Posts Tagged ‘Current Events’

Who Do You Trust?

November 20, 2014

Two interesting articles – the first more interesting than the second.

The Catholic Church in Kenya is alleging that a UN-sponsored tetanus vaccination program is also a cover for delivering sterilization hormones to unsuspecting women and girls.  Not surprisingly, the UN is denying it and now the government of Kenya is calling for an independent investigation – something that the Catholic Church has asked for repeatedly but been denied.

It seems like a typical case of he-said/she-said, however the irregularities of this particular vaccine, as noted in the first article, are very interesting indeed.

Out of Business

July 1, 2014

My disgust for the continued assumption of corporate philosophy and practice in the Church continues to grow.

A few weeks ago a colleague shared this article with me.  He’s a wonderful man and loving pastor, now retired, seeking to make sense of the sweeping changes and devastation he has witnessed since he began his ministry over 50 years ago.  Like many current and retired pastors, he looks to the latest experts and gurus to deliver verdicts that might have some meaning, that might be able to stem the tide that has emptied many traditional denominational congregations of their youth in particular, and of members in general.

The article he shared with me focuses on pastoral skills that are not actually pastoral, but much more closely identified with business leadership roles.  Framing the vision, engaging the board in planning, leading staff, managing finances, developing future leadership, being the chief communicator and supporting the board.  How often have these duties or slight variations of them been touted as part of the pastoral duty, and how often have congregational boards and councils bought into these assertions (coming as they do from gurus and experts), only to lay into their Called staff for failing in these regards?

I’ll say it again – a congregation is not a business.  The Church is not a corporation.  The pastor is not a CEO.  In our quest to find a more relevant metaphor than shepherd for the modern church, we’ve somehow settled on CEO, and I believe it is only exacerbating the demise not just of congregations but of pastoral careers.

Another article from the same website focuses on the importance of discussing performance as a congregation.  The author asserts that Jesus and Moses (as well as the author’s parents) each upbraided their followers for not performing properly.  Nowhere does the author define what he means by performance.  I see Jesus and Moses criticizing their followers for unfaithfulness and for disobedience, but is this the same thing as performance?  Is it true that “God is judging our performance”, as the author asserts in conclusion?  What does the Bible say about this?  Whose performance is it that is judged – ours, or Christ’s?

I’m no guru or expert.  I haven’t authored any books (well, nothing theologically related).  But this is dangerous quasi-theology used as PR to sell consultation services.  The sooner the Church recognizes that performance is a very different animal in Scripture, and remember that followers of Christ are called to suffer – which might mean dealing with declining numbers and radical change, the better.  Don’t get me wrong – there are Called workers out there in the Church who have no right to be where they are, who are grossly incompetent and even dangerous, and congregations need to deal with those people for the good of the individuals as well as the congregations.

But evaluating your Called staff because your congregation hasn’t significantly grown, or because they aren’t skilled in reading spreadsheets and putting together PowerPoint presentations is a dangerous departure from what Called staff should be about.  I recommend paying more attention to 1 Timothy 3 rather than the latest, greatest, and for-hire experts & gurus.  At least until those experts and gurus can demonstrate that their own performance warrants your respect.


Memory Lapse

June 30, 2014

The Supreme Court today ruled that privately held corporations (at the very least) could not be compelled by the Affordable Healthcare Act to provide contraceptive and abortifacient coverage to their employees if it violates the religious convictions of the corporate owners.  Already the press is hard at work depicting this as a monumental blow to women’s rights.  This despite the fact that the right didn’t even exist a few short years ago, and this despite the fact that requiring such employee-sponsored coverage is an equally monumental blow to freedom of religion.

Had the court ruled differently, it would have in essence affirmed the current administration’s stance that religious people who start businesses have no right to allow those religious beliefs to guide their business operations.

Press coverage is amazingly skewed.  Consider this single, brief article.

“Many religiously affiliated employers were already exempt from the requirement.” – Actually, no.  Only institutions and organizations with the primary purpose of providing religious services were exempted.  Basically, churches – not church-affiliated institutions such as hospitals, educational institutions, etc.

“some for-profit companies don’t have to pay for contraceptives either” – The implication being that any for-profit company clearly has an obligation to offer such services, or to be forced to abide by whatever regulatory decrees the government finds useful.  Why is it that seeking to make a profit is treated in a derogatory fashion, as though somehow someone with religious convictions that drive their personal and business ethos is unimaginable?

I’d take serious issue with the assertion that this ruling affects millions of women.  The small number of largely small, private companies that might seek protection under this ruling is not likely to impact anywhere close to millions of women.

Those who decry this decision once again seek to frame women as victims.  Women must be guaranteed that these services, which until alarmingly recently were nowhere, by no one, considered a right of all working women.  As a man, I find it offensive that after 50 years of gains in women’s rights, women continue to allow themselves to be portrayed as victims.

Here’s a novel thought – if free contraceptive and abortifacient coverage is important to you as a woman, then work for a company that provides such coverage.  There are plenty of them now.  I daresay the majority of major employers in the US won’t consider rolling back this coverage.  Work for one of those companies!  Women in the workforce are free to choose where they work, based on what sort of benefits the company offers.  Nothing new here.

I’m thrilled for the court’s decision.  Not because I disrespect women, but because I respect women and their ability to make choices about the type of work they want to do and who they wish to do it for.  I also respect deeply the idea that the owner of a company should be allowed to provide jobs to others without violating important aspects of their faith.