Justin Lewis-Anthony—The new archbishop of Canterbury should be a disciple rather than a leader

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In this way leadership is a myth, a story we tell ourselves over and over again in an attempt to make sense of the world around us. We look for leadership, because we expect leadership, because we look for leadership....

This is the plot of Shane, Triumph of the Will, Saving Private Ryan and practically every western every made. It is the founding myth of our politics and our society. It tells us that violence works, and that leadership only comes from the imposition of a superman's will upon the masses, and preferably those masses "out there", not us. Williams recognised this: "When people say, 'We want you to give a lead', what they mean is, 'We want you to tell them, not us. We don't want to be led.'" In the end, leadership means doing beastly things, to other people.

The need for "leadership'" in our society is fatally flawed by its roots. Instead, the Christian faith has a better word for the ministry to which he, and every Christian, is called: disciple. It doesn't matter how many hyphens we tack on to the front of it ("servant-leadership", "compassionate-leadership", "collaborative-leadership"), it is still leadership, and therefore antithetical to the model, ministry and challenge of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. I don't want Justin Welby to be a leader. I'd hope that the new archbishop could be a disciple, and one who can help others to become disciples as well.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby--Rowan Williams* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyChristologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheology: Scripture

6 Comments
Posted February 5, 2013 at 6:30 am

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1. Catholic Mom wrote:

In the end, leadership means doing beastly things, to other people

Remind me never to engage this guy as a wilderness guide. 

There was a famous case in 1822 (google “Wreck of the Whaleship Essex”) in which a whaling boat which was far out in the Pacific was sunk by a large male whale which rammed it.  The main ship (with most of the supplies) sank, leaving the crew with what were essentially a few rowboats and the supplies they could salvage in the 10 minutes before the main ship sank.  The crew then had to decide whether to go west (in the same direction that Captain Bligh, in similar circumstances ten years earlier, had been able to get to land in only a week or so) or try to head home east (against the prevailing winds) to get back to the American coast.  The crew was afraid of cannibals to the west (because Captain Cook had been killed there previously) and voted to go east.  The young captain (a merchant captain, not a military captain) later said that he knew that was a mistake but he didn’t want to go against the crews’ vote in so important a matter. 

It took them over three months to get back to land and most of them died along the way.  In the end, they drew straws to see who would volunteer to be shot so the other crew members could eat them.  (You didn’t have to be in the lottery but then you didn’t get to eat the guy who got eaten.)  The captain’s nephew drew the short lot and was killed.  The captain was one of the survivors.  His sister never forgave him for allowing this to happen.  In the end, the captain was never able to get another job of any responsibility whatsoever (much less at sea) and spent the rest of his life as a night watchman in a warehouse because everyone realized that a captain’s job is to lead, not to act as a vote-counter while seeking consensus.

February 5, 10:22 am | [comment link]
2. evan miller wrote:

Balderdash.  There’s absolutely no reason why the ABC can’t be both leader of the C of E and spiritual head of the Anglican Communion and a faithful disciple of our Lord.

February 5, 10:50 am | [comment link]
3. Timothy Fountain wrote:

I’m not sure his line of argument makes much sense.  We’ll just start hyphenating “disciple” as well, I would think - we’ll wind up with “I’m a disciple-prophet” or other such constructs when someone wants to exert influence over others in the church. 

Jesus tells us to make disciples - that’s stronger than (but not exclusive of) “setting a good example.”

The idea that we are all just interchangeable role models doesn’t make sense in terms of I Corinthians 12, or NT words like episkopos and presbyteros, or even in terms of having orders of ministry in the church.

What he’s saying sounds sweet but you end up with a bunch of purported equals being led by the most assertive, narrowly interested personalities.  Think a small, “family” church.  Or the TEC House of Deputies writ large.

February 5, 11:17 am | [comment link]
4. Cennydd13 wrote:

I’m with you, Evan Miller.  ++Welby now has the chance to lead his Church and the Communion and to put them back on course.  He also has a chance to discipline errant provinces and to welcome new ones.  Will he have enough spine to discipline, and the grace to extend a welcome?  We shall soon see, won’t we?

February 5, 1:03 pm | [comment link]
5. Jim the Puritan wrote:

Trivia point:  The sinking of the Essex was the inspiration for Moby Dick.  And at this point the CofE and much of the rest of the Western Anglican churches are down at the head and taking on water rapidly.  A disciple is not going to keep the ship from sinking.

Pastors are called to lead and protect the flock.  E.g. Acts 20:28-31.  However, if the writer is saying that first and foremost, the ABC should be a follower of Jesus and seek to follow God, he is right.  If Welby puts God first instead of following his own agenda, God will honor that and empower him to lead.  That’s the promise of Scripture.  See Joshua 1:1-10.

February 5, 3:12 pm | [comment link]
6. Cennydd13 wrote:

Agreed!  And Archbishop Welby, you need to pay attention and LISTEN to ALL faithful Anglicans!

February 5, 3:32 pm | [comment link]


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