Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How Do You Remain United in the Body of Christ When A Leader Abuses Power?

I have a good friend who was hurt quite badly by a pastor who initiated a harmful program and insisted that my friend help him administer it.  When my friend refused, he faced serious consequences at the practical level within his church community.

That friend asked me, after the fact, the following - and my response follows his question, with a nod to Mormon-speak for this blog:

The reality is that church leaders are just regular people. As such, sometimes they abuse their power in their leadership positions. Generally this is minimal or not a problem - however sometimes it can be extreme and even abusive.

How do you deal with this? How do you reconcile it with the command to be united in the body of Christ?

1) by recognizing and admitting exactly what you just said. There's nothing "magical", in and of itself, that changes someone who is in a position of leadership in a church - man or woman. The only thing that changes automatically is the power and influence they are able to wield - the scope of their potential unrighteous dominion.

2) by recognizing that increased responsibility pushes "the natural (wo)man" toward increased unrighteous dominion. It pushes "the unnatural (wo)man" forward to greater at-one-ment. It pushes most people who live somewhere between those extremes either or both ways.

3) by defining "unity in the body of Christ" as "doing my best to help the entire community" - and realizing that sometimes the best help I can provide is a different perspective - or a simple refusal to do something.

4) by not being a jerk about it or refusing to do anything for the person but continuing to do everything I feel I can do in good conscience and balance.

5) by going above the person's head in extreme situations, if possible - always calmly and meekly and humbly, but clearly and precisely (and pointing out that I take my commitment to sustain God and the overall church community above my commitment to any one person).

Within the structure of my own religion, if I were to go to a Stake President, for example, about a Bishop, High Priest Group Leader, EQ President, etc., I would make it crystal clear that I am doing so out of genuine concern for the Stake President, the other person and the LDS Church itself - that I believe the problem I am trying to address is serious enough to be talking with the Stake President AFTER I've tried to talk with the other person. Again, as I say a lot, tone, attitude and appearance mean a lot in situations like this. I won't contribute to someone being stomped on, but I'm not doing any stomping on or punch throwing at any point in the process.

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