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Ask the clergy: What if clergy errs?

The question: What should a congregant do if he or she thinks his or her clergy isn't doing a good job?

Habeeb U. Ahmed, chairman, board of trustees, Islamic Center of Long Island, Westbury:

First, you should try to approach your imam. He is the one who needs to know that some people don't feel they're being taken care of spiritually or that there are things happening that he is not addressing.

If possible, this should be done one-on-one in a nice way. If things do not improve, or you don't feel comfortable speaking to the imam, then there is the board of trustees. Go and speak to one of them. They will sit down with the imam and see why he is not responding to the needs and concerns of the parishioners.

Among Muslims, there is a loose contract with the clergy, but there is a contract. Just as with other faiths, if you can't see eye-to-eye, there are steps you can take to end that contract.


Bob Kahan, executive director, Temple Am Echad, Lynbrook:

The rabbi serves at the discretion of the board of directors or board of trustees. The congregant should reach out to someone on that board.

We've never had a congregant come to us about the rabbi at this congregation. I have had it happen at other congregations. That is the standard way of dealing with it.

The other thing is, these days there are greater pressures on clergy. Synagogues and houses of worship need members. If your clergy isn't attracting congregants, you as a congregation may need to make a change.

While it is not right to think of a place of worship as a business, there are business aspects to it. A house of worship is a living thing and has bills to pay and people to satisfy. It has a constituency. You can't just assume that because a person is in pastoral charge, that he is the absolute right person for that particular place.

I don't think people see their clergy as omnipotent. They're people just like us. Deal with them just as you'd like to be dealt with. Sometimes, you need someone to help make that conversation happen. That's what the lay leadership is for. We're a conduit between the clergy and congregation.


The Rev. Lynn Sullivan Garden City Community Church:

First, go to the person in private and share your concerns. This direct form of communication allows both parties to talk respectfully and candidly without having the situation fester, or having the person talk behind the clergy's back, or worse, writing a letter to the entire congregation. This is dangerous and can be like wildfire and get out of control.

If the person is not pleased with the conversation nor gets the results he/she had hoped for, then the next step is to return with one or two other people, ideally elected leaders of the church. Again, this approach allows honest and genuine communication and keeps it confined to a manageable and informed group. If that fails, then hold a congregational meeting.

Lastly, I was taught by a seminary professor to begin and end every meeting in prayer and taught by another professor to always ask the question, "Who benefits?" The greater issue is always what is best for the church.


The Rev. Delores Miller, Evangel Revival Community Church, Long Beach:

The thing to do is to try to resolve it one-on-one from a place of love. If that's not possible, ask for a business meeting of the church. You'll have a chance to discuss all the things that are going on and maybe present a remedy.

We as clergy want to resolve any conflict that is going on in the church. I've been a pastor here for more than 35 years. I've learned that the pastor isn't always right. But, if we always stay geared to the word of God as our guidelines, we should be able to resolve most things. We have to remember that we are one body but many members. And, we need all those members.

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