Saturday, July 11, 2015

Surprising Leadership

Thank you for calling me Chair.

Thanks also to the Faith and Order Commission for this excellent piece of work, and to Simon Killwick for his PMM.  There is a great deal to welcome in the report.

The readings for Morning Prayer over the past few days have been taken from the book of Esther. A young Jewish girl, thrust into a leadership position based on criteria that amount to nothing more than that the King fancies her, with no mention of God anywhere in the book.  Yet Esther saves the whole of the people of God.

The Bible is full of surprising leaders, who do not seem to meet any criteria, who have no position from which to lead.  If there is an element missing from this superb report is the notion of surprise.  Paragraph 99 speaks of biblical leaders greeting their call with surprise.  Undoubtedly this is true. But the Biblical leaders are themselves surprising – Esther being but one example.

As we move forward in our consideration of leadership in the church, we need to look to be surprised by leadership that comes from surprising people.  Now, of course, it is not possible to create surprising leaders in the church.  God calls who God calls.  What we can do is to be more alert for them when they surprise us.  How might that be reflected in our discernment, our listening and our training?  More, how might that be reflected in Synod?

One answer might be to drop the defensiveness of our synodical, indeed our church culture.  To work to drop the barriers that we put up between ourselves.  The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Truro have graciously demonstrated this, and we have rightly applauded that. Paragraph 186 of the report calls for a “culture that allows failure, that attends to it carefully and learns from it seriously, but that does not condemn it”.  Surprising leadership needs such a culture.  The first steps in this less defensive culture needs to come from all of us who have leadership roles in the church at present, and that includes all of us in this synod.  While we are being defensive, we cannot and will not be surprised.

Thank you, and I hope that Synod will strongly commend this report.

Speech to General Synod 11th July, 2015

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