August 25th, 2010

his friend Jesus

And that takes care of that

Dealing with telephone salespersons is one of the more annoying facts of being a pastor. Finding a way to gracefully get off the phone with someone who is selling something you don't want to buy can be difficult. Sometimes, rudeness is all that works. I don't like to be rude, but today I had an encounter where I don't feel bad about how I handled it at all.

My secretary came and got me from an adjoining room to take a call from some lady. Turns out she was calling for a church publishing outfit and they were pushing a new 5-week adult study called "An Adult Faith." The study was written by, or based upon the works of, Marcus Borg. (Borg is the leader of the Jesus Seminar, those guys who sit around with little colored balls and "vote" on what parts of the New Testament Jesus actually said and what was made up afterwards.)

She got no further than the mention of Borg's name. I couldn't help myself: I burst out laughing. I told her cheerfully, "Marcus Borg is an idiot," and hung up the phone.
how long

The beatings will continue until morale improves!

I got a letter from our Conference Commissar of Healthy Relationships today. Somebody really needs to teach this lady how to write a letter. It starts out all friendly and collegial: "On behalf of Bishop ___, the Cabinet . . . and the Board of Ordained Ministry, I would like to invite you [my italics] to participate in" a couple of workshops on Diversity Training and Professional Boundaries. Having thus "invited me," she goes on to say, "These two (2) training events are mandatory for all appointed pastors . . ." [emphasis in the original]. So, we descend from collegiality to the iron fist before we've even gotten to the second paragraph, which is pretty quick even for a Conference apparatchik.

The letter ends by saying, "Any pastor not attending in their scheduled year is placing their appointment at risk." Now, I'm an Elder in Full Connection, and though the bishop can move me to Outer Podunk UMC at his pleasure, I don't think anybody sending this letter has the power to remove me from the clergy, which is the only thing that would prevent me from receiving an appointment. But let that go. We aren't discussing this among colleagues, we're issuing orders.

This has become the default mode in The UMC these days. Back in the old days, the courtesy would have extended throughout the letter, and even in person the Bishop, one's Superintendent, or the Board of Ordained Ministry would never use such language; nevertheless, no one would have dreamed of blowing off the invitation to participate. And I'm not saying that we shouldn't have such events, or that I'm unwilling to attend them. But I don't like being ordered about by some jumped-up bureaucrat with exactly the same standing under the Discipline that I have. Especially not after the sixth or seventh time I get such a letter.

To add injury to insult, one of these courses costs thirty bucks and the other, fifteen. My feeling is that if they're going to demand I attend these things they ought to bloody well pay for them. I should be able to reserve my money for things I have a choice to attend.