Brave Leadership

I’m not seeing it in my church

When you were leading a synagogue did you have the freedom to teach in the same way you teach now? I see many pastors provide a watered-down version of their faith afraid of the loss of numbers. I get discouraged and find more satisfaction when the pastor is not being held back by the elders of the church.

Thanks for your wisdom. 🙂


Dear Rusty,

Your question has a poignancy in our days that it would not have had twenty years ago. Sometimes it seems as if everyone, in every field, is being prodded to water down his or her views, stay silent, or even lie in order to maintain employment, avoid harassment and not be treated like a social outcast.

We were surprised a number of years back, when addressing a Catholic group, to have many members of the crowd thank us after the talk for mentioning how much damage an abortion culture inflicts upon society. Our initial response was surprise at their gratitude; surely their priests regularly condemn abortion? We were told that some priests had stopped talking about this church belief because they were worried that younger people would stop coming to services and that other retribution might follow.

Our synagogue, Rusty, was rather unusual. We, together with a group of searching young Jews, planted the congregation and while many provided input in the form of work and ideas, unpacking what the Torah said and teaching what God expected of us, was exclusively our responsibility. Truthfully, in hindsight, with a little more maturity, we can think of things that we might have said differently or with more nuance, however we never felt muzzled. One critical factor was that we were blessed to be volunteer leaders with no financial dependence on the congregation. It is difficult for an employed leader to make unpopular rulings.

Rusty, we understand your desire for a brave church leader. We know many such pastors—they are out there! We are honored to call many of them our dear friends.

Be strong and of good courage,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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