Spiritual

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

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.
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.
Spiritual

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.

About

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.

For more information

Contact me via e-mail to find out more about my services or payment terms.
Print Friendly

Contact Dr. Elaine Saunders

Please fill in your details, and I will get in touch with you shortly.
Print Friendly