Wednesday, August 8, 2012
There is a meme out in the Christian blog world that decries leadership, arguing that pastors should not understand themselves as leaders.
I strongly disagree.
Pastors are leaders.
No, they are not leaders of corporations or government bureaucracies. And, they are not only leaders. But they are leaders.
Certainly the nature of church leadership is different than leadership in those other contexts. It's should be practiced differently. It often is not practiced differently. That can have tragic consequences.
Pastor means shepherd. The LORD was the shepherd of Israel. Moses shepherded Israel. David shepherded Israel. And, of course, Jesus is our shepherd. Pastor/shepherd is a king word. Pastor/shepherd is a leadership word.
Healthy, courageous, self-differentiated leadership is essential for the healthy life of any group of people - family, school, business and, yes, church. In my view, the question is not leadership vs. non-leadership, Leadership always exists in every grouping of people.. The issue is the nature of leadership.
The last thing the church should do is jettison the idea of leadership in defining the role of pastor. That would be a disaster.
I think one of the main problems in the church, especially in our day, is lack of courageous leadership. The courage to speak the truth in love even when others will not listen. The courage to call people to obey God even when it is not popular. The courage to name what one believes is right even while choosing to love those who disagree. Failing in these things has destructive consequences for the life of the church. These are all failures of leadership.
My vote is we keep the word leadership. Let's work hard to define it well. But let's us make sure those who give leadership in the church know they are leaders, embrace their calling to leadership and lead with love, courage and faithfulness.
Monday, March 12, 2012
"Lord, open our lips.
And our mouth shall proclaim your praise."
I try to say the Daily Office from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer everyday. Some days I miss, but over the years it has become a habit. I am grateful to mentors have encouraged me to build that spiritual practice in my life.
Early in the office, one is invited to recite the words, "Lord, open our lips." It's kind of a funny thing to say. One is already opening one's lips to ask God to open them. Of course, that's not the point. The point is that it is hard to offer worship to God. I need help. That's what I love about this short prayer. It reminds me that I need help and it promises me help. Our generous God invites us to pray and then gives us the strength to do so. What a good God we worship!
Monday, December 19, 2011
Every year during the last week of Advent I remember the story of the Annunciation: that few minutes when the angel Gabriel met with a teen girl to inform her that God - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - was about to deliver Israel. To get that done, God was finally sending the Messiah. The catch was that God intended to use Mary to bring him into the world.
Mary's response - what we call the Magnificat - could only have come from the lips of a person deeply imbibed in the story of Israel and expectantly waiting for the Messiah to come. Mary was hoping for the Messiah. Mary prayed for the Messiah. Mary longed for the Messiah. Now her hopes, prayers and longings were to be fulfilled.
But NOT in the way Mary planned.
It doesn't take much imagination to recognize that Mary wasn't thinking God would deliver Israel by making her pregnant out of wedlock. We do not know exactly what Mary's expectations were about how the Messiah would come, but it seems plain that her expectations about her hope and the way God intended to fulfill her hope did not match up.
And so, what did Mary do? She said ... yes.
Think what Mary could have done. She could have stalled in confusion because God's way of fulfilling his promise did not match her preconceived notions. She could have actively fought God because God's way of doing things did not matter to her. Instead, Mary said yes. She said yes because she was able to keep her hopes and expectations separated.
This fourth week in Advent always reminds me to be unmoving with my hopes and nimble with my expectations. All of us are looking for God to show up in our lives. But we need to heed Mary's model. By all means, hope in God; trust God fully! But at the same time we must be careful to not tie our hopes to closely to expectations. In doing that we might miss God and we might find ourselves, in the midst of our hope, saying no to God.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
I apologize for the time gap since my last post.
I am continuing with thoughts about why Anglicans believe children of believers are proper candidates for baptism. A text that is important to our thinking about this is the story of Jesus blessing the children. Mark 10:13-16 states,
13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." 16And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
This text says nothing about baptism. However, it does say that little children ought to be brought to Jesus because the Kingdom belongs to them. All by itself, this statement does not justify baptizing babies. So why do Anglicans look to this text as a basis for baptizing babies? Because baptism is a rite of entrance and a sign of belonging in the Kingdom of God. Since the Kingdom can belong to little ones, it seems appropriate to give the sign of Kingdom belonging to them.
Again, all by itself, this text does not teach nor justify the practice of baptizing babies. What it does do is add to a cumulative case for the practice. The coming posts will add more biblical data to the case for baptizing babies.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Virtually all Christian traditions agree that converts to Christianity ought to be baptized. Disagreement comes between those who believe only converts should be baptized and those who believe the children of believers may also be baptized. Anglican's are in the second group. This raises a question, why do Anglican's believe children are also proper candidates for baptism?
Let me begin my answer in this post and complete it in the next few to come.
The first thing to note is the inconclusiveness of the New Testament. There is no text in the New Testament that identifies the proper candidate for baptism - believer or child of believer. The New Testament is just plain silent. Second, while there are a number of examples of believers receiving baptism in Acts, there are also examples of whole households receiving baptism. The only person in these texts professing faith is the head of the household. All we are told about the other members is that they were baptized as well. The household texts don't claim children of believers were baptized, but they do create ambiguity. We simply do not know for sure who was in that household. And we do not know if every member of the household professed faith before being baptized.
Since we cannot answer the question from New Testament resources, Anglicans believe the next place to go is to the Old Testament. While we do not find baptism in the Old Testament we do find a rite of initiation into life in God and the people of God: circumcision. Circumcision is not the same thing as baptism, but there are similarities. Like baptism, it is a rite of initiation into life in God and his people. But notice, the rite was not only for adults who joined Israel, but for the sons of Israelites. Here's the point: circumcision was for believers and for children of believers. Circumcision functioned as sign of faith (Romans 4:11). Therefore, circumcision makes clear there is nothing inherently problematic in God's economy for the sign of faith to proceed the profession of faith. There is much more that can be said about this than a blog post gives room for. However, the basic point is that Anglicans see in the Old Testament rite of circumcision part of the basis for offering the New Testament rite of baptism to converts and to children of believers.
More needs to be said. Stay tuned.
Monday, September 19, 2011
In my first post I wrote, "Anglicans believe infant Baptism is ... an authentic expression of the meaning of Christian baptism and salvation as taught in scripture."
So ... what is the meaning of baptism?
The Book of Acts gives a number of examples of people being baptized in water. In every case, this ritual is tied with them following Jesus and joining the Church. It's a kind of threshold; a kind of doorway into life in Jesus and life in the church.
With that in mind, I will define baptism as a rite of entrance - entrance into life in Christ and entrance into life in the Church.
How does infant baptism express this? Anglicans believe that baptism is the beginning of a journey. And so when parents bring their children to be baptized they are bringing them to Jesus and bringing them to the church. Baptism is a ritual that marks their entrance into life in Christ and life in the Church. I realize that raises questions about the inability of a baby to profess faith in Christ. That is a very important question and I will address it in a later post. Right now, the key idea I want to stress is that we do not understand baptism as a once and for all event. It's not some magical act that gives a kid eternal life no matter what happens subsequently to baptism. It is a beginning. It is an inauguration. It's a threshold. When mom and dad bring their seven month old daughter and have her baptized, they are beginning a journey that they will take with their kid to raise her into the fullness of life in Christ and the church.
The next question, is why do we believe little kids can be brought for baptism apart from their own profession of faith. I will answer that in the next post.
Friday, September 16, 2011
As an Anglican priest I am regularly given the occasion to explain our theology and practice of baptism. The main question I get asked is, "Why do you baptize babies?" In the next series of posts I aim to answer that question the way I do with folks I meet with in my parish. I hope you find it helpful!
On to my answer.
The first reason we baptize babies is we believe it is biblical. Before unpacking that, a word about what I mean by biblical. There are a number of ways something can be Biblical. The most basic is when there is a verse of scripture that makes a statement about the question at hand. For example, is it biblical to lie? Well, no, because in Exodus 20 it says, "You shall not lie." Now, baptizing babies is not Biblical in this first manner. There is no verse that says, "You shall baptize babies." Some stop there and conclude baptizing babies is therefore not Biblical at all. However, there are other ways something can be Biblical - ways we use all the time. Another way we conclude something is Biblical is if it does not contradict the teaching of scripture. The Bible is silent about automobiles. But I would argue that driving a car is perfectly Biblical. Why? Because it does not contradict the teaching of the Bible and there is no prohibition of the activity. Anglicans would argue that baptizing babies is Biblical in this way - we see no prohibition in scripture against this form of baptism. This way of being Biblical is pretty weak though. Thankfully there is another way something can be Biblical. While something may not be explicitly commanded or exemplified, it can be an expression of the teaching of scripture. Anglicans believe infant Baptism is Biblical in this sense. It is an authentic expression of the meaning of Christian baptism and salvation as taught in scripture.
In the next few posts I will explain how Anglicans see baptizing babies as an authentic expression of the teaching of scripture.