14 March 2022  |

Dear Aunty,

Why do church leaders and pastors suddenly develop courage and speak up on critical issues as soon as they retire?

Signed, Suddenly Brave,

Dear Suddenly,

While this is undoubtedly true of the church, it is true of all professions to some extent: the job of a leader in an organization is to defend the organization, and some loyalty is expected of everyone. 

Organized religion, by its very nature, values stability. From inside an office, it can appear that there are a lot of threats to hold off—and that may be true. A lot of people’s livelihoods ride on not rocking the boat. 

Even if you recognize a problem in the church organization that pays your salary, speaking up on critical issues can get you into trouble. Aunty has known people who were denied promotions after speaking up about LGBTQ+ issues, for example, or for openly calling attention to a questionable action by administrators. Those who are denominationally employed are risking their jobs every time they say something that disagrees even mildly with the church’s teaching—or even just differ with the opinions of their bosses. Multiple examples of serious consequences for speaking out is enough to keep the rest silent. Once an employee retires from church employment, some feel free for the first time to talk about what they believe and things they’ve seen, because the church no longer has as much power over them. 

If you know an employee who isn’t speaking up when you wish they would, be nice to them. They have a lot to lose. A pastor told Aunty once, “I find such satisfaction in preaching and ministering to people’s needs that I am willing to keep silent on some things so I can keep doing it. But sometimes,” he admitted, “it’s really difficult, and causes me some genuine crises of conscience.” 

And let’s be grateful—not critical—for those wonderful retired people who are willing to speak up, even if their voices have been long held in check.

By the way, one of the reasons Aunty loves Adventist Today is because we are allowed to speak out on issues that denominationally associated publications are not. And those retired ex-insiders are some of our most helpful writers.

Aunt Sevvy

You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—without identification of the writer. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.

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