Fall 2018 · Vol. 47 No. 2 · pp. 140–141 

From the Editor: Spiritual Leadership

Pierre Gilbert

Organizations, institutions, and governments that are blessed with good leadership tend to thrive and prosper. But as with everything else, there is sadly another side to that coin. Those that are cursed with poor leadership will wither, flounder, and die.

Churches are not exempt from this law. To fulfill their mission, churches need good leaders. But what constitutes good leadership? At the very least, it entails the ability to exegete. Good leaders need the ability to exegete Scripture, their world, and the church. While there is no guarantee of success, leaders who can perform these three tasks to some reasonable extent will be more effective than those who don’t.

This issue of Direction offers a series of articles written by faculty members of MB Seminary. These reflections are intended to offer insights that we hope will assist those who are called to lead the church.

Director of Chaplaincy Program, Dr. Gloria Woodland, reflects on how pastors, chaplains, and other caregivers can offer support to those who request Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), without sacrificing their convictions about the sanctity of human life and the reality of God’s comforting presence in the world.

Dr. Pierre Gilbert (Biblical Studies) reflects on the challenge of maintaining the church’s theological integrity and missional effectiveness in the context of a culture that upholds and aggressively promotes an ideology that often conflicts with the most fundamental Christian beliefs about the nature of ultimate reality.

Dr. Brian Cooper (Theology) rightly points out that the effectiveness of a denomination is contingent on a clear theological identity. It is Cooper’s contention, however, that Mennonite Brethren (MBs) may lack a common platform from which to engage the world. He proposes an approach he calls “theological hermeneutics” as a way to clarify MB theology and create theological unity.

In a period of rising fears about the prospect of major military conflicts, where Christians stand on the exercise of military power will be an issue they will not have the luxury of ignoring. For MBs to engage this question, it will be necessary for our historians and theologians to revisit the question historically and theologically. Dr. Bruce Guenther (Church History) highlights four moments in Anabaptist/Mennonite history that highlight a surprising absence of unanimity about the extent to which the use of force, including participation in the military, is permissible. He concludes with some observations about how this might contribute to a constructive conversation about what the Anabaptist/Mennonite emphasis on peacemaking might mean for Canadian MBs. {141}

While Mennonite Brethren may not readily be identified as Charismatics, Dr. Andrew Dyck (Pastoral Ministry) reminds us that MBs have had a very robust theology and experience of the Holy Spirit from the very beginning of the movement until now. Dyck concludes this insightful investigation by exploring the implications of the early Anabaptists’ experience of the Spirit for the MB church today.

Dr. Mark Wessner (MB Seminary President), Dr. Randy Wollf (Practical Theology), and Dr. Doug Heidebrecht (Mission and Theology) focus more specifically on what constitutes good Christian leadership. Through a detailed study of 2 Kings 23:25, Wessner demonstrates that Josiah’s remarkable kingship exhibits principles that can speak into the lives and actions of ministry, marketplace, and social leaders. Wollf invites us to examine the story of Nehemiah, from which he derives six practices that should inform every growing leader. For his part, Heidebrecht addresses the notion of authority in the church. Using James McClendon’s work on authority, Heidebrecht proposes that the model of “authorities in” the church best mediates God’s intent for Mennonite Brethren congregations.

While I don’t expect everyone to agree with every position advocated in these papers, I trust you will find them thought-provoking and that they will indeed contribute to a better understanding of Scripture, society, and the church.

Pierre Gilbert, PhD
Associate Professor of Bible and Theology
Canadian Mennonite University
MB Seminary