More interesting, in many ways, than the membrane protecting the church from the outside environment are the policies and practices composing the additional membranes that typically function to protect the clergy, insulating them from subversive forces and temptations inside the church while maintaining the inner balance that seems to be necessary for proper functioning. Once again, these are designed policies without a designer. For the most part, they are the product of long ages of trial-and-error from which have emerged traditions – “best practices,” in effect – that have stood the test of time. Although they have served their functions well in the past, some of them are beginning to do more harm than good. Most of them have familiar counterparts in other contexts.
One is well-known by the name Bill Clinton gave it in another application: Don’t ask, don’t tell. There is a long-standing and unspoken taboo in many churches to the effect that inquiring pointedly about the religious beliefs of any church member – or, indeed of any pastor or other leader in the church – is not just bad form but altogether too aggressive and rude. this is a godsend (if I may put it thus) to many of our non-believing clergy participants, since they don’t have to worry overmuch about being put on the spot and forced to lie or confess. Except in private confessional conversations, and even then it is rare, this is just not done, one gathers – even in the case of interviews by a church search committee fro a new pastor.
–Linda LaScola & Daniel Dennett, Caught in the Pulpit, pgs 185-186