Church as the Moral Conscience of Society (Part Five)

The weakness of the Church today, some advice to it

In this series on Church and State relations, we today conclude with a look at some of the failures of the Church today and will proffer some remedies. The series has been examining the primary role and responsibility of the Church to the society. The introductory article defined the Church as the people of God, the body of the faithful whose head is Jesus Christ. We emphasized that the Church is not the building but the people who believe in Jesus Christ and try to reproduce his life in themselves. The primary role and responsibility of the Church was identified as being the moral conscience of society, to be the salt of the earth and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14), to love and serve all, and to be the agent of transformation of individuals and all of society.

The second article focused on Church and politics. It was observed that the Church should be involved in politics in the sense of being engaged with the world in its multifaceted spheres. But, for Episcopalians the official Church and its heads should avoid being seen openly involved in party-politics. From this perspective, the heads of the Church should be for all of different politic interests and persuasions and should not tell or encourage its members to vote for a particular party. We acknowledged though that other denominations believe the contrary. For them the Church and its leaders should not be barred from any area of honest human endeavors.

In the third article, following observations were made: “Is the Church failing society?” For some, the straightforward answer is “yes”. They will point to the failure of the Church not to speak out against the ills of society such as corruption in government and the moral decadence of most of modern society. They ask us to look at the lack of unity and reconciliation among Church leaders of the same Council. They then conclude the Church has failed society.

Others, like us, can admit to the failings of the Church but still maintain that it has not failed society Here in Liberia the Church has been a partner for development. 

The thrust of the fourth article was on the significant role of the Church through its members who indirectly represent Christ and his Church. It was emphasized that they should be helped by the Church to live in such a way that they bear witness to their faith in words and deeds by making the Christian difference in every profession or career they choose. We cited the fine example of William Wilberforce who as a Christian performed his parliamentary duties as if extending the work in Christ and his Church in politics.

Today we conclude that the Church of Jesus is not perfect and yet it has a duty to live and proclaim the Lordship of Jesus in all spheres of human life. The Church is not to be subservient to the state but is a formidable partner in promoting the welfare of all, fighting for the freedom and promoting the dignity of every human person.

It is regrettable that the Church today in some respects is not distinguished enough from the world. Some branches of it are bringing the dirty politics of the secular world in the Church. It is compromising its moral standards in favor of a more modern understanding of human sexuality by officially sanctioning same sex relationships. Some Churches have turned themselves into businesses whose avowed aim to make as much money as possible sometime at the of expense morality and common decency.

Here in Liberia sometime it is disheartening to see the same perennial problems of the society being played out in the Church, namely, corruption, lack of unity, hypocrisy, gloss disregard for ethical standards in the areas of money and human sexuality.

The Church has a moral obligation to its head, Jesus Christ, and society to do better. It needs to raise the bar for morality and effective and efficient management of its human and material resources. There is a need for a financial system that ensures accountability and transparency in all Churches. Such a system will make it difficult for a priest or others to play with Church money.

The Episcopal Church in particular needs to recalibrate how it has been doing ministry (service) and replace those approaches and ways that have not helped the Church. The Episcopal Church must have a robust department of evangelism with a budget and the right personnel to teach and encourage evangelism by the priests and laity. Many of the clergy have low morale. Clergy welfare must be stepped up such as housing for clergy, transportation and other incentives such as taking adequate medical care of the priests, better salaries, and special incentive for our priests in the rural areas of the Diocese. The Bishop needs a full-time expert in management and administration to help run the Diocese. The Diocese needs a full-time financial expert to help handle the financial matters. The Church may consider having full-time investor and experienced persons (priest or lay) to coordinate the affairs of youth, the women, men and the elders.

The Church has to improve and be the salt of the earth and light of the world. It has to be a force for good for society and be a powerful witness to Jesus Christ in speech and actions. All this requires that the Church must set his house in order. Then, it can be a true and powerful witness of Jesus Christ to the world.