappointment, failure, and dissatisfaction, is directed towards the church and specifically towards its representative - the curate. This leads to the commencement of

attacks on the clergy. The attacks start off small and independent, but they gradually intensify and may involve a small group. In some cases, the presence of a timid curate may cause the small group to resemble a lynch mob.

A curate's married woman shared with me that she has encountered some of the most unkind individuals at church. Oftentimes, clergymen try to downplay the issue in order to prevent conflict. Those who have dedicated themselves to a life in ministry aspire to serve everyone and promote harmony. Regrettably, problems are frequently disregarded or evaded with the hope that they will resolve on their own.

This often leaves church members feeling defeated and neglected. However, according to Dr. Guier's suggestion, a better solution could be for a new curate to come into their position and make an effort to get to know the congregation first. The curate tries to participate in church activities and community events, working towards building and nurturing relationships.

In the development of relationships, it is important to address and resolve struggles before they become overwhelming. The main focus here is on analyzing how people and relationships interact within a church in different scenarios. When negative habits, personal agendas, and resentment come into play, chaos ensues. This dysfunction is often mistaken by many non-churchgoers as the actual representation of a "church".

My experience in a clergy slayer church has been successful so far. Despite warnings and discouragement from some, I decided to inquire further. Before officially starting my assignment, I had the opportunity to meet members of the church, including the previous curate. It was evident that the church was in desperate need of repair.

After enduring

years of dysfunction, the church finally split. A few adversaries caused tension within the congregation, weakening its unity. However, from the beginning, I was assured that the church would support my ministry in any way we decided. For the past 17 months at our current location, our attendance has been steadily increasing. We have introduced new Sunday classes and implemented various programs to serve our surrounding community. Furthermore, the church's financial situation has improved significantly compared to previous years. As a result, they have even started hosting an annual concert for the youth in nearby communities.

The concert showcasing a well-known Christian music artist is free of charge. Opening the doors and filling the venue, everyone in attendance is filled with a renewed spirit as they serve others. The church's embodiment of the Bible's message to "love God, love your neighbor" is evident. The internal conflicts within the church are nearly non-existent, with only occasional and quickly resolved disagreements.

According to a survey conducted by Nelson and Everett in 1976, clergy members who serve smaller congregations are more likely to experience changes in their calling compared to those serving larger ones. Traditional clergy members are less likely to experience a change, while those focused on community problem-solving tend to experience alterations in their calling. The article emphasizes that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are the key factors in this issue. The first factor of satisfaction lies with the congregation and their evaluation of the curate's work.

In smaller churches, the curate's role is closely scrutinized due to their involvement in the community, regular infirmary visits, and success in handling church affairs. When dissatisfaction arises and torment ensues, curates must assess

their position and decide whether to continue or not. This decision is not taken lightly and requires prayerful consideration. According to Charles Mueller's 2004 study on Clergy-Congregation Mismatches and Clergy Job Satisfaction, it is commonly believed that clergy find satisfaction in their roles as they are fulfilling a calling from God and have chosen the path of ministry.

It is assumed that the desires and perspectives of lower-level employees align with the job.

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