Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Dealing with Pathological Antagonists

Good review:

Frontline Fellowship - Dealing with pathological antagonists
A review of: ”The Wounded Minister – healing from and preventing personal attacks” by Dr. Guy Greenfield

Every church and ministry has to deal with personality conflicts and intermittent discord. The writer of this book considers that normal. However, what he deals with in The Wounded Minister is the “growing phenomenon”, “major problem approaching crisis proportions” of “pathological antagonists” and their allies and sympathises who launch systematic and sustained attacks on the leader of a church or ministry.

Dr. Kenneth Haugk, a clinic psychologist, defines pathological antagonists as “individuals who, on the basis of non-substantive evidence, go out of their way to make insatiable demands, usually attacking the person or performance of others. These attacks are selfish in nature, tearing down rather than building up, and are frequently directed against those in a leadership capacity.”

G. Llloyd-Rediger describes these antagonists as “clergy killers”, who have as their one major objective, to abuse or hurt the minister to the degree that they will leave the ministry. Rediger notes that this abuse is “increasing in epidemic proportions … it is a phenomenon that is verified by both research and experience.” He identifies clergy killers as “people who intentionally target pastors for serious injury or destruction.”

These researchers have noted certain common features in the modus operandi of pathological antagonists.

1. There is always a set of problems in the church or ministry which serves as a background. The antagonist begins identifying the minister as the cause of the problems. (These problems may include finance, inter-staff conflict, a mailing, a popular staff person resigning, “it does not really matter what the problems are” - in most cases, the minister is blamed).

2. “One person seems to get the criticism train rolling. One person takes it upon himself to begin pointing out these ‘serious problems that are hurting our church.’ Phone calls are made … letters are written … “

3. “Often the person who leads the complaint charge takes several weeks, maybe months, to marshall sympathetic support for his position. Unsuspecting people begin to wonder whether there may be some truth to the complainers accusations.”

4. “In many cases the initial accuser enlists a few key leaders to plan some meetings to be held at his or a sympathisers home. These meetings are secret, that is ‘invitation only’ meetings of people who the accuser believes will agree with his accusations. The primary purpose is to gather support for the eventual attack on their minister … gathering additional evidence that the minister is to blame for the church’s problems. Meticulous notes are usually taken by the accuser or one he designates to do this”.

5. “They will try to build a paper trail of accusations with which to charge the minister with inefficiency, poor leadership, lazy work habits, questionable moral behaviour or unChristian attitude. An often-heard complaint is ‘oh, it’s not so much what he does or says that is so bad, it’s the way he does or says it.’ The way is seldom explained; it is just assumed to be bad, unhealthy, conflicting, in appropriate, unkind or harsh.”

6. ”The accusing leader plans his attack very carefully … he turns on his charm to win the friendship and support” of key people.

7. “The clergy killer knows he must work through recognised authority … to accomplish his goal of getting rid of the minister. When he knows he has their backing, he will move swiftly, with careful calculation.”

8. “The attack has actually been going on for some time, but the clergy killer, when the time is right, gets his plan of attack on the agenda of the official board of his church. He arranges for the minister not to be present.”

9. “At this crucial meeting, the clergy killer lays his charges before the assembled body of lay leaders. He will use ‘statistics’ to bolster his accusations.”

10. “When the statistics are interpreted negatively, the finger of blame is pointed at the minister. The bottom line of the charges is very simple: if we get rid of our minister, all of our problems will be solved.”

11. “He will probably try to get a special committee appointed (hopefully his friends) to visit the minister in his office as soon as possible to pressure him to resign quietly ‘for the sake of the church’s unity and future’. By this time … many ministers have been so harassed and worn out emotionally by all the accusations (by phone calls, letters … personal visits and rumours) that they will go as quickly and quietly as possible.”

12. “It is possible that open conflict will explode … “

13. “The abused clergy person usually goes into a clinic depression … his wife and children also feel rejected … the ‘collateral damage’ can be quite heavy and devastating.”

14. “Abused clergy are frequently abandoned and treated as if they ‘now have some dread disease, and their friends, colleagues and superiors keep their distance. Rarely does anyone come to their aid.”

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