Monday, October 29, 2007

Leadership From the Top

Episcopal Life Online is reporting today on the recently concluded meeting of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. I imagine much will be made of statement in response to the Draft Anglican Covenant, and perhaps of the response to the recent statement from the September meeting of the House of Bishops. However, I wanted to highlight a later note, something that says something not only about our Presiding Bishop, but also about the Episcopal Church.

The report on Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori’s remarks to Executive Council includes this paragraph:

Jefferts Schori also asked that the Council consider whether there is a way to conduct a mutual ministry review of her work. She suggested that such a review would be a way to ask the question of "how is this office reviewed and challenged."

The link in the paragraph is to a report prepared jointly by the Episcopal Church Foundation, the Office of Ministry Development, and the Church Deployment Office, and, as the report says, “Many Diocesan Representatives.” The report discusses the meaning of mutual ministry, purposes of review and evaluation, and procedures for such a review.

There is a section specifically titled, “Ministry Review for Designated Leaders.” It includes principles for preparation, and for the review itself. It calls for the review to include all orders of ministry from the “congregation,” and also participation of all the “designated leaders” of the “congregation.”

What I think is most important, and most challenging, about this request from the Presiding Bishop is her willingness to be accountable for her work for the whole Episcopal Church. We might debate how well we’re pursuing “mutual ministry” as a whole Church, but in many places it has been an important focus, and a successful one. Bishop Jefferts Schori is modeling for the Episcopal Church her sense of accountability to all she serves.

I would also suggest this can be a challenge to other Primates of the Communion. I assume all are willing to be accountable, but this is a call specifically to be accountable to all orders of clergy and laity in the province. This has been an important issue, visible in the Draft Anglican Covenant and in responses to it. The proposed focus on the Primates Meeting, and corollary proposed restriction of the Anglican Consultative Council, seem to indicate a pull away from including all orders of ministry in discernment and decision making for the whole Communion. The response from the Executive Council, reflecting the majority of reflections from the Episcopal Church, highlights this as a specific concern.

I think we should honor the courage and openness of our Presiding Bishop. She is open to review and feedback from all orders of ministry within the Episcopal Church. Let’s hope that others will be willing to follow her lead.

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