A new batch of private emails from Pastor Hannah Clement was released by WikiLeaks on October 19. You can search the email archive on the organization’s web site by key terms such as: Jesus, God, communion, theology, eschatology, and plumbing emergency. Below are some highlights of what the emails reveal about the disturbing inner workings of First Church.
Grape Drink Debacle
If you thought the communion juice tasted funny from March-August of 2015, you were right. In an email dated April 26, 2015, Pastor Clement writes to the worship chair: “Dang it. I accidentally bought single serve bottles of “grape drink” instead of “grape juice” for communion. Should I go back and get juice?” To which the chair replied, “Our budget is pretty tight and grape juice is kind of expensive. Those cups are so tiny. I doubt anyone will notice.”
Let it be duly noted that some of us did notice, and we do not appreciate the worship committee playing fast and loose with the blood of Christ.
Missing Jesus Artwork
In a troubling email exchange, Pastor Clement asked the chair of the board of trustees “What is up with the creepy 3D picture of Jesus praying in the garden? Every time I see it in the parlor I feel like Peter, James, and John are going to jump out and grab me.” The trustee informed the pastor that a member had donated the beloved picture to the church on his deathbed. Subsequently, the pastor received several emails from concerned members of the women’s guild inquiring about what had happened to “the lovely picture of Jesus that was in the parlor.” Pastor Clement’s responses were vague, at best.
On a related note, we have discovered an identical picture for sale on ebay (from SheRev33), and the women’s auxiliary has voted to used funds from their recent bake sale to purchase the item.
Massage Oil and Shot Glasses
There has been some grumbling about the pastor being reimbursed for purchasing these particular items. Leaked emails, however, indicate that her story is true. She did in fact supply the oil for anointing and the shot glasses for communion at a recent denominational gathering.
When the expenditure was first revealed, we noted a growing number of congregation members interested in attending subsequent denominational gatherings. It remains to be seen whether these email revelations will stem their enthusiasm.
Poor Email Account Boundaries
It appears that Pastor Clement is not as careful as she could be about keeping her personal and church emails separate. From time to time she receives emails from her children’s school on her church account, and there are several emails in her church account that she has forwarded to herself from her personal account.
We were concerned that such lazy email boundaries might jeopardize the secrecy of important church information like our budget, committee member lists, and worship content. But then we realized that all of this information is on our web site anyway.
Perhaps you are among those who have called the pastor early in the morning or late at night with a pressing issue such as your neighbor’s dog (the adorable little terrier) making an emergency trip to the vet. Our guess is that if you called her with such a concern at a questionable hour, Pastor Clement said, “No, no. It’s fine to call so early/late. Of course I’ll pray for Fluffy.” Email correspondence she has had with pastoral colleagues indicates that she most certainly does not think it is fine for you to call with the deepest concerns of your heart at a time that might not be particularly convenient for her.
We question whether or not she actually prayed for Fluffy. And we’re pretty sure that, if she did, she wasn’t happy about it.
According to various emails between Pastor Clement and her colleagues and former professors, we have gleaned the following:
- She espouses a theology of realized eschatology.
- She does not buy into substitutionary atonement theories.
- She does not subscribe to cessationism, though she is skeptical of much contemporary charismatic practice.
- She does believe in the virgin birth, but not the immaculate conception.
- She loves doing exogesis and tries to avoid eisegesis.
- She’s not big on creeds, but if she does recite the Nicene Creed she insists on including the filioque clause.
- She upholds the perspicuity of scripture in theory, but believes that in practice it is often just an excuse for people to “argue for their own dumb, ill-conceived, ignorant ideas about the Bible and claim their ‘interpretation’ is as valid as that of someone who has actually studied and prayed over the scriptures.”
We’re not sure what any of this means, but we are pretty sure some of it is heretical.
Rev. Joanna Harader pastors Peace Mennonite Church in Lawrence, Kansas, and blogs at SpaciousFaith.com.
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