vendredi, février 02, 2007

For the good of the church

Once upon a time, in another land, I was active in a congregation that was full of light. The men, the women, even the children tried to live in harmony with the teachings of Jesus, and with each other. If you put on a program at that church, you could be assured that some people would show up. The music was wonderful, the campus large, the staff and lay leaders truly devoted to making the congregation into a a beacon for the Gospel.

Once upon a time, in that land, I worked in a church that was all too open to darkness. Perilously often, the leaders forgot that they were supposed to be merciful as well as judgmental, loving and inviting as well as critical. They drew the drawbridge up, proclaiming themselves the only keepers of the light. Many came, attracted by the idea of being part of a chosen community. Some left quietly, put off by the aura of arrogance, or wounded by the very human misdeeds of unaccountable leadership. Generation after generation kept secrets, thinking that they were doing it for the good of the church, but making it more comfortable for bad things to be done in darkness.

Of course, I am describing one and the same church. Perhaps I am describing most churches.

It is a congregation with a great capacity for doing good, but a frightening capacity for doing harm. It is also a church where some of the leadership has been put in the unfortunate position of baptisizing behavior that they had qualms about-"for the good of the church." Lots of nasty things are done "for the church of the church"-that does not make them anymore excusable.

I am rather quick to be critical of what I feel is a lack of personal integrity on the part of men and women who had the opportunity to stand up to leadership and instead pretended they were powerless.

After all, Jesus showed us a different sort of power-strength in weakness, power in humility.

Yet I wonder how I would behave, were I in such a position of leadership. Perhaps I would not do much better than they did.

Seeing the damage happen once again with the blessing of a little distance, I have to wonder: how hard is it to stand up for what you believe is right? How costly is it to deal with the consequences? Is courage a matter of grace or genes or maybe some of both? Or are there only certain men and women who know the consequences...and defend the weak and powerless anyway?

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