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Our Vision of Leadership is Service

by His Grace Bishop John, The Word, February 2016

Without vision, the people shall perish, but he that keeps the law is blessed.
Proverbs 29:18

VISION IS AN IMPORTANT ASPECT OF CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP. CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP IS LEADERSHIP BY THOSE WHO PUT ON CHRIST, AND WHO GATHER AS THE CHURCH TO UNDERSTAND AND TO DO GOD'S WILL. THIS UNDERSTANDING COMES FROM GOD'S PROMISE THAT "WHERE TWO OR THREE GATHER IN MY NAME, THERE AM I WITH THEM" (MATTHEW 18:20). TOGETHER, WITH LOVE AND MUTUAL SUBMISSION AND RESPECT, CHRISTIANS DISCERN GOD'S WILL, "SUBMITTING TO ONE ANOTHER OUT OF REVERENCE FOR CHRIST" (EPHESIANS 5:21).

Christian leadership is always a leadership of service. "After that, he put water into a basin, and began to washthefeetof the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded" (John13:5). We lead by being true servants of each other and servants of God. Vision is the discernment and articulation of our goals, and of the pathways that take us there.

This leads me to ask, how is it, then, that we discover God's vision for us – God's vision for us as the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, as dioceses throughout North America, as parishes, committees and mission or work teams, and even as Christian families and individuals?

Metropolitan Joseph's understanding of God's vision of the Archdiocese is easily recognized in the message offered to the Archdiocese Board, the notes of the Board meeting, and in the Metropolitan's message to the Antiochian House of Studies (published in this edition of The WORD). Metropolitan Joseph is calling for us to work together to understand God's will and to do our Christian work. We are to be deliberate about what we do, and how we do it, and to understand that this is not about ego, but all about service. All this work needs to be done in an orderly way, and in concert with the bishops and with one another.

For years, Anthony Bashir, John Dalack, Richard Robbat, Ron Nicola and others of the Departments of Lay Ministries and Stewardship have been wrestling with ways to articulate responses to these ultimate questions of vision. They have borrowed the language and the models of best practices from modern business, psychology, education, and Orthodox writers to articulate an Orthodox understanding of how we Orthodox practice leadership. It is obvious to me that God has blessed their work, because the models help us to articulate what God is doing as we gather in His name. They have been working with parishes and parish councils to develop mission statements, vision statements, core-value statements, and then action plans. In their words, they bring us from form to meaning. In my words, they help us be deliberate in our Christian vocations.

An essential element of this work is to listen to each other. We sometimes are too afraid of not being heard to be able really to listen to the other. I have found that once I write down my thoughts, I am better able to hear someone else. Our tradition calls us to hear God and to see God in the other. The other includes my fellow parishioner and Parish Council member. The other includes my wife and children. Not that everything everyone says is from God, but by listening, really listening and understanding other perspectives, we are better able to discern.

If we are willing to take the time to understand each other's perspectives, which often requires an understanding of each other's lives and histories, we will be enriched by what we discover through their experiences and wisdom. The same God that was there when I was a youth in Boston was there in everyone else's youth. When I listen to understand the other, I can hear what God was doing in that situation, which informs my understanding of my own experience. Often it will call me to reevaluate my own understanding of myself. While this is sometimes uncomfortable, it is very enriching.

As a statement of faith, I believe that God gives every diocese all the tools that she needs to guide the faithful and to understand Himself and His will. Not every bishop, priest, council chair, parent or person need have every gift to know and to do God's will, but every diocese is given all of the gifts that are necessary. It is the function of the bishop and his presbyters, as well as the Parish Council with the priest, to discern where the gifts are and to deliver them for the glory of God, for the building up of His Church, for the families of the faithful, and for all other persons in our communities. We need to get past our pride and accept the support that God has given His Church. In like manner, when others have need of our gifts, it is right for us to be generous with them.

Bishop John