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Local pastor an expert on 'clergy killers'
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The Rev. Randolph Kanipe was recently added to the distinguished list of alumni of the Oxford Round Table which is made up of government officials, business leaders, presidents and chancellors of universities and colleges, professors, school leaders, religious leaders and attorneys from all over the world.

 The Rev. Kanipe was invited to Oxford, England, March 30 through April 4 to present his research to a forum of clergy and professors at the Oxford Round Table. In a collegial, 'think-tank' atmosphere, Kanipe spoke for 20 minutes on "Religion and Secularism in the Modern World Projecting a Dim Future for the Church."

 As director for the Association for Stressed and Abused Clergy since 1996, Kanipe focused on a small minority of people in the church who respond to anxiety in unhealthy ways by becoming antagonistic, caustic and in some cases, "clergy killers."

 Kanipe refers to these people as otherwise 'normal' individuals within congregations who have somehow become myopically fixated on destroying the pastor and/or the leadership of the church, as a means of delegating their own anxiety and/or 'getting their own way.'

"While some remain merely problematic, there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of those willing to go beyond what most healthy people consider reasonable, seeking to destroy another human being and/or their ministry," said Kanipe. "Such persons are prone to evil behaviors and, in fact, are wreaking havoc on our spiritual leaders and the collective witness of the church."

 According to Kanipe, "clergy killers" are people who are angry with God and are people who are anxious or angry in general because they have no sense of control in their own lives.

 They seek to destroy the credibility, reputation and career of pastors. He added that these attempts to control the church or the pastor become a means of compensating for this anxiety.

 Kanipe cited that 70 percent of his ordination class has resigned from the ministry for varying reasons.

 According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics 2002, 90 percent of people in the ministry will not stay long enough to retire and 70 percent of pastors reported that they constantly fought depression.

 The single largest contributing factor leading to clergy exodus is conflict in the congregation, burnout and discouragement resulting from unhealthy or unresolved conflict. (Wood, David. "Exit Interviews: Why Clergy Leave Local Church Ministry." "Christian Century," Dec. 13, 2005.)

Fully 85 percent of all seminary graduates will leave the ministry within the first five years of serving the local church (Hodge report from the Pew Project, Duke Divinity School presented to the Religious Research Association, Norfolk, Ga., 2003, tables 5-11.).

"Thirty years ago, this phenomenon didn't exist except in a few small dysfunctional congregations," he stated. "It is becoming pandemic and has infected every Judeo-Christian denomination and nearly every congregation to one degree or another."

Considered an expert on the subject and a registered mediator, Kanipe was interviewed in January and again as a film crew followed him to England to shoot additional footage for an upcoming documentary about clergy killers in the church. The film has been in the making for the past two and a half years.

  "Throughout history, members of Judaism and Christianity have been embroiled in controversy, squabbles, battles and internal conflicts of all kinds," said Thomas Taddeo, one of the producers of the film. "The stakes have always been high because many of those conflicts gave religions their identity, quantified their mission and clari fied their witness to the world. The cost of all this was never minimal.

  Good and evil fight to the finish. The willingness of dysfunctional members to seize that power and the extent to which they will go, is destroying the ranks of the

American, European and Australian ordained clergy at an alarming rate and compro mising the integrity of Jews and Christians alike. The hatred and insidious tactics which people use to destroy lives, families, churches and synagogues have made witnesses to their caustic behavior believe they are 'demonic' or 'possessed.' Within scholarly circles, they are called 'clergy killers,' a phrase originally coined by Dr. G. Lloyd Rediger to describe a psychological phenomenon that is spreading like global wildfire.

  The movie 'Forsaken' goes to great lengths to illustrate the scale and scope of

this 'modern' sickness in all faith communities. For more than two years I and other producers and writers from U.S. Films and Superior Media have crossed continents to interview renowned psychiatrists, psychologists and doctors. Add the expertise of

leading professors from the most prestigious universities on this planet, and you have a credible, contemporary analysis of the toxic and destructive behavior of clergy killers and the larger issues at work in these attacks."

 Kanipe describes the characteristics of clergy killers as determined, deceitful, demonic, denial, discernment and destructive.

 Kanipe developed a grievance policy and is often asked to present the policy at conferences and other churches. The person filing the grievance is asked to state the issue in one sentence and answers a series of questions to determine if there is a chance for reconciliation and resolution.

"We are going to have conflict and difference of opinion - but we don't use that as an ax to hurt someone," said the pastor. "The grievance is kept in a file and shredded when the process is completed. If the person will not let up, they are asked to prayerfully reconsider their membership."

 Honored that his mentor, Dr. Rediger passed the baton on to him, Kanipe continues to educate clergy and laity in healthy ways of handling conflict.

"Most people don't want this to happen to their pastor, but don't know what to do," said Kanipe. "If they have a biblical principle they can hang on to, they feel much more confident about confronting the behavior."

 Kanipe referred to his stay at the Lincoln College in England as a "God-thing." The Lincoln College which was built in 1423 around one of the best preserved quads (central green space) of all Oxford Colleges.

"Lincoln College was founded by Richard Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln, for the purpose of teaching young priests to combat heresies, and defend the faith," Kanipe said. "I came to England to defend the faith, our pastors and our congregation. Staying at the Lincoln College was an affirmation to me and an endorsement from God."

 Kanipe has taught seminars on the importance of clergy keeping themselves healthy to be victors rather than victims. He has found karate to be a great form of therapy.

"We host 'Karate Kids for Christ' - a free program of self defense, self discipline and child safety through the karate curriculum," he said. "We take in at least 50 students each quarter and take them through their first two belt ranks. It is a joy to see the positive impact on these kids and teens."

 Kanipe works out twice weekly, meets with his spiritual mentor weekly and enjoys painting, drawing, camping, hiking, fishing and playing the banjo and guitar. For the past 12 years, he has participated each Friday morning in a prayer group conference call with other clergy and laity across the Southeast who share their highs and lows and prayer requests.

"I want to remain healthy - we are not an endless well of spiritual depth," said the pastor. "It has to be replaced. I try to get away from the office to spend time alone with God."

 According to Kanipe, when pastors come under attack, the worst mistake they make is spending less time with family and less time serving God. They think if they put everything into work and do it faster or better, the clergy killers will leave them alone.

 Kanipe is the Senior Pastor at the Salem United Methodist Church in Covington and formerly served at the Maple Street UMC in Marietta. He and his wife Marika have two children, Rebekah, 11 and James, 8.

 Kanipe was born in Spartanburg, S.C. in 1960 and moved to North Carolina as a teen. He earned his pilot's license at age 19. A 1982 graduate of Greensboro College he majored in business and graphic arts. He received a Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from the Emory University's Candler School.

 Serving the community since 1824, Salem UMC is located at 3962 Salem Road, in Covington. Their mission is to experience God's love, share God's love, and to grow in God's love. Traditional morning worship services are at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. with 9:30 a.m. coffee and fellowship and Sunday school at 9:45 a.m. United Methodist Women meet each second Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. in the Family Life Center and sponsors service projects and fundraisers. The UMW meet many of the needs in our church through the activities of the various circles. Wednesday night supper is at 5:45 p.m. with Bible Study at 7 p.m. For more information, call (770) 786-6027.