Accountability, Responsibility, and the Clergywomen

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Nerissa Palafox, Central Conferences, Philippines

Accountability is the after- the- fact ownership of the results of all our endeavors. It is the commitment to honestly explain why things were done in a particular way. Accountability also includes accepting the consequences of decisions made to meet a specific agreement, ministry, or mission.

When results are poor, everyone—particularly the leaders, administrators, or organizers—must avoid blame and act immediately to correct the problem and learn from the experience to prevent it from happening again. For example, if you ever found yourself in front of a discipline committee to answer an inquiry regarding an employee who was corrupt in a school operated by a church, you were being held accountable.

In a team or a group situation, everyone must clearly understand their own responsibilities and be individually and collectively accountable. Each person brings a unique set of skills and patterns to a group, and it is always the responsibility of the leader(s) within the group to ensure that these skills are noticed and are properly utilized. In addition, if deadlines and expectations are not met, leaders are the ones to be blamed and held accountable.

When do you and I feel accountable? When are we collectively accountable? Sometimes, are we being obligated to be accountable? Is there any situation in life where accountability is being enforced?

We always want to be effective in showing professional and mature behaviors in all our undertakings, be it in our projects, our organizations, or our ministries. We always want to perform our very best.

Now, let us work on with responsibility! Responsibility is the before-the-fact mind-set of taking ownership for the results of an activity or a mission. One must first acknowledge that action must take place on a particular issue before he or she can be assessed as a responsible person. When an individual accepts a responsibility, he/she also accepts that he/she will be accountable for anything that happens in an associated situation.

In many instances, you can encounter a situation in which you are responsible but you do not have authority; as a responsible person, you have to scout, or contact somebody who is an authority and is the right person to do the task(s). Noticeably, you can work out a way to complete the task and achieve the good and successful results. It is all about enlisting the right person to a task fitted to him/her. And it is responsibility.

Many people frequently use the two terms accountability and responsibility interchangeably, and oftentimes outcomes are being sacrificed. Relationships are being ruined, and the vision and mission are being distorted.

And who are the clergywomen? Women who went through a tedious process of applying, follow-up, and approval of candidacy in the District Committee on Ordained Ministry and Board of Ordained Ministry,  respectively, with clergymen domination. Yearly, there is renewal of conference status, until finally, the clergywoman becomes an itinerant minister, meaning an elder and fully connected to the whole of the United Methodist connection. Women, who in spite of all the struggles through facing the giants, unequal treatment, prejudices, and many others that they hurdled, can LEVEL ON . . .

As Filipino clergywomen, we have the following pressing situations; although not all of us are experiencing them, we have quite a good number who are concerned.

  1. When a clergywoman is assigned in a church with a preschool, aside from being the minister, she is also tasked to teach in the school, so that her salary will be augmented.
  2. Clergywomen can minister to all age levels in the congregation, so she serves as the Sunday school teacher; although she wants to delegate this to others, nobody wants to be trained and nobody volunteers.
  3. The clergywoman, as a member of a committee, just chooses to be the secretary and seldom aims to be the convenor or the chairperson of the committee.
  4. If a clergywoman is assigned to a big congregation, even if she has the qualification, she usually becomes the associate pastor, or even becomes the Christian education director.
  5. In some occasions, when assigned with a special appointment to an institution, she is given multiple roles with only one salary slot.

These are only some of the circumstances that our colleagues are going through, yet they are doing it because of accountability and responsibility. Should we not perform in our given tasks, what will become of us? Our work is a task and not a job to do. It is ministry and not mystery.

In the just-concluded National Clergywomens’ Consultation, held October 5–7, 2011, with the theme Level Up, Lift  Up and Lead On, delegates  were really blessed by the challenges  and inspirations shared by  our speakers. They rekindled awareness of who we are, what we have, and what we can do or can contribute, so that we will be more responsible and continue to be accountable.

My fervent prayer is that I will continue to become more humble and just, and that clergywomen everywhere will be more challenged to really live in the inspiration of our theme: again, level up. Let us not be satisfied with what we are and what we have now. Lift up . . . let us look unto Jesus always; He is the Author of our life. Let us continue to pray and ask God for blessings, so that we will continue to be blessings to others and lead on . . . Let us grab all opportunities  to minister to others, aim high, and work better for the best, to the glory of God. It is like doing justice, doing what is meant to be, doing what is expected, doing what is intended to be done. Because it is what is required to us, and it is what is expected by God’s people.

Even to church workers, accountability is not a very popular word in a world defined by convenience. Christian growth involves accountability as a necessary instrument that seeks to enable us to be honest about who we are in our relationship with God in Jesus Christ.

How many churches have never been led by God’s vision because leaders did not have the courage, with God’s leading and grace, to confront the nonissues for what they are?

Of course, we do not have time for such foolishness. Sometimes, church people use their issue as a platform from which to proclaim that they need to grow beyond such spiritual accountability, but if it never happens, it becomes their immaturity; thus, they are never led by the God who gives the growth.

Let’s stay yielded to the Lord. Daily deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus (Matt. 16:24).  If we do, we will avoid the heartaches and heartbreaks and sometimes even nightmares that haunt us when we have not been accountable.

Being accountable and responsible combats immaturity. Immature faith majors on minor issues. When we are confronted with the truth that congregations who seek to center their growth and life on personalities are infants in faith and need to grow up, but they are still immature. All congregations are—and each church member is—being challenged to be accountable for growth in the Christian faith as we all address nonissues and turn them into a clear example of how to overcome Christian immaturity.

God’s vision demands accountability and responsibility. It is an accountability that offers so much more than just judgment; it offers the opportunity for growth and a more mature understanding of the God who enables and empowers such growth in love and grace. Jesus Himself never sacrificed the vision of God for people who needed accountability for the immature faith they sought to share. The vision of growth in faith demands accountability. Those who fail to be held accountable—as well as those who can bring accountability but don’t—will discover little, if any, growth in their faith.

Clergywomen, as chosen and called people of God, in partnership with all whom God has ordained, let us resolve to be responsible! As responsible ministers, we must always aim high to be accountable.

We are called to faithful obedience in our walk with God. As the vision of new life in the birth of a baby involves growing up, to remain an infant is to miss the whole point of life. Without effective and honest accountability, growth will be strangled (Travis Franklin).

Finally, in a world of chaos and struggles, we are thankful for God’s reassuring presence and the confidence it brings. We know that God has called us to be instruments of peace—to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. As we do not always know what is right, God teaches us. We do not always act kindly; God helps us.  We do not always walk humbly; God chastens us. God always draw us closer, so that God’s glory will be reflected in our lives. And we pray that God’s glory will be seen, in the name of the One who walked perfectly with us and intercedes for us always.

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