drew ditzel is studying to be a pastor in the usa. we've never met but he contacted me to ask me to take part in a connected online conversation about ministers and their role in the church in the new environment. he has blogged about the conversation and links to 5 other bloggers who are addressing the subject. at the time of writing i haven't read any of those posts. there's no reason of course why the conversation should be limited to those he has invited. if you have something to say just blog away and put a comment somewhere with a link to your post or tag it with an emerging profession. his initial e-mail to me summed his concerns as follows...
I have many fears about being an ordained pastor. Really too many to count, but two again and again raise their thought provoking head stimulating my doubts and massaging my insecurities. The first is leading a faith community but not being apart of it. To work at the church picnic but not feel I am sharing a meal. This separation between the ordained, paid staff and the congregants seems to breed inauthentic relationships.
The second fear is leading a congregation that can rest easy in my leadership. I fear that if I stand up to preach and call the congregation to seek justice for the oppressed, to love their enemy, and follow God with all their heart, mind and soul, they will stand and in all sincerity proclaim in half statement half question, "Don't you get paid to do that for us?"
the first thing that springs to mind is the community i am part of grace. this is how it plays out there. i am not for a moment suggesting this is an ideal model or one others should follow but actually i have grown to appreciate it more and more...
1. we don't employ anyone to lead us or to be the minister. we are a group of friends/christians who take responsibility together. this has worked well for 14 years now. we are part of an anglican church, and the simplest way to understand how we connect is that we are a congregation of st marys,ealing - one of four.
2. we have an ethos that has emerged from the community over the years . this can be summed up with four words - creativity, risk, participation and engage. we are currently exploring hospitality and may add it as a fifth word at some point. this ethos functions like a rule or measure and has shaped us more than we thought it would.
3. leadership is shared and dispersed within the community. currently we have a small group of three who facilitate communication, ensure stuff gets talked about that needs to be and that decisions are brought to the group that need to be made. a monthly meeting and discussions via e-mail are the way things get talked about in the community and decisions made. when it comes to leading , whether worship services or activities that engage in the wider community, one person will generally take the initiative and pull together a team to get involved with them in doing that thing. so different people take the lead on different occasions. we have a high value on participation so it's difficult to be part of grace and not participate in something. and there's plenty of opportunity to lead or minister. and if there's something you have a passion for that isn't happening you can raise it with the group, and the chances are you'll be encouraged to go for it and encourage others to get involved with you. i.e. there's a low permission threshold.
so leadership for us is
1. dispersed - done by different people at different times with different gifts
2. about guarding the ethos - we have come to see this as a key role of what the smaller group are entrusted to do
3. environmental - by which i mean that the role of leadership is not doing stuff, but creating the environment whereby stuff happens and people relate to one another easily and participate.
in relation to the tradition we are in (anglican), the one thing we can't do without having someone ordained is lead communion. we have been in the fortunate position over the last few years of having different people at different times who have been ordained and so have brought that gift to the community. currently dean who is a chaplain at the local university and part of grace can fulfil that role and does so really well.
the two fears that drew expresses are not a problem for us. everyone feels and is part of the community and can bring who they are - gifts and struggles - to the table. and no one is a professional or paid. i actually think it's a liberating position for people who are ordained to be in a community that they don't lead. it enables them to feel and be human like everyone else rather than the expert. and overall we are a community where you have to take responsibility for your faith - there's no dependency, which i think can be a real issue in many churches.
i remember a discussion at grace around ordination a while back over coffee and someone said "either we all get ordained or none of us get ordained" which was amusing at the time but does capture the sense that as a community leadership is shared and owned and not something we expect an outside professional to do for us.
so that's the community i'm part of and how we work it out.
more widely the emerging church is forever talking about this issue. some within the emerging church are embracing the opportunities to get trained and ordained to fulfil their sense of calling/vocation. the anglican church has smartly opened up a new pathway for ordination for what it is calling pioneer ministers and quite a lot of people i know are going to get ordained via that route. the thinking is that the current training and so in is really aimed at pastor/teacher sort of gifting. but pioneers might have and need a very different set of skills and approach and training. i think this is a great move and suspect it will end up changing the landscape. the danger is that these pioneers are having to slot into an institution that has older understandings of leadership and doesn't yet know how to rethink or re-imagine them. there are unlikely to be paid jobs for a lot of these pioneers and in my heart i think that's a good thing as they will have to genuinely pioneer new things on the margins, albeit with the blessing of the church, and grow things that are self sustaining. others within the emerging church are really quite anti the whole ordination thing, emphasising the body of christ and its priestly callng in all areas of life. i don't want to rehearse the debate here. but i think it is an important one. i tend to be pragmatic and want both/and. i think we need people inside the structures and denominations with a calling to renew, pioneer and effect change - to be there you have to work with the system. but i also think we need people who are not prepared to play that game and want to do stuff on the edges and margins. if you get renewal flowing in both directions that strikes me as a good thing! that's why i want to encourage people with both approaches.
the church is in transition so struggles about leadership are part of the wider cultural shifting landscape. those at home in the new environment will have the instincts about leadership that are likely to herald the future. but it will take a while to change.
dude. your 5 descriptions at the top are excellent. especially the sustainable part. those are some really good indicators and are reflective of the larger culture as well as critiques of it. by having those, you are reflecting the growing change in leadership style and substance. while at the same time critiquing those who still continue to be a part of the old model.
Posted by: josh | November 12, 2007 at 07:08 PM
thank you for sharing this. As someone leading a missional community that wants to grow up to be like grace (hehe), I have often looked to your community for inspiration. Many of the communities we read about are almost as young as ours so it's nice to see something like this that has sustained itself for so long - i.e. you're living it and it's so great to see.
we plan to come your way next fall and hope to visit to actually get up close and personal with what you're doing there.
That new Anglican track is really interesting, good for them!
Posted by: Makeesha Fisher | November 12, 2007 at 08:24 PM
hi jonny, interesting post, thanks. how do you tease out further the idea that you don't have any paid/ordained leadership, and yet you count yourselves as an Anglican congregation of St Mary's. Doesn't that imply a neccesary link? in other words, does it mean that Grace can only function as well as she does because she can lean on the structure that supports her? (I don't mean to imply parasitic, as I know the relationship betw. Grace and St M's is a mutual one; only to tease out the reality of the situation in terms of leadesrhip models - how would transfer, for instance, to a setting where there was no "host" church?)
Posted by: maggi | November 12, 2007 at 08:43 PM
Your name was flying all over the place at Andrew's Shapevine Happy Hour today...and they declared that everyone should know Jonny...so I'm stopping by!
I am looking to move away from the clergy/laity divide in my sphere (being ordained myself) and happily heard someone somewhere recently who said that being baptized into Christ was our ordination into ministry. I resonated with that...priesthood of the believers, and all, such a part of my background.
It is challenging, however, with the different kinds of churches and their liturgical structures and beliefs.
Posted by: Peggy | November 12, 2007 at 09:59 PM
thanks for doing this. i find your post very informative and challenging.
could you explain how creating environments is different from doing stuff? I really like your description of environmental but being raised in and working at a church with strong top down leadership, i am struggling to see the delineation between the two.
In middle school ministry, where i work, i often feel i create environments where i both did something for the environment to exist and the middle school students do something within it.
Posted by: Drew | November 12, 2007 at 10:07 PM
thanks for the comments everyone. i should say that this was a rather hasty post on a busy day (having agreed to do it i ended up furnituyre removing and then having a planning meeting). so please don't see it as my definitive view on ordination and leadership! that's partly why i chose to just tell the story of grace and preface it by saying that it's not the ideal or necessarily transferable but i like it.
maggi, yes it works because we are located within the anglcian structure in a parish church. we want to be related in rather than separate. if we were starting out as a separate church community i guess we'd either look to find somewhere or seek relational connection/blessing and explore what we needed to do to make that work. you have to work with your context. that's why i am supportive of people going the ordained route and those that are not - it just depends where you stand. with different circumstances i appreciate that we might have gone down a route of encouraging someone to be ordained (though i think they would play a different role to most and not be salaried) or of leaving or of a number of other options.
i do fear that emerging church has set up quite a number of churches that are too expensive to run. they seem predicated upon having a full time person. funding exists for a few years start up but the church can't sustain a full time salary beyond that. so i am very interested in ways of doing things that start small and cheaply and don't have that crisis.
drew i suggest you read the chapter by sally morgenthaler published by emergent (i can't remember the name - emergent conversations or something). that summarises many of the same ideas i have been having about leadership. and the book organic community below explores the idea of environmentalists - see a couple of blog posts back for some choice quotes. another way of saying it would be the web 2.0 idea that the community is the content so the role of leadership is to encourage and help create an environment where healthy community grows as opposed to doing stuff like teaching and preaching and training and leading and discipling etc - nothing wrong with those things per se but i hope you see what i mean.
here's a list contrasting CEO with catalyst from the starfish and the spider book which is a good example of how different instincts about leadership can be:
CEO | catalyst
boss | peer
command and control | trust
rational | emotionally intelligent
powerful | inspirational
directive | collaborative
in the spotlight | behind the scenes
order | ambiguity
organising | connecting
Posted by: jonny | November 12, 2007 at 11:03 PM
I confess I was the one who kept bringing up Jonny during my interview with Andrew Jones today on ShapeVine - those of us in the States who are liturgically inclined, except for Karen Ward (COTA) and a few others, no one is doing what's happening at Grace or putting out the kind of materials you find at Proost UK. This UK ethos really resonates with many liturgical types and it's exactly the kind of ethocs that the US Episcopal Church desperately needs as it implodes.
Posted by: becky | November 13, 2007 at 08:42 AM
Priceless - we have been passively doing a similar model close to where you are. Not out of choice but just that this is how it has organically developed. Reading you putting what is happening into print is almost a surprise that this syle of leadership is emerging. As part of the Anglican Church I appreciate being tied to something so historically solid but with the freedom of change, perhaps change to how the early church would have operated?
Posted by: Mike | November 13, 2007 at 05:12 PM
Terrific post, jonny. What a remarkable community you've established there in UK. I hope to visit one day.
A model of "paid clergy" seems absent from the NT. And though I'm not well studied in NT times, the earliest "paid" leader in Christendom seems to come along about 50 years after Christ's generation. I think you're on the right track.
Posted by: John L | November 13, 2007 at 10:45 PM
Some interesting and inspiring ideas from the practice of Grace but I think there some important unaswered questions about ecclesilogy and one or two hang-ups to be challenged in some of the other comments.
Firstly there are actually two priestly functions which would be missing if there were not a priest present - the first you have noted as presidency at the Communion/Eucharist, but you would also be missing within the Anglican tradition some-one commissioned to forgive sins.
You also quite clearly have a formal leader - he is your local vicar - and I suspect that there are actually informal leaders who exercise similar roles to formal clergy within most congregations - in a similar pre-ordination role it was clearly pointed out to me that I excercised that role within a democratic and participatory group - it was just not openly ackowledged. Many early alternative worship groups came a cropper by exposing such values but failing to realise what was really happening - not least at NOS.
the issue of paid leaders/clergy is frequently misunderstood as in two of the comments - in the Anglican tradition the priest quite specifically is the person appointed from outside by the Bishop to represent and be the link with the wider church so a certain set-apartness is an essential element and not something to be avoided.
The paid element is at a level so that clergy can concentrate their full energies without being concerned concerned with earning their living - it also has biblical links with Jesus commission to be fishers of men (sic) - he drew the first disciples from their occupation in order to free them from the task - and called them back from their occupation after the Resurrection - it is reasonable to assume that they were 'paid' in the sense that the wider Christian community provided for them.
thanks for an inspiring post about your practice/
Posted by: Tom Allen | November 14, 2007 at 10:43 PM
i think that structural questions around paid/unpaid can hide the real questions which emerging leadershp which IMHO are around
a) the future of God being among God's people (I've just done a post on this actually on my blog, around practices of leadership-in-community).
b) making plain the dark sides of leadership.
All groups have leaders. to not name them (whether as Vicar or anyother way), seems to me to be dishonest. Even in our smaller more adhoc Godatwork groups at Opawa we have titles like "keeper of conversation" or "organiser" to acknowledge that these roles are essential leadership functions.
i think for the sake of safety in spiritual formation, we need to be asking worse case scenarios: if allegations of abuse or financial mismanagement were made at say Grace, or Opawa, or any spiritual group how would these processes be heard justly. you don't need a "vicar" for that, but if the dark sides of leadership are not named, them the powerless will inevitably be f*cked over by the powerful, who are often made even more powerful by the absence of titles.
in terms of pay, i recall Steve Collins lamenting the lack of time given to stuff at grace a few years ago. one way to give time is to "buy time" ie give the gifted people space to use their gifts. that for me is still part of future of god among gods people cos it acknowleges the plurality of gifts.
in the end i think the NT gives a whole range of models - paid (Jesus, Acts leaders supported) and unpaid (Paul had moments of tentmaking) and metaphors (see the 6 in 1 Corinthians 3 and 4). i think that range is deliberate. no one size fits all. rather how best to participate in the unique corporate imago dei given to your context. it's great to see how that works at grace. thanks jonny.
Posted by: steve | November 14, 2007 at 11:34 PM
thanks again for comments everyone. i am at pains to stress that i am not suggesting grace as an ideal model to be used and translated everywhere else. but i like it. it works for where we are.
it's interesting that technically the vicar is our leader tom - paul roberts makes a long post on similar lines - http://alternativeworship.org/paulsblog/?p=194 . in that case he is a model of leadership in absentia - gives permission, but doesn't ever come, doesn't ask what we are doing, and meets with us maybe twice a year to catch up (initiated by us rather than him). i guess he trusts us?
it would be interesting to see what happened if that changed. we did have a situation of conflict with the st marys many years ago when the church was between vicars when we were read the riot act by a slightly power hungry curate over liturgies we could use etc. we contacted the bishop and got a letter of permission giving us the right to use liturgies that were experimental and the pcc relaxed and the curate left. of course it is possible at that point that the church could have clamped down on us and i suspect we would just have left and found a home elsewhere. or met in the pub over the road (which might be a good idea anyway of course).
i think my most interesting thoughts about leadership are less about paid/unpaid ordained/unordained and more about how leadership functions - i.e. things like it creates an environment of participation and gift exchange rather than dependency (which invariably is the default position of the clergy/laity construct that seems hard to break whatever you try). steve we do have and name leadership in grace for the reasons you say. we have a small group, an ethos to guard and people take lead (we call curation thanks to mark pierson) role in service planning and so on. but the leadership is still distributed and that's healthy i think.
my concern about paid leadership is that a number of emerging churches get initial funding, have someone full time, but after 3 years there is not enough strength in the communtiy to support a leader and lots of energy goes into trying to raise money. it would better to start small in a way that is more sustainable. do the full time thing later if it grows to a size requiring it.
Posted by: jonny | November 15, 2007 at 10:58 AM
As a point of curiosity, how do things like "pastoral care" happen at Grace? Is it more about an event or common meeting, do people receive counselling, etc. from priests elsewhere, or do members of the community take on the role of care in walking alongside? Is it one of these, all of these, none of these?
Posted by: andrew | November 15, 2007 at 01:47 PM
it's a small enough community that care happens relationally - care in walking alongside as you out it. and i think it's pretty good... i like it that it's that way rather than the professional pastor who cares. again that is the same problem of dependency - an expectation of an expert leader who will provide for my needs especially if i am paying his or her salary.
Posted by: jonny | November 15, 2007 at 02:25 PM
jonny, i think your point about sustainability is valid, but also contextual. i suspect (could be wrong), that london attracts a range of creatives. that means that grace has people with good jobs elsewhere and so your unpaid decentred thing works grand.
but, i doubt that much would happen if this model was used, say in a region, at somewhere like telford. there you might need to invest in paying someone hoping to kickstart something over time.
(which then comes back to my comment above about leadership-in-community, ie that the ideal in both contexts, is to lead in a way that builds community)
in other words, your model is perfect for your london (capital city) context. thoughts?
Posted by: steve | November 15, 2007 at 10:11 PM