Tag Archives: rights

The Entitlement Plague in the Church

From Bishop Grant Hagiya’s brand-spankin’-new book:

“This leads to another deep-seated systematic constraint of The United Methodist Church, and perhaps other denominations: namely, the culture of entitlement over service in ministry.  With the professionalization of ministry in North America and the setting aside of full-time vocationally compensated clergy members, a culture of entitlement over service has crept into our clergy orders.  It works in two ways, one for the clergy and one for the laity of local churches.  As it plays out for clergy, there is a built-in expectation of a livable salary and accompanying benefits for full-time ministry.  Because The United Methodist Church currently has a guarantee of full-time ministry employment for life in its polity, there is the expectation of that entitlement by the clergy.  As it applies to the laity, there is the built-in expectation that they will receive a full-time minister, even if they cannot sustain the cost of that minister.” (pp. 64-65)

It would not be difficult to twist this into a screed about a culture of entitlement writ large over 21st century Western life, but that is not my purpose here.  Rather, it is to name what is a great part of our problem in the church: entitlement.  While the above quote hints at the entitlement mentality of churches (and he does develop it somewhat), as a pastor I want to focus on the clergy.

General Conference 2012 was disappointing in many respects.  I remain hopeful that some lessons will be learned and that meaningful changes can grow from the seeds planted last year.  What we know is that the one meaningful thing that passed – ending the (yes, admittedly, “so-called”) guarantee of appointment – was later rejected by the Judicial Council.

As Bishop Hagiya concludes, “entitlement has become embedded in the fabric of the church culture itself.”  Culture doesn’t change overnight, and evidence suggests it may not change from the top down.  It starts with me and with you, it starts with a focus on the responsibilities of the gospel and not just the benefits of the church.  Changing the culture of entitlement means focusing more on my duties and my God-given call as a pastoral leader than my rights as a member of the clergy; it means thinking more about what I owe (and to Whom I owe it) than what I am owed.

One person, one church, one conference at a time.  That is how the entitlement plague ends.  As the old hymn goes, “Let it begin with me.”

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Weighing In (Foolishly?)* On Prop 8

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This time, I’m going to let someone else do the arguing for me…

The majority of Californians, including two-thirds of the state’s black voters, have just had their core civil right — the right to vote — stripped from them by an openly gay federal judge who has misread history and the Constitution to impose his views on the state’s people.

Most arguments about gay marriage that center on civil rights focus on the “right” simply to get married – even though marriage licenses are issued by states as a privilege granted, not a right with which one is born.  Driver’s licenses, likewise, represent privileges granted by states, not simply a right that any Tom, Dick, or Harry is “owed.”

What is most interesting about the CNN piece I quoted above – other then that it appeared on CNN’s website! – is not so much the substance or the “what” but the who.  The author, “Bishop” Harry Jackson is an African-American pastor in Maryland.  He, of course, is qualified and able to make a civil rights argument in a way that I- privileged white male that I am – never could.

And it’s at least questionable that the judge in the case is gay.  This is a bit like having a Grand Dragon judge the legality of  a Klan march: it is by no means a moral equivalence, of course, but in both cases the judge’s personal stake in the argument would be so great that no thinking person could possibly wonder at the outcome.

More interesting to me is the makeup of the Californians who voted in Prop 8 in the first place.  Many of my liberal friends (yes, I have them, and they like me) cheered with facebook statuses and twitters saying “about time” and “equal rights for all” and “down with bigroty” and the like when the news came that the proposition was overturned.

Really?  Who do you think did the voting in Calfornia?  Is there suddenly a tea-party majority in the state that boasts LA and San Francisco and UC Berkely?  No.  The folks that voted in Prop 8 are also the folks that voted in Obama.

There is a real discussion to be had here.  It can’t be as simple as “God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve,” but neither is it as simple as “Everyone in favor of Prop 8 is a homophobic bigot.”  Perhaps this seems like a pointless observation in today’s political climate, with our Glenn Becks and Michael Moores.  But for those of us, at least, who claim Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Savior, we are called to do better than our surroundings.

Too often we don’t.  Too often we fall unwittingly into the camps of the larger culture, parroting the very talking heads whom we should be questioning, doubting, and for whom we should be praying.  Jesus was never a shill for any party, though God knows people tried hard to own him.  We, too, should be so dedicated to him that we can make the same claim.

*I say “foolishly” because this particular issue gets more attention than it deserves, especially in Christian circles.  I daresay that if we were this concerned about poverty, everyone would be fed by now.  If nothing else, we have allowed our fascination with homosexual culture to completely dominate all our thoughts about sex, marriage, and relationships.  In bowing before the golden calf of the gay marriage argument, the Church has all but lost its witness on issues like sex before marriage and divorce.  And of course, it is foolish because it is doubtful this will change anyone’s mind.  But hey, let’s be honest, this blog is more about letting me vent and opening up a dialogue to sharpen my own saw – I’m pretty sure your mind is made up.