“A bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled.” – Titus 1:7-8
Since I am a minister, people are always apologizing to me. When they drink or curse. When they talk about sex or anger. Suddenly they’ll notice me standing there, disguised as a human being, and gasp red-faced, “I’m sorry! I forgot you were a pastor!”
These are usually people who don’t know me very well. I try to set them at ease by taking a swig of whatever they’re having and swearing back at them, but it rarely has the desired effect.
I am suspicious of these instructions in Titus, that the Church needs blameless leaders.
On one hand, I recognize that I, like every clergyperson, wear an invisible sign that says something like “God is watching” (but less creepy). And I take seriously the call to be an example of how a person of faith behaves (as best I can).
On the other hand, I fear that the pretense of the perfect pastor gets us all into trouble. When we require our leaders to be blameless, we wind up with clergy who get good at keeping secrets, and we wind up with church members who believe that faith is only for perfect people.
Perhaps what we need is just what we have: angry, sexy, swearing clergy who often disappoint us, but who, on their best days, point us imperfectly toward Perfect Love.
Blameless One, save us from the pain of seeking perfection outside you. Send your Church leaders who are authentically good. Send those leaders congregations who will share their brokenness. Amen.
Vince Amlin is Associate Minister at the United Church of Gainesville, Gainesville, Florida.