As all of us are surely aware, this past weekend the Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America was consecrated as Bishop Daniel Findikyan. In this week’s Cross Talk, I discuss the office of the bishop in the Armenian Apostolic Church: it’s Biblical grounding, its evolution in the history of Christianity, and the specific qualifications and prerogatives of the bishop in the Armenian Church. Here, I would like to reflect more broadly on leadership in the church: both on sources for leaders and on the idea that our leaders are also sources. VEMKAR offers resources for any devout Christian and member of the Armenian Apostolic Church, but in its mission, it is explicitly aimed toward leaders—clergy and lay alike. On the occasion of the consecration of the head of the Eastern Diocese as a Bishop of the Armenian Church, we have an opportunity to consider the profound responsibility of leadership.
St. Paul, whose epistles are a key source for any Christian leader, says in Romans that he received “grace and apostleship” for his ministry through Jesus Christ. While clearly a leader of the early church, St. Paul always identifies himself first and foremost as “a servant of Christ Jesus.” This makes it clear that the ultimate source of Christian leadership is God, known to all Christians through the person of Jesus Christ. The service of the ordination of the bishop underlines this during the “calling” service conducted the evening before the Divine Liturgy when the bishop is consecrated: the candidate, on bended knees, is asked by the Catholicos to affirm his belief in the fundamental tenants of the Christian faith, with particular emphasis on the economy of salvation worked through Christ Jesus. The rites of the Armenian Apostolic Church make it clear that the foundation and source of any Christian leader is Jesus Christ and the message of the Gospel.
At the same time, St. Paul emphasizes that he is a servant of Christ Jesus. As a servant, his leadership is not directed to his own gains but is in service the Lord Jesus Christ. Service as a foundation of leadership is often ignored: our contemporary leadership ideal emphasizes power, authority, and decisiveness. Yet a true leader is always working in service of a greater good: an organization, a goal, or a country perhaps. In the case of the Church, that greater good is the message of the Gospel. As St. Paul describes in I Corinthians, each member of the body has its role, and the head cannot say to the feet, “I do not need you.” In other words, while leaders are called to an important and prominent role, they are ultimately one part of the whole Church, the body of Christ, and their leadership must be directed to the health of the whole body.
Bishop Daniel, in his first sermon as a bishop in the Church of St. Gayane in Etchmiadzin, beautifully emphasized this sentiment by paralleling the calling and consecration he received as a bishop and the calling and consecration every Christian receives at baptism and in their daily lives as Christians. Just as Bishop Daniel was anointed with holy muron, the same muron is used to baptize every Christian. While a leader is called to a specific ministry, all Christians are called to take on the light yoke of Jesus Christ. We can find this sentiment in many important Christian sources, in Dionysius the Areopagite’s The Ecclesial Hierarchy or in St. Nersess Shnorhali’s General Epistle, where he addresses the issues facing each category of Christian, from lay believer to bishop. In Shnorhali’s General Epistle, we can find some of the most astute and enduring reflections on Christian leadership.
|The Body: A Study in Pauline Theology||By John A.T. Robinson, a theological exploration of St. Paul’s epistles, especially his idea of the Church as the body of Christ, a metaphor most famously employed in I Corinthians 12.|
|Girkʿ Mets Mashtotsʿ||The Mashtots is the Book of Ritual of the Armenian Apostolic Church. There are several versions of it—this one is an expanded version printed in Istanbul in 1807. The “normal” Mashtots contains services such as baptism and funeral. The Mayr Mashtots, or “Mother Mashtots,” is intended for the use of the bishop, and contains services such as the consecration of a bishop.|
|General Epistle||By St. Nersess Shnorhali, translated with an introduction by Arakel Aljanian. An incredible text by one of the Armenian Church’s greatest theologians, it has edifying material for every Christian.|
If the Christian leader’s foundation is Jesus Christ, the Gospels, the works of St. Paul, the entire Bible, and edifying texts such at St. Nersess’ General Epistle, a good leader should also find herself as a source of strength and inspiration for those whom she leads. In the metaphor of the body, the head, through the mind, directs the will and is crucial in setting the agenda of the rest of the body. Moreover, a good leader inspires. To use the metaphor, not only does the leader look after the health of the body, she must also spur on the rest of the members of the body to excel in their own function. One of the common truisms of books on leadership is that a good leader knows how to delegate. Of course, this means that a good leader knows she cannot do everything on her own and that she should recognize the talent of those she leads. It also, however, means that a good leader encourages the talents of others. A good leader must be a source of inspiration for others.
Those called to be Christian leaders have a great responsibility. The success or failure of their leadership is not simply the execution of an event nor the bottom line of a company. Rather, it is shepherding of souls into life eternal. This profound responsibility should not be taken lightly. Parishioners, individual members of churches, those near to a community but perhaps not directly of it all look to the Christian leader as an example and for support. It is incumbent upon the Christian leader to be such a source of strength and inspiration.
Many of us have been personally inspired by and taken strength from Bishop Daniel Findikyan. Those leaders who have been strengthened and inspired by him should, in turn, strengthen and inspire those in their parishes and local communities. As Bishop Daniel emphasized just a week before his episcopal ordination, the leadership of the Eastern Diocese is called to build up the Body of Christ. On the occasion of his consecration as a bishop of the Armenian Church, we pray for his ministry, the work of the Eastern Diocese, the mission of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and the entire Body of Christ.
Follow the Zohrab Information Center on Instagram @zohrabcenter to see more pictures of Bishop Daniel’s consecration and elevation. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook!