Rethinking leadership in the Uniting Church
This is Part One of a three part series on lay leadership in the Church.
When we think of leadership in the Church, does your mind instantly go to the hour you spend at Church on a Sunday with a minister preaching? Do you consider leadership the domain of the other, more qualified people in your church? Do you feel you have gifts that could be used in your congregation? Insights spoke with the Synod’s Associate Secretary, The Reverend Bronwyn Murphy and Bradon French. They quickly dispelled some of the myths of leadership and said that even if you are part of a congregation your gifts, skills and time may all be used to further the Kingdom of God.
Priesthood of Believers
For Rev. Bronwyn Murphy— Associate General Secretary for the Synod of NSW and ACT —lay ministry is about the whole people of God, or as she explains, “the Priesthood of all Believers.”
When Martin Luther referred to the priesthood of all believers, he was maintaining that everyone could do priestly work. In fact, our vocations are priestly work. There was no hierarchy where the priesthood is a “vocation” and every day work is not. Both are tasks that God has called us to do, each according to our gifts.
This is an important biblical idea that has great implications for our personal spirituality and public life: the idea that every believer is a priest, regardless of his or her full-time occupation. This has enormous implications for how Christians live their daily lives.
“For me, lay ministry is about the whole people of God. Laity simply means people of God,” explains Bronwyn, dispelling the myths that to be in ministry you somehow need to be called into formal training.
“The Uniting Church believes that the people of God – lay or ordained – work together to be the good news for the rest of the community.”
“Lay ministry is important because it’s living out discipleship. If you’ve been baptised that’s your entry in the Christian church, but it’s also your call to live a life of faith, which means you live differently than you might have had you had no faith.
“The rest of life is then working out what that looks like, what does it mean for to be a person of faith in school, the office, career or whatever it is? What is my expression of faith and who do I want to be with Christ?”
Lay Education is part of this training and formation. It is how we learn to become more like Christ and the more we practice it the better we get at it. It’s kind of like exercise: the more you do, the more you benefit from it.
Bradon French is also looking at lay leadership through Pulse, which is the refocused work of Uniting Mission and Education and the whole Synod of NSW and the ACT. While investing in existing congregations and leaders, Bradon would like to identify and foster young leaders with a passion to lead, and equip them accordingly. Pulse aims to develop a sustainable, vibrant movement that strengthens communities and develops effective leaders.
“I think that we need to reflect on our core purpose and that leadership in the Church is for the sake of God and we need to demonstrate that,” says Bradon.
“If we are talking about emerging generations and what they are looking for they need to be assured that they are part of something that is more than just a theological club of people who like each other. They want something that makes a difference.
“So there’s leadership that sustains that community but also points that community outside.”
This feature continues Part Two: Gifts of lay ministry and Leadership.