On a flight back from Frankfurt on Sunday evening I picked up a copy of the Financial Times – not a paper I usually read. In it there was a short article about 'the art of leadership' by Peter Aspden.
He begins as follows:
For the last couple of weeks, most of the world has been debating a common theme: what combination of human qualities makes for an inspired leader?
He is referring to the re-election of Obama as POTUS. Basically, he argues that when looking to identify inspiring leaders we ignore the world of the arts. He then goes on, having explained himself, to say that “the current generation of arts leaders, in Britain at least, is outstanding,” and goes on to identify five qualities demanded by any high-profile leadership position:
4. A sense of mission
Sitting in the General Synod for the debate on women bishops (not if we should have them – that was agreed a long time ago – but how we should make it happen, given that some disagree strongly), it is interesting to see how these qualities of leadership might be seen here.
Boldness is not the same as shouting or being dramatic. Boldness has to do with courage and determination – a willingness to take hard decisions and to keep focused on the real issues. There is plenty of boldness here in Synod, but the structures we live with can militate against achieving the end most people want to reach.
Suppleness is not a term easily applicable to the synodical structures and processes of the Church of England.
Democracy is good. It allows the General Synod to be constituted in a way that does not reflect the Church of England itself. It also means that bishops, clergy and lay people are all involved in decision making in and for the Church of England. Which means that it comes with the downsides of democracy, too: viz, that decisions have to be negotiated through the structures we have and not those we might like.
A sense of mission should not be a problem for the Church of England. But, it is all too easy for us to get distracted by stuff that takes our eye off the ball. The essential mission of the church is not to build up the church for the sake of itself, but for the sake of the world for which God has poured himself out is grace and love and mercy and generosity and so on. Anything else is self-indulgent and misses the point.
Imagination is something the church should have in bucket loads. The prophetic call has always been (see Isaiah for starters) to imagine a different world, a different way of being, and to live now accordingly. We should be able – whatever our preferences or prejudices – to imagine how we and the world might look if we were to live differently. Having done the imaginative thing, we might choose to vote according to our preferences or prejudices, but we cannot duck the obligation to imagine.
So, where does this leave us today as we debate women bishops? I shall vote for the imperfect legislation and trust that the Church of England might be bold, supple, imaginative and missionary by getting sufficient votes to move forward. We have heard all the arguments and I doubt if we shall hear anything new in today's debate. But, for what they are worth, these are my reflections at this point.
Enough words. We shall see.