Today, clergy, religious and laity are called to active participation as co-workers in the vineyard, sharing in a ministry rooted service to God's Reign. For the laity this call to active participation can be exercised in the parish pastoral council and its committees.
When considering the issue of authority, it is helpful to consider the etymology of the word. The pastoral council is ”authorized” by the pastor. The pastoral council's “authority” is derived from its “author”. A pastoral council is authorized by the pastor. It is the pastor who extends to the pastoral council both authority and direction in common service to the parish. Therefore, pastoral councils are never convened without the pastor or his delegate, because a pastoral council cannot be separated from the pastor anymore than a body can be separated from its head.
Paradoxically, the councils which exercise the greatest authority are those whose service is collegial, responsible and prayerful. Councils can dream big, consider wild possibilities, and even come to wrong conclusions because their role is consultative. This is a liberating message to the ears of a conscientious councilor. It is the pastor who must weigh all the factors, ultimately decide and be accountable for the outcome. A council cannot act effectively in contradiction to the pastor. By the same token, there are few effective pastors who do not recognize their need for the support and wisdom available to them through a conscientious council.
Recommendation: Occasionally consider how your ministry unifies the congregation with its pastor and enables the baptized to share in leadership for the church.