A few weeks ago, I publicly questioned a fellow minister’s stance regarding politics and the local church. During the intervening period I’ve received a good amount of feedback, both on this blog and elsewhere. Last week I even had the opportunity to sit down with the pastor in question and talk through some of related issues.
A detailed list of the contents of that conversation are not the topic of this post. Instead, just a few words about my reflection on the controversial issues into which I have waded:
After receiving some pushback related to my initial critique, I took a look at words I used and realized that I was not as careful as I ought to have been. Some of what I said could quite readily be construed as an attack upon a fellow pastor’s entire congregation and all the work it does in our local community. I have long since removed any potentially contentious lines from the post, and apologize for any offense. It was not my goal to invalidate an entire faith community, simply to question some parts of the philosophy and actions of its leader.
For those who have read this blog, you know that the catalyst for my original post had to do with how closely I felt that a pastor ought to align him or herself with partisan politics. I took a very dim view of pastoral political endorsements and the like, feeling that getting too involved in the divisive and often compromised world of the political was not a wise or helpful pastoral move. Having reflected on the situation, it has come to my attention that by entering this very conversation and critiquing a fellow minister I myself may have entered the very political world I was deriding. While the stakes are certainly different, it isn’t as if I am completely innocent of the very thing I am critiquing.
Lastly, after receiving some negative feedback about my post, it became very apparent to me that my words were not simply seen as those of private citizen Joshua Ziefle, but Dr. Ziefle, Associate Professor at Northwest University. While the school does not endorse or authorize anything that I say on here, as a faculty member of the institution I am considered by many to be a representative of the school and quasi-public figure. Rightly or wrongly, in the eyes of some I speak for the school…and that means I need to be a little more careful in how I conduct myself publicly. Interestingly, this was a part of the very argument that I was making against my fellow minister and his particularly vocal brand of politics. This was a rather embarrassing realization of hypocrisy…but it definitely made for a helpful and hopefully formative discussion with my ministry students.
I look forward to continued conversations about ministry and politics here and elsewhere. There is even the potential for an on-campus debate at some point. In any case, I am thankful–and humbled–to be reminded of my own shortcomings in foibles, and look forward to what I hope will be a wiser approach to such matters in the future.