“Abuse of authority is the improper use of a position of influence, power or authority against another person.”
There is extensive information on the hurt perpetrated in churches, by church folk, on church folk. It plagues both hierarchical and congregational polities. Church leaders (clergy & lay) have authority by position and/or respect.
Our legislation is clear when abuse of authority has a sexual element. It is less identifiable in other forms. Before listing a few, let’s acknowledge the difficulty of dealing with a highly nuanced situation like religious organizational work. Every bible genius is not suitable for preaching or pastoral care. An administrative savant may not command moral and spiritual prerequisites to lead a lay ministry or episcopal district. Discerning truly called and gifted leaders is not easy. Monitoring and policing the exercise of authority and respect challenges structures with the best intentions.
Look at some ways abuse of authority and respect manifest in our culture. Silencing critics. Hiding and withholding information. Manipulation of judicial process to ignore facts, evidence, common sense, and imposition of prejudice and political bias. Appointments (at every level by clergy & lay) which ignore qualification; with malicious intent; for personal gain; with favoritism; and, against the best interests of either congregation/group to be served or the effected person.
Most of our elections are hardly an improvement to the presence of consent. When respected and/or authority figures direct delegates in voting, the masses surrender consent to the powerful. Instead of the democratic process checking/correcting injury, a presumably “free” process reinforces the culture of abuse. Surprised? Hardly. The system is time tested and true to infamous design.
Control who is elected delegate. Use delegate status as the carrot to secure loyalty. Threaten the disloyal with denial of the elevated delegate status. Reward those who will be manipulated with position. A few rise to the top. The cycle/system perpetuates itself.
Respect for authority is an important feature of civilized society and effective organizations. The proper use of power is a virtue. Irrational rejection of structure and proper discernment of gifts and graces is not the way toward a better church. We have to care of what and how we resist. Silence and neglect of amended ways is complicity with the assault.
We groom the faithful from the cradle roll. We indoctrinate them with The AME Way through Lay, WMS, Boards of Examiners. The results are mixed. We have The Unsuspecting Sheep, The Knowingly-Quietly Abused, The Frustrated, The Angry, The Successfully In Charge, and The Used to Be… to name a few.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can/must do better – REFORM THE CULTURE! We need a few laws, but we need a lot of change of heart. Not easy! Not impossible!
2 thoughts on “ABUSE OF AUTHORITY IS A CULTURAL BLEMISH”
Bishop Leath – Words that need to be spoken. I couldn’t get into the Reply box because I couldn’t remember my Password!
“Prayer Changes Things”
The Rev. Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III+
Chaplain (Colonel), United States Army Retired
The 20th Editor of The Christian Recorder, Retired
“The Official Newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church”
Telephone: 615. 714-0986
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The Cabal of the Pharisee vs. the Church of Jesus Christ
Jesus told Peter, upon this rock you will build MY church (Mt. 16:18).
It is evident that in most cases we are not building the Church of Jesus Christ. Those who are disciples are silenced, abused, and side-lined. We are have a responsibility though to be the change. Instead of seeking leadership, being a delegate, a minister, a pastor…. we need to be emboldened to say no. We often go along to get along. We give power to the oppressor thinking change will happen. Change from the inside? Hoping that this change will tickle from the bottom up through the hierarchy eventually to the Board of Bishops. No, that is a fallacy. The AME structure is from the top down.
Paul said even though he was in chains, the word of God could not be chained. We are to proclaim the Gospel without fear (Phil. 1:14). We maybe in chains… but we are to be a part of the true church. Yes, we will have enemies on every side. We are not crushed, even though we are perplexed (2 Cor. 4:8).
Often, the ones that lead us say they love God, say they love Jesus, but do not even fear our creator. There are some that lead us who are so afraid of the hierarchy or the “cabal?” that they operate in silence and kowtow to toxic leadership instead of being on bended knee to Jesus Christ. This same “cabal” that can assign you to a church hours from your home, destroy your reputation, or uproot your life on a whim.
So what do we do…. stop giving the “cabal” power. Instead of begging for a pastoral assignment that can pay your bills and is close to your home. Say, No! I am going to follow Jesus Christ. If they say, well I am going to take away your preaching license or pastoral license. Say, “so be it, it is Jesus that gives me the anointing and my appointment.” Time to brush off the dust, and use your feet (Mt. 10:14-15) and plant a church. The world is hungry for the living bread. What the world didn’t give the world can’t take away. God will provide. Jesus will never leave your nor forsake you.
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