GOSPEL CALL: Choosing the right shepherd
Today, clergy and lay synod representatives of the Anglican Church will meet in an elective synod to choose a bishop – a new chief shepherd.
As preparations began for the casting of votes, Reverend Sandra Hazell yesterday advised her congregation at St Lawrence Anglican Church, in St Lawrence, Christ Church, that the responsibility of choosing a new leader must be garnished with much prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit “to be led to the person of His choice”.
In outlining the role and responsibility of a church leader, whom she likened to a shepherd who must follow God’s agenda, Hazell stressed that “the church’s first essential is a leadership based on the example of Jesus Christ. Our bishops are seen as chief pastors”.
She said that in their charge they were told to:
• share with your fellow bishops a special responsibility to maintain and further the unity of the church;
• uphold its discipline and guard its faith. It will be your duty to watch over and pray for all those committed to your care;
• teach them, speaking in the name of God and interpreting the Gospel of Christ;
• govern the church after the example of the Apostles;
• know your people and be known by them;
• celebrate and provide for the administration of the sacraments of the new covenant;
• ordain priests and deacons, and join in ordaining bishops;
• guide those who serve with you and enable them to fulfil their ministry; and
• be in all things a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the entire flock of Christ.
Hazell made reference to a number of Scripture verses, among them John 10:11-12, where Jesus referred to Himself as “the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep”.
She added that in the Old Testament, God was often pictured as the Shepherd, and the people as His flock. She also told her listeners of the promise found in Psalm 95:7 and Isaiah 40:11, that the Messiah would feed His flock like a shepherd, gather the lambs in His arms, carry them in His bosom and gently lead those with young.
“Even the secular leaders of the people are described as the shepherds of God’s people and nation,” Hazell explained, as she quoted from Jeremiah 23: “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture.”
The cleric also said the prophet Ezekiel had a tremendous indictment on false leaders who sought their own good rather than that of the flock.
She explained that Jesus as the Good Shepherd was often contrasted with the hired hand, who fed himself, had no intention of putting his life at risk for the flock and used the flock for his own gain.
“These types are plentiful in every age and location. The false shepherd comes into the job, not as a calling, but as a means of making money,” she stated in speaking out against the “prosperity gospel”.
“What distinguishes the behaviour of the shepherd from that of the hired hand is his care for the sheep. They belong to him. Tending the flock is not just a job to keep groceries on the table; it is his reason for being, and for dying. It is the vocation given by the Father, than which there can be no greater.” (CH)