The General Synod in the church of England today was just 6 votes short of allowing females to become Bishops. According to Wikipedia “the synod is tricameral, consisting of the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity. There are currently 467 members in total.” The most interesting thing about the vote in my opinion was who voted it down. The Laity. It is easy to forget that ministry is people and people love their traditions. Much of a pastors greatest struggle in, with and among the leadership of the church is not theological as much as it is traditional. It reminds me of what Jaroslav Jan Pelikan said about tradition and traditionalism. “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.”
Whatever your view is concerning women in church leadership, I think we can at least agree that much of the time traditionalism, as opposed to right theology, is the killer of progress and relevance within a ministry context. Traditionalism favors no denomination it is just there like dark matter taking up most of the space without anyone even aware of it.
While I was reading this news report and watching some of the television coverage some things really struck me in regards to some principles of leadership that would probably fit within any leadership context.
Church leadership is always wrestling with tradition.
The Bishops and Clergy in the synod were in favor of female Bishops while the Laity was not. That is an amazing example of how leadership’s greatest hurdle can be past leadership. What was, is and will be taught from places of leadership always has a lingering influence in the present. I see this as a Pastor every week. Our congregation has had its fair share of pastors and leaders over a 30 year period. This plurality of teaching and shepherding within my own congregation has caused me to come to the conclusion that much of what I wrestle with in regards to outreach and in-reach can be attributed to the teaching our congregation received several pastors ago. Visiting the past is a good thing to gain understanding of the present.
Those not involved in church leadership are always wrestling with tradition.
Our congregation is full of people who need to be taught how to discern what and why they believe the way they do. Leadership is wise to make room for cultural and social change by incorporating its reality into everyday personal ministry. It might not be the adults in the pews who we should be primarily concerned about when it comes to leadership but the younger generations. What are they learning, hearing, and believing outside of Church? What can we learn about the probable future from our youth in order to ready ourselves in the present for change? Our congregations might not realize they are wrestling with tradition but it is our job as leaders to prepare them for the future realization of their cultural and social blind spots. No generation can see everything, we are all blind to some thing’s that the next generation will be sure to help us see if we are looking and listening.
What ever your position is on women in leadership or the Church of England’s decision to vote down the proposal for female Bishops, as leaders I think there is one thing we can all learn together from their decision. Leadership is rarely dealing directly with the real issue in real time. As leaders we are all watching and dealing with the TiVo like lag of traditionalism.