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Prophetic Leadership: What Is It And Does It Matter?

Prophetic Leadership: What Is It And Does It Matter?

Neil J. Dougall

Abstract

As I seek to be faithful to my ministerial calling, I address this question: What might it mean to offer prophetic leadership? An incident that made Scotland’s national news catalysed my reflection prompting three questions. (1) What does it mean to be prophetic? I show that it means to paint a picture of God’s alternative reality. (2) How important is prophetic ministry? I demonstrate that it is part of the church’s nature and vital in a post-Christendomworld. (3) Is being prophetic the same as being a prophetic leader? I argue that they are related but different. Prophetic leadership is a blend of being prophetic and being al eader.

Introduction
During the British general election campaign in November 2019, one of my ministerial colleagues,[1]I have been a parish minister in the Church of Scotland since 1991. Rev. Richard Cameron, confronted Jeremy Corbyn. The incident raised questions for me concerning the content and style of prophetic leadership. At the time, Corbyn was the leader of the Labour Party, the leader of the Opposition, and one of the two people most likely to become British Prime Minister. Cameron was a comparatively unknown figure.[2]That changed with this incident. It turned out he had been active on social media. Some of his previous posts resulted in lodging of complaints, and he has been suspended by the church and an … Continue reading This is how the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) reported what happened.

As Mr. Corbyn was telling reporters about a scarf given to him by the Who Cares? Scotland charity, Rev. Cameron shouted that he thought the Labour leader would be wearing an “Islamic jihad scarf.” He continued, “Do you think the man that’s going to be prime minister of this country should be a terrorist sympathiser, Mr. Corbyn?” he added. “Who’s going to be the first terrorist invited to the House of Commons when you’re prime minister?”[3]BBC News, Church Minister Who Heckled Corbyn Suspended Over Tweets (Nov 15, 2019), (Accessed June 12, 2020).

This incident left me uneasy. The content could be interpreted as Islamophobic, but was he speaking the truth? Were his statements prophetic? Also, the style was too confrontational for my liking. Does being prophetic equal taking a confrontational approach?

My first reaction was to write Cameron off as an embarrassment. Another part of me, however, suspected that my unease might have been triggered by guilt. This part wondered whether my discomfort partly arose from the unmasking of my cowardice. I could never imagine myself doing something like this. Was I uncomfortable because my reluctance to step out of my comfort zone had been exposed? Was part of my calling to confront people who have power, risking criticism and rejection in the process?

As I pondered this incident, I realised that it had the potential to act as a catalyst in my continuing quest to be faithful to my calling. Rather than attempting to form a conclusion about Cameron’s action, I decided to use it as a prompt for reflection. The fact that I remain ambivalent about what happened illustrates the complexity of both the prophetic role and of corporate discernment.

At much the same time, I was invited to speak at a forthcoming minister’s conference. The organiser had decided to use the story of Elijah as a lens to look at leadership. I was assigned 1 Kings 17, which begins “Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word’” (1 Kings 17:1).[4]All scripture references NIV (2011). I was immediately struck by certain similarities. Elijah, like Rev. Richard Cameron, was a recognised religious leader. Ahab, like Jeremy Corbyn, was a significant political figure. Both Elijah and Cameron publicly confronted the politician of the day and accused them of falling short of the standard expected of them. Both made others feel uncomfortable. Both presented themselves as speaking truth to power.

Cameron’s encounter with Corbyn, together with Elijah’s confrontation with Ahab, prompted me to consider to what extent my calling as a minister included being a prophetic leader. Did I need to be more willing to stick my head above the parapet and speak truth to power? If so, I wondered, was this an accurate depiction of the prophetic role in the Bible, and how could I be sure I was indeed speaking truth? As I wrestled with these matters and their impact on my calling, they crystallised into the following three main questions, which I explore in this essay.

First, what does it mean to be prophetic? It is not uncommon to hear some utterance or action being described as “prophetic.” The assumption of a shared understanding about what this means dissolves under scrutiny. One definition is that being prophetic involves speaking truth to power. What exactly is meant by this phrase? I am a Christian minister shaped by the Bible, so does this phrase do justice to what the Bible means by prophetic?

Second, how important is prophetic ministry? Leaving aside Cameron’s interaction with Corbyn, the manner of Elijah’s confrontation with Ahab can leave people feeling uneasy. Elijah, like many of the other biblical prophets, was an uncomfortable character. Should there be a place for this in the life of the church? If so, should it be regarded as permissible, desirable, or essential?

Third, are being prophetic and offering prophetic leadership different, or are the two essentially the same? If they are not the same, how do they differ, and in what ways might this difference be significant? Working through these questions proved fruitful, and I offer my conclusions in the hope that they will assist others as they wrestle with similar questions.

What Does It Mean to Be Prophetic?

This paper discusses two of the many defi of what it means to be a prophet: first, from the Hebrew Scriptures, “speaking truth to power,” and second, from the New Testament, “a word from the Lord,” which is an immediate, authoritative revelation given by the Holy Spirit. My sense is that these phrases are commonly used in ways that reflect fairly shallow understandings of their meanings. Rather than being inaccurate, they to fail to do justice to the depth that is found in Scripture’s use and understanding of the prophetic role.

Speaking Truth to Power

The phrase Speaking Truth to Power was first used in “a charge given to Eighteenth Century Friends” (that is, a speech that assigns responsibility and provides encouragement to a group of Quakers) and was used as the title of a 1955 Quaker pamphlet.[5]American Friends Service Committee, Speak Truth to Power: A Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence (Philadelphia, Penn: 1955), iv. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Elijah is an example of, if not the pattern for, prophetic leadership. On the surface, his role is that of speaking truth to power. As noted already, the narrative begins with him confronting King Ahab in God’s name.

At first glance, speaking truth to power is a voice of protest. It draws attention to some pattern (for example, a rule, a practice, an attitude, or an assumption) in community or national life that is wrong. This wrong continues unchecked and unchanged within the group. This can be for different reasons, such as the following three. First, this pattern of behaviour might benefit those with power, who are unable or unwilling to recognise the wrong it perpetuates. At the same time, those who suffer from it are too frightened or marginalised to stop it. In Bonhoeffer and King: Speaking Truth to Power, Deotis Roberts discusses how Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke out against anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, and Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke out against racial discrimination in the United States. Both were confronted by “collective evil in the political order” in which the church was implicated and “they challenged Christians to be true to the Lord of the church and to unite against the evils in the social order.”[6]J. Deotis Roberts, Bonhoeffer and King: Speaking Truth to Power (Louisville, Ken.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 6.

Second, the pattern of behaviour may be so deeply embedded within the community that the majority of people are not disturbed by it. Walter Brueggemann, who has written widely on prophecy in the Hebrew Scriptures, identifies “free-market consumerism and its required ally, unbridled militarism” as an example of “the unexamined, dominant ideology that encompasses everyone, liberal and conservative.”[7]Walter Brueggemann, Isaiah 40–66 (Louisville, Ken.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 14.

Third, this pattern might be recognised as less than ideal even by those who benefit, but it is so complex and widespread that the majority believe either that change is impossible or that the cost of change is too high. Climate change is an example of something that generates feelings of concern and powerlessness. Saying Yes to Life is theologian Ruth Valerio’s prophetic call to the church to recognise its potential to effect change. She states, “Together there is much we can—and indeed must—do.”[8]Ruth Valerio, Saying Yes to Life (London: SPCK, 2020), 22.

Speaking truth to power calls out what is wrong. It names the wrong, spotlights wrongdoing, and demands change.

In 1978, Walter Brueggemann published what would become a seminal text, The Prophetic Imagination. In the preface to the revised edition (published 2001), he said that in the 1970’s prophetic ministry was generally understood as a “direct, confrontational encounter with established power.”[9]Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, 2nd ed., (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 2001), ix. In his commentary on Jeremiah, he offers an example of this. “The prophetic tradition asserts what the established ideology does not want voiced. The purpose of Jeremiah is to present a counter view of reality, to say that which is most unwelcome to the ruling view of policy.”[10]Walter Brueggemann, A Commentary on Jeremiah (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1998), 231. This quotation comes from a chapter titled “Truth Speaks to Power.”

Prophecy’s function is that of criticism and finding fault.

In 2001, however, Brueggemann described this approach as “somewhat simplistic.”[11]Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, x. It is more accurate, he continued, to understand prophetic texts as acts of imagination that help to create an alternative reality and are not “necessarily confrontational.”[12]Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, xi. By 2011, Brueggemann had refined this further. He said that the task of the prophets was “to reimagine the world as though the character of YHWH were a real and lively and engaged agent in the reality of the world.”[13]Walter Brueggemann, “Prophetic Leadership Engagement in Counter Imagination,” Journal of Religious Leadership 10(1) (2011): 3.

The role of the prophet is to both criticize and energize.[14]Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, 3. Frequently, speaking truth to power focuses on the former and neglects the latter. It calls attention to what is wrong. It is an uncomfortable voice of protest that accurately communicates God’s concern in its demand that some practice should change. However, all too often it fails to offer an alternative. It might call for a different arrangement but is unable to describe what that might look like or to inspire people to make that a reality. It dismantles but fails to reconstruct. Richard Holloway, who was Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, exemplifies this. In his autobiography, he writes, “I was attracted to the prophetic voice of faith that spoke against structural or institutional sin.”[15]Richard Holloway, Leaving Alexandria (Edinburgh, U.K.: Canongate, 2012), 150.

A closer examination of the concept of speaking truth to power and Elijah’s confrontation with Ahab shows that Brueggemann’s more nuanced understanding is consistent with them, rather than the one-sided concept that is commonly used.

The 1955 Quaker pamphlet Speaking Truth to Power describes the evil of violence, militarism, and warfare. It is clear, however, that this is not what prompted the writing and publication of the pamphlet. The intention of the authors is neither to name an evil nor to call out those who perpetrate it, but rather to describe an alternative and nurture a movement that will make this alternative a reality. They say that “Pacifism has been catalogued as the private witness of a small but useful minority … Whether condemned or in a sense valued, pacifism has been considered irrelevant to the concrete problems of international relations.” In light of this, “we have tried to present an alternative and to set forth our reasons for believing that it offers far greater hope and involves no greater risk than our present military policy.”[16]American Friends Service Committee, v.

While it is true that the form of Elijah’s engagement with Ahab is that of speaking truth to power, its substance is something different. The issue at stake is the question: Who is God in Israel? Is it Yahweh or Baal? This choice is embedded in the first verse of the text in two ways: first, the name Elijah (a literal translation of the Hebrew is “the Lord is God”[17]Iain W. Provan, 1 and 2 Kings (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1995), 133. or “My God is Yah[weh]”[18]Donald J. Wiseman, 1 and 2 Kings (Leicester, U.K.: IVP, 1993), 164.), and second, in Elijah’s declaration, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives.” This question will be addressed through rain. In Canaanite religion, Baal had control over rainfall, and thus he could withhold or dispense fertility on the land and its people.[19]Lissa M. Wray Beal, 1 and 2 Kings (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2014), 230. Elijah is articulating an alternative reality, namely, that Yahweh rather than Baal is God in Israel. It is Yahweh who is the giver of life.[20]Ronald S. Wallace, Readings in 1 Kings (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1995), 113. Elijah’s words and actions demonstrate that this is the case.

On this basis, the confrontational dimension of speaking truth to power is accidental rather than fundamental. It is the means through which the alternative reality is demonstrated rather than the substance of it.

A Word From the Lord

The Hebrew prophets are often identified with social justice. The Elijah narrative, however, demonstrates that this identification is too narrow. Elijah’s concern is covenant faithfulness. He said, “You have abandoned the LORD’s commands and have followed the Baals” (1 Kings 18:18). Another prophet, Micah, offered the clearest definition of covenant faithfulness. It is “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). The prophetic articulation of an alternative reality has both a vertical and a horizontal dimension. The two dimensions are faithfulness to Yahweh and social justice.

Because social justice is less obviously the focus of prophecy in the New Testament,[21]Social justice is not absent. For example, Luke records Agabus predicting a famine, which prompted the disciples “to provide help for the brothers and sisters in Judea” (Acts 11:27–29). initially it might appear that the New Testament presents a different understanding of prophecy from the one found in the Hebrew Scriptures. Equally, the early church was a minority community, so it had little scope for speaking truth to power. Closer examination, however, shows that prophecy in the New Testament has a vertical and a horizontal dimension. Together these, as in the Hebrew Scriptures, articulate an alternative reality. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is the place in the New Testament where prophecy is most prominent. Most of his comments are part of the guidance he offers about corporate worship. Given the importance of corporate worship for Christians, it is understandable that this creates a lens through which prophecy in the New Testament is considered.

In the New Testament, prophecy is often understood as being “a word from the Lord,” that is, “a direct word from God for the situation at hand.”[22]Michael Green, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, 2nd ed. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1985), 210. Prophecy is an immediate, Holy Spirit- inspired revelation. This view is derived mainly from a reading of 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Prophecy in the New Testament, however, is not confined to these chapters, and the material they contain needs to be set against a wider context.

According to the New International Theological Dictionary, the basic meaning of propheteuo (to prophesy) is “to proclaim divine revelation.”[23]Moises Silva, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2014), 4:167.

In the gospels, Jesus is clearly portrayed as a prophet. This is explicit in his preaching in the synagogue in Nazareth. “He found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me’ … ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:17–21). New Testament scholar Howard Marshall explains that Luke saw Jesus “not merely as a prophet but as the final prophet.”[24]I. Howard Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1970), 128.

Luke Timothy Johnson in Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church[25]Luke Timothy Johnson, Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2011), 4. develops this idea. He contends that prophecy is the thread that holds Luke-Acts together. For him, prophecy involves “being inspired by the Holy Spirit, speaking God’s word, embodying God’s vision for humans, enacting that vision through signs and wonders, and bearing witness to God in the world.” He traces these features in the ministry of Jesus in Luke and that of the apostles in Acts. Johnson defines prophecy in a manner that is consistent with Silva’s lexical and Brueggemann’s theological definitions: “Prophets are human beings who speak to their fellow humans from the perspective of God and, by so speaking, enable others to envision a way of being more in conformity with God’s own vision for the world.”[26]Johnson, vi.

It is against this canvas that the particular material regarding worship in the Corinthian church should be interpreted. Prophesy was clearly part of the life of that church and featured regularly in its worship. The material in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 prompts two questions that are relevant for this discussion. First, In what way is prophecy different from teaching? and second, Is prophecy always a spontaneous and/or ecstatic experience?

Prophecy and teaching are similar in that both are intended to edify and build up the church. Prophecy is similar to speaking in tongues in that it can be “a message of knowledge” (1 Cor. 12:8) that comes from the Holy Spirit without conscious thought on the part of the person. However, unlike tongues, prophecy is always intelligible and does not require interpretation.

Wayne Grudem, whose Ph.D. looked at prophecy in 1 Corinthians, says, “If a message is the result of conscious reflection on the text of scripture, containing interpretation of the text and application to life, then it is (in New Testament terms) a teaching. But if a message is a report of something God suddenly brings to mind, then it is a prophecy.”[27]Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, 2nd ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2000), 120.

Sufficient ambiguity exists about what is recorded for commentators to reach different conclusions about how exactly this happened. For example, Gordon Fee says that prophecies are “spontaneous, Spirit-inspired, intelligible messages.”Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2014), 660. This view understands that it is the characteristic of immediacy that distinguishes prophecy from teaching. It is a “charismatic, impulsive activity.”[28]Silva, 4:170. Other commentators have a different understanding of prophecy in 1 Corinthians. For example, Paul Gardener believes that it is “unlikely (usually) to be entirely spontaneous.”[29]Paul Gardner, 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2018), 537.

Perhaps the concern over whether or not prophecy is always spontaneous distracts rather than illuminates. Roy Ciampaand Brian Rosner assist when they say that prophecy “is not about the passing on of traditional teaching and ethics, but the communication of a divine message that is understood to be especially given as a response to and tailored to the special needs and issues of those gathered to hear it.”[30]Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2010), 581. In a similar vein, Frank Thielman says, “Prompted by the Spirit” prophets “speak a particularly relevant message to an individual … or the church” and those messages “seem to come at particularly critical moments.”[31]Frank Thielman, Ephesians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2010), 274. The task of prophets is to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches—to be its eyes and ears.[32]Clifford Hill, Prophecy Past and Present, 2nd ed. (Guildford, U.K.: Eagle, 1995), 205.

This view is not concerned with the means by which the revelation arises. It can be an immediate insight or a dawning realization. It can come in an instant or as a result of reflection. It accepts that the Holy Spirit can and does give revelation in a variety of ways. The essence, as one of my colleagues stated, is “a prophet sees what others do not yet see and says what others are not yet saying.”[33]Peter Neilson, email, May 8, 2019. I see no reason, biblical or theological, why prophecy, either in the New Testament or in the church today, should be restricted to immediate, spontaneous revelations.

Based then on speaking truth to power in the Hebrew Scriptures and a word from the Lord in the New Testament, what does it mean to be a prophet? What is the prophetic role, exercised both by the church corporately, and by certain individuals within it?

The prophetic role criticizes and energizes as it paints a picture of an alternative reality. It imagines the world as God wants it to be and draws attention to those aspects that are not in accord with this. The prophetic role includes symbolic actions as well as words. More significantly, it also embodies[34]Chloe Lynch, “Prophetic Leadership: Making Present the Truth of Ecclesial Hope,” Journal of Religious Leadership 18(1) (2019): 57. this reality. The church is called to be an embodiment of God’s alternative reality. It must be, to use Leslie Newbiggin’s now-famous phrase, “a hermeneutic of the gospel.”[35]Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (London: SPCK, 1991), 227. All too frequently, the church fails to be this, which is why prophets must often first address the church before they can address the wider world.

How Important Is Prophetic Ministry?

If a prophet is someone who “sees what others do not yet see and says what others are not yet saying,” then prophets will frequently be out of step with their community. A prophet will regularly disturb the consensus and question the status quo. Prophets inevitably are uncomfortable people and might often be viewed as irritants.

Most ministers within the Church of Scotland are sole-pastors. They preach and lead worship in most churches every Sunday and moderate (that is, preside) over the Session (the congregation’s governing body). Most are pastor-teachers, who care for and nurture the congregation. Because prophets inevitably disturb the status quo, this role tends not to combine comfortably with being a pastor and teacher. It is not surprising, therefore, that the prophetic role frequently is marginalised within the life of the church.

In 2017, my D.Min. final project looked at leadership among Church of Scotland parish ministers. A survey I conducted of the ministry population included some questions that explored ministerial identity. I offered thirteen ministry descriptors (administrator, chaplain, chief executive, community worker, counsellor, evangelist, leader, manager, pastor, preacher, prophet, teacher, and worship leader) and invited ministers to select as many descriptors as they identified with. Words associated with being a pastor-teacher were the most popular, while “prophet” was the least popular. Virtually all ministers identified with “preacher” and “pastor,” but only thirty-nine percent selected “prophet.”[36]Neil J. Dougall, “Prepared for Leadership” (2018), http://ascend.chur- chofscotland.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Prepared-for-Leadership.pdf (Accessed June 10, 2020).

An absence of the prophetic role is not necessarily a problem. John Calvin described the roles of pastor and teacher as “ordinary offices.” He said “our teachers correspond to the ancient prophets.” He laid the foundation for a cessationist view by saying that “these three functions [apostles, prophets, and evangelists] were not established in the church as permanent ones.[37]John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia, Penn.: The Westminster Press, 1975), 4:3,5. This had a profound impact on ministry in Scotland. In 1643, in the Form of Presbyterial Church Government, the Westminster Assembly explicitly stated what Calvin had implied, saying that apostles, evangelists, and prophets are “extraordinary” offices that have “ceased.”[38]Westminster Assembly, “Confession of Faith” (Belfast, U.K.: Graham and Hislop, 1933), 304.

Given the context in which he was writing, Calvin’s position has an understandable logic. Calvin was a citizen of Christendom. In his magisterial study of the early modern world (1450–1650), Reformations, Carlos Eire explains that at this point, “Religion was simply there. It was inescapable. Everyone had to be baptized into the same church, and to observe its laws.”[39]Carlos M. N. Eire, Reformations (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2016), 20. Simply by being born, it was assumed that everyone was part of the church. Therefore, the role of clergy was to teach people the faith they were born into and to care for them. Calvin’s description of pastor and teacher as the normal and expected roles is consistent with this.

Within Christendom, church and state mutually reinforce each other. The state recognises the church, giving it status and certain privileges. In turn, the church gives its blessing to the state, providing it with moral authority and legitimacy,[40]Darrell L. Guder, Missional Church (Grand Rapids, Mich. Eerdmans, 1998), 6. functioning as “chaplains for national legitimacy.”[41]Walter Brueggemann, Cadences of Home (Louisville, Ken.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 116.

Within Christendom, it is much harder for the church to exercise a prophetic role. The state co-opts religion to shore up its position and enable it to further its ambitions. Brueggemann describes how, during the reign of Solomon, “God and his temple” became “part of the royal landscape” and “the sovereignty of God” was “fully subordinated to the purpose of the king.”[42]Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, 28. Writing from an anabaptist perspective (which views Christendom as an anathema), Stuart Murray argues that this is what happened when the church accepted the “Constantine invitation… to become the religious department of the Empire.”[43]Stuart Murray, Post-Christendom (Carlisle, U.K.: Paternoster, 2004), 129. The prophetic voice is marginalised and excluded because it is discordant. Instead of supporting, it criticizes. Instead of legitimizing, it offers an alternative vision. A church whose position is supported by the state finds it difficult to be truly prophetic.

The Protestant Reformation was prophetic. Luther, Zwingli, and many other reformers were Catholic priests.[44]Eire, 4. They sought to purify the church by closing the gap between what was taught and practiced. That is, they drew attention to things that needed to change and offered a vision of a church that was different. In this way, they were the latest representatives in a long line of critics who sought to reform the church from within.[45]46 Eire, 43.

Eire argues that it was the social, economic, and political realities of the early fifteenth century[46]Eire, 1–18. that resulted in shattering the monolithic position of the Catholic church. Crucially, however, this did not result in the end of Christendom but in its splintering. This is one of the paradoxes of the Protestant Reformation. Although it was initially a prophetic movement, it did not free the church from its alliance with secular power; it simply created different churches, all of which allied themselves with different secular powers. “In the new mini-Christendoms church and state were more closely knit than ever.”[47]Murray, 149.

It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that a new interest in the prophetic role has emerged as Christendom has ebbed. Because Christendom is a worldview, it is not possible to date it precisely, but it is widely accepted that it has been in decline since the 1950s. In Scotland,attention is often drawn to 1956, the year when membership of the Church of Scotland peaked.[48]Doug Gay, Reforming the Kirk (Edinburgh, U.K.: Saint Andrew Press, 2017), 12. According to Stuart Murray, one of the characteristics of the church in the United Kingdom in the twenty-first century is that it is a “prophetic minority,” which “is not absorbed and domesticated by the surrounding culture” and which expresses its vocation by being countercultural.[49]Stuart Murray, A Vast Minority (Milton Keynes, U.K.: Paternoster, 2015), 155.

APEST and Mission as Prophetic Dialogue are two examples of the way that the prophetic dimension has become more visible today.

APEST

When Calvin talked of ordinary and extraordinary offices, he was trying to understand the significance of Ephesians 4:11, “so Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.” A comprehensive reevaluation of the meaning and significance of this verse has been underway for a generation,[50]Michael Harper, Let My People Grow (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1977), 37. and it has given rise to the acronym APEST: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd (that is pastor), and Teacher. One of its main proponents, missiologist Alan Hirsch, asserts that Ephesians 4:11 describes the five-fold intelligence required for a healthy church. He calls this 5Q, along the lines of IQ and EQ.[51]Alan Hirsch and Jessie Cruickshank, “Activating 5Q” (100M, ww- w.100movements.com, 2018), 10. The five intelligences are apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding, and teaching. He argues that all five functions need to be present for a church to be rounded and healthy.

In contrast to a Christendom understanding of ministry which privileged the role of pastor and teacher, or at its extreme believed these were the only valid ministry roles,[52]Alan Hirsch, “5Q” (100M, www.100movements.com, 2017), 13. in a post-Christendom world, many argue that the roles of apostle, prophet, and evangelist are equally essential. The church needs to embrace all five if it is to be faithful to its calling of participating in God’s mission to the world.[53]Guder, 184, 214. Hirsch, along with his various coauthors, argues that while these five intelligences are expressed in specific ministries, they go much deeper and represent the essential nature of the church as God intended it.[54]Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2003), 171. His argument is based on an exegesis of Ephesians 4:7–11 in which he demonstrates “that APEST is an intrinsic part of the genetic codes of the church in the same kind of way that Jesus himself is.”[55]Hirsch, 7.

The prophetic characteristic of the church creates the holy people that stand for God in the world. When a community stands up for covenantal justice and calls all to the covenantal love of God, to true worship, obedience to God and his word, repentance, and to prayer, it is authentically church.[56]Hirsch and Cruickshank, 62.

The prophetic intelligence is concerned with maintaining loyalty and faithfulness to God.[57]Hirsch, xxxiii. It calls the church to be faithful, righteous, and just, and to stand for faithfulness, righteousness, and justice. It has a vertical aspect, in that it calls the church to be faithful to God and God’s standards.[58]Hirsch, 103. It has a horizontal aspect, in that it names patterns in the church and the world that are evil and calls for reformation. Both aspects need to be held together in order to avoid “reducing the prophetic gift into either the “mystical- charismatic” or “social activist types.”[59]Hirsch, 105.

Prophetic intelligence, Hirsch believes, is “obsessed with two questions: “Who is God” and “What does God require of us in this particular place and time?”[60]Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim, The Permanent Revolution (San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass, 2012), 30. These are crucial questions, but others are equally important. The prophet also asks “What is going on?” and “Who are we in God?” In asking questions like this, the prophet criticises and energises; that is, the prophet offers a critique of patterns and structures that are widely accepted and largely unquestioned and inspires with the “anticipation of the newness that God has promised and will surely give.”[61]Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, 3. The absence of prophetic intelligence leads to a church that tends to be pragmatic, which no longer expects God to speak, that lacks urgency, and that is marked by predictability, all too often lacking the uncomfortable edge, which wider society finds unsettling yet compelling.[62]Hirsch and Catchim, 34.

Hirsch helpfully describes the prophetic role as that of “questioner, disturber and agitator.”[63]Frost, 174. The model for this is Jesus, who is “the fulfilment and quintessence of the prophetic tradition.”[64]Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, 102. The gospels describe Jesus as “the unpredictable evangelist” (for example, his encounter with the Samaritan woman, John 4), “the story teller and question-poser” (for example, the parable of the good Samaritan, Luke 10), “the unconventional political activist” (for example, entering Jerusalem on a donkey, Luke 19), and “the awkward dinner guest”[65]Murray, Post Christendom, 314–315. (for example, in the home of Simon the Pharisee, Luke 7). A consequence of this is that the prophetic calling is one of the hardest. One minister said, “I think one of the hardest things is to be paid by the Church and in some ways you have to be prophetic against it.”[66]Anonymous conference feedback via SurveyMonkey, Feb. 2020. Because the prophetic word is uncomfortable, says Hirsch, it is “often rejected by people” making this “the loneliest of vocations and the one most open to misunderstanding.”[67]Hirsch, 106.

Part of the complexity of the prophetic role lies in the subjective nature of prophecy. The prophet believes that God has revealed something to them. As a result, the prophet is sensitive to concerns that, as yet, most people are unaware of. This means they are always a step ahead of others. It is equally possible, however, that rather than being a step ahead, they might be out of step. Rather than declaring the word of God, they might be giving voice to their own ideas, believing them to be what God is saying. As early as Deuteronomy 13, the need to distinguish between true and false prophesy is identified. Someone might believe they are speaking truth to power. However, as in the instance of Rev. Cameron speaking to Corbyn, while they might be speaking to power, what they utter might not be truth. How can others be sure that this, or any other act of speaking truth to power, is actually true? Who decides what is true and what it not?

An “innate subjectivity” is involved in trying to discern what God is saying. This means that prophets require some means of testing their insights and have the potential to “be volatile and divisive people.”[68]Hirsch, 106. They will function best within an environment that affirms the difficult questions they ask, while also being willing to test their perceptions rather than accepting them uncritically.

One of the conclusions Grudem draws from Paul’s instructions about prophecy in 1 Corinthians is that “the prophet could err, could misinterpret, and could be questioned or challenged at any point.”[69]Grudem, 69. It is essential, therefore, that prophets are part of a community that is willing to support them in their role and create a framework of accountability that will allow their insights to be tested[70]“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). and validated. When part of a community, prophets feel valued, which counters isolation and vulnerability. Equally importantly, prophets are also accountable to and balanced by the others, which helps moderate any subjectivity and keeps them grounded. Within that community, their gift and calling is recognized, which means that their insights are respected and listened to. Others understand that their responsibility includes testing and checking that the insight offered is genuinely a word from the Lord.[71]“Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test them all.” (1 Thess. 5:20, 21).

The community itself also needs to accept that its understanding of truth might be partial and potentially wrong. In supporting prophets within it and affirming their difficult message, the community must remain open to hearing uncomfortable and disturbing words about its worldview. In this sense, all prophecy is provisional. Insights are offered with conviction and humility.

Mission as Prophetic Dialogue

Stephen Bevans and Roger Schroder are Catholic missiologists who have written extensively on the relationship between theology and context. In Constants in Context,[72]Stephen B. Bevans and Roger P. Schroeder, Constants in Context (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2013). they describe three main threads in late twentieth-century mission theology: “mission as participation in the life and mission of the Trinity; mission as continuation of the mission of Jesus to preach, serve and witness to the justice of God’s ‘already’ but ‘not yet’ reign; and mission as the proclamation of Christ as the world’s only savior.”[73]Bevans and Schroeder, 348. They then propose a synthesis of these threads, which they call prophetic dialogue.

Mission, certainly within the modern period, has been intertwined with imperialism.[74]See, for example, the discussion of Christianity, civilization, and commerce in David Livingstone: Mission and Empire, Andrew Ross (London: Hambledon and London, 2002), 24, 25. As David Bosch in his seminal Transforming Mission explained, until the 1960s, “mission essentially meant conquest and displacement. Christianity was understood to be unique, exclusive, superior, definitive, normative and absolute.”[75]David. J. Bosch, Transforming Mission (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004), 475. Since then, a questioning of colonialism and a reevaluation of other religions has occurred. One response to this is pluralism, which can lead to the marginalization, if not the abandonment, of mission altogether.[76]Bosch, 481–3. However, because mission is such a fundamental feature of the New Testament, others have sought to reframe mission. Bevans and Schroder’s attempt reframe mission is called Prophetic Dialogue.

In Prophetic Dialogue: Reflections on Christian Mission Today,[77]Stephen B. Bevans and Roger P. Schroeder, Prophetic Dialogue (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2011). they develop this. The element of dialogue changes the nature of the engagement between Christian faith and the world. Monologue is replaced by dialogue, superiority by humility, confrontation by listening. They suggest that some of the characteristics of dialogue are “respect, openness, willingness to learn, attentiveness, vulnerability, hospitality, humility, and frankness.”[78]Bevans and Schroeder, Prophetic Dialogue, 29. At the same time, they contend that mission also must be prophetic. Mission remains a “call to conversion,” that is, “to imagine the world differently, to begin to see its possibilities with God’s eyes.”[79]Bevans and Schroeder, Prophetic Dialogue, 58. The prophet is someone who listens carefully to God and to the world. They then speak forth, announcing a message and describing how God wants things to be. “Prophets speak out in God’s name when people refuse to live lives worthy of their calling.”[80]Bevans and Schroeder, Prophetic Dialogue, 42. Prophets offer a critique of any injustice they encounter.[81]Bevans and Schroeder, Prophetic Dialogue, 60. They expect the church to be true to its calling, to be a community of contrast, and therefore to be prophetic by its nature.[82]Bevans and Schroeder, Prophetic Dialogue, 61.

In Mission as Prophetic Dialogue,[83]Stephen B. Bevans and Cathy Ross, Mission as Prophetic Dialogue (London: SCM, 2015). Bevans, along with Cathy Ross, suggests that the Emmaus story recorded in Luke 24 offers a template for mission as prophetic dialogue. Jesus engages in a pastorally sensitive conversation with Cleopas and his companion. At the same time, Jesus rebukes and challenges them: “How foolish you are and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25). Jesus then constructs for them an alternative reality as he reframes the events of his passion as God’s plan for the world rather than the calamity they believed it had been. “The rhythm of dialogue is not complete without the counter-rhythm of prophecy.”[84]Bevans and Ross, xvi. It is the prophetic dimension that transforms the dialogue from conversation to participation in the mission of God. The interest in prophetic intelligence as part of the five-fold pattern of APEST and in mission as prophetic dialogue is an indicator of the crucial place that the prophetic has for a post- Christendom church. Whether or not it is true that Christendom was an aberration,[85]Murray, Post Christendom, 74. one consequence of Christendom is that it neutered the prophetic voice of the church, preventing it from fulfilling its calling of giving voice to God’s critique and God’s alternative. It is unarguable, certainly in Scotland, that the church now finds itself marginalized and trying to discover its place in a society where it has lost the privileged position it once enjoyed.[86]Gay, 1–29.

Rediscovering its prophetic identity and calling, which in different ways both Hirsch and Bevans describe, offers the church a way of engaging with the world that is relevant and essential, and is consistent with its calling and history. Prophetic ministry should be regarded as ordinary, normal, and expected. It is essential if the church is to truly be the church and if it is to witness faithfully to God.

What Is the Difference Between Being Prophetic and Prophetic Leadership?

This essay has defined what prophetic means—to describe and embody God’s alternative reality—and explained the critically important role of the prophetic for the post-Christendom church. The third thing to consider is the relationship between the prophetic role and prophetic leadership.

In 2012, Barbara Kellerman, a professor of public leadership at Harvard University, published the provocatively titled book The End of Leadership,[87]Barbara Kellerman, The End of Leadership (New York: HarperCollins, 2012). which offers a critique of society’s obsession with leadership and of the leadership industry. In doing so, Kellerman, paradoxically, highlights the enduring role of leadership. Individuals and groups regularly experience poor leadership while consistently searching for leaders who will lead better. Mark van Vugt, an evolutionary psychologist, offers an explanation for this. He says that “leadership is a response to the need for collective action. How do members of a group decide what to do and how and when to do it?” He describes different patterns of leadership found among human societies at different points in our development. He states, “Leadership and followership are flexible strategies shaped by the interplay between ancient evolutionary pressures and modern environmental and cultural demands.”[88]Mark van Vugt, “The Origins of Leadership,” New Scientist, 198(2660) (2008): 42–43.

Leadership is notoriously difficult to define. There is, however, a measure of agreement that influence is a key part of it. For example, Peter Northouse, who has written one of the core texts, says, “Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.”[89]Peter G. Northouse, Leadership, 7th ed. (Los Angeles, Calif.: Sage, 2016), 6. Change is an inevitable aspect of leadership as the common goal will be something other than the present reality.

A prophet also attempts to influence people in order to bring about change. A prophet criticizes what is wrong in the hope that by drawing attention to this, it will cease, and a prophet paints a picture of an alternative reality in the hope that people will be inspired to work toward this image. Prophets exert their influence through word, action, and embodiment.

This does not mean, however, that a prophet is automatically a leader. The role of a leader is not simply to exercise influence; it is to use that influence so that a group achieves a common goal. This is a significant distinction that helps explicate the difference between a prophet and a prophetic leader.

In order to bring about change so that the common goal is realised, prophetic leaders require certain skills. Three of the most important ones are acting strategically, involving others, and building a coalition.

Acting Strategically

The calling of a prophet is to criticize and energize. Prophets draw attention to what is wrong and paint a picture of what might be. Prophets hope that by doing this they will influence people, who will, in some way and at some stage, change. Prophetic leaders will do more than this. Prophetic leaders will speak and act strategically[90]Warren Bennis and Joan Goldsmith, Learning to Lead (New York: Basic Books, 2010), 193. so that the influence they exert results in change. They consider how and when to speak to achieve the greatest impact. Prophetic leaders are not simply concerned with exerting an influence; they are equally focused on enabling a group of people to achieve the goal that has been identified.

Elijah in the Hebrew Bible illustrates this. The alternative reality Elijah embodies is that Israel’s peace and security are found through faithful obedience to Yahweh. His initial encounter with King Ahab, where Elijah declares there will be no more rain, leaves many questions unanswered. The threat of drought is intended to influence Ahab and the nation. At this stage, however, it is unclear how this will be anything more than a heroic protest or a pious fantasy.

As the narrative unfolds, however, it becomes evident that Elijah is a leader as well as a prophet. The drought has laid the necessary groundwork for a dramatic encounter with the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel, “a contest (which) is designed to press the people to choose.”[91]Lissa Wray Beal, 243. There Elijah demonstrates publicly and unarguably that it is Yahweh rather than Baal who is the source of life. “When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD— he is God! The LORD—he is God!’” (1 Kings 18:39). Elijah was not simply a prophet who influenced the nation, he was a leader who had the skill and ability to act strategically so that his goal (Israel turning back to Yahweh) was realised.

Rev. Cameron’s confrontation with Corbyn bears the hallmarks of being opportunistic rather than strategic. Corbyn was visiting the city where Cameron lived. No evidence has emerged that the confrontation was one part of a strategy that would lead to the change Cameron desired.

Involving Others

A prophetic leader aims to bring about change. An essential strategy is to create and nurture a prophetic community so that the envisioned alternative becomes a reality and its impact is magnified by being lived out in many lives.

This pattern can be discerned in the Quaker pamphlet Speaking Truth to Power. Its authors recognise that the prophetic vision (in their case, that of pacifism and nonviolence) may be deeply embraced within their own community, who are utterly convinced by it and who in turn exert a quiet influence as they live their daily lives. Their concern was to do more than this: “The urgent need is not to preach religious truth, but to show how it is possible and why it is reasonable to give practical expression to it in the great conflict that now divides the world.”[92]American Friends Service Committee, iv. The pamphlet was an attempt to create a movement of people who would move pacifism from the privacy of personal living into the arena of politics and public life. It sought to show the relevance of nonviolence in a world dominated by “violence, totalitarianism, and social revolution”[93]American Friends Service Committee, 11. and why “something other than military preparedness (was) needed to prevent disaster.”[94]American Friends Service Committee 13. The aim of the pamphlet was to create a movement that would change the nature of the U.S. government’s response to the threat posed by the Soviet Union. In that sense, it was not simply prophetic, it was an example of prophetic leadership.

The model of the heroic leader striding ahead is deeply embedded. Prophets, like Elijah, who courageously speak to power appear to embody this. Their willingness to go against the tide and to challenge the status quo inevitably marks them as different. They cannot help but be an example that simultaneously attracts and repels others. If there is something inevitably heroic about the prophet, the same is not necessarily true of the prophetic leader.

The prophetic leader’s concern is not simply to articulate an alternative reality, it is also to craft a path by which it can be realised and nurture a community that will embody and share this path. In his influential book Community, which explores how community is created and nurtured, Peter Block challenges the conventional view that “the task of leadership is to set a vison, enroll others in it, and hold people accountable.” Instead, he advocates “the art of convening” where leaders do three things: “create a context that nurtures an alternative future … initiate and convene conversations that shift people’s experience… (and) listen and pay attention.”[95]Peter Block, Community (San Francisco, Calif.: Berrett Koehler, 2008), 87–88. As a consequence, it might be that the most effective prophetic leader is less prophetic than the pure prophet. That is, the requirement to engage with, nurture, and create a prophetic community might require a person who is more in tune with the mainstream in order to be able to relate to it and harness its commitment. Prophetic leaders need to be able to “cultivate and form the people.”[96]Alan J. Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader (San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey Bass, 2006), 145.

Building a Coalition

Prophets are convinced that change is needed. Passionately and imaginatively they describe, enact, and embody an alternative reality. Achieving significant change is rarely easy. According to John P. Kotter, who identified “creating a guiding coalition” as one of the key steps in bringing about change, significant change usually happens when various groups come together to campaign for it.[97]John P. Kotter, Leading Change (Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 1996), chapter 4. A prophetic leader is someone who has the capacity to form and sustain coalitions[98]Roxburgh, 163. and who has a measure of “institutional intelligence.”[99]Gordon T. Smith, Institutional Intelligence (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2017), 15. They need to have the ability to identify allies, befriend others who, though they have different agendas, share their vision, and work out how these different groups can cooperate to leverage change. Inherent in this is the willingness to compromise on minor matters in order to achieve some major change.

Compromise is not a characteristic associated with prophets, who tend to be passionate idealists[100]Hirsch, 51. rather than pragmatists. As with acting strategically and engaging others, the capacity to form and nurture a coalition might mean that the pure prophetic instinct is moderated. It is, however, through possessing and using these leadership skills that the prophetic leader is able to create sufficient momentum so the prophetic word or act is not simply a valid protest or an inspiring vision, but is turned into something concrete and transformation becomes a reality.

The prophetic leader, then, is more than a prophet. Prophetic and leadership capacities are blended within them. The prophetic leader is a person who is knows how and when to act, and who is able to engage others and form alliances so that the alternative future becomes a reality.

Conclusion

A senior church figure recently said, “the character of the Church of Scotland has always been to strive to speak truth to power.”[101]John Chalmers, Assembly Trustees Webinar Follow Up (Church of Scotland, by email, June 1, 2020). This is a noble aspiration, but because the Church of Scotland is a National, that is a Christendom, … Continue reading Because I have a leadership role within this church, this implies that part of my calling is to offer prophetic leadership.

The report of Rev. Richard Cameron’s encounter with Jeremy Corbyn left me disturbed. Part of me wondered whether this was because I preferred the safety of anonymity and the comfort that comes from being uncontroversial. Did my calling include a responsibility to speak out and up even when doing so might result in ridicule and rejection?

The questions I have explored in this essay have helped me reach a degree of resolution. I have shown, first, that to be a prophet means to paint a picture of the alternative reality that God desires. Second, the prophetic role is part of the essential nature of the church, which, particularly in a post-Christendom era, can help it play its part in God’s mission to the world. Third, prophetic leadership, while related to the prophetic role, is not identical to it, but involves a blend of being prophetic and being a leader.

This generated three insights that helped me frame the encounter between Cameron and Corbyn, not with a view to forming a judgment about that incident, but in order to illustrate some of the issues that I and others face as we strive to work out, in practice, what it means to offer prophetic leadership. The fact that I remain ambivalent about that incident illustrates the complexity of the prophetic role and how hard effective corporate discernment is in practice.

First, it is evident that Cameron spoke to power. However, did Cameron speak truth? Prophecy is inherently subjective. The fact that an individual is convinced they have received a word from God does not mean they have. Since prophets see what others are not seeing and say what others are not saying, they find themselves always slightly out of sync. The tendency to become an isolated loner must be resisted, for it is only through being part of a community that their prophetic insight can be tested and validated as truth.

Second, did Cameron inspire as well as criticise? While prophets draw attention to something that should change, they are more than a voice of protest. The positive dimension is just as important. They provide an alternative. They describe a different reality and energise people to work toward it. Constructing a new reality is as important as dismantling the existing one.

Third, was Cameron offering prophetic leadership? Prophetic leaders do not simply focus on one act. They consider how that one act fits into the bigger picture, what its impact will be, and how it might leverage the change that is envisioned. They are willing and able to moderate the pure prophetic instinct in order to influence others so that a common vision is articulated and progress toward it is made.

About the Author:
Rev. Dr. Neil J. Dougall is minister of St. Andrew Blackadder
Church, North Berwick, Scotland.
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References

References
1 I have been a parish minister in the Church of Scotland since 1991.
2 That changed with this incident. It turned out he had been active on social media. Some of his previous posts resulted in lodging of complaints, and he has been suspended by the church and an investigation is underway.
3 BBC News, Church Minister Who Heckled Corbyn Suspended Over Tweets (Nov 15, 2019), (Accessed June 12, 2020).
4 All scripture references NIV (2011).
5 American Friends Service Committee, Speak Truth to Power: A Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence (Philadelphia, Penn: 1955), iv.
6 J. Deotis Roberts, Bonhoeffer and King: Speaking Truth to Power (Louisville, Ken.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 6.
7 Walter Brueggemann, Isaiah 40–66 (Louisville, Ken.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 14.
8 Ruth Valerio, Saying Yes to Life (London: SPCK, 2020), 22.
9 Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, 2nd ed., (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 2001), ix.
10 Walter Brueggemann, A Commentary on Jeremiah (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1998), 231. This quotation comes from a chapter titled “Truth Speaks to Power.”
11 Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, x.
12 Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, xi.
13 Walter Brueggemann, “Prophetic Leadership Engagement in Counter Imagination,” Journal of Religious Leadership 10(1) (2011): 3.
14 Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, 3.
15 Richard Holloway, Leaving Alexandria (Edinburgh, U.K.: Canongate, 2012), 150.
16 American Friends Service Committee, v.
17 Iain W. Provan, 1 and 2 Kings (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1995), 133.
18 Donald J. Wiseman, 1 and 2 Kings (Leicester, U.K.: IVP, 1993), 164.
19 Lissa M. Wray Beal, 1 and 2 Kings (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2014), 230.
20 Ronald S. Wallace, Readings in 1 Kings (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1995), 113.
21 Social justice is not absent. For example, Luke records Agabus predicting a famine, which prompted the disciples “to provide help for the brothers and sisters in Judea” (Acts 11:27–29).
22 Michael Green, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, 2nd ed. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1985), 210.
23 Moises Silva, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2014), 4:167.
24 I. Howard Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1970), 128.
25 Luke Timothy Johnson, Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2011), 4.
26 Johnson, vi.
27 Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, 2nd ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2000), 120.
28 Silva, 4:170.
29 Paul Gardner, 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2018), 537.
30 Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2010), 581.
31 Frank Thielman, Ephesians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2010), 274.
32 Clifford Hill, Prophecy Past and Present, 2nd ed. (Guildford, U.K.: Eagle, 1995), 205.
33 Peter Neilson, email, May 8, 2019.
34 Chloe Lynch, “Prophetic Leadership: Making Present the Truth of Ecclesial Hope,” Journal of Religious Leadership 18(1) (2019): 57.
35 Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (London: SPCK, 1991), 227.
36 Neil J. Dougall, “Prepared for Leadership” (2018), http://ascend.chur- chofscotland.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Prepared-for-Leadership.pdf (Accessed June 10, 2020).
37 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia, Penn.: The Westminster Press, 1975), 4:3,5.
38 Westminster Assembly, “Confession of Faith” (Belfast, U.K.: Graham and Hislop, 1933), 304.
39 Carlos M. N. Eire, Reformations (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2016), 20.
40 Darrell L. Guder, Missional Church (Grand Rapids, Mich. Eerdmans, 1998), 6.
41 Walter Brueggemann, Cadences of Home (Louisville, Ken.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 116.
42 Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, 28.
43 Stuart Murray, Post-Christendom (Carlisle, U.K.: Paternoster, 2004), 129.
44 Eire, 4.
45 46 Eire, 43.
46 Eire, 1–18.
47 Murray, 149.
48 Doug Gay, Reforming the Kirk (Edinburgh, U.K.: Saint Andrew Press, 2017), 12.
49 Stuart Murray, A Vast Minority (Milton Keynes, U.K.: Paternoster, 2015), 155.
50 Michael Harper, Let My People Grow (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1977), 37.
51 Alan Hirsch and Jessie Cruickshank, “Activating 5Q” (100M, ww- w.100movements.com, 2018), 10.
52 Alan Hirsch, “5Q” (100M, www.100movements.com, 2017), 13.
53 Guder, 184, 214.
54 Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2003), 171.
55 Hirsch, 7.
56 Hirsch and Cruickshank, 62.
57 Hirsch, xxxiii.
58 Hirsch, 103.
59 Hirsch, 105.
60 Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim, The Permanent Revolution (San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass, 2012), 30.
61 Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, 3.
62 Hirsch and Catchim, 34.
63 Frost, 174.
64 Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, 102.
65 Murray, Post Christendom, 314–315.
66 Anonymous conference feedback via SurveyMonkey, Feb. 2020.
67, 68 Hirsch, 106.
69 Grudem, 69.
70 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
71 “Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test them all.” (1 Thess. 5:20, 21).
72 Stephen B. Bevans and Roger P. Schroeder, Constants in Context (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2013).
73 Bevans and Schroeder, 348.
74 See, for example, the discussion of Christianity, civilization, and commerce in David Livingstone: Mission and Empire, Andrew Ross (London: Hambledon and London, 2002), 24, 25.
75 David. J. Bosch, Transforming Mission (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004), 475.
76 Bosch, 481–3.
77 Stephen B. Bevans and Roger P. Schroeder, Prophetic Dialogue (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2011).
78 Bevans and Schroeder, Prophetic Dialogue, 29.
79 Bevans and Schroeder, Prophetic Dialogue, 58.
80 Bevans and Schroeder, Prophetic Dialogue, 42.
81 Bevans and Schroeder, Prophetic Dialogue, 60.
82 Bevans and Schroeder, Prophetic Dialogue, 61.
83 Stephen B. Bevans and Cathy Ross, Mission as Prophetic Dialogue (London: SCM, 2015).
84 Bevans and Ross, xvi.
85 Murray, Post Christendom, 74.
86 Gay, 1–29.
87 Barbara Kellerman, The End of Leadership (New York: HarperCollins, 2012).
88 Mark van Vugt, “The Origins of Leadership,” New Scientist, 198(2660) (2008): 42–43.
89 Peter G. Northouse, Leadership, 7th ed. (Los Angeles, Calif.: Sage, 2016), 6.
90 Warren Bennis and Joan Goldsmith, Learning to Lead (New York: Basic Books, 2010), 193.
91 Lissa Wray Beal, 243.
92 American Friends Service Committee, iv.
93 American Friends Service Committee, 11.
94 American Friends Service Committee 13.
95 Peter Block, Community (San Francisco, Calif.: Berrett Koehler, 2008), 87–88.
96 Alan J. Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader (San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey Bass, 2006), 145.
97 John P. Kotter, Leading Change (Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 1996), chapter 4.
98 Roxburgh, 163.
99 Gordon T. Smith, Institutional Intelligence (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2017), 15.
100 Hirsch, 51.
101 John Chalmers, Assembly Trustees Webinar Follow Up (Church of Scotland, by email, June 1, 2020). This is a noble aspiration, but because the Church of Scotland is a National, that is a Christendom, Church, I wonder to what extent it has managed to speak to power. Exploring this would be an essay in its own right.
Prophetic Leadership: What Is It And Does It Matter?2021-03-11T10:17:31-06:00

Frameworks Toward Post/Decolonial Pastoral Leaderships

Frameworks Toward Post/Decolonial Pastoral Leaderships

Kristina I. Lizardy-Hajbi

“We have seen that colonization materially kills the colonized. It must be added that colonization kills [us] spiritually. Colonization distorts relationships, destroys or petrifies institutions, and corrupts [humans], both colonizers and colonized.”[1]Albert Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized, expanded ed. (Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 1991), 151.

Abstract

The current state of Protestant Christianity within the U.S. context calls for prophetic pastoral leaders who resist and disrupt empire and colonial being-thinking-acting, creating space for re-envisioning and re-existencing within faith communities. Presented here is the first in a two-part series introducing post/decolonial pastoral leaderships, with this article focusing on grounding definitions and frameworks that challenge constructed westernized notions of leadership and church. The second article in the series, to be published in the following issue, will highlight various processes for engaging and embodying post/decolonial pastoral leaderships.

Introduction

Postcolonial and decolonial theories and theologies, though acknowledged widely and engaged across various disciplines, have remained largely within the realms of academia due in part to their philosophical and theoretical underpinnings. In this moment of time, however, these frameworks contain critical relevance as events and circumstances have exposed not only the deeply racist systems of policing in the United States, but also the short- and long-term effects of racialized access to health care, mortality rates, and employment security in the context of a global pandemic, among other dynamics.

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About the Author:
Rev. Kristina I. Lizardy-Hajbi, Ph.D., is Term Assistant Professor of Leadership and Formation and Director of the Office of Professional Formation at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.
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References

References
1 Albert Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized, expanded ed. (Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 1991), 151.
Frameworks Toward Post/Decolonial Pastoral Leaderships2021-03-11T10:18:23-06:00

Voices from the Margins: A Renaissance of Black Prophetic Preaching and Leadership in Problematic Times

Voices from the Margins: A Renaissance of Black Prophetic Preaching and Leadership in Problematic Times

The Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III

Abstract

As the nation and the world face numerous evils that dwarf problems of the past, religious communities are being called to action. Whiteness shrouded in religious language, centuries of slow responses to radical suffering, and the privileging of Evangelicalism in the Black Church have all silenced the prophetic impulses needed today. This essay offers an invitation to a renaissance of Black prophetic leadership, refusing relevance and survival within a system for whom the system was not constructed. The God of Exodus needs destabilizing so the God of Exile and Hagar may now invite and inspire constructive reform of church and society that does not prioritize the dominant gaze or whiteness. Prophetic Black preaching leads the way in renewing the biblical narrative, awakening to the power of language, the need for holistic embodiment, and representative educational leadership for curriculum revision leaning toward justice, human flourishing, and transformation.

We are now faced with national and global evils of epic proportions that call for religious communities to respond with a clarion call to action. The empire known as the United States of America currently has a Commander in Chief who invites a Tuskegee Airman and honors Rush Limbaugh simultaneously at the State of the Union with no sensitivity to how polarizing that is, particularly during Black History Month. The occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. should discern the optics, which clearly commodify Black bodies while simultaneously extolling the system of white supremacy that continues to marginalize and disinherit those bodies. This divisive and demoralizing behavior is made possible because a support base of religious folk is trafficking in a theo-logic that they look to enshrine in public policy to secure supremacy for themselves and their children for generations to come. The present administration and the religious supporters of this administration have worked tirelessly to manage the perception that people are only suffering what they deserve for being “illegal aliens,” from S-hole countries, who are dangerous criminals, bent on destroying our culture and taking our jobs. It is said that theology arises from the freedom and responsibility of the Christian community to inquire about its faith in God (Migliore 2014, 1). This is for me true, and yet I see the responsibility of theology to continually examine the proclamation of the church by continually critiquing and revising the language of the church (Cone 1997, 84).

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About the Author:
Edward Donalson III, DMin, is the Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program, Seattle University.
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Voices from the Margins: A Renaissance of Black Prophetic Preaching and Leadership in Problematic Times2021-03-11T10:19:05-06:00

“Next [Wo]-Man Up: Examining Prophetic Leadership Transition in Moses and Martin Luther King, Jr.”

“Next [Wo]-Man Up: Examining Prophetic Leadership Transition in Moses and Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Phillip Allen, Jr.

Abstract
Relating the transitions in leadership from Moses to Joshua and from Martin Luther King Jr to the Civil Rights Movement, this article argues that it is imperative that prophetic leadership discerns leadership succession for a community, organization, or movement in order to fulfill more successfully its vision of the preferred future. It discusses the qualities necessary for both current and prospective leaders to increase the chances of a healthy leadership transition as well as the practices required to discern the next leader(s).

In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered a speech famously known as “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” in Memphis, Tennessee. He eerily and prophetically spoke about his impending death, which would prevent him from continuing to lead the Civil Rights Movement (CRM). The next day, on April 4th, standing on his balcony on the second floor of the Lorraine Motel, King was assassinated. His leadership of arguably the most culturally transformative movement in U.S. history came to a tragic halt. Once the dust settled after his funeral and a period of nationwide grieving, one question needed to be answered: “Who would now lead the movement?” Within a decade, the movement declined and eventually lost its potency and relevance. This dynamic raises the question of the movement’s preparedness for life after King. Was this a critical weakness in King’s leadership? Was the responsibility to prepare a successor to continue the vision of the CRM left to King?

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About the Author:
Pastor Phillip Allen, Jr. is a Ph.D. student in Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary and the founding pastor of Own Your Faith Ministries in Santa Clarita, CA
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“Next [Wo]-Man Up: Examining Prophetic Leadership Transition in Moses and Martin Luther King, Jr.”2021-03-11T10:13:01-06:00

Presidential Address Engaging the Prophetic Dimension of Christian Leadership

Presidential Address:
Engaging the Prophetic Dimension of Christian Leadership

Jeffery L. Tribble, Sr.

The theme of the 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting of the Academy of Religious Leadership was “Engaging the Prophetic Dimension of Christian Leadership.” This theme was conceived in the present national context of partisan political leadership, a global pandemic, social unrest, and an outcry for addressing America’s original sin of racism against indigenous people, Black people, and other people of color. The current moment demands a sustained focus from teachers and practitioners of religious leadership on questions such as: “What do we understand as prophetic leadership, given our foundational sources and our current context?” and “How do Christian leaders speak and lead with authority in a situation of flux where churches are decentered in a post-truth society?”

Thus, I called for the Academy of Religious Leadership to study, reflect on, and engage the prophetic dimension of Christian leadership in order to better understand how to effectively equip faith leaders for ministry leadership that critiques, challenges, and transforms an array of structural injustice and systemic sins against Creation and humankind.

The current issue of the Journal features articles that engage this theme. This essay does not attempt to answer all of the questions raised; rather, it is a series of personal reflections on my lived experience in the present context that inform my perspectives on the importance of engaging the prophetic dimension of Christian leadership. Further, I assert the importance of privileging the lived experiences and interpretations of those historically marginalized in religious discourse as a source for practical theological interpretation and action. This proposal to listen to, learn from, and sift through the lived experiences and interpretations of the marginalized and oppressed is consistent with theological norms throughout the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament prophets and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prophetic Concern in a Toxic Political Environment

Lincoln and Mamiya’s dialectical model of the Black Church informs my understanding of the prophetic functions of leadership. They state that: “Black Churches are institutions that are involved in a constant series of dialectical tensions. The dialectic holds polar opposites in tension constantly shifting between the polarities in historical time. There is no Hegelian synthesis or ultimate resolution of the synthesis.”[1]C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya, The Black Church in the African American Experience (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1990), 11. One of the six pairs of dialectically related polar opposites in their sociological model is “the dialectic between the priestly and prophetic functions” of the Church. They explain that:

Priestly functions involve only those activities concerned with worship and maintaining the spiritual life of membership; church maintenance activities are the major thrust. Prophetic functions refer to involvement in political concerns and activities in the wider community; classically, prophetic activity has meant proclaiming a radical word of God’s judgement. [2]Lincoln and Mamiya, The Black Church in the African American Experience, 12.

Thus, prophetic leadership involves Christian involvement in the political concerns and activities of the wider community in the tradition of the prophets who proclaimed radical words of judgement and hope. But, this requires discernment. As Professor Richard Osmer writes:

“Prophetic discernment is the task of listening to this Word and interpreting it in ways that address particular social conditions, events, and decisions before congregations today. Such discernment is a matter of divine disclosure and theological interpretation in the face of popular or official theologies that may be leading the world toward disaster.”[3]3 Richard R. Osmer, Practical Theology: An Introduction (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008), 135.

Although prophetic leadership is needed in every time and place, my call for this focus arises from the ache in my own troubled soul. Perhaps it was because of sympathy with the divine pathos that my soul was troubled with the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States in 2016. After witnessing the public statements of Trump, President Barack Obama, and Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine in the immediate aftermath of the election, I mulled over the tremendous challenges of transformational leadership, a leadership approach concerned with ethical principles that change people, that treats them as full human beings, and that moves them to accomplish more than usually is expected of them.[4]4 James MacGregor Burns, Leadership (New York: Harper and Row, 1978). In contrast, I saw President Elect Donald Trump as an art-of-the-deal[5]5 Much can be gleaned about Trump’s worldview and leadership approach from the opening lines of his defining book Trump: The Art of the Deal: “I don’t do it for the money. I’ve got enough, … Continue readingtransactional leader when compared with the more transformational approach of the outgoing president.

Obama’s “yes we can” rallying cry highlights a transformational and adaptive leadership “practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive.”[6]6 Ronald A. Heifitz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Press, … Continue readingHowever, the soul of America had not been transformed. Obama’s inclusive “yes we can”[7]7 In his victory speech following his election, Obama called for the collective spirit and energies of the American people to solve challenging problems: “This is our time to put people back to … Continue reading stood in stark contrast to Trump’s exclusive boast: “I alone can fix it!”[8]8 In his acceptance of the GOP nomination for president in July 2016, Trump boasted: “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. I have seen first-hand how the system … Continue reading Despite the two-term leadership of America’s first African American president and likely because of it, America elected someone whom I view as racist, sexist, narcissistic, xenophobic, and ableist to its highest office. America was not transformed. Indeed, I saw this as another indicator that racism is alive and well.

My analogy of the impact of the Obama years is of a bottle of orange juice with thick pulp. When the bottle sits awhile, the pulp settles on the bottom. However, when the bottle is shaken, the pulp is diffused throughout the juice. There are times and places in which racism is experienced by people of color as covert, subtle, and institutionalized. It is not visible or apparent to those whose social location does not require them to perceive the ever-present, anti-Black culture of America. To the undiscerning who believed that the election of the first Black president signaled a post-racial America, the pulp of racism is not seen. However, the elevation of a Black man to the most powerful political office shook up the orange juice so that covert and subtle racism became overt, blatant, and ugly, not only in its individual expressions, but also in its systemic expressions. In her post-election concession speech, Hillary Clinton offered a biblical perspective to frame the moment: “Let us not lose heart in doing what is right, for we will reap in due season if we do not give up.”[9]9 Galatians 6: 9.

I listened to Obama’s reflection that progress is not a straight line; neither is it inevitable. Progress will include successes as well as setbacks. In my social media post on November 9, 2016, I expressed my inner pain:

Today feels like a crucifixion and death of a host of interrelated social movements in history. While the victors claim a mandate, people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, and all those whose vote propelled Hillary Clinton to win the popular vote, America chose to elevate a man who has no commitment to the interests of these communities. Senator Kaine, using the words of William Faulkner, expressed resilient hope in this moment of sitting in the ashes: ‘they killed us, but they ain’t whupped us yet.’[10]10 Watch Tim Kaine speak after Trump presidential victory, PBS News Hour, November 9, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kh– Chy06rQzo&list=LLjABP2yvk_2ap_Tlz1cFFdQ&index=3232 … Continue reading The work of justice is clearly not about one election which tempts one to cynicism, despair and to disparage those who think differently. Faith (and work), the audacity of hope and the power of love still abide.[11]11 Jeffery L. Tribble, Sr., Facebook timeline, November 9, 2016, (accessed August 15, 2020).

Reflecting my social constructivist understanding of the world,[12]12 Merriam and Tisdell explain interpretive research as follows: “Interpretive research, which is the most common type of qualitative research, assumes that reality is socially constructed; that … Continue reading I saw the national competing narratives (“Make America Great Again”[13]13 In his acceptance of the GOP nomination, Trump described an America in crisis. He postured himself as both “the voice” and the solution against attacks on police and terrorism as threats to … Continue reading versus many people of color’s view that MAGA is a racist dog whistle to go back to an era of unchecked racial discrimination) as “partial, situated, and subjective knowledge”[14]14 While gaining expertise in qualitative research as a research tool for practical theological research, the idea of the “partial, situated, and subjective” nature of knowledge was impressed … Continue reading that I hoped would be revisited, reframed, and perhaps even revised in the social struggles of history. Concluding my post, I wrote, “But, we do not give up praying for and working for Shalom for all.”

I drafted the Academy of Religious Leadership (ARL) call to papers two years later as I mulled over the significant events surrounding the impeachment of Donald Trump. Trump’s impeachment came after a formal inquiry in the House of Representatives, which alleged that he had solicited foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election to help his reelection bid, and then obstructed the inquiry by telling officials in his administration to ignore subpoenas for documents and testimony. Particularly troubling to me were reports that some GOP senators admitted that they intended to violate their oath to a fair and impartial impeachment trial.[15]15 Ted Barrett and Ali Zaslav, “Mitch McConnell: ‘I’m not an impartial juror’ ahead of Senate impeachment trial,” CNN, December 17, 2019. Veronica Strac- qualursi, “’I’m not trying to … Continue reading

The open declaration of powerful senators of their intent to violate their oath to be impartial as a political decision on a matter so consequential to the nation caused me to reflect on the necessity of ethical leadership. Whereas Burns’s concept of transformational leadership focuses on the positive aspects of leadership, such a brazen violation of ethical principles led me to contemplate the concept of pseudo-transformational, or the“dark side” of leadership. Northouse explains: “The dark side of leadership is the destructive and toxic side of leadership in that a leader uses leadership for personal ends.”[16]16 Peter G. Northouse, Leadership Theory and Practice, 7th ed. (Los Angeles, Calif.: Sage Publications, Inc., 2016), 339. Hogan and Kaiser take this idea further, formulating a helpful model of the toxic triangle of destructive leaders.[17]17 A. Padilla, R. Hogan, and R.B. Kaiser, “The Toxic Triangle: Destructive Leaders, Susceptible Followers and Conducive Environments,” The Leadership Quarterly (18): 180. The toxic triangle consists of destructive leaders, susceptible followers, and conducive environments. Destructive leaders are characterized by their charisma, personalized power, narcissism, negative life themes, and ideology of hate. Susceptible followers include conformers and colluders. Conformers are characterized as persons with unmet needs, low core self-evaluations, and low maturity. Colluders are characterized by their ambition, similar worldview as the destructive leader, and bad values. Finally, conducive environments are characterized by instability, perceived threat, cultural values, lack of checks and balances, and ineffective institutions. In my view, conformers in this model could include aggrieved workers who feel left behind in a globalized post-industrial economy, while colluders might include the ambitious politicians whose influence in public life would be nullified if they opposed the president, or the white Evangelical leaders who sacralize his values and policies. A deeply divided democracy and a president who has attacked the democratic institutions of his own government provide a conducive environment for a destructive leader.

Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, asserts that “The two divergent and competing narratives—one looking wistfully back to midcentury heartland America and one looking hopefully forward to a multicultural America—cut to the massive cultural divide facing the country today.”18 Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” resonates with Americans who look back to the 1950s as an earlier time of prosperity, and who from their social location, believe American culture is changing for the worse. On the other side of the cultural divide, the social revolutions and new immigration patterns of the 1960s and 1970s were most beneficial for advancing the lives of African Americans, immigrant communities, women, the disabled, and others. These are the groups most attacked by Trump personally and by his supporters.

According to Jones, the question of whether American culture has gone downhill since the 1950s or changed for the better reveals cultural divides by race and religion. His analysis of responses to the question, “Since the 1950’s, do you think American culture and way of life has mostly changed for the better, or has it mostly changed for the worse?” is revealing:

More than seven in ten (72 percent) white evangelical Protestants and nearly six in ten (58 percent) white mainline Protestants say American culture and way of life has changed for the worse since the 1950’s. Roughly six in ten white Catholics (58 percent) agree with their fellow white Christians that American culture has changed for the worse since the 1950’s. Meanwhile, approximately six in ten Hispanic Catholics (59 percent) say the opposite—that American culture has changed for the better. Approximately six in ten (63 percent) religiously unaffiliated Americans also say American culture and way of life has changed for the better since the mid-twentieth century, as do majorities of African American Protestants (55 percent). Overall, the pattern is unambiguous: most white Christians— along with groups in which they constitute a majority,[18]18 Robert P. Jones, The End of White Christian America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), 85. like the Tea Party—believe that America is on a downhill slide, while strong majorities of most other groups in the country say things are improving.[19]19 Robert P. Jones, The End of White Christian America, 87.

It is important for prophetic leaders to discern what gladdens or grieves the heart of God in the political concerns and wider events of the world.[20]20 Richard R. Osmer, Practical Theology: An Introduction, 135–139. The partial, situated, contextual nature of knowledge requires humility in this task due to human limitations and fallibility. At the same time, prophetic leaders need to speak and act boldly with integrity and love. This understanding of prophecy resonates with my appreciation of the perspective of the Apostle Paul: “As for prophecies, they will be brought to an end. As for tongues, they will stop. As for knowledge, it will be brought to an end. We know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, what is partial will be brought to an end.”[21]21 I Corinthians 13: 8–10, CEB.

Prophetic Truth-Telling in a Post-Truth Era

The presidential election of 2016 was a significant moment in U.S. politics, culture, and church life. It has been analyzed by many persons from different perspectives. In the previous section, I have offered my interpretation of these events. I realize that single causality reasoning must be critically examined, however, since multiple interpretations of the same event are possible. Ethicist D. Stephen Long names a set of diverse explanations of the meaning of this election. One explanation, for many on the political left, is that the election was a symptom, not a cause; it is the logical consequence of cultural trajectories long in place, including a two-party system that has abandoned working people.[22]22 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World (Nashville, Tenn.: General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, 2019), xi. A second explanation, posited by some conservatives, is the view that Trumpism is a cause more than a symptom. They believe that Trump individually hijacked the GOP by falsely presenting himself as a conservative.[23]23 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, xi. A third explanation, shared by many in the white evangelical Christian church, is that Trump is a gift from God along the lines of Cyrus in the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 36: 22–23).[24]24 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, xi. Long describes this white evangelical view as follows:

Just as God raised up an outside, foreign leader to save Israel from Babylonian captivity, so God raised up Trump to restore religious freedom in America, the freedom not to bake a cake for gay weddings, the freedom not to be taxed for artificial conception and abortion, the freedom to pray at public events, and so forth. They may not like much about him, but he is the person God brought to bring something that is being lost in the U.S.[25]25 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, xi–xii.

Finally, for others, Trump’s election represents the victory of the business class against the establishment politicians in Washington. In the face of these multiple interpretations of the presidential election of 2016, Long asserts that while these interpretations might appear to conflict, they could all be true.[26]26 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World , xii. Discernment of the truth is a complicated matter.

Long takes up an important question in a post-truth world: “Why should truth matter?” It matters because we are a people who have become increasingly susceptible to lies. Long says: “A tradition of lies begets other lies, and truth becomes suspect, prompting us to question, ‘Is there such a thing as truth?’ ‘How would we know it?’”[27]27 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, 5. This is perhaps best illustrated by an early episode in the Trump presidency.

The day after Trump’s inauguration, Chuck Todd, reporter for NBC’s Meet the Press, interviewed Kellyanne Conway, special counselor to President Donald Trump. The interview included an exchange about Sean Spicer’s first press conference in which he told the press what Trump wanted to hear; the crowd for his inauguration was the largest in history both in person or around the globe. Todd queried Conway about why the press secretary, who at times speaks not only for the president but also for the American people, would utter a “provable falsehood.” In this exchange, Kellyanne Conway introduced the nation to a novel concept that eventually would become common nomenclature, asserting that Press Secretary Sean Spicer had shared “alternative facts.”[28]28 Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, tells Chuck Todd that the press secretary used “alternative facts” in his first statement to the press corps. “Conway: Press Secretary Gave … Continue reading

Long analyzes Conway’s line of argument and offers this illuminating guide: “Truth can always be put into question through these steps—confusion, deflection, the reduction of things in the world to data, and the assumption that interpretation of the data will always serve someone’s political interests.”[29]29 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, 8. Here we have an oft-used playbook for obscuring the truth: sow seeds of doubt and confusion, deflect from the issue of focus, and reduce the world to a set of data that is marshalled, not to support an evidence-based claim, but for political purposes.

Why does truth matter? Long suggests that if the very idea of truth is undermined, there can be no justice, no ethics, no true education, and no basis for faith. Put bluntly, if we lose truth in a post-truth world, “We may have nothing left but ‘bullshit.’”[30]30 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, 11. Further, Harry Frankfurt argues that a distinction can be found between someone who is lying and someone who is “bullshitting.” He writes:

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to this interest in getting away with what he says.[31]31 Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005), 55–56.

A tradition of lies has produced a fact-checking response by political analysts; but it also has helped to foster a culture in which disinformation is readily believed and where conspiracy theories seem plausible. In a culture where bullshitting has become normalized, I sense a despair in our ministry students. If the world of lived experiences is reduced to data that is routinely manipulated to say whatever you want it to say, is truth a possibility? This post- truth culture has pushed me to be more intentional in my teaching of qualitative research methods. Honesty and rigor matter for all research that is concerned with producing valid and reliable knowledge in an ethnical manner.[32]32 In Doctor of Ministry and Doctor of Educational Ministry project pro- posals, I require students to reflect in their project design serious attention to issues of internal validity such as types … Continue reading

Long also argues that truth is more basic than a lie, a claim that is metaphysical, theological, and moral.[33]33 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, 12. He makes a compelling point with real implications for indigenous people, Black people, and other people of color. Asserting that Western culture has replaced truth with value, Long suggests that:

One of the reasons that we are where we are is because we have replaced truth and goodness with ‘value.’ … but suffice it for now to say that value assumes the world is nothing but inert matter without meaning until our will works on it. Once it does, then it has value. Once this becomes the ruling idea, which it has become in politics, business, and some modern philosophy, then the pursuit of wisdom will be abandoned and finally forgotten. No one needs to know anything about the past if all there is is value.[34]34 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, 15.

It seems that this substitution of value for truth is playing itself out in the Black Lives Matter debate. As an African American who is informed by the history of Black America, the assertion that “Black Lives Matter” is a simple, powerful, and profound assertion rooted in the lived experiences of Black Americans. When I first heard this phrase coined by the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement,[35]35 In 2013, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometti created a Black-centered political will and movement called #BlackLivesMatter in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin and the … Continue reading it immediately resonated with me. I appreciated the fact that the movement’s founders intended to move Black lives that have been marginalized by the dominant culture and other black liberation movements to the center: “Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women and Black lives along the gender spectrum.”[36]36 https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/ (accessed August 17, 2020). It challenged and enlarged my perspective of leadership, which has been in religious spaces where Black heterosexual cisgendered men have dominated.[37]37 I am an ordained Elder, former pastor, and former presiding elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Though we describe ourselves as “The Freedom Church,” the official statement … Continue reading Yet, Black people know from four hundred years of American history that our lives have not had the same value as white lives.

Historical perspective of the underlying systems of domination by class, empire, capitalism, racism, patriarchy, and heteronormativity is missing by those who defensively retort, “All Lives Matter” in response to the simple assertion that “Black Lives Matter.”[38]38 Though the present discussion is focused on how the substitution of truth with value is played out in the “Black Lives Matter” debate in the American context, this argument has implication … Continue reading In her antiracist talks, Robin DiAngelo uses a metaphor of a dock to describe this phenomenon. A dock does not merely float on water. It is literally anchored in the ocean floor. She challenges white people to go below the surface to examine the pillars that anchor the surface attitudes, perceptions, fears, and actions of white people. One of those pillars is a limited understanding of American history. She claims that some white people believe that racism ended in 1865 because they do not know of the ongoing history of racial discrimination to the present. Thus, they do not understand how history connects with the present effects of racial discrimination and racial privilege.[39]39 University of Washington Professor Robin DiAngelo reads from her book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, ex- plains the phenomenon, and discusses how white … Continue reading

DiAngelo also asserts that white fragility is “the inability to tolerate racial stress.” Racial stress is triggered when our positions, perspectives, or advantages are challenged. White fragility functions to block the challenge and to regain the equilibrium. I believe that “All Lives Matter” as a defensive reaction to the assertion that “Black Lives Matter” is a manifestation of this white fragility, anchored in part by an obliviousness or a refusal to acknowledge the deadly discriminatory impacts of racism in America.

Why does truth matter? Prophetic truth-telling requires a belief in truth and justice. Truth is often elusive in our culture of American individualism because historicity matters for prophetic truth-telling. Long writes:

Unlike the modern “I”, truth will always have a history. It will recognize thedebtsweowetothosewho come before us. We lose truth when we become a people with no history. We lose truth when we choose leaders who lack any historical sensibility as well. In a post-truth culture of alternative facts, it benefits those who would rule the citizenry not to be well-educated in the humanities— history, philosophy, and theology. These disciplines are concerned with the pursuit of truth and wisdom.[40]40 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, 16.

Consistent with this logic that truth has a history, Carol Anderson provides a series of truth claims that serve as powerful examples of prophetic truth-telling. Analyzing American history, she rebuts the Western narrative of black poverty and pathology, which is required for the ever-evolving and adaptive structures of racial discrimination. While many frame issues of racial unrest in terms of black rage, expressed sometimes in destructive ways of looting and burning down communities, Anderson reframes these issues through her concept of white rage. Anderson writes: “White rage is not about visible violence, but rather it works its way through the courts, the legislatures, and a range of government bureaucracies. It wreaks havoc subtly, almost imperceptibly.”[41]41 Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (New York: Bloomsberry, 2017), 3. Anderson names the following historical truths, which she expounds upon in successive chapters of her book:

“The truth is that enslaved Africans plotted and worked—hard—with some even fighting in the Union army for their freedom and citizenship.”[42]42 Carol Anderson, White Rage, 4.

“The truth is that when World War I provided the opportunity in the North for blacks to get jobs with unheard-of pay scales and, better yet, the chance for their children to finally have good schools, African Americans fled the oppressive conditions in the South. White authorities stopped the trains, arresting people whose only crime was leaving the state.”[43]43 Carol Anderson, White Rage, 4.

“The truth is that opposition to black advancement is not just a Southern phenomenon. In the North, it has been just as intense, just as determined, and in some ways just as destructive.”[44]44 Carol Anderson, White Rage, 5.

“The truth is that when the Brown v Board of Education decision came down in 1954 and black children finally had a chance at a decent education, white authorities didn’t see children striving for quality schools and an opportunity to fully contribute to society; they saw only a threat and acted accordingly, shutting down schools, diverting public money into private coffers, leaving millions of citizens in educational rot, willing even to undermine national security in the midst of a major crisis—all to ensure that blacks did not advance.”45 Carol Anderson, White Rage, 5.

“The truth is that the hard-fought victories of the Civil Rights Movement caused a reaction that stripped Brown of its power, severed the jugular of the Voting Rights Act, closed off access to higher education, poured crack cocaine into the inner cities, and locked up more black men proportionally than even apartheid-era South Africa.”[45]46 Carol Anderson, White Rage, 5.

“The truth is that, despite all of this, a black man was elected president of the United States: the ultimate advancement, and thus the ultimate affront.”[46]47 Carol Anderson, White Rage, 5.

“The truth is, white rage has undermined democracy, warped the Constitution, weakened the nation’s ability to compete economically, squandered billions of dollars on baseless incarceration, rendered an entire region sick, poor, and woefully undereducated, and left cities nothing less than decimated.”[47]48 Carol Anderson, White Rage, 6.

Anderson’s masterful work of historical analysis and synthesis resonates with me deeply, as she prophetically articulates the unspoken truth of our racial divide.

In our post-truth world, prophetic truth-telling is vital. Without truth, freedom is reduced to one’s power—the ability to act to assert one’s will without anyone having the power to push back effectively. Though power and advantage tried to render truth irrelevant in an impeachment trial with no witnesses or documents allowed, truth was still told courageously by whistleblowers and witnesses in the investigation of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. In the face of those who say that climate change is not real, prophetic truth-telling by teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg and others is needed to mitigate the effects of climate change that people in the world are already experiencing. In the middle of a global pandemic, the exponential rise of coronavirus cases and deaths powerfully refutes the lie that it is only a political hoax. Histories of disinvestment in public health systems and in communities of color are unspoken truths that must inform prophetic action. As religious leaders, we must not allow ourselves to be “court chaplains”[48]49 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, 26. who spin religious narratives to sustain a culture of manipulation, coercion, power, and deception. Even in a post-truth world, the truth does matter. Power must be subordinate to truth.[49]50 D. Stephen Long, 48.

Prophetic Leadership in the United States as it Reckons with a History of Systemic Racial Injustice

On Pentecost Sunday, June 3, 2020, I posted a video of the Morehouse College Glee Club singing the magnificent concertized spiritual “Listen to the Lambs All A Crying!” With appreciation for this musical performance, I imagined these highly educated black men, clothed in their tuxedos, raising their voices, saying to whoever would listen, “Listen to the cries of the oppressed!”[50]51 Exodus 3: 7–9 CEB. Juxtaposing the image of Black bodies crying out in song with Black bodies crying out in the streets, I posted the following reflection through social media:

These black men, clothed in respectable tuxedos, raised their voices singing: listen to the cries of the oppressed poor and vulnerable. “Listen to the lambs all a crying!” Other black men [sic persons], eschewing the politics of respectability, have raised their voices and fists in protest because of policies of over-policing motivated by municipalities seeking revenue, police brutality, inequitable sentencing, and a plethora of laws that block felons’ reentry into society. Listen to the pain of communities robbed and looted every day because America has failed to live up to its promise of life and liberty for all! America is burning on this Christian celebration of Pentecost Sunday because, like Pharaoh in the Book of Exodus, it refuses to listen until tragedy slays its own favored sons. The miracle of Pentecost is the power of spirit inspired languages understood by diverse cultures. In contrast to the tower of Babel which divided the nations, Pentecostal power unified people across cultural and linguistic barriers. The Holy Spirit gives power not only to proclaim righteousness, justice and peace; She also gives power to protest wickedness, injustice, and state sanctioned killing of unarmed citizens. May America and the world listen and respond to the cry of those with a knee on their necks because of a deadly pandemic, destructive and racist policies, and a deficit of human compassion.[51]52 Jeff y L. Tribble, Sr., Facebook Timeline, June 3, 2020 (accessed August 15, 2020).

According to interviews with social-movement scholars and crowd-counting experts, Black Lives Matter might be the largest social movement in U.S. history, born out of protest for a single issue. Anywhere from fifteen to twenty-six million Americans participated in protests over the death of George Floyd and others over the span of weeks. According to a Times analysis, “Across the United States, there have been more than 4700 demonstrations, or an average of 140 per day, since the first protests began in Minneapolis on May 26. Turnout has ranged from dozens to tens of thousands in about 2500 small towns and large cities.”[52]53 Larry Buchanan, Quoctrung Bui, and Jugal K. Patel, “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History,” New York Times, July 3, 2020. … Continue reading Further, while the Civil Rights Movement protests of the 1950s and 1960s consisted largely of African Americans, these protesters are increasingly white, young, and wealthy. Why is this movement different? According to Buchanan, Bui, and Patel:

One of the reasons there have been protests in so many places in the United States is the backing of organizations like Black Lives Matter. While the group isn’t necessarily directing each protest, it provides materials, guidance and a framework for new activists, Professor Woodly said. Those activists are taking to social media to quickly share protest details to a wide audience. Black Lives Matter has been around since 2013, but there’s been a big shift in public opinion about the movement as well as broader support for recent protests. A deluge of public support from organizations like the N.F.L. and NASCAR for Black Lives Matter may also have encouraged supporters who typically would sit on the sidelines to get involved. The protests may also be benefitting from a country that is more conditioned to protesting. The adversarial stance that the Trump administration has taken on issues like guns, climate change and immigration has led to more protests than under any other presidency since the Cold War.[53]54 Buchanan, Bui, and Patel, “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History.”

These nationwide protests are in response to the high-profile killings of George Floyd, killed allegedly for trying to use a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill; Breonna Taylor, killed by police at home while in her own bed; Ahmaud Arbery, chased and killed by armed white residents who were not arrested until months later; and so many other Black female, male, and trans people killed by police.[54]55 Alia Chughtai/Al Jazeera, “Know Their Names: Black People Killed by Po- lice in the U.S.” https://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2020/know-their-names/ index.html (accessed August 17, 2020). Every time I hear of these or another police-involved shooting of an unarmed African American, my body feels the effect of my own sense of vulnerability, rage, and frustration. As the father of an African American son, uncle of young adult nephews and nieces, and grandfather of a beautiful black baby boy who will grow up in America, each instance of a state-sanctioned killing or of white control of Black bodies is understood in my body as injustice. Black people and others who are marginalized also know and understand this injustice through their bodies. Miller McLemore describes this phenomenon as embodied theological knowing—how bodies shape knowledge. She suggests that:

We say and perceive more than we know or understand through our bodies. This might surprise theological educators who put such stock in our big words and ideas. This doesn’t negate the value of systematic doctrinal reflection. But the devil, so to speak, or the divine, is in the corporeal details.[55]56 Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, “Spooning” in Dorothy C. Bass, Kathleen Cahalan, Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, James R. Nieman, and Christian Scharen, Christian Practical Wisdom: What It Is and Why … Continue reading

Cell phone video of George Floyd’s death while handcuffed on the ground with an officer’s knee on his neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds revealed a vicious, unrighteous, and unjust use of excessive force. Floyd’s words, “I can’t breathe,” gave words to an embodied theological knowing of injustice in the lived experiences of African Americans. In his eulogy for George Floyd, Rev. Al Sharpton theologized and thematized from the particular embodied knowledge of a dying George Floyd a prophetic oracle of judgement: “America has had its foot on the necks of Black people for 400 years.”[56]57 Reverend Al Sharpton, George Floyd Funeral Eulogy Transcript, June 9, 2020. https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/reverend-al-sharpton-eulogy-tran- script-at-george-floyd-memorial-service (accessed … Continue reading

Families who know the pain of the Floyd family were flown in for the funeral. As Sharpton began his eulogy, he invited grieving Black family members to stand: the mother of Trayvon Martin, the mother of Eric Garner, the sister of Botham Jean, the family of Pamela Turner, the father of Michael Brown, and the father of Ahmaud Arbery. Taking his text from Ephesians 6: 10–13, Sharpton preached a message about “fighting spiritual wickedness in high places.” The bodies of these grieving family members, whose names are known and recited in Black protests as well as Black prayer services, were present to share the claim of systemic injustice articulated by Sharpton: “We’re not fighting some disconnected incidents. We’re fighting an institutional systemic problem that’s been allowed to permeate since we were brought to these shores and we’re fighting wickedness in high places.”[57]58 Reverend Al Sharpton, George Floyd Funeral Eulogy Transcript.

Sharpton eulogized Floyd, “an ordinary brother” as a “rejected stone,” whose tragic embodiment of Black suffering is becoming the cornerstone of a movement:

But God took an ordinary brother from the third ward, from the housing projects, that nobody thought much about but those that knew him and loved him. He took the rejected stone, the stone that the builder rejected. They rejected him for jobs. They rejected him for positions. They rejected him to play certain teams. God took the rejected stone and made him the cornerstone of a movement that’s going to change the whole wide world. I’m glad he wasn’t one of these polished, bourgeois brothers, because we’d have still thought we was of no value. But George was just George. And now you have to understand if you bother any one of us it’s a problem to all of us. Oh, if you would have had any idea that all of us would react, you’d have took your knee off his neck. If you had any idea that everybody from those in the third ward to those in Hollywood would show up in Houston and Minneapolis, and in Fayetteville, North Carolina, you’d have took your knee off his neck. If you had any idea that preachers, white and black, was going to line up in a pandemic, when we’re told to stay inside and we come out and march in the streets at the risk of our health, you’d have took your knee off his neck, because you thought his neck didn’t mean nothing. But God made his neck to connect his head to his body. And you have no right to put your knee on that neck.[58]59 Reverend Al Sharpton, George Floyd Funeral Eulogy Transcript.

Sharpton is just one voice in the tradition of prophetic concern, prophetic truth-telling, and prophetic action characteristic of women and men in the Black Church tradition.[59]60 Though Sharpton, a male preacher in the Black Baptist tradition, is featured here, Black females are an indispensable part of the prophetic Black religious tradition. Marcia Riggs provides one … Continue reading He exemplifies what Wilson calls “peripheral prophets”—prophets that arise from subcommunities that exist in tension with the dominant community.[60]61 Robert R. Wilson, Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel (Philadelphia, Pa.: Fortress Press, 1980), 69–83. Brueggemann says those prophets arise in communities that have a long and available memory of pain that is owned and recited as a real social fact. Yet, there is an active practice of hope and an effective mode of discourse that is “cherished across the generations, that is taken as distinctive, and that is richly coded in ways that only insiders can know.”[61]62 Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, Second ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2001), xvi. I assert the importance of engaging the prophetic dimension of Christian leadership in this moment in our history. As a society, we can learn much by privileging the lived experiences and interpretations of those historically marginalized in religious discourse as a source for practical theological interpretation and action. Prophetic leadership, guided by prophetic imagination, is needed to counter the chronic issues of inequality, the politics of oppression, and the co-opting of God’s freedom to be present and to act where God chooses. May the wind of the Spirit continue to fan the flames of prophetic concern, prophetic truth-telling, and prophetic actions in communities across this nation and world.

Jeffery L. Tribble, Sr., PhD, is the Associate Dean of Advanced Professional Studies and Associate Professor of Ministry at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia.
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References

References
1 C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya, The Black Church in the African American Experience (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1990), 11.
2 Lincoln and Mamiya, The Black Church in the African American Experience, 12.
3 3 Richard R. Osmer, Practical Theology: An Introduction (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008), 135.
4 4 James MacGregor Burns, Leadership (New York: Harper and Row, 1978).
5 5 Much can be gleaned about Trump’s worldview and leadership approach from the opening lines of his defining book Trump: The Art of the Deal: “I don’t do it for the money. I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.” Donald J. Trump with Tony Schwartz, Trump: The Art of the Deal (New York: Ballantine Books, 1987), 1.
6 6 Ronald A. Heifitz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Press, 2009), 14.
7 7 In his victory speech following his election, Obama called for the collective spirit and energies of the American people to solve challenging problems: “This is our time to put people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the people: yes we can.” The Full Text of Barack Obama’s Victory Speech, November 5, 2008. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/the- full-text-of-barack-obamas-victory-speech-993008.html (accessed August 17, 2020).
8 8 In his acceptance of the GOP nomination for president in July 2016, Trump boasted: “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. I have seen first-hand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders. He never had a chance.https://www. cnbc.com/video/2016/07/21/trump-i-alone-can-fix-the-system.html (accessed August 17, 2020).
9 9 Galatians 6: 9.
10 10 Watch Tim Kaine speak after Trump presidential victory, PBS News Hour, November 9, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kh– Chy06rQzo&list=LLjABP2yvk_2ap_Tlz1cFFdQ&index=3232 (accessed August 15, 2020).
11 11 Jeffery L. Tribble, Sr., Facebook timeline, November 9, 2016, (accessed August 15, 2020).
12 12 Merriam and Tisdell explain interpretive research as follows: “Interpretive research, which is the most common type of qualitative research, assumes that reality is socially constructed; that there is no single, observable reality. Rather, there are multiple realities, or interpretations of a single event.” Sharan B. Merriam and Elizabeth J. Tisdell, Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation, 4th ed. (San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey Bass, 2016), 9.
13 13 In his acceptance of the GOP nomination, Trump described an America in crisis. He postured himself as both “the voice” and the solution against attacks on police and terrorism as threats to the American way of life. He said that America suffered from domestic disaster and international humiliation. An America full of shuttered factories and crushed communities, one with “poverty and violence at home” and with “war and destruction abroad” is one that Trump declared should be made great again. Breaking with two centuries of American tradition, Trump did not ask people to place their faith in each other or in God, but rather in Trump. Yoni Appelbaum, “I Alone Can Fix It,” The Atlantic, July 16, 2016. /www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/ trump-rnc-speech-alone-fix-it/492557/ (accessed August 17, 2020).
14 14 While gaining expertise in qualitative research as a research tool for practical theological research, the idea of the “partial, situated, and subjective” nature of knowledge was impressed upon my mind, heart, and imagination. Richardson’s analysis of the nature of qualitative knowledge is useful: “Sociological discovery, generally, happens through finding out about people’s lives from the people themselves—listening to how people experience their lives and frame their worlds, working inductively, rather than deductively.… Most ethnographers are keenly aware that knowledge of the world they enter is partial, situated and subjective knowledge.” [L. Richardson, Writing Strategies: Reaching Diverse Audiences (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1990,] 28.
15 15 Ted Barrett and Ali Zaslav, “Mitch McConnell: ‘I’m not an impartial juror’ ahead of Senate impeachment trial,” CNN, December 17, 2019. Veronica Strac- qualursi, “’I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here’: Graham predicts Trump impeachment will ‘die quickly’ in Senate,” CNN, December 14, 2019.
16 16 Peter G. Northouse, Leadership Theory and Practice, 7th ed. (Los Angeles, Calif.: Sage Publications, Inc., 2016), 339.
17 17 A. Padilla, R. Hogan, and R.B. Kaiser, “The Toxic Triangle: Destructive Leaders, Susceptible Followers and Conducive Environments,” The Leadership Quarterly (18): 180.
18 18 Robert P. Jones, The End of White Christian America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), 85.
19 19 Robert P. Jones, The End of White Christian America, 87.
20 20 Richard R. Osmer, Practical Theology: An Introduction, 135–139.
21 21 I Corinthians 13: 8–10, CEB.
22 22 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World (Nashville, Tenn.: General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, 2019), xi.
23 23 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, xi.
24 24 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, xi.
25 25 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, xi–xii.
26 26 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World , xii.
27 27 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, 5.
28 28 Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, tells Chuck Todd that the press secretary used “alternative facts” in his first statement to the press corps. “Conway: Press Secretary Gave Alternative Facts,” NBC Meet the Press, January 22, 2017. https://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/video/conway-press-secre- tary-gave-alternative-facts-860142147643 (accessed August 17, 2020).
29 29 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, 8.
30 30 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, 11.
31 31 Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005), 55–56.
32 32 In Doctor of Ministry and Doctor of Educational Ministry project pro- posals, I require students to reflect in their project design serious attention to issues of internal validity such as types of triangulation, adequate engagement in data collection, researcher reflexivity, and peer examination. Sharan B. Merriam and Elizabeth J. Tisdell, Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation, 259.
33 33 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, 12.
34 34 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, 15.
35 35 In 2013, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometti created a Black-centered political will and movement called #BlackLivesMatter in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. https://blacklives matter.com/herstory/ (accessed August 17, 2020).
36 36 https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/ (accessed August 17, 2020).
37 37 I am an ordained Elder, former pastor, and former presiding elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Though we describe ourselves as “The Freedom Church,” the official statement of the Board of Bishops, comprised of eleven active male bishops and one active female bishop, forbids same-sex marriage and the ordination of confessing queer persons.
38 38 Though the present discussion is focused on how the substitution of truth with value is played out in the “Black Lives Matter” debate in the American context, this argument has implication beyond the problem of racism. In his conversation with bell hooks, George Yancy notes her persistent use of the expression “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” to describe the power structure that underlies the social order in a global context. George Yan- cy, On Race: 34 Conversations in a Time of Crisis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 16.
39 39 University of Washington Professor Robin DiAngelo reads from her book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, ex- plains the phenomenon, and discusses how white people can develop their capacity to engage more constructively across race. https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=45ey4jgoxeU (accessed August 9, 2020).
40 40 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, 16.
41 41 Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (New York: Bloomsberry, 2017), 3.
42 42 Carol Anderson, White Rage, 4.
43 43 Carol Anderson, White Rage, 4.
44 44 Carol Anderson, White Rage, 5.
45 46 Carol Anderson, White Rage, 5.
46 47 Carol Anderson, White Rage, 5.
47 48 Carol Anderson, White Rage, 6.
48 49 D. Stephen Long, Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World, 26.
49 50 D. Stephen Long, 48.
50 51 Exodus 3: 7–9 CEB.
51 52 Jeff y L. Tribble, Sr., Facebook Timeline, June 3, 2020 (accessed August 15, 2020).
52 53 Larry Buchanan, Quoctrung Bui, and Jugal K. Patel, “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History,” New York Times, July 3, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/03/us/george-floyd-protests- crowd-size.html?smid=em-share (accessed August 17, 2020).
53 54 Buchanan, Bui, and Patel, “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History.”
54 55 Alia Chughtai/Al Jazeera, “Know Their Names: Black People Killed by Po- lice in the U.S.” https://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2020/know-their-names/ index.html (accessed August 17, 2020).
55 56 Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, “Spooning” in Dorothy C. Bass, Kathleen

  1. Cahalan, Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, James R. Nieman, and Christian
  2. Scharen, Christian Practical Wisdom: What It Is and Why It Matters (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2016), 25.
56 57 Reverend Al Sharpton, George Floyd Funeral Eulogy Transcript, June 9, 2020. https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/reverend-al-sharpton-eulogy-tran- script-at-george-floyd-memorial-service (accessed June 29, 2020).
57 58 Reverend Al Sharpton, George Floyd Funeral Eulogy Transcript.
58 59 Reverend Al Sharpton, George Floyd Funeral Eulogy Transcript.
59 60 Though Sharpton, a male preacher in the Black Baptist tradition, is featured here, Black females are an indispensable part of the prophetic Black religious tradition. Marcia Riggs provides one anthology of Black women who heard and answered God’s call to prophetic witness, served as prophetic witnesses in the African American community, and who bore witness in society. Marcia Y. Riggs, ed., Can I Get a Witness? Prophetic Religious Voices of African American Women: An Anthology (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1997).
60 61 Robert R. Wilson, Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel (Philadelphia, Pa.: Fortress Press, 1980), 69–83.
61 62 Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, Second ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2001), xvi.
Presidential Address Engaging the Prophetic Dimension of Christian Leadership2021-03-11T10:19:44-06:00

Introduction: Engaging the Prophetic Dimension of Christian Leadership

Introduction: Engaging the Prophetic Dimension of Christian Leadership

Rev. Dr. Robert K. Martin, Editor

Welcome to the Fall 2020 issue of the Journal of Religious Leadership. As is our custom, the fall issue takes its theme from the preceding Conference of the Academy of Religious Leadership and is constituted largely by its presentations. As we gathered online in April 2020, we were treated to rich array of intellectual offerings that delighted our minds and challenged our hearts.

. . .

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Introduction: Engaging the Prophetic Dimension of Christian Leadership2021-03-11T10:21:07-06:00

Book Review: Loonshots: How To Nurture The Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, And Transform Industries

Loonshots: How To Nurture The Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, And Transform Industries

By: Safi Bahcall
New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2019  |  249 Pp. Hardcover  | ISBN 978-1-250-18596-9

Coming from a background in medical innovation and organizational consulting, Safi Bahcall offers insights into how groups of people innovate. For ministries professionals—whether they are pastors seeking to help a church try something new, judicatory executives seeking to support congregations, or seminary professors seeking to nurture budding leaders—these are common questions: How do we get pastors to be creative? How do we get churches to take risks and try new things? Bahcall’s answer to these questions is to have leaders be on the lookout for “loonshots.” Loonshots are “widely dismissed ideas whose champions are often written off as crazy” (2). With examples that range from the invention of the transistor to the development of Star Wars, Bahcall uses principles from the physics of phase transitions (think water becoming ice) to help leaders understand how to nurture fledgling ideas into reality. He wants to change the structure rather than the culture of organizations in order to support creativity.

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Reviewed by:
Michael Wilson
Donegal Presbytery
Lancaster, Pennsylvania
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Book Review: Loonshots: How To Nurture The Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, And Transform Industries2021-03-11T10:30:21-06:00

Book Review: Leadership In Christian Perspective: Biblical Foundations In Contemporary Practices For Servant Leaders

Leadership In Christian Perspective: Biblical Foundations In Contemporary Practices For Servant Leaders

By: Justin A. Irving And Mark L. Strauss
Grand Rapids, Mi: Baker Academic, 2019  |  218 Pp. Paperback  | ISBN 978-1-540-96033-7

In Leadership in Christian Perspective, Justin Irving and Michael Strauss present a compelling vision of how Christians might lead in their places of work. Whether this work is in a religious or secular setting, a Christian leader’s goal should be “empowering and equipping others to effectively engage God’s purpose in the world” (5). The authors bring together leadership research and biblical scholarship to show that empowering servant leadership has strong biblical foundations and also support from the social sciences regarding its efficacy. Each chapter is split into three sections to guide readers through this interdisciplinary work— biblical foundations, leadership research and theory, and practical examples and recommendations. Each chapter also ends with next steps to help readers critically reflect upon their personal leadership praxis.

Part One focuses on the internal aspects of leadership. The authors contend that in order to be an effective, empowering leader, one must be authentic and purposeful. This begins by modeling key values to others in the organization. Just as Paul encouraged believers to imitate him, so also Christian leaders must provide an example for others to imitate. However, it is difficult to model key organizational and personal values without honest self-evaluation. The authors contend that two of the most common reasons for failure in leadership are self-doubt on one side and pride on the other. Because a Christian’s identity comes from God, Christians are to have neither too high of a view of themselves nor too low. They should have an honest view of themselves, their relationships with others, and their spirituality. Because servant leaders are honest about themselves and model key values, they can prioritize collaboration in their organizations without worrying about competition or being overlooked. They can involve others in crafting and executing the vision, knowing that their identity comes from God and that increased collaboration is a “statistically significant predictor of effective leadership practice” (61).

Part two moves outward toward a leader’s interactions with followers. While much of the text focuses on individual leaders, Irving and Strauss also emphasize the importance of relationships in leadership. Consequently, the second part of this book guides leaders in their relationships with others. Because every person is made in the image of God, Christian leaders value and appreciate others—not only for their contributions to the organization but also for their inherent worth as humans. One way to value and appreciate others is to make space for individuality. Christian leaders are called to move away from an assembly line view of employees where people are easily replaceable and toward a more organic model where the structure of the organization changes based upon who is present. This allows followers to thrive, benefitting the organizations for which they work. The authors conclude this section by focusing on the relational skills leaders must acquire if they are to value others effectively and make space for individuality. They contend that leaders who prioritize relationships in this manner are more likely to be effective in their organization.

Finally, Irving and Strauss shift toward strategies that Christian leaders can use to be more effective. The first of these is communicating with clarity. Servant leaders focus on what followers are hearing rather than on what they as leaders are saying. In addition to communicating their organizations’ priorities and vision, leaders should communicate clearly the expectations that they have of followers. This leads to a second strategy to be effective—holding followers accountable to carry out their responsibilities competently. Irving and Strauss insist that it hinders the development of the organization and the follower when leaders do not hold followers accountable. Of course, as they insist in a third strategy, servant leaders must do their part to resource and support followers as they fulfill their responsibilities. Unlike Pharaoh, who forced the Hebrew slaves to build bricks without straw, effective Christian leaders know how to serve, empower, and equip those who work for them. With these three strategies, servant leaders are more likely to be faithful to their Christian beliefs and effective as leaders in their organization.

While Leadership in Christian Perspective excels at pulling together the disciplines of biblical studies and leadership theory, its reliance upon the concept of servant leadership will be a problem for many. As many practitioners and scholars in marginalized communities have shown, the concept of servant leadership can serve to continue their marginalization as some communities are more servant than others.

Although some examples are provided that church leaders will relate to, this book is written primarily for Christian leaders in the secular workforce. Its accessibility and the thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter will make this work attractive primarily to small church groups or Christian book groups. Those who are emerging leaders or new to the Christian leadership conversation also might find this work helpful. Leadership in Christian Perspective could become a helpful guide for those who seek to integrate their faith into their daily leadership praxis.

Reviewed by:
Zachariah Ellis
Fuller Theological Seminary
Pasadena, California
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Book Review: Leadership In Christian Perspective: Biblical Foundations In Contemporary Practices For Servant Leaders2021-03-11T10:28:52-06:00

Book Review: Longing For Revival: From Holy Discontent To Breakthrough Faith

Longing For Revival: From Holy Discontent To Breakthrough Faith

By: James Choung And Ryan Pfeiffer
Downers Grove, Il: Intervarsity Press, 2020  |  240 Pp. Paperback  | ISBN 978-0-830-84591-0

The word revival might evoke anything from “holy rollers” and false prophets to street corner evangelism and tracts to deep repentance and renewed mission. In some circles, the word is a rallying cry. In others, it is a disappointment or even an embarrassment. InterVarsity vice president James Choung and young adult pastor Ryan Pfeiffer tackle these reactions head-on in their new book, Longing for Revival: From Holy Discontent to Breakthrough Faith. Drawing substantively from Scripture, global and historical Christianity, personal experience, and the writings of spiritual leaders and academics, Choung and Pfeiffer make the case that charismatic and noncharismatic Christians alike should desire revival and prepare themselves to participate in revival in a mature and strategic way.

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Reviewed by:
Jessica Duisberg
Fuller Theological Seminary
Pasadena, California
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Book Review: Longing For Revival: From Holy Discontent To Breakthrough Faith2021-03-11T10:33:07-06:00

Book Review: You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power Of Habit

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power Of Habit

By: James K. A. Smith
Grand Rapids: Mi, Brazos, 2016  |  210 Pp. Hardback  | Isbn 978-1-587-43380-1

Why do you eat that cookie you know you don’t need and that you were determined not to eat? And why do damaging patterns like this continue? Smith argues that rather than human behavior being largely logical and led by the brain, it is primarily instinctive and originates in our gut. Humans are largely “visceral not cerebral” beings (33) shaped by cultural practices that function as liturgies, some of which are acquired intentionally, but many of which are absorbed from our environment. According to Smith, “we unconsciously learn to love rival kingdoms because we don’t realize we’re participating in rival liturgies” (37).

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Reviewed by:
Neil Dougall
St. Andrew Blackadder Church
North Berwick, Scotland
Call for Book Reviews.

Want to receive a free book and submit a review? To see the list, or suggest a title for review contact Book Review Editor Michael Wilson.

Call for papers.

Do you have an idea for an article that could be published in the JRL? Contact Editor Robert Martin with your ideas or submissions.

Guidelines for articles and book reviews are located here.

Unsolicited reviews are not accepted.

Book Review: You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power Of Habit2021-03-11T10:35:24-06:00
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