I know there is a lot of consternation over the bloated salaries and golden parachutes on Wall Street and in some of the largest corporations. Why, we wonder, would incompetent failures be so handsomely rewarded for screwing up so badly? I don’t know why either, but my observation over the years is that a similar psychology is at work in congregations. A pastor who has served his or her congregation faithfully and well is most likely to get a potluck supper and a few best wishes cards upon departure. On the other hand, a pastor who has really messed things up and done a rotten job is likely to receive as much as the local congregation can possibly scrape together to get rid of him or her.
Now, that’s not true in every denomination. I never have figure out what logic inspires Methodist bishops to move people around the way they do, but I suspect there is something of a reward/punishment equation at work. Catholic bishops can do the same but are usually advised by a committee of senior clerics who take care to maintain the equilibrium as best they can. Until recently, they just shipped miscreants to some other diocese. And the revolving doors at many Congregational and Baptist churches simply baffle me.
Perhaps we Episcopalians do have the best way after all, no matter how messy it is. A rector cannot be called without a long involved process requiring the approval of dozens of committees, the bishop and God. It’s not all that hard to skip the God part, but that almost always leads to disaster. Moreover, the congregation cannot fire a rector. Only the bishop can do that. They can, however, make his or her life quite miserable and that usually does the trick. More often than not, it’s like a marriage. Since divorce is so unpleasant, it’s better to learn how to get along with each other in growing love for each other.
But I digress. The point is that there is something weird in our national psyche that will not or cannot connect performance with compensation in a rational way, and that’s most obvious when we over-pay goofy executives with big egos and little talent while being penurious about the rank and file who actually do the work. Doesn’t anybody ever read Amos or the Sermon on the Mount, or how about the entire letter to the Ephesians?
Oh, who cares! I’m retired. I’m on Maui on vacation. Let’em eat cake, or drink martinis, or whatever. By the way, it’s pretty evident over here that the big spenders are a lot fewer than in years past, and I think this is the first year that I have not seen a herd of private jets at the airport. And yes, we do come here often, and are very grateful for the ability to do so. I’d much rather write about the magnificence of whales and turtles, of ancient lava walls and wahi pana, and of whether the monarchy might ever be restored in a way that could recognize all “citizens of Hawaii” and not just the kanaka maoli. Seems unlikely doesn’t it? After all, we stole the place fair and square. But I digress again. Besides, I’m just another tourist.