Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: SLANDER (09/07/17)
- TITLE: When the Foundations Rock
By Lynda Schultz
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“Forget James! He’s done. He has nothing to say about this. In fact, he’s been manipulating the church’s finances for years and it’s going to stop! He’s on his way out.”
I was appalled. The speaker was aware that I was on the other side of the closed door. He made no effort to lower his voice. He knew he had been heard.
But it was not his backhanded attempt to convey a message to me through a piece of plywood that bothered me the most. He was speaking to another member of our congregation about the church’s treasurer, a man who had held that post for almost thirty years and one who operated according to the highest moral and ethical standards. He was purposely planting seeds of doubt and distrust. It was not the first time.
Over the years the congregation had come to value James’s advice. He was a CPA, partner in one of the most prodigious accounting firms in town. He also served on several boards in a community where he was known and highly respected. His clients trusted him. James quietly and inconspicuously gave generously of his own financial resources, even collapsing his retirement savings to pay for a badly needed new roof on the church. To hear him accused of doing something underhanded with the church’s finances both angered and distressed me.
But it wasn’t the first time that the accuser and I had locked horns about James. We had had “words” about him previously. Making sure that I heard this conversation, and at the same time guaranteeing that I couldn’t respond, was deliberate.
The conversation on the other side of the door continued. The issue was building expansion, a million dollar project that, at least humanly speaking, was not only impossible for a small church of blue-collar workers and those who lived on social assistance, but reckless. James had pointed out the delicate financial situation in which the church found itself. We were in the process of hiring a senior pastor and it would be a stretch to meet those new obligations. Unhappily those facts didn’t line up with the ambitious building plans made by someone who wouldn’t be around to live with the consequences.
James was in the way. He had to go. His advice and business acumen had to be brought into question. I knew that the speaker on the other side of the door would find a way. He had already warned me personally that anyone who did not do, immediately and without question, whatever he said to do would not be welcome in the church. My defense of James, and my questions about some other decisions that involved me, had put me on the same “hit list.” I wondered what he might be saying to others about me.
It would have been easier to deal with an ordinary member of the congregation who was badmouthing another member of the congregation. But what was I to do when the one slandering another believer was our interim pastor?
I knew well that Biblical injunction to: “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be no advantage to you.”* But I did not believe that the author of Hebrews would give that same instruction about someone who was abusing his position of spiritual authority.
James was eventually forced to resign his position, unable to go along with some legally questionably actions taken by the leadership. Our consolation became that middle phrase of Hebrews 13:17—this man would someday have to give an account before God. Our other consolation was that he would not be staying long. If we could ride out the storm, the calm would come. But it never did.
Before he left, and during the transition period when both interim pastor and new pastor worked together, the well was poisoned. After the interim pastor left, it became obvious that he had “warned” the new man about James. The slander was believed, and James continued to be marginalized, as was I.
David writes in Psalm 11:3, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The answer follows. God observes and executes judgment. “Upright men will see his face.”**
That continues to be our consolation.
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