Leaders leading leaders: Senior leaders in the Church of England

The Church of England has just published its report on Senior Leadership in the Church of England, calling it a Resource for Reflection. As I prepared for a sermon on the conversion of Paul for worship services, I reflected on this report with St Paul's leadership qualities in my mind.

St Paul is made fit by God. In his own strength he would have made a rather unfit vicar, if we might describe him that way:

I have never actually preached in one place for more than three years. Sometimes I have had to leave because my work caused riots and disturbances and I have spent time in jail on at least three or four occasions. My health is not as good as it might be but I still have energy. The churches I have preached in have been small, but located in large cities although I haven't always got on well with other religious leaders. In fact, some have threatened me and even attacked me physically. I am not that good at record-keeping, being known to forget who it is I have baptized. Hoping despite the above, you would give me an opportunity for the gospel. Grace and peace, Paul. 

What good would the Church of England have found in Paul if it had head-hunted him for senior leadership?

It would seem St Paul certainly had a preference for mentoring the upcoming generation. We look to Timothy and see Paul's guidance and care for this young man. The Report on Senior Leadership explores 'the relationship between the leadership of individuals and leadership distributed across an institution... Are leaders there to do the leading themselves, or do they enable leadership to emerge at various levels?' The church is keen that ceilings reached become other people's floors to launch from. As it describes later: 'one of the basic criteria for leadership: [is that] leaders respond to God’s call not merely to fulfil their own ministry but to build up the ministries of others.'

The report reflects on procedure and whether when 'leadership is collaborative, should such partnership be 'expressed in role descriptions and formal frameworks as well as in informal commitments and good intentions?' Best practice at Parish level advocates the drawing up of voluntary working agreements so that people are aware of expectations and are able to negotiate and renegotiate remits.

David Voas describes how ‘Growth is a product of good leadership (lay and ordained) working with a willing set of churchgoers in a favourable environment’. The missional God always wants his church to grow. Because of the all-sufficient God and despite Linda Woodhead's predictions, surely growth is still possible even when churchgoers are not willing and environments are not favourable.

The Senior Leadership in the Church of England Report describes what it laments about the church:

'...the failures of its communication with the wider world: the lack of evangelistic passion, the lack of compelling apologetic, the lack of moral leadership, the failure to speak truth to power.'

The report describes what is hoped for: '...those who will be capable of speaking powerfully on the church’s behalf in the world, and of working transformatively with others in the world.'

At the same time the Report acknowledges how ironic it is to explore success criteria for leadership against '... a leader who was abandoned by all his followers, who was stripped of all dignity and power, and whose ministry was in every measurable sense defeated – and where that failure was nevertheless the foundation stone of God’s mission.' The report asks 'If Christ is our primary model of leadership, what does that do to our perception of the role?'

The first interesting claims that the Report makes about Paul's ministry seen in Acts 20:17-35 is that he lives out what is described as  'a dual-focus picture of leadership, with one focus on the local congregations and the other on the apostolic networks that operate at trans-local level.' This is later described as 'spiritual leadership over distance and over time, maintaining and building up contacts over time and space. This trans-local dimension is reinforced through the greetings at the end of each epistle, as well as through practical projects like the collection for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem, which absorbed so much of Paul’s energies in the latter years of his mission (2 Corinthians 8–9).'

It is interesting to read the Report's analysis of Paul's words for leadership: father (1 Thessalonians 2.11), nurse (1 Thessalonians 2.7), steward (1 Corinthians 4.1–5),  architect and gardener (1 Corinthians 3.5–10), marriage broker (2 Corinthians 11.2) and ambassador (2 Corinthians 5.20), shepherd or pastor (Ephesians 4.11). In being a steward of the mysteries of God, a right accounting for church practice is to the Lord of the Church who will require at the end of time something akin to an appraisal for attitudes and leading on earth.

Acts 6 explores how leaders are apostles sent out on mission. Deacons are set apart to serve tables. Prophets and teachers and elders build up the flock. All of these derive from the laos, the people of God and each expression of ministry has particularity to its context. The trans-local apostolic calling across churches and networks is Episcopal ministry as the church sees it.

The report advocates tans-local connections because this fosters catholicity, there is no room for a go-it-alone church - leaders must establish and nurture connections with the wider church. The local context must live up to its identity as the 'body of Christ' with any one of the congregation leading worship. There is a later caveat to this though, as the report summarises Luther's concept of the priesthood of all believers, Luther believed common priesthood to be shared by all believers but this didn't mandate all Christians to a public ministry. Problems can arise with participative ministry and there must be an intentional safe-guarding of the 'clarity of message (vv.6–12); the need to make the church a space where outsiders can recognise the presence of God (vv.20–25); and, crucially, the ‘building up’ of the whole church (vv.1–5; 27–33).'

Interestingly this plays itself out in a commitment to the 'insides and outside of the church.'

The report explores 4 ministry realms: Word, Worship, Work and Wider World.

Word is seen in a spiritual building-up and in disciplining through preaching, teaching and modelling. Worship in the maintaining of order as all participate. Work in care for others in practical ways, with pastoral care, alms-giving and administration  being the work of the whole church. Wider World asks that the church bring its voice to the public square and is seen in networking and evangelism.

Any call to leadership will be an 'intermeshing of divine and human agency.' Because a honing and refining of gifts is needed in those called to leadership, just as Paul instructs Timothy to stir up the gifts that he has been given, the Church of England seems to be working out in the current context how this can be done.  The Green Report was the first attempt in a long time to put some kind of proposal forward, although it has not been without its critics. The Senior Leadership in the Church of England report seems to shape something of a response to this criticism: 'New Testament writers show a constant readiness to adopt and adapt models from the secular world into the discourse of leadership – like the steward or household manager...[borrowing] language, ideas, practices and even forms of organisation from a wide variety of sources: the household, the estate, the empire and many other spheres of life... as they sought to discover how to be faithful in their changing contexts.' It is the case, though, that overly-worldly models built on the CEO and his paid employees can infiltrate the Ekklesia in negative ways. The Senior Leadership in the Church of England report reminds the church that apostles never act as agents of 'some global organisation called ‘the church plc’; they are ‘special agents’ sent by Jesus Christ to act and speak and suffer on his behalf as his witnesses in the world. And this means being constantly thrown back on the ethos of leadership set by Jesus himself.'

At chapter 4 of the Report, the history of the three-fold order of ministry is explored and its positive and negative ramifications for the local church assessed. Increasing clericalisation and gaps between the laos and the ordained is lamented. We are reminded that the Bishop's particular preserve is the teaching of the faith and a promotion of orthodoxy in the face of heresy and from the Oxford Movement an onus on a more sacramental ministry. This required a certain level of education: 'senior leaders who benefited from a classical education in rhetoric... had to be educated in order to engage... communicators who were also persuaders...bishops who were also politicians, like Ambrose, John Chrysostom and Athanasius; and bishops who were theologians before all else, like Augustine and
Gregory of Nyssa.'

The report explores how from the beginning of the twentieth century the language of ‘leadership’ evolves 'as a useful term for naming the many skills of negotiation, consultation and organisation ... to help chart the church’s course in a time of shrinking membership, growing religious pluralism and ...legal responsibilities in terms of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.' It notes that 'influential evangelical leaders ... came out of ... trans-local networks operating above and behind the formal structures of parish and diocese,' as seen in the increasing number of types defined as ‘Executive Archpastor[s]’ (David Hilborn’s term) who operate less as 'pastor to individuals and more and more simply as supervisor and eventually the manager of a network of pastoral carers and other systems... what we mean by ‘pastor’ now is not identical to what we might have meant by ‘pastor’ fifty ... years ago.'

The report advises care over language and models: ‘traditional’ language and ideas can become a way of protecting ourselves against such necessary transformation ...language borrowed from the wider world can distract us... the triune God must remain at the centre of all our ideas and practices of leadership. We cannot hold a meaningful conversation about leadership except in the context of our understanding of the missio Dei... The one true leader of the church is God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and true success is in God’s hands alone... management in the church exists only for the sake of ministry and mission.'

This seems to act as a conclusion to the report:

'Tradition and innovation are not opposed, because deep immersion in tradition is not an awkward constraint upon improvisation but is its enabling condition. The more improvisation we want, the deeper the forms of education we will need – and the deeper those forms of education will need to take us into knowledge of the tradition and knowledge of the Scriptures... faithful improvisation will only emerge from communities and individuals who are brought by the Spirit, in the company of all the saints, to deeper and deeper knowledge of Christ, and him crucified.'

1 comment:

Useful in parts said...

If you need a summary of the recent cofe reports for synod - see the foot of this post http://ow.ly/HCe7m


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