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Respect my authoritah!

30June2011

Although I don’t know if it was intended or not, an early running gag among the authors of this blog is that we need to respect the blog creator’s authority (or, as Eric Cartman, a character on South Park would say, “Authoritah!”).

Authority is one of the buzzwords in the church today.  We struggle over issues of authority on national issues, the most obvious being the ordination of persons life-long publicly accountable same-gendered relationships in the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the Presbyterian Church.  With that particular issue on the national level, authority comes to bear when considering the authority of Scripture (What does it mean for Lutherans to say that Scripture is the source and norm for our faith and life?), as well as the authority of decision-making bodies changing policy.  The latter is less important than the former, especially given how differently the Presbyterian Church and the ELCA go about making national decisions.  There has been, and will continue to be, a lot of ink (virtual and real) spilled over both of those; but let’s not forget authority in the parish.

The parish pastor must be a person of authority.  S/he has been called to the Office of Holy Ministry, to Word and Sacrament.  The parish pastor is gifted and called to afflict the comforted (Law) and comfort the afflicted (Gospel).  Far too often, however, pastors either give up the authority (or it is taken away!).  Rare is the pastor, though they are out there, who is Cartman with authoritah – abusing the power given.  Instead pastors don’t want to make anyone angry or offend anyone, so they give up their authority… or else congregations perceive the pastor to be just another paid employee to serve the whims of the people, rather than a  person called by God to lead them.

Pastors, if you have given it up, start to re-claim your authority.  You have been called to a particular service in Christ’s church.   In all humility and grounded in prayer, own that authority.  Exercise it following the example of Jesus; confident in God’s grace, using authority to proclaim the Good News, comforting and afflicting as needed.  Laity, do not let your pastor get away with giving up his or her God-given authority.  Your pastor has been called to lead – so demand leadership, knowing that Godly leaders do so with a servant’s heart.

And now that I have violated the word count rule of imposed by the leader of this motley blog crew, I will have to submit to his authority…

Keith

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