Value Systems : Christian Leadership

Quote from Paul Collins "Mixed Blessing: John Paul II and the Church of the Eighties". Penguin Books, Australia. (1986)

"What then is Christian leadership? I must admit I am always apprehensive when the gospel of the good shepherd is read (John 10:1-15). For in Australia we know that sheep are stupid animals moving in large flocks herded by sheep dogs that snap at the heels of any that dares to go off in an independent direction. Many Australian parish priests in the past behaved like sheep dogs, snapping at the strays! Now the approach is likely to be a little more subtle, but some priests still think they can assume the role of "director" of the moral and Christian development of the fellow Catholics and there are still very few priests who have integrated a genuinely Christian approach to leadership.  
    
True Christian leadership is that discussed and live out by Christ in the Gospels. Saint Peter advises his fellow presbyters: "Never be a dictator over any group that is put in your charge, but be an example" (1 Peter 5:3). Thus the leader of the Catholic community (whether he be Pope, bishop or priest) is faced with the self-effacing task of helping others to discern their gifts, creating an ambiance for their use, supporting them in their ministries and drawing the whole together to give a sense of unity and direction to the work of the Church. This is no small task. Increasingly Church leadership will need training in process and facilitation. Persons who are uncertain about their own identity, or who have lower levels of tolerance of frustration, or who tend to dominate others, or who are psycho-sexually immature are unsuited to any leadership role.  
    
It is easy to talk about Christian leadership, but as I myself found during a brief stint as a pastor in a large urban parish, the institution has a way of possessing you. Christian leadership so often becomes bogged down with details concerning the maintenance of the institutional structures of the Church and bishops and pastors are more often the slaves of the Church than its dictators. Many of them have good will toward the implementation of participatory structures but they become so immersed in ad hoc details and crises, in day to day administration, that they lose both the focus and the energy required for a more truly Christian form of leadership.  
    
If love, the service of others, joy, peace, a critical openness to reality, strength and courage are integral to faith, then the Christian leader must symbolically incorporate something of each of these virtues. Consensus involves the discernment of God's will for the community. The Church is not a democracy, not is it a dictatorship. The basic task of the community is to decide the way in which God is leading. Votes will be taken, but the real task is to obtain as inclusive decision as possible. Discernment, however, does not mean accommodating the lowest common denominator. At times leadership will be forced to take hard decisions in the face of a majority whose views represent mediocrity. The leader in this case acts as a prophet".  

e-mail SLourey@hotmail.com

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