Daily Archives: June 30, 2017

Power and/or influence

As a rule people with power have influence. That is true in society at large and in the church. Leaders have a form and a degree of power over the organisation they are part of, and over other people in that organisation. Politicians often have far-reaching power and their influence may extend far into the future. They have influence as their decisions may have  consequences for many years to come, some of which may perhaps never be reversed.

Church leaders also have power. The fact that people have been elected in certain positions or have been appointed in certain jobs, means that they can take all kinds of initiatives or obstruct the initiatives of others. They are able to promote particular people or block their promotion. Leaders play an important role in processes of change, and in steering the trends in the church. Their influence is even greater if they also posses charismatic qualities, enabling them to enthuse and inspire others.

In democratic countries and democratically led organisation the power of leaders is limited and is shared with others. In addition, there are mechanisms to evaluate their decisions and, if necessary, to remove leaders. In non-democratic countries and organizations leaders may be able to impose their will on everyone.

In a world-wide church, such as the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, leaders tend to have considerable power and influence. How much power they have differs from place to place. In the United States, for example, presidents of church entities have considerably more power (and influence) than a union or conference president has in a European setting. Inevitably, the administrative model of church organizations is strongly influenced by the political system in the  region or country where they are located.

However, there are also lots of people who do not (or no longer) have power, but continue to have influence. Frequently, former politicians and people who have built an extensive social network during their career continue to have much influence. Likewise, authors, artists, academics, and those who work in the media, may not have the kind of power that policians or captains of industry have, but they may have a lot of influence, which they can use in such a way that those ni power cannot ignore what they are saying.

Similarly, there are many people in the church without any administrative power but with considerable influence. I am thinking of former church administrators, but also of others who over the years have built extensive social networks within the church.  I am also thinking of theologians and other academics, key preachers, who have become well-known, and of men and women who write blogs and books, who are visible at different forums and may lobby while at the sideline of the denominational administrative system.

More than ever before it is essential for the Adventist Church that those of us who do not (or no longer) have any power, use their influence. Today we see leaders (especially in the higher echelons of the church) who want to use their power to enforce uniformity and demand the implementation of particular policies. This may have catastrophic consequences. It is important that all those without formal power and authority, but with influence, who are  concerned about some tendencies in their church, will use that influence to encourage those who have the power to lead with more tolerance and with with more respect for opinions that differ from their own.

In the autumn the executive committee of the world church will once again debate the question what must be done with those church entities that refuse to comply with certain GC imposed policies, because their conscience tells them that it is morally wrong to discriminate between men and women, also regarding the issue of full recognition in the gospel ministry. I hope that all people with influence will in the coming months do what they can  to convince the church leaders to find a solution that is acceptable to all.

[I have no power, but I am determined to continue using the little influence that I still have. I hope that all those who have much more influence than I have, will use that influence in the coming months as intensely and strategically as possible.]