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NONFICTION : THE EMERGING LAITY: RETURNING LEADERSHIP TO THE COMMUNITY OF FAITH by James D. Whitehead and Evelyn Eaton Whitehead (Doubleday: $15.95; 206 pp.).

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September 21, 1986|Huston Horn

Touched by revolutionary fervor, the conjugal authors exhort non-ordained Roman Catholics like themselves to reclaim their ancient, biblical birthrights as stewards of the church. This is not to usurp the authority of clergy, they stress, but to reclaim anew and to discharge creatively the power of lay ministry.

Some eggs must be broken, nevertheless. Procedurely, the laity must first reexamine those anachronistic assignments entrusted to bishops, priests and deacons--they that rule as all-wise kings and fathers. As we have come to discover, these worthies sometimes faint in the face of their daunting responsibilities, and at other times, alas, perceive themselves as stand-ins for God.

Leadership reformation means, too, that the laity must shake off the implicit inferiority they've long accepted. They must rather insist that they hold significant positions of leadership; that their duties be congruent with their status as contributing co-disciples, people called by God for something other than sheepish conformity.

Surely lovers of freedom and democratic ideals of both spiritual and secular stripe will chorus "Amen" to egalitarian sentiments such as these. But as is so often the case in religious matters, you may have to take the authors' thesis on faith. The leaden prose in which they couch their estimable thoughts glares so defiantly at the reader, it is as though to forestall comprehension.

St. Paul, writing in the Good Book, reminds us: The gardeners with their planting and watering do not count for everything; it is God who gives the growth. Providential assistance of like magnanimity will be needed to keep the Whiteheads' book from withering on the vine.

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