Remember last week’s letter about the guy who was hassling women at church events for young professionals (a demographic he didn’t even belong to), among other obnoxious behavior? Here’s the update from the letter-writer charged with dealing with the situation.
I talked to my pastor today, and we went through all of it. I even quoted him the whole Missing Stair Theory! The pastor revealed that a few members who I thought were in their 20s and 30s are actually in their 40s and just look really young. But these people are well behaved and accepted amongst the younger people. So we’re going to work hard at only marketing to young people but we’re not ready to disinvite the well-behaved “aged-out” crowd.
We finally agreed we would tell him he’s not invited to the young adults group but could still come to general church events. We agreed that we are disinviting him because of his age AND his behavior. We agreed I would tell him and the pastor would be available for backup.
So I worked up my courage and called. First, I asked him to reflect on what Melissa said and he sounded sad but was saying things like, “I get it” and “I understand.” I was wondering if he already had made the decision to stop coming. Hurray! Fearing it was too good to be true, I pushed him to clarify whether or not he’s going to stop coming. Then all of the pushback started: He’s stuck by us for so long, he pays dues and he knows for a fact that other people don’t, some people just come to church to socialize and don’t pray, this is all un-Christian gossip, this makes the church look bad, this is peer pressure, Melissa shouldn’t have been so rude, in fact, this is all Melissa’s doing. I intervened and said, “No, it’s not all Melissa. People have been saying this before Melissa arrived” but he kept hinting that clearly I and the pastor don’t believe he’s a problem and we’re just doing due diligence on Melissa’s wild accusations.
Finally, he clarified his position: There are other aged-out members and when they come to our events, he’s going to come too because that’s only fair. I was proud of myself for saying, “It’s not about fair, it’s just not appropriate.” But he clearly wanted to make this an age issue and because he’s never (never!) creeped anyone out, age is the only barrier here. Sigh. At this point he’s saying he’s willing to talk about this with the board and the pastor but I sensed that he was pushing this off into a Larger Discussion For The Future and I decided to transfer him to the pastor so we could just do this now.
I didn’t hear what they discussed but the pastor gave me the pertinent information. James will only come to events where his other aged-out friends are going, which will cut his presence down to just a few times a year. The pastor will work on counseling him on his behavior and how to change the perception that he’s creepy. One thing I didn’t mention earlier is that James considers himself our promoter and prides himself being involved with the church. So by telling him to quit coming to events, he would have to mentally resign his “post” and accept that he’s not a goodwill ambassador, he’s a pest. I’m not sure when that will happen.
I feel let down that we didn’t (couldn’t?) ban him all together and we’re going to have to keep negotiating his behavior. I hate the idea that he could creep out more women, but at least now he knows he is not slick or subtle in his attentions and we’re watching. So, not a triumph but a start.
Thanks so much to Alison and commenters. When I was struggling with my nervousness about calling him, I actually thought of everyone here. I told myself, “They would cheer me on! They want me to be brave! Do it for them!” So I can honestly say I did a very hard professional task because of you all. Thanks!