Our Lord Jesus Christ has taught us that it is very possible to be leading in the community of God’s people and yet be blind to the error that is being modeled. In his own time for every Nicodemus, secretly struggling with the truth, there were many who simply turned on Jesus. Even in his own home town he was driven out, with some wanting to kill him. What did he do or say that caused this hostility? By God’s grace we have the four gospels to tell us. He called the leaders to obey God’s Word.
Recently several dear friends have told me of episcopal elections soon to be held in their diocese. In each case, the process that has been inaugurated to elect has been a near replica of the system used in the Episcopal Church for the last seventy years, at least. Yet I know no one who believes that the current way the ministry of bishops is carried out is a good one. There are good and godly men, that is a fact, but the exercise of the diocesan episcopal ministry is – by almost all accounts – far from effective. Anyone who has had a private, and deeply honest, conversation with a current or retired bishop will confirm this. To many the system seems broken. Prophetic voices have said so for over a century. Yet the church goes on doing the same thing over and over.
One of my favorite sayings, learned these past few years, is this: “You have the perfect system for the results you are getting.” How might that apply to the leadership system in place among the new Anglicans of North America?
No one who knows the New Testament can argue that the current Anglican pattern of diocesan episcopal ministry is taught there. Indeed, any honest survey of the teaching of Jesus would bring forth a number of overt challenges. Is the bishop our “Father in God?” Jesus said: “Call no man father.” Is our bishop a “successor to the apostles?” The phrase and concept is nowhere. Should the bishop have the “chief seat?” It is the enemies of Jesus in the New Testament who want those seats. “My Lord Bishop?” There is only one Lord. The vestments and mitres and other external signs of office? “They make their tassels long and their phylacteries wide.”
I will be the first to argue, passionately, that the evidence is everywhere in the Holy Scriptures that God gives leaders to his people, and that they have positions of God given responsibility and authority. But the pattern of their leadership is to be different from that of the world. Special buildings, executive teams, a large support staff, multiple committee chairmanships, large budgets, and complex administrative systems were unheard of in the early centuries of the church. And yet she grew and prospered. The kingdom spread, throughout regions, nations, and continents.
What is the evidence that the leadership system we now have is effective? That it is helping the kingdom be extended from shore to shore. Indeed what evidence is there that this system is, in any real sense, biblical?
Next Week: The Basic Unit of the Church?