Who’s at the Table?

I was recently invited to write an article for the Episcopal Church Foundation’s Vestry Papers on the topic of how we gather around the table. You can read the article here if you wish.

Here was my take on the subject:

“Who is at our leadership table? Or more importantly, who is missing? Do those sitting around the table represent the fullness of the ministry of all the baptized? The healthiest leadership tables are those that are intentional about three key components: demographic representation, gifts discernment, and collaborative leadership.”

The target audience for the article was those leading in a congregational context, but I believe that these three key components are applicable to any group trying to accomplish a task together. For me, these are core values that spring from my understanding of our shared baptismal values. In ECMN, we have aspired to live these values of representation, discernment, and collaboration in the context of our Elected Bodies and Commissions.

ECMN is incredibly resource-rich. We are blessed to have a growing and diverse population in our faith communities. Acknowledging this growing diversity is important to our common narrative. Yet it is critical to point out that diversity and inclusive representation are not the same. Diversity is a demographic fact. Inclusive representation, on the other hand, requires an intentional invitation that ensures that all voices are represented.

Likewise, as I often quote from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” The inclusion of a variety of gifts at the table is paramount to all of us living out our true call. Bringing together different skills expands the capacity of the group. We need folks with legal, financial, and business backgrounds; we need folks with faith formation, spiritual direction, and community organizing backgrounds; we need the fullness of the gifts available across ECMN.

Being intentional about who is at the table is critical, but as important as that is how that group functions. Are all being acknowledged, affirmed, and respected? Are all invited and encouraged to contribute? And are all contributions valued? These are the hallmarks of collaborative functioning. Distributed leadership and power means that all voices are heard and that everyone works toward a common outcome.

Demographic representation and inclusion, discerned gifts representation and inclusion, and collaborative leadership are our core values, a representation of our baptismal values that we aspire towards in ECMN.

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