By Ed Barnett

When I think of a word like authenticity and apply it to life and the witness of the church, a mix of emotions fills me. May I share some of my thoughts on authenticity and the church?

To start with, I believe the church ought to be a place where authenticity runs supreme. If we can’t be authentic in church, something is wrong! If you have to question what the church says, then where would you turn? The church has to be transparent and authentic in whatever it says and does.

As a leader in the church, I firmly believe we must be honest. There are situations, however, where complete transparency is not warranted. In fact, we could put our- selves in a legal bind by sharing too much. For instance, if we let someone go because of sexual immorality, we don’t advertise that, but we don’t lie about it either.

When people think about our church, I want them to know it is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, as recommended by the Apostle Paul to the church in Philippi.

The problem is that sinners run the church. We all fall short of God’s ideal. In the Rocky Mountain Conference, my desire is to know that we are doing everything we can to be honest and transparent in our dealings with every church, every school, and every church member. I believe everyone who works in our office feels that way. If I found out someone felt differently, we would deal with them and the situation!

Today, we live in a world where we hardly know what is true or false. It doesn’t matter what political party you are involved with. Wherever you stand, you find yourself questioning everything that is said on either side. But it should not, it cannot, be that way in the church.

In 2015, at the last General Conference Session, it concerned me that a number of divisions in the church allegedly told their delegates how to vote. The delegates were told to use voting cards rather than using the electronic voting ma- chines so their administrators could see how they voted.

If that was true, and I heard it from enough of our leaders in the North American Division that I believe it, I’m disheartened. Such actions are not transparent. They are manipulative and controlling, not the way Jesus dealt with people. Neither should they ever be seen in the church.

Authenticity and honesty should be the way Christians endeavor to live their lives. The church should be a bastion of honesty and openness. It should be a place where manipulation, name-calling, and strong-arming are absent.

Authenticity means that we are open and honest in sharing our true thoughts and feelings. Love, anger, loneliness, hurt, and pain are all authentic feelings. We need to share those feelings honestly and openly and constructively. In contrast, we can’t become haters, always angry and upset with everyone and everything.

The church should exemplify what the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:8. He says: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.”

That is what the church ought to be! And when the church is operated in that fashion it will be a place where people want to be.

It’s my prayer that our conference office, along with every church, school, and every member would operate with that kind of authenticity!

–Ed Barnett is RMC president. Email him at: [email protected]