Prepared for Broken Peace, Part 2: Protecting Worshipping Groups from the Effects of Disputes

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...Continued from Part 1

3.         Accountability – For Everyone

            In a well-planned organization, everyone in leadership is held accountable to a standard of conduct that is appropriate for the position held.  There should be no exceptions to this rule.  In some religious traditions, those standards are clearly set forth. In other settings, the standards may be undefined or vague.  Boards should give careful thought to expectations for leaders.  Consider the following questions:

  • What qualifications are appropriate for your clergy and lay spiritual leaders?
  • What accreditation and qualifications exists for prospective leaders?
  • How are these tested?  Does your organization use background checks?  Do you follow through on collecting references?
  • What are the checks and balances for each leadership category?  This includes the religious body’s governing Board.  What remedy exists when a whole board of directors has been corrupted?
  • Do disciplinary procedures exist where leaders create problems for the organization?  What are the mechanics of this process?
  • Are such procedures well documented?  Efficient?  Realistic?

Remember, no one in a religious organization, should be considered above the scrutiny of others.  Leadership in most worshipping groups is considered a labor of service anyway, so this idea of mutual submission reinforces the service mentality that should be present in religious leaders.  

Conclusion:

It is important to remember that while worshippers don’t want religious splits, moral failure of religious leaders, or even the destruction of a worshipping body, these things sometimes happen nonetheless.  Because people are capable of such behaviors, wise religious leaders will prepare for the worst.  Religious leaders should carefully assess an organization’s exposure to mitigate potential harm from predators, and to ensure that when disagreements arise, the organization has robust organizational structures that can provide peaceful resolution of those potentially destructive conflicts.