Christian Life 

The Archbishop and the Choirmaster

 
Sounds as if he is a good guy. And if he hasn’t already, the new Archbishop of Canterbury might be interested to watch an episode from the Choir.
 

Profile of Bishop Justin Welby as Bishiop of Durham

If one were completing a backround report on Justin Welby’s suitability to lead the worldwide Anglican church then he would tick most of the boxes. His predecessor has offered his opinion and some advice.

Dr. Rowan Williams to is handing over the role suggests that the former Bishop of Durham will need “the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros”. He has also – as piece of clear and concise advice – encouraged Canterbury’s new incumbent to “Preach with Bible in one hand and newspaper in the other.”
 
According to things which have – in the past week – been written and said about him, the appointee for demanding role is a thorough-going follower of Jesus Christ who believes in the Bible and is enthusiastic about sharing his faith with others. He has also, it seems, turned away from a highly-successful and financially well-rewarded job in the oil industry in order to enter the ministry.
 
A man with experience of large organisations and equipped with negotiating skills Archbishop-elect Welby is immediately faced with two huge issues within the Anglican commune – women bishops and homosexuality (particularly amongst clergy). On the former he seems fairly relaxed; regarding the latter less so. A former schoolmate has written in the Telegraph: “It is most encouraging to hear that one of Dr Welby’s greatest skills is handling people who disagree: he will encounter little else.”
 
Whilst the clergy/laity divide is wholly unbiblical it is, for now anyway, a part of the religious establishment within the wider church of Jesus Christ. In this context the Christians Together website would like to offer some criteria regarding who should (and by extension, shouldn’t) be permitted to be pastors and teachers, in the sure knowledge that religious establishments – not that they will read them – will have absolutely no interest whatsoever in applying the same.
 
It would be interesting to know if those who made the choice regarding Dr. Rowan William’s successor included any of these in the selection process.
 

  • Personal faith in Jesus Christ and the Bible as the inspired, infallible Word of God
  • Time spent in the workaday world and (preferably) with other employable skills
  • Time spent living abroad
  • Time spent outside of one’s own denomination
  • The ability to teach/preach and communicate effectively
  • A heart for people
  • An ability to identify, nurture and employ the skills and abilities of other believers
 
To expand on these headings:
 
Faith in Christ and belief in God’s word
There are many today in pulpits who, if their words and actions are anything to go by, do not have a life-changing personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Nor, if their public views are indicative, do they respect the teachings of the Bible. Accordingly, all the selection schools in the world seem to have been incapable of sifting out candidates for the ministry who lack these basic requirements. While ultimately ‘faith’ is a matter hidden in the human heart, a rigorous ‘if in doubt ’policy would have disbarred many from entering  the ministry. Of course if the selection schools are comprised of those who are unbelievers themselves then the inevitable will happen.
 
Workaday world

There are far too many in the ministry who have moved directly from school, to university and into the church. Therefore tey have little or no direct personal experience of life outside of an educational or ecclesiastical environment. This robs them off the invaluable insights into the joys, stresses and strains of earning a living in a (mainly Godless) setting; and is a serious obstacle to acquiring employable skills. (Tent-making ministries are in the minority; with most clergy operating as paid employees who might find difficulty finding a different job.)
 
Time spent living abroad and also outside of one’s denomination
These issues are also related to ‘getting out of one’s box’ in terms of sociological and cultural norms, pet theologies and institutionalised conditioning. There are very real dangers of being ‘trapped’ within a single expression of Christianity within one country and one denomination.
 
Pastoral heart and teaching abilities
A very significant problem within even the Bible-believing church is the number of pastors who cannot teach, and teachers who cannot pastor. This, however is not their fault; it is the ‘box’ into which they are obliged to fit irrespective of the gifting and abilities which God has given to them.
 
Equipping the saints

The whole purpose of the five-fold ministries is not to exercise these for their own sake. These ‘gifts’ are giving for the building up of all of God’s people as ‘ministers’.  However the model which some endure and some others cherish (both in pulpit and pew) is that of one person ‘up front’ doing all the stuff while everyone else assumes a passive role. This is crippling on all concerned. The one-man-band burns out and the gifts and abilities amongst God’s people lie dormant and unproductive.
 
And finally under the above heading, a recommendation to anyone with the task/calling to ‘building a team’ and singing off the same hymn sheet:
 
Watch one of the programmes where choirmaster Gareth Malone takes a group of people who might be either unknown or, alternatively, uncomfortable with each other and welds them together in a common purpose.  He is probably best known for building and shaping the Military Wives Choir and their chart-topping ‘Wherever you are’. Studying the qualities and team-building techniques of this young man should be compulsory viewing for every single person looking to build and strengthen the church in and through the body of Jesus Christ.


 
In terms of unity of purpose Dr. Justin Welby has a monumental task on his hands if he wishes to get the worldwide Anglican communion standing together on the Truth and singing off the same hymn sheet. If has even half of Malone’s knack then, married to a solid Christian faith, he should become an excellent Archbishop of Canterbury.

Christians Together, 10/11/2012

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