Leadership in the Liminal
It was fantastic to attend this Fresh Expressions gathering this last week = both as a practitioner and as Community Enabler for Sanctum.
Fresh Expressions as a movement produces a range of reactions from people connected to Sanctum. Some remember Archbishop Rowan's ecclesiological and theological input and the important role of the Sacramental and Contemplative Round Table. Others felt it was an institutional control on an emerging and missional movement that ultimately curtailed it by limiting the range of theological voices.
Many also forget that Fresh Expressions is ecumenical and now the Church of England has divested from it completely. People also note that many Anglicans involved in Fresh Expressions seemed to be from the gathered inherited networks (like New Wine and HTB) that we had emerged from, producing 'Fresh Expressions' that were not particularly Fresh - rather those inherited forms rebranded.
Fresh Expressions remains a complex place, although the Church of England's financial abandonment of Fresh Expressions has probably benefited the movement! Yes there were other Anglicans there, but I sat with Quakers, Church of Scotland, Baptists, Salvation Army folks, etc - all who shared elements of Missiology.
The first day was given over to Roy Searle and Alan Roxburgh, Baptist and Anglican, UK and Canada. If you are aware of their work the content will not be surprising, Missional, Local, Contextual rooted in the Missio Dei and deeply critical of the large gathered churches that have dominated the western landscape for the last 150 years. But this presentation was clear and unfiltered - with no awkward nods to church planting and gathered inherited modes being part of a 'mixed ecology'.
Without Church of England politics we could be honest together, and Roy and Alan made clear the step that others are too frightened to say - that, in their time frame of 75 years, the "programme based, church growth, inherited, gathered" mode has done more harm than good, and like intensive farming has damaged the ground so much that we now struggle to see a harvest. There was much more to their presentations, but I assume they will be available to watch at some point. Together they were fire, and apparently a book is incoming.
The second day was presented by Kate Coleman and Cham Kaur-Mann of Next Leadership. They both spoke powerfully of the challenges they had faced in their own Baptist tradition being not white, not male. There was some good reflections on the nature of leadership, but I came away questioning once again the language of 'leadership' itself and how it constantly needs to be deconstructed and challenged in its usage. I am not sure we actually got to anything radical or liminal.
There was also one unfortunate comment about neighbours of 'a particular lifestyle' - a common homophobic dog whistle. This left me with questions about intersectionality - Fresh Expressions has always been a movement that has included LGBTQI people even if it hasn't fully welcomed us. I suspect we cannot be fully liminal or missional until the voices of LGBTQI people are heard more clearly from the centre.
I do however look forward to whatever the Fresh Expressions team comes up with next.