Monday, February 11, 2013

Interim Pope?

Today, as you know, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation effective at the end of February. There are many different responses to this act of stepping down, including questions about whether he always intended to be an "Interim Pope."


For my money, I don't think Pope Benedict XVI saw his calling to that position as an interim one. I ran across this blogpost on Facebook shortly after I heard the news. The post posits that stepping down was the act of a faithful man who recognizes that he can no longer faithfully execute his ministry, and that perhaps we can also be called to step down from what has been a long and fruitful calling as well.

I've been working with St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church since May of 2012, and we've been going through a visioning process the last month or so to figure out where the church should go next. One of the discussions we had was of expanding our ministry with older adults, the saints of the church who have been leaders for decades.

If we move forward with that ministry, I think part of it needs to be teaching the kind of faith exhibited by Pope Benedict XVI in his willingness to step down. Because if we hold on to our past we never give the future an opportunity to develop.

As we move forward, we have to honor the contributions of those who have been active leaders, but we also have to teach those leaders how to pass on the torch so that their organization can continue to grow with each new generation, and not be tied to one group.

It's easy for a young person to say, and maybe I'll feel differently when I'm on the other end of this equation, but at some point the baton has to be passed so that the race may continue. Giving up that control is scary, because sometimes it won't get picked up, and frequently won't get picked up in the same way.

But remember the truth of the resurrection. Death is not something we need to fear, neither is the decline that leads to it. Because that death is not the end of our story. As programs die, new ones spring up to do different work, the needs of the community shift, and to hold on to old solutions when they no longer fit doesn't make sense.

So Pope Benedict XVI, this protestant hopes that your example rings throughout the universal Church, and that we examine if we are called to a specific ministry, or if we are called to step down from our positions and trust God to act through others.

What do y'all think? Is his resignation an act of faith or a cop-out? An example to follow or an illustration of the ailing of the church as an illustration? Let me know in the comments!


  1. While much speculation surrounds his departure , hopefully the Pope is setting a humble example in stepping aside to let someone with more energy do the job. Our association of the word resignation is most clearly understood in light of scandals. In the sacred nature of the Christian calling we should see resignation as following God's will, or at the very least allowing for God's will to be done.

    1. I think that's a really good point Jason. Resignation is usually has negative connotations, usually about two steps up from "fired." Maybe retirement is a better word? Although I'd imagine he will continue his ministry in a different form.

      I also totally agree that it's a following of God's will. It's not entirely unlike Elijah passing his mantle on to Elisha at the beginning of II Kings.