Recent weeks have again seen incredible scenes on the federal political landscape. Headlines of backstabbing, smearing, undermining and the like seem to have been a regular occurrence. No doubt, and perhaps sadly, such headlines will even intensify as the Federal election draws nearer.
In just under a month from now, our Diocese will have an election of a different kind – that of our next Archbishop. While politics are a reality of any such process, thank goodness that the politics surrounding the Archbishop’s election take a very different path, as they should.
One of the largest differences derives from the nature of the ‘office.’ An Archbishop is elected to serve. While they may have power in a worldly sense, it is not something that should be desired in the way that parliamentarians often do.
And therefore, the candidates do not put themselves forward. Rather, the process is such that supporters are the ones to advance a candidate’s name. While informally, permission may be sought to do so, formally it is only quite late in the process that the one who is nominated chooses not to withdraw their name. While it may be right and proper that synod members are given opportunities to get to know candidates, the point is that the process is driven by a candidates supporters, rather than a candidate themselves.
The differences do not stop there, for it would be wrong for such a position to be filled by non Christian and worldly means. The Bible has much to say about our conduct, and this also applies during an election process of this nature (or any nature):
1. Ephesians 4:35 exhorts us to ‘put off falsehood and speak truthfully.’ While the political arena of the Government may be fraught with lies and deceit, it should not be so among the ‘body of Christ’.
2. Ephesians 4:29 says ‘do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up …..’ Something might be true, but not helpful. The difficulty can be, however, in the context of this discussion, that it is right and appropriate for the closed synod to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of a candidate so that an informed decision can be made. Perhaps the application is that these matters can be raised in helpful and constructive ways, rather than ways that can be more akin to smearing.
3. The second most important command, to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mark 12:31) has a myriad of implications for the process, including the relationships and conduct between supporters of each candidate, as well as the candidates themselves.
4. Finally, it is worth remembering that our enemy is devil. ‘…. our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12). As the body of Christ, we ought to be on the same page to see people embracing the forgiveness of Jesus and so become part of his kingdom. How the evil one must love the opportunity for division among the body of Christ, so that this critical work is stalled.
From my standpoint, at least to date, and in general terms, the process has been more Christian than worldly, and for this I give God thanks. May this continue to be the case. When Jesus sees his disciples desiring worldly power and its methods, he stops them: ‘it must not be like that among you’ (Mark 10:43).
I can hardly wait to see the same level of energy directed to see our city won for Jesus.