My friend Tim Neufeld, from my @U2 fan site and podcast days, posted his thoughts about an article published in the MB Herald detailing the mess that the Canadian Conference of of Mennonite Brethren Churches and their US equivalent, USMB, made of a recent book they published, and then quickly pulled and removed 3 pages, and have now republished - all without talking to the author, editor, or anyone involved in the publishing of the book.
Setting that mess aside, my point in mentioning all of that is part of what Tim wrote hit way too close to home here in my own church that I was compelled to document it below:
…but one value I have always prioritized is to honor voices of diversity, not just in theory but in practice. Many leaders are fearful these days. That fear shapes a leadership culture of defensiveness rather than openness. Voices of disagreement are threatening when denominations and churches face peril on multiple levels (declining attendance, closure of facilities, damage control after scandals, reduction of budgets and staff, challenges to old patriarchal assumptions, etc.).
Three critical qualities are needed in both local and national leadership as we hurl through the chaos and upheaval of these changing times. (1) Absolutely essential is the capacity for self-reflection and the ability to see oneself as others would see them. We are dead in the water without the wind of self-awareness. (2) Similarly, the need for empathy and the desire to empathically hear and feel those that are voiceless, marginalized, and victimized on the edges, without leaders projecting their own pain onto those that have been hurt by leaders' actions (red flag warning: “It hurts me to do this, but…"). (3) Finally, rather than belittling and controlling, leaders should focus on empowering members into new thoughts and experiences without feeling threatened and without seeing leadership’s primary role as theological gatekeeper.
When leadership acts out of fear, and without empathy, the community they are trying to lead are pushed to anger or apathy - neither of which bring peace or love back to the community.
Thursday July 14, 2022