Miracle of miracles – Jesus miracles in Mark through the eyes of Rowan Williams17 Mar

In our Anglican Communion it is the year of Mark. So naturally I was curious to have a closer look at his gospel. I was lucky enough to find an excellent book by our ex Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, on the gospel of Mark. I have read Mark before, but it had come alive with the help of the erudite reflections of the a Archbishop. Based on my study, although the text may have been written around 50 AD, is a message with significant postmodern undertones. It is a book about mystery and paradox just like the world we live in now. The message behind the miracles Mark's gospel is full of stories about the miracles that Jesus performed. Jesus' response to his disciples and the people he healed, are profound are profound and have deep meaning for Christins the world over today. The response to Christ's miracles was always electrifying; people were astounded, amazed and who wouldn't be? They rushed off to tell all they encountered of the miracle they had experienced. Jesus' response was always to play down the miracle. He told most of the people he healed not to tell anyone, but they always did. Jesus did not dwell on his amazing miraculous powers, he healed people out of love. He did not want people to talk about the miracles because he wanted them to believe deeply in his Father, not because he could perform miracles; rather he wanted them to have the deep understanding of the love of Christ. A reaction to a miracle is superficial and probably short term, but to be deeply convicted of the love of Christ in response to a miracle, is life changing. It was this transformation of spirit that Jesus wanted and he knew that this required deep spiritual contemplation, conviction and growth and this would not happen in a superficial frenzy of supernatural entertainment, such as a response to a miracle. I realised when reading this, that this is probably why I always view these mass gatherings where people are miraculously healed. Is it sustainable if there is no deep spiritual conviction, if there is no lasting relationship with Christ? This has always worried me because of the trauma that is associated with a miraculous healing that does not last. The television shows us the healing and the euphoria that surrounds it, but we seldom hear of those people again - whether there healing was sustained, whether they were able to build a sustainable relationship with Christ as a result of the miracle. ???

Spiritual Leadership and the Philippian Hymn – Part 3, The Vision and Mission of the Church17 Mar

The Vision and Mission of the Church and its Leaders In business leadership it is accepted and taught that vision and mission come first and that strategy follows and is focussed on achieving the vision and mission of the business. We, the church, seem to be good at writing vision and mission statements that reflect scripture, but we are not so good at integrating these divine wisdoms into the leadership behaviour of the church or into the models that we use to teach emerging Christian leaders. Our ‘strategy’ – the way the church operates - should reflect its divine mission – that is to spread the gospel of Christ and to grow the body of Christ. The vision and mission of a business is centred on generating profits. Although many businesses today have altruistic motives and include social responsibility elements in their vision and mission statements, ultimately it is money that matters. The body of the church however has a vision and mission that is about salvation. It is about bringing people closer to Christ, building up the body of the church by spreading the good news and bringing about a transformation in people that reflects the way of Christ. This, Strawbridge argues, must be the starting point of ecclesial leadership. Beeley and Britton (2009) argue that we are currently experiencing a strong call to recover a sense of the basis of christian leadership in order to allow the church to fulfil its apostolic mission. Indeed there has been much in what I have read lately that suggests that the church has largely lost sight of this primary mission – to be the body of Christ. A clergy leadership development program would need to reorientate its students towards their true mission in serving Christ. Full referencing details are available on request.

Spiritual Leadership – creating a creative learning methodology17 Mar

A Creative Learning Methodology for develop Ecclesial Leadership I have assumed that clergy are differentiated in some way from those who populate our congregations. I understand the notion of ‘a priesthood for all believers’ although not scriptural, nonetheless an interpretation of Exodus 19:6. I want to clarify that I do not believe that clergy are set aside in a hierarchical fashion (that they are better than or higher up the ecclesial ladder than anyone else), but I do believe that they are (and must be) differentiated by the exemplary, holy life they lead – so that they can be an example and an inspiration to others. They will attract and nurture those entering the way of Christ and in so doing, they will embrace the main mission of the church. With this in mind it is important, that any curriculum or content of a leadership development program for clergy would incorporate this differentiation within its leadership model. Yes there are current models out there that will go some way to teach this and I think specifically of Servant Leadership, Level 5 Leadership (Jim Collins) and other Ethical and Postmodern Leadership Models. However none of these secular models are sufficient in their existing form. We would need to develop an integrated model, a pastiche of what is existing and we would add on to that, a specific ecclesial flavour that would incorporate the elements discussed in this paper. None of the current secular models embrace a theology of leadership and this is something which would need to be firmly and centrally integrated into any clerical leadership model. In terms of learning methodologies to support the process outlined above we would need to look at including free space for reading, reflection and contemplation, deep prayer, prayer partnering, prayer groups. To support a constant exploration of scripture, reason and tradition and all things relevant to ecclesial leadership, we would need to provide opportunities for deep dialogue, debate and constructive argument. The models of Scharmer and Gunnlaugson would be very useful tools for teaching deep dialogue. It is suggested that the core approach to learning and the environment of the classroom should reflect a critical constructivist approach. This learning paradigm uses the theoretical inputs of Jurgen Habermas. Habermas’ learning philosophy opens a space for engagement with social realities and allows for critical contemplation and transformation. The critical constructivist classroom is one that challenges the traditional power relationships between the teacher and the taught and opens up opportunities for mutual learning. The classroom relationships also clearly mirror the kind of power relationships inherent in ecclesial leaders – that is, the power of the teacher is used purely for the good of the students, not to overwhelm or manipulate them. The teacher openly encourages the building of new knowledge and of learning with the students. With reference to Gortner’s article, the work of Argyris, Wheatley, Heifetz and the notion of double-loop learning are also very relevant here. Lastly and very importantly there needs to be an output from the students in the form of an Action Learning project, which would involve them going into a community and enabling the core mission of the church, that is, spreading the love of Christ and building the body of the Church – in other words making disciples the way Jesus did. Full referencing details are available on request.

Being a woman in the service of Christ – a personal reflection17 Mar

This is my story, but perhaps many of my Sisters in Christ can relate…..? After some particularly unpleasant gender-related encounters within the church space, over the past 4 years I found myself reflecting on this issue. I always feel that I lose so much of who I am in the presence of gender prejudice. One is always minimised and not in a good way, within these encounters. So I was asking myself the other evening - Where is my sense of self? …..my internal vision of me? Where there once was peace, this has been replaced by affrontery, a constant battle to defend who I am as woman, as a person of value, as some-one in the world who wants to contribute her gifts, her life and to embrace others in the love of Christ. What is the way forward – to stop fighting and to do these things? After some reflection I believe that there is a letting go that needs to happen – there is a re-envisioning of who the enemy is, that needs to happen. The enemy is not every male entity, more highly defended through self-doubt and fears of insufficiency than I am. So who is the enemy? I think the enemy is my own inability to let go of me, and to reach into the deep existential paradox that my life is, at the present moment. To turn it on its head and embrace the fullness of love that God has for me however and whenever I am. Until then I don’t think I can give the world anything, no matter how gifted and talented I may think I am. I need to forgive those who have hurt, for they are no less conflicted than I am. I need to allow them to walk their own journey towards enlightenment, because theirs is not mine and if I try to make it mine, I am nothing but an intruder who by her trespass will only cause destruction instead of standing back and allowing God to do His work. By being an intruder in another’s life, I am deserting my own, and I will never walk within the richness of God’s glory in a way that was meant for me and me alone. My new favourite spiritual author, Sr Joan Chittister, brings a flash of enlightenment - she asks : "In the last three things that bothered me this week, whom did I blame and was it really worth the emotional energy that I gave to it? It is time to realize that it is not what happens to me in life that counts, it is what I do with what happens to me that is the measure of my happiness." Food for thought?
Academic,Leadership Development,Spiritual

Spiritual Leadership and the Philippian Hymn – Part 2, Personal Transformation17 Mar

Transformation If we say that ecclesial leadership is an art, as Friedman tells us, and if we accept there is some form of kenotic element involved – that is we must empty ourselves of ourselves and become as much like God as we can, then implied in this are significant character changes. These changes will move us from being egocentric to being humble, from being self-centered to being centered around Christ and others, and to use whatever power and privilege we have to the benefit of the kingdom of God. There is also the issue of emotional maturity that is a thread that must be integrated into the transformation process. Spiritual leaders cannot be dragged down into the emotionality of the people they lead. They must be able to stand above it if they are to be able to resolve it, without being muddied or infected by the darkness of it. As we have heard from Friedmann, leadership is not about technique. He argues that the yard-long shelves of unopened or half-read books on leadership are eloquent testimony to that. There are certainly skills that can be learned. But ecclesial leaders need much more than skills, they are called to be shining examples of Christ, to live by His way, and to devote themselves to serving the needs of others. In other words, any leadership development program for clerical leaders, needs to support this kind of spiritual growth and transformation. As I reflect on this kenotic transformation, this transcendence of self and ego, and on my search for a leadership model embedded in theology, the work of the German Transcendental Theologian Karl Rahner comes to mind. The notion of transcendence within the thinking of Rahner’s model has notable synergies with personal growth. Rather aptly, in Rahner’s theological and spiritual context, this growth would have a divine thread, a transcendence from our human limitedness, by being open to God and to the word and to the power of the sacred mystery. Fiorenza argues that we transcend ourselves and become ‘exemplary’ (Fiorenza, 30). As developing Christian leaders we should be convicted of the omnipotence of God, to transcend our human boundaries and to allow us to evolve as something infinitely ‘special’; something beyond what we could ever imagine. Our Christian journey in fact is a reflection on and a striving towards our ultimate selves as the Imago Dei. Bernard Lonergan, (1904-1984), a Canadian Jesuit Priest also emphasizes the centrality of this kenotic self-transcendence in human development. He argues that self-transcendence is a process of cognitive, moral and affective development. He goes on further to say that spiritual conversion goes beyond moral and intellectual self-transcendence in that it requires a shift to ‘ultimate meaning and value’. It is a ‘total reorientation of one’s life’, where spiriitual and moral value is placed above personal satisfaction. For me this says that we lose our preoccupation with self, and the good of others becomes paramount. This IS the personal transformation that we must strive for in the development of our clerical leaders. It is reflected in the Philippian Hymn through the example of Jesus, whose kenotic journey of self-emptying and God filling, elevates him to the 'highest place' : 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The leadership journey, and particularly the spiritual leadership journey, requires such an understanding, such a commitment and such a transcendence and transformation in order to ‘perfect the art’ so to speak. I think therefore that some reflection on Rahner and Lonergan’s thinking is essential for the development of a ‘theology of leadership’. Full referencing details are available on request
Academic,Leadership Development,Spiritual

Spiritual Leadership and the Philippian Hymn – Part 1, The use of power16 Mar

I am going to share here, in three parts, a paper I researched and presented to a Conference of Bishops in Durban in November last year. It is a paper that explores a model of leadership suitable for clergy. I refer to it also as Ecclesial Leadership. In my search for a model of leadership for the Ecclesia (Church leaders) I have discovered that many theologians believe the Philippian Hymn to be a central source of guidance for church leadership. Here Paul is giving guidance to the elders in the church at Philippia on how they should relate with their congregation. The Philippian Hymn – Philippians 2:5-11 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The first of three elements which are central to the notion of an Ecclesial Leadership Model is the use of power. Strawbridge rightly argues that a theological understanding of power is critical to a theology of leadership. An Ecclesial leader has no power. He or she must acknowledge that their power comes from God and can only be accessed through spiritual discipline – a consistent submission to God through things such as reflection, prayer, studying the word and all things we have come to acknowledge as part of a spiritual life. God works through a spiritual leader, the leader cannot act alone. A disciplined spiritual practice is the foundation that is needed in order for God to work through us. God needs a fertile soil, an open mind, a free flowing channel. Pope Gregory argues that this includes prayer, proclamation, admonition, scriptural knowledge and holiness of life based on the leader’s relationship with God (Strawbridge, p.72). So what I am saying is that for an ecclesial leader to use power appropriately, that is, for the good of others, they should be suffused in spiritual discipline so that the power of God can flow freely through them. This spiritual discipline must be firmly entrenched in all spiritual leaders during their training….it must become second nature. You seldom see humility in business leadership, in fact the whole focus is on power structures and hierarchies. The latter are not appropriate in the church, it is not appropriate for a theology of Ecclesial Leadership. Sadly though, this abuse of power appears to exist and it emerges as a recurring problem in church society, here and across the world. It is clearly evident in the various research exercises undertaken on this topic. It would appear that the abuse of power in clerical leadership, is regrettably not uncommon. If we are to develop church leaders who are different from business leaders, who reflect the idea of power inherent in the Philippian Hymn (used not to our own advantage) then we must help these leaders to embrace this humility, they must also embrace unity with their people, servanthood and ethical leadership Edwin Friedman’s words find great resonance with my own thoughts when he said that "well-differentiated" leadership is an art, not a science. By this I understand that he means that it is not something we teach in the same way we teach some-one how to bake a cake – by a system of actions. It is something that evolves over time – it is crafted and perfected; mediated through experience and the application of analysis, judgement and readjustment of thoughts and actions. Let me say something about Friedman’s notion of being well-ifferentiated. It is the art of being ‘different’, perhaps one can say ‘set aside’ while remaining in relationship with others in ways that are healthy and life-giving for the community as a whole. So ecclesial leaders should be different – and I believe this difference is reflected in their calling, in their humility and in the maturity of their spirituality. Although they are set aside by God through their calling - they are still in a relationship of love with all that surrounds them, and they still put the needs of others above their own. This brings to mind the idea of perichoresis -the Eastern Orthodox church’s concept for the essence that binds the Trinity into one. A relationship of unity and Godly love. Precisely the type of relationship clerical leaders should aspire to. Full referencing details are available on request.

Relationships and the love of Christ06 Jun

I had the privilege of speaking to the congregation at the Evening Service on the passage in Ephesians 5:22 – 6:9, focusing mainly on what Paul had to say about the relationships between a husband and wife. It is a lovely ‘meaty’ text full of controversy and it has stirred up many a feminist heart to the point that a rather ugly stand-off now appears to be the status quo amongst theological and literary minds. What one tends to overlook amidst all the emotional dynamics is that this is rather a lovely passage in which Paul gives us a set of guidelines for Christian behavior, guidelines which need to be seen against the context in which this letter was written. Paul wrote for a patriarchal, male dominant society where women had little or no value and who were frequently abused, seen as possessions and even bartered like money. Paul was speaking for women, not against them. Both Paul and Jesus valued women and used them in the church in ministry. But putting the gender debate aside, what was a gem of discovery for me was that this passage actually talks about Christian relationships between a husband and wife, and how they are different from secular relationships. In psychology we teach people about boundaries in relationships….these boundaries protect their own individual rights and boundaries are good things. However Christian boundaries are different from secular boundaries because it is not ‘I’ that is important, rather it is those that I love who are put first in my life. The word ‘submit’ is contentious in this passage but the key to finding the joy in this message is to remember that Jesus and Paul believed in reciprocal relationships, mutual submission, mutual love, mutual sacrifice. The analogy used throughout this text of Christ’s love for the church, Christ as the bride of the church, reflects this beautiful paradigm of the joy of emotional connection between human beings who love each other. Christian love has no ego, it puts love first, just as it puts Christ first. It asks not ‘what about me?”, but rather “how are you?”. It is an enduring love that transforms us and sustains us. It is selfless, it is sacrificial and it is divine.

Discerning God’s Will………30 Apr

I want to today this morning about how we discern God's will. I will admit upfront I am not entirely objective on this topic because a 'word from God' has hurt my family. But this is not the first time that I had been very uncomfortable with the way in which we discern God's will in our lives. It really is and should be, a complex process. I have a problem, probably because of my psychology background, when people pray and then tell other people what they think God wants them to do with their lives.....just like that...no careful thought, no objective (if that's possible) discernment, very little thought given to the consequences of those decisions, how they will affect their future, how they will hurt others. It seems as if the will of God is easy to discern in these situations where people are given 'words' or 'messages'. But God's will is never easy to discern. It is never discerned in a moment, or even in a few days or weeks.....it takes a long time during which time we need to listen from the depth of our being. We need to talk to our family, our friends, our spiritual colleagues and we need to listen to what they say, what they are thinking, what advice, options and ideas comes through them to our ears. Ruth Haley Barton ('Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership') describes the discernment process as follows : "...... the discernment process involves a major commitment to listening with love and attention to our experiences, to the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit deep within ourselves and others, to Scripture and Christian tradition, to pertinent facts and information, to those who will be affected most deeply by our decisions, to that place in us where God’s Spirit witnesses with our spirit about those things that are true. We need to pay particular attention to distress, confusion and desolation. Even the more difficult emotions need to be honoured.” I like this quotation because it stresses the complexity of discernment and that we need to 'hear' many different sources, and most importantly, how we need to listen, to listen deeply. What strikes me is how small the part played by words from others is and how many other things we are required to do to 'hear' God's will for us. We need to focus on Him, and listen to what is happening deep within ourselves, and how we need to be accountable to others for the choices we make. I believe we find our purpose in life where our gifts and the needs God has created within us, and around us, intersect. How many of us truly know what our gifts are and how to 'connect' them with our needs and the needs of those God sends to us? I think that discerning God's will in our lives is intimately connected with the gifts he has blessed us with. I think that when we intervene in other peoples' lives in a way that makes them question their purpose I think we need to proceed with profound caution. I think that often the words 'I have a word from God for you' should be replaced by the less overwhelming words of 'I have a sense that this is something you might think about' or something along those lines, a little more understated. This gives the person some space to discern for themselves if this is something God is trying to tell them about, or not. Telling some-one that they have a word from God, almost demands acceptance, it blocks personal discernment......we are taught that God demands obedience and yet we can never really be completely sure where our sense of a message from him really comes from...can we? I think that if we have the gift of prophecy then we should be accountable for how we influence others through it. We should share it gently and we should support the people we have 'words' for through a deep process of discernment. In short we should ensure that we 'love one another' first and beware of how we could hurt.
Leadership Development

When Leadership and Power Go Awry18 Aug

Many of you have probably heard of the notion of Toxic Leadership. Authors on this topic describe toxic leadership as being way beyond the ordinary, out-of control, demagogue. The toxic leader is a seriously dysfunctional individual who acts out his or her personal and psychological malfunctioning on the hapless people that they lead. The result is that people who are objects of envy, who seek to disagree; in essence those who do not feed the rampant ego of a toxic leader, find themselves on a hit list where they are persecuted and tormented by relentless harassment and intimidation. The toxic leader does not usually let up until their object of persecution is destroyed and removed from their environment. This is because their behaviour is based in an obsessive preoccupation with their own perceptions of worthlessness. A toxic leader is akin to an insatiable monster whose lust for power is never satisfied but who must continuously feed to maintain some sense of short term satisfaction. Sadly this destructive behaviour never addresses the real problem, this is because there is no connection between the behaviour and the source of the problem. People who are obssessed with a desire to accumulate ultimate power often have, in their history, some experience of serious emotional deprivation. Their need to accumulate power at all cost, reminds us of the drug addict continuously searching for the next fix that they hope, in vain, will fill the emotional void they feel within themselves. Drug addiction and the power addiction of the toxic leader are maladies of the same ilk. The prognosis for recovery is poor and the medium to long term outcome is seldom positive....they eventually destroy themselves. If you find yourself in the pathway of a toxic leader, don't try and make it work......get out of their way as soon as possible, before they destroy you. Toxic leaders, when placed in a position of power, can wreak enormous destruction on people and organizations. They are hard to stop because they are manipulative and devious, and they play the 'game'; making friends in the 'right' places. Morality and ethics don't feature high on their agenda, especially if they get in the way of what they want. They are people who often do not have a strong moral conscience. Because of this you cannot expect them to behave morally, nor it is ever very easy to predict their behaviour. Unless you understand their pathology, which is what motivates them, you will never know what's coming next. Toxic leaders will do everything necessary to conceal their pathology and their destructive motives, they are usually people that are difficult to read, because, in essence they have a lot to hide. When you encounter these people, don't be tempted to engage......you are in the wrong place, go elsewhere.

Leadership Development in the corporate world02 Aug

An article written by Keith Coats of Tomorrow Today, prompted me to write this blog. Keith is brilliant in the field of leadership development. He is an insightful, well informed and creative developer of leadership development programs. He was expressing his frustrations at being limited in the application of his development process, by fearful clients who do not want to upset their principals or risk negative feedback from the trainees. I have stopped teaching leadership in organizations because of my frustrations at the interference of the client. How can we stretch minds and take people to a new level when the traditional, myopic and limited views of the clients are imposed on us. We go to a lot of effort to design a program with a specific desired outcome and then we are hijacked by the client. Then we are the scapegoats when the process doesn’t achieve its objectives. What is the point….why do they employ us in the first place if they have no faith in our knowledge as experts in our field.It is we, as consultants and researchers, who know what needs to be taught, because we have committed many hours of research and study to understand leadership challenges and how we can help our emerging leaders to grapple with them. Clients limit our ability to transform these leaders, because of their fear of change, their fear of being on the cutting edge, or perhaps more truthfully, their fear that they will not get return business or good performance reviews if the students don’t give good feedback. And students often don’t give good reviews when they are tasked with having to stretch, change and think. They like the training context where we fill their heads with facts and they don’t need to do anything but listen, and play on their smart phones whilst doing so. I prefer to write now……hopefully then some-one will listen and if I change just one client perspective with my writing, then I have achieved more than I could in a restrictive corporate development setting. If I can write to inform, expand mindsets, and to expose corporate clients involved in leadership development to the fact that there are new ways of thinking and that these new ways are the only ones that get results in this complex postmodern environment. Until we can achieve this, we will continue to churn out unimaginative, uncritical, non-thinking, ineffective ‘managers’ who operate under the guise of leaders. I will just keep writing in faith.


Dr. Elaine Saunders – Industrial Psychologist

Phd in Leadership Development Author of Assessing Human Competence Specialising in online competency-based assessment tools, leadership development and performance counselling Based in Sandton, Johannesburg My key areas of intervention revolve around helping individuals to achieve their potential in the work context. To this end, my consulting practice comprises of three key applications which are related. These are the application of competency-based assessment in recruitment and leadership development, counselling as it pertains to performance, wellness and the recovery from trauma, and leadership development coaching.

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