Mid Councils Newsletter | October 17, 2016
Once again I will start with a caveat. I am writing this about a week and a half before you will receive it so I have no idea what new scandals and headlines will be at the top of our minds by then! But here is what many people are talking about while I am writing. Over the last several days we have heard an audiotape of a prominent man saying vulgar things about his behavior toward women and have been reminded again about another prominent man whose philandering and abuse of power with a woman who was an intern in his organization were made famous two decades ago. We have also heard a discussion about a prominent woman having one opinion about people in a very public setting and, perhaps, a different opinion about them in a more private setting. Ugh.
In terms of the first item, I think it is still hard for men, sometimes, to understand what the pervasiveness of the objectification of women feels like. I still experience it a few times a week. I am 60 years old (well, I am while I am writing this. By the time you read it I will be 61.) I thought I would not have to face this kind of thing at this age! When I am in Peoria I work out every day. In my yoga pants and t-shirt, I walk in to a building that is also a daycare and a kind of hangout for retired men who play pool every day. In the morning, they are often standing outside smoking. It always feels like they watch all of us who are walking in to our exercise class from the time we get out of our cars until we are in the building. It takes me right back to my high school days when the older boys sat in a place where people had to walk. Those boys practically held up cards with a number on them to rate the girls as we walked by. Creepy then, creepy now.
And then there is the idea of talking one way when you are in front of a particular group of people and another way when you are talking about them. Some of you are old enough to think of this, as I do, as the Eddie Haskell effect. (Google it) That kind of behavior is also creepy in its own right. It is fun to be on the inside of that kind of situation, you know, where you are with a person who has power of one kind or another and they are including you in the jokes and put downs of the "little people." But, really, don't you eventually wonder how they are talking about you when you are not in the room?
So, what does this have to do with your mid council? Over all of my years of being a pastor and working in mid councils and now for the national church, I have often been in rooms where leaders are talking about the people they lead with disdain. I am sure I have even joined in those conversations. You know, the board that is a bother. If we just did not have those troublesome and incompetent board members, this ministry would be great. Or the church members who aren't pulling their weight and are just a drag on the vision we have for moving forward. If they would just decide to become Methodists we would all be better off. Or those darn congregations that are so lazy they don't even send anyone to a presbytery meeting and then complain about decisions that were made. Admit it, you have been in a discussion like that.
But over time, what does that do to our organization? If we talk and think about those with whom we work in disparaging ways, it erodes the organization as a whole. If we believe that God is in the work that we do, that God has brought us together for a purpose, that we have each been called into the leadership roles that we have, then we need to try to discover what it is about this particular configuration of people that serves God's purpose. When we remember that we have all sinned and fall short of what God intends for us, perhaps we can find a way to be more tolerant of those who fall short of our expectations. We will never be able to completely stop thinking of some of the people we work with as jerks, or dimwits, or whatever pejorative term we might use. But we can work at not introducing that opinion into our conversations with others and not letting that weaken our ability to work toward God's intention for our community.
And, as to the presidential contest, let us pray that our country can learn from the ugliness we have seen and work toward finding a way forward.
Registration for the 2017 POINT (Presbyterians Organized in Nurture and Teaching) Gathering is online. The gathering will be in Denver as part of the APCE (Association of Presbyterian Church Educators) annual event in January. POINT representatives receive training on resources published by Congregational Ministries Publishing. Your presbytery is encouraged to designate two POINT representatives who may choose POINT section A or POINT section B and may also register for the POINT lunch. Space is limited. Participants are encouraged to register soon.