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Thursday, January 04, 2007



I'm deeply skeptical about how participatory and inclusive the "offical" emerging networks really are, in practice.


Me I am all for participatory and inclusive (I think). I say I think because I find it yet hard to ignore that the leadership of a few and the contribution of individuals has often been quite key in the development of movements and ideas - something that I think is also seen in the biblical witness. Now to be sure this could be dismissed on the grounds that history is the record of the powerful almost by definition so that it will always read that way. But can we so easily dismiss the contribution of leaders, individuals, starters etc. as always something bad. I don't think so. In the church we certainly have to wrestle with the relationship between leadership and wider community and it is perhaps here that we need explore a bit more.


Me again:

Can the term 'elite' ever be used in a good way or by definition is it pejorative and so to describe people as 'elite' by definition makes it seem bad?

Or is the issues that the 'elite' seem to be made up of a particular 'type' of person in terms of socio or academic background?

Or is the issue that some people 'lead' - and can we actually get around this - need we, should we? See earlier comment.

Right - away to do PhD study - blast that makes me an 'elite' - maybe I am just defending my position in these comments?


I've noticed myself that those in leadership in church tend to be those deemed successful by society at large. While my first reaction is how far away that is from the illiterate fishermen Jesus chose to found His Church with, I also agree with Stuart on contribution of leaders. Is it any wonder that people who are motivated to make the most of their gifts and talents in the world are the same people who do so in church and end up leading? Leaders lead - that's what they do.


Fernando - I would share your scepticism but would also want to remain optimistic about the levels of participation and inclusiveness that can be achieved.


Stuart & Talkrhubarb - I hear what both of you are saying and that particularly in the OT we see the single strong leader whom God appoints driving things forward.

Yet when we read the NT closely I think we can see leadership styles being developed which are much broader, more inclusive and more participatory.

That said I think Martins point is his quote about political movements is that is it is being "run" by an elite then those who "follow" or are part of the movement but have no or little input into the direction it takes can become dis-empowerd and disenfranchised. This I would suggest leads to either them joining a new movement or acquiescing to apathy.

We all probably know people who had a lot to offer in our churches who never "made it" into leadership and either left to do something else or gave up on church as a bad idea. Therefore my question is "are there ways of doing church leadership that can meaningfully involve these people and not just the usual suspects. Can church leadership be egalitarian?"


Hi Brodie

Had a wee smile when I saw the phrase 'when we read the NT closely' wondering if you meant by that a 'better reading is' or were suggesting a 'more academic reading' to which if I had been going to be mischevious I would said do you mean a more 'elitist reading'. Anyway - am not being controversialist or bad just smiling.

I agree that 'leadership' requires new understandings of how it functions and how it relates to the wider community it is part of - just not sure in practice how that works. Do think that sorting that out in a baptist or emerging context is important otherwise we can easily fall into a CEO style of leadership and management in Church which is elitist. Am about to read a chapter in the book by Fiddes about relationship of leadership to congregation so it may help.

If I was being mischevious - where would you point me to in the NT to see more inclusive styles of leadership?

Don't worry if I don't like you answers I will keep reading the blog!




Brodie, excellent thought provoking post.

Not having read Brian Martin's book I'm not sure excatly what the thrust of his argument is but he seems to be suggesting what George Orwell wrote in his book 'Animal Farm' when the farmyard animals hold onto this kind of utopian ideal to run the farm on their own without the help of Mr Jones. Before they know it, they've abused their power...

The leadership I'm interested in is self-emptying. Guess you could say, servant like. I reckon Paul, or whoever wrote the beautiful hymn in Philippians 2:5-11 turns everything upside down... or maybe the Gospel of John. I seem to remember the 'leader' washing his disciples feet.


Stuart said: If I was being mischevious - where would you point me to in the NT to see more inclusive styles of leadership?

Lynn says: If I was being mischevious - where in the NT does it state that leadership is male?
:::::::::::::::runs away ::::::::::::::::

(This comment was not a dig at any person, church or denomination; just stirring this up a bit; Brodie and me have had a few conversations on this topic. As someone who knows very little about the emerging church and what it stands for, I just wondered what their position was on this topic. Perhaps for another debate though Brodie, as it wasn't part of your initial post)


Stuart - as someone who is known for being mischevious myslef I guess in your comments I'm just reaping what I've sown!
By a closer reading I mean just that, so don't have an academic reading in mind, just one that pays attention to what we read. So my examples off the top of my head would be the Jerusalem church in acts and Paul's ministry. Now we could argue over if these leaserships were hierarchial or egalitarian, but they did seem to be inclusive. Paul inclusive I hear you cry - well yes, I get this sense from the greatings in his letters where he names many of his co-workers.


Phil - thanks for your comments. I think martin is making at least a couple of points. One is what you've picked up on and that is the issue of power. The other is that if a leadership becomes elitest than it is distanced from those it is leading or represents.


Lynn - there is no "their" in the emerging church, so your going to get a lot of differing view. That said to the best on my knowledge most, if not all, emerging churches would be very open to women in leadership. The other year when I was at Greenbelt we went to an EC service as a family that was run by a church from Bath - I think all the leaders at this church were women!

Margaret Sutherland

Interesting discussions - how or perhaps does the Latin form "elect" as often used in theological discussions link to the French form "elite"? Also, sometimes organisations etc that are set up are not in and of themselves elite/elitist but the mechanisms used to decide whether you can join them or not are in fact elitist, there's a difference here I think. Re participatory and inclusive - if it's truly inclusive do I have the right not to participate?

Margaret Sutherland

This thought has been niggling since I read this last night. Is there a thought through some of the comments here that learning (see use of words such as academic, intellectual, PhD, theology degrees, bunch of intellectuals) equates with being elite? If there is then I would like to challenge that idea. The acquisition of knowledge does not make someone elitist. How someone decides to use that knowledge and how someone acts, reacts and interacts with others may make them elitist but it is most certainly not the acquisition of the knowledge per se that has made them elitist. Does having a PhD make you elite? Not at all. It's interesting that as a society we often have little difficulty or problem with the idea of "elite" in art or sport for example but we seem to have great difficulty when it's about the cognitive domain. There are some cultural issues worth thinking about here too. We’re looking at this from a very Western/Scottish cultural perspective.


Margaret - I don't think the acquisition of knowledge is elitist, and the church needs those who have the capacity to think through and study many different issues. So having a PhD in itself is not elitist.

I would however see a difference if say everyone on your leadership team, or everyone in your church had a PhD. There could of course be good reasons for this - perhaps your church is on a campus with a high proportion of PhD students.

Most of us don't live and minister in such a context. Our churches are full of retired people, stay at home parents, office clerks, plumbers and yes lawyers, academics and well can you have a church without a doctor or two? My point / question is, do we provide opportunity for the least in our congregations to participate in the leadership of the church?

Margaret Sutherland

you see I don't see that what people are or what qualifications they have defines them as a person per se. So I think perhaps I'm having trouble with the idea that there are "lesser" people in my church at all, especially if there is an implicit suggestion that those in leadership or who have particular qualifications or a particular job are "greater" and we adhere to a hierarchical view of things. I think for sure there are a range of people in churches who participate or not to varying degrees and I have no doubt that their past experiences in life, family and work and how our churches are constructed will influence the amount of input people have/want to have..... and perhaps therein lies the problem - how our churches are constructed ie how we do learning in our churches........


Margaret - qualifications don't define our identity - I'm with you on that. What we've studdied does however contribute to who we are. For example the language I use, my world view have been influenced greatly by my studies. So if I'm with people from a construction background you as someone with an non-construction background might find it difficult to follow our conversation and thus feel excluded.

I'm glad you have trouble in thinking that there are lesser people in our churhes, so perhaps while we'd disagree on how we got there, we've both arrived at the same point, i.e. every person in relationship with Jesus has a contribution to make. Thus there is no room for hierarchy.

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