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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

How Christian Leaders can Deal with Divisive Issues

Written by: on February 23, 2014

I became keenly aware of the emotion that comes from church splits when I tried to help a CEO friend find a consultant to lead his leadership team through a strategic planning process. Unbeknownst to me at the time, he was the CEO of a denominational split over sexual diversity issues. The strategic development consultant I knew at the time was on the opposite side of church denomination split. When I asked the consultant if he would help my friend, I saw deep shock and an attitude of “no way would I ever help that organization.” And, that if I helped them it possibly could cost me my job. Thus revealing how deep the hurt and ill feelings that still remained between the two organizations.

Major church and Christian University organizations have split over the issue of Gay and Lesbian ordination and same sex marriage. In fact, Wikipedia has a list of churches and their positions. The church organization I work for, the American Baptist, have also experienced this split.

As a Christian leader, the question naturally comes up, what would I do with this controversial issue and how would I process the decision on how to handle it in my organization? After much thought, 4 steps come to mind: define the question or issue, research and listen, reflect on the options through prayer and act.

The first step is critical. Define the question or issue that needs to be addressed. If the question is not right, then end action will be wrong. In this situation, the question may be, “should we ordain Gay and Lesbian individuals?”

The next step is research and listening. Researching both sides of the issue from credible and scholastic sources is very important. Personal interviews with people from both sides of the question are just important. I recently read Adrian Thatcher’s God, Sex, and Gender; an introduction. This book does an excellent and scholastic job reflecting on both sides of the argument.

The third step is to identify every valid option and reflect on the pros and cons of each. As a Christian leader, a great source of discernment can come from prayer. Praying over the options to find the answer and solution has been a great help to me through the years.

The final step is to act. It may be to develop a communication plan of which stakeholders need to be communicated to with what message. It may be to get the hurt people together to heal hurt feeling and emotions. It may mean you need to leave an organization because your conclusion may be counter to traditional beliefs or it may mean that your decision confirms what you believe with the organization.

In summary, Christian leader need to make tough decisions in their careers. In the case of my friend seeking help and the consultant, I wish there was a way I could get them together to mend the bridge, but sometimes a good decision is to move on and hope the emotion will heal with time. As a Christian leader, what helps you to deal with the tough issues of our times?

About the Author

Mark Steele

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