at cms there is a library and new books are on display. one caught my eye a few weeks ago - ecclesial leadership as friendship by chloe lynch which i took home to have a look through. ever since i have been wanting to write a review and not found the time! so this isn't a review - more an enthusing.
i should say first up that it's an academic book, it's a work of practical theology that is amazingly thorough, well researched and written. it's not popular level if you know what i mean. she uses walter brueggenann's prophetic imagination (which is one of my favourite books ever and one that changed my life) as a framework for the book. this in itself is wonderful - i intuitively did something similar many years ago for an essay on my MA.
she offers a critique of leadership in the church as it is - i completely welcome that. she particularly lays into the managerial culture and language, but interestingly looks at other ways of framing leadership such as servant and suggests they fall short. incarnational mission and ministry is central for her which i love and agree with (i have returned the book by the way so can't check exactly how she puts it). she then offers leadership as friendship as a model or way of thinking through church leadership. i think it is a very original piece and i warm to the notion a lot. i read steve summer's book on friendship years ago where he explores the idea of church as a community of friends and the eucharist as a meal with friends. i loved that and it felt to me that this builds on that - she does reference steve in passing but i was surprised that link wasn't built on further. i am very drawn to ignatian spirituality and at the heart of that is the idea of friendship with god as at the heart of faith. if you put all these things together friendship becomes a really interesting way of reflecting on following in the way of christ together.
the big question i have is to do with power. is it possible to be in a leadership role and maintain friendship? it's a good aspiration. chloe does address that but i wanted more. steve summers does explore that in more depth in his book - his angle is whether friendships can work across different social strata.
evangelicals are in crisis i think when it comes to leadership and they are not alone - how many more cases of controlling, abusive leadership are going to come out? so it might seem weird to suggest friendship when it also feels like you can't trust people in leadership. but i think the problems are in large part to the way the cultures of churches are set up whether an overly clerical paradigm or an overly super hero paradigm where you don't question the leader (or whatever the big evangelical church leader paradigm might be). the problems too are to do with the heart being deceitful of course. but positing friendship as a paradigm for being a community opens up a different kind of culture. it's easier in a small community which to be honest i have always preferred and been part of. and it does open up some questions too.
at cms in theological education we try to create that sort of a culture with our team and with students and pioneers who have trained with us. i have wondered whether it is feasible to do but have often said i primarily like to think of students as friends who are fellow travellers in mission. this too is counter cultural to the expert or to notions of formation which seem to me to largely be about control and create almost parental kins of relationships between teachers and students.
anyway all that to say i wanted to mention and enthuse about the idea and the book and chloe lynch (who i don't know). being academic it's not a cheap book and sadly routledge are still not on perlego .