As our diocese considers candidates for the office of diocesan bishop, as the OCA continues working on its strategic plan, as the Orthodox bishops in North America meet in the newly created Episcopal Assembly, the exact nature of Christian leadership looms important (see for example John 13:1-16, Mark 10:41-45, Matthew 23:1-12).
I heard on the Mars Hill Audio Journal 101 a discussion with Dr. Steven Loomis, Professor of Education at Wheaton College, in which he clearly distinguishes between leadership and management:
“The difference is that the leader has the ability to have strategic vision, the ability to see a world that does not yet exist, but can be realized; whereas a manager is merely concerned about the means of lining up productive activities with the existing rules.”
The question remains whether our bishops will exhibit such leadership so as to have strategic vision, the ability to see a world that does not yet exist, but can be realized, or will they prove themselves just managers keeping within existing structures and rules in order to maintain what we currently have. (And let’s be honest, some doubt they can collectively even rise to the level of managers).
Loomis says leaders can envision a world that does not yet exist but can be realized. Our North American bishops are already in a hole as they are told to see the situation in America not even in terms of what exists, but as the patriarchates of the old world believe it is: Diasporas. The bishops are being assembled to see the past, not even the present, so what leaders might see – what does not YET exist — is a very distant idea. The Episcopal Assembly imposes a problem and a framework on the Orthodox of North America: the problem of the Diaspora.
What is being termed the Diasporal problem exists because some choose Pre-15th Century thinking as the only way to see the world. It is said that Christopher Columbus continued to believe in his lifetime that he had in fact reached Asia since he could not believe that there was such a thing as the new world – lands not specifically mentioned in the Bible. The ancient Orthodox Patriarchates face the same problem, only now in the 21st Century: the Byzantines divided the known world, the ecumeni, into a pentarchy assuming they had authority over the entire earth. The real PROBLEM results from the ancients not knowing the whole world, and the discovery of new worlds and the migration of peoples throughout the earth has revealed the incompleteness of Pentarchical canons and ecclesiology. The view that the Byzantine Pentarchy controlled and ruled the worldwide church was shown its limits with the rise of Islam, but our Patriarchs have not allowed reality to alter their view of the known world, nor that certain Orthodox empires no longer exist, swept away by God’s movement through history.
So now the bishops of North America, living in lands not even imagined by antiquated Byzantine thinking and canons, are being told that they must see the world through the lens of what existed prior to the 8th Century. They must become Diaspora, whether or not in reality they are such a thing, or that such an idea could even exist within Christianity, with a membership born in faith not resulting from genetics or ethnicity.
It makes me mull over the words with which St. Matthew concludes the entire Sermon on the Mount:
“Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes”
The astonishing thing about Jesus was exactly that He didn’t hold to the tradition of the elders, but revealed what new things God was doing. He sent the Holy Spirit upon His followers to continue this work.
Will we be astounded by our bishops’ deliberations and decisions because they have the mind of Christ, and speak with the authority of the Holy Spirit?
Will instead Jesus compassionately see us as He saw the crowds in Matthew 9:36 –
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
The harvest is indeed plentiful. Dear bishops, open your eyes to see North America not merely as the place whereupon seeds of ethnic groups have been scattered, but rather the plentiful harvest which God has provided, even if you did not labor for it.
“I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor” (John 4:38).