05 April 2010

Leadership and Error

"From the throne," Paul said, "I could make a paradise of Arrakis with the wave of a hand. This is the coin I offer for your support."
Kynes stiffened. "My loyalty's not for sale, Sire."

Paul stared across the desk at him, meeting the cold stare of those blue-within-blue eyes, studying the bearded face, the commanding appearance. A harsh smile touched Paul's lips and he said: "Well spoken. I apologize."

Kynes met Paul's stare and, presently, said, "No Harkonnen ever admitted error. Perhaps you're not like them, Atreides."

"It could be a fault in their education," Paul said. "You say you're not for sale, but I believe I've the coin you'll accept. For your loyalty I offer my loyalty to you...totally."

My son has the Atreides sincerity, Jessica thought. He has that tremendous, almost naive honor - and what a powerful force that truly is.

She saw that Paul's words had shaken Kynes.

"This is nonsense," said Kynes. "You're just a boy and-"

"I'm the Duke," Paul said. "I'm an Atreides. No Atreides has ever broken such a bond."

Kynes swallowed.

"When I say totally," Paul said, "I mean without reservation. I would give my life for you."

"Sire!" Kynes said, and the word was torn from him, but Jessica saw that he was not now speaking to a boy of fifteen, but to a man, to a superior. Now Kynes meant the word.
Dune by Frank Herbert.

Last night I heard this passage on my iPod as I was putzing around getting ready for the Campus Ministry Easter Evening cookout at our house. It's funny how the things you think about come from the most interesting sources.

Things in Rome are not going well. Of course, you can't hold those currently in positions of leadership accountable for the errors of the predecessors. But neither can leaders deny, obfuscate, protect and shelter abuse and sin, especially not within the church. This is a problem for all of us to ponder, frankly, because sin and evil pervade our lives and will come to all of us in time.

In an ideal world (okay, in MY ideal world), church communities would be places of extreme transparency when it comes to leadership making errors. Of course, not every situation need involve a public mea culpa and the attendant hand-wringing - we've had enough "I'm sorry" press conferences in the past few years, to the point that they've become an art form. But that doesn't negate the need for genuine accountability and sincere apologies made to injured parties. In fact, if we had a few more of the latter, maybe we could but just a tiny bit of faith in the former.

Something tells me the church shouldn't mirror the world on this issue, but unfortunately it seems as if that's the road down which we are headed yet again. When church leaders can deny mistakes through cleverly-worded statements which look like apologies but don't actually admit to any wrong-doing, the only people who benefit are those church leaders themselves.

This is not the kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus. The reign of God will be marked by truth, even when it's ugly. The reign of God will be marked by admission of error and repentance, even when it's inconvenient to the powers that be. The reign of God will be marked by humility and loyalty, because in the end, communities are held together by either extrinsic walls of fear or intrinsic bonds of trust. Guess which bonds prove to be the strongest?

Grace & peace,

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