What’s Good for the Gander Will Kill the Goose

Posted: February 4, 2015 in Uncategorized, When Church Hurts
Tags: , , ,

If you’ve read Part 3 of my story, you already know about the day that I discovered that the secretary reads the senior pastor’s emails before he sees them. I found out that day that the pastor has no respect for confidentiality – at least not when it comes to him sharing private information about people with others. But alas, there is a double standard when it comes to people sharing information about him.

For those who haven’t read this part of my story, or who need a reminder:

I had emailed the pastor asking that he call me regarding a crisis of sorts with my son. When the pastor didn’t call after several hours, I called the church and spoke with his secretary. I explained to her that I had emailed asking that he call and wondered if he would be able to call me back that day. She assured me that he would. In fact, she said that she had seen my email and had placed it on the stack of materials she would be giving to him after he finished with a meeting he was in at that time.

At first, her words didn’t sink in. But after I got off the phone, I realized that she had said that she had “seen” my email. I quickly sent her an email and asked if she reads the senior pastor’s email. She replied with a dodge of my question. Had she done something wrong or said something to offend me, she wondered?

I replied back and told her that she was dodging my question. Period.

When she responded, she apologized and said that, yes indeed, she does read his emails at his request. Again, I replied and told her to please inform the pastor that I would no longer be sending him emails since I believed my communications with him – no matter what form they take – to be confidential and since that was not the case, I would not be able to email him as long as anyone else was reading my emails. I also requested that she tell him that I did not want him to email me, either, since his responses were almost certainly being monitored, as well.

Within a very short time, I received an email from the senior pastor. I immediately felt that he was demonstrating a lack of character by not honoring my request that he not email me, but I was so intent on seeing him in the very best light that I was willing to overlook the fact that he blatantly went against my wishes.

The pastor’s email was filled with a glowing description of his secretary and how trustworthy she was. He went on to explain that the board had decided years ago that someone should read all of his emails and other correspondence because he often had threats made on his life.

I emailed the secretary again, asking her to once again relay to him that I would not be responding to his email via email since it would not be kept confidential and that if he wanted to communicate with me, he has access to my telephone number.

Several hours later, the senior pastor called me. This was one of the very few times in over fifteen years that he made an attempt to communicate with me. Interestingly enough, I was in the church meeting with a mentor when he called. Despite the fact that I told the pastor at the beginning of his call that I was in the building, he did not want to meet face-to-face. My mentor could have served as a witness, but he was not willing, so we continued our phone conversation from across the building.

He told me, again, that the board had determined that his emails and other communications should be read by his secretary because he receives threats on a regular basis. He tried to make it sound like he and the secretary were simply following orders from the board. I responded that it would make sense to me that he read the emails first, and then any that were threatening or questionable could be shared with appropriate authorities.

Because his argument putting the responsibility on the board, and it being more logical to pass on questionable, threatening emails after he received them rather than having all of his emails monitored didn’t hold up, he then changed his tactic. He told me that confidentiality is not important in our culture anymore. People speak to him regularly in very public venues such as at sporting events or in restrooms or public sidewalks, he said, and share very personal information with him – information that can be heard by any and every one who is within earshot. Therefore, it was logical to him that because there are a number of people who don’t appear to be concerned that their conversations with him be confidential, to him it was only logical that I shouldn’t care if my emails or other communications are kept confidential, as well.

I reminded him that while I am an open book in many respects, I am also a very private person in some ways. I stated very clearly that I consider any communication between him, as my pastor, and myself to be confidential unless I explicitly state otherwise.

I also told him that I believed that nearly everyone in the entire church and community would feel the same way and that many who have emailed him over the years would be appalled if they were to discover that their emails were not confidential. I reminded him that almost every Sunday he stands before the congregation and gives them his email address and invites everyone to communicate with him. But never, ever, has he said, “Oh, and by the way, you should know that when you email me, your email will be read by at least one other person before it is read by me.”

I suggested that he inform the congregation from the pulpit that emails that are sent to him have been and will continue to be read by others. I knew from the tone of our conversation that he was concerned about my consternation but he in no way indicated that he would inform the congregation or that the practice of having the secretary read his emails would change.

A few days later, when I took a seat in the sanctuary for Sunday service, he came and sat next to me, took my hand, and spoke to me very kindly and gently. He expressed again his reasons for having the secretary read his emails and pleaded with me to continue to place my trust in both of them and to continue to email him. Of course, the secretary would continue to read his emails before they were printed and passed on to him.

It was several months later when we ran into a friend (this is also in part three of my story) who told us she was no longer attending the church because she discovered the secretary was reading the pastor’s emails and was not being confidential with the content. The way our friend found out was that the secretary’s husband, who was essentially my friend’s boss, let her know that he was aware of some family situations. The details he knew could only have come from the secretary reading the emails that my friend had sent to the pastor.

So, while it’s good for the Gander (the pastor) to share confidential information – whether it be by allowing his secretary to read his emails or by sharing communications and information with other people in the church (which we now know he did quite generously), if the Goose does the same, it is cause for slaughter.

It’s an interesting double standard, don’t you think? The senior pastor at my former church could share confidential information without consequence, but when I shared the ways that I had been spiritually abused, I was tossed out of the church.

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