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Author Topic: Struggles with Church Leadership structure  (Read 1200 times)

kazbert

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Re: Struggles with Church Leadership structure
« Reply #15 on: July 17, 2017, 01:07:42 am »
My youngest daughter (now 25) has had many faith-promoting personal experiences in her life, but apparently has had too many disappointments when it comes to church leaders and some church members.  She now claims to be atheist.  My wife and I have been in wards that were not perfect but were wonderful beyond description and made us happy to be among them.  We have also been in wards that were dysfunctional beyond description and made us want to run away screaming.  My point:  I know bad things happen (real, not exaggerated), and it hurts, and it strains our faith.

A few generalizations:

* The only personís testimony we can fully trust and lean on is our own.  Hearsay (both faith promoting and faith demoting) may influence our testimony, but our personal testimony (our own experiences, not that of others) must be our foundation.

* Being fully honest and objective with ourselves can be difficult. 

* If I am seeking sympathy from my friends then my side of the story likely will not be the full truth.  I will emphasize my perspective.  There are always two sides to a story. 

* Forgiveness is a very powerful balm for the soul, and no one can shut you out from it.  You donít need first for the other person to change, or admit their wrong, or be punished in this lifetime for that wrong.  No one escapes the Lordís justice except the penitent.  I was abused as a child, and after several decades I learned of forgiveness line by line.  Where I am now is that I wish for my abuser to somehow be found worthy of Our Lordís forgiveness.  I want to meet him in the afterlife and discover that he has been made clean and that we will be friends.  I donít mean that I hope he cheats justice.  I mean that I hope he found his way home (he died in 2010). 

* We should do what we can to alert PH authorities of abuses of PH authority.  But ultimately this is the Lordís church and we have to trust that He knows what is going on and that He will set things right in His own way and in His own time.  Often our flawed fellow humans are the strongest trials of our faith. 
If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.
Ronald Reagan
 
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AndrewR

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Re: Struggles with Church Leadership structure
« Reply #16 on: July 17, 2017, 05:58:54 am »
Roper, I would have immediately contacted the Area Seventy presiding over the CCM for your stake. And if nothing was done the Area President/member of the Presidency of the Seventy over him. And if required, President Packer/Nelson depending on when you are talking about.

I personally have not really had any issues with Bishops or Stake Presidents. I have had an incompetent bishop, and I have had one that probably didn't like me much. But it didn't really cause me much of an issue.

Our current Bishop is having problems. He is home grown and his biggest problems come from those he grew up with thinking he is no use, and a little bit of "it should have been them".

The types of things I read above I have not encountered in 30+ years of being EQP, Bishopric Counsellor, Stake High Councillor and Stake Clerk - with a smattering of HPGL, YMP and WML.
Don't ask me, I only live here.
Nauvoodle since March 2005 #1412
 
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Palmon

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Re: Struggles with Church Leadership structure
« Reply #17 on: July 17, 2017, 05:40:39 pm »
Dyany, if you understood me to say that people who are hurt or offended should just 'suck it up', I did not express myself well. Yes, there are times when people need to square their shoulders and go forward, even when hurt - but I wasn't speaking to that.  Forgiveness is the key. Justice will never heal your friends.  Forgiveness does not mean the offender is free from consequences but what it does is heal the soul. It is probably the hardest thing to ask of us, to forgive people who could care less about the harm they cause. And yet, it is really the only way to go forward.
 
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dyany

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Re: Struggles with Church Leadership structure
« Reply #18 on: July 18, 2017, 04:28:53 am »
Palmon--I understand that is the true power of forgiveness.  But I don't feel like telling them how THEY need to change would feel supportive.
I think I'm basically looking for two things:
1.  How to support them and keep them focused on what IS true about the church without sounding like I'm dismissing them, or giving empty platitude or aphorisms that might be true in the eternities, but don't help much NOW, and
2.  What I can do to help, in what tiny way I can, to support the church in cleansing out the evil leaders. 

I think many people may think the 2nd part is inappropriate, like the church is 100% top-down, so anyone not in that line of authority  should just keep their head down, their mouth shut, and do as they are told.  But I believe that we are supposed to be ONE in the Church, which, in part, means we take care of each other and we help the ship run smoothly.  Yes, we have direct stewardships, and I think that especially applies to the authority to receive revelation for, the authority to lead/organize, and the authority to make certain judgments.  However, there is a reason we raise our hands to the square and we should think about it before we lift our hands.  If we know of people defiling their position in the church and/or hurting others, we have a responsibility to do what we can to inform the proper authorities.  Not to gossip, not to condemn.  But to help make sure the good ship Zion runs smoothly and fulfills the full measure of its creation. 
 
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Patty Rain

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Re: Struggles with Church Leadership structure
« Reply #19 on: July 18, 2017, 07:39:26 am »
Dany - I think one of the biggest issues is determining who are those evil leaders. You say that most will take the side of the leaders and that may be true, but I really don't think most would take the side of "evil" leaders. In most cases I think what the person hurt feels is an evil leader is very different than what others who know or have watched the situation unfold think  is evil.

My sister is very upset with, what you might cal, my, evil, parents. There is a situation that we know about and because only one member of the family called to "get her side" my sister feels the rest of us have sided with my parents. Truthfully, when I heard what happened I did not automatically assume which side was right and personally I don't  think it is any of my business nor do I feel I should take sides. I do feel my parents could have jumped to conclusions quickly, but I feel like my sister has some major struggles which affect her feelings on all this. My sister has no idea about my feelings on all of this in part because anything apart from siding with her makes her feel I am unsupportive. So I am stuck till she is willing to communicate with me or rather my parents on this.

So often people just seem to want others to take sides against what the consider evil leaders and then call it a lack of support when that doesn't happen.

So I think you need to determine 2 things. 1. Is the leader actually evil in the eyes of both. 2. What does the person consider "support"? If we don't consider the person or situation evil (either because of disagreement or lack of information) and the person wants us to "support" by taking sides it is never going to work. And that is why some people can only "love them" and to expect something more would be unfair.


So there are different answers. What do we do if we disagree that the person is evil and the person wants us to take sides? What do we do if we don't have enough info and we are expected to take sides? What if we feel the person is evil and our friend wants us to take sides? What if we disagree, but the friend truly just wants support? And so on.

So I have to ask, which situation do you want us to speak to? Should we just consider those who both agree are evil situations and where the person just wants support or are we talking about those who disagree and the friend wants us to take sides? Or something in between?
« Last Edit: July 18, 2017, 07:44:38 am by Patty Rain »
Time for a change.  I am yungmom, but have wanted a new username for some time.
 
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pnr

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Re: Struggles with Church Leadership structure
« Reply #20 on: July 18, 2017, 03:37:21 pm »
"It sounds like you want to vent, and want me to agree with you.   What I want to do is to love you and support you, without having to decide what I cannot justly do because I wasn't there and don't have stewardship.   I want to help you move beyond where you are to where you feel safe and where you can move forward, keeping your place in the kingdom we both have loved and wanted to be for a long time."

There is a difference between mourning with those who mourn, and enabling actions that aren't actually helpful to someone.   That is why one of the gifts I give is to not continue talking about what happened and what neither of us can change.
Nauvoo 1270, Feb 2005
 
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JLM

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Re: Struggles with Church Leadership structure
« Reply #21 on: July 18, 2017, 06:30:55 pm »
Ecclesiastical authority should be strictly limited to affairs of the church.  Anytime a church leader uses his or her position in the church to influence non-church affairs, such as someone's employment, community reputation, business, etc., that leader is exercising unrighteous dominion, and the victim should feel free to exercise all legal, social, and  material means to protect him or herself.
 
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dyany

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Re: Struggles with Church Leadership structure
« Reply #22 on: July 19, 2017, 01:10:34 am »
Patty: oh, I totally hear you.  But one thing that we really have to remember is that good/bad are ALWAYS subjective judgment calls.  One of the biggest conflicts I see with how people approach the gospel is the old mercy vs justice conundrum.  You have the justice lovers: those who believe in very strict obedience (sometimes called "Iron Rodders"), which means they also often believe that sadness or suffering comes in some way from disobedience, and that disobedience should in some way be punished, if not by them, then by leaders.  Unfortunately, lots of people I see in this camp feel the need for every action to fall under some rule or another (as a 'should' or 'should not'), so policies become rules, interpretations of commandments or policies (e.g., drinking caffeinated soda is against the Word of Wisdom) become rules, etc., and their judgment is just as harsh for those extrapolations as it is for actual commandments.
Then you have the mercy lovers: the most important thing is loving people, and God loves everybody, so anything that prompts someone to be sad must be bad and not 'true gospel,' or people being 'judgmental' or pedantic or overly strict.  When the TRUE gospel is somewhere in the middle--Christ saving us FROM (not IN) our sins with mercy, but not robbing justice. 
The reason I bring this up is that where you sit on that spectrum decides how you perceive the 'good' or 'evil' of an act, but that doesn't have a lot of bearing on how good or evil the act actually IS.
For instance, in the instance where a child was not allowed to be baptized because the bishop didn't like the family.  This is pretty clearly against the CHI, BUT there will still be people who will side with the bishop.  Maybe they don't like the family either, maybe they saw something they didn't like (that didn't have anything to do with worthiness) so they thought the family deserved to be 'punished,' but very often it comes down to, "we are told to follow our leaders, and I always have followed leaders blindly because any questioning is clearly apostasy, therefore, there is no way the leader can be wrong in his decision, and anyone who says otherwise is a lying apostate."  And, unfortunately, there are a LOT of people (not just Mormons, though we are particularly good at it) who fall in this last camp.  So 'evil in the eyes of both' doesn't mean much.  The only thing that really matters in the eternities is 'evil in the eyes of God,' and the things that matter now are more complex.  God does care about feelings (of 'victims'), and intentions (of 'perpetrators'), but he also cares about the running of his church because that affects all of that, and where much is given, much is expected.

So it comes down to this: I know very well that I don't know the entire story in any of these cases.  I know most of the people well enough that I feel I can trust them, but I also know people well enough that even people whom you would trust with your life in most circumstances, have areas in which they either cannot see clearly or it is too painfully personal for their version of events to not be tainted by defensiveness or shame.  And even if I had been RIGHT THERE, I still wouldn't have the stewardship to have the inspiration to make a judgment (though if it were egregious enough and I were right there, my mama bear instinct might take over).  In a case like your sister and your parents (which I have, unfortunately, seen variations of a dozen times at least), I try not to take sides openly, because even when I personally may side with one over the other, I usually know there is at least SOME truth, as well as usually some mistakes and defensiveness, on both sides.  But the problem I run into isn't so much people asking me to side with them against someone else, it's more seeing friends suffering, in pain, and in bad circumstances, and I want to help.  And knowing that in their struggles, many people who could have or SHOULD have succored them, instead shunned, gossiped about, and denied aid because the actions of a leader led others to believe that the victim was unworthy of kindness, belief, or consideration.

PNR: I generally agree, and I have had a number of opportunities to do exactly as you suggest.  However, in the circumstances of which I speak, it isn't a single act of hurt.  It is a pattern of ecclesiastical abuse in an area over a period of time.  Which, again, if someone has nothing but complaints about every person they encounter, it casts doubt on the actual veracity of their complaints, but most of these people aren't like that--though some seem to become more that way if the pattern continues for a long time.  Which makes sense (I mean, it's natural to learn not to trust a certain group of people if they consistently treat you poorly for a while, until your vision changes and all actions from that group become suspect even if the bad behavior stops), but is also part of the problem.  Members should not be given consistent, even if relatively temporary, reasons to distrust their church leaders. 

JLM: I agree, all of these instances exhibit unrighteous dominion (whether affecting inside or outside of the church).  But most of the time, church leader misbehavior is not felonious, and litigious action is difficult and expensive, if not impossible, to pursue.  When you say 'social and material means,' what do you mean?  Most people in these positions are not in powerful enough social or material positions to have the clout to enact any kind of revenge (their powerless position is usually a big reason the leader has been able to hurt them in the first place) or self-preservation, to the point that attempts at social defense often backfire.  So it is a dangerous thing indeed.

(Edited because I'm always seeing ways I can word things better AFTER the fact....)
« Last Edit: July 19, 2017, 06:50:27 pm by dyany »
 
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ketchupqueen

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Re: Struggles with Church Leadership structure
« Reply #23 on: July 20, 2017, 05:20:37 am »
It's all well and good for us to think through what people should do in these situations.

But the hurt person may not be able to, emotionally.

The advice to love them is good. Listen if they need to vent. Don't dogpile criticism of something you didn't witness, but empathize and sympathize with their hurt. And if you did witness something, back them up.

I once felt the need to leave a ward to escape a horrific social situation and harmful bishop. We visited other wards until we found one we felt safe and welcome in and then visited there until we managed to move in. (We tried to get records transferred but the old bishop denied the request.) It was a compromise that worked for us but that time was hard for me, harder than it needed to be and harder than I like to recall. The stress was so bad it caused problems with my pregnancy that threatened my and the baby's health; going back to face the ward causing the problems or escalating the matter weren't options for me that I could handle physically or emotionally.

I'm a big fan of meeting people where they are and simply loving them.
 
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Palmon

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Re: Struggles with Church Leadership structure
« Reply #24 on: July 23, 2017, 02:34:32 pm »
This story seems to fit in with what you (Dyany) are talking about - the Church telling people to move on, forgive, etc.
http://religionnews.com/2017/07/20/mormon-bishops-interview-policy-opens-the-door-for-sexual-abuse/
 
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dyany

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Re: Struggles with Church Leadership structure
« Reply #25 on: July 23, 2017, 10:26:06 pm »
Palmon, thanks for sharing that.  Some of my wounded friends have shared the same thing on Facebook, resulting in a very large discussion that I think has been, for the most part, productive.  Some, of course, want to gut the leadership structure, some want to make bishops a paid position for more accountability, and other ideas have been tossed around.  I am going to cut and paste my contributions to the discussions, simply because I think I started getting some clarity.

Quote
I personally feel there needs to be a lot more vetting and training of bishops. As someone who works in the mental health field, I have to go through a lot of background checks and sign a lot of legal forms and am constrained by HIPAA and have all kinds of extended ethics laws which I have severe consequences if I don't keep. I believe that Bishops should have the same. There are only 4 types of legal privilege (i.e., roles wherein if you tell a person in that role something in confidence, they are legally bound to keep it completely secret and cannot, except in rare circumstances, be compelled to divulge the information even in a court of law) in our country: spousal, attorney/client, doctor/client (which mental health falls under), and clergy. If an attorney breaks it, they are disbarred and can have legal action against them. Similar with medical. As such, there are a lot of safeguards put into place to make sure that those providers can be people that their clients can have a better chance of trusting, because the confidentiality is designed for the benefit of the client/parishioner, NOT the provider. But bishops receive minimal training, no background checks (as far as I know), and very few negative consequences when they screw up or do evil things while under the mantle of leadership.

I DO trust God to know who needs to be in a position. I just don't trust us humans to not screw it up to some degree, and as such, there needs to be safeguards put in place.
 
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dyany

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Re: Struggles with Church Leadership structure
« Reply #26 on: July 23, 2017, 10:27:11 pm »
Quote
Something else I thought of: men given the calling of bishop without a sacrifice of just time, but of TRAINING and other sacredness essentials are being put into 2 possible very hard positions: 1) a position where they have not been given all the tools necessary to succeed, in which case they will fail more often, which is horrible for everyone including themselves, or 2) an unearned level of prestige and social clout that, especially without proper levels of accountability, becomes a doorway to pride and unrighteous dominion.

Sure, it would be delightful if every man asked to be a bishop had the time, humility, and resources to hold themselves fully accountable, seek out all the resources they need to fulfill the calling adequately, and know exactly wherein their own knowledge and experience is insufficient and they need more education. But that is a lot to ask of them on top of the huge time sacrifice the calling already requires.
 
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dyany

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Re: Struggles with Church Leadership structure
« Reply #27 on: July 23, 2017, 10:29:11 pm »
Then, after a friend suggested we change to paid bishops:
Quote
The thing that really worries me, though, is this: bishops really need to be called by heavy-duty amounts of inspiration because of their responsibilities. They also need to be deeply invested in the individual members of their congregation, and rely heavily on their counselors and other ward leaders. That's not 100% right now, I know, but I can't imagine that making it a paid position that people compete for (and therefore will lie or 'fudge' for), find more prestige in, and often have to relocate their family for, would be an improvement, especially because where would it stop? Counselors and other ward leaders would have a hard time giving as much, since they aren't 'getting' as much.
I have had friends and family members who have worked for the Church in various tech positions in Utah. It is not a position that generally requires much revelation, you don't get set apart for it, and in those jobs you don't have stewardship over anyone's wellbeing. But the politics, name-dropping, and claims of 'revelation' for purely business decisions are so bad that the departments can barely function. Instead of putting in more because they are being paid, workers put in less because it's more like a calling (and the pay isn't really high enough for it to be a highly sought after job). There isn't really more accountability. The Catholic priest fiasco is a perfect example of getting paid having nothing to do with more accountability.
I think that it is possible to have more accountability and training for bishops without the position being paid. A small stipend, maybe. But I don't think having bishop being a paid position would solve any problems.
 
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dyany

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Re: Struggles with Church Leadership structure
« Reply #28 on: July 23, 2017, 10:36:13 pm »
Then after some more discussion wherein there was a lot of negative said about some of the upper structure (note: all the parties involved believe in the Brethren; it's just some of the structures below them they had problems with) and the lack of change, I added:
Quote
We are so close on this, with just a little difference. I get pretty frustrated, too. But one thing I know for absolute certain is that assumptions are the termites of relationships, and wording in many ways controls perception, and that can be extremely pernicious. For instance, I know that the Brethren receive lots of information about what is said online, but I know there is no way in heck they can receive even a tenth of all that is said. As such, it has to go through a filtering process before it gets to them, and my guess is that part of the filtering is automated, part is manual, and part will follow a hierarchical structure (e.g., small things like this type of conversation off of a shared post is unlikely to make it to their attention, but persons or sources with a bigger audience are more likely to be seen). But automated filters are inadequate, hierarchal structures undergo a lot of filtering already, and manual selection is VERY likely to be influenced by tradition (not good), not wanting to 'rock the boat,' and wanting to please authority figures (so being afraid of presenting unpleasant information).
As such, while I know that the Brethren receive a lot of information, I cannot assume that they see the information in a complete enough form to come to the same conclusions that we have--but on the same note, we likewise do not get information in a complete enough level to draw a flawless conclusion.

I personally feel strongly that Tradition is probably the biggest stumbling block within the Church. Tradition tells us that we have the whole truth and we don't need more. Tradition tells us that current or past ways are automatically better because policies=doctrine and should therefore never change. Tradition tells us we don't need to think. Tradition says to just do what you are told no matter what.
 Tradition ties us down with cords of nostalgia and laziness. But this is a LIVING church. Which means it constantly needs renewal and movement and an appropriate level of change and adaptation to stay True. Just like with our bodies, too much drastic change will destroy. But also just like our bodies, the lack of creation, adaptation, and renewal will destroy. I think there is probably some pernicious types of Tradition in the top structures--but I think MOST of the pernicious types exist in the general membership, and the top leaders must be very careful, lest any dramatic change be too much for the body to bear. It's EXACTLY the parable of the olive tree from Jacob 5. Sometimes you want to just burn the whole thing down. But there is still good in it. You can't remove ALL the bad at once, or else it will be too hard on the tree and destroy it. But you can't just let it go, or else the tree will just go wild and be destroyed. It takes careful, consistent, intense effort on the part of every good servant to balance the pruning and digging and fertilizing and grafting in perfect balance to maximize the good fruit.
 
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cook

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Re: Struggles with Church Leadership structure
« Reply #29 on: July 23, 2017, 11:49:53 pm »
I do think bishops get quite a bit of training. It's just that some do not listen or even attend. Or understand or want to obey.
 
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