One of the most familiar passages in the New Testament is the "light of the world" teaching by Christ in Matthew 5. Anyone who has been a Christian or even a church attender for any length of time will instantly recognize it:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
We who are followers of Christ, disciples of the Lamb that was slain, are the light of the world. We are to be a beacon of the hope of the resurrection and the new life that awaits believers. Even in our suffering we are an example of a different way. Our very lives are to be a public witness of Christ who dwells in us and has transformed us. As Christ taught we cannot do that is secret or behind closed doors.
For example, when the church convened what is known as the Jerusalem Council, they apparently didn't meet behind closed doors to consider this very important question. We see in Acts 15 that they gathered together to deliberate the question of circumcision for Gentile converts in . The debate was conducted by the apostles and the elders but when consensus was achieved the church selected men to send out with the word to the rest of the church.
Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, (Acts 15:22 )
So the whole church approved of the men being sent with this very important message. They didn't pick men in secret or conduct their business out the sight from prying eyes. Certainly the church would listen especially and heed the voices of the elders and the apostles but they likewise would have observed what was going on. It is far easier to trust a process that is transparent, one you can see, than one conducted in secrecy with a promise of "trust us".
This was on my mind as the conclave convenes to select a new pope with the cardinals being sworn to secrecy and the whole place being swept for bugs so no one can listen in. What is being discussed behind a veil of secrecy that the church these men allegedly lead cannot hear? These men, so called "princes of the church" selecting a man who presumes to call himself the successor of Peter, the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, are having conversations that must be kept hidden from the very people who will adore and follow the next pope? What might be said? Something about the cover up of pedophile "priests"? We already know about that and the Roman Catholic Church if anything should be more open about it, not less. Conversations that imply pragmatic or political motivations for who is selected? We know that too. For a group that has been rightly raked over the coals for a culture of secrecy it would seem to me that deliberations over the next pope should be open and available to all. Let the people who must affirm the next pope in an exalted role see the selection process.
Of course there are plenty of examples of meetings being held behind closed doors in Protestant and evangelical groups as well. I am not talking about issues of sinful conduct being discussed in confidence, I am talking about general functions of the church. Closed door meetings, secret votes, vague budgets. Thing done in secrecy, done in the dark so to speak.
Leaders in the church are not part of a religious board of directors who meet in conference rooms to decide the fate of the church. Deliberations should be held in the open. Let those who would lead do so in the light of day, especially when trust has been broken so many times in the past. A system of secrecy and leaks and speculation should give way to one of openness and transparency. Let the people see what goes on behind closed doors and then see how that changes the decision making process.