Friday, June 24, 2011

Church politics, abuse, and the message of Jesus

Part of what drove me away from Christianity as a teen was the realization that the core message of Jesus, love your neighbor as yourself, was mired in the political realities of elections to the board of deacons. I can remember being mystified by the sudden and vigorous shift away from Christ towards the politics of control. People had agendas. There were the those who did not want to help the poor people who surrounded our church. Instead, they wanted to do outreach to the mostly rich, white, and Dutch youth from the affluent neighborhoods. Some wanted to send missionaries to Africa, while others wanted to make sure make sure our doctrine was strictly adhered too. I even remember people complaining about the wording our our pastors boring sermons. They actually wanted to review the sermon before it was delivered.

With each new year, elections would be held  people would shift allegiances based on the popularity of the agendas pushed by the various players. In truth, the church was controlled by three Dutch families. The deacons were all Dutch too. People like me, poor white trash of unknown or forgotten race, we got to cut the crass, fix the printing presses, and sit in our pews. I remember thinking that there was no way Jesus would buy off on this mess. But then again, that was when I though Jesus was real. My departure from Christianity would follow later and for other reasons. I never forgot nightmare that is Church politics. When I read stories about it today, I shake my head. Was this what Jesus intended when he said, “Love they neighbor as thyself?” I don’t think so. I don’t see love at all. If they believe Jesus’ words, then why don’t the practice what he preached?

A case in Albany caught my attention. A deacon named John J. Dennehey turned himself in to local police. He’s been accused of molesting two boys. The story is typical of the cases I report on. Dennehey was a mentor to two boys and allegedly took advantage of his position to further his sexual interests.

Police say Dennehey, chairman of deacons at First Congregational Church, also downloaded and viewed pornography in the presence of the boys, and masturbated while watching pornography with them. The incidents allegedly took place at the church on Quail Street and at Dennehey's home on Grove Avenue between June and November 2008.

Read more: Parents keeping deacon accused of misconduct in post, former pastor claims

Dennehey is chairman of the board of deacons. It seems reasonable that he would be removed from his post until the allegations are cleared up. It’s a normal step in a responsible process aimed at protecting the institution as well as the children. There is a problem in this case. Dennehey and his parents effectively run the church. They’ve packed the board of deacons with supporters and are suppressing a vote to remove their son, and are suppressing any move to notify church members of the accusation. It’s church politics 101 and a base example of exploiting the church for personal gain at the expense of serving the greater cause of Christianity. In fact, what they are doing is opposed to the message of Christ. They are protecting themselves at the expense of the victims and other members of the congregation. Their actions are deplorable.

Rev. Tony Green discovered the abuse allegation and contacted police. He called for Dennehey to step down or be removed. Neither happened. He resigned in protest. I think he did the right thing. He should run away from the corrupt church and find a group of people who need his services.