Character assassination. Surely no one wants to air their dirty laundry in public, least of all the Church. But sin, like dirt, can breed in the dark, so usually I'm on the side of bringing things into the light.
Also, no one said that serving a church is ever easy. I know lay people really don't understand this, but all of us who have served a church or been part of a clergy family know how easily things can go wrong. But I'm not talking about Ms. So-and-So who gets her feelings hurt because she was not publicly and profusely thanked. No, I'm talking about people who go out after the pastor or clergy family member with the sole intent of destroying that person's reputation.
How often does that happen? More often than you might think. But the stories often remain behind closed doors for fear and shame, and because people might muse, "Just maybe there is something to it."
Are there safe guards in place to protect innocent clergy? Frankly, no. In the UMC, the District Superintends are usually more interested in protecting the church than the pastor. If a family member is attacked--forget it. There is no help.
What can a pastor do? Sometimes not a lot. Suffer through? Move on, because only a very few "good" people will stand up? Get a lawyer? Counter sue? Sometimes the best thing is the expose the bullies, the liars, for what they are. Frankly, each situation is different.
But these things do happen. The best thing you can do is stay healthy, stay in touch with God, and stay connected to close friends. Be gentle as a dove, but as wise as a serpent. Take your church through a Healthy Congregation program.