DLGP

Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Shame- Invitation to Collaborate

Written by: on November 17, 2022

Shelby Steele, in his book: Shame How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country, boldly reflects on America’s history and how racism has impacted current events relating to affirmative action.  He best illustrates this in sharing about the life of Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court Justice who wrote a memoir, My Grandfather’s Son. [1] Clarence Thomas, at the age of nine, went to live with his grandparents and was raised to believe that with hard work, opportunities would open to him.  He applied this mindset to his academic work and eventually was accepted into Yale Law school. Despite his hard-earned success in school and acceptance into Yale, this was on false pretense as the Ivy League wanted him there because of affirmative action. Steele states the dilemma: “In segregation, our inferiority served white supremacy; with “diversity”, it gave whites a problem they could solve to establish their innocence of racism.” [2] In this essay I will relate how this story of hypocrisy and shame relates to one of my friends who has experienced gender injustice in her local American Evangelical church.

I am curious what the leaders in DLPG01 might think if they had the opportunity to meet my friend Julie who has recently stepped down from her role as worship leader at her church. Many details in this essay will be changed to keep the anonymity of my friend. Julie had served 10 years as a worship leader, the past five years she was in a part time position at a small church. Working at her church began to take a toll in 2020 as Covid created many changes. In 2021, things became more challenging as mandates were variable and the church moved to a different building. Setting up for worship outside proved to be a difficult task. In addition to these changes, a part time executive pastor was hired, and Julie was considered as a direct report to him, someone who came to the job with a business background not a ministry background. Julie’s role as worship pastor incorporated many duties as a pastor; she now had a role under the executive pastor? Julie had always believed she was a peer among the pastoral staff and the new executive pastor’s family were dear friends. Julie enjoyed having family get-togethers with, now, her boss at church.

The turning point came for Julie when the head pastor and the executive pastor came to her and told her that she needed to “take a break.” They said that they wanted her to read several books and go to counseling for six months. Julie was not asked to collaborate over what “taking a break” would look like. They told her that she needed to take a break due to the strain from Covid. Julie is an outspoken person and she admits to freely sharing her feelings; had she been too honest in sharing how she felt? Opening our hearts and sharing prayer requests are encouraged in the church, no? Did these pastors perceive Julie as being emotional?…an emotional woman? Julie fulfilled the requests that were made of her, returned to her position for eight months but informed her pastor that she would be leaving after Easter. Julie continues to attend this church and she is happy that a friend of hers was able to step into the worship leader role. But where is Julie’s heart? She remains tender and hurt due to how her pastor and newly hired friend asked her to “take a break.” Julie would have been open to taking a Sabbatical which is customary for pastors to take. She has said that she will never take a worship leader position again, as this may invite inequity in power, position and pay. Her relationship with God is cursory currently and she is pursuing a career as a policewoman. She is pursuing this new career as she believes there will be equity in position and pay. This is something she did not believe she had working at her church.

Many questions remain for me, as her friend. How much inequity came with what transpired for Julie? How might the senior pastor handle things differently in helping her through the strains and demands that came with Covid? I can imagine how difficult it was for Julie whose friend, without ministry background, was put in a role which came with power, position, and pay that did not look like hers. I’m curious what kind of possibilities might come Julie’s way in the future as she is an amazing worship leader.  She is excited for her new career, and some of her needs for gender equity will be met in this role. I know God will be faithful in His relationship with Julie, but how will this wound be healed?  Will the church be a place she can trust?

Steele raises the issue of gender inequity in his book and notes that the 1960’s provided an opportunity for issues of gender to be addressed as women“insisted on parity with men in the workplace as well as in the family.” [3] Women began to believe that “gender must never again be an occasion for hierarchy” and yet, sexism remains many years after. [3] With how my friend was treated at her church, could this be viewed as discrimination when the pastors believed they were providing for her in a “loving way?” What took place with my friend was not evil, but Steele provides an interesting definition for hypocrisy: “Hypocrisy is established when evil is clearly visible through the fog of rationalization-when rationalization is seen for what it is. So, hypocrisy is not an act of evil; it is the pretense of innocence.” [4]

The last time I spoke with my friend, she said that she is motivated in her new career as this will demonstrate to those around her that she is able to accomplish this hard-earned goal. I could not help but wonder if this applies to Julie: “There is a compelling dialectic at work when hypocrisies become established and can no longer be denied: they elicit fearlessness in the people who have been victimized by them.” [5] I believe Julie’s pursuit of a career as a policewoman is well intended, but is her motivation in seeking justice for herself as a remonstration to the pastors she once worked for?

It is my hope and prayer that the Church will be about what Steele describes as “the Real Good.” He says, “The Real Good is what follows from moral responsibility— both personal and collective. And it is a struggle to know what moral responsibility calls for in a given situation. Thus, the Real Good is never a finished thing, and we never get to sum ourselves up as good; rather the Real Good is conscientiousness itself, an ongoing effort.” [6] Steele’s father’s sentiments for America are mine for the church: do not “underestimate America.”  He said, “No, it’s strong enough to change. You can’t imagine the amount of change I’ve seen in my own lifetime.” [7]

 

[1]  Steele, Shelby, Shame How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country Shame How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country    p.134

[2] Ibid.  p.138

[3] Ibid.  p.63

[4] Ibid. p.127

[5] Ibid. p.63

[6] Ibid.p.127

[7] Ibid. p.123

About the Author

Kristy Newport

3 responses to “Shame- Invitation to Collaborate”

  1. mm Becca Hald says:

    Kristy, thank you for sharing your friend’s story. My heart breaks for how she was treated. It sounds to me mishandled. I wonder what led up to the need to hire the executive pastor and why Julie was made subordinate to him, I wonder what other changes happened at the same time. I wonder what denomination this is and how that might play into the gender discrimination and what role that plays the executive pastor telling her she needed to “take a break.” How do they respond to issues of mental health? Is this why they felt she needed the break? Was it truly motivated by wanting what is best for her or did they see her vulnerability in sharing as a weakness? So many thoughts and questions!

    I have seen similar situations over and over in the church where things are mishandled, where pastors/leaders show gender bias, where someone sharing vulnerably and being real becomes a tool against them. I have seen some progress in these areas, but there is still so far to go. It makes me sad that your friend feels her only option is to turn to a new career. I have to wonder if it will be the place of acceptance that she seems to think it will be.

  2. Kristy, thanks for sharing Julie’s story with DLGP1 for collaboration; as seen at this church, leadership growth is inevitable, especially in leading others well. Julie is another victim of poor leadership and will bear these injuries for some time. Trusting the church or leadership will take a long time, given what she has gone through. Leadership challenges are everywhere; even within the Police, things might not be that different. I trust she will be able to grow in her potential as a Leader by God’s grace, and she might be the person to do a better job helping others in the future.

  3. Kristy Newport says:

    Becca and Jean,
    Thank you for commenting on my post.
    I am confident that God will use this for the good.
    I am grateful to be Julie’s friend. I am privileged to journey with her. I know that she will continue to pursue Jesus and love His Church.

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