It is anecdotal but well proven by experience over centuries, that some Christian leaders who focus too much on the politics of their position, fail their colleagues and their community because of their lack of their own accountability.
The Reverend Dr Rowland Croucher, the nation’s Minister to the Ministers, heads the ‘John Mark Ministries’, and in that role he picks up the pieces of distraught broken hearted Ministers [http://jmm.aaa.net.au/ ]. He is cited as saying that 14,000 Australian Ministers who have left the Christian Ministry in recent years, most in great anguish, have often been dealt a blow by either their respective denominational authorities, colleagues or local church situations.
Moreover, it is all too often the Ministers’ spouses who carry the weight of the silence – the depression of their spouse Minister and the silence of their own sense of injustice when they’ve witnessed first hand the devastation of wasted time away from the family, the limited stipend income and the self-sacrifice.
Throughout my 42 years in Christian ministry, I have too often seen evidence of a lack of accountability of those Christian leaders who manipulate a political situation for their own end or to maintain a given position.
Some degree of politics is necessary to maintain the functioning of denominations and local churches, as they are institutions that operate under various statutory community or religious governing laws. However, within this system, there is no reason why the leaders cannot also be accountable to their church or ministry organisation if they make mistakes or use the structure to improve their own position.
Within this political framework, confusion between forgiveness and accountability can reign supreme. A classic example is where a Christian leader has exercised forgiveness for the shortcomings of their peers or themselves, whereas the community demands accountability. There are numerous examples in the public arena.
It is not uncommon to witness robust disputes between Ministers on any number of issues, or between Ministers and key laymen in local situations, where the ‘greatest losers’ are those who are not politically savvy.
It is tragic to see how often those who put their own political position first are those who avoid accountability, and how often they leave devastation in their wake by their actions, knowing they themselves will be protected by the very system in which they are leaders.
Over my 42 years in Christian Ministry I’ve witnessed politically-oriented Christian leaders wielding their power in some of the following situations:
- waged personal vendettas such as letter writing campaigns against another individual in the name of ‘good governance’, sometimes leading to terrible false accusations against Ministers; and subsequent lack of accountability of the accusers when the matters were later proven to be inaccurate;
- broken agreements that were made in good faith between warring parties;
- appeared to adhere to the trappings of power rather than to the Gospel.
A technical name for all this in recent years is ‘Mobbing’.
It will be a most difficult process within the Christian world to find a transparent process that might hold all leaders accountable for the human wreckage that is left behind by any action that those in power may pursue, particularly one that upholds their own political position within a denomination, a local church or a ministry.
False accusations and a sense of betrayal are the soul destroying scourges for those in Christian ministry where ‘trust’ is sacrosanct and where forgiveness as opposed to accountability becomes a tool for the indefensible.
The form of post traumatic stress that results from this centres around the ‘core value of trust’ being wantonly and ruthlessly torn asunder. There are those who never recover, while few if any will ever exercise ‘trust’ as they once did.
The unsung ministry to these - hurt and damaged people - by the Reverend Dr Rowland Croucher, now 83, is an astonishing ‘hallmark’ of the this John Mark Ministry. Many ministers suffer from what is termed, Aggrievement Syndrome (Disorder).
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html