Post 2 of 3 from Michael Carroccino: Reflections on Presiding Bishop's presentations
Michael Carroccino, master of divinity student and postulant from the diocese of Olympia, is blogging from the clergy conference where Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is speaking "about her vision of being church in the 21st century."
Take a look at Michael's reflections on her presentations.
21st century leadership
I'm quickly learning that our Presiding Bishop has a knack for tossing out a whole lot of profound information at lightning speed just so she can hear what others have to say about it. I came prepared to session 2: I brought my laptop. This time around she shifted from her vision of church to her exposition of what leadership in this envisioned church might look like. First and foremost, she says, leaders must be agents of change: our goal is the Kingdom of God, and we aren't there yet! Thus, change is necessary and inevitable. Leadership through her eyes is complex and dynamic - and must be shared. There is no single person who can match all of these descriptors for leadership:
· Kenotic: this is a self-emptying, a giving away or giving up of what we have for the sake of the world. Kenotic leaders will not hold on to power or self-interest, preferring instead to empty themselves of the gifts they have to share.
· Collaborative: this involves a whole host of values and behaviors. The best image is that of a body in which the various parts both value and partner with one another's unique gifts, but also hold each other accountable for their respective responsibility for the needs of the whole. This implies a kind of solidarity with those who are different and a shared interest and ownership in the common good. She mentioned the concepts of networking (the church began as a social network), crowdsourcing, and synergy as all being important in understanding collaborative leadership.
· Courageous: in Jefferts-Schori's view, the willingness to risk is a fundamental Christian virtue: "this kind of leadership is going to take all you have and take you to places you can't imagine." She says we must be willing to fail in pursuit of a good end. She used the metaphor of mountaineers, who must evaluate both the subjective (perceived) risks and objective (actual) risks of a venture realistically before making sound decisions.
· Grounded / Centered: Christian leaders must have as their center a strong connection to the "deep well." This is facilitated by our own self-awareness and spiritual practice; and also by cultivating relationships with peers who are not afraid to tell us the truths we don't want to hear. "Spirituality," she said, "is the fundamental willingness to face what is real." We must be reasonably confident of our groundedness, but not arrogant: we have to be able to model and facilitate such connections for others to guide them into a deep sense of compassion for all of God's creation.
· Curious: leaders must be guided by a deep sense of wonder and joy in all God has done, and they must be willing to look with fresh eyes at the world around them in order to create a healthy space for discernment. Leaders must have a thirst for exploration, a willingness to wander in the wilderness and climb the hills that no one has ever climbed before.
· Creative: by way of describing this, she offered the vision of jazz improvisation: once you truly know the theme well, you can vary it infinitely. She seeks to encourage leaders who think outside of the box: "which in some cases has become a grave."
· Humble: this is related in some sense to being grounded, but with the added sense of a willingness to travel light, to be low maintenance, to receive the gifts that others have to offer. In a sense, humility in leadership is a combination of kenosis, courage, and groundedness.
· Formed in the Vision of the Common Good: this means that leaders must cultivate communal values, share their power, and create a culture of abundance - the resources are there to give all what they need to thrive. This is a nod to the dominance of the special interest groups and the winner / loser binary that our current models of legislative leadership tend to create.
This is quite a list, and most of the rest of our time was spent deliberating on how to facilitate these kinds of qualities in congregations and individuals. The dominant theme to this discussion was the context of fear and anxiety that characterizes much of the church, and Schori's pastoral side came out as she listened to people express their fears and frustrations about their perceptions of the church's inability (or incapability, given some of the current structures) of allowing these virtues to flourish. Overall, this is a wonderful list - and yet it is almost unapproachable in its scope. Perhaps the most exciting thing about this list might be its capacity to help us more clearly identify qualities of good leadership as they manifest among folks in our churches. We need to keep our eyes open for this kind of leadership in the church - and do our best to get out of its way!