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Leadership Levels: Humility and Magnanimity

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Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. -Philippians 2:3

Blessings to all on the feast of our Lord’s Ascension.

Returning to leadership matters, I posted last time about Maxwell’s five levels of leadership. I had some questions at the end, but I’m going to ignore those myself for a bit, in order to develop some more thoughts on this topic. At this point, my thinking may diverge from Maxwell’s. Make of that what you will.

Careful reflection reveals that a leader at a particular level always has the option to lead according to a lower level. As a hypothetical example, a leader at level 4 (who owes his stature to the respect garnered by developing other persons’ abilities) can choose to lead as though he were at level 1, for example, in a fit of pique, ordering rather than requesting a subordinate or teammate or church member to do something, “because I say so,” or “because I am the priest.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

June 1st, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Levels of Leadership

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“Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” -John 21:18

Some personal reflection on recent events as well as parish and mission development have led me to revisit the five levels of leadership (or see here) as posited by John Maxwell, a well-known leadership speaker and motivator. (Individuals love or hate John Maxwell, but the five levels in his scheme are well-supported in my own experience. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while?) I’d like to discuss how these levels play out in an Orthodox situation. The list below summarizes them.

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Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

May 25th, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Posted in Development,Synergy

No Going Back

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“Then they said to Moses, ‘Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt?’” -Exodus 14:11

Memories are often short in this internet age. For this reason, I draw your attention to the reports of the Special Investigative Committee and Special Commission which, in 2007 and 2008, investigated the gross immorality, malfeasance, and theft that plagued the Orthodox Church in America for some two decades. The people who undertook those investigations labored with difficulty against obstructionism, lies, misdirection, character attacks,  malevolent excommunication, and clerical abuse. (As Metropolitan Jonah once put it, “[The] church was looted. It was an expensive lesson, a very expensive lesson.”) The reports themselves are no longer available at, but they are now posted here at Orthodox Leader. To all of those who worked so hard to bring these sins to light: thank you. To the rest: learn well, and remember.

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

May 20th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

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The initial public draft of the OCA’s Strategic (or “Stragetic” if you prefer) Plan is now available.

I’ve not yet given it more than a cursory skim, but this looks like good stuff, if a bit too expansive for now. (Health screening programs? As a national initiative? Hmmm.) Individuals may disagree with the details of a particular plan, but actually having one is critical to the success of a project. Absent a plan, multiple visions compete for resources and attention, leading to division, disorganization, and stagnation.

Plans within institutional Church life, though, come together only slowly, and with great effort. A plan that originates with a single person (even if he’s the priest or a charismatic leader within the parish) is almost certainly doomed to failure, for it is in the collaboration, conversation, prayer, and effort of multiple people that a common vision emerges. This is a big distinction between Church planning and, for example, business planning. The latter is absolutely hierarchical (the boss with the bucks sets direction, for good or ill, based on what he chooses to fund and initiate), while the Church has to exist cooperatively. I’m not suggesting that the Church isn’t hierarchical, but the Church’s understanding of hierarchy is not identical with the world’s understanding of it. We know how well clerical directives given without lay support work out. This is not unexpected. Christ uses no compulsion or worldly might to draw men and women to himself, so we can’t expect his bride, the Church, to use those devices, either. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

May 19th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Posted in Planning,Synergy

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The Christian Understanding of Bearing False Witness

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“These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: … A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” –Proverbs 6:16,19

Christ is risen! Indeed he is risen! (Lest we forget with the hubbub over the past few days.)

No time for a lengthier article today (or for the next couple of days, in all likelihood). But, since some readers (well, one reader, I guess) have suggested that I have characterized the Truthers unfairly, I’d like to explain that my standard for bearing false witness is that of the Church.

That standard finds its origin in Exodus 20:16, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour,” a.k.a. the Ninth Commandment. Deuteronomy 19:15-21 goes on further, in establishing that accusations are made only “at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses.”  The point of the witnesses is that known individuals (more than one of them, so someone has to agree on something) in the community, with personal reputations to uphold, stand up and make their accusations. Rumor and innuendo are tossed aside in favor of faithful maturity. If there’s any room for doubt or misunderstanding, it’s better for no accusations to be brought than to risk a loss of credibility face.

Beyond that, the prohibition on bearing false witness achieves its fullness in the light of Christ, as explained  its fullness in the Christian profession given by St. Paul:

For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. –Romans 13:9-10

Thus, “false witness” cannot be reduced to “did what I say, technically, turn out to be a lie?” as the world would have it, but must be understood in terms of that and more. False witness is also found in attributing evil motives to others, in casting aspersions on our enemies’ character absent any proof, in making unsupported statements about others’ beliefs, and in misrepresenting what our adversaries say.  As I’ve written previously, avoiding false witness is central to those in leadership. We must seek to present others in the most honest and charitable light, not the light in which we want them to stand or the light that makes them look as bad as possible.

With that, I’ll close with something I’ve quoted before (see preceding link) because leaders really need to be able to answer righteously to this particular set of questions for self-examination before confession:

Ninth Commandment – You shall not bear false witness.

Have I told lies, or added to or subtracted from the truth? Have I made careless statements or spoken evil of anyone? Have I told any secrets entrusted to me, or betrayed anyone? Have I gossiped about anyone or harmed their reputation? Have I concealed the truth, assisted in carrying out a lie, or pretended to commit a sin of which I was not guilty? Have I tried to see the good in others rather than their shortcomings?

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

May 5th, 2011 at 5:48 pm

The Courage to Have a Face

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Insert Face Here

“He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.-Proverbs 10:18

To elaborate briefly on the post immediately preceding this one, it is hard to overstate the role that anonymity played in the damage inflicted by Being anonymous allowed the writers at OCA Truth to receive information without revealing who they were, and to launch attacks with impunity against whomever they chose. The domain name was registered with a proxy, shielding the true registrant-owners of the domain from public visibility, likely requiring a court order to lift the veil of secrecy. Further, disabled comments, even though the site is a blog. Thus, for anyone to counterattack required any critic either a) to have his own site, or b) to post in other venues. Both options forced respondents to stick their heads up out of the foxhole, becoming ready targets for more attacks from The shill names used at sites like enabled them to lure others into revealing their objections.

In short, was a nest of snipers drawing out their prey with a steady stream of half-truths, innuendo, unsupported accusations, taunts (“C’mon Fr. Bieberdorff [sic]“), and invective. Worse, having been flushed out, OCA Truth has withdrawn two damaging posts with the excuse that the information disclosed falls under the seal of the confessional.

What kind of leadership is that? Cowardly leadership (whether misguided or malicious), facilitated by anonymity. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

May 4th, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Lies and Leadership

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A righteous man hateth lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame.” -Proverbs 13:15

First and foremost, I remind readers of this site that the primary goal here is not to report on details of any particular scandal. Rather, the blog exists to discuss matters of leadership in the Orthodox Church. To that end, the recent conflict within the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America provides much material for reflection on leadership.

The most recent events in the scandal – primarily the release of confidential emails between Archpriest Joseph Fester, Bishop Nikolai (Soraich), Mr. Rod Dreher, and others – have turned everything upside down. I am not surprised at the names of the principals of I had already deduced the identities of two of them solely by their words and actions, prior to the revelations from the ugly emails. What is of greater concern now is that a site devoted to “truth” is, in fact, built upon lies. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

May 4th, 2011 at 12:08 am

The Word is Out

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Pastoral obligations prevent me from commenting on it at the present time, but the newest post at concerning the founders of is required reading, regardless of what you make of the contents.

In the event goes offline, I’ll do my best to get my own archive of the site’s contents up and running here.

Don’t forget to pray.

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

April 30th, 2011 at 2:51 pm

The Entrepreneurial Mind

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Where to go from here?In his essay from a couple of weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal, Dilbert creator Scott Adams argues that business students (“B students” in his words) would benefit far more from classes in entrepreneurship than in the sciences, mathematics, and classics. While I disagree with the first paragraph (in the implication that some students don’t benefit from entrepreneurial thinking), the rest of the article has much to say about the value of developing entrepreneurial skills. I think an entrepreneurial mindset is absolutely critical for anyone in church leadership, clergy and lay, whether in an established parish or a mission.

With that in mind, it seems to me that there’s a one-sidedness in our Orthodox pastoral preparation, similar to what Adams suggests is happening with “B students.” It’s an imbalance that favors the spiritual and intellectual development of pastors at the expense of learning the value of financial sophistication, prudent risk-taking, leadership cultivation, conflict management, and the basket of talents commonly known as “people skills.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

April 27th, 2011 at 9:56 am

Still More Accuracy in Reporting?

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“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” -James 2:20

I see the most recent post on another site ostensibly devoted to truth reads as follows (formatting as in the original):

Sadly, there is a “need to print,” and that’s why we’re printing this. The Synod has got to wake up and understand what it is doing to the Church. It sat around for years and did nothing about Met. Theodosius’s abuse of office. It did nothing but wring its hands over Met. Herman following in that tradition. When we finally got a primate who was uncorrupt and visionary, though one who needs help mastering the finer points of administration, oh, that’s when they suddenly got vigilant — and now are willing to risk tearing the Church apart to have their way.

The following table shows ordination dates  of the current members of the OCA’s Holy Synod, along with the dates of their enthronement as ruling (i.e., diocesan, not auxiliary) bishops and, as a result, full members of the Holy Synod. (Dates taken from biographies at and diocesan web sites; this really should be in one place.)

Bishop Ordination as Bishop Enthronement as Ruling Hierarch Ruling Hierarch during Met. Theodosius? Ruling Hierarch during Met. Herman?
Metropolitan Jonah 8/2008 12/2008



Archbishop Nathaniel 11/1980 11/1984



Bishop Nikon 5/2002 9/2003 (Albanian)
9/2005 (DNE)



Bishop Tikhon 2/2004 9/2005



Bishop Benjamin 5/2004 10/2007



Bishop Alejo 5/2005 1/2009



Bishop Melchisedek 6/2009 6/2009



Bishop Michael 5/2010 5/2010




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Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

April 7th, 2011 at 6:47 am

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