Tuesday, April 08, 2008


I am so going to try not to dwell on what is sweetest in my thoughts at the moment—namely, Strong Heart and our growing relationship—and look at something she and I have discussed a bit. Being both clergy geeks, this really is the sort of thing we discuss…well, some of what we discuss, anyway.

Authority and leadership. Ordained clergy are set aside for leadership in the church. Every denomination has its own refinement on what that means (only clergy consecrate sacraments? Only clergy officiate at baptisms? Etc.) as well as the process by which a person is ordained (seminary and denominational requirements, denominational training course, anointing by congregation, etc.). But the question remains—ordained to what? Set aside for what?

When I was consecrated in the United Methodist Church (ordination is a two-step process there, in which first a person is consecrated as a probationary elder, then after 3 years, ordained an elder—and don’t get me started on the illogic of that), we were told as part of the consecration, “Take thou authority…” Authority to do what? Well, to preach and to order worship, to consecrate Communion, to baptise—and also to send in the annual church reports, to meet with the district superintendant, to counsel and mediate and lead council meetings….in short, to lead a church.

But what gave me that authority? Yes, the words spoken over me at the consecration; and the training I had received at seminary and through my mentors. But more importantly than either of these is the call I received from God to pastor. When the United Methodist Church could not accept or hear my call, I went where it was accepted—where the authority of my call was recognised.

And what is the nature, then, of that authority? Is it rule—being the one in charge, the one with the final say, like the mother who says, “You do this because I said so, that’s why.” Is it the shepherd—being the one with the vision, seeing the goal, herding the flock towards that righteous end? Is it the guide—who knows the pitfalls and dangers as well as where the wells of living waters are? Is it the servant—who, by example and patience and love, offers an alternative to self-absorption? Is it the CEO—always seeing the bottom line, figuring how many new members pledging so much per year we get per five thousand flyers going out into the community? Is it the politician—working with the government or elected officials to set up needed services? Is it the activist—raising a lonely voice and taking a stand?

I think true leadership is a blend of all these—none should predominate, but all blend into a whole—so that each may emerge as needed. This is an ideal, to be sure. But in my experience, when one of this overshadows the rest, trouble lies ahead.

Does that sound like I’m afraid to make a stand? Perhaps it does seem that way, but I do have a position on this—every clergy person must be able to act in any of those roles at any time. Sometimes the flock needs to be pushed in another direction; sometimes they need to be loved and supported and served; sometimes they need to take a hard look at finances.

And every clergy person has one of those roles that predominates—that’s based on their personality and style. Myself, I tend to the servant leader—to me, the stole I wear on Sundays is a symbol of the yoke of obedience. I responded to my call because I could do no other—in obedience to God. And so I did what I had to do in order to serve God.

Others will have other stories. I have friends who are politicians, who are activists, who are CEOs. But they also are able to be servants or guides when needed.

“Take thou authority.”


Sally said...

Well said, we do need to be a blend of all these things- and allowing one to overshadow the others is not helpful... although I do lean strongly towards being a guide, I am aware of the activist, and have to drag the CEO kicking and screaming into action at times...

Having said that I also rely strongly upon others who have administrative gifts etc, because I know my weaknesses!

:-) prayers for your growing relationship too!!!

LutheranChik said...

My pastor's strong point is his service...I am so grateful that he (and his spouse) were with me during my mother's last illness and death. He's there, so often, for so many of us in our congregation.

And the irony is...he doesn't like wearing stoles.;-)

Clarence Darrow--Beyond Scopes and Leopold & Loeb

Personalities fascinate me--people do. One way I try to understand history and places is through people--which is why I love good histor...