My father grew up southern Baptist, therefore I grew up Episcopalian. There are a lot of reasons my father fled his boyhood church, but one thing he always harped on was the level of control that preachers have over their congregations. If the people aren’t careful, each preacher can become a pope.
Things become toxic when the preacher becomes more concerned with his own authority than in running the church. The Church Law Campaign put out a list of symptoms for how to recognize when a preacher has sunk into narcissism, and is likely to do harm. Here are the top ten:
1. Self-centered. His needs are paramount and take precedence over the church
2. No remorse for mistakes or misdeeds. Will not offer heartfelt apologies or ask for forgiveness.
3. Unreliable and undependable. Will change his mind and reverse decisions at will
4. Does not care about the consequences of his actions—may not even understand the connection
5. Projects his faults on to others. High blaming behavior; never his fault
6. Little if any conscience. Will do most anything he thinks will not be discovered. May ask staff to fudge the books.
7. Insensitive to needs and feelings of others
8. Has a good front (persona) to impress and exploit others
9. Low stress tolerance. Easy to provoke into anger
10. People are to be manipulated for his needs, accomplishing his desires
What’s odd to me is how often these get spotted in protestant churches. How is it that a faith that broke away from the mother church, in part because of the abuse of power and corruption, could turn around and allow such abuse again? And how can evangelicals, who generally emphasis the priesthood of all believers, place people above themselves with this kind of power?