In the past few years, we have chosen many new bishops. Soon, we will choose a new primate. With these major changes, we have entered a time of critical reflection and discernment. It is a time to reflect upon the character of Christian leadership, but we must not evaluate our leaders apart from us. It is a time for all of us to reconsider our practice of and dedication to the essential values upon which our community and faith are based.
It seems to me that a few things are critical, right now. First, it is necessary to appreciate the leadership we have had. Our primate, for example, has led us in a very challenging time, maintaining a grace and commitment to us all that, though it was a comfort and inspiration, had to be quite trying to him, personally. As we make our transitions, we should move forward in a grateful spirit.
Second, as we have entered a time of generational change, we must identify and present, in a positive way, the essential values of our community and faith. This does involve a restatement of those values, but it also requires an evaluation of our faithfulness to them. How well does leadership articulate our basic commitments and values? Speaking at a fundamental level, how well do we proclaim and live the love of God in our community?
Continuing, we must also consider the aspects in our common life that weaken or obscure our essential values. In the context of present-day challenges, it is necessary to consider the ways the broader culture’s priorities have seeped into our teaching and practice. Particularly vexing, to give an example, is the way modern society distills life and ethics into financial and material categories. The language of business, in leadership and organization, has increasingly over-ruled the language of faith and community. This has had a corrosive effect on our life together and our witness to the world. It has had a devastating effect on both our quality of life and the well-being of our planet.
Leadership must call us into faith and repentance. The capacity to lead us into life is a critical aspect for our discernment of potential leaders. Their capacity and willingness to lead in this way is urgent. But we are not passively waiting for this call from above. It is a task and joy for us together. Though it is always true, in a time of transition, it is particularly important that the rest of us learn and lead with our leaders.