I began an exciting new ministry under the supervision of a Senior Minister in the diocese. The opportunity was excellent but there was no funding. I therefore chose to start the ministry for free whilst pursuing income from paid work elsewhere. The ministry grew quickly and after a couple of years I was able to be paid. A great blessing! However, soon after I had established a paid position my boss began bullying me and placing impossible, contradictory demands on me. He would yell at me and criticise me for things that I wasn’t responsible for. In my view he was very skilful at emotional manipulation and using passive-aggressive ways of relating to get what he wanted. I strong suspect that he marginalised me from others in the church by facilitating gossip and vague triangulation of criticism of me. Worst of all, when I attempted to discuss his behaviour with him, he repeatedly ‘had to reschedule’ our bookings to work through these things. This pattern continued for well over a year. As a result, my stress levels increased and my health rapidly deteriorated. I was clearly sick.
The Senior Minister called a meeting with me and the wardens of the church. They told me that this meeting was not a formal work meeting and it wasn’t about my employment. They just wanted to hear how I was going and be “brothers in Christ” to me in the struggles I was having. In retrospect I feel so naïve, but I believed them. I shared how I was going. They seemed genuinely concerned and I appreciated the care they showed me. However, a couple of weeks later the Senior Minister called another meeting. I was given three hours’ notice of this meeting and no indication of what the agenda would be. In the meeting the Senior Minister told me that because my health was bad my position would be coming to an end. It was made very clear that this was not because my work performance was unsatisfactory, but because “out of love” he thought I should find alternative work elsewhere. It also appeared that he thought I would remain involved in the church and fulfil many of my present functions for free again. I confronted the Senior Minister with his behaviour and how his ongoing mistreatment of me over the course of years had ruined my health. He seemed upset and genuinely repentant at this. That eventually led my wife and I to decide to stay, repair the relationship, and keep serving. I even convinced the Senior Minister to explain to the church why I would be taking time off work to recover. After he followed through on that I truly thought that things would get better.
However, a couple of days later he called me over to his office. He blasted me for two hours about how everything was really my fault and that I shouldn’t have confronted him with his actions because it had upset him. He yelled and was extremely aggressive, both verbally and physically. After that conversation I went home and had a serious psychological breakdown. The result was that I was too sick to be able to work for the next two years. We never returned to the church again. The Senior Minister had made it clear to me that we would be given no opportunity to speak anyway. In our absence the Senior Minister covered over what had happened and did not tell the congregation the real reasons why we had left. Almost nobody from the church ever spoke to us again.
It was very difficult for us and our kids to lose our church, house, school, and most of our friends all at once, not to mention my income and health. The diocese did not support us through this. It is quite possible that we would have been homeless except that generous family members provided us with a place to live and paid for my medical bills. The diocesan failure to care and support us was shameful. We weren’t even followed up. Since then I have received various reports of various persons in the diocese covertly slandering my character to others, such that other ministry opportunities have become closed to me. Not only was my previous Senior Minister never reprimanded or even challenged about his misconduct, but I was effectively blamed instead. Nobody has ever attempted to speak to me about anything I have allegedly done wrong. We served faithfully in the diocese, but were chewed up, spat out, and forgotten about. We sincerely pray that this kind of situation can be prevented from happening to anyone else.