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Archive for September, 2009

Public vs. Private ethics

The Della Bosca thing is a train wreck.

Not so much for him – although that’s true, and fair enough – but because once again, we see the moral bankruptcy of our public moralising. As a culture, we don’t know what to say to this sort of thing.

Some commentators want to hang him out to dry; others defend him on the basis of the separation of powers – ie. between his public and private life.

Christians jump in and say, you can’t separate those 2 things, they are the acts of one and the same person, and the deception / faithlessness of the private life will be definitive for the public life.

Now, that’s clearly a Christian position (1 Tim 3, Titus 1); exemplariness is a requirement of responsibility. I ma utterly committed to it. And the flip-flopping around of this public / private distinction is pathetic. We need to say something, to speak into this moral mess.

At the same time, it sounds very much like what we are saying is that we are justified by our works. We find it difficult to speak in a way that doesn’t sound merely like moral superiority, carping when someone’s caught with their pants down. Paul says, about gospel ministry: “Who is sufficient for these things?” And his answer is not – “I am, because I live a life sufficiently devoid of gross public sin!” His is a different sufficiency – that of the Spirit. That won’t open the door to adultery. But nor will it sound so carping.

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Stipend or wage?

It’s budget time – both for the Diocese and, once they set the key variable (the recommended minimum stipend for ministers), for churches.

from flickr by pfila

from flickr by pfila

One of the things I often hear around this issue is that ministers are paid a stipend in the sense that they are given a  living allowance that enables them to do gospel ministry, and frees them up from having to do other work. On this basis, what a minister gets paid is fundamentally about what it costs to live.

It makes sense, and until recently, I’d never questioned it. But then I got to wondering – is it Biblical?

There are quite a number of texts that speak of the issue of remuneration for those who serve in the church, key amongst which is 1 Tim 5.17-19. And there seem to be 2 principles there:

  1. “You shall not muzzle an ox”: it’s not inappropriate for a servant of the gospel to get her or his sustenance from that service
  2. “the labourer deserves his wages”: there is an issue of deserving of wages.

The question seems to me to become this: does the second of these principles, which speaks of deserving wages, indicate a correspondence between what a minster should be paid and the work done / responsibility borne  (rather than the cost of living). In other words, ought the principle to be not the minimum it takes to live, but a reflection of the kind of job done?

In know one denomination pegs the role of senior pastor to that of principle of a school, as an attempt to do something like this. I suspect that’s not quite right – very few churches have the number of staff of a school – but it seems to me that something like this might be a more Biblical way to go.

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