The Role of Bishops
Those who are ordained, or who will be ordained bishops have two choices, only two choices, as to what role they should or can play in the life of the Gathering of the Followers of Jesus Christ. This is in particular true of the 21st century church and even more true for small faith communities trying to establish their authenticity, legitimacy, appeal, and viability for those it is attempting to minister to and for, as well as their establishing such “characteristics” as a credible witness to the wider church with whom they may hope to have fellowship. Such fellowship I might add is absolutely essential for a healthy and positive growth and ministry to occur for these faith communities. Faith lived and or practiced in isolation is a misshapen, anemic, and often unbalanced phenomena that is detrimental to everyone. This is why the choice made as to the role the bishop effects so directly the life of Faith.
So what are these two choices? A person can either be a pastor which is the New Testament model or an administrator which is the “corporate office” model. If, as is the case in most small faith communities, those holding clerical orders have by necessity “secular” work and or professions in order to “make a living” either choice is made more intense and difficult. Forty hours or more work weeks do not readily lend themselves to time however well portioned for anything “extra curricular”!
If a person chooses being a pastor, as well as a pastor to pastors, then the majority of that person’s time and effort must be directed towards that end. If however an individual sees his or her primary duty as one of administrator and chief executive officer with pastoral duties being in addition to such duties then again the majority of time and effort must support such. Let me hasten to add that I am not suggesting that the two roles are diametrically opposed to one another but in an ever more demanding world they do tend to become very distinctly different ones.
Ideally the office of bishop has both roles but as I have said earlier the demands of work and family in addition to the responsibilities of the ministerial office can often mean either one or the other, or indeed both, suffers. When this happens open and frequent communication between bishop and clergy begins to suffer and even stop. When that happens the entire community suffers with growth and outreach being very compromised and the general health of community deteriorates. In the wider Church this would be a serious issue that would demand immediate attention and would be considered as a very strange and inherently counterproductive environment.
Perhaps a solution to this potential dilemma would be to elect someone to be ordained not only a bishop but a bishop whose only office would be that of pastor referring all administrative issues to those others in the college of bishops. It seems if it is considered appropriate to have “canon theologians, canon lawyers, canon chaplains” and so forth would not a “bishop pastor” also be appropriate?
Rev. Andrew Gentry
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