By Jayne Ozanne, Accepting Evangelicals
Question: Why do leaders resign?
Answer: Because nine times out of 10 they’ve lost the trust and confidence of those they serve. If you “can’t buy me love”, then you definitely “can’t buy me trust” – and you most certainly “can’t buy me confidence”! Well, not unless you are prepared to pay sacrificially for it. Trust and confidence take significant time to build, and can be lost in a moment. Whilst it is true that some people instil greater confidence in us than others, at the end of the day it usually boils down to one simple thing – are their actions a living testament to the words that they speak? Do they live by what they profess? So why have we seen the resignation of three of our most dedicated and talented political leaders recently? Did they actually do anything wrong? What was their crime? Were their actions undermined by their words? I think not. Each has served his party to the best of their ability, although arguably each was guilty of being “out of touch” with the views of the electorate. Sadly each has decided to “fall on his sword”, believing that in failing to deliver a “winning result” they have now lost people’s trust and confidence. Their tribes must now anoint another “messianic hopeful” who will seek to inspire greater confidence amongst the nation and so do better next time. Am I the only one to be a bit perturbed by this? Is the goal now really all about winning and having an iconic leader who can deliver this? For the sake of our democracy I hope not. Their actions have caused me to reflect on the trust and confidence that we, as a church, often place in our own senior leadership. Should we also expect them to be “in touch” with the people they serve? Or do we have overly high expectations of them? I’m sure we would all declare the need for grace and forgiveness, but where do we draw the line? Is it about policing what we think they should believe? Or perhaps it’s about expecting a certain level of morality, where they act as exemplary role models?
What would we do if we knew the truth? If we found them to be human – and broken – and fallible just like the rest of us? Not all leaders will live up to the standards expected by their followers – indeed the majority will most certainly need to be forgiven at some point or other. However, there will always be a line beyond which no honourable leader can go – where the bond of trust and the seal of confidence are irreparably broken. What is that for you? For me, it is a question of integrity – whether the life they lead is in line with the values that they preach. Whether the rules that they demand others live by are the rules by which they themselves live. So I move to the hot topic of the Shared Conversations, and the request that participants be as open as they can be about one of the most personal of issues – sexuality. For the process to work we are told there needs to be both honesty and transparency. But at what cost to the individuals concerned? Many of us have fought hard to ensure that no member of the clergy be penalised for disclosing information that might lead to a clergy disciplinary measure. I have received assurances that they will be safe under the St Michael’s House protocols. But that requires that we trust the process, which in turn demands that we trust our leaders to honour such an agreement. And sadly that trust and confidence is at an all time low. In truth, this is where the rub lies – because many of us know that not all is at it seems.
We know that there are other agendas at stake. Some concern individual self-interest and others focus on maintaining something that has become almost an idol – that of “unity” and our desire to preserve it at all cost. It is because of unity that a deal was done to give Reform its own “headship” bishop. It is because of unity an Archbishop from one of the most homophobic nations in the world has been made Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council. It is because of unity that we LGBT Christians are being asked to bare our souls and “trust the process”. But can’t the hierarchy see how hollow this all seems? Don’t they know that their savings account of trust is all but bankrupt, and that to build up a deposit requires acts of courage to do what is right? Where is the fearless faith that will step out and speak truth, no matter what the cost? Sadly it seems that many in secular society have a dwindling respect for today’s Church hierarchy. Indeed, many are aware of the dysfunction that exists within the House of Bishops, and the hypocrisy and fear that entrap some of its members. They long for a day where Church leaders will find the courage to say what they truly believe, and where they can see modelled the fear of God more than the fear of man. At what price might this happen I wonder? I close my eyes and see two planks of wood and three long hard nails…. and then I see the one I love cooking us both a breakfast of fish on a beach, and I smile.