In June, I attended the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in Florida. All clergy and an equal number of lay persons meet to do the business of the church. However, in the equally important informal interactions, we often learn more about the state of the church and its leadership. This year I heard about multiple colleagues who are victim of what I’ll call “Facebook Attack.” Rather than talk to the pastor about an issue that troubles them or because they are unhappy with the pastor’s response, church members broadcast their issues on Facebook to try to gain others who will take up their arguments. (Mind you, I am not talking here about clergy misconduct that violates the law or requires legal action.) What I want to understand is how this is a Christian response to a problem? Even if you have taken the issue to the pastor and the response is unsatisfactory, the next step is not the court of Facebook but rather the lay leadership of the church or failing in that arena, in the United Methodist Church there is District leadership and, if it is very serious, Conference Leadership. Even when all has failed, how can anyone justify a public attack? There are still other options, including mediation, that are far more reflective of our Christian faith.
Would any of you value someone at your place of employment taking your disagreement to Facebook? Of course not, and in most workplaces, the person would be fired as defined in the Employee Agreement signed at hiring. But in the church, it seems there are times when people set aside all manner of moral and ethical behavior in favor of getting ‘what I want’. Where does Jesus ever say that getting ‘what I want’ is a valid concern in matters of faith? Jesus told us to ‘take up your cross and follow me’ not to bring him your ‘what I want’ list so he could fulfill it. I’m not saying a pastor can’t ever be wrong. What I am saying is that a respectful, measured response is much more effective than a Facebook Attack in finding common ground where people can resolve an issue in a Christian manner. And that applies to every interaction, not just those in the church.