As much as I talk about what is wrong with the church, I do honestly want it to do well. So, in amongst the (valid) criticisms, it’s also important to say when it has done something well. Once again, LinkedIn gives me this opportunity.
Yesterday, someone I do not know in person, but is a part of a group I manage, looked at my profile. I tend not to view other peoples’ profiles unless there is indication they have looked at mine, and so I checked it out. Later in the day, there was an invitation to connect in my private messages. I wasn’t quite sure why–and I never initiate a connection–but he seemed innocuous, so I accepted.
Within minutes, the following private message appeared:
I am a Reader in the Church of England and after two years of encouragement from close friends and clergy last year I was not accepted for Local Ordained Ministry. I am finding this hard to accept after supporting a local church through an interregnum for three years; your honest independent comments would be appreciated. Where is God in all this?
My honest and independent comment was that I was not the right person with whom to have this discussion. He responded:
I was hoping for more than this. . . Perhaps our dialogue is not going to be fruitful.
What do you think?
My response was again, that I was entirely the wrong person with whom to have this discussion, to question why he sought me out for this, and to say
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not sure how I can give you the “more” that you want–I’m not sure what indicated that I might be able to, so it may be as much of you approaching the wrong person as it is any failing on my part.
His rejoinder was that I had contacted him (I had not), and that
Just thought you might have some empathy and was prepared to debate.
I’m not sure why he would think this, after no real interaction with me and a view of my profile. He continued to pursue the line of questioning about whether our “dialogue” was to be “fruitful” (I thought I had indicated I did not expect it to be so), and again, I was the wrong person for this discussion. Had he been reading in the group, or read my blog, he would have understood fully that was not likely. Finally, I told him that I could now see where God was in this:
I’m beginning to see EXACTLY where God is in your having not been accepted for ordination.
You check a profile, send a connect request, and immediately start in with messages of a frankly creepy familiarity and won’t be put off.
God is protecting God’s church from people who don’t understand boundaries, and who feel they have a right to become invasively prying about the assumptions they make about other people’s relationships with God.
I was told I “need help.” Finally, I had had it, and got much more forceful:
YOU checked my profie.
YOU issued a connect request.
YOU initiated a creepy-intimate correspondence on your first contact with a woman you don’t know.
YOU do not understand when someone is trying to tell you to f*** off.
And *I* need help? Perhaps I do. Because I’m not sure why you decided to initiate contact with me, or why men who don’t understand BOUNDARIES seem to want to cozy up to me.
If I can get this in what, five emails with a distance of several thousand miles with a BIG ocean between us, I’m sure your selection panel got it in person in less than ten minutes.
And he wonders why he wasn’t approved for ordination.
(I really do not make this stuff up. My imagination is not that vivid.)
I can say why. The church–or really any institution–does not need people in leadership positions who are invasive to the point where they don’t understand “no”. They don’t need leaders who approach total strangers with demands they have no right to expect on first acquaintance.
In face to face encounters, there is a word for a man who forces contact on a woman who has given clear signs of not wanting it. The church does not need people who are spiritual rapists. It needs people who allow relationships to emerge in ways that are helpful to both parties. It does not need to ordain people who are this volatile and needy, and who seek to fill those needs (or express that volatility) on first contact with a complete stranger.
LinkedIn, is not, last I checked, a dating site. A dating site might do better at weeding out this kind of thing.
The church did well to tell this man he is not to be ordained. I applaud this instance of protecting its people.