Keeping the Partisan Faith

A new study by political scientists notes that clergy, on the whole, are more partisan than their parishioners. You can read the study here.Which raises the question: If clergy are tasked to “keep the faith,” exactly what “faith” is it that they “keep?” The faith of their respective religious traditions or the faith of their partisan political commitments? The study would suggest that far too often, it’s the latter.And that’s not a good thing.The immediate protest to that judgment in … [Read more...]

5 Patterns that Erode the Ability of Leaders to Lead

Pastors work in what students of organization call “loosely linked bureaucracies.” What experts mean by that phrase is that clergy are largely unsupervised. Even in churches with bishops or district superintendents at the denominational level and boards or administrative councils at the local level, there is a good deal of work that many pastors do without immediate oversight.It is not surprising, then, that patterns in leadership emerge on the congregational level that are corrosive – corro … [Read more...]

Minya and Manchester: On Care-lessness and Obsession

From this morning’s Wall Street Journal: Unknown gunmen opened fire Friday on a bus carrying Coptic Christians to a monastery in southern Egypt, local media reports said, killing at least 20 people, in the latest attack on the minority Christian community.The bus was headed to the monastery in the city of Minya, some 190 miles south of the capital Cairo, Al Ahram newspaper quoted unnamed security officials as saying.There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which f … [Read more...]

People are just no damn good*

The world is divided into two camps by the answer to this question: Is human failing finally tragic or therapeutic?**If one omits the adverb, “finally,” of course, it is possible to believe that both the tragic and therapeutic provide windows into human behavior. One can believe that human failing is often tragic without excluding the therapeutic, and one can believe that therapy provides a window into human conduct without excluding the tragic.But when the adverb, “finally,” comes into p … [Read more...]

On Confessing the Sins of Others

Confessing the sins of others is an addictive practice.It feeds self-righteous certainty. It simplifies life's complex demands. It elicits confirmation from those who share our views. It spares us the effort associated with thinking and reasoning carefully. Above all, it insulates us from the painful process of self-examination.This is why Jesus urged us to consider the log in our own eye, before contemplating the speck in someone else’s eye. It is also why, as First Peter puts it, j … [Read more...]

Recovering Confirmation

Our conversations about the church’s pastoral prayers led to a conversation this week with my students about the sacrament of confirmation.One astute member of the class observed that his efforts to prepare adolescents for confirmation seemed rather futile. “I’m not convinced that at age fourteen they know what they are promising to do, and they slowly disappear from church after their confirmation. So, aren’t we just ‘graduating’ them?”The question he raised is a good one.Heaven know … [Read more...]

The Spiritual Logic of Easter

Resurrection, then hope. No Resurrection, then no hope.The spiritual logic of the New Testament is direct, unequivocal, and it is difficult to underestimate the significance of that logic for the early Christians.The Resurrection of Jesus vindicates the claims that he is acting on God’s behalf. It addresses the longed for answer to spiritual struggles that are scattered throughout the Old Testament;\, and in some senses it restores the reason for living with hope.It is not, however, t … [Read more...]

The Thursday of Holy Mysteries

Some weeks ago I began yet another painting project at home, the third room so far. I have a piece of advice to share with you: Never say “never.” I’ve said, “Never,” to painting two or three times, to no effect.Anyway, I find painting exceedingly boring, so I usually troll through old movies that are dialogue heavy. They are distracting and I can follow them, without actually watching the TV screen.One of my more recent weekend choices was “Paper Chase.” It’s the story of a new law stude … [Read more...]