What kind of authority do pastors have over their congregation?
Usually, we want our pastors to be spiritual therapists who comfort us in our trials and tribulations, who remind us that God loves us. It is rarer, though, to think about our pastors as figures of authority who are entitled to exercise discipline over our lives. Sure, we understand pastors are shepherds, guiding and protecting the flock from danger, but usually we prefer that sweet image of Jesus the Good Shepherd cradling the sheep that ran away rather than the image of the shepherd using his crook to reign in unruly sheep by hooking them by their neck. Nevertheless, pastors are called to shepherd their congregations in in comfort and in challenge. How does the pastor maintain this balance?
Fr. Brian outlines the broad responsibilities of the pastor,explaining the proper tasks of a pastor within his or her congregation. They include:
1) Teaching and preserving the gospel from false doctrine
2) Leading people into repentance and restoration
3) Preaching that leads to repentance
4) The administration of the sacraments
5) Counseling others into reconciliation
6) Leading others into social justice causes
Fr. Brian also discusses the limits of the pastoral authority, showing how the pastor’s authority focuses on the beliefs and behavior of the church rather than the physical property of the church. It is the responsibility of the vestry (the board of directors/trustees) to manage the physical and legal issues that arise within a parish.
We invite you to read Fr. Brian’s clearly written essay on pastoral authority. Come back here to offer your own thoughts!