June 11, 2007

A Call For “€œEthical Leadership”
Pastor George Van Alstine

South Africa has been fascinating to Americans as it has struggled to deal with its own heritage of racial inequities. The history of White/Black relations there has been that of colonial power to subject tribal groups, whereas in the U.S. it has been that of slaveowner to slave. There are similarities and differences in these two types of unequal relationships.

The biggest difference is in the sheer numbers. In the U.S. Whites have traditionally outnumbered Blacks by about 8 to 1. In South Africa the situation is just the opposite, with Blacks outnumbering Whites by about 8 to 1. The fear of loss of power to such a large majority was what made South African Whites hold on to the Apartheid policy so stubbornly. We know how threatening it was for American Whites to give up on segregation. The stakes must have seemed far greater to South African Whites.

So when Apartheid officially ended in 1994, many of us expected a radical backlash from those who had suffered under it for so long. We watched in amazement as the nation, instead, showed a remarkable ability to heal itself and to develop a new social order based on mutual respect.

One important strategy that made this possible was the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission,â€? under the chairmanship of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Anyone who had suffered violence under Apartheid could be heard by the TRC. Perpetrators of violence could come before the TRC, confess their wrongs and request amnesty. This process allowed for a great deal of truth-telling, expression of feelings, punishment where necessary, forgiveness and even amnesty where it seemed advisable.

As a follow-up to the TRC process, the South African government began an organized attempt to rebuild the character of the nation through a “Moral Regeneration Movement.â€? Alarmed at the prevalence of criminal activity, South Africa’s leaders called for a reaffirmation of the simple values of right and wrong and of human respect that would shape a more positive society for the nation’s future.

This past Sunday, Dr. Clint Le Bruyns brought our morning message and renewed friendships from the days when he was part of our congregation during his graduate work at Fuller Seminary. He has established himself in a career at Stellenbosch, a major South African seminary and university that once provided theological defenses for Apartheid. Clint is at the center of that university’s renewal as part of the country’s interracial and intercultural social reformation.

He is also involved in an interesting effort known as the “Ethical Leadership Project,â€? * which is part of the Moral Regeneration Movement. The idea is that the key to changing society in a positive direction is to develop leaders who are truly ethical in their work. These strategic leaders include politicians, or clergy, or businesspersons, or sports or entertainment figures.

A leader is defined as anyone others look up to for guidance and example. The Mission of ELP is: “To empower a critical number of leaders at all levels of society with knowledge, skills and values to foster moral transformation.â€?

We’re proud to see Clint emerge in his homeland as an advocate for ethical leadership, and we’re glad he was able to come back and inspire us as well.

Have you ever heard of anything like this in the U.S., or are we too sophisticated to talk about the need for “ethical leadershipâ€?? Hopefully, our church is encouraging members of its congregation to bring into their various places of work, their schools, homes and neighborhoods the kind of ethical leadership that brings honor to the Lord Jesus Christ, our example and our inspiration.

*check their website at www.elp.org.za