In This Issue: Leadership in the Church
In Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler’s hero-victim of one of Stalin’s purges describes society as a ship sailing placidly until changes of elevation in the course of its history force the ship to enter locks to be raised or lowered. At times of crisis the ordinary running of the ship is suspended as lock-masters take charge. Democracy, he implied, works only in calm waters.
Crises also come to churches—and to the Church. Then accustomed forms seem inadequate and members resign much of their responsibility to the charismatic, or to the merely forceful. One may question whether the present unease about leadership is due to the sense that a crisis looms or to the hope that calmer waters are ahead. Different churches will no doubt be at different places.
The articles by Henry Schmidt and Henry Regehr describe the different styles and conditions of leadership. John Regehr’s article suggests that our present mix of “authority” and “brotherhood” may need to tilt a bit more to “authority,” though to an authority conceived as ministry rather than as dominance.
A description of recent studies of leadership in Mennonite churches and a review of books on the subject of leadership in the church will point readers to sources of information and ideas.
An article on leadership in the Scriptures was originally planned, but it is perhaps significant that it was not written. Past attempts to discover a clear church polity in Scripture have managed always to cast a sacred sanction around whatever forms were actually wanted. In fact, the Bible reflects various forms of governance at various times. Nor could we be like the early church even if we had suddenly revealed to us the nature of its working. But we do know that the Lord of the Church came to minister and not to seek His own glory. And we know that we all are called to foster in each other the gifts we possess and the perfection to which we are called.
And so it is appropriate that we honor a fallen leader. John A. Toews’ insights and goals were informed by the Scriptures, by a deep knowledge of history, and by a life filled with rich experience. His leadership will be missed. Herb Giesbrecht provides us with a bibliography of Toews’ writings (both articles and books), published over a span of three decades.
This issue was planned and coordinated by John Regehr, Consulting Editor.