happens if preachers go out on strike?

a question some churches in Canada may have to answer if a group of pastors
is successful in unionizing the 4,000 ministers in the United Church of Canada,
that nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

to David Galston of Hamilton, Ontario, one of the major problems requiring unionization
is “clergy abuse.” That abuse, he says, includes “bullying, slander,
stalking, harassment, and entering the minister’s residence without permission,”
according to a Nov. 9, 2004 report in The Washington Times. (I never
realized that was abuse. I just thought that was another day at the office in
my first church.)

to another news story (a Nov. 12 story on the CTV.ca website), “A study
by the United Church indicated that 60 per cent of ministers experienced high
levels of conflict with their congregations. Eighty per cent felt they have
no peer support.”

a result of all this abuse, some 30 pastors have turned to the Canadian Auto
Workers (CAW) union in an effort to create the first union for clergy in North
America. According to CAW President Buzz Hargrove, “The group is unique
. . . but the problems are similar to those in many workplaces.” OK, in
that they also get papercuts and mess up things on their computers, that’s probably
the case, but I’m not sure how far you can carry this.

why the auto workers union? I know we’re both trying to create something that
will move, but it seems like there would be some better choices. Why not the
teacher’s union – isn’t teaching part of our calling? Or the postal workers
union, since we’re both in the delivery busness? Perhaps Actors’ Equity would
be the right fit, since most preachers have a bit of ham in them.

again, the Communications Workers of America seems like an obvious fit, doesn’t
it? Then there’s the Laborers’ International Union of North America – isn’t
the laborer worthy of his hire? Of course, there’s also the Service Employees
International Union – we are servants of the Word, are we not? I could even
see us in the United Farm Workers of America, since we are out in the fields
sowing seed. And the Writers Guild seems an obvious choice, doesn’t it.

must admit, however, that my vote will go to the Federation of Professional
Athletes – not because it makes particular sense, but because it’s as close
as I’ll ever get to being called an athlete.

even after we settle on a union, there’s still a big question: what happens
if we preachers go out on strike? I’d be willing to guess that a bunch of deacons
would get a silly grin on their faces and plan a Sunday golf outing.

it is certainly something to be considered. I think we’d better consult with
the International Federation of Worship Leaders.


Duduit is Editor of Preaching magazine and President of American Ministry
Resources. You can write to him at michael@preaching.com, or visit his website
at www.michaelduduit.com.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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