NOTE: Today, I started a poll on whether or not Dennis Luker should give a sermon about the Sabbath. Obviously, I am not referring to whether or not Mars has 40 minutes longer per day than Earth and whether or not this means keeping the Sabbath by Earth time or Mars time. I am talking practical application. What are the principles? How do those principles look in action.
One theme I keep coming back to is trust. Why? Because there is such a lack of it. Trust is required for all parties to function in their respective roles. If any party does not fulfill their duties, i.e. if they break that trust, then whatever the goal is will be in jeopardy.
It is obvious that none of the sides in the UCG turmoil trust each other. Do you have an open mind? Take your pick of the Facebook pages. You see the same comments and attitudes portrayed on both sides: the other side is devious and evil, the other side is trying to manipulate the situation, the other side is sided with “them”, they are playing word games, they just want control, etc.
In short, there is a severe lack of trust. Neither side can move forward because anything, and I do mean anything, the other side does or proposes to do will be shot down. This has become more and more obvious over time as both sides are beginning to sound more and more alike, just in different directions.
Some people believe I am being too hard on the current UCG leadership. Am I? What does “leadership” mean? Well, the dictionary simply says it is the position of a leader. That’s not much help. OTOH, perhaps it highlights the real problem. You have to know what leadership is in order to do it.
I have mentioned the military definition before, but here is a similar one:
Leadership is the ability of a superior to influence the behavior of a subordinate or group and persuade them to follow a particular course of action.
~ Chester Bernard
Question: Can you do this without trust?
Without trust, followers, whether subordinate or not, will only reluctantly follow, if at all. Without trust, leaders, whether by position or informal means, will be too busy interfering, checking up on and micromanaging affairs to effectively get anything larger done, assuming anything gets done at all.
However, let’s shift the focus now to responsibility. Who is responsible when a project goes wrong? Whoever is leading it, right? Another quote, and this one is a military one, about responsibility is:
You cannot delegate responsibility. You can only delegate authority.
~ Army BNCOC Training
The Army has over 200 years of experience leading people into battle and sacrificing their lives for a cause. To influence people to be willing to give up their lives if necessary is not a trivial deal. Therefore, it might be a good idea to learn from such a wealth of knowledge about leadership.
Therefore, if there is no trust in an organization, who is responsible?
If the leadership has lost the trust of the members, followers and/or employees, then where does the responsibility lie?
That’s right, it falls upon the leadership itself.
If the members, followers and/or employees cannot be trusted, then where does the responsibility lie?
You guessed it: It still is incumbent upon the leadership to foster trust and turn the situation around.
There have been and probably always will be the situation where “management” (which is quite different than “leadership”) causes a lack of trust. Simple everyday tasks can turn into nightmares if not handled correctly. If a situation is viewed as being unfair, then trust gets eroded. If the management appears to not care, then trust gets eroded. If the ones in charge seem heavy-handed, then trust gets eroded because it is perceived that the opinions and feelings of those under the leadership no longer matter.
I want to stress one thing here: The point is that even if the leadership really is being fair, really does care and really has given various parties all the benefit of the doubt, then trust can be eroded because it is perceived as being unfair, uncaring and heavy-handed.
If you get that point, then please indulge me in yet another: Just saying you are fair, caring and giving the benefit of the doubt does not make it so! People understand that intuitively. So, no matter what you might say about a given situation, if the actions don’t seem to match, then people will not believe you. You gain trust by doing and not by talk.
Talk is cheap, unless it is backed up by concrete actions. Let’s look at 2 examples:
1. Firing of L.A. Director Leon Walker. Initially, it seemed very heavy-handed. Let’s face it, the firing of someone is not to be taken lightly. However, Dennis Luker did produce evidence, a lot of it from Leon Walker’s own words, that showed that maybe it wasn’t so heavy-handed after all. Whether or not it seemed fair, it was apparent that he did not believe he was subject to either the president or the council in his rebuttals.
So, some calmness set in after the explanations, but then a few, including all the regional pastors (I’ve been told), wrote a letter asking for explanations, among other things. Then, a few months later, the regional pastor positions were eliminated.
It does not take much to see how that also can seem heavy-handed. In fact, it does not take much for the situation to appear to be retribution for questioning the COE’s authority.
So, when you have 2 actions in a span of a few months where it appears (and it only has to appear to be so to erode trust) heavy-handed, then why be surprised when people question and complain?
2. The Sabbath Doctrine. This keeps coming up for one reason only: This is a core belief, and it is the one that persuades most of the moderates who might otherwise support the current leadership. Support of core beliefs will gain trust, while perceived nonsupport of core beliefs will erode trust.
So, a paper that was about-the-Sabbath-but-not-really-about-the-Sabbath (and people wonder why there is a communications problem?) comes out and it is widely perceived as a change in doctrine. Again, it is the perception that counts.
Well, first it was word games: We cannot change doctrine, except by 75% of GCE …
Then, it was statements like, “We are not changing doctrine.” Well, just saying you aren’t is not convincing enough. Like I said, talk is cheap.
At this point, I would like to note that Tkach also said he wasn’t changing doctrine. I have to wonder where common sense is in any of this. You would have to know that if talk is cheap before, it certainly is cheap after an events like the ones that occurred in the 1990s — unless of course you had your head in the sand the whole time.
If it is perceived to be the same, then trust will be eroded! On one level, it does not even matter if it is not true because leadership is about influence. Therefore, if the perceptions are eroding trust, change the perceptions.
I still say the 9 November letter to the membership was a good attempt at doing exactly that. It had much more concrete stuff in it than all the previous letters about “the Sabbath issue” combined. Was it enough? Maybe not, but it was a start.
Then what happens? A message goes out from John Elliot about the Sabbath. It uses the same language as “the Sabbath paper” and even adds in more extreme examples. So, why would the leadership be surprised when people are now once again up in arms over the Sabbath?
Again, it aids the perception that the Sabbath is being tinkered with, even if the doctrine “on the books” isn’t being changed.
In fact, John Elliot’s blog post about “Judgments Concerning Keeping the Sabbath” appears to be designed to say one thing and one thing only: If you disagree with any judgments put out by the church administration, then you are rebellious. If that is not the case, then it should be amended or, better, taken down.
It is difficult to read it the way some want it to be read: that is, you should not jump to conclusions about what judgments the church will but have not yet made. I’m sorry, but that is very difficult to get that message out of that post no matter how many times I read it. Besides, he more or less says exactly that in the article “The Sabbath as a ‘Shadow’”, and he says it in a much more straight-forward way.
What you have is one article basically saying there is no hint at changing doctrine, followed the very next week by a paper that is easily (mis?)read to call people rebellious if they question judgments that change the practice of a doctrine.
I don’t buy the line, “Perception is everything,” but it does matter a great deal. And, frankly, I believe the common perception is that the current UCG leadership has created more problems than they have solved.
So, in an atmosphere lacking in trust, how would you feel about sermons and messages that you must submit, not be rebellious and basically not have an opinion? Where those who do seem to voice their opinions all seem to have been forced to resign, fired or at best given token positions? Would that gain your trust or erode it even further?
Now, I have gone to great lengths for the most part in this article to not say if the current UCG leadership is or is not changing doctrine, is or is not interested in control or is or is not justified in many of their actions. Even if they are doing everything for all the right reasons, it still boils down to trust in and from leadership.
That still makes it bad leadership, and that’s why the moderate base is quickly eroding IMO.
The real question is: Does the UCG leadership care enough to change those perceptions or are they willing to continue eroding trust?
My favorite definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.