K. D. ‘Casey’ McKibbon
It is my observation after thirty years of documenting ‘church fights’ that Church civil servants (most are not civil nor do they serve) have always maintained the thesis that when trouble comes the minister goes. There are those who tell me how helpful their officials were but bottom line is that they were moved along and their ministry was terminated before they themselves would have done so, and the pain is still great.
So if I am anywhere near reality how should you respond? What do you do?
It is my experience that once you really decide to protect yourself, your reputation and your family, then damage control is your best option. You begin to cut your losses.
Now, they want you out and now you’re thinking about getting out. It should all be very simple but this is when the real danger starts. Sometimes one leaves it so late that unless you negotiate safe passage off the charge you could get really damaged. Countless clergy have had details of a conflict ‘brown enveloped’ to their next congregation.
Most churches need to be forced into negotiating safe passage. To them it is a foreign concept. They think you will be a nice Reverend, put your head in their noose and allow them their way with you. Remember much of this is about power and control over you, as it is with the locals who oppose you.
So the first step after you decide to leave is to find out if they will negotiate. One must convince them that this is in their best interest. Better than going to war with you. A warning at this point, if they will not negotiate you need to really rethink your options and all of this is now academic.
Safepassage is different things in different situations. It is getting you out with career and reputation intact. It is getting Presbytery to admit it is a real no-fault situation and your moving is for the good of the national church and not an admission of fault, blame, etc.
Here are a few items to negotiate: (wish I could tell you how!)
- Officials and the locals get the assurance from the local ‘lay popes’ that they will cease hostilities immediately.
- You agree to do the same.
- You get time to look for another situation.
- You put a severance package on the table.
- You get ‘them’ to see this is a no fault situation. They give you an undertaking in writing that this is a win – win solution.
- If it is win – win then they will have no trouble telling you that this situation will not be used against you in the future, nor will it appear in any personal files etc.
- If it’s a win – win, they will also agree that your next charge will not be told by ‘official’ types that there was trouble.
- Church agrees to receive your list of concerns about the local situation and meet with the charge after you leave and share those concerns etc.
- Any suggestions for this list? Feed back welcome.
Safepassage is a fluid concept but it is best negotiated by a lawyer who tells ‘them’ that unless all levels lay off, you are not moving and you will fight to the death etc. In the short run none of this does much to stop the cycle of conflict on the charge. You will survive and that’s enough for now.
So as I see it you have two main options. Stay and fight or negotiate your way out of there. If you leave at this point without negotiating you could get hurt. One more thing. Share this letter with your spouse and friends in case you are in denial. Feel free to call anytime.