Finally, A Church Leader Who Understands Change


The need for change has been preached to church members of most Protestant denominations for the last few decades.  It didn’t fall on empty ears. Church followers really worked at change. Really!


Change, despite great effort, has been an uphill struggle. We are Sisyphus incarnate.


Leaders have a tendency to crave change from others—while their worlds stay the same.


The local parish might institute change but it could rarely sustain change from one pastorate to another. One step forward. Two steps back.


Change led by laity is suspect. Change led by clergy rarely outlasts the tenure of individual innovators. No surprise — the Church has few successful change agents. Change agents are rarely elected!


Finally, there is a sense that progress might be possible. The leader of the denomination that historically ignored all other denominations, titling itself “the one true Church,” is showing us all the ropes of change.


We, the children of the Reformation, can look on with awe and maybe a little embarrassment. We were once so good at this — centuries ago to be sure — but still, this is the Church. Centuries count!


Change cannot happen throughout an organization without the top buying in — wholeheartedly — not ceremoniously.


Pope Francis takes the Gospel seriously. He is not proof-texting long-standing doctrine. He is a fundamentalist. Love one another means love one another. The whole Church can throw its shoulders back and breathe in the fresh air. The Gospel really is for us, the living.


Pope Francis started his reform personally. “Pray for me.”


He leads by example. He could have rested on generous laurels, but from the opening hours of being pope, he showed the way—almost as if he had been waiting for the day. He walked to his pre-pope hotel and paid his bill. It will be hard for any future pope to do anything but the same!


He then took a good look at church leadership. During his first year, he called out the leaders who were taking advantage of their positions to create comfortable lives for themselves. He sent those in charge of church finances back to school. He surely was influential in releasing the American sisters from a punitive five-year oversight—imposed because they dared to address needs others couldn’t see. He makes no excuses for clergy that have abused power.


Pope Francis is leading change. He is not collecting hefty consulting fees. He is doing what needed to be done long ago.


Protestant leaders are proud of their ancient roots as reformers—as if the sacrifices of leaders in the 15th and 16th centuries forever exempted them from exercising the courage of reform. That was then. This is now.


Protestant leaders, are you watching the New Reformation? Can we create our own?