Thursday, August 30, 2007
Ministerial Integrity Workshop
I just spent 2 and 1/2 days in training on Ministerial Integrity in Birmingham, AL. I was training to be a trainer and presenter on our conference Ministerial Integrity Team. We were fortunate to be taught by Marie Fortune and her colleague Luis A. Carriere from Faith Trust Institute. Perhaps you have read some of their books, seen their videos and materials due to your denomination or conference teaching Ministerial Integrity. I have already been through our conference education twice now or more. I also taught the material for South GA and SAL/ West Florida UMC conferences in the late 80's and 90's. At that time there were a large number of suits happening in different denominations and conferences that led them to do something about it.
It is sad that even today there are cases of betrayal of trust by clergy and other church staff. But being aware that the church is one of the places people who are perpetrators use to get to their victims is important knowledge. Marie also said that now that Clergy have been educated and that there are guidelines, that they are seeing clergy who cross the boundaries and their excuse is that the rules don't apply to them. So now there are savvy offenders abusing their power and position. It is an issue that continues to plague the church, a place that is suppose to be safe, and a place of trust.
We reviewed the North Alabama policy and procedures as well. Marie says that we are on the right track. I think you can have the right stuff in place, but it is also in the implementation of the policy and procedures. The Bishop we have now has a policy of one strike and your out, whereas that has not always been the case. And initially I think some of the action on the conference's part was to protect the conference and the institution, not the victim(s). But I do see a change in that. I hope we get better and better at this.
I am not even go into the Roman Catholic thing, that's a whole other ball of wax, that could take pages to write about. It is enough to look at our own situation and seek to do the right thing in our churches and our denominations. I believe we have a biblical and theological mandate to do so.
One of the things the Ministerial Integrity workshop does is also have you look at how you are taking care of yourself or how are you not taking care of yourself, as that can become a set up for burnout and then acting without thinking. Although, I am doing a pretty good job taking care of myself according to my score, there are some areas I can work on, and I know it. For five years I was isolated as a female clergy person from peers. I try to keep good boundaries and not make laity my friends, yes I am friendly though. I worked hard at seeing people, friends in other places. I am now in a somewhat isolating situation again, and it reminds me I have to work just as hard at taking care of my relationship needs as before. During the past few days I was sitting with and conversing with some of my peers and realized I need to be intentional as I can to get with them. One of the things I shared at the workshop was how important revgalblogpals had become to me and the relationships I had made with people I connect with through the internet. Marie and Luis affirmed that and said that that is a lot of what our present generation was doing.
If you ever get the opportunity to hear or learn from Marie Fortune, all I can say is take the time. And if you want to learn more, read articles, get information and be inspired you can go to their website Faith Trust Institute. It is a wealth of knowledge.