Monday, September 15, 2008

Lessons in Leadership (mostly ignored)

The first Morning Prayer lesson today (1928 Book of Common Prayer):

Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all the Israelites had gone there to make him king. When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: "Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you."
Rehoboam answered, "Go away for three days and then come back to me." So the people went away.
Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. "How would you advise me to answer these people?" he asked.
They replied, "If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants."
But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, "What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, 'Lighten the yoke your father put on us'?"
The young men who had grown up with him replied, "Tell these people who have said to you, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter'-tell them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.' "

I Kings 12:1-11

Rehoboam starts well. He listens, and asks for a specific time frame to think and make a decision. He seeks advice.

Then things go sour. He ignores the voice of experience, and he listens to clueless advisors - loud with opinion but with no record of fruitful experience.

He then acts with aggression, a move typical of insecure and incompetent leaders.

What unfolds over the upcoming readings is predictable:

When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king:
"What share do we have in David,
what part in Jesse's son?
To your tents, O Israel!
Look after your own house, O David!" (v. 16)

It is not just a disagreement with Rehoboam's policy - it is the understanding that he doesn't care about any interests beyond his own inner circle. It's beyond conflict - it's a complete loss of relationship. As John Maxwell says, "He who leads without followers is just taking a walk." The nation fragments and competing kings emerge.

Do I really have to type out the parallels with the Presiding Bishop, her lesbigay inner circle, and TEC's assertion of a "unique polity" that doesn't need to listen to anybody else? The results are predictable. A fragmented church and broken relationships will be TEC's legacy.

Yesterday's Epistle (1928 BCP) expresses values that Christian leaders should embrace. Sadly, the Bible is just one more bit of rejected counsel when it comes to TEC:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:1-6

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