Great Man Theory


Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


In the 1940s, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted a series of experiments on African American children that would become known as “the doll tests.” Each child was given a set of four dolls which were identical except for their color. The children were then asked which doll they preferred. Most children preferred the white doll as opposed to a black doll. The children also attributed positive characteristics to the white doll. This demonstration of low self-esteem was strongly influenced by segregation. The supreme court case of Brown vs. the Board of Education used the doll test study as one of its reasons to strike down segregation and “separate but equal” statutes across the country.

In the book Leadership, General Stanley McChrystal, Jeff Eggers, and Jason Mangone write about the influence of Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle on the image of leadership. Carlyle created the Great Man theory. According to Carlyle “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” The authors of Leadership believe Carlyle’s erroneous notion of leadership being Male (and usually white) is with us today. They quote the New York Times in saying, “There are more CEOs named John than there are women in the top 1500 companies.” Then they write, “When people are asked to draw an effective leader, their sketch typically reflect male features, even when a woman is holding the pencil.”

When I was in seminary, I had a serious problem at my Pentecostal church, and I needed pastoral care. Rev. Deborah Block was teaching one of my classes and I asked her for an appointment. After sharing my problem, she provided excellent guidance. Afterward I said, “I can’t believe God sent me to a woman pastor for counseling, but now I see why.” I too was prejudiced against women in leadership. The “Great Man as Pastor” was placed into me from a young age. But my experience from that session with Deborah opened my eyes to my ignorance and how I’d been resisting the moving of the Holy Spirit.

The Gender Equality Task Force is doing excellent work to help us understand the unequal position of women and men in pastoral leadership in the presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy. They have come to the realization that congregations must discard the Great Man theory. The gift of women in leadership (and gifted women in leadership) is available to all congregations, no matter the size or geographic location. The future of the church is a future of diversity. Male and female pastoral leadership is required to take us into God’s vision for the church, and Giddings-Lovejoy.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

 

 

Life Realignment


Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


The other day while driving to the office, as I turned onto Olive off of 270, I felt the crash of my tire hitting a pot hole. It happened so fast. First the front tire and then the back. I fumed at the thought of a bent tire rim or my wheels getting out of alignment. Fortunately, neither of those happened. I only lost the cap off my front rim.

As we go through the year, we hit lots of pot holes in our lives. The cumulative spiritual damage is expressed in our lack of patience with one another and dimming hope for a positive outcome in our lives and our church. Lent is the time of realignment. Through 40 days of prayer and spiritual disciplines, we are able to commune with God and reset our faith walk again.

Each Lent I read a book a week as part of my discipline. My topics are a mix of scripture, leadership, creativity, and race in America. Each year I approach my reading with excitement and anticipation. I wonder what I will learn, how I will apply it, and most of all, “What is God saying to me at this point in my life journey?”

I am sharing my titles in case you want to read along with me. I find my books throughout the year from websites, footnotes of other readings, various book lists, and recommendations from friends.

As we journey through Lent this year, may we be driven into the mission God has for us in the coming Christian year.

Figuring– Maria Popova. Maria writes the blog, Brain Pickings. She describes her book this way: “It explores the complexities, varieties, and contradictions of love, and the human search for truth, meaning, and transcendence, through the interwoven lives of several historical figures across four centuries.”

Faith and Struggle in the Lives of Four African Americans– Randall Maurice Jelks. Randall is a brilliant African American Presbyterian who teaches history at Kansas University. “This book offers a fascinating look into the religious lives of four individuals, and Jelks also weaves his own religious narrative in and out of the stories he tells.”

Quietly Courageous: Leading the Church in a Changing World– Gil Rendle. I’ve walked with Gil through the writing of this book. We meet twice a year with three other mid-council leaders. “Gil Rendle offers practical guidance to leaders—both lay and ordained—on leading churches today.”

Leaders: Myth and Reality– Stanley McChrystal. I was inspired by General McChrystal’s previous book, Team of Teams. In this book he “profiles thirteen of history’s great leaders, including Walt Disney, Coco Chanel, and Robert E. Lee, to show that leadership is not what you think it is—and never was.”

Word that Redescribes the World: The Bible and Discipleship– Walter Brueggemann. My spiritual director recommended this book for me, so I’m reading it!

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America– Richard Rothstein. This book is a deep analysis of how the federal government, through redlining, created the housing segregation we are still living with today.

Rev. Craig Howard

 

 

 

 

 

Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free

Blog Post by
Rev. Vanessa Hawkins
Designated Associate Presbytery Leader
vhawkins@glpby.org


We have a long fight and this fight is not mine alone. But you are not free whether you white or whether you black, until I am free.  Because no man is an island to himself…And I’m not just fighting for myself and for the black race, but I’m fighting for the white; I’m fighting for the Indians; I’m fighting for the Mexicans; I’m fighting for the Chinese; I’m fighting for anybody because as long as they are human beings, they need freedom.[1]

Fannie Lou Townsend Hamer was born into poverty to share croppers. Her father was a Baptist preacher. The youngest of 20 children, she knew firsthand the cruelty of poverty. She left school in the sixth grade in order to pick cotton on a Mississippi plantation. For over 18 years, she worked as a sharecropper and timekeeper on the Marlow plantation. In 1962, After attending a meeting in Ruleville, Mississippi, Hamer decided to register to vote. It took her months to pass the literacy test and become a registered voter. Although her education was shorted due to sharecropping; although she was shot at and beaten half to death for registering to vote, and although she was unable to have children due to an unauthorized hysterectomy—Hamer’s resilience was formidable. In 1962, she became a SNCC organizer in Sunflower County, Mississippi. In 1964, she became the vice chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) as they attempted to gain seats at the 1964 Democratic National Convention (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4NhURBrtI8). Hamer’s social activist legacy continued as she later established a cooperative, collaborated on the building of a low-income daycare center, and the construction of two hundred units of low-income housing for her Mississippi community. Hamer is the essence of what we celebrate during Black History Month.

On July 13, 2003, The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy voted to adopt and implement Strategic Directions, one of which is “Dismantling Racism and White Privilege.”  As staff to our current Dismantling Racism and Privilege Action Team (DRAP), I can say that the work of addressing systemic racism continues. DRAP continues to grow and the team members are full of enthusiasm. This year, they are continuing to broaden the work of dismantling racism. This year, they are providing a scholarship to Gary Naylor to attend the White Privilege Conference in Cedar Falls, Iowa (https://www.whiteprivilegeconference.com). DRAP continues to learn ways to articulate the positive value of a racially inclusive space and community. Just yesterday, they participated in a webinar with Kikanza Nuri-Robins to explore how to be more culturally proficient in our efforts to shift the culture of the presbytery and within our congregations   (http://www.kikanzanurirobins.com).

Join us if you are interested in developing a deeper understanding of racism and in helping us to uproot this systemic problem embedded in our culture and within individuals. DRAP meets the fourth Monday of each month at Ladue Chapel at 1:00 p.m. Remember: “Racism is fundamentally a spiritual problem because it denies our true identity as children of God. In Jesus Christ, God frees us to love and teaches us how to live as a family.[2] If you want to learn more about what’s DRAP is doing, please contact the moderator, John Harrison, at afftonpastor@gmail.com.

Rev. Vanessa Hawkins

 

[1] “The Only Thing We Can Do is Work Together,” in The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer. This speech was delivered by Mrs. Hamer at a Chapter Meeting of the National Council of Negro Women in Mississippi in 1967.  See https://www.amazon.com/Speeches-Fannie-Lou-Hamer-Alexander-ebook/dp/B004YZJINC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1551204768&sr=1-1&keywords=9781604738230.

 

[2] Facing Racism:  A Vision of the Beloved Community.  Approved by the 211th General Assembly (1999) Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

In Honor of Black History Month

 Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


In his book, At Caanan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965 – 1968, Taylor Branch tells the story about Rev. Lorenzo Harrison. Harrison was preaching at a church in Lowndes County Alabama, when the sound of pick-up trucks came through the open windows. The trucks were carrying Klansmen who were carrying loaded shotguns and rifles as they pulled up to the church on a bright Sunday morning. Inside, the 200 worshipers began to worry and gasp. As Harrison braced the pulpit, he switched from preaching the gospel to exclaiming calm to the parishioners. He said, “They have brought the cup to the Lord’s doorstep.” Weeks ago, Harrison had mentioned voting in one of his sermons. None of the 15,000 African Americans who made up 80% of the county were ever allowed a single vote. Word had gotten out about what Harrison said, and this was enough to bring the Klan to the church.

The emboldened Klan began shouting that they would “get the out-of-county nigger preacher before sundown,” whether the congregation surrendered him or not. The choir sang. Parishioners prayed, gasped, and moaned. They were surrounded and had no way out. They prayed for strength not to give up their pastor to this evil group of men even if the Klan burned the whole congregation alive. Suddenly and for some unknown reason the trucks began to leave. Eventually, the deacons sent out a scout to see if there were any ambushes or threats further down the road. When the all clear was signaled, the parishioners were allowed to leave with many of them walking since so few had cars.

This story takes place in 1965. As a Presbyterian, the roots of my faith pass through John Calvin. As an African American, my spirit is bolstered by the courageous stories of women and men who stood firm and faithful in the midst of crises during the Civil Rights movement. I am not lifting this particular story up to make anyone feel guilty or responsible for the ugliness of our past. However, we must recognize the tendrils of evil that create daily reminders of our incomplete work against racism.

The courage of Rev. Harrison benefits all who enter the pulpit and preach the Word of God. No matter what race or ethnicity, the same gospel that provided the necessary fortitude for Harrison to march and stand, is available to us. We stand on the shoulders of those who have taken a stand in the past. We march in cadence with those who have marched toward freedom for all.

May the same God who enabled the prophets to stand up against kings, Jesus to stand before Pilate, and the disciples to stand before Herod, give us the wherewithal to stand against the powers of injustice in our world today.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Making the Shift

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


I am still bubbling with excitement from our presbytery gathering! The Holy Spirit was present in every element of worship, including the preaching, installation, offering (we received over $1500!), and communion. The business session was efficient and uplifting. The workshops were full of conversation and sharing ideas. The gathering was a reminder of what happens when God’s people come together in unity. It was a reminder that we can do amazing things together as the body of Christ.

I’m leading a retreat this weekend at Cape Girardeau. One of the books I’m using is Holy Clarity by Sarah B. Drummond. It is a book about planning and evaluating ministry. Drummond also talks about the shift that occurred when our culture moved from modernity to postmodernity. The problem is that many of our churches, leaders, and church systems were designed to respond to the modern age and the problems of the modern age. We are now in the postmodern age, and fixes from the modern age often fall short. The following are differences that Drummond lifts up between the modern era and postmodern era style of organization.

 Modern Era

  • Governed by standing committees that move methodically and slowly, even when significant issues arise.
  • Budgets are based on what the church has done in the past, not on what it might do in the future.
  • Leadership structure is hierarchical.
  • Interpret conflict as a problem to be fixed.
  • Popular culture is interpreted as an enemy to their cause.
  • Afraid to engage in a conversation that challenges the necessity of the institutional church.

Postmodern Era

  • Committee structure are more nimble. For example, teams of leaders are assembled to address specific issues.
  • Budgets are based on the church’s future mission and calling.
  • Leadership structure is a flat hierarchy, in which different leaders have the last word depending upon the issue at hand, and the pastor plays a coordinating and collaborative role with those leaders, bringing a spiritual perspective on the work of the church. Thus, the last word comes not from a committee or a leader, but from God as interpreted by the community under the leadership of the pastor.
  • They understand conflict to be a teacher and an illuminator of the path God has laid before them, and they have decision-making structures that help the church move forward- rather than freezing- when conflict arises.
  • They understand themselves to be part of the culture, providing an alternative worldview (a faith perspective) that both participates in and critiques the wider society.

I find these lists fascinating! We are all struggling with the modernity to postmodernity shift. We are challenged to accept that we are living in a postmodern world, and we may be woefully out of step. Perhaps this list can become a conversation for your session and for our presbytery vision team. This may be the start of a shift we all need to make, as we continue to become the church of the 21st century.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Holy Listening

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org
 


Recently, I worshiped at a very small church in our presbytery. During worship, I could see many ways of how connecting to the presbytery would help this congregation. The connection had been severed a while ago because of bad experiences at presbytery gatherings as well as with presbytery visits. This congregation figured they were better off going it alone than being connected with a presbytery that didn’t listen to them, respect them and sometimes disrespected one another.

On Thursday I am being installed as your Presbytery Leader. In this role, I take full responsibility for the life of the presbytery both past and present. I am determined to continue the work of healing our fragmentation and making the presbytery one whole and connected body. We are well on our way! The presbytery staff made over 140 congregational visits in 2018; congregation participation in presbytery gatherings increased; leadership in our new organizational structure is fully populated; teams and sub-teams are doing the mission and ministry they are called to do.

On Thursday we will experience another step in our progress. During the education session, we will be together in small groups, and we will talk to one another. Real connection occurs when we see one another face to face, when we can see one another into existence. And then we talk. We listen. We observe. We find common ground.

In her book, The Power of Listening, Lynne M. Baab writes about holy listening. Quoting Craig Satterlee, she writes, “Holy listening demands vigilance, alertness, openness to others, and the expectation that God will speak through them. Holy listening trusts that the Holy Spirit acts in and through our listening. We discern and discover the wisdom and will of God by listening to one another and to ourselves.”

We have great presenters prepared to share and moderate our conversations. There are already over 200 people registered, and 66 have never been to a Presbytery Gathering before! What an opportunity to listen to one another! What a chance to discern God’s wisdom and will for our congregations! These are the conversations that will mend together relationships and continue to bring us together in love and support of one another in the presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

 

 

Transparent Leadership

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us. I Thessalonians 2:8

At the upcoming presbytery gathering on February 7th at Southminster, I will be installed as Presbytery Leader of Giddings-Lovejoy. I have served as your transitional presbytery leader and will now become permanent. The option to move from interim to permanent was part of my original contract. I would like to share with you some personal thoughts of what this new relationship means to me.

Being installed is a very personal and emotional event. It means entering into a covenant relationship with the presbytery. I have a strong internal sense of call to institutional ministry. It is the same call I experienced while serving at McCormick Seminary and the Presbytery of Milwaukee. At these places I was able to serve a broader theological, racial and geographic area than most local congregations encompass. I have also served as pastor of Presbyterian congregations as well. Serving in a congregation allows me to express love and care for members as I live with them through the challenges of life. It is the same love and care I feel for each congregation in Giddings-Lovejoy, without exception. I rejoice in the good news I hear when a congregation reaches a goal or has a wonderful accomplishment. My heart breaks when a congregation is in conflict, suffers a tragedy, or has to end its ministry.

I have found relationships to be the key. Being installed means being interconnected with the members of Giddings-Lovejoy and the communities they serve. It is about building, nurturing, and strengthening relationships.

I am blessed to have family and friends that I love deeply. Unfortunately, most of them live a good distance away from me. We stay in touch through calls, texts and email. But even then, sometimes I get busy and communication runs dry. I have found relationships take work, and communication runs both ways. I have as much responsibility to reach out as they have to contact me.

Interconnection is also a two-way street. As your installed Presbytery Leader, I am called to reach out and build connections. Simultaneously, the members of Giddings-Lovejoy must be willing to reach out and connect by communicating with me, volunteering and participating in presbytery events.

In this way I can get to know you. I can come to understand your values, your joys and your worries. Likewise, I am committed to being transparent and opening myself to you. This is not easy, and I am not perfect at it. As an African American male, being hidden and emotionally elusive is a survival instinct. My sense of call, vocation, covenant, and baptism call me in a different direction than my upbringing. I am called to love and be transparent. Love without transparency is a noisy gong and clanging cymbal.

Thank you for saying yes to God’s call and allowing me to serve as your Presbytery Leader.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

A Caring Church

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


The installation service of Rev. Alexandra (Alex) Lysdahl at First United, Bellville, was joyful, lighthearted, reverent, and delightful. When Rob Dyer, the head of staff, gave the charge to Alex, he began by using scripture in a humorous way. But his jovial mood became serious as he reflected on seeing Alex administer care to someone in the hospital. Rob observed the gentleness and loving spirit Alex demonstrated in the hospital room. He felt that if his mother were ill, he would want someone like Alex providing pastoral care.

Relationships are the lifeblood of a congregation. We build connections with one another over time. These connections, which are often generational, are one of the reasons we enjoy coming together in worship, teaching, and mission. Being present for one another during the difficult times of life is the core of what it means to be together. We need one another. This is even more true when we are hurt, afraid, or grieving. We need people who are trained to walk alongside us during times of grief, suffering, and loss. In the book All Our Losses All Our Griefs, Kenneth Mitchell and Herbert Anderson write, “Although grieving is by its very nature a lonely task, the resolution of grief requires the presence of other persons.”

At our next presbytery gathering on Thursday, February 7th at 1 p.m. at Southminster Presbyterian in Crestwood (note the change in location), training will be offered in pastoral care. The training is designed for deacons, but ruling elders, pastors, and other congregational leaders are invited to attend. Rev. Renita Mercado-Heinzl will lead the workshop. Renita serves as chaplain at St. Luke’s Episcopal Presbyterian Hospital. She brings a wealth of experience, gifts, and wisdom to this ministry.

There are many options for learning at this presbytery gathering. Although the workshop descriptions mention particular groups or congregation size, you are encouraged to self-select and attend the workshop that best fits the needs of your congregation. The intention is not to be constraining but to offer flexibility through choice. Please register, attend, and plan to listen and share as we learn together. The registration page can be found here.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Learning Together

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org 


In the 1990s there was a series of commercials featuring the Shell Answer Man. These commercials talked about ways to save gasoline and how to keep a car maintained. The Shell Answer Man was portrayed as the expert who had the answer to any question regarding automobiles. Today, automobiles are more complex and so is motor oil! In fact, as electric vehicles (EV), plug in hybrids, and solar powered cars enter the market, motor oil may become a memory.

Congregations have also turned to experts for guidance. In the book, Leadership Without Easy Answers, Ronald Heifetz writes, “In times of distress we turn to authority. To the breaking point, we place our hopes and frustration upon those whose presumed knowledge, wisdom, and skill show the promise of fulfillment. Authorities serve as repositories for our worries and aspirations, holding them, if they can, in exchange for the powers we give them.”

Authoritative experts serve us well when we are dealing with technical problems. These are problems we can both define and solve. This is the diagnosis of an infection that needs an antibiotic. But often in congregations, the problem is not technical but adaptive. Adaptive problems cannot easily be defined, and if they can be defined, there is no clear solution. When we are faced with adaptive problems, the solution requires learning and changing our behavior.

So then, how do we learn? I believe we learn together, in community. We learn by listening to one another. We learn by listening to those who are in the same situation and struggling with the same issues. We learn by having holy conversations of discernment based on scripture, prayer, confession, and commitment to change.

At our February 7th Presbytery Gathering at New Horizons in Overland MO at 1 p.m., we will have three concurrent workshops that will focus on congregational ministry. The workshops are based on the number of worshipers (not members) in a congregation. The idea is to have people with similar issues and challenges to meet in a space where they can share thoughts and ideas under the guidance of a professional facilitator from Ministry Architects. The workshops will be geared for pastors, but all congregational leaders are welcome to attend.

Congregational ministry doesn’t have a Shell Answer Man. What it does have is the Holy Spirit who is present as we listen and speak and as we open our hearts to God’s direction for our lives and our congregations.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

The Need for Strong Sessions of Discernment

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


I began my ministry in the Presbyterian church as a ruling elder on session responsible for worship and music. Things were going along fine until the musician resigned. In my former church, which was Pentecostal, the pastor would step in and find another musician. In fact, the musician could not be hired without the pastor’s approval! But I was in a new church world now! The session expected me to lead the search for a musician. This meant creating a job description, understanding the pay rates, advertising, interviewing, and making the hire. I kept waiting for the pastor to step in and take over or tell me what to do. Instead he just encouraged and supported me and showed great confidence in my ability. The hire went well, and I learned the value and responsibility of being a ruling elder.

Then, for some reason the pastor decided not to do the prayers of the people anymore. He had that section removed from the bulletin. I’m not sure why. Perhaps he was going through his own night of the soul and found it hard to pray. This became a crisis and the church asked the session to determine if the pastor had the authority to make that decision without the session (the answer is no. The pastor and session are responsible for worship, which includes prayer W-2.0302, W-5.0202). I had to approach the pastor and have the difficult conversation. Afterward, prayer was reinstated in the bulletin.

I lift up these two stories because they taught me that a church is only as strong as its session and the ruling elders who serve on it. Paul Hooker, a leading polity expert argues that ruling elders are called to the ministry of discernment and governance, with an emphasis on discernment. This means ruling elders seek the will of Christ, “Not the shrewdest business decision. Not the action that comports with my pre-established preferences. Not the decision that places me on the right side of political favor (or the pastor). We are called to discern — to separate out all that stuff — until all that is left is the one that reflects the will of Christ. . .  The role of a ruling elder is a spiritual function.”

This is why we are offering Ruling Elder Training at the February presbytery gathering. I believe our churches are only as strong as our sessions. We need ruling elders who are gifted and empowered to serve along with the pastor in the work and ministry of the congregation. I’m encouraging and inviting all ruling elders who serve on sessions to be a part of this learning and training. Let’s share stories, insights, and learn how to discern the will of Christ together.

Rev. Craig M. Howard