August 2011
Ever had one of these
kind of days?
Day after
day after
day after
day after……………………
It’s time
to stop
If we don’t take care of
In its August 2, 2010 edition, The
New York Times published an article
written by Paul Vitello, entitled…
“The findings have
surfaced with ominous
regularity over the last
few years, and with
little notice: …
Members of the clergy now suffer
from obesity, hypertension and
depression at rates higher than most
Americans. In the last decade, their
use of antidepressants has risen,
while their life expectancy has fallen.
Many would change jobs if they
“But while research continues, a
growing number of health care
experts and religious leaders have
settled on one simple remedy that has
long been a touchy subject with
many clerics:
taking more time off.”
But God did!
Genesis 2:1-3
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished,
and all their multitude. And on the seventh
day God finished the work that he had done,
and he rested on the seventh day from all the
work that he had done. So God blessed the
seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God
rested from all the work that he had done in
So I decided
to do a little
Set Them Apart
The Self-Differentiation and
Wholeness of Clergy
Mostly out of my own
I knew this was a subject on the
minds of some, but little did I
know just how many!
488 letters were sent to clergy men and
clergy women inviting them to
participate in a study I was conducting
on clergy self-differentiation and
wholeness. In those letters I enclosed
a self-addressed, stamped return
postcard on which respondents were to
indicate their interest or disinterest.
Blind survey
By the time postcards stopped arriving, I had
a total of 292 willing participants, and 25
who declined to participate. Rather than the
10% participation for which I had hoped,
instead I had a 65% overall response, and
60% participation.
What resources did I use?
• Demographic Questionnaire – asked for a self
well-being evaluation (1-5) and basic
information since it was an anonymous survey
• A Quality of Life Survey – 192 T/F questions
covering 15 areas of life (including Material
Well-Being, Family Relationships, Vacation
• Burnout Inventory Human Services Survey
And the results were…
As I had expected, and affirmed and confirmed by the
statistical analysis method, a clergyperson’s well-being is
negatively affected by the negative aspects of his/her
professional life and positively affected by the positive
aspects of his/her professional life. Further, a
clergyperson’s well-being is positively affected by his/her
personal life. It would not, then, be out of line to suggest
that a clergyman or clergywoman who has been
positively affected by the positive aspects of his/her
personal life has more resources with which to
counterbalance the negative aspects of his or her
professional life.
Perhaps it is the result of
psychosocial conditioning that
the terms clergy and holy seem
to be tightly intertwined.
Psychologically, socially and theologically, we live in a world
that does little to empower a person to be the person created by
God in God’s image to give God glory. Rather, we hold one
another to standards and models that may or may not be valid.
So while we cannot hope to attain holiness as God is holy, we
are called to “…lead a life worthy of the calling to which [we]
have been called, . . .” (Eph. 4:1) We are not called to blend in
with the crowd, but--as set-apart--to stand apart, in a healthy
self-differentiated way.
So while there is no single
across the board answer to the
question, “What is the biblical,
psychological and sociological
understanding of holiness?”,
there is a constant theme of
“different” and “differentiated.”
Horror stories???
Rudolph Otto, in The Idea of the
Holy, acknowledges that the
words for holy in not only
Hebrew and Greek, but also
Latin, have taken on a moral
and ethical connotation that the
original language may have
never intended.
The words for holy in both the
Old and New Testaments to
have similar meanings spread
across a wide range of subjects-from inanimate objects, to
humanity and the qualities
humanity should possess, to an
attribute for the divine.
In the Hebrew, the word for holy is
qādôsh. The Old Testament holiness
laws in Leviticus 11:44 mandate that
the Israelites, God’s chosen,
“. . . sanctify yourselves
therefore, and be holy, for I am
hosios vs. hagios
Used 4 times
Used 155 times
Referring to God’s resurrection of Jesus
from the dead: “‘I will give you the holy
promises made to David.’” (Acts 13:34)
Paul to Timothy, “I desire, then, that in
every place the men should pray, lifting up
holy hands without anger or argument; . .
.” (1 Timothy 2:8)
Under the NRSV heading which refers to
Jesus, and which introduces Hebrews 7:11
with “Another Priest, Like Melchizedek”
we read “. . . it was fitting that we should
have such a high priest, holy, blameless,
undefiled, separated from sinners, and
exalted above the heavens.” (Hebrews
Defined by Friberg and Miller in their
Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New
Testament “as the quality of persons or
things that can be brought near or into
God’s presence holy; (1) of things set
apart for God’s purpose dedicated, sacred,
holy . . . (2) of persons holy, pure,
consecrated to God . . . (4) superlative . . .
most holy, very pure or sincere . . . as
human beings belonging to God saints,
God’s people, believers …”
Used to modify the Lord, who “. . . alone
[is] holy.” (Revelation 15:4)
hagios (cont’d)
As an adjective modifying persons, hagios pertains “…to being dedicated or consecrated to
the service of God . . .” (Danker)
“. . . holy prophets from of old…” (Luke 1:70)
John the Baptist as “. . . a righteous and holy man…” (Mark 6:20)
“. . . Holy apostles . . .” (Ephesians 3:5)
“. . . (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as
holy to the Lord’) …” (Luke 2:23)
As an adjective modifying a thing, Danker points to Jesus’ teaching to the disciples “Do not
give what is holy to dogs…” (Matthew 7:6)
Paul instructs the Christians in Rome to greet one another “. . . with a holy kiss.” (Romans
Paul, instructing his early listeners and modern readers about the qualities to be found in one
who professes Jesus Christ as Lord, urges them “. . . to present your bodies as a living
sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, . . .” (Romans 12:1)
Paul in his letter to the Ephesians writes, “. . . just as [God] chose us in Christ before the
foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.” (Ephesians 1:4)
As such, the term holy, and the
state which it suggests, has been
included in our evolving definition
and use in the same way that the
negative human emotion we know
as fear has been associated with
the positive awe-full (as opposed to
awful) nature of God.
Rudolph Otto:
holiness, rather than a way of
life, comes from a deep-seated
feeling and awareness of the
Divine who alone is holy.
Paul Tillich:
“. . . whatever concerns a man
ultimately becomes god for him,
. . .” and “. . . only that which
gives man ultimate concern has
the quality of holiness.”
However, Tillich cautions that objects should not
be considered holy lest they become idols rather
than icons which point to something beyond
themselves. “The use of finite materials in their
ordinary sense for the knowledge of revelation
destroys the meaning of revelation and deprives
God of his divinity.” Thus comes the danger of
labeling an object, and yes--even a person--as
holy. With the exception of only one person--fully
human yet fully divine.
When we consider ministry at Jesus’ command
and in his name, it is neither too difficult nor too
much of a stretch to buy into the concept of
holiness as a hierarchical set apartness. That is
exactly what happens in ordination, which for Otto
is “ . . . ‘magical’ identification of the self with the
[holy] . . . by . . . ordination, . . .” The ordained
man or woman is labeled holy by association in the
same way that today’s teenagers are many times
judged by the company they keep or guilty by
In Otto’s mind, the association is “. . . shown most strikingly
in the name by which the company of the disciples call
themselves collectively and each other individually, . . . the
holy ones or ‘the saints.’” He does go on to warn that “. . .
this does not mean ‘the morally perfect’ people; . . .” But it
is not difficult to see from where the expectation has come
even as C. Peter Wagner suggests in his book, Radical
Holiness for Radical Living, “We can be holy, but we cannot
be perfect.” He continues, using James 3:1 as his
rationale, “The moment a believer accepts the role of a
leader in the body of Christ, they move to a higher level of
responsibility and accountability before God. . . . God
evidently has a double standard of judgment, one for
leaders and one for the rest.”
As John Gammie (Holiness in Israel) considers the
Priestly understanding of holiness, he holds forth
that “Holiness demands separation. . . . The notion
of separation is pervasive in the priestly traditions
of the Bible from the Book of Genesis onward.” In
addition, “The priestly theology of holiness strongly
endorses clear differentiation between priests and
laity . . .” and “The priestly writers of the Bible
share with the prophets and sages the notion that
God is holy and that holiness lays demands upon
Given the thought processes of
Gammie and Wagner, is it any wonder
that clergy men and women are falling
off the pedestals they have been
placed upon by their parishioners?
Clergy should not be set-apart and
elevated because of their calling, as
much as they should be differentiated
or set-apart in order to exercise the
tasks of their calling.
Moving to consider ordination
theology and practices at the time
of the Protestant Reformation of
the 16th century, there was a clear
move from the authority of the
priest alone to the priesthood of all
If the relationship between Bishops and presbyters
in the Apostolic Tradition could be considered
collegial, that same relationship has turned more
hierarchal with the passing of three centuries. The
sixth century ordination prayer for presbyters
includes language which indicates “. . . that the
presbyters support the bishop in his ministry” as
the high priest, in the same vein as the
consecration of Aaron and the aforementioned
elders appointed by Moses.
Could this be the point of departure from being setapart as a matter of functionality, to being set-apart
as a matter of status or privilege?
But what still remains in some reformed
traditions is “ . . . the ministry of the
pastor being second in relationship to
that of the bishop.” But it is more a
functional separation than a
hierarchical separation relating to
differing degrees of set-apartness.
As we then consider the concept of holiness as it relates to
women and men ordained to the ministry of word and
sacrament, has hagios been confused with the intention of
hosios which, as defined by Friberg, means “generally, of
what is sanctioned by the supreme law of God; (1) of
persons who live right before God holy, devout, dedicated .
. . ?” Have we ordained people to be hagios, holy only as
God is holy--the same word used as a modifier of the third
person of the Trinity and purely unattainable by human
standards--when we really should be hosios? Have we
taken hagios too far, such that clergy have set ourselves so
far apart that we either adopt a form of misguided piety or
have it assigned to us, such that we are pigeonholed into a
position that our ordinations never intended?
Yet how do we turn the concept of being set-apart as an
earned privilege to set-apart as that which includes
responsibility--for emotional and spiritual self-care?
Biblically, we have Jesus as a model. At various times
through the Gospels, Jesus went away in order to distance
himself from the frequent clamor for his attention. He
sought time alone to pray. As a teenager, Jesus
differentiated himself from his family in order to remain
behind in the Temple. However, we also know that Jesus
set the example, as well as the unattainable standard, for
ministry in his name by being radically available.
Dr. Margaretta Bowers suggests “The clergy suffer terribly
from this need to be what they feel they should be, that
they know their congregations expect them to be and what
they know or feel themselves to be. They know their
people expect them to be devout. They know they should
be, and yet no matter how hard they try to find that inner
sense of faith and security we call devotion, it eludes them.
. . . All through the ages the clergy have suffered from the
insurmountable contrasts between their very real humanity
and the transcendent requirements of their symbolic
representation as the priest, the Incarnate Christ.”
Clergy may be set-apart for specific duties as a result of
answering God’s call. But clergy are also living, breathing,
sorrowful, joyful persons with a duty and responsibility to
themselves as well as to the God who created and called
them. They are also obligated to the congregations they
serve to set and maintain appropriate boundaries and
teach their congregants, if they aren’t already aware, of the
critical nature of self-care. Appropriate and healthy
boundaries, which include a realistic sense of self which
“ . . . does not take him out of the common condition of the
laity. . . .”, in addition to self-care and accountability, are
critical to keeping clergy men or clergy women out of the
news for engaging, or appearing to engage, in activity that
has inappropriately taken advantage of another out of a
misguided sense of power or set-apartness.
Clearly, if we as clergy don’t take care of ourselves,
no one else will. If health is indeed a balance of a person’s
physical, emotional and spiritual self, it is entirely possible,
and perhaps even probable, that an imbalance in one or
more areas will affect a person’s homeostasis, causing
boundaries to be crossed.
Why then are clergy still challenged by a lack of selfdifferentiation and wholeness? In my opinion, Margaretta
Bowers hits the nail squarely on the head when she
suggests “Psychotherapy is accepted for the clergy in
some sophisticated parishes in metropolitan areas; but in
general, the immediate reaction to such an idea is that if
they only prayed, they would be all right.”
The denial of self must stop. “[A] . . . self focus is different from being
self-centered or selfish. A self focus allows us to be objective enough
to develop a sense of our own responsibility and direction in the
community.” A self focus is another way of saying a pastor must be
self-differentiated. We as clergy have a responsibility not only to our
congregations, not only to ourselves, but to our God who created us, to
engage in self-care. Michael Cavanagh would seem to agree when he
writes, “Like all Christians and all human beings, ministers have not
only the right but the responsibility to celebrate their selves and to take
proper care of them, both for their own welfare and the welfare of
others. It is virtually impossible for a minister who attends properly to
his or her self to experience burnout or other psychological problems...
One need only look to Jesus . . . to see that there is good precedent for
proper attention to the self.”
Have we as clergy taken it upon ourselves to--in effect-one-up God by failing to take seriously the concept of selfcare, which Genesis would call Sabbath rest? If we firmly
believe that our body is a “. . .temple of the Holy Spirit . . .”
(1 Cor. 6:19) as Paul writes, then we can do no less than
intentionally engage in Sabbath keeping which
acknowledges “ . . . a faith system that recognizes the
pervasiveness of God’s holiness in everyday life
experiences.” To deny one’s self the opportunity for the
Sabbath rest that God deemed good is to deny the power
and presence of God. In so doing we, in effect,
demonstrate a mindset that God can’t manage the world
God continues to create day by day without us.
“. . . one key ingredient that pastors who survive a
crisis healthily share in common—that is, these
clergy have persons with whom the relationship is
deep and trusting enough to allow the kind of
brutal honesty that can turn a person from
wallowing in self-pity or self-destructive behaviors.”
“Whether by neglect or assumption that it naturally
happens, self-care for clergy has often not been on
the front burner of the church’s agenda. But in this
study the pastors who have survived a ministerial
crisis reported significant attention to and reliance
on self-care.”
Craig Boehlke
“If you could go back in time, how would you rearrange things to avoid
having a breakdown? Could it have been avoided by a different
organizational structure?” Stefan Ulstein, in his book, asked those
questions straightforwardly to an interviewee in a chapter entitled, “I
Felt My Life Had Been Thirty-Two Years of Fraud.” The answers were
telling. “Maybe. If I’d had some kind of genuine support system to
make me slow down, ask questions, avoid giving pat answers to tough
questions, maybe it would have been different. Maybe if I’d examined
psychology instead of just relying on God talk, I might have understood
what was happening to me. . . . When we see that things aren’t fitting
together like they should, we reduce input and options as a way of
protecting ourselves. That was my problem. I knew from the lives
around me that things weren’t as simple as I wanted them to be, so I
just worked harder, ran faster and ignored what I didn’t want to see. I
paid a terrible price when it all caught up with me.”
Stefan Ulstein, Pastors Off The Record: Straight Talk
About Life in the Ministry (Illinois: InterVarsity Press,
1993), 39.
Men and women who have
answered God’s call to Ministry of
Word and Sacrament long to be
freed of the statement, “Clergy are
often challenged by a lack of selfdifferentiation and wholeness.” And
it IS within their power.
Write your own creation story
from the perspective of a normal
week for you.
Is there a seventh day of rest?
Is your story life giving or life
Peer Groups
CPE Model
Individual Therapy
Spiritual Direction