George's Story

"I cannot tell you why I was dismissed five years ago from my church employment."

I cannot tell you why I was dismissed five years ago from my church employment. When I was called out of the blue (six months into the Senior Minister’s time there) and told there was to be a meeting about my future, I found myself sitting in front of the Senior Minister and two wardens. The third, I later found out, did not attend out of protest. I was told “the reason you are being dismissed was you do not know the reasons why you are being dismissed.” In other words, I was not aware that some people had an issue with me and therefore I had to go. I think that what had happened was my boss didn’t want me around anymore. At some point my Senior Minister felt threatened by me and, therefore, I had to go. In the end I got some feedback from a warden which boiled down basically to people misunderstanding why I didn’t smile much (I had been diagnosed with depression and I’m introverted and shy; but I smile when I can because I love church).

On reflection I should have seen it coming. On day one my Senior Minister (who was my second Senior Minister, as the first who had employed me left nine months into my employment) publicly humiliated me in front of the night service by telling them the reason he was dressed so informally was that I was dressed like a goth. I wasn’t dressed like a goth – I was wearing gamer T-shirts, but I did like black. It seemed to me that he meant it as a put-down; he wanted things to be more ‘godly’ and formal. He continued to put me down in front of others. He started to call me a ‘girl’ because I liked knitting and had long hair. I was told “you can’t do men’s ministry”, and so was left out.

It seems to be the case that the Senior Minister spent a month gathering all the ‘evidence’ (ie hearsay) he could about me from certain people at church to gain enough support to dismiss me. After my dismissal he isolated me further until it got to the point that I was forbidden from coming to church. The wardens by this time stepped in to allow me back for my final Sunday for people to be able to say goodbye.

I tried to find a job in ministry. We were warned about one job where the senior minister lost his temper and yelled at his assistants. We were warned off another on the basis that the Senior Minister was difficult to work for. Another Senior Minister was about to retire. And we felt like no one wanted a dismissed Assistant Minister.

So, I got a job in the secular work-force. I had to do this, as my wife just had our first child (we were told we were dismissed when she was 36 weeks pregnant). There were bills to be paid.

My ex-Senior Minister, two years later, was ‘encouraged’ to step down by the Bishop after a break down in relationship between the church and him. Unfortunately for me there is no vindication. My wife is traumatised and still today will not trust ministers.