I've been fretting about this post for several days. It's about the problem of openness.
You see, many (perhaps most?) of us in parish ministry would say that "openness" or "transparency" is an important value in Christian leadership. We might encourage people to come to us and say we have an "open door" policy. That's all good and great, until people ask us inconvenient questions.
You see, in parish ministry leaders are exposed to all kinds of classified information. You might imagine the sort of dirty secrets that come up in pastoral relationships: affairs and past crimes and current vices. But actually that's not nearly as much a problem as the petty conflicts and foibles that drive a lot of decision making in parish life. People ask me about decisions that staff members or the corporation (the lay leadership of the parish) and I or even the bishop have made, and I simply can't give them the reasons. And I don't want to lie, and so I end up saying something really lame. "That person went on other opportunities" is a terrible, terrible line, but usually it's pretty much the only thing I can say when we have staff turnover. Even if the reasons for the change are quite positive, I usually can't share them.
Then, things get very complicated because people often have heard rumours or have fantasies about the decision in question. Typically they've heard or figured out enough truth to be wet their curiosity even further, but then there is usually enough falsehood mixed in there too to tempt you to correct them.
Sometimes, I really wish I could say more. I see how some people are hurt by things that have happened, and I want to sit them down and explain what happened. I'm sure they would feel better knowing the truth. But, of course, this would be bad, very bad. In fact, I knew a priest once that got sued for talking publicly about a parishioner-to-parishioner conflict happening in parish. Even if what he said was factually correct, in was also embarrassing to at least one of the people involved. I totally understand why he did it, but, yikes!
So "openness" turns out to be a great principle, but it has nothing to do with disclosing the "truth" about "what happened." What else could it mean? Is it something about the emotional honesty of the leader? Maybe. Is it about sharing as much as you can about the non-classified stuff? Of course. But this explanation doesn't help the way I feel when people ask me about important things that I can't talk about....