Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Problem of Power Hungry Church Authority

I’ve noticed in my churchly wanderings that overbearing authority can be found in conservative and liberal churches alike. Man’s power hungry mind that wants to be “like God” can twist any tradition (or lack thereof) to justify almost any abuse of authority.

I’ve experienced first hand how a conservative church leader who sees his authority as coming from God (which is at least largely correct) can confuse his authority with God’s authority. He can then oppress those under him, pushing them to violate their consciences or worse.

(For those who are wondering, I am not referring to the excellent leadership at my previous church.)

And then there’s liberal church leaders like Bishop Smith of Connecticut, who do not recognize the authority of God’s word, who don’t recognize the authority of orthodox church leaders they disagree with, who don’t even abide by the authority of inconvenient church canons. For them, although they would never admit it, there is a vacuum of authority. And guess who ends up filling the vacuum? That’s right: the liberal church leader.

And we can see how ugly and arbitrary this can be in Connecticut.

The question is how do churches deal with power hungry church leaders? Any church, of whatever tradition, that doesn’t think long and hard about this and make provisions for dealing with such is asking for trouble.

For wanting power “like God” is part of the Fall; power hunger is something any number of us can fall into.

And the power hungry can twist any tradition to his ends. And the power hungry can descend upon any church.

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