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Stan Moody POB 240 Manchester, ME 04351 207/626-0594 Stanmoody1@aol.


Rev. Stan Moody has served in the Maine Legislature, was a prison chaplain and has written scores of articles on prison reform. He is a board member of Solitary Watch and has received the ACLU-ME Civil Liberties Baldwin Award. Stans articles can be read at http://www.scribd.com/stanmoody. The January 16 BDN Op Ed piece on Rev. Bob Carlson was dripping with powerful symbolism. From the photo of Rev. Bob in clergy attire connecting with young boys to the assertion that a double standard of treating public figures differently from uneducated, less polished men has begun to fade, the article offers up Rev. Bob as an object lesson of the dangers of the failure of proper scrutiny. As a former chaplain at Maine State Prison, I come to the defense of those uneducated, less polished men, most of whom were incapable of achieving the level of public trust accorded Rev. Bob. A publicly-declared personality trait was instructive: He was bigger than life. Point taken, what damage might have been avoided had vigilance prevailed? The wedge factor was his ordination by a Minnesota ordination mill. This being the second instance in my experience of a non-credentialed individual receiving the mantle of public trust from that organization and later to have been found wanting, the place to have stopped Rev. Bob was before being thus sanctioned. Indeed, an examination of their requirements for ordination specifies a minimum academic attainment of a degree from an accredited Bible institute or the equivalent education or Christian service. However, this Conference considers seminary training to be desirable. Despite the however clause, Rev. Bob slipped through the cracks on the grounds that he received a call to a particular place of service. That call simply gave him access for which those uneducated but less polished men long but seldom receive. It was the lever that opened all future horizons. At the other extreme are those overly-credentialed pastors, most recently those within the Catholic Church, who also have abused their public trust, suggesting that even denominational scrutiny fails to preclude such instances. There is, however, a distinct difference.

Conservative protestant churches have a long history of disdain for academic credentials. How often we hear the description of a charismatic preacher as having the anointing, at best a subjective standard applied by those under the tutelage of their anointed leaders. The Bangor area has had its experience with such pastors who later fell from grace, usually over a sexual problem. The fact is that we want our public figures to be bigger than life because they jump-start our dreams of successful ventures. Some of us in ministry suffer from the innate inability to be bigger than life. That does not suggest, however, that given the chance, we might not be tempted to violate our public trust. Instead, it suggests that of all the professions, the clergy ought to be most closely scrutinized. To presume the mantle of divine anointing through a decidedly flawed examination by any denomination is to presume far too much. What can the Bangor community learn from the Rev. Bob experience? First, while any community of worship has the right to call whomever they wish as pastor, academic credentials should not be optional when it comes to broader public service than the pulpit. To have run the gauntlet of a disciplined academic rigor speaks to the seriousness of the call. Second, while few parents have the ability to screen public figures and thereby must rely on the opinion of others, we must be reluctant to place the care of our children in the hands of any charismatic pastor, teacher, scout leader or police officer, four venues common for sexual predation. Unless our children are taught openly to recognize and discuss untoward advances, they should be protected from extracurricular contact with any adult, period. Finally, this matter deserves a collaborative vetting. To drop it and move on, as many have suggested, is to invite it to happen again or, perhaps, continue where it already is festering. The Bangor community has been presented with a powerful opportunity to heal. To be silent is to be complicit. While Rev. Bob was the alleged perpetrator, the culture in which he thrived was the enabler. We can remain as dupes in our discernment of individuals, lurching from one disaster to another and circling the wagons when our judgment is called into question. The alternative is to build a society on trust duly earned rather than trust assumed from approval granted by others having no stake in the outcome. The choice is indeed ours.