Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

A scientist’s advice on managing a team

Posted on: September 28th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Mohamed Noor

Managing a laboratory was one part of his job that Duke University biology professor Mohamed Noor wasn’t taught in graduate school. But he hopes to share what he has learned about management to help others.

Biologist Mohamed Noor says that the management aspect of his job as a Duke University professor causes him to lose more sleep than any other area, including activities such as teaching, seeking grants, publishing papers and getting experiments to work.

Why? Partly, he said, it’s because graduate training doesn’t prepare scientists for management. And management is important, because a laboratory really isn’t a physical space — it’s a team of people.

Noor hopes to help his fellow scientists in this regard, both on his blog, Science, Food, Etc. (link is external), and with a book he’s writing on the subject.

In an interview with Faith & Leadership, Noor shared the following advice and observations for people who are new to managing a team.

Communicate with the people you supervise

Fairly recently, I started a process where every week I meet with every single person in the lab individually. I have a half-hour block slotted.

I don’t necessarily use the whole half-hour block, but it’s slotted so that — “Here’s a time when you know you can find me, I know I can find you, and we can go over what things we’re doing.” I have a system for online questions or comments, and I update it every week, so that way when they come, it’s not, “Oh my gosh, what’s he going to ask me?”

I use Google Docs. They can see it. They can edit it. They can add things to it. They can look online and see, “Oh, this is what we talked about last time. Here’s something he added from last week that he wants to look into, so I’ll come ready to answer the question.” It’s also good for me. They come prepared, I’m prepared, and everybody’s ready to go and talk about what they need to do.

Those have saved my life. Because what happens is the graduate student comes into your office, and they largely expect you to be able to remember exactly where the last conversation you had with them left off.

But I have four Ph.D. students, I have two postdocs, I have two technicians, and I have a million other duties that are completely unrelated to any of them. I can’t just snap my fingers and pick up where I left off with any one of them, so it really helps to have a lot of notes where I can say, “Give me one second.”

I flip to that and I’m like, “Oh yeah, last time we were together we talked about this, this, this, this, this. OK, go ahead.” It makes it so our meetings are much more efficient.

Be cautious in hiring, especially in the beginning

You’re used to being part of this very dynamic group, and you show up at your new lab and here’s this empty room. It’s all too easy to then just start grabbing a bunch of people and say, “Oh, this person seems really good. Oh, this person seems really good.” Getting too many people too quickly is a recipe for disaster.

It’s much better to let it grow a little more organically, a little bit more slowly, and have people more staged. Don’t feel like you need to fill up the room.

It really helps, too, to interview as rigorously as you can. Have people in your lab talk to the interviewees. Now, some people get a little bit fearful of this, and they say, “What if somebody in my lab says something bad and they don’t come?”

On the other hand, if the person in your lab says something bad and they don’t come, maybe there’s a reason that that person isn’t a good match. Maybe the “bad” thing that they said was something like, “He likes to supervise this closely,” and that person didn’t like that. That’s not bad. That just means that maybe we’re not as good a match as it seemed.

Separate the personal and the professional

When you’re starting off as a new faculty member, it’s very easy to remember being part of the group and being part of the team. But you’re actually their boss now. You may think casual jokes and a little teasing are very innocent, but for them it’s not at all innocent, because it’s not in a symmetrical relationship.

It’s good to take a step back, keep a little bit of a buffer between you and everybody else in the lab, and very much think about what you say before you say it. And never say anything when you’re mad, like, “Go away.” Throw something in your office or something like that when nobody else is there.

The analogy I use for that is there’s an invisible hammer you’re carrying, and if you start swinging it around, you could hit somebody and have no idea. I’ve definitely made that mistake many times. I probably still make it, but hopefully less.

Block off personal time

Another important thing is to block off a little time for yourself or for anything family-related. It’s not like my family ceases to exist; they need time, too, and there’s times when I want to go to my kid’s baseball game.

Another thing that I started doing is I blocked off lunch every single day. If I didn’t do it, it might very well get scheduled away. I make it so that nobody can put an appointment there. I say, “No, I will have lunch.”


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, September 24, 2015

Nathan Kirkpatrick: Trapeze artists fly through the air, holding on to trust

Posted on: September 28th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Vintage poster of trapeze artists

Strobridge Litho. Co., Cincinnati & New York

Trapeze performances are a good metaphor for leadership, as so much of the work is inviting people to let go of what they know and to risk uncertainty, in the belief that something good is waiting for them.

I was reminded while reading Michael Higgins and Kevin Burns’ excellent biography of Henri Nouwen, “Genius Born of Anguish (link is external),” how much Nouwen loved the circus — in particular, the trapeze troupe the Flying Rodleighs.

In their daring performances, Nouwen saw a reflection of the Christian spiritual life — a necessary pattern of letting go, of gliding through the uncertainty of the air, only to be caught by a caring and waiting partner.

Nouwen loved it when one of the Rodleighs explained to him that the flyer can do nothing but trust that the catcher will catch him. If the flyer tries to catch the catcher, they both could be seriously injured. But if the flyer simply extends his arms and waits to be caught, then his partner will catch him and bring him safely to the platform.

Is it any wonder that Nouwen would see the entirety of the Christian life in a performance of the Flying Rodleighs? Is it any wonder that Nouwen would explore this metaphor so richly and repeatedly?

Indeed, the metaphor is also a fairly good one for leadership, as so much of leading is the work of inviting people to let go of what they know and to risk ambiguity and uncertainty, in the belief that there is something good waiting for them.

That’s what it means to lead visioning and planning processes: “With where you’ve been, now is the time to let go of what is comfortable. Leap into the future and imagine where God is calling us.”

That’s what it means to supervise and support the development of staff: “This is an opportunity for you to build on what you know and what you’ve done; this is a chance for you to grow. It will be unclear. It may be painful. But in the end, it will be good.”

That’s what it means to enter into seasons of change or innovation or to endure seasons of conflict within our institutions: “What has been is no longer possible; what will be is not yet clear. But we are confident that it will be better. So let’s move forward.”

If much of the work of leadership is extending these kinds of invitations, then this underscores the importance of trust between the leader and those she or he serves.

It is little surprise that studies have correlated high levels of trust within organizations with increased organizational performance. Likewise, these same studies have correlated low levels of trust with poor performance. (Because these studies have principally examined for-profit companies, they have evaluated performance in terms of efficiency and bottom-line profit, but one can imagine the corollaries in nonprofit and faith-based organizations.)

What leads someone to trust? Or, to ask it differently, why would anyone follow the leader?

There has been much research examining the foundations of trust in interpersonal and professional relationships, resulting in an expansive and sometimes conflicting literature. While researchers use different terms to describe factors that lead to trust, there are four elements that appear fairly consistently: competence, benevolence, transparency and reliability.

First, we put our trust in people we perceive to be competent and capable. We trust those who have the knowledge and the skills to get the work done.

Second, we trust people we see as having our best interest at heart, those who demonstrate a consistent concern for our well-being. We trust people who treat us as individuals — not as replaceable parts in a machine or “just a volunteer” or “part of the staff.”

Third, we trust those we perceive to be open and transparent, interpreting these qualities as signs of character and integrity. We believe in people who behave as if they have nothing to hide.

Finally, we trust those we see as reliable in their performance and predictable in their behavior. We trust the people we can count on regardless of the circumstances.

None of these four elements is much of a surprise. If we think about the times when we have invited others to take a leap of faith and they have said yes, my hunch is that our relationships with them were marked by these four things. So when we have invited them to let go and enter the ambiguity, they have trusted us that something better was waiting to catch them.

In these occasions of trust, there is one further element that is worthy of note. The trust that others placed in us was most likely neither spontaneous nor instantaneous but cultivated slowly. It was the accumulated result of scores of daily encounters and shared moments. It was forged by a tested and enduring fidelity.

We no longer live in a culture in which trust is granted ex officio, if ever we did. A 2014 Gallup poll puts public trust in clergy at a four-decade low.

For those of us who lead in Christian institutions, nurturing trust is now more than ever an indispensable element of our work. It is vital for our leadership and for the future of our institutions. Even more, it is vital for our witness in the world.


Nathan Kirkpatrick

Managing director, Leadership Education at Duke Divinity
Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, September 21, 2015

Steve Bell: Music is a tilling of soil

Posted on: September 28th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Music breaks open hard ground, preparing it for a seed to be planted, says the Canadian singer-songwriter and Christian musician.

Steve Bell, a noted Christian singer-songwriter, leaves it to others to parse the theological implications of his art.

But of this he is certain:

“I just know that when I sing and I play, things happen for folks that I can’t really control. They seem to be good for the most part, but I do see that there’s a tilling of soil.”

Music, Bell said, gets into and loosens hard, packed soil, preparing it for a seed. Beauty, phrases and rhythm are “gardening tools” that prepare soil for planting.

Beginning with his first solo release in 1989, “Comfort My People,” Bell, a native of Canada, has released 17 CDs and three concert videos. He has performed some 2,000 concerts across Canada, the U.S., India, Thailand, the Philippines, Poland, Bulgaria, Ireland and the Caribbean.

Bell was at Duke Divinity School earlier this year as one of the featured speakers for The Word Made Fresh, a conference on the arts, discipleship and Christian imagination sponsored by Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts. While at Duke, he spoke with Faith & Leadership. The following is an edited transcript.

Q: Tell us about your background, your major influences.

My father is a Baptist minister and served in Alberta when I was growing up. He became a prison chaplain when I was about 7 or 8 and spent the rest of his career doing that.

My major church experiences were in a prison. That’s where I grew up, in this raw faith environment, rough but wonderful. It was spectacular.

My mom has suffered her whole life with bouts of depression and anxiety. When I was a kid, the church, at least outside the prison, didn’t have a catcher’s mitt for that kind of woundedness.

But the inmates had no problem. It was a safe place for my mom to be sick. It was like, “Come hang with us losers; we’re all fine. You don’t need to be well here.”

It was very formational for me. It was, in a strange way, a safe place to be as a family. It was a faith environment that made sense and was believable.

When I left home and had to find my way as a person of faith, it was hard for me to find a church. I would sit in the back, and nothing connected.

It was too tidy. It wasn’t that I was cynical or anything, but it just seemed to be completely divorced from anybody’s real story.

Q: I guess there’s no pretense about brokenness when you’re in prison.

No, there really isn’t. The outward markers are these brutal tattoos that were done at home. They’re not nice or pretty or fashionable. They betray internal turmoil and brokenness.

Yet it was prison inmates that took me in as a boy and taught me to play guitar. They’d have jam sessions on Saturday afternoons, and when I was 8, 9, 10, 11 years old, I’d sit with them.

I love saying it, but I’ve recorded 17 albums and done about 2,000 concerts around the world in part because Canada’s most unwanted men took me into their circle when I was a boy.

Q: You’re known for your storytelling and your songwriting. What’s the relationship between the two?

Steve BellYeah, it’s what I do. I tell stories and sing songs (link is external). People, at the end of the concerts, often come up and say, “Oh, I love your stories.”

And they walk away, and they come back and say, “Oh, I like your music, too,” as if they’re almost embarrassed — “I forgot to compliment him on his singing.”

The stories are always evolving in terms of mining them for meaning. And it reanimates the song, for me at least, in a new way each time.

It’s an interesting ministry. It’s not very deliberate, what I do. I don’t have a particular theological agenda or a goal for my audiences. I’m not an evangelist in any traditional understanding of that word.

I just sort of feel it’s my job to go and tell my stories and sing my songs and go home, and whatever happens is none of my business in terms of the people out there.

Q: I read an interview where you said that songwriting is like “clipping a bonsai tree.” What do you mean?

Remember “The Karate Kid”? The old master is teaching the young kid about bonsai. You step back, you think, and you look. Then you come in, and you take off a leaf or just an end or a whole branch. And you fashion this thing.

A lot of people now in songwriting, it’s almost fashionable just to throw something out there. It doesn’t matter if your guitar’s in tune or there’s a rhyme scheme.

It’s about “being real.” Even in the studio, there’s almost a trend of ugly recording because we want to keep it real. It reminds me of the manicured bed-head look, with guys that always look like they just rolled out of bed but you know it took $500 of hair product to look like that.

I’ve always loved thoughtful crafts. I’ll write a song, but I’ll endlessly edit it until it’s recorded, and then I consider it done. It’s always about coming back and just dropping a syllable, adding a syllable, little things, until that unrefined, sort of natural wild growth becomes a thing of crafted beauty.

Q: What, for you, is the role of Christian theology in art and music?

That’s hard to answer. I’m not that thoughtful about what I do or why I do it. I just kind of do it.

I’m here working with Malcolm Guite and Jeremy Begbie. They have seriously thought about not only what they do and why they do it but how it works. Begbie understands how music works, theologically and otherwise. And he’s thought that through, and he can write and he can speak about that.

I’d have no idea. I just know that when I sing and I play, things happen for folks that I can’t really control. They seem to be good for the most part, but I do see that there’s a tilling of soil.

Music has a way of going into hard, packed soil. It loosens it and prepares it for a seed that wouldn’t otherwise be. So I see a lot of beauty, phrases, rhythm. These things are all gardening tools to prepare soil for something that someone else is going to drop in there. That’s how I see what I do.

Also, my stories are very particular about “this happened” and “this happened” and “this happened.” But in the songs I sing, none of that is in the song.

The song gathers up the story, but it remains a piece that doesn’t need the story. Therefore, it’s sort of “Insert self here.”

What I try to do is mine my own story for meaning, sing the song, and then get out of the way.

Our lives are meaningful, but not necessarily dramatic. A lot of the great meaning doesn’t come out of the dramas. It just comes out of attending quietly and patiently.

My work has been, to some degree, learning how to do that with my own life and then doing it publicly.

Q: Where does imagination and skill come into play in songwriting?

I just came from a lecture with Malcolm Guite, and he’s all about theology through the imagination. When you think about it, anything that we know starts with the imagination.

Imagination got reduced behind reason a few hundred years ago. It’s not that reason is bad — it’s something that we need, to know anything. But anything we know reasonably started because someone apprehended something they had no words for.

And the minute you put words to it, you by nature have reduced it. So there needs to be some humility to all of our equations, you know?

We’re not out there to decimate ignorance with our equations. We’re there, through the imaginative capacity, to really start to see that behind this flower or this vase or this table is a deeper reality that there really are no words for.

I might be able to write a poem or sing a melody that gives you a hook into that deeper reality.

So much of Christian theology and the arts, especially music, has been didactic. It’s been taking some big concept and bringing it down to a point that’s saying, “This is what you should know, and this is the answer,” rather than being more iconic, like icons — a small point opening up to a wide point.

Instead, we’ve done the opposite. The Enlightenment did that. It was putting a point on things rather than opening people up to a vast vista.

How do I take that mystery that I can sense in my bones? I know it’s there. I don’t have any words for it. But I need to reduce it to some door, something I can locate, something I can show you — either give you or get you to listen to.

It’s particular and it’s small, but it’s a door. It’s not an endpoint.

That’s the work of the imagination. How do I take that big thing out there and reduce it to a set of lines or set of melodies that will woo you to the possibility of the mystery?

But if I let you go through that door, I actually have to let you go through the door. What you find on the other end, I can’t control.

So it’s also about, to some degree, letting go of the outcomes.

Modern theology is all about controlling outcomes. We’ve been really afraid of the artist or we’ve been afraid of the rebel, because what if they’re wrong, what if our children get taken, all of that.

I understand that. I’ve got kids, so I get the fear and the vulnerability. But in the end, I need my imagination to apprehend what there are no words for, to come up with some kind of reduction that’s an alluring door that’s actually open-able and then let it go.

And then the making of that door is the skill. It needs to be done well. The medium, to some degree, has to be the message. If I’ve apprehended some beauty, some excellence out there, the doorway has to, in some way, be a true wooing. Otherwise, I’m just manipulating you or lying to get you to do something else. It has to somehow reflect, so that’s where your craft has to come in.

Q: What role does liturgy and tradition play in your music?

Huge. When my dad started working in the prison, he made good friends with the Catholic priest. They often did joint services together. And I was introduced to liturgical worship. I remember just the thrill of it.

There were always these moments that week after week would thrill my soul. I didn’t know why, but my heart would just sing at this moment or that phrase, but I had no idea why. And I think, to some degree, those were those doorways that were opening up to a possibility that I didn’t know was out there. They were truly icons, those moments.

I felt there was a big world on the other side of that door, and every Sunday, at these different moments, that door would open and you could peek through. Now, being a little Baptist boy, I wouldn’t have walked through. But I would peek through. I remember that very clearly.

The Catholic priest also served as the parish priest in town, and they had no music. My mom and my sisters and I ended up being the worship band at the Catholic church. Week after week, I sat there in the liturgy and bathed in it, soaked it in. It became part of my consciousness.

When I got on my own, I would find myself drifting into Catholic church some, especially midnight masses and folk masses, sitting at the back. My eyes would close, and I’d feel the nourishment somehow without having any words for it. I think it’s because, in essence, it’s art.

Liturgy is art. Even with Scripture, I started apprehending Scripture as being art, not a document. It’s meant to be art.

Q: Does liturgy influence your approach to music?

It does. If you look at the whole body of my music, you’ll see lots of songs that are very informed by or for liturgy and worship.

It shows up in a sacramental worldview, in the notion that experience itself is sacramental. It’s always pointed to something beyond it. What it does is, it transforms my everyday experience.

It changes my whole worldview to the point now where there’s not a moment that comes to me that I don’t believe is gift.

The question is, “What’s the gift?”

That’s what the contemplative work is. It’s to attend to the situation, attend to the moment, fully expecting that there’s gift in it that you need to be grateful for but also humbly accept, because you need it, because you are fundamentally, by definition, needy.

It just changes all of life’s experiences. So that plays deeply into my songwriting, which is why, if you look at my songwriting, you’ll sense agony and pain and all of that, and life’s struggle.

But you’re not going to get a lot of really dark songs, because in the end, I fundamentally don’t believe it’s dark out there. I don’t believe it. I think it’s bright out there.

That puts me at odds with the culture, because right now it’s so hip to be dark.

Not for a moment do I believe that there isn’t darkness out there. I’m not naive. I just don’t believe it’s the last word.


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, September 25, 2015

Church raises funds, asks Ottawa to loosen red tape for Syrian refugees

Posted on: September 21st, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

As of Sept. 21, St. Aidan’s Anglican Church had raised roughly $35,000 for refugee sponsorship after 15 days of its “Red Tape Challenge.” Photo: St. Aidan’s Church Facebook page

A London, Ont. church is raising money for Syrian refugees at lightning speed—thanks, at least partly, to a very Canadian household material.

As of Monday morning, St. Aidan’s Anglican Church had raised roughly $35,000 for refugee sponsorship after 15 days of its “Red Tape Challenge.” The appeal asks participants, after making their donations, to tear a piece of red duct tape and attach it to their vehicles, rural mailbox or other prominent place.

The point of the tape, says John Davidson, the St. Aidan’s parishioner who came up with the idea, is to pressure the federal government to reduce barriers to refugees in Canada – “to show Ottawa that yes, you can cut through red tape if you have the desire and the wherewithal, and you want to get the job done.”

The rector of St. Aidan’s, Canon Kevin George, says the appeal began after a sermon he preached on Sunday, Sept. 6—the Sunday after the first publication of the photo of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body on a Turkish beach.

“I preached that Sunday from James 2 about how we’re called to be a people who don’t just speak about faith but who act upon those things, particularly with respect to how James says that mercy triumphs over judgment,” George says.

Immediately after the service, Davidson approached him with the “red tape” concept. “He walked up to me and said, ‘I think I have an idea’,” George says.

Davidson is an accomplished fundraiser. In the mid-1990s, he pushed his son Jesse – afflicted with Duchenne muscular dystrophy – across Ontario, then walked across Canada to raise money to fight the disease. Davidson then founded a charity, Jesse’s Journey, which has since raised more than $20 million.

“People tend to listen” to Davidson when he stands up and makes a plea to raise money for a cause, George says.

Parishioners were already feeling very moved by the photo of little Alan, and a flurry of fundraising ensued on the spot.

“I think we were at $16 or 17,000 thousand dollars by the end of leaving coffee hour,” George says. “I’ve been doing this for about 20 years – priestly ministry – and I can’t remember ever doing anything where people responded so quickly with so much.”

By the following Tuesday, Davidson had made and posted a “Red Tape Challenge” Facebook page, with a short video piece. By the following Sunday, the appeal had raised $30,000.

“We had people in our neighbourhood who don’t belong to our church take the challenge,” George says. One of these people donated $5,000; George let his congregation know about the donation, and said he hoped someone in the parish would match it—which they did.

Initially planning to sponsor one family, the parish is now considering two, Davidson says.

Taking part in the challenge is easy, Davidson says, because so many places of worship are trying to raise funds for refugees. Donors can simply slip their donation, enclosed in an envelope, into a church mail slot.

“There are more churches than Tim Horton’s and they’ve got better parking,” he says. “So stick it in there, just write the name of the church—for me, I was making mine to St. Aidan’s, and I wrote ‘St. Aidan’s Church—refugee fund.’ They’ll know what to do with it.”

Davidson says he hopes the challenge, in addition to raising money, will help encourage Ottawa to speed up the resettlement of refugees, so that many more can be allowed into Canada.

“I’m all for a bit of scrutiny to find out who you’re getting,” he says. “I just thought, ‘Wow we’ve got to do better than that, when you look at Germany and the numbers they’re taking.’” Germany is expected to resettle at least 800,000 asylum seekers this year.

George says he and other organizers are heartened by Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s announcement this weekend of plans to, in his own words, “cut red tape” and speed up the processing of refugees. Ottawa will undertake new measures that will allow 10,000 Syrian refugees to be admitted by September 2016, instead of the federal government’s promise in January of doing so within three years, Alexander says.

But organizers think much more can still be done, George says. He points to a recent call on Ottawa by retired general Rick Hillier to bring in 50,000 refugees over the next three months—a sum that is really not as large as it may seem, George says, given Canada’s size.

“Fifty thousand represents just a little more than what we would put in a Blue Jays game—right across the nation,” he says.

Participants in the Red Tape Challenge are invited to post photos or video of their own torn red tape on Facebook or other social media, Davidson says. But he’s less enthusiastic about the idea of people sharing other people’s Red Tape Challenge posts without actually taking part.

“I said when it comes to sharing it – don’t,” he says. “Don’t share unless you’re going to do something yourself, because this is important. When it comes to sharing video stuff, this isn’t a cat playing a piano we’re talking about—this is real people in real trouble.

People are sharing things constantly … but are they actually acting on anything? That’s the question. And I have found in my past adventures action speaks a lot louder than words.”

George and Davidson say they hope the Red Tape Challenge will be picked up by other faith leaders in the London area, or even nationwide.

“Wouldn’t it be great if every church in this country was ready and able to raise that kind of money and say, ‘we’re standing by, send us people who need the help and we’ll help them?,” Davidson says. “And I think you’ll find a few years down the road these people are great contributors to the country.”


Tali Folkins

Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal.  His writing credits include work in such publications as The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.


Anglican Journal News, September 21, 2015

Diocese of Niagara cautiously optimistic about future

Posted on: September 19th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Diocese of Niagara staff,  Canon Christyn Perkons, the Rev. Bill Mous, Joanna Beck, Dean Peter Wall and Canon Terry DeForest chat outside Christ’s Church Cathedral in Hamilton. Photo: André Forget

The past decade has not been an easy one for the diocese of Niagara. Beset by financial woes, theological divisions over the place of gays and lesbians in the church and a series of lawsuits from parishes that left the diocese to join the breakaway Anglican Network in Canada, diocesan leadership has faced challenging times.

But these days, its leaders are cautiously optimistic about the diocese’s future. For one, a settlement with the Anglican Network reached in 2012 has ended crippling lawsuits and left parish buildings from three breakaway churches in the hands of the diocese.

Over the past few years, said diocesan Bishop Michael Bird, the diocese has been able to climb out of a financial hole “and the financial picture of the diocese is pretty stable.”

Canon Terry DeForest, vision advocate and director of human resources,  added, “we’re no longer just feeling at the mercy of those financial situations.” A decision was made, for instance, to turn real estate assets into funds.

Joanna Beck, treasurer and director of finance for the diocese, noted that while the general fund operating deficit was $2.4 million at the end of 2009, it was $848,000 in 2014, and net assets have risen from $1.4 million in 2009 to $4.4 million in 2014.

“We’re actually providing more services with, in some cases, the same or fewer people,” she said. “[We are] trying to get proactive and doing things such that the impact [of decreased parish revenue] is less… It means doing things differently and being innovative and out of the box.” For example, Beck noted that the diocesan synod has gone paperless whenever possible, which cuts down stationery costs and postage. It also has streamlined its annual reporting to simplify communications and avoid duplication.

The cause for optimism goes beyond financial matters. The diocese has a stronger sense of its mission, said its leadership.

Canon Christyn Perkons, director of congregational support and development, spoke passionately about the liturgical innovations being made by churches such as St. Christopher’s in Burlington, which has involved its parishioners in creating new worship services that reflect the concerns of the community.

“It’s a diocese that doesn’t just offer Book of Common Prayer or Book of Alternative Services worship,” she explained. “There are other [styles of] worship that reflect particular contexts that are unique to that area, and I think that gave people freedom and some space and the expectation to be actually engaged.”

The Rev. Bill Mous, director of justice, community and global ministries, said he felt energized by the ways in which churches are connecting with the communities around them.

“One of the important things that has happened over the past five years is a renewed emphasis on community partnerships and engaging our neighbours,” he said, citing ministries that churches such as St. Alban’s, Beamsville, Ont., have established. (See story, p. 1).

“I think it’s been energizing to hear those kinds of stories about how churches are finding new life by connecting with their neighbours and community agencies,” added DeForest. While he agreed that the culture of church had “shifted profoundly” toward being more outwardly focused, he acknowledged that much remains to be done.

The diocese also continues to face difficulties in other areas. One issue it has come under fire for recently is its handling of the sale of the building that, until 2013, housed St. Matthias Anglican Church in Guelph.  After the diocese sold it to a local developer, community groups complained that the diocese had passed over more community-friendly development options in favour of the most lucrative offer. The Guelph Mercury ran an editorial accusing the diocese of behaving corporately, “in the unflattering sense of the word.”

The parish had gone through extensive conversations on the matter and the sale of the building had long been public knowledge.

But there were still hard lessons along the way.  One that emerged was “an awareness that we did not have a good theological basis or lens through which to talk about property,” said Perkons.

The diocese has now created a group that will report to synod council on how  properties are dealt with. Money will be a consideration, “but not without having the essence of who we are as part of the conversation, too,” Perkons said.

These conversations have been crucial to the diocese’s most ambitious real estate decision yet: developing Cathedral Place (where the diocesan office and Christ’s Church Cathedral are located) into a mixed-use housing and office complex that will include a number of market-value condominium units.

The  Cathedral’s dean, Peter Wall, said the decision was a matter of sound financial stewardship. “Our aim was the highest and best use of what we had in order to guarantee ourselves a sustainable future for the next 50 to 100 years,” he said.

Wall acknowledged that the decision would have an impact on larger conversations taking place around gentrification in Hamilton’s downtown core, but was firm in his belief that it could be done without sacrificing the diocese’s integrity.  “Hamilton is exploding, and there are all the concerns about what that means and how we deal with growth, “ he said. “I don’t think we have an answer for it—we don’t understand it all—but we are trying to be present and trying to be open to people talking to us, and trying to be part of the ongoing forward-thinking solution rather than either outside entirely or throwing stones.”

Mous said the developer chosen for the project, Ottawa-based Windmill Developments, has a “triple bottom-line approach,” in which social and environmental effects are considered alongside economic interests. “It’s not just about profit. They strive to ensure the dignity of people, the care and well-being of the planet…”

In the end, for Wall, Mous, Perkons, Beck and DeForest, the questions of how best to manage resources and how best to navigate the church’s commitments came down to basic questions about the church’s purpose.

“It’s the shift from member to disciple, it’s the shift from parish institution to missional church,” DeForest said. “Those shifts are about getting at the core a radical re-thinking of us being for the reign of God, and the reign of God is about justice and peace and healing and reconciliation.”


Anglican Journal News, September 18, 2015

Cynthia Lindner: Multiple-mindedness and ministerial resilience

Posted on: September 9th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

A researcher at the University of Chicago finds that having multiple interests, passions and activities can help pastors thrive in ministry.

Every autumn when our new M.Div. students introduce themselves around the classroom table, they spread a banquet of experiences, passions and commitments.

Each is interested and able in multiple ways: one is a community organizer and biblical scholar; another is a contemplative and environmental activist; others are farmers and chefs, storytellers and comedians, soldiers and social workers.

But these students’ multiplicity is also a worry — or so they are led to believe, as they negotiate the academic and denominational processes that would shape them vocationally.

Recently, a representative of a mainline ordination committee reported the committee’s misgivings about a student. She was, in their judgment, “interested in too many things, and thus likely to be bored with pastoral work.”

I am sympathetic toward the church’s preoccupation with forming focused, committed and carefully trained leaders. Yet I wonder whether our present anxiety about institutional survival and our attendant efforts to train narrowly focused pastor-technicians is leading us to overlook a treasure in our midst: our multiply gifted seminarians, pastors and congregants.

With the support of a grant from the Louisville Institute, I conducted a modest narrative research project to investigate whether there might be a connection between pastoral multi-mindedness and innovative, sustainable ministry.

As an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with 20 years’ experience in parish ministry and pastoral counseling and another 10 in mentoring and teaching ministry students, I have deep respect for the work of ministry, and great affection and concern for those who are called to engage in it.

Drawing on that experience, I wanted to investigate what makes pastors effective. How do effective pastors experience and think about themselves, their work and their lives as ministers?

What habits of mind and heart make it possible for some pastors to thrive amidst the myriad demands of contemporary parish life while others — equally gifted and educated — become disoriented and dispirited in similar circumstances? In the project’s initial stage, I interviewed a dozen clergy deemed effective by their congregations and colleagues, using open-ended questions that invited them to describe their vocational lives. The hour-long interviews were taped, transcribed and studied for common themes and practices.

The pastors I studied offered nuanced narratives of devotion and challenge — inspired successes and abject failures. The stories were as varied as the tellers.

But what I found they held in common was the pastors’ awareness of their own complexities — their multiple and sometimes competing interests, perspectives and engagements — and the energy and creativity these engendered.

There were preachers who also edited magazines, pastors who were journalists and bloggers, ministers who also served in city and state government, Sunday worship leaders who performed in comedy clubs on Saturday nights, jazz-musicians-turned-preachers who still moved their congregations with alto sax hymnody.

The testimony of Scripture, history and tradition, as well as the narratives of pastors who thrive amidst the complex demands of religious leadership in our own complicated contemporary context, hint at a possible correlation between what I call ministerial multiple-mindedness, or ministerial multiplicity, and the effective, well-lived pastoral life.

Borrowing a social-scientific lens, these pastors’ testimonies are evidence that our experience of ourselves as persons — what we have called our “identity,” or our “self” — is not singular or unitary but is instead a constant integration of shifting voices and influences, reflecting our plural relationships to significant others and communities.

According to relational psychologists, each of us embodies multiple “selves”; this is what makes us able to attend to many interests and to occupy many roles simultaneously.

What this means for the life of ministry is that we have an endless capacity for imagining, adapting and inventing new possibilities to address the challenges of religious leadership in changing times and new places.

When clergy cultivate multiple selves rather than constraining themselves for the sake of conventional expectations of ministry, they report sustained resilience and generativity in their work.

I found that pastors whose sense of worth and agency is not reliant on a single, circumscribed role experience less compassion fatigue and are significantly less likely to avoid confrontation, capitulate or explode.

In fact, inevitable congregational conflicts were presented in the stories of our multiple-minded pastors as interesting opportunities for learning and growth rather than occasions of personal loss or disillusionment.

Their multiplicity may well be essential for funding pastoral and ecclesial resilience, creativity and courage in our complicated times. Perhaps seminaries and ordination committees should recruit students whose “multiplicity is showing,” and encourage pastors-in-training to hone their plural interests as strengths and gifts for new forms of ministry.

Practicing pastors might be encouraged to spend some of their work time developing a deferred talent for creative writing, counseling or community organizing rather than filling their calendars with congregational committee meetings. Or perhaps ministerial multiplicity might be awakened if pastors were to cultivate collegial groups across the professions, collaborating with doctors, lawyers and teachers.

Of course, multiple-mindedness is not the province only of pastors. Members of congregations, too, should be invited to explore and engage their own multiplicity — passions for preaching, teaching or spiritual caregiving, for example, that have long been neglected.

As I listen to our M.Div. students, they bring to mind that great cloud of witnesses whose complexity and diversity have spoken and acted God’s love and justice — the fisherfolk and tentmakers of the ancient world, the minister-scholars and physician-priests of our own country’s foundations, and the myriad creative and courageous local pastors whose ministries nourish, challenge and empower the lives and communities they serve.

If pastors and their congregations can affirm their common complexity and honor each other’s multiplicity, we might recognize and welcome one another as gifted partners in ministry, and engage our work in the world together with rekindled insight and innovation.


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, September 09, 2015

On the front-line of the refugee crisis

Posted on: September 8th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Refugees arrive at Keleti International Train Station in Budapest
Photo Credit: Diocese of Europe

[ACNS] Saint Margaret’s Anglican Episcopal Church in Budapest, Hungary, part of the Church of England’s Diocese of Europe, is on the front-line of the Syrian refugee crisis, with tens of thousands of asylum seekers passing through the city each day en route to Germany via Austria. The German authorities have announced that anybody fleeing the conflict in Syria who reaches Berlin will be granted refugee status.

At the weekend, members of the parish gathered at the city’s Keleti International Train Station to prepare and distribute aid packets to the refugees. “There were about 25 to 30 of us in all, everyone was enthusiastic and eager to help”, the Revd Dr Frank Hegedűs, the local chaplain and area dean said in a report on the Diocese of Europe’s website. “We felt that such simple things could make the biggest difference in the short term, although we also knew that much more would need to be done over the coming days and weeks.”

Another Anglican priest, the Revd Andy Oatridge was also assisting refugees at the station, and said that they were “lost in no-man’s-land.” He told BBC News: “They are caught between a rock and a hard place. They don’t understand what the government is doing. The government is trying to do all that it can here in Hungary but it can’t work without the co-operation of the other EU states.

Budapest -refugees -pic -1Refugees outside Keleti International Train Station. Photocredit: Diocese of Europe

“Hungarians are doing what they can. The Hungarian volunteers are brilliant. Just to see the number of people volunteering is just quite moving; but it is chaos. It is crazy.”

The volunteers from Saint Margaret’s Church put together about 130 food parcels containing fruit, nutrition bars, water, toiletries, and hygiene items, as well as a total of 400 kilos of apples donated from a member of the congregation’s orchard.

“Keleti is not unlike any major train station in Europe – always bustling,” Dr Hegedűs said. “On this occasion, the plaza in front of the station – as well as the modern underground transportation level – was filled with arriving refugees, mainly from Syria but also Afghanistan and other lands. . . The refugees appeared well dressed and groomed, though also obviously exhausted from their journey. Several reported being Christian.

“The language barrier was sadly formidable, but there was absolutely no sign of violence or disturbance anywhere. Police presence was minimal and respectful.

“The Saint Margaret’s team targeted mainly the many family groups in the distribution of their packets. Children and young families were everywhere. The volunteer team from Saint Margaret’s was by no means alone in its efforts. This part of the story has been underreported in the media. In some areas of the station there were nearly as many local volunteers as refugees.”

150908-europe -refugees -01Archbishop Justin Welby addresses the House of Lords

In London, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, used his position in the House of Lords, the upper House of Parliament, to question the British government’s announcement that they would bring in 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees from the camps around Syria over the next five years. “I welcome warmly this start in the response of domestic hospitality, which comes in addition to the very considerable work that we have done overseas through the overseas aid budget and the work of the Royal Navy,” he said.

But, addressing Government minister Baroness Stowell of Beeston, who had repeated in the House of Lords the statement given by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, Archbishop Welby said: “Does the Noble Lady accept, however, that 20,000 is still a very slim response in comparison to the figures given by the UNHCR and the European Commission, and to the other needs we see; and that it is likely that it is going to have to rise over the next five years, unless of course the driver – which, I hope she also accepts, is local conditions in the camps – is dealt with significantly?

“And does she accept that within the camps there is significant intimidation and radicalisation, and many particularly of the Christian population who have been forced to flee are unable to be in the camps? What is the Government’s policy of reaching out to those who are not actually in the camps?”

In response, Baroness Stowell thanked the Archbishop “for his leadership, and that of other faith leaders, over the last few days and the recent period while we have been observing such terrible scenes.”

She said: “We do not believe that this is just about providing refuge to individuals here in the United Kingdom; we must support people who are in and around Syria and are very much in need, and we have been doing that in a substantial way. . . As for the Christians being among those who are most in need because they are not receiving the support that others are, this is something for us to discuss with the UNHCR.

“It is important that when the UNHCR considers the criteria for those who are most vulnerable, those should include Christians who are not receiving the kind of support that others may receive.”

The bishops of the Church in Wales have issued a joint statement in which they appeal to churches to “show hospitality to strangers” and to help refugee agencies and charities welcome displaced families and individuals who have had to flee their homes with nothing.

Signed by the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan, his assistant bishop, David Wilbourne, and the diocesan bishops of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies; St Asaph, Dr Gregory Cameron; Bangor, Andy John; St Davids, Wyn Evans; and Monmouth, Richard Pain; the statement says that the bishops “have watched with horror and dismay the growing crisis involving refugees, and the number of deaths that have occurred of families and even young children as they flee war and persecution in the Middle East or Africa in the hope of finding a secure future in Europe.

“We recognise that the situation is complex and that there is no one easy answer to this situation.  We believe nonetheless that any and all responses should be characterised first by compassion and mercy; that efforts need to be redoubled to secure peace and justice in the troubled parts of the world, and that a generous but sustainable welcome must be offered to those most in need who seek a secure future among the prosperous nations of Europe.”

They have called on their congregations to join them in prayer “for all displaced and persecuted minorities and refugees” and also to demonstrate practical action, including donating to humanitarian work, organising “welcome groups” for refugees who arrive in Welsh communities, collecting and distributing essential items to refugees, lobbying for “the UK to take its fair share of refugees and adequately resource initiative to help them” and for churches to assess whether they have any property which could be offered to agencies as suitable shelter or accommodation for refugees.

“We are grateful that Anglican congregations across Europe, alongside other churches, are offering hope and practical help to refugees, especially in Mediterranean countries,” the bishops say. “Christian Aid and others are at the forefront of life-saving action in war zones and refugee camps, whilst some church groups in Wales are already preparing to support new arrivals.”

They add: “We hope as well that particular attention will be paid to the Christian minorities of the Middle East, who are often the target of the most fierce persecution, and that their distinctive needs will not be overlooked.  We pray that the nations of Europe, and especially our own country, have the strength, courage and wisdom to respond generously and swiftly at this time of critical need.”

150908-europe -refugees -02Canon Andrew White meets Iraqi refugees in Jordan. Photocredit: FRRME

In Jordan, the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME), which was established by the Anglican priest Canon Andrew White, known as the Vicar of Baghdad, is helping Iraqi refugees find “food, a roof over their heads, and hope for the future”.

“Visiting with families in their temporary homes, we see first-hand the conditions they are forced to endure,” said FRRME Relief Workers Richard and Christy Sherrod. “While it is better than living under the tyranny of ISIS, there is one thing to consider – most of these Iraqis are not used to this kind of life. They are educated and have worked hard to provide for their families. Many have built their own businesses and their own homes. They are engineers, doctors, lawyers and business owners who have enjoyed life with family and friends. To have all this taken away in the blink of an eye is a tragedy that takes faith and courage to overcome.

“One of our first projects in Jordan involved several families living in a church – Father Khalil of St Mary’s Catholic Church in Marka (a suburb of Amman) took them in after hearing they had been dropped off by the side of the road. Not knowing where to go, or what to do, these families found safety and comfort in Father Khalil’s church compound. As time went by, more families came to the church for refuge. Over time, the living space grew smaller and the time grew longer.

“FRRME has relocated several families from Father Khalil’s church to a home designed for community living in another area of Jordan. This building was brand new and ready for them to move in to. FRRME’s team on the ground furnished the building, arranged the move and, as a result, Iraqi refugee families can start to rebuild their shattered lives.”


Anglican Communion News Service, ACNS Today’s top stories, September 08, 2015

Jane Armstrong: People are indifferent to the church

Posted on: September 6th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Man reading a book and eating breakfast


A 2014 Canadian survey shows that many people don’t have passionate feelings about the church — either for or against. At the same time, many have misperceptions that might keep them away from church life, says the researcher who conducted the survey.

Jane Armstrong is a public opinion researcher and a layperson active in The United Church of Canada at the local and national levels.

So Armstrong, a principal at Jane Armstrong Research Associates, views the results of her research into religion from a particular perspective.

Jane ArmstrongOn the one hand, as a longtime researcher, she’s not surprised by findings that many people don’t really care about the church, she said, since that makes sense given what she knows about the evolution of public opinion.

On the other hand, as a person of faith, she sometimes feels wistful about what she believes is misperception about and indifference toward the church, she said.

One example of a misperception is the fact that almost 9 in 10 Canadians think most churches in Canada view the Bible as a factual account of history — even though that literal interpretation is likely to be held by slightly more than 1 in 10 Canadian Christians.

Another example, from Armstrong’s earlier research, is that people with no current church connection say they would be interested in going to a church that is welcoming, where faith is translated into action and where belief is not acceptance of dogma but rather a journey of ongoing discovery — but they are not convinced that such a church exists.

“I do think people want community and connection, and opportunities to step outside of themselves and care for others. But the idea of finding these things through church involvement — it’s a notion that isn’t really on many people’s radar screen,” she said.

Armstrong’s personal experience leads her to believe that it’s possible for religion to bring meaning to modern-day people and for membership in a faith community to be life-giving, she said.

At the same time, she knows that this is simply inconceivable to many people.

Armstrong recently spoke with Faith & Leadership about her research and its implications. The following is an edited transcript.

Q: Do you think the findings of your research would be significantly different if conducted in the United States versus Canada?

In other research that I have been involved in, I have found that Canadian values and attitudes are sometimes, if not always, on the leading edge of social change. This suggests that while a Canadian perspective on faith and religion might currently be somewhat different from an American one, it could possibly herald a not-too-far-off shift in American public opinion.

So I think our Canadian research could well be of interest to students of both Canadian and American culture.

Q: What kind of research do you do into faith issues?

Over the years, I have studied social values as they relate to faith and spirituality, and I have conducted a wide range of custom studies for denominations such as the Anglican Church of Canada and The United Church of Canada.

My work in the field has included everything from broad public-opinion surveys to in-depth examinations of what makes church people tick. We have also developed a tool that congregations can use to survey their own members about needs and priorities.

For the last several years, my firm has conducted research for The United Church Observer magazine (link is external) — which, by the way, operates independently of The United Church of Canada.

The Observer does research that they think their readers and others will be interested in. And certainly, I think The Observer hit a chord with the work we did for them in 2014.

We examined public opinion as it relates to organized religion, and as it turned out, people were very interested to learn that the conventional wisdom does not always hold.

Q: What was the overall picture of people’s attitude toward the church?

In contrast to the conventional wisdom that says that people are rejecting the institution of organized religion and replacing traditional loyalties with a “spiritual but not religious” point of view, our research for The Observer shows that there is a lot less passion on the topic than you might expect.

The fact is that many, many people are simply indifferent to religion and to the church. They see membership in a faith community as a personal choice that some people make, and that’s about it. Certainly, nothing to get riled up or excited about one way or another.

As I said, many are quite indifferent. Their knowledge of faith and religion is a mile wide and an inch deep. And they are in no hurry to learn more. They harbor a number of misperceptions, too — misperceptions that may actually be at the root of some of their indifference.

Q: What are the misperceptions?

Well, there are a number of them. For one, people don’t realize that there are significant differences among the denominations. I think this is a problem, because it means that most people think that all Christians hold similar beliefs, even when the reality is quite different.

Here’s an example: 9 out of 10 Canadians think that most Canadian churches view the Bible as a factual account of what happened thousands of years ago.

This finding is almost amusing, given that, in Canada anyway, a small number of Christians — just over 1 in 10 — belong to churches that actually interpret the Bible literally.

And when we asked Canadians, “Do most churches require their followers to obey a set of rules and regulations?” we found that 8 in 10 thought this was the case.

I suppose one could argue that people were thinking of the “golden rule” and nothing else when they answered this question. But I doubt it.

I think that respondents to this question were reacting to the idea of church as a paternalistic kind of agent, hemming people in with its need to be obeyed, with its requirements of membership, with its rules and regulations. Perhaps some denominations are still like this, but most of them? I just don’t see it.

Q: So people are rejecting or ignoring church, but they don’t really know what they’re rejecting or ignoring?

Yes, I think that is a good way to put it. I believe many members of the public may have an outdated view of what religion can be.

Sociologists use the term “religiosity,” by which they mean an obligation to adhere to customs and traditions, a requirement to follow specific rules and regulations, a respect for authority figures who have not necessarily done anything to earn that authority and so on.

I suspect much of the public thinks that the church aligns with this idea. They think that “religiosity” is what religion is about: out-of-date, irrelevant and anachronistic.

Not surprisingly, then, many people are rejecting religion — or, more accurately, ignoring it, giving it a pass without any further thought.

Q: Were there other points where you felt like there was a disconnect between what people thought they knew about the church and what the reality is?

Yes, there were other disconnects between perception and reality. And there were other kinds of disconnects, too. For example, we found a gap between what people think the church’s role should be and what they think its role actually is.

Respondents to our Observer survey said that of all the things the church might do, addressing the needs of the community should be the top priority.

And yet, what do people think the church really does? I think that the general public believes that the church mainly caters to its own.

This is because when we ask the public to name the reasons people go to church, they think that the decision has little to do with a desire to serve the community — let alone work for social justice or heal the world.

It is seen as a purely personal matter — to feel in touch with God, seek personal comfort and possibly ensure that if there is a heaven, they will go there when they die.

Q: They think the church ought to be out doing work in society, but they don’t think the church is actually doing that?

That’s right. On behalf of The United Church of Canada, I did some research some time ago in which we asked younger Canadians whether they would be interested in a church that had a number of different attributes, including being a place where faith could be translated into action — in other words, service to others.

The survey results suggested that people were indeed interested in the idea of a church that was focused on social action, as well as one that was truly welcoming to all and where belief was not a matter of dogma but rather a journey of questioning, debate and ongoing discovery.

But the irony was that when we asked our survey respondents whether such a church existed in their neighborhood, the answer was, “Definitely not.”

I do think people want community and connection, and opportunities to step outside of themselves and care for others. But the idea of finding these things through church involvement — it’s a notion that isn’t really on many people’s radar screen.

Q: What do you think church leaders can do about that? How could they use that information to improve the situation?

Well, I am a big believer in proactive communications programs. A few years ago, The United Church of Canada decided to invest in an initiative that they called Emerging Spirit.

The campaign built on the research findings I mentioned earlier, about people’s perception that there couldn’t possibly be a church in their neighborhood that had the attributes they might be interested in.

It included, among other things, a national advertising campaign and the development of an innovative website and social media program that at the time became an open forum for discussion and debate about life’s big questions.

They used bold imagery and plain language to counter the public’s misperceptions of what church can be.

For example, one of the ads featured a picture of a bobblehead Jesus (link is external). Another one showed a Bible with differently colored sticky notes indicating agreement or disagreement with Scripture passages. Another one showed two male figures on top of a wedding cake and the tag line “Does anyone object?”

There were many different images, and some were cheekier than others, but all were very much aimed at getting people to rethink their image of church. I thought it was a brilliant campaign.


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity,  Faith & Leadership, August 25, 2015

Called to be a bridge-builder for the Lord

Posted on: September 6th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Photo Credit: ACNS


Meet the Most Revd Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the new Secretary General of the Anglican Communion

What was a defining moment in your ministry up until now?

The defining moment in my ministry of building bridges between Christians and Muslims was the day I broke down weeping while presenting my essay on “The Status of a Non-Muslim in an Islamic State” to my class in Birmingham in 1981. It was crystal clear to me that the Lord was calling me to the ministry of promoting a culture of respect and understanding between these two religious communities.

What do you bring uniquely as a Nigerian to this leadership role of a global Christian communion?

As a Nigerian I hope to bring to this new role the ability to maintain highly productive, positive relationships with a range of stakeholders and partners in a multi-cultural, international framework of complex relationships and policy. In my twenty-five years as bishop, I’ve learned a culture of respect for people with different opinions and the promotion of peaceful coexistence through the discipline of dialogue.

Some have sounded the death knell for the Communion due to disparate understandings of certain biblical teachings. Is unity in diversity possible, can the Communion encompass all who call themselves Anglican/Episcopalian?

A major problem in the Communion is that we have lost the Anglican theological understanding of the Church as explained by Richard Hooker, William Palmer and other [classical] Anglican [theologians].

There is therefore a need to re-think: are we willing to be committed to this specific ecclesiological understanding or do we desire to leave and join other groups with a different theology of the Church?

I think we should stay within and fight for what will bring glory to the Lord and not divisions. If, on the other hand, Anglicans – lay, clergy and bishops – believe it is time to change this specific way of being church, a forum for well-informed debate should be provided for the three houses.

What do you see as the biggest growing edge for the Anglican Communion in the next five years?

The biggest area of potential of the Communion lies in the 70% of Anglicans who represent the Anglican via media, or “middle way”, as expounded by Richard Hooker.

I would like to improve networking, focusing on this group, and at the same time encourage every Anglican to be an agent of change in whatever part of the Communion the Lord has placed her or him.

Debating issues is a characteristic of Anglicanism. We need to promote this culture among all so that the bishops play their role better as leaders who listen and take decisions on issues based on what their members have had the opportunity to contribute.

What do you think will be the steepest learning curve for you personally?

Achieving consensus and seeing each other as members of the same family, [providing checks and balances for] each other and preventing arrogance and condemnatory spirits. This will certainly be tough but not unachievable.

What excites you about this new ministry?

We do not know each other in this Communion. I am excited to promote inter-diocesan and provincial visits to synods and conventions, and local ways of making the Gospel relevant. I believe the Communion will become healthier if there is a growing understanding of our diversity.


Anglican Communion News Service,  ACNS Daily Summary, September 06, 2015