I heard a disturbing comment in a meeting last week, which was that the elected leadership of The Episcopal Church does not "represent" the membership of The Episcopal Church. That comment has caused me to reflect on the entire concept of leadership and elected leadership, especially as it relates to our beloved church.
Upon reflection, I reject the idea that our elected leadership does not reflect our membership. After all, our leadership, including our bishops, are elected each step of the way, from the parish church electing its vestry members and diocesan delegates and calling its rector, to the diocesan delegates electing its Standing Committee, General Convention deputies and its diocesan bishop, to the General Convention deputies electing the presiding officers and Executive Council.
The very concept of leadership requires leaders to lead, which means to step out in front of the body and bring the body forward through existing difficulties and to new horizons and new and newly reconciled relationships. Leadership is not about pandering to the anxieties of the members or maintaining the status quo no matter how good the status quo is perceived to be. The path is always forward and always new, even when we revisit older ways of doing things, because it will be a new thing, not precisely the same as the old thing, since time and change have come to pass.
It is our responsibility as members of the body to elect leaders who possess the intellect, skills and commitment to do the hard work of leading and the courage to boldly lead even in the midst of different opinions about the way forward. And, I think, it should be our expectation that our leaders will challenge us in new and unexpected ways to be open to and to listen to ideas that are unfamiliar and even uncomfortable to us.
I believe that our charge as both leaders and followers, indeed, as Christians who live in love in community, is to live into the teaching of Romans 12:1-8 (Today's New International Version), which reads:
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully."