Saturday, August 31, 2013

Open Letter to the UCC Concerning Clergy Killers

Dear Rev. Rich Pleva and Rev. Jonna Jensen -

Thank you for your ministry and dedication to the Church in general and the Iowa Conference of the UCC in particular. Your work is difficult and your hours are long. Like all clergy, you deserve more appreciation, compensation, and time off. Yet, like all clergy, your dedication to the Church fuels your dedication to the ministry without these external rewards. Please know your work is seen and appreciated.

However, there is one imperative issue that has been overlooked in many parts of the Church, including the Iowa Conference: clergy killers. These are people who create social toxicity in congregations and/or bully pastors into leaving or following specific demands. I have seen and experienced this phenomenon myself - and have talked with many other clergy who have also experienced it. In fact, a friend of mine (who is a CPE supervisor) told me that the UCC is especially prone to this problem because of our polity and historic inaction. Another clergy friend (who is retiring after a long career) said you can't just mentor clergy through it, but instead the conference staff needs to engage in more proactive activity. I could go on and on with examples of other clergy who have talked about the problem of clergy killers. For example, according to former pastors of [censored] Church (including myself) and current colleagues in Iowa, [censored] Church has a few classic examples of clergy killers. Clearly something needs to be done on a denominational level, state-wide level, and congregational level to address this problem. It destroys congregations, ministries, clergy, and the marriages of clergy.

In order to explore the phenomenon of clergy killers, I implore you to budget the time to watch the film "Betrayed." The film features Rev. Dr. Lloyd Rediger. He was the man who wrote books such as "Clergy Killers." Rev. Rediger was a gracious and compassionate man. His dedication to Christian ministry was inspiriting. Plus he spent his life bringing healing and reconciliation to congregations around the USA and Canada through counseling, sermons, books, workshops, etc. He was a trusted expert in many denominations. The film, along with insights from Rev. Rediger, will help to highlight the pressing nature of addressing clergy killers. After you watch the film, please carefully and prayerfully explore some effective strategies to address this issue. Finally, and most importantly, please engage in effective strategies to overcome this destructive problem within our denomination and churches. The UCC is loosing good pastors and it does too little to help the pastors who remain in congregational ministry. The time for inaction, stagnation, and passivity is over. The moral imperative for proactive action is here. The actions that you take (or don't take) will shape the future of the UCC and determine your legacy on this pressing issue. I will be watching. And so will others. 

Thank you for your serious attention and consideration.


Former Congregational Pastor
Dr. Rediger In Memoriam from US Films Private on Vimeo.


  1. Brian,

    Please accept my sincere thank you for opening up pathways to healing through exposure and understanding of the DNA of the Clergy Killer. I have been involved in the effort with Steve Sussman and Randy Kanipe since about 2005.


    Wes Taylor

    1. Jaw-dropping article. I'm definitely going to check out the film. I wasn't aware that this was a happening. I agree with Brian, here. Thank you for the insight. Together, with knowledge, with a unified voice, can we stop this thing.