Monday, April 27, 2009

The Psychology of Leadership II: Applying the Research to the Parish Webinar

In this the second of two webinars we will look at how we can foster styles of leadership that are strength based, collaborative and appreciative.

He will explore leadership that values collaboration/cooperation between clergy and the laity.

This will be contrasted with approaches built around competition and/or collusion.

We will look a a strength based approach to parish leadership that makes appreciative use of the unique our talents and gifts that God has given the lay people and clergy who make up the parish community.

Sponsored by the OCA Diocese of Chicago and the Midwest, you can register for the webinar here:

Date: Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Time: 3:00pm - 4:00pm

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

What has Aleksandr Lukashenko told Benedict XVI?

Potentially interesting, and from my point of view hopeful, developments in Orthodox/Catholic ecumenical relations.  Russia Today is reporting online that the president of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, is (in the article reports) said "he was going to present the Pope with a number of questions from the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Kirill. Talking to the Pope, he also expressed hope that Benedict XVI would come to Belarus."  What makes the potential visit of the Pontiff to Belarus is part of the "canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church."  Evidently, according to the article, Lukashenko,"wants to play a role in organizing a historical meeting of the Pope and the Patriarch on Belarusian territory. That was what he proposed to Patriarch Kirill while in Moscow this spring."

"The idea to bring leaders of the two branches of Christianity together in Belarus is not a new one."  In fact, 
Aleksandr Lukashenko proposed it as early as in 2002. However, today it has taken on an interesting twist: Kirill already met Benedict XVI several times as a head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church. He was also often criticized for his ecumenical policies, as he advocates for deeper cooperation with the Catholic Church. All this makes the possibility of a meeting between the leaders of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches greater than ever. And if Lukashenko's proposal is accepted, Belarus will play an important role as a conciliator and a peacemaker. In this sense, Lukashenko is doing a great job, improving Belarus' image on an international level and doing a favor for Kirill who, according to all indications, would like to meet the Pope.
While it is to early to say what, if anything, will come of Likashenko's plan, it is an interesting development.

You can read the rest of the article here: "What has Aleksandr Lukashenko told Benedict XVI?"

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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American Religious Culture

A continuation of the series I began last week on the Church in America...

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Sadly, much of contemporary Christianity—and I would include here contemporary Orthodox Christians—have lost the sense that suffering is an essential part of the spiritual life. In its place, as I said above, we have substituted some form of moralistic therapeutic deism. Let me explain what moralistic therapeutic deism is and try and contrast it to suffering and the Christian ascetical tradition.

In a piece that appeared in the Christian Post on April 18 2005 (“ Moralistic Therapeutic Deism--the New American Religion ”), R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, reports on the work of “Christian Smith and his fellow researchers with the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.” Smith and his colleagues “took a close look at the religious beliefs held by American teenagers” and “ found that the faith held and described by most adolescents came down to something the researchers identified as "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."

Following Smith, Mohler goes on to describe moralistic therapeutic deism as a belief system that centers on beliefs such as these:

  1. "A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth."

  2. "God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions."

  3. "The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself."

  4. "God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem."

  5. "Good people go to heaven when they die."

While the study focused on adolescents, the findings are more generally applicable to American Christianity including American Orthodox Christianity (for confirmation of this second point, see my posts on the 2008 Pew Charitable Trust US Religious Landscape Survey). As Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton put the matter in their “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers,”

To the extent that the teens we interviewed did manage to articulate what they understood and believed religiously, it became clear that most religious teenagers either do not really comprehend what their own religious traditions say they are supposed to believe, or they do understand it and simply do not care to believe it . Either way, it is apparent that most religiously affiliated U.S. teens are not particularly interested in espousing and upholding the beliefs of their faith traditions , or that t heir communities of faith are failing in attempts to educate their youth, or both ."

In place of a firmly held and clearly articulated faith, many of us (and again, not just teenagers) hold to the informal moral relativism that Smith and Denton call Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. MTD "is about inculcating a moralistic approach to life. It teaches that central to living a good and happy life is being a good, moral person. That means being nice, kind, pleasant, respectful, responsible, at work on self-improvement, taking care of one's health, and doing one's best to be successful."

I will post tomorrow a brief comparison between Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and the Christian ascetical ideal, an ideal I would argue that was until recently common to all (or at least most) Christian communities in America.

As always, your comments, questions and criticisms are not only welcome, they are actively sought.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory