By Cynthia Kittredge
To form leaders for tomorrow’s Church is a shared responsibility. The Episcopal Church Foundation has been encouraging and providing resources for that task for decades. I am grateful for its work to nurture lay and ordained leaders in the Fellows program and in all the dimensions of its activities.
Although we do not know exactly what tomorrow’s Church will look like, we do know that its faithful leaders must be people whose Christian faith is so integral to who they are that they can share the gospel with all kinds of people where they are. I call this being able to “set a table in the wilderness.” Even while Israel complained and doubted, God was able to do just that.
God calls Church leaders to proclaim the good news in unexpected and under-resourced places, in landscapes where the language of faith is not widely known. When a person is deeply saturated and formed in the Scriptures and symbols of the Christian tradition, she can creatively adapt and remake them in new settings — with soldiers on deployment, in an emergency room, with a couple in counseling, and within a congregation. You need to know the tradition inside and out to improvise, and that takes time, practice, trial and error, and analysis and reflection in community. Theological education at its best, in and beyond the seminary, teaches the tradition and provides this intentional practice among colleagues.
Lay and ordained leaders will be those who can offer hospitality in a diverse world. They can speak many languages, eat all kinds of food, and be at home in all kinds of homes. They will engage across boundaries of class, race, language, politics, and theology. Led well, churches and schools can seek out and enter into difficult conversations.
Tomorrow’s Church will need leaders who can find partners and make creative alliances with others in the arts and in industry, in community development, in psychology and medicine, and across faith traditions to work together to heal the world. The Church can uphold and support confident servant leaders who can elicit the leadership of others by honoring and developing the manifold talents of its members in fields outside the professional “Church.”
The Very Rev. Cynthia Kittredge is dean and president of the Seminary of the Southwest.
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One question, eight reflections
This is the fifth of eight essays in which The Living Church and the Episcopal Church Foundation asked eight of the foundation’s Fellows this question: How can we form faithful leaders for tomorrow’s Church?
The eight voices published here represent only a small cross-section of over 50 years’ worth of ECF Fellows whose work continues to focus on forming leaders for tomorrow’s Church.
ECF identifies and supports scholars and ministry leaders who are committed to forming the next generation of leaders, both in the seminary classroom and beyond seminary walls. The application process for the 2018 Fellowship is now open and the deadline is March 16. If you would like to learn more about becoming an ECF Fellow, be sure to visit the ECF website.