Church Responsibility and Authority

Jesus-washing-feet-01

“Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; 

and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

(Matthew 16:19)

.

There once lived a queen in a kingdom where she ruled with love and compassion. Her kingdom existed to feed the poor people of the world. And for a long long time, the poor were fed and all was well. This, however, was no easy task. She invited many to join her in this work and called twelve unlikely people to become a part of her management team. For three and a half years, her management team lived with her and remained under her training and instructions. When the time was right, she came to them and said to them, “I have been called to a distant land and I may be gone for a long time before I return. I am entrusting you and the people you call to help you, with the work we do in our kingdom. In my absence, I am giving you complete responsibility and authority to act on my behalf. You know what to do. Feed the poor.”

.

A few days later the queen departed for the distant land and the twelve were feeling lost, but hopeful for her return. Then the poor began to come once again and they began to feed them. The twelve did such a good job of this, their work spread throughout the land. Each day more and more people were coming to them for food and God continued to provide all of the food they needed. But the twelve were becoming overwhelmed with the increasing numbers and so they appointed other faithful ones to help with their work. Each day they longed for the queen’s return, but each day they continued the work without her.

.

This went on for many years but slowly each of the twelve were dying, yet the work of the queen had continued. But something had happened. The vision of feeding the poor was being lost. Others who replaced the twelve started to give food only to their friends. Then it got worse. Descendants of the twelve saw an opportunity to make money with all the food they had. So they began to sell the food to whomever could afford it. These descendants became very rich and powerful and the poor grew in number and in their hunger. They were no longer being feed by the queen’s descendants; they were left to fend for themselves.

.

Then one day the queen return to her kingdom only to find how much her mission had changed.

.

The end of the parable.

.

Most biblical scholars will agree that this passage in Matthew is speaking of church authority, church discipline and even church government. But how we apply this lacks any sort of uniformity. The terms “binding” and “loosing” can be traced back to the people of Israel to mean “forbidding” and “permitting.”

.

May I offer you my perspective?

.

I believe Jesus knew he was going to leave his earthly ministry. He had people who forsook all to follow him. They were faithful, available and teachable. When it came time for his departure, he wanted to give the apostles a sense of ownership in the work that Jesus had come to do. He also knew you cannot give someone responsibility without authority. So I think he gathered them together and had a management chat with them. It might have gone like this if it were to happen today:

.

“Guys, I’m going to be leaving shortly for another place. In my absence, I want you to stand in my place. You’ve been faithful. You’ve been loyal. You’ve been teachable. I want you to know you’ll probably make mistakes. I expect that to happen. And when it does, I’ll stand with you. We’ll deal with whatever problems there are, in private, but as far as the people are concerned, we stand together as one. I am giving you this responsibility and authority because I trust you. Please, for God’s sake, don’t let me down.”

.

I am genuinely concerned about what state Jesus will find his Church when he returns. My sense is that we have let him down. My sense is that we have completely moved away from what God intended the Church to be. And it’s not just the leadership of the Church, I’m concerned for us all.

.

One evening Bishop Peter Hickman, Father Tom Altepeter, Amma Trish Gaffney and myself were talking about this very thing at a retreat center in Maryland. I was expressing my concern about us loosing the apostolic tradition of the episcopacy or at least weakening it so much it had little or no power to lead. We talked about all the corruption within the Church and that there had to be some sort of check on this corruption. I expressed my concern of giving people responsibility and authority to govern the Church who were not faithful, available and teachable. Bishop Peter asked, “Then what would you do?”

.

“I’d make sure we appointed bishops who were committed to the Gospel and not seeking their self interests,” I rebutted. I don’t think anyone at the table, including myself, thought that was possible. It breaks my heart to see the state of the church today. I don’t pretend to have the answers here, I just know that Jesus will return one day and I fear that he will be terribly disappointed in what we have become. Is a return to absolute apostolic authority the answer? I don’t think so. We’ve had 2,000 years to prove that it doesn’t work. Is turning the Church over to people who are less than 100 per cent committed to the Church as a way of life; people who proclaim their faith, but make no sacrifices to live it? That scares me. So, what is the answer?

.

Maybe it’s a combination of people in the Church, bishops, clergy and laity who have proven their faithfulness. Who have proven that they are faithful, available and teachable. (FAT).

.

Love in Christ,

EVJ Signature 300x75

 

 

M. Rev. Ed JansenNew Wax Seal2

Bishop

 

 

Share
This entry was posted in Faith and Doctrine. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*