Alcoholism

How Do Churches Address Alcoholism Among Their Leaders?

Photo courtesy of bogdanhoda via Shutterstock / RNS

A bartender pours shots. Photo courtesy of bogdanhoda via Shutterstock / RNS

Here’s a sampling from some of the nation's denominations:

1. SOUTHERN BAPTISTS

The Southern Baptist Convention has passed more than 50 resolutions about the “deleterious effects of consuming alcohol,” said Roger S. Oldham, spokesman for the convention’s Executive Committee. The most recent resolution, passed in 2006, urged that “no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that is a user of alcoholic beverages.”

“In instances where a pastor may need treatment for substance abuse, he or his church would seek services in the same way other members of their communities would,” Oldham said.

2. ROMAN CATHOLICS

'... A Fragile Sense of Self'

MaestroPhoto / Shutterstock.com

MaestroPhoto / Shutterstock.com

Some of you might be downright shocked to know that many clergy have to undergo a three-day battery of psych tests as part of the ordination process. If a significant issue is discovered, say, addiction or something else (perhaps the main reason these tests have become required), one's ordination process can be slowed down or halted all together. When I was going through the process, I too went through these evaluations.

The result? I have "a fragile sense of self."

What does this really mean? Well, I'm an alcoholic. It's true. I've spoken about it as part of my faith journey (read: testimony; yes, I have a testimony). I don't wave it around like some flag, but I'm not shy about telling people. And I have certainly told the congregations and other organizations I have served about my history with addiction.

Keeping this stuff secret, for me, is poisonous.

At any rate, there it was, "a fragile sense of self" on my evaluation. This caused everyone to pause. The ordination committee had a ton of questions for me. They did the obligatory background check (this is perfunctory; everyone gets one). They checked my references, etc. They did their due diligence to make sure, as best as anyone could, that I was not going to fall off the wagon.

Of course. No one can promise that. Not really.

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Elaina Ramsey is Women and Girls Campaign Associate at Sojourners.

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