Saturday, November 1, 2008

Authentic Pastoral Leadership: An All Saints' Primer

I've talked a lot lately about pastoral leadership, both good and bad.

Yesterday, it occurred to me that since I sometimes criticize pastoral leaders for poor leadership, it's only fair that I develop some description of what I consider indispensable traits in good pastoral leaders of faith communities. A job description for pastors, so to speak--though no faith community has asked me for such input, including ones to which I belong or for which I have worked.

Today's Catholica Australia (a link is in my blog lists) has an interesting discussion of those secret Vatican letters that circulate before a bishop is chosen. As I've mentioned in a previous posting, I've talked to two folks who have received these. (I think my previous posting mentions one of these conversations. I've actually talked to two folks who have gotten such letters.) Both told me that they were very unhappy with the questions asked, because, in their view, these didn't touch at all on pastoral skills. Catholica Australia reports something similar.

My two friends and Catholica Australia all say that these vetting letters emphasize absolutely loyalty to Rome (that is, whether the prospective bishop is a yes man), and views and behavior on sexual and financial issues. Not pastoral skills; not a reputation for compassion, wisdom, or the ability to bind up wounds. Being willing to say yes when Rome tells one to say yes, toeing the line on sexual issues and handling money well: these are what the Vatican has come to value most in prospective bishops.

I long for something more in pastoral leaders. Here's my dream list of ideal traits for pastors, for what it's worth, on this All Saints' day:

1. Radical trust in God.

2. Renunciation of dominative power and coercion of others.

3. Warm-hearted compassion that encompasses all of God’s creation.

4. Preferential concern for the least among us.

5. Wisdom, exibited in openness of mind and heart to the insights of those from all cultural backgrounds, walks of life, social classes, etc.

6. Unwavering fidelity to truth-telling.

7. Ability to listen widely and weigh carefully, without being swayed by ego reactions.

8. Skill at fostering dialogues in which all, and especially the least among us, have a chance to be heard.

9. Ability to discern between good and evil, and to identify distortions of authentic religiosity.

10. Courage at speaking out against injustice and against the abuse of religious worldviews to justify injustice.

11. Willingness to identify with the least among us in situations of injustice.

12. Simplicity of life.