Thursday, June 14, 2007

Inclusiveness leading to non-voluntary exclusivity

Okay, that title sounds pretentious.

My point, and I do have one, is about how an urge to inclusiveness at all costs can wind up with a church that unintentionally excludes many.

I am thinking about this because of a line from Peacebang's wonderful post about what she has learned in 10 years of ministry. (And a quick shout out of "Congrats on your Ordination Anniversary, PB!)

Snipping one little bit:

(I) had no idea that congregations could commonly tolerate vile, destructive behavior in the name of "community” or “inclusiveness."


Our church just recently had a knock-down, dragout, because (thankfully, a minority) some members were vehemently opposed to having a disruptive behavior policy. They felt that it was wrong for a UU church to have a policy in which a member could be expelled from our congregation.

I think they are kind-hearted, loving people. But I do not agree with them.

What concerns me are all the people we lose over disruptive people in our congregations. Hard-working, good-hearted people who say, "I can't take this anymore."

Let me do the big disclaimer: No, I'm not going to define every type of disruptive behavior. And no, I certainly don't mean someone who is merely argumentative. Heck, I don't even mean someone obnoxious. I mean someone who is willing to kill the church with their actions. Vile, destructive behavior. And this is why I support having a good disruptive behavior policy with good checks and balances. I, by my ownself, should not be able to decide if a person is exhibiting "disruptive behavior." There should be steps of discernment. Phases of chances. Non-biased persons. Checks. Balances.

But that's jumping to the last step of everything. Better yet, of course, is being able to turn someone around. Show them what is considered acceptable.

And that takes a church community that is willing to step forward, rather than turning a blind eye, when someone begins with inappropriate behavior.

I have been reading Never Call Them Jerks, Healthy Responses to Difficult Behavior. This is after reading Well-Intentioned Dragons and Antagonists in the Church. Of the three, "Jerks" seems to come the most from love, and refuses to label trouble-makers.

(In the interest of honesty, I will admit that the other two are more satisfying in that you can say, Yeah! Yeah! when they describe certain types. But hey, satisfaction isn't often the solution to this kind of challenge.)

Where was I? Oh yes.

In "Jerks," there is a wonderful statement:

"Some churches are willing to trade integrity for tranquility."

What a great statement.

I am willing to bet that churches who are willing to make that trade don't grow. And probably shrink.

And along with the church not growing ... the destructive person doesn't grow. Aren't we cheating them out of a real opportunity? As a church, aren't we supposed to support each other in personal and spiritual growth? Sometimes, that support comes from saying, "This ACTION, we do not support."


Elizabeth said...

I am scanning the UUA bookstore and I found this book
Behavioral Covenants in Congregations
which reminded me of some the issues it seems like your congregation is facing. Just thought I would point it out. Peace :) E

jess said...

"Some churches are willing to trade integrity for tranquility."

Maybe I don't understand this right, but it seems that a congregation that refuses to deal with disruptive behavior isn't a very tranquil one. So is it trading integrity to "unwelcome" someone, or is it trading integrity to allow a member to disrupt the life of the congregation?

Lizard Eater said...

Elizabeth -- if it's the one I'm thinking of, it's a good one. At the same time we were voting on the Dis Behav policy, we voted on a congregation-crafted covenant. It's good, but it's focused on how we treat each other. Dis-B-pol is about what happens when we don't hold to the covenant. Hopefully, that'll never happen ... right? Right? (wide eyed, hopeful smile).

Jess -- Yes. Exactly. ;) False tranquility, e.g. "we aren't going to deal with this, so all the people who *do* know how to act appropriately will simply leave."

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. We had a time of great conflict in our church over how the minister was interacting with the congregation and we did not have a good process to deal with it. As a result, we lost half our members and most of our biggest contributors and most active leaders. The ones who were left behind were exhausted trying to hold the place together until new leaders were developed and more members came in. I wish we had had a behavioral covenant. It would have helped greatly.

At that time, we were so shocked by the minister's behavior and didn't kknow what to do. She had told her ministerial relations committee that they were not allowed to talk with the congregation members if they had a concern until they had first talked directly with her, which was a very difficult. Folks just left. Life is too short to put up with the bs that was going on.

I am proud of the fact that our board and minister and worship committee have kindly but firmly dealt with misbehavior much better in the last few years, and the church is starting to grow again.

Very important area.

Good luck with your process.