I had a long and deep post on this situation written. I thought it was pretty good, but wanted to think about it and edit it again before posting so I saved it as a draft.
The draft didn’t save; the post is gone.
At the moment I have neither the time nor the energy to reconstruct it, but I do hope to at a later point. For the moment, I just want to say these few things:
- As a cyclist and the husband of a cyclist in Baltimore, people outside of this area need to know that this situation has a specific local importance. The crash has thrown a huge light on a rampant problem that hopefully will be leveraged to create safer cycling conditions. Far too many times in the city and metro area, drivers have been let go with a light slap on the wrist after injuring, maiming, or killing cyclists, especially if said drivers have privilege and connections; the cycling community is fed up with it. As a result, this case has acquired a large symbolic meaning for Baltimore cyclists and voters entirely apart from church concerns and church politics. Keep in mind that the State’s Attorney and the judge(s) involved in the case are playing to the local crowd more than they are to you.
- On one hand, clergy are human. As humans, they are just as susceptible to weakness, temptation, sin, and really dumb choices as anyone else. On the other hand, clergy have voluntarily offered themselves as leaders and exemplars of communities of spiritual and moral transformation. Nobody forced you to become a priest or to stand to be bishop so, yes, your moral choices do receive more scrutiny than the average layperson. Deal with it.
- As a community of spiritual and moral transformation, we do have a responsibility to help our clergy in their humanity, specifically in setting up gracious and caring systems of accountability. When the girls and I moved churches recently (long story—more on that later), one of the first questions I asked the rector of the church where we landed was: what day is your day off and do you actually take your days off? I truly believe that all clergy ought to be accountable to their vestries with a listing of their time showing a breakdown of how their working time was allocated within broad programmatic areas (worship, Christian ed, sick visitation, regular visitation, sermon prep, worship, meetings, admin, etc.) and also recording whether they actually got their days off—properly defined as a 24-hour period where there was no job-related activity including answering emails and phone calls! Furthermore, vestries need to have it beat into them that clergy not taking their days off is not a sign of dedication, but of over-work and possible disease. Clergy are very susceptible to golden calf syndrome—they love to be needed. Ego addiction is a real thing.
- We as a diocese and we as a church need to have some conversations around accountability when there are known problem areas. A lot of heat has been focused around the fact that the diocesan Standing Committee, Search Committee, and our diocesan bishop knew in the vetting process that there was a prior DUI, and that the electing convention did not have this information. What concerns me more is that once the election occurred and she was elected, there does not seem to have been an accountability mechanism set up to ensure that it never happened again. I could be wrong on that—but my hunch is that I’m not…
- How do we create mechanisms for accountability that do not have a stigma associated with them that will help us lovingly care for our human clergy, particularly those who need attention and assistance in specific areas? I don’t know. But we need to do more and better talking about it.