Leadership in the Orthodox Church…

comes with authority, not the authority of a group of people who voted 51-49 to make us who we are, but rather the authority that  comes with being part of a larger chain of trust and responsibility leading all the way back to the Apostles and Christ.

And as clerics our words matter, our conduct matters.  Our calling is an awesome thing in the best sense of the word, worthy of awe and respect but not for its own sake. We forget that sometimes. All the people calling you “Father”, the kissing of the hands, the seat at the head of the banquet, the accolades. It’s all very intoxicating and like all intoxicants it can be  very dangerous.

It easy to lose ourselves in the role, to believe our own press releases as it were and get caught up in the fine vestments and privileges of our office. It’s easy when our pictures are on the wall and our name is on the letterhead to lose direction, focus, and purpose.  It’s infectious for us all, myself included, and like all infections left untreated it can make us very sick, even kill us.

Because in the end its all about trust. People submit to us, people follow our lead, not because we have a name or title or credentials. Those things may open the door but they mean nothing after the first few impressions. The people we serve, the reason behind the titles and the roles and the vestments, will know whether or not we have their best interest at heart, whether we are a shepherd or a hireling, whether they matter or not. Trust is the currency of authority and when it is squandered its most difficult to recover.

And perhaps the saddest thing in all that has been happening in the Antiochian Archdiocese is that this precious trust, the thing that binds those who lead and those who follow seems to be  thrown to the wind for ends still not clear and causes still not certain.  At the very moment when those who look to us are trying to find their way perhaps we have forgotten that all that we have been given, our gifts, our authority, is a trust from God a trust the people we serve hope will be used for their increase in holiness, a trust even for those outside the Church, whether they know it or not, that there is light, truth, grace, and holiness to be found in this world.

Does it make a difference who is in charge and how the precious gift of the Church is governed. Yes, it does. Yet, the structure and order of the ancient Faith is not an experiment or an exercise in how best to finesses the system for advantage, rather it is for the care and nourishment of the faithful and so its shape and functions matter. If our concern in all this is pastoral it would be a worthy thing to ask the question “How does our polity best serve the people entrusted to our care?”

Yet how much can we all, all of us who are in some role of authority in this Holy Church, often look like James and John trying to secure the seats next to Jesus in the Kingdom? How often can we forget that the charism is not ours but rather a trust for which we will be called to account? And yes, how often can we forget the people, the ones who kiss our hands and serve us at festivals, the ones to whom, like Christ, our lives are supposed to be dedicated?  Have we remembered them in all of this? Have our deliberations, our maneuvers, our opinions, and our actions been designed to bless them, help them, serve them, and increase their faith?

The answer to those questions lie within us, within me, and perhaps  the way out of these struggles as well.


5 thoughts on “Leadership in the Orthodox Church…

  1. I know they do and I will but what that precious time lost in the waiting. Why is our hope in someone’s future passing when the opportunity to good and make positive change is right at hand?

  2. Perhaps our personal salvation is in patience, trust in God, love for the Church and not in the chariots and horses of change. My experience in 40 years of ministry has been that immediate “positive change” is always at someone else’s expense even if we can’t see it. Not that I have this down…..

  3. S-P,
    Just make sure to avoid the false dilemma between patience and trust on the one hand and working for positive change on the other. Just as St. Maximos the Confessor spoke of “ever-moving rest” in eternity, so we need to speak of “ever-working patience” in the present.

  4. I agree it is not an either/or, but the longer I live the less I trust the discernment of people to know how, why and when to make “positive change”… but only because I can look back on my own life and see the trail of my sins and prelest. But then we are ALL shooting in the dark when it comes to calling out for something different from what we have, even if we think what is different is more holy and righteous. May God have mercy on us all who look to change anything more than ourselves.

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