Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Plagairizing Pastors?

Do not underestimate the front page of Wall Street Journal as a source for fascinating articles on religious/spiritual/church things.

Today (Nov. 15) had another really interesting article -- this about the debate over pastors delivering other pastor's sermons as their own, and including the wide range of positions on the issue. Now as a writer and as a professor, I admit that my bias is in favor of attribution -- crediting the souce from which you get an idea or a story or an interpretation -- anything less than that is a violation of professional ethics and/or copyright law. I will also mention that my pastor (a former lawyer and university professor) practices attribution, mentioning the author and the book from which he gets concepts, facts, etc . . .

Another pastor in my denomination who I respect is quoted in this article as saying that pastors should feel free to use whatever truth they find, wherever they find it, and that attirbution can get in the way of the flow and point of a sermon. The arguement is that as long as the work is not printed, then copyright has not been violated. But with sermons being sold on CD, I wonder about that legal analysis.

But to me, legality is not the key issue, it is honesty. It is OK for pastor to not have an "original" idea every week, but if they are using resources, they should mention the resources they are using. Again I recognize my bias, but I have trouble seeing the other side of the argument.

But I also think that attribution models pastoral humility. In a setting where we have seen the "pastor as rock star" mentality -- and the excesses and moral trouble that comes along with that mentality -- I think a pastor pointing out that he is not the font of all new wisdom is a very good thing.


Cami said...

"But I also think that attribution models pastoral humility."

I totally agree. My grandfather had been a pastor for over sixty years. At his funeral I gave this analogy: If a sign painter is commissioned to paint a sign for a product that revolutionizes people's lives, and as a result of seeing the sign people buy the product and their lives are revolutionized, the only thing that can be said of the sign painter is that he did his job.

There is nothing to be proud of regarding our own knowledge anyway; "There is nothing new under the sun."

Debbie C. said...

I believe that any use of anyone's material whether word for word or even a concept should be acknowledged by the speaker. I think a pastor that doesn't do this is misleading his people into thinking he came up with the words or the idea and I would call that deception.

I.I. said...

To me this is a no-brainer. I was stunned that some pastors disagreed.

Keith said...

Attribution is a "must do" to retain honesty. To me it is a sign of ignorance and discourtesy not to just mention a source.

I.I. said...

again, maybe it's because we're writers . . . but again, this is a no-brainer to me.