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Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014
Fundraising idea!Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2012, at 12:40 AM
The primary is over, the election is months away, so I can write about this without ruffling too many feathers. Maybe ...
People in public leadership have to be very careful about taking public stances on issues and elections. It simply goes with the territory of the positions in which we serve.
Have you ever known a school superintendent to have a bumper sticker for a candidate running for office? Outside of advertising for their political party, most elected officials steer clear of endorsing positions or opinions that are controversial. Professionals who work in the funeral home industry know that they can't offend families who might consider using their business sometime in the future.
Even pastors learn that taking such risks will often impact their churches, those considering visiting a church, and even whether or not the pastor keeps her/his job.
In the 1980s I served two congregations in a rural area between Anderson and Greenfield. The 107-day strike of General Motors occurred during that time as well as the following massive layoffs of GM employees from the two large plants in Anderson. In a neighboring town a pastor I knew purchased a new car since the old one was nickel and diming her with repairs.
One Sunday, sitting in the parsonage driveway, church members noticed her new Toyota. Five families left the church that Sunday and never returned. Two weeks later the congregation's leadership informed her that her ministry was over and that she would have to leave. They saw her purchase as being a slap in their face in the midst of all the changes and pain going on in that community.
I was so thankful that I had traded in my Mazda for a Chrysler weeks before I starting serving in that same area.
"You don't cut off the hand that feeds you." This was a beloved, repeated phrase of one of the retired pastors who tried to help me survive in my early years of public ministry. Another was, "You don't step on a landmine that's in plain sight." I would often make comments about political candidates I supported and share opinions about the views of candidates I didn't. It's one thing to do so in a coffee shop with friends. I learned during those early years that you don't while preaching a sermon from a pulpit.
In some regards I feel censored, even neutered. If Rev. Ross was still alive he would have another term for it. "... Professional..."
So, my vehicle doesn't display information on candidates I support or on how I feel about many social issues. Most people have no idea what political party I support. Am I a member of the ACLU? Am I a member of the Tea Party? I know, but for me to be available to all people who may want to call upon me as a pastor, I have to be very careful about the public stances I take. If my "job" is to serve, then I can't let my personal positions impact the public's willingness to let me serve.
There are exceptions...
In the late 1990s I made the decision to pay extra and order a personalized license plate for my car. I went into the License Bureau with a list of 10 words in order of preference. "Forward," number seven on my list, was the first one available. I had to give my reasons in writing for choosing this word and listed that it's "my personal philosophy about life." The State of Indiana approved and, except for one year, I've had this word as my own.
In recent weeks the Obama campaign has chosen the word "Forward" as the campaign slogan for the re-election of the President. Oh great! There goes my status as Sweden during World War II.
In the last two weeks I've noticed stares coming my way while waiting for red lights to turn green. Let me phrase it this way: I can tell immediately how a person feels about the re-election of President Obama by the way that person responds to my license plate. Being in western Indiana, would it surprise you that I've not gotten any positive responses?
On the other hand, there may be some opportunities that this dilemma presents. I fantasize that a supporter of the President's re-election may wish to purchase the right to have that word on his/her license plate. There might be several persons who would bid for the right to take over the responsibility of this personalized license plate. What amounts might be bid to be the only person in the State of Indiana with this "personal philosophy" on view for the rest of the State to see?
I could do some real "fundraising" with this!
P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.