The mainline’s leadership crisis

Katherine Tyler Scott, a deputy from the Diocese of Indianapolis, who is also Managing Partner of Ki ThoughtBridge, tackles the leadership crisis in mainline churches in an essay today on the Washington Post’s Web site:

The Episcopal Church, like other mainline Protestant denominations, is not immune from the seismic political, sociological and economic shifts happening today. Most of us are experiencing “a time of no longer and a time of not yet”–an era of rapid, complex change; chronic anxiety; and heightened ambiguity. The comfort of the familiar is fading, and the movement toward an unknown future can feel terrifying.

In times like these, Christians expect religious leadership to help bridge the gap between the ideal and the real, and to equip followers to live out the Gospel in an environment of extreme polarities, i.e., poverty and wealth, insularity and inclusiveness, hostility and hospitality, homogeneity and diversity. The call “to love our neighbors as ourselves” is being drowned out by a barrage of shrill and hate-filled rhetoric. The distance between what Christians profess to believe and what they do seems wider than ever, creating a gap of dysfunction. There are few trusted religious leaders in the public square, whose rational voices, theological gravitas and moral authority can quell the incivility, incendiary rhetoric, and growing intolerance of differences. At a time when the leadership of the church is most needed, there is silence.

The mainline churches are finding themselves on the margins, declining in membership and donations. Some are in the grip of unresolved conflicts and divisions; others are locked in scandal. The main mission is hostage to a host of distracting issues. In short, the church is experiencing a crisis of leadership.

The top-down authoritarian model of trachurch is no longer effective in a world of new seekers, whose access to information is on par with the leader and where the experience of community is in cyberspace. What will distinguish effective leadership in the church is not just the dissemination of information; it will be the ability to communicate meaning and to translate that meaning into responsible, ethical actions that serve the greater good. Like other sectors, the church is being challenged to lead in new ways that are inclusive and require meaningful involvement, shared authority, a redistribution of power and new forms of community.

(Emphasis added.) What are your thoughts?

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