Living on the Edge: The Courageous Leadership Imperative
By: Sherri Gragg
Sixteen TAC clergy were selected to attend the Courageous Leadership Imperative to network with other leaders and gain fresh inspiration to pursue bold and creative ministry.
Soaring spiral staircases lead to a ten-story playground slide back to earth. A school bus juts from the side of the building, teetering in mid-air. The basement of the 600 thousand square foot shoe factory is a “Fungeon,” complete with a man-made cave system, eerie lighting and a warren of tunnels.
And that only scratches the surface of The City Museum in St. Louis.
One hundred twenty-five faith leaders, sixteen of whom were carefully chosen participants from the Texas Annual Conference, stood on the doorstep of the whimsical “adult playground” for the first day of the Courageous Leadership Imperative. Their mission for the introductory session?
“It reminded me of a playground from the 1970’s that was super dangerous,” said TAC participant the Rev. John Stephenson, Faith UMC Richmond. “The point of the event was to help open our minds to creativity and imagination.”
Inspiring and Empowering Leaders
The Courageous Leadership Imperative, an offering of the Texas Methodist Foundation, was “designed to create a network for dynamic leaders, expand imagination for what’s possible, and embolden courage,” (Texas Methodist Foundation, Launch 1.0, A Courageous Leadership Imperative Experiment) The leadership training and networking event, offered October 8 -10, 2018, was made possible by a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment.
One especially memorable speaker for Stephenson was Brett Hagler, founder of New Story. When Hagler was only 25-years-old, he had a vision to end homelessness. Since that time, his non-profit New Story has raised millions of dollars to build entire communities for the homeless through the 3-D printing of homes. Hagler’s courageous leadership inspired Stephenson to move forward on his own dreams of ministry.
It is a perfect example of the contagious courage the Texas Methodist Foundation hoped to foster through the program as they sought to “create a network for dynamic leaders, expand imagination for what’s possible, and embolden courage.”
As Stephenson and his colleagues return home to the Texas Annual Conference from St. Louis, they do so with fresh visions of ministry at the “edge,” and new courage to undertake those challenges. It is a place Rohr recognized as one of both risk and incredible privilege in leadership, “if you are both inside and outside, you are the ultimate threat, the ultimate reformer and the ultimate invitation.” (Radical Grace, Richard Rohr)
The Courageous Leadership Imperative targeted innovative leaders at the “edge of the center,” a concept drawn from the writings of Fr. Richard Rohr. According to Rohr, these types of leaders are “doorkeepers” of a prophetic nature who are both fully participatory in the church, but close enough to those on the outside to allow them to speak challenging truths to the very institutions of which they are a part. Rohr says these leaders’ “authentic inner experience and membership allows them to utterly critique the very systems that they are a part of. You might say that their enlightened actions clarified what our mere belief systems really mean (Radical Grace, Fr. Richard Rohr).
Stephenson found the concept of courageous leadership intriguing. When he learned the event was an offering of the Texas Methodist Foundation, an organization known for strong leadership development, he was eager to apply for the opportunity to attend the event.