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What about the 'first among equals' doctrine?

Submitted: 2/6/2007
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Question: Let me ask about 'first among equals.' What is your view of this doctrine?

Answer: We believe that there is great diversity among all who are qualified to serve in a pastoral role. This diversity even extends to leadership capability. In other words, not all leaders are equal. Some are simply better leaders than others. This means that in any group of leaders, there will usually be some who stand out and tend to take more of the lead. Paul acknowledged this reality when he wrote, 'Let the elders who rule [lead] well be counted worthy of double honor...' (1 Timothy 5:17). Of all the elders in Ephesus, some ruled particularly well.

The question is, does any member of the leadership team have the authority to make unilateral decisions independent of the rest of the team. It is one thing to take the lead because of ones gifts; it another to exercise positional leadership authority, either because it has been granted by others or because you have taken it upon yourself. As long as the principle of collegiality is maintained, we have no real problem with the 'first among equals' concept (although we prefer not to use the term).