Friday, April 19, 2013

Terrorists are Bullies and Bullies are Terrorists.

As if you didn’t know, the definition of terrorism is, “The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an on organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or government, often for ideological or political reasons.”  The definition of bullying is, “the physical or verbal abuse, repeated over time, and involving a power imbalance.”  Not much difference!  Terrorists are bullies and bullies are terrorists.  The bomb-makers in Boston, a basketball coach at Rutgers, or a rogue nation rattling a nuclear sword, all fit the definitions.  Countless news stories, editorials, speeches, and sermons have been and will be devoted to these tragic and devastating behaviors.

In light of all of the above it might seem trivial to highlight similar behaviors in the Church.  Nevertheless, this blog holds up hope for the future of the Episcopal Church by facilitating consideration and discussion of issues that must be addressed if we are to go forward.  It is sad, but we need to be honest – the Church is also afflicted by bullies.

Congregants (parishioners) go beyond the realm of reasonableness when they threaten the rector (pastor) with stopping their pledge, which is common, to lying about the professional and personal life of the clergy.  It is reported in several denominations, including our own, that more than one-third of all clergy moves are the result of being fired or forced out by “lay-popes;” which is just another name for a bully.  More then a few senior wardens have placed a severance check and a resignation letter in front of a rector.  “Sign this or we’ll fire you and see to it you will never be employed in a parish again.”  One clergyperson report a huge symbol burned into his front lawn as a way to break his spirit.  Clergy have been sued as a way to force a resignation.  And even when clergy move it has been documented that “clergy-killers” have traveled across the country to poison-the-well in the new place.

On the other hand, clergy can also be abusive, especially toward staff, paid and unpaid.  Many an Altar Guild has experienced ugly behavior by an ordained person in the Sacristy.  Assistant clergy have been publicly ridiculed in order to “keep them in their place.”  Some bishops are unscrupulous in their taking advantage of the ‘imbalance of power’ that permits ending continued employment for rectors that think independently. 

In strategic terms “Anti-Terrorism” is the holistic, defensive, approach to terrorism which seeks to understand the causes and drivers of terrorism. Every major university has such a class by one name or another.

Counter-Terrorism” is the offensive pursuit, prosecution and negation of terrorist activity.  Not so many schools teach this. 

Perhaps it is time as individuals, congregations, schools, communities, and nations to actively counter those who unlawfully use or threatened use of force or violence in our homes, our schools, our churches, and in the world at-large.  How?  Let the discussion begin.


  1. The bishop of Kansas comes to mind.

  2. Thanks Gary. Your points are right on target and spoken in a timely manner. You also are speaking the truth. Thanks for relating terrorist bullies to our journey of hope theme. Let the dialog continue.

  3. It is becoming widely known in some parts of one particular Bishop who tends to favor some of his priest over others. If you dare speak out he soons finds any reason he can to remove you from the picture. Recently when asked for pastoral help he quickly removed a priest from office. No help was offered. The pastoral situation was similar to another situation a few years before, however the priest was a suck up and female and so the Bishop just let it go, in order to cover his own behind and save face. Bullies are all around.

  4. I'm sure a class in counter-terrorism could be filled with hundreds of specific example situations and methods of dealing with these problems. But I wonder how many bullies or terrorists would voluntarily attend such classes. And, I must wonder where "love your neighbor as yourself" or "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is being missed.
    That we must discuss bully Vestry, Priests, and Bishops is a sad testament to human leaders not letting God into the center of their lives.
    Could it be that Episcopalians sense this dichotomy and are pushed away, and that this has a large affect on growth and strength of the church? Peace to all.

  5. Ed, good to have you in the conversation. You’re right of course, bullies/terrorists would not likely be found in a “counter-terrorism” gathering, but it’s not for them anyway. Rather, this kind of training is designed to “do something about evil” which is perpetuated by good persons doing nothing. How about a defense fund for clergy wrongly accused? How about parishioners confronting gossip? How about the Standing Committee contesting bully behavior by a bishop? How can decent people object to the truth? And how can the truth be unloving when the absence of truth harms? And I agree with you that such behavior is a sad testament about our leadership and may well be a factor to our loss of members.

  6. Congregations want Pastors but as soon as they get them, they have a compulsion to drive them out. The clergy firing rate is even higher than coaches in the NFL but with a lot less severance pay.