Leadership in the Wesleyan tradition
At the heart of Wesleyan theology is universal grace available to all and working prior to our own efforts. Therefore, Methodist leaders can move beyond boundaries of ethnicity, cultures, nations, systems, religions, and fields of knowledge with confidence that God is present to create, heal, reconcile, and transform. Collaboration and partnerships across traditional boundaries become possible for those who affirm God’s universal power and presence. In the pluralistic and diverse world of the twenty-first century, such partnerships and collaboration characterize Christian leaders anchored in a vision of God’s salvation made possible through grace.
The shaping of evangelistic communities of grace is required of Christian leaders in the contemporary world. While the need for individuals who provide direction for institutions remains, more attention to the formation of the corporate leadership of the church and its institutions is needed. Shaping congregations that influence neighborhoods and cities requires special skill in institutional development and community organization. Creating and fostering caring communities of witness, justice, generosity, compassion, peace, and hope is necessary if the church is to be a sign, foretaste, and instrument of God’s present and coming reign in both the seats of power and on the margins.
Relationships can be means of evangelism to facilitate the Christian discipleship of individuals as they are initiated into the body of Christ. Forming small groups in which people are held in love and held accountable for growing in grace is an essential practice for making disciples for the transformation of the world. Additionally, communities of faith can nurture relationships across boundaries of difference including race, ethnicity, language, gender, class, education, and ability. Nurturing such communities of grace requires careful attention to group dynamics and planning and leading worship that is truly liturgical -- “the work of the people” in the church and the world.
Reconciliation and conflict resolution skills are necessary for leadership in the contemporary world. God’s holistic salvation includes the reconciliation of all things and the removal of barriers within the human family. As a sign and instrument of God’s reconciliation, the church -- local congregations, judicatories, and institutions -- must confront conflicts, differences, and divisions with grace. The breaking down of homogeneity and the practice of radical hospitality require such intentional initiatives as multicultural education and sensitivity training; intentional experiences and friendship with people who are different from ourselves, particularly those on the margins; and engagement in global mission.
Leaders in the midst of diversity and polarization see conflict as an opportunity for reconciliation and growth in love of God and neighbor. Such a stance toward conflict requires a nondefensiveness born of self-awareness rooted in grace, a vision of community formed by reconciliation in Christ, and learned skills in facilitating communication in the midst of anger and frustration. The church is strategically positioned to counter destructive polarizations of violence, alienation, and retribution with a community of forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, and transformation. Meeting this challenge requires individual and corporate leadership formed and sustained by God’s presence and power at work in community.
From “Grace to Lead: Practicing Leadership in the Wesleyan Tradition,” by Kenneth L. Carder and Laceye C. Warner. Copyright © 2010 by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church (Nashville, Tenn.). Used by permission.