I recently started tracking an online discussion that was started by a pastor I know by reputation only. Everything I know about him I like, but his recent action has left others and myself somewhat perplexed. He posted a provocative article online and then stepped back as a battle erupted in the comments section. Opposing positions were taken and the verbiage became terse (i.e. people got mad). The pastor finally reengaged only to ask that the dialogue cease. It did not. What did happen was that people started asking that the pastor clarify his position on the matter. His response seemed evasive and this led to people asking for clarity. In response to this appeal another respondent made the claim above. Apparently, from their perspective, a pastor is not required to explain all of his convictions to his the church.
‘Twaddle’ works too, and was a favorite of my deceased father, but it lacks the required stridency, so I’m going with ‘poppycock’.
Every congregation has the right to know what their pastor believes. He is, after all, instructing them on what they should believe. Don’t those under his direction have the right to know what he holds to be true? I say, yes. A clergyman who is purposefully ambiguous is not to be trusted. It’s true that some matters are incredibly complex and require complex explanations. A simple, concise answer is not always available.
Also, a pastor cannot be expected to have a defined position on every conceivable topic. It’s okay for him to say “I don’t know yet, but once I have an answer I will share it with you.” What is not good is when the man is intentionally vague so as to keep his beliefs hidden. When a straightforward explanation is avoided there is something worrisome lurking behind the curtain. Pastors need to be able and willing to give defined answers about what they believe.
This is not the same thing as a pastor being defined by a single issue. I’m not advocating for the sort who is preoccupied with his pet peeves and uses every opportunity to grind his axe in public. The words ‘bully’ and ‘pulpit’ ought never to be used together. Rather, I’m calling for the kind of honesty that is needed for trust to flourish. A healthy relationship between a pastor and his people is one where mutual affection grows out of honest transparency.
Nobody gets a perfect pastor (I know my congregation hasn’t), but nobody should remain under the guidance of an ambiguous one.