by Heidi Regier Kreider, Conference Minister
This reflection is third in a series on leadership competencies featured in training at the Kansas Leadership Center. WDC is partnering with South Central Conference to offer this training to congregational leaders through a Leadership Transformation Grant from KLC. Today’s column is on “Energizing Others.
Last week I attended the Constituency Leaders Council (CLC) of Mennonite Church USA. CLC meets semi-annually, a gathering of representatives from area conferences and constituency groups of MC USA. Also attending from WDC were Richard Gehring (Moderator) and Byron Pellecer (member-at-large).
The CLC is not a governing or decision-making body. Rather, it serves as a council of denominational “elders” who worship, pray, encourage faithfulness, share ideas and resources, process concerns, and offer counsel to Executive Board and the wider church on issues of life and faith. Relationships nurtured at CLC strengthen the denomination, and model God’s grace and truth in the midst of the divisions present in MC USA. (For a report on the CLC meetings, see https://themennonite.org/daily-news/brokenness-and-hope-meet-at-clc/)
CLC offers opportunity to practice leadership that energizes others, rather than simply promoting individuals’ agenda. Such leadership strives to:
Create a trustworthy process: CLC participants met in table groups, with guidelines for conversation so that everyone had opportunity to speak and be heard. Open mic times allowed everyone to hear from each table group. Together with worship and prayer, this cultivated humility, love, respect, and trust.
Engage unusual voices and Work across factions: CLC seeks to include voices from across the denomination, including minority or under-represented perspectives. Conferences and constituent groups are encouraged to send representatives who, in addition to holding leadership roles, reflect ethnic/racial identity, gender, and age diversity. The question has also been raised as to how CLC can create space for the church to hear the voices of LGTBQ members. CLC should be a safe place to speak and listen across our differences.
Start where they are: Often we make assumptions and rush to judgment about others rather than allowing them to tell their own story. At CLC, the range of perspectives and feelings shared defied stereotypes or easy categorization. Participants from across the denomination demonstrated dedication to God’s work, anguish where members of their constituency are alienated or in conflict, and trust that the Spirit is at work even in the midst of division and uncertainty.
Speak to loss: Tears were shed at CLC, because pain accompanies conflict and change. Rather than avoid or deny the emotions we feel in the midst of division or transition, it is healthier to acknowledge the losses that prompt people to feel anger, grief, rejection, or fear.
Inspire a collective purpose: Along with lament, CLC celebrated God’s faithfulness to MC USA, and God’s mission beyond MC USA. Ultimately we trust in God – not church structures.
Acts 15 tells of a similar gathering at Jerusalem where Christians shared reports of God’s work, listened, learned, discussed, debated, and offered counsel to one another. We have such opportunities at WDC assembly this weekend: Worship is planned to inspire a sense of shared purpose. Delegate sessions seek to follow a trustworthy process that listens for the Spirit speaking through diverse voices. Break-out sessions “start where they are,” learning from others across the church. May we be energized by one another and the Holy Spirit to grow together as WDC: A community of people who Witness and invite others to faith in Jesus Christ, Dwell in just and loving relationships, and Connect to God’s mission in the world.