Inspired by Titus 1:1-9
“For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled.” Titus 1:7-8 (NRSV)
Leaders of the church, whether ordained or lay, are not perfect. Leaders of the church are saved by grace just like everyone else; neither their position nor their works brings them any closer to God than those they lead.
But as God’s stewards, leaders of the church are expected—both by those they lead and by God—to be of a certain character and moral uprightness. Sadly these expectations are often not met, and the resulting damage to the body of Christ has been devastating.
How many Christians have been harmed—physically, emotionally, or spiritually—by a church leader? And with each incident numerous people are driven away from the good news of Jesus Christ by the very people who are supposed to be proclaiming the transformative power of his grace with their words and actions, with their very lives.
A position of leadership within the body of Christ is a privilege, not a right. All Christians must engage in prayerful discernment when choosing a leader, and all Christians must hold their leaders as well as themselves and each other accountable. We are all sinners, saved by grace, and we all must forgive as we have been forgiven. We must recognize that no one is going to be everything that the passage above lists at all times, and we must allow our leaders their humanity and forgive them when they stumble. But forgiveness for a stumble is not the same as excusing harmful behavior, and we must all be willing to acknowledge that many people, though good and faithful Christians, lack the specific gifts necessary to be good leaders.
Let us pray. God of mercy, you have entrusted your good creation to us even though we are sinful beings. Grant us the discernment to appoint leaders in your church who will further its mission, that we may see by their example not only how to live faithfully, but how to recognize our own need for forgiveness and accept your grace with humility. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.