Through his work Lee hopes to capture and share a more expansive view of theological education, of church leadership and of vocational discernment as he sees through the eyes of some exciting Presbyterians in and related to seminaries.
My blog, A More Expansive View is moving here. Thanks to all who have followed me here... even when I took a sabbatical from writing alongside a real sabbatical! Speaking of sabbaticals, my first new blog will be about sabbaticals... my own and how they can be funded. Please update your blog readers, etc. Stay in touch!
Leadership projects, initiatives, programs and the like are emerging everywhere across the PC(USA). Presbyteries, colleges, and seminaries often seem to be serving as partners with congregations in the formation of church leaders. National partners including each of the six agencies of the General Assembly and the Committee on Theological Education, that I staff, are also invested in what I believe is becoming a ecclesial social movement to change the church leadership ethos.
So, WHAT IS LEADERSHIP ANYWAY? I could certainly use your help to prepare for my talk, but so could all of us thinking about new and renewed ways to empower church leaders! I would like to know what do characteristics of leadership you find essential in church leadership?
Here are a few of my ideas:
I believe leadership is more than learned skills or genetic qualities; it is a series of spiritual disciplines if not a SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE itself. Presbyterian minister and writer, Marjorie Thompson describes spiritual disciplines as a means of grace rather than ends themselves. They are "like garden tools. The best spade and hoe in the world cannot guarantee a good crop. They only make it more likely that growth will be unobstructed." (Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life) Discipline is just that, a willingness to stay the course despite the odds. It is an ability to follow through on the mission goals.
Therefore, the primary dimension to this discipline is COURAGE. I am grateful to L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Ron Heifetz with Martin Linsky for their book Leadership on the Line on this point. Leaders have to believe in the mission enough to be willing to put everything, really everything, on the line to foster that mission forward especially when the heat is high.
Leadership also requires, CREDIBILITY: A trustworthiness grounded in lived relationships and expressed in mutually beneficial partnerships, authentic living, and believable actions and words. They are students of the culture and context and are, therefore, lead compentently and humbly in our multicultural world.
CLARITY ABOUT PURPOSE based on deep listening and analyzed observations of complexity seems essential as well. To keep a spiritual discipline and fulfill a mission, a leader needs to be clear about both. Inherent in this dimension of leadership is the ability to "get in the balcony", quickly respond to emerging needs by "getting back on the dance floor," and stay focused on a common vision at all times.
The best leaders I know are ENGAGING enough to capture the imagination of old and new followers. They inspire people to get involved and stay involved. They are open enough to engage others, draw lines of connection, invite and welcome others in including those who are rarely invited and hosted. They string together important moments, mentor persons and communities, and build movements as a result.
Do you know any leaders like this? What else would you add?
On journey/ pilgrimage, Lee
P.S. I am back in Louisville after a fall sabbatical where I was based in Debrecen, Hungary studying leadership formation and working on my patterns of spiritual discipline. It is great to be back and hope you will come back to engage with me as I continue to reflect on that experience as well as my continuing encounters with Presbyterians and our seminaries.
What do Presbyterians think about the Middle East, Civil Unions, the Belhar and Heildleberg Confessions, a new Form of Goverment and much, much more in 2010? Come and find out at the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in artsy, easy, green, and fun Minneapolis, Minnesota! Seminarians have a great opportunity to learn more about these and other issues, and, most importantly, how decisions are made in awell recieved for-credit course sponsored by the Committee on Theological Education, the Office of the General Assembly and San Francisco Theological Seminary: Presbyterianism- Principles & Practice.
Register NOW, or as soon as possible to insure you can participate in this course that runs concurrently with the General Assembly. Registration may close as early as May 15th!
New life abounds in our Presbyterian Seminaries, and especially this Eastertide! The Spring semester is kicking into high gear at all of our schools as many begin the dash to graduation. Ordination exam results are in and now presbyteries are working to certify candidates ready to receive a call.
For me, Easter is about the new life now. Christ is alive, alive indeed! We allow the past to be the past and the new life to rise anew among us. This will be surely true on the campuses of all our Presbyterian Seminaries next week (April 12-15, 2010) and especially at three. I hope I will see you there!
On Tuesday, April 13th at 10AM Columbia Seminary in Decatur, Georgia will Inaugurate Stephen A. Hayner as their Ninth President. Steve formerly joined the faculty at CTS in 2003 after serving as President of InterVarsity , a professor, and a Presbyterian pastor. Events begin Monday with a banquet and worship service and conclude Tuesday with a symposium on the future of the church and the seminary. The Rev. Dr. Hayner has a PhD in the Old Testament and works and writes in the area of global Christianity.
On Wednesday, April 14th at 7PM Louisville Seminary (Kentucky) will award and host Eboo Patel, winner of the 2010 Grawemeyer Award in Religion. A lecture by Patel take place in in the Seminary's Frank H. and Fannie W. Caldwell Chapel is free and open to the public. Patel is being recognized for his book, Acts of Faith: Interfaith Leadership in a Time of Global Crisis. In his book, Patel, age 34, tells his own life story as an Indian-born Muslim raised in America. His dream is to build a world where interfaith cooperation is the norm. In 1998, he founded Interfaith Youth Core. Based in Chicago, the organization encourages young people of different religions to perform community service, explore common values and build bridges among diverse faiths. Today, his organization is active on about 75 college campuses.
On Thursday, April 15th at 6PM Katharine Rhodes Henderson will be inaugurated as the Sixth President of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. Public programsaround the city will take place all day Thursday and Friday morning including "How Women will Change the World in the 21st Century," "Is Good Business Really Good Business?," "Intellectual Heavyweights in a Sound Bite World," and "The Seminary from Scratch." Formerly the VP for Advancement at Auburn and author of "God’s Troublemakers", the Rev. Dr. Henderson writes and speaks widely in the church and the public forum.
Wow! It’s going to be a whirlwind week, don’t you think!? Welcome to the new life Christ brings THIS Easter!
Katharine Hendersonrecently visited Louisville and we sat down for a cup of coffee at the corner of Fourth Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard. I pointed out to her that in 1958 Catholic monk and author, Thomas Merton, had an epiphany on what was then the corner of Fourth and Walnut Streets and Louisville's center of commerce. On March 19th of 1958 Merton recorded the moment in his private journal:
"Yesterday, in Louisville, at the corner of 4th and Walnut, suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were, or, could be totally alien to me. As if waking from a dream — the dream of separateness, of the 'special' vocation to be different."
Muhammad Ali was 16 years then and often training for the 1960 Rome Olympics only a few blocks away at a gym and community center operated by Presbyterians. His name was Cassius Clay then, an AAU and Golden Gloves boxer. Maybe he was one of those people Merton saw moving about that day!
I wonder if it would have mattered or even have been heard if Merton had would have been able to communicate his connection and love to those people that day? I wonder who or what we notice and discount… even as a denomination? Could we put ourselves in a place where we have an epiphany?
In the month leading up to Merton’s trip to Asia and death in Thailand, his journals record that he "spoke the most on prayer." Bonnie Thurston, a Merton scholar and Wheeling, West Virginia "protestant monk", by her own definition, says Merton’s approach to prayer was quite simple: "Start where you are and become aware of connections."
This approach reminds me of Barbara Brown Taylor’s explanation of spiritual practices in her new book, An Alter in the World. The chapter titles name some of those practices: "Wearing Skin," "Walking the Earth," "Carrying Water," and my personal favorite "Getting Lost."
In her chapter on the spiritual practice of paying attention, Taylor writes, "I have a variation of this practice that I do on the subway, at least if I have a pair of sunglasses with me. From behind the veils of my dark lenses, I study the human beings around me…" She goes on to talk about how she will occasionally quietly pray the Lord’s Prayer while she pays attention to these strangers. The practice, she says, "shift(s) her equilibrium. For all (she) knows, one of them is practicing reverence on (her.)"
Reverence, paying attention, noticing others, shifting our equilibrium, praying, engaging spiritual practices: these are all worthy goals for church leaders.
The Committee on Theological Education (COTE) recently initiated a report that begins to help us as a denomination "start where we are and become aware of all the connections."
In April 2009 a COTE initiative established a Joint Committee on Leadership Needs with the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) and the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA). Each group was represented on the Joint Committee and the paper will take center stage during a Feb.24 joint GAMC/COGA plenary.
This Raising Leaders report on PCUSA Leadership Needs is an invitation to a conversation and ideas about future and current leadership in the PCUSA. One good place to join the conversation with others across the PCUSA and beyond is by joining our PCUSA Leadership Needs group on facebook where we can make connections, become aware of where we are, pay attention to each other, shift our equilibrium, pray, and raise new leaders for the mission of God.
May it be.
Lee in Louisville and looking forward to the conversation.
I’ve decided that funerals make sense on Christmas Eve or really anytime in Advent. I just returned from a funeral for the mother of a church friend. She had lived a full 87 years of life and was married for over 60 of those years. The heavens cried with rain and the songs, prayers and rituals urged us forward.
Courage to move forward in the midst of pain is all the more difficult when surrounded by sugarplums, sparkling lights, and piles of packages.
In my almost five years of service with and or our church our Presbyterian seminaries, I have found our schools to truly be the "crowned jewels" of the PC(USA) that Michael Lindvall, Linda Valentine, and others call them. Their faculties, staffs, trustees, alumni, campuses, libraries, programs, and storied histories light up the PC(USA) as bright as the lights on my Christmas tree.
But that does not mean they have it easy. The economic recession continues to have a dramatic effect on theological education, but that is not all. The church is changing. Congregations and denominations are not just smaller; they are becoming more and more contextual in their approach. The one-size-fits-all approach that standardized so much of how congregations operated for the last 50-60 years is more the exception than the rule.
This makes preparing leaders for the church an adaptive opportunity, but not an easy one. Dollars are difficult to come by and the demands on and expectations of seminaries are higher and more than ever.
So when a longtime servant of the church that could ease into retirement after a full ministry takes on the challenge of a seminary presidency all I can call that person is courageous.
My Christmas prayer: May those who hold leadership positions lead with courage to see beyond the fog of death that seems to surround with vision to see and welcome unexpected gifts that arrive at unexpected times… even God’s creative transformation with us, Emmanuel, here and now.
Several years ago Oprah Winfrey conducted a poll to see how long it took U.S. citizens to get irritated while waiting in line at fast food restaurants. The average time was not more than 15 seconds. Patience is described as a virtue but impatience seems to be the practice.
Advent is a time of waiting. We light candles and open window one by one as we journey through is anticipatory season. What do we anticipate? What are we waiting for? We are waiting for the celebration of the Incarnation/ the nativity of Jesus Christ. We know where we are going but we’re often ready to get there before it's time. We're ready to open the presents, sing the Christmas carols, take the holiday from work and school, and even watch the "Christmas" specials.
Walking a labyrinth may be one spiritual discipline worth doing during Advent. A labyrinth is an enclosed path having only one route that winds in toward a center point where it makes a decisive turn to wander out again. Unlike a maze, there are no tricks or dead ends in a labyrinth. Based on the circle, the universal symbol of unity and wholeness, a labyrinth is a path and spiritual tool for growth, discernment, and prayer. I've seen people try to run and rush through a labyrinth, but not without missing a turn or two. The path is a deliberate, intentional, and not easily anticipated.
Last week, the first week of Advent, I was honored to be a participant in a pilot program of the Board of Pensions called CREDO. The CREDO mission is
"to provide opportunities for clergy to examine significant areas of their lives (Health, Vocation, Spiritual, and Financial) and to discern prayerfully the future direction of their vocation as they respond to God's call in a lifelong process of practice and transformation." I spent some time at CREDO walking both outdoor and indoor labyrinths at the Duncan Conference Center. Both are replicas of the labyrinth in Notre Dame Cathedral in Chartres, France and pictured here.
One thing became clear to me at CREDO that walking the labyrinths helped me discern. Advent waiting may not so much be about us waiting on God as it is about God waiting on us. This discernment reminded me of a sermon my partner in life, the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty preached at Louisville Seminary a few years ago that she titled. "Is God Waiting on Us?"
God's waiting on us is an Advent message and, by the grace of God, a Christmas message too! It is a message when I think of the gifted leaders being formed at our Presbyterian seminaries being told there will be fewer places that can go and serve and/or funds available to start new churches. I wonder when we will respond to God with our thanksgiving and hope and vision.
What is God waiting on you to do/be? What is God waiting on us to do/be? May this be our Advent question and prayer. May we be the Advent actors and not so much the audience. NOW is the time to act. What ARE we waiting for?
Advent Peace, Lee
(From Louisville… but headed elsewhere… and hopefully toward a more centered life in God.)
José R. Irizarry is a student of culture, a teacher of intercultural engagement, a writer, professor, minister, artist, father, spouse, and a real gift to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Jose is the Decano Académico and Acting President at one of our Presbyterian Seminaries, Seminario Evangelico de Puerto Rico (SEPR or ESPR).
ESPR was founded by a variety of mainline denominations ninety (90) years ago this month and maintains ecumenical as well as a strong denominational connections with Methodists, Episcopalians, Baptists, and Lutherans among others in addition to the PC(USA).
On behalf of the General Assembly, the Committee on Theological Education is engaged in a review of the GA covenant with ESPR. Recommendations will come to the November meeting of COTE and the GA in July of 2010. The timing of this covenant renewal, in effect for over a decade already since Reunion, coincides with the first time both the President and Academic Dean of ESPR are Presbyterian.
Sergio Ojeda-Carcamo was called to teach pastoral theology at ESPR in 1995 and has served as President for the last six years. While Dr. Ojeda-Carcamo is on sabbatical, Jose Irizarry has added to his already full plate by also serving as Acting President.
Who is Dr. Irizarry? First of all, he is Jose’ to most who know him, Joe to some. A down to earth person with vision far beyond the horizon. I was honored to spend some time with him and others on his campus in early September and just last week here in Louisville as he represented COTE at the General Assembly Mission Council meeting.
Jose’ has at least two collections, turtles and children's books. Each describe this emerging leader. If you go in his office you will see the collection of turtle trinkets, many that were given to him. I suspect they have a multiple meaning for him. For me, they remind me of the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. As they race, the hare runs and rests and ends up losing the contest to the slower tortoise who just keeps on moving forward. Jose never stops moving forward at a consistent pace, with an even keel and great determination and intentionality. I suspect he knows the story well, because he collects children’s storybooks! This second collection has a practical use, as he is the parent of three children ages 10, 8, and 5. He reads to them and loves a good story. Good children’s stories describe culture and convey a message. That’s Jose, a student of culture and an interpreter of meaningful messages.
Formerly the dean of doctoral programs and McCormick Theological Seminary and professor at the Lutheran School of Theology, Jose has a background in theatre and a PhD in Religion and Personality. He has served as the president of the Religious Education Association of the US and Canada, a board member of the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, and as an author and contributor to journals and edited volumes. One recent essay is entitled “Lost in Translation: The Challenges and Possibilities of Ecumenical Dialogue” is featured in the New Theology Review. May we all give thanks that in addition to his service to the Seminario, Jose currently serves on the PC(USA) Committee on the Review of the Whole, as the ESPR Institutional Representative to COTE, and will be a panelist and presenter this week in Chicago at the annual gathering of Theological Educators for Presbyterian Social Witness (TEPSW). And may we join in prayer for his strength in the coming days. Lee in Louisville on a windy day
More and more I am convinced that process matters more than product. A Chinese proverb says it this way, "Give someone a fish, feed them for a day. Teach someone to fish, feed them for a lifetime".
My theological degree programs changed my life for the better. I was formed and reformed in ways that I never imagined. The papers and presentations, lectures and class projects were all valuable, but the methodologies of exegesis, thinking theologically, and learning how to ask the right questions have lived with me longer. My MDiv senior statement of faith, that I did collaboratively with three others including my partner for life, Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, is something I treasure, but again the practice of working together as a team had the larger impression. So it was my "Plan for Continuing Education" that I might most appreciate from my Doctor of Ministry program. The thesis, classes, and the classmates still impact my daily life and ministry, but that plan to continue learning was priceless. It’s true, the more we learn, the more we discover how much we don’t know.
What is your plan for continuing education?
All of our PC(USA) Seminaries have a great deal to offer. Check out their websites for more information. Two programs came across my desk that may make participating even more affordable, if not free. Princeton Seminary has received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to fund a new Science for Ministry initiative (1st program Nov. 2-6). Science and religion questions in our culture are pressing ones and this program will help you or someone you know think through them carefully and faithfully. Another great opportunity is one that Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary continues to offer, the College of Pastoral Leaders. Cohorts can write proposals for a course of study to be funded (Due Oct. 31).
"Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ 6 He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish." (John 21:4-6)
Maybe it is both, product and process. But, maybe it’s time to cast your net on the other side?
In a May 29, 2009 article in the Boston Globe about area theological schools response to the economic crisis, Daniel Aleshire, Executive Director of the Association of Theological Schools, as saying "Theological schools tend to be smaller institutions in the higher education world, and it's getting more and more difficult for small higher education institutions to exist or flourish economically." He goes on to name two major factors affecting theological schools - the rising expense of running a school because of increasing expectations for technological and administrative support and the decline of some of the religious denominations that once supported the schools.
Some say we need fewer seminaries noting also the decline in current viable placements for Master of Divinity graduates.
Here's the catch. The hunger for theological education may be greater than ever. In addition to the hundreds who begin the inquiry process with their presbyteries and/or start seminary, there are hundreds more in need of Commissioned Lay Pastor training. Research shows that seminaries do both of these the best and are the preferred or, in the case of an MDiv, the only choice allowed by our current constitution as well as the proposed new Form of Government.
Of course not everyone can readily move to a residential campus or see themselves in a online assisted Mdiv program, like the one offered by the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, our Presbyterian accredited school with such a program.
In other words, geography matters when in comes to selecting a school. The data shows this. Ten years ago Presbyterian inquirers and candidates attended 62 different seminaries and today that number is over 90.
How do we balance the need for more school locations and the financial pinch that makes it harder and harder for our schools to be viable?
I wonder what our priorities are as a denomination on this question? Are we ready to "sell the seed corn" and risk a bountiful harvest or find ways to partner with our schools in new and creative ways that will grow our common future?
A member of the congregation I served emailed me yesterday. She is an Inquirer for ministry for Word and Sacrament. Working closely with her Session and mentored by her current pastor, she plans to visit three or more seminaries soon. We plan to talk over the weekend as she considers her next steps. Considering the above, I’m not sure what to tell this gifted, faithful, energetic, and emerging leader. What would you say?
When we make ourselves available to and are authentic with each other amazing things happen. That’s what the Rev. Dr. Margaret P. Aymer Oget does over and over again. A professor of New Testament at Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Margaret serves the church, her students and the academy hospitably and prophetically. I witnessed her hospitality and heard a description of her prophecy yesterday in “Our PC(USA) Seminaries” booth at the Presbyterian Women’s Gathering exhibit hall here in Louisville, KY.
Margaret preached Sunday morning for the thousands of mostly Presbyterian women who convene triennially. Sandra Fisher, a conferee from North Dakota spotted Margaret in our booth. I watched as a smile came over her face and she gently stepped toward Margaret. “I cannot believe I can get this close to you.” She went on to thank Margaret for the ways in which she was fed by her sermon to do justice for God’s sake.
Preaching from Mark 2:1-12, Margaret began her sermon this way “The good news of the gospel is that it calls us to a ministry of meddlin,’” Playing off the Southern expression “When one goes from preachin’ to meddlin’.” It reminded me of how important a role theological faculty play in the life of the Church and especially the PC(USA). As we remember the impact of John Calvin, on what would have been his 500th birthday, it is good to know his legacy of a walking the talk in the community and larger world is alive and well. I was, therefore, encouraged that my ministry to help the Committee on Theological Education “preserve academic freedom for the benefit of the church” continues to be important.
All of us, including Sandra, eagerly await the publishing by PW’s Horizon’s Bible Study in 2010-11 on the Beatitudes. She puts these core Christian principles in conversation with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches’ Accra Confession.
The social media savvy, Margaret also makes herself personally available face to face. She reminds me how important it is to support our Presbyterian Seminaries. Mentor, scholar, preacher, musician, prophet, and priest. “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” (Frederick Douglass) You pray with your legs, arms, heart, eyes, ears, and mind. Thanks for who you are Margaret Aymer Oget!
Margaret’s publications include “Teaching Christians to ‘Read’: Theological Education and the Church”; “Empire, Alter-empire and the Twenty-first Century”; “What Do the Gospels Say about Sex and the Church?” in Frequently Asked Questions about Sexuality, the Bible, and the Church; First Pure, Then Peaceable: Frederick Douglass Reads James and a forthcoming book, African American Biblical Interpretation: An Introduction with co-author, Randall C. Bailey.