Puyallup: Opinion

Faith: Choosing the right candidate to lead a congregation is never an easy task

A large portion of my daily work on behalf of nearly 90 congregations is spent reading through leadership profiles and letters of recommendation for pastoral candidates.

When there is a leadership change, my task is to find a qualified and gifted pastor to fill the vacancy. Often the work it is a joy, but there are times when the work is quite daunting. A current large community is seeking a strong and experienced lead pastor, but one candidate I have under consideration poses several discomforting challenges.

I’m looking for a candidate who puts faith and trust in God above all things, but this one particular candidate focuses mainly on matters of income, wealth and possessions in a most boastful way. Several letters of recommendation have also called attention to his difficulty with secretaries and other women in leadership.

It seems he gets caught making frequent comments about the 3 B’s (booty, breasts and body size) in ways that make his staff feel very uncomfortable. He’s been counseled on his language (and multiple affairs) but has yet to fully correct his behavior. It’s been noted that he also enjoys repeated verbal — even physical — fights but has evidenced limited pastoral skills at the important ministry of reconciliation. Members of previous churches have noted his quick temper frequently accompanied by disparaging name-calling, caustic emails and nasty tweets to those with whom he disagrees, often labeling them as losers.

The candidate under consideration clearly wants the lead pastor position, and is anxious to say and do whatever it takes to get the job. But perhaps the biggest challenge I have in placing him in a leadership position is that he steadfastly refuses to make use of the best social, economic, scientific and theological research in preparing his sermons and lectures. He tries to wing it, to fly by the seat of his pants in a most disconcerting manner. His broad and rash pronouncements often come across as foolhardy and reckless, especially to members who come from the ranks of the poor, disabled or people of color. It’s been said that as a leader he builds walls where he should be building bridges.

Many in the faith community currently seeking a new leader seem willing to tolerate his behavior and tone because they are enamored of his brash style and challenging manner and are eager to have a candidate who expresses their own perspective on matters of faith and life.

As a person of faith myself, and tasked with always having to seek out the best in leadership, never settling for flash over substance nor distraction over depth, I need to continue my search for this community’s best qualified, best equipped leader. He or she must still be out there.

Kim Latterell can be reached at latterka@plu.edu.