Wednesday, February 19, 2014

theology, leadership and Satan

Beyond education: exploring a theology of the church’s formation is a colloquim I’m speaking at next month in Melbourne. The conference seeks to move beyond either/or statements – that ‘theology’ is for ‘academics’. I’ve been asked to give some input titled “Theological education in leadership formation”.

This paper will interrogate the tagline of Uniting College for Leadership and Theology – learn! lead! live! – using the work of cultural theorist Mieke Bal in order to pay particular attention to the place of formation in a pluralistic world. It will explore the ethical implications inherent in notions of “founding texts” and “moments of meaning.” Some implications, for ministry practice (learn!), for ministry agents (lead!), for communities of faith (live!), will be outlined. The aim is a theology of ecclesial formation that might shift the conversation beyond modern dualities of head and heart, theory and practise, religious and secular, individual and communal.

In doing some preparation I came across the following comment, on a well known theology blog:

That still leaves the Satan: I can’t quite decide where he would best fit — probably as an expert in Leadership.

It’s a fairly strong statement, which seems to view leadership with quite some disdain. Which has got me pondering, as I prepare my presentation – why does leadership cause such negative responses in some circles of theological education? What are the concerns about leadership that might be held by an audience of theologians?

Posted by steve at 09:21 PM


  1. An interesting book I am reading: ‘Multipliers: how the best leaders make everyone smarter’ by Liz Wiseman. It reframes leaders as equippers and facilitators rather than ‘diminishers’. I suspect many of us have experienced leadership in terms of diminishing our gifts and talents rather than unleashing them. My guess theologians are aware of that there is another experience of leadership – a Trinitarian shaped one that liberates and makes room for the other – but their experience of traditional ecclesial leadership is often otherwise.

    Comment by Chris McLeod — February 20, 2014 @ 1:08 pm

  2. Thank you for the question Steve. Maybe the Oz habit of knocking down the tall poppies has something to do with disdain, There may be a fear among some church teachers/clergy/leaders/lecturers/theologians about having to change their role and leadership style towards co-facilitating and co-learning and enabling and collaboration…Fear of change and having to make and manage that change into a new kind of Church Expression and grow to be different, can generate negativity and cause disdain towards those already in that different leadership style. Also, does the new leadership style being offered resonate with the Bible? Biblical basis for leadership models being discussed…A conversation approach to reading the biblical texts on leadership and Jesus’ leadership style may not be as common as one would hope!
    What a huge topic this could become?
    Regards, John.

    Comment by John Littleton — February 20, 2014 @ 4:27 pm

  3. A further thought Steve. There may be disagreement on the role of a minister/priest in the church and parish/congregation. In the Anglican Ordinal the priest or presbyter’s vocation is described as ” a priest, a pastor and teacher.” Do we add ‘leader’ to this list or not may be an issue? Or is leadership assumed in these three roles as expressed in the Ordinal “Lead the people of God as a servant of Christ.”? Perhaps we do not need’ “leadership formation” in theological education in theological colleges, even though your input section is about ‘leadership formation!’ There is a leadership formation course for Bishops in the world-wide Anglican Church and that would include theological education. These comments may or may not be barking up the wrong tree.
    Best wishes, John.

    Comment by John Littleton — February 20, 2014 @ 7:16 pm

  4. Good grounds for some post-grad research me thinks…signed up ready for the journey…

    Comment by Peter A — February 20, 2014 @ 10:47 pm

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