Tag Archives: Authority

Theology, Justice, and Church Authority: Stay Strong in Your Faith

Because I Said So

 

I believe in respecting the leadership of pastoral staff, but because I attend a fundamentalist church, there are times when I have had to pause, bite my tongue, and let my thoughts be just that – thoughts. There are also other times when my thoughts can no longer be contained and I let pastoral staff or a leader know, “Oh noooo, that is not alright”. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does…

I recently had some theological differences with a group of pastors at my home church. I was told that I “consistently challenge pastor’s authority”. I was both sad and happy to have this accusation made against me. I was sad because this group of fundamentalist pastors interpreted and experienced what I knew to be a theological discussion as “challenging authority”. On the other hand I was simultaneously happy because I make no apologies for my theological stance and I speak up when necessary.

My life experiences differ greatly from the life experiences of the pastors who lead at my church. I’ve attended this church for around 18 years and the staff demographics haven’t changed at all. I could leave and find a new church to attend, but I don’t live in a city with a lot of diversity and this is very much reflected in the eerily homogenous pastoral leadership staffed across varying denominations in my city.

There was a time when I struggled with deciding if my theological beliefs were worth standing up for. Was it worth it to be branded a heretic by certain pastors and other believers who couldn’t wrap their minds around things I would say during bible studies and conversations about faith? Was it worth it to be gossiped about by staff as they warned others about what they referred to as my “questionable theology”.

The writer of Titus wrote an entire letter about being faithful in submitting to authority, being obedient to subordinates, and maintaining sound teaching. The second half of the letter displays the author’s dislike for theological debates when he warns believers to, “…avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9).

Is this why these pastors at my church tried to silence me? Were my concerns “unprofitable and worthless”?

I realized the theological discussions I tried to engage in with my pastors proved to be unprofitable, but certainly not worthless. My concerns were not worthless because I believe in the things that God has taught us to care about; justice which is carried out by caring for the poor, the marginalized, those emotionally hurt and damaged by the church, women and other issues highlighted in the bible. My theology is not worthless, it is rooted in recognizing the things which both God and Jesus despised: discrimination, sexism, taking advantage of the disadvantaged, using the name of Christ to bring harm to others, and many other atrocities which are listed in the bible from the Hebrew Scriptures straight through to the gospels where Jesus showed us what it looks like to live a justice focused life infused by the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit.

pulpit bully pastors

Disagreements as Growth:

Sometimes you need to take a stand and speak out against faulty biblical teachings. Check the scriptures, pay attention to the context of the passages, use academic tools to learn more, and most importantly pray about the topic before you speak up about your concerns regarding faulty teachings. It’s also important to know when to remain silent. Choose your battles wisely. We are not always going to read and understand scripture in the same way; human variables have a strong influence on how we understand scripture. Know which things need to be addressed and which ones can be left alone.

When we engage in uncomfortable theological discussions or debates we strengthen our faith and expand our knowledge. If you only listen to yourself and others who think exactly as you do, how will you ever know if you are correct or in error. Hot tempered, ego filled arguments, are the types of interactions that never lead to any good and are not rooted in the fruits of the spirit. Learning to engage and listen helps us develop respect for others, patience, grace, and awareness of others’ experiences and beliefs.

be a leader

If you are a pastor or hold a lay leadership position, engaging with those who differ from you can teach you humbleness. Some of my pastors and other men of higher positions in community ministry have boldly used the word ‘authority’ to silence and control me. When that word is used, it usually occurs when they become visibly uncomfortable with having to dialogue with me after they realize that I am making points that are valid, factual, biblical, academic, include lived experiences, and other things that make for a proper argument. Great leaders are those who never stop learning. As Christians one never stops learning. The Holy Spirit doesn’t stop giving us wisdom, correction, and guidance; it is only us as humans who choose to quiet the work of the Spirit.

As a graduate student I was required to build a solid theological base. As students we developed our beliefs from academic rigour and spiritual experiences rooted in our relationship with God.  I wasn’t able to bring myself to settle exclusively for one type of theological system or methodology, but I am heavily influenced by a group of intersecting theologies: Feminist Theology (I’m not what people would consider a feminist, but I like certain types of feminist theological methodologies), Postcolonial theology, and Practical theology.

It’s not my theological studies that have lead me to take a stand against the misleading and sometimes harmful teachings of my pastoral staff, it is my belief in God and the powerful words found clearly in scripture that let me know that I cannot remain silent about my concerns.

appeal to authority

You don’t need a graduate level education to know when something doesn’t sit right within you. When the small quiet voice of your conscience grows louder and louder and moves from your gut to your head and then back again until it ignites a passion in you; don’t ignore it. Be brave, be confident in the Lord, and do something. Speak, pray, help, walk away, whatever it is that you feel prompted to do. You are guaranteed to be hurt by others, betrayed, ignored, challenged, and segregated, but remember who is with you as always; he experienced the same thing too while speaking the truth of our Father.

Peace be to you as you walk in faith and justice.

 

 

 

 

The Blessing of: Respecting Yourself

Respect figure

http://oneword365.com/

http://myoneword.org/

My one word for 2014: Blessing

Respect is a word often misused in our vocabulary and unfortunately it is commonly demanded from people who are the least deserving of it.

respect give it

Let’s find out what respect really means, at least according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

Respect: 

“: a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.

: a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way

: a particular way of thinking about or looking at something”

“: high or special regard:  (esteem)

b : the quality or state of being esteemed”

I have worked in my share of low-paying, toxic, and unethical places of employment where supervisors and managers have demanded “respect” from employees. I have also seen a few pastoral staff and Christian leaders in the community demand respect from people. Respect is important, but as I like to say, ‘If you have to demand respect, you don’t deserve respect.’ The conclusion I’ve made is that people often confuse respect for subordination. What they really should be saying is, ‘You are not being subordinate to me’ or ‘you are being insubordinate’.

Subordination (noun):

“a bending to the authority or control of another”

Subordinate (adjective):

“: in a position of less power or authority than someone else

: less important than someone or something else”

This discussion about subordination and respect has had to take place between myself and several staff in the workplace. These were supervisors and managers who had placed me in a situation where my safety was at risk; it was also a workplace that had numerous complaints made about bullying and harassment at the hands of those we were subordinate to. Eventually almost all of these managers were fired. In the end it didn’t make a difference in my life because I am still struggling with a work related injury that resulted from my managers’ bullying, harassment and violation of labour laws.

no disrespect but

We need to respect the work that we do, we need to respectful towards the customers and clients that we serve, but when management starts demanding respect, I automatically question why these managers need to demand respect instead of having been freely given it by their staff. In the workplace I will be polite, kind, cooperative, a team player, and all the other adjectives and characteristics that make for a healthy workplace, but I can honestly say that I won’t freely admire and look up to a manager. I certainly wouldn’t recommend sharing these values with a manager; that would be a ridiculous thing to do and could likely lead to bad manager-employee relations and at worst, the loss of your job.

I would caution people in using the word respect without fully knowing the meaning of the word and whether or not you are actually deserving of the act of being respected. If you demand that people respect you, you are more likely not to be respected by them.

respect character

Instead of demanding and trying to force people to respect you, let us remember this:

Romans 12: 3-20 (From BibleGateway)

Humble Service in the Body of Christ

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love in Action

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

respect accornym