Comments: Opinion - 12 March 2016

To me, leadership occurs when individuals and communities hear the 'lead' of God and open to that 'lead' and to God's Spirit.

So prayer and listening - and trying to do that collectively in community... opening ourselves to the eternal community of the holy Trinity... seems primary and fundamental.

I think 'leadership' is built collectively, in community, through prayer and loving kindness, as we try to follow the 'lead' of Jesus Christ, by the way of the Cross. That is the baptism we are drawn and led to undertake.

Secondly, I believe that God's Spirit operates, individually and collectively, through our God-given conscience. Conscience as the receptor for each loving action, each kind decision... and the 'lead' for the way we internally open up and recognise is the life we ought to live.

I am cautious and hesitant about 'managerialism' as seen in secular leadership models.

I am also cautious about tendencies toward 'infantilism' and 'paternalism' - a tendency in the Church of England, I'd suggest, where we look up and submit to 'authority' too easily. There is a paternalistic streak in the assumption, say, of Primates to decide what is best, to assert uniformities, to threaten sanctions. Authoritarianism is sometimes an appropriation of the leadership of God that runs counter to the lived prayer and conscience of individuals and communities, in their local church lives and development.

So prayer, listening, and conscience, I believe are really important. Also, at this time, the importance of recognising and allowing diverse explorations of conscience in the life of our Church: to lead by allowing 'space for grace', for protecting diverse consciences, for seeking the lived experience of co-existence, of love for one another, and the grace to live - patiently and kindly - in that diversity.

The 'strong' leader, trying to impose uniformity, and dominance of one conscience over another conscience, and to manage that enforcement... may be missing the point of that grace, of the process as well as the outcome, the journey as well as the destination.

We must be very careful - especially in leadership roles - not to trample on other people's consciences... because some of these may be portals of prayer and grace and opening up to God and God's Holy Spirit.

Authority may come from the margins as well as the organisational 'imperium'. David was out in the fields, tending the sheep.


Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 12 March 2016 at 1:48pm GMT


John was a voice in the wilderness. Moses was a man on the run. Mary was an obscure young woman. Jesus, virtually no-one, until his 30th year.

Leadership comes from God, and gets experienced through conscience, prayer, grace, quietness and listening. It may happen almost at any time, and may occur in your own community, not because a 'leader' tells you so, but because just sometimes, a community will open to the grace of God, will feel their consciences touched, will discover love and grace and service.

And that may occur in different communities in different ways. Uniformity can be a damaging misunderstanding of the way the leadership of God works, in a diversity of ways, in a diversity of communities, while grace gets explored and opens us up when we try to co-exist, unique and diverse, yet one (forever) in Jesus Christ.

We should value our differences - and celebrate them - not tread them into the ground or repudiate the sincere consciences of others.

We should try to love and empower one another, as we journey on in Christ. To a great extent, the journey is the destination. Exercising grace. And allowing God to build us, to open us, to help us in community right where we live.

That's why - quite often - I believe leadership should be allowed to emerge at local level, and why I believe that local churches, local PCCs, local priests and people, should be allowed to grow and express their faith as it opens up in their actual lives; and why I believe the Church of England should respect the conscience and expressions of different local churches, and accept diversity of conscience, and not impose one conscience 'top down' on another conscience.

When the Holy Spirit comes, she comes to people in their actual lives, in their shared service, and that 'aliveness' and love may be a conduit for the true grace, compassion and (to use Andrew Lightbown's focal word) kindness of God.

We should love one another, because we are one in Christ: each unique, each pregnant and refulgent with potential, and each community with its faith, its sacrifice, its service to others.

Leadership comes in the way we live our lives, day by day, if we open our hearts and our consciences, to the grace and hope and loveliness of the living God who cares about us all.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 12 March 2016 at 1:49pm GMT

Kelvin Holdsworth hits a nerve! Do people attend church to have their nerves jangled? It's an unintended consequence of being in community. Everyone has a sore spot. Especially our Healer, who endured poverty, rejection, ostracism and physical punishment. Maybe meditating on His agonies is better than focussing on ours.

Posted by Pam at Saturday, 12 March 2016 at 9:07pm GMT
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.