Monday, April 09, 2007

Leadership matters

Four years ago Jeffery John was withdrawn from appointment as Bishop of Reading. John had said publicly that he was a celebate homosexual and the campaign against him was centred on this. I said at the time that this was not the reason to exclude him from office. Rather, he failed to qualify because he adopted a celebate lifestyle to follow church teacher rather than because he accepts what the Bible says. He is a 'liberal', meaning it's not God's word that rules his life, but his opinion. It's dressed up in religious clothing but really it's not Christianity.

He stepped down and the campaign subsided. Perhaps the campaign had no further authority - but it remains that what disqualifies someone to be a bishop also disqualifies from being a dean or a vicar or anything else in leadership until proven repentant. In it's wisdom the Church of England proceded to make this man Dean of St. Albans...

The Bible lays out many qualifications for leadership. One of the key passages is Titus 1. Here the standard is depth of character that is changed by relationship with Christ. And, holding firm to the trustworthy message of the gospel - to it's sound doctrine. It is this latter criteria that John fails to meet. He doesn't submit to God's word. And now, (April 4th, BBC Radio 4) he says this:

“What sort of God was this, getting so angry with the world and the people he created, and then, to calm himself down, demanding the blood of his own Son? ...and anyway, why should God forgive us through punishing somebody else? It was worse than illogical, it was insane. It made God sound like a psychopath.”

John confesses that he has heard the gospel preached faithfully as a child (though he charicatures it a little). And he openly denies it. He says it's foolishness (which is what those who aren't Christians do say about it - 1 Corinthians 1v18). He wants to invent his own Christianity. Steve Chalke said that the doctrine of penal substitution was essentially 'divine child-abuse' now John says it makes God a psychopath. He makes errors all over the place - positing what God might be like from the basis of human behaviour which is what The Bible calls the wisdom of the world that can never know God. Jeffery John does not hold firmly to the trustworthy message of the gospel in The Bible. He hates it. By no stretch of the imagination is he a qualified leader.

His lifestyle is not the root issue - his beliefs are. Once you decide you can make up your own 'gospel' you can live however you want to... which I suppose suits him fine. Paul's instruction to Titus is set in the context of those who follow myths and false teaching, rebels, empty talkers and desceivers... those who claim to know God but refute themselves by the way they live. What we see today is nothing new! Such false-candidates will always exist, yet Titus was expected to find people who qualified. People who loved the gospel and whose lives fitted with it. And that was even in Crete, a place characterised by it's own writers as full of lazy gluttons.

The standards of leadership in the church are vitally important. For the outsider they reveal what matters most to us. The church is so important in God's plans that it must be well cared for - by people whose lives are transformed and who love the church-creating gospel word. For the insider the standards matter - we should pray for our leaders, examine ourselves to see if we're qualified. And if we're serving we must maintain a repentant posture, inclining ourselves to the trustworthy word of God and praying for our lives to be changed by God.


Albert Mohler on Jeffery John
Pierced for our transgressions - asserting the importance of penal substitution

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