Ethics: National Religious Entity Not Representing Its People

What would you do Wednesday!

Let’s think about Christian leaders who are supposed to nationally represent the people  they serve, but don’t.

This idea comes from a piece Mark Tooley wrote at The American Spectator  in response to Jonathan Merritt on immigration reform. The topic here is not specific to immigration reform (though it could be an issue). Rather, we want to consider Tooley’s idea that leadership may be out of step with the people it represents.

For example, in Evangelical Grassroots versus ‘Grasstops’ Tooley writes:

Perhaps there is an expectation, based on stereotypes about evangelical docility, that churchgoers will automatically follow church leaders. But generally the evangelical grassroots, unlike some of the “grasstops,” are deeply embedded with conservative views, theologically, politically, culturally, and economically. They are also typically the most Protestant of Protestants, not especially beholden to church authority, deeply individualistic, and prone to ignore church elites professing to speak for them.

How would you react if you found yourself in this situation within your denomination (or association)?

You begin following newly elected leadership in your denomination’s national arm that speaks for you in the realm of politics, culture, and economics. However, you start to notice that the entity head’s outspoken views are not where you recall the vast majority of your denomination stands.

Upon further research on your denominations past issues, you are right! This national entity leader is out of step with where its denomination has stood for years. But…just to make sure you do not misunderstand, you check out whether or not this entity is supposed to represent the denomination.

The answer is: Yes, this entity is supposed to represent the positions of the denomination. But they are not.

What would you do?

  • Go along with the leader because they know best.
  • Give the entity more time to get in-line.
  • Contact the entity calling for change.
  • Begin a national campaign to alert the people.
  • Go the the entity leaders’ churches and speak out during Sunday sermons.
  • Or….

Here I blog…


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tagged as , in Christianity,Church Issues,Culture

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 WadePhillips August 14, 2013 at 12:04 pm

It’s not his job to parrot the views of a majority of the people he represents. The majority can often be wrong. I expect I’m going to disagree from time to time with that person. It is his job to articulate his views as best he can from a Christian perspective. If the majority don’t like enough of what he has to say, then he can be removed from office. I want people in these positions who think for themselves, not stick their finger up to test the wind before everything they say.

2 Mark Lamprecht August 14, 2013 at 2:29 pm

WadePhillips Is thinking for oneself at odds with promoting views one is hired to represent?
So, where is the line for you? That is, how far off the path would a leader have to veer before you would be concerned?

3 WadePhillips August 14, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Mark Lamprecht We hire people who we think will properly represent us, and then we let them do their job. If they get out of line far enough, then they will answer to the people they were chosen to represent. I suppose I’d have to know a specific incident to decide how much disagreement was too much disagreement.

4 Chris Roberts August 14, 2013 at 3:51 pm

To what degree is he hired to represent the views of the majority in the SBC versus to provide a voice to and for the SBC even if it does not represent the majority? We get angry when elected officials do not vote the views of their constituents, but we forget that we ultimately elect people to vote their consciences and positions which may not always represent what we think. 
In this case I think the ERLC is on the right side of the immigration debate so all I can say is he represents how I feel even though I know it is at odds with how many in the SBC feel.

5 Mark Lamprecht August 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm

@Chris Roberts Concerning politicians, many don’t seem to represent their constituents and I’m not convinced they are voted in to vote their own consciences outside of whom they represent.
If a religious official is at odds with the majority, maybe they should say so (and at times maybe abstain from a public opinion). But if they find themselves constantly at odds with those whom they represent they might consider stepping down.
The ERLC and immigration is another animal. I plan on giving it a cursory look soon. I believe they also have a statement of purpose that they represent SBC views. Side note: Ironic how I’ve not seen the same amount of calls for abolishing the ERLC since new leadership is in place. 🙂


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