Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Traditions in Leadership: How Faith Traditions Shape the Way we Lead – A Review

A couple of weeks ago, I had finished reading Traditions in Leadership: How Faith Traditions Shape the Way we Lead, which is a book with many authors from various backgrounds that was edited by Richard Mouw and Eric Jacobsen. 

Each of the author’s in this book represent their particular faith tradition and so are able to share how the traditions of Leadership Shape the way people lead.  Elliot N. Dorff is an ordained Conservative Jewish Rabbi. Eugene England was a teacher at Stanford and University of Utah and a Mormon.  Nonna Verna Harrison has a Ph.D. and is an author and professor and part of the Orthodox church.  Dolores Leckey is an author and senior fellow at Wookstock Theological Center and an author and lecturer.  Mark Keefe is a Benedictine monk, holds a doctorate in Moral Theology from The Catholic University and is a catholic.  Richard Mouw is the President of Fuller and an author. Cecil M. Roebeck Jr., is a professor, ordained minister and editor of Pneuma and represents Pentecostals.  Wilbert Shenk professor and author is a Mennonite representing that tradition.  Fredrica Thompsett is a well-know leader in the Episcopal Church and Richard Wood who became a Quaker and President of Whittier College shares from that tradition.


   Chapter 1: Jewish Models of Leadership. Dorff talked about the Rabbi, the Communal Leader and the Military Leader.  He also dealt with the recurring themes in Jewish Models of Leadership like: the role of revelation, institutional vs. charismatic forms, hierarchical vs. consultative, and boundary issues, followed by two examples.
    Chapter 2: The Mormon Lay Leadership Tradition. England and the Mormons are optimistic about human nature and possibility and consider that God who became God is helping his children along.  He gives two examples of “lay” leadership, people not a part of the hierarchy – Chieko Okazaki and Lowell Bennion.
    Chapter 3: Leadership in the Orthodox Christian Tradition. Harrison says, “that the Holy Trinity establishes a pattern of simultaneous hierarchy and equality” or hierarchy and conciliarity (collaborative and consensual).  She shares the varieties of leadership available as we imitate God or Christ, some of which include: a father, prophet, monastic, bishop and missionary priest.  Leaders are relational like the Trinity.
    Chapter 4: The Benedictine Abbot. An Abbot is the spiritual father or mother, and some of the images of Abbatial Leadership include: a shepherd, a steward of spiritual and material resources, a father, and a teacher teaching a way of life.  Qualifications include “wisdom in teaching” and “goodness of life.”  They hold together tradition and change, a zeal for holiness, an administrator, a steward, innovator and missionary.   
    Chapter 5: Leadership and the Three-Fold Office of Christ.  Reformers link patterns of Christian leadership to Christ’s three-fold office of prophet, priest and king in integral unity.  “Neither the prophetic nor ruling dimensions can be carried out in a healthy manner without the cultivation of priestly sensitivities” (136).
    Chapter 6: A Pentecostal Perspective on Leadership. Pentecostal leadership is spiritual power bestowed by God that is manifested in a leader’s humanity.  Every member is a potential leader and power comes through acknowledged weakness.
    Chapter 7: Leadership in the Mennonite Tradition: 1920-1960. With Anabaptist roots, leadership arises from the local community and is in service to the community.  There has been a move from tradition to professional through influential leaders.
    Chapter 8: Episcopal Images of Leadership Shaped in Community. Episcopal leadership is shared and ministry is grounded in baptism and shaped in liturgical worship.  Leadership is incarnate and a witness in church and society.  It mission centered and world centered and includes women.
    Chapter 9: Christ Has Come to Teach His People Himself:  Vulnerability and the Exercise of Power in Quaker Leadership. Quaker leadership is an oxymoron because “when the people lead, the leaders will follow” (208).  Quakers de-emphasize traditional leadership and concentrate on being suffering servants who listen to the Spirit through the body, focusing on the good of others and leading from vulnerability rather than strength.

Becoming a Christ-follower through a non-denominational network with little tradition has made me hungry to understand the different streams of tradition.  There is much to learn from each tradition.  As I think about current organizational theory and the flattening of organizations, I think the Quakers provide a history to discover the strengths and weaknesses of a flatter organization.  The book The Starfish and the Spider shares a hybrid model (decentralized and centralized) that looks similar to the orthodox model which has a mix of hierarchal and conciliarity aspects of leadership in the context of relationship.  I appreciate the emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit by the Pentecostals and teaching a way of life through example and words as learned from the Benedictine Abbots.  Grounding leadership in baptism (a whole new way of life) and allowing liturgy to shape leadership development as well as having leadership rise from the local community are helpful elements from the Episcopal and Mennonite traditions.  And the role of revelation mentioned by the Jewish perspective is vital.

What I would like to do in light of this reading is to take more time to look at the Trinity as a model of leadership, from a relational angle as well as the emphasis of how the Father, Son and Spirit contribute uniquely to shaping our approach to leadership as a community. Growing leadership from within the community and having shared leadership has been part of our short tradition.  I think it would be healthy to maintain this goal as much as possible. For I have discovered that this tends to work much better than when we bring in people from “the outside”.   

I would like to reflect more on the Orthodox, Benedictine, Pentecostal, Mennonite, Episcopal and Quaker traditions.  My goal would be to develop a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each of these approaches (maybe on a chart) so that each of these traditions can influence our inter-denomination community of faith.  When it comes to leadership, I want to learn from the past be shaped by the future (eschaton) and listen with our community to the Spirit so that we might be faithful to God in the present.

One Response to Traditions in Leadership: How Faith Traditions Shape the Way we Lead – A Review

  1. Pingback: Dream Awakener » A Primer on Today’s Missional Church

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