Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Korean Catholic Church and Leadership

There are many different leadership styles; they are seen in all areas of society. We have those who lead from the front, the center, and the rear. Korea is familiar with all of them but the Confucian ideas are still very strong: relationships- young and old, father and son, king and the ruled.

Some years ago I heard a lecture by one of our diocesan priests mentioning how a pastor asked the pastoral council to look into a problem and see what they could do to solve it. Nothing was done, months later he brought the issue up again, telling them it will cost a great deal of money if we do not solve it quickly, still no interest. A year or so later, I have forgotten all the facts, he told the council that he received word that they had to proceed with the project and the cost was a substantial amount of money. The priest mentioned that it was an expensive lesson for the Church to learn but he thought it was worth it. Here was someone who was leading from the rear. His hope was to educate the council and it was expensive. Some would consider this foolishness. I was surprised to see at that time this kind of leadership.

We have been hearing in recent years a great deal of team ministry, collaborative ministry servant leadership. This is far from the reality in Korea but they are talking about it. Maryknoll went through a period where this was very much a topic of conversation but our history in that area is poor. It was attempted and failed.

The Catholic Church of Korea has all kinds of leadership styles: those who feel a strong leader is what is necessary and can be considered autocratic, those who are very democratic and listen and try to get participation, those who have a hands off policy and let the community go their way, those who spend a great deal of time educating and trying to inspire the community and in recent years we are hearing a great deal of the servant leadership style. What is strange is that this style is more prominent in secular society than in the Church.

Team ministry, servant leadership are beautiful concepts but we have no great examples of success in the church, there is little to imitate. This was a topic for discussion in the different areas of our diocese some years ago but nothing ever came of it. Probably Seoul has put the most time in trying to implement the idea and will probably be the leader in the years ahead. There are many studying the concept still dreaming of the possibilities. I am sure in time they will bear fruit.

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