Shuck and Jive

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Cost of Discipleship

Here is a sad piece of news. Last Fall I posted on the marriage of PCUSA pastor Laurie McNeill to Lisa Gollihue. At the time the congregation seemed pretty cool with it. Now Rev. McNeill is out of work. The church said it was unrelated to her marriage. She thinks differently. Here is the story.

McNeill noted she was voted out after she announced her same-sex marriage.

"It was very painful," McNeill, 49, told The Times.

"I loved being a minister. It’s been an honor and a privilege. And I do feel called to be a pastor," noted McNeill. "And I knew that once I told, there was a possibility that my local congregation would ask me to leave."


  1. "Laurie getting married and the dissolving of the relationship are not related" From the Clerk of Session.

    Nope, couldn't possibly be the reason. Sessions and congregations rarely tell the truth about the real problems. It would reflect badly on them.

  2. I agree that the truth rarely gets told. Just this week I attended a committee meeting at my presbytery where a pastor was reporting on the growth of her small congregation. She proudly stated that they added 5 new members this year. My congregation insiders tell me that they actually lost one family (due to lack of promised growth) and the pastor was pushing long term attending, contributing, non-members to join. It looks good on paper I guess until you notice that attendance and contributions have decreased. Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics!

  3. I would not be surprised if indeed her wedding lead to the dissolution of the pastoral relationship. Fear and intolerance too often permeate church decisions. Still, I hesitate to assume that such is the case. The "official" reason listed in the article was a lack of leadership and admin abilities. I think it best to see what the data says before coming to a conclusion.

    According to the Ten Year Trends, before her arrival, the congregation had experience a couple of years of growth. Five years ago, (presumably upon her arrival) the congregation had re-entered its decline. During her first three years as pastor, the congregation continued its downhill climb. My understanding is that this is par for the course. When a new pastor arrives, often people leave. It usually takes 3-5 years for the numbers to pick back up. Therefore, we shouldn't look too hard at these early numbers.

    After she had been there 2 years, the trend reversed for Christian education. After 3 years, we see the trend reversing with regards to membership. After 4 years, we see the trend reversing in worship attendance. It appears that her last two years there (at least) were years of growth for the congregation under her leadership.

    So, though I recognize that there are intangibles involved in leadership and know that numbers aren't everything, I would be interested in knowing more specifically what the "leadership" and "administrative" issues were. Obviously, whatever she was doing was leading to congregational growth (assuming the numbers reflect reality). Is this what they were opposed to? Do they know that it's okay to break the mold and grow as a Presbyterian congregation?

  4. irreverence

    A couple of sad points: Curiously those who get mad and leave first are members of the PNC. Also new people are threatening to congregations. New people mean new ideas and new ways of doing things. It's easier to shrink quietly than to grow.

  5. It's easier to shrink quietly than to grow -

    indeed, Bob. Change scares people (and organizations) to death - sometimes a living death, but death, none the less.

  6. Sad. But I'm sure there's another congregation out there happy to snap up one of our talented pastors.

    Another congregation in another denomination, of course.

    Funny to see the talk of church growth here without acknowledging that I'm pretty sure we can count at least two members who will be leaving soon.

    And we wonder why we're losing members. Perhaps it's because we keep kicking them out?

    No, no of course not. How silly of me to suggest it. The membership decline is completely and totally the result of "real" Christians leaving the denomination because of the dirty queers. (Please ignore the fact that those who leave do not transfer to other denominations, since that would completely scotch the LayMAN narrative.)