OUR book

Would you like to be a part of OUR book?  Botolff and Watchman are writing a book together.  But it’s not our book, it’s OUR book.  Although we believe we have enough information from our two stories alone to fill a few books, we have decided to pursue stories from other clergy who have been forcefully terminated from their ministry positions.  We want this to be OUR book.

With approximately 19,000 pastors being forcefully terminated every year in the United States (see “The Report” page),we have an epidemic on our hands, and a lot of hurting people in this country alone.  Not to mention the countless ministers nationally and internationally dealing with the same issues with their missions boards, “para” church Christian ministries, etc.  We want OUR book to be a project that could provide some healing for so many ministers worldwide who have experienced the pain of forced termination.  We are also hoping OUR book will be an educational resource for churches and ministry groups looking to invest energy into addressing the atrocities that are being committed against ministers every day in this country.  We believe that in order to expose the magnitude of this problem, and to provide some support for the masses of wounded ministers walking among us, we need to journey together on this path as much as we can.  Hopefully having this common blog ground to plant our stories in, we will all find some support and healing growing out of it.

Will you be a part of OUR book?

Have you been on the receiving end of a forced termination, or know someone who has?  Perhaps, if you were the one terminated, your experience was so manipulative and deceptive that you can’t even tell what happened to you, but you know it hurt like hell, and you were left in the embers.  Were you someone who felt the shock-waves of this happening to a loved one or a friend?  Maybe something we or someone else says in this blog will trigger a memory or emotion that ties into your own experience.  If you haven’t had the energy to speak, have been too afraid to do so, haven’t known what to say, or wouldn’t know who to talk to, you can tell your story here.  Post anonymously or sign your name, but either way, tell the truth.  Know that this is a place for you to express yourself, even the feelings and frustrations that it seems no one else wanted to hear.

In OUR sharing, we hope to invite others to do the same.  If you choose to share, you will also be giving us more stories to help us put together OUR book that will help to address the horrors so many of us have been through.

So…if you want, write a piece, a paragraph, a page or whatever would be helpful for you.  Interact with postings and comments.  Know that we hope to respond to as much as we have the time and energy to do so.  We are also trying to find space to catch our breath and heal.  So, if there are seasons when we don’t post, it doesn’t mean others can’t interact.  Keep the comments coming.

Let’s write OUR book!!

Responses

  1. Hi…my name is jerry…

    at last night’s board meeting, a letter was read to the board from a married couple in the church. they ‘pleaded’ with the board to end my ministry.

    there are no charges leveled against me.

    i have not failed or neglected in my responsibilities in any way.

    i have not lapsed into heresy or become apostate. i have preached a terribly conservative, expository, cross centered gospel.

    yet this coming sunday will likely be my last in the pulpit i have been in for nearly 10 years. why? some old people got angry, withheld their offerings, gossiped and spread all kinds of lies about me and my family (yes, my sons and wife too), drove off some weak christians, and now, after promising my salary last year through three different votes, and allowing my wife and i to assume a mortgage in town, they have cut my salary by 30% and, as I said, are now likely going to remove me permanently–leaving us stuck in a house we can neither pay for nor sell without huge losses.

    you are right. i cannot even begin to describe what i’m going through right now. we are an independent church so i have no support from a diocese. i have no unemployment to fall back on. i have no elders to mediate. very little savings which won’t last long. i’m am literally, profoundly, alone.

    you want a chapter? i’ll write your entire book. this is the third, and last, time i will go through this. I have written a little about my struggles with the church at another blog i write for. with your permission, i’ll share a link. i have written 5 or 6 posts on this subject.

    can’t tell you how broken i am because of this. i have three sons. a wife. a mortgage among other things.

    and still no one will tell me what I did wrong. seriously. no one will tell me anything other than ‘we have lost confidence.’

    thanks. i’ll be happy to share more and the link to my already posts after you give permission to do so. either way.

    jerry

  2. Jerry,

    My heart breaks for you tonight and I don’t even know you. But I can imagine what you’re going through. The darkness often seemed all consuming for me, and the pain has even left its physical marks on my body. But if I can even risk trying to offer any hope, I believe your heart will carry you through.

    Do you have anyone you can sit with face to face and trust to tell your story to? Someone who can enter the depths of the darkness you have been ushered into and help you stand? My hope is that you do. If you want to e-mail me the address of your other blog (botolff@gmail.com), we would be priveleged to read some of it and consider posting it here. I will pass it on to Corey if you send it to me. As you can probably imagine, it’s important that we screen things coming into the blog.

    Again, thanks for posting. I HATE that we are welcoming you to the blog through your circumstances, but I’m glad you’re here. You’re not alone.

    Jamie

  3. I noticed on your blogroll ‘Pastorcare.’ One of my good friends who is helping me sort all this out right now is a retired methodist minister who represents pastorcare. Thanks for the reply. I’ll send you an email soon, but it might take a few days. I have a lot of church stuff to sort out in the next few days and i’m dean for a week of camp that our church supports. irony.

  4. No worries on timing for the e-mail Jerry. Do it when you get a chance and are feeling up to it.

  5. If I ever take a job at another church, I am going to ask for a written contract that specifically outlines the method for termination salary decrease. Too often the salary package is used as leverage or as a means of harming a minister and his/her family.

    Beautiful.

    Just like Jesus.

    Puke.

    even the worst minister in the world deserves better treatment than you have received, Jerry. I hope somebody steps up and does the right thing on your behalf.

  6. I have more to share with you, but I have to wait for a while. I am resigning tomorrow. I will share more later, but I have to lay low for a bit.

    Peace.

  7. Thanks, Jerry. Praying for you.

  8. Friends,

    I am nearing the end of the period set by the church during which they are paying me severance. I suspect, however, that at this point I am quite willing to begin sharing my story if you are still interested in hearing it. I have already posted some thoughts at Relevant Christian (wordpress) and since I thought my identity there was hidden (and it wasn’t) I believe it is time for some sharing to begin. Let me know.

    This has not been a particularly happy time for me or my family, but I believe the Lord is already healing us.

    jerry

  9. Jerry,

    Thanks for stopping back in. We want to do what we can to support you in this process. If telling your story would be helpful for you, we would gladly receive it and try and encourage you where we believe we can along the way. I don’t know what you would prefer to do, but if you’d like to share, you can feel free to write in segments as comments right on this page or wherever you feel like it fits on the blog, e-mail us, or whatever other avenue you feel would be helpful for you.

    If you do decide to write on here however, I just want to point out that there is always the possibility that others you know will begin to read your story here as well, and depending on the details you share, there is a high probability that some will run from you, and others will use whatever you say against you as a result. Corey and I have both had that happen to us as a result of this blog.

    Speaking from experience, it’s a risky thing speaking up about what has been done to you, but I also believe it’s incredibly courageous. Whatever you decide to do, know that we’ll support you however we can.

    You and your family are in our prayers,

    Jamie

  10. Jamie – I just found your blog tonight. Thank God you are here. I feel very alone. I can’t sleep. My heart palpitates from anxiety.

    The pain I feel is so immense I can’t seem to be present in my life anymore. I’m paralyzed. We have 4 children and I can barely care for them.

    My husband is in the process of getting “disciplined” by our church elders. 4 days ago they voted 4-1 to ask for his resignation, but have changed their minds. They won’t say why. One elder has resigned over this issue, out of support for my husband. Everything has been blown out of proportion. I’m afraid it has gone too far and we can’t get it settled. The ups and downs are exhausting.

    I have been in this church for 30 years. I grew up here. My husband has been on staff for 6 years, but we got a new Sr. Pastor one year ago. That’s when everything changed. I’m afraid it’s going to be my husband or the new Sr. Pastor

    Right now, the elders want my husband to come up with a plan for reconciliation, a letter confessing his sins against the Sr. Pastor and a promise to be behind the vision of the church. He has already asked for forgiveness numerous times, and he has stated before that he is behind the vision of the church. I don’t know what they want from him. I think they are trying to get him to give up and resign.

    Honestly, I don’t know if I have it in me to keep going. My husband has been under scrutiny since last December. I am physically getting very weak. Mentally, I am at the end of my rope.

    Is there any hope?

  11. Jelani,

    I believe that there is hope, and quite possibly you are full of hope itself. If you weren’t, I wonder if you would be wrestling so much with the horrors that are unfolding around you and happening to you. As much as it pains me to hear the agony you and your family are going through, I am grateful you have not just dismissed what is happening. If you did, that’s when I would wonder if you were hoping any more. But instead, because you are allowing yourself to feel what’s going on, it seems like you are hoping for goodness out of an incredibly screwed up situation. And for that matter, hoping against the movement of hell itself. I hope your hope leads to some redemption.

    Because I really know virtually nothing about your situation compared to what is happening, I feel limited in being able to respond with any confident sense of clarity and care. But at first glance, this situation with the “church” and your husband/family sounds chaotic, confusing and punitive. Those are not good signs of a healthy process, and it’s no wonder your “heart palpitates with anxiety”. I wish it didn’t hurt so bad. Speaking from experience, most people will never know what my mind and body went through as I was drug through the process I was put through, but most people don’t want to, which is why I went through the experience that I did. One thing that I hope for you and your family is that you are able to believe that it is a good thing for you to step away and care for yourselves as you need to, because you may be hard pressed to find people in that environment that will care about and for you. I would also encourage you to try not to isolate. Find one or two people that you think you can trust, if possible outside of that system, to talk to about what is happening to you. Feel free to comment here or drop a line if you want, and we’ll do what we can to try and support in whatever ways seem appropriate.

    Thanks so much for sharing a piece of your story. So many pastor’s spouses have felt just as hurt as their husband or wife, and are afraid to say so. Thanks for saying so.

    Jamie

  12. Jamie,

  13. Jamie,
    I guess I do have hope. My husband and I will continue to work at the church, love the people, and do the right thing each step of the way.
    Honestly, what is hard is the not knowing what will happen, but none of us really knows what’s going to happen each day. Only God knows.
    I am encouraged by your thoughts. Thank you so much for your site. Blessings to you.

    Jelani

  14. Jelani,

    You said “do the right thing”, and that phrase caught my attention. I’m wondering what you think the “right thing” is at this point and what you feel your obligation is to doing it. Care to share?

    Jamie

  15. Friends,

    I appreciate this conversation. There’s so much I’d like to say, but I’m afraid there are still people who are reading and I don’t want to give them anything to hold over me or anything to make them feel good about themselves.

    Doing the right thing for me involves keeping my mouth shut for now. I have written 5 different letters to my former congregation and not one of them has found its way into the mailbox yet. I can’t explain what it is that is preventing me from sending the letter I so desperately want to send or blog about my experiences in more depth.

    I still stand absolutely amazed at how many churches there are who do this to preachers and their families.

    I will say this much though just to put some things into perspective. At the end of last year, the congregation voted in three separate votes to rearrange my salary so that I could buy a house–my first house; it was generous and fair.

    In April/May of this year, a small financial committee voted to slash my salary by 30%. Two months or so later, they held another secret meeting and decided that my salary would be on a weekly basis–that is, it would be adjusted accordingly to each week’s offering. We weren’t in bad shape and the Lord was providing (for the church). But that mattered little to them. When it was all said and done, they demonstrated that they did not give a damn about my sons, my wife, or me.

    It’s only because of the generosity of some friends (and student loan disbursements) that we have been able to stay afloat. Although now I am working two jobs and going to school full time.

    Of course by July I was forced to resign. That’s what happened after we lived in their parsonage and earned less than 30k per year for 8.5 years. After 9.5 years, we were fired. They went back on their promise and to this day they have not given us a reason for the termination. All we ever got was, ‘It’s just over.’

    There’s more to it than this, of course, but that’s the gist. They really have no idea what they did and the fact that we have no heard from a single one of them since it July tells me all I need to know about that church.

    Jelani, I don’t know if it helps or not, but I went through all my experiences without any elders at all. And those men who were ‘leading’ the church at the time lied to me and betrayed me in the end. For 8 years I served the church without elders. 8 years. But to quote from one of my favorite poets, ‘Don’t let the bastards drag you down.’ Trust the Lord. It’s hard to do. But trust him.

    Someday I am going to do more writing about what happened. There is a hurt inside that I cannot describe…a hurt that will not go away. And it’s not necessarily because I’m not preaching (although there’s that too), but it is because of some very close friends who betrayed us, lied to us, and completely abandoned us. It’s the loss of friends, people I personally discipled for 5 years and baptized just last year (2008), who betrayed us. I can’t tell you how badly that hurts.

    keep up the conversation.
    jerry

  16. Jamie,

    Well, right now the elders want my husband to come up with a “plan”. My husband is working on a plan to reconcile/work out the problems between him and the Sr. Pastor. (I do not know if this is the type of plan the elders were hoping for). The first step of this plan is to meet with the Sr. Pastor and elders and pray. Then, hopefully, my husband can ask if all parties involved want to go through the reconciliation process. If everyone wants to go through this process (which could takes months?) then my husband wants to stay and reconcile. If one party does not or can not go through the process then we would have to figure out what we will do.

    Right now, it’s so day-by-day. We don’t know what’s going on with the other people involved. If reconciliation is possible we believe that staying to reconcile is the right thing to do. If someone is not willing to reconcile then we would probably have to leave the church. I do believe that the whole staff must go through the reconciliation process together. This effects everyone.

    On a more personal note, doing the right thing for me means taking care of my kids through all this. I have not been able to give them much attention since all this has erupted. Today I am able, through God’s strength, to pay attention to their needs, not just my own.

    It is true that I am hoping in the goodness of all involved. I try to think the best of people, not the worst. I am focusing on this thought for today. I am also praying that my heart would not harden.

    Jelani


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