Leadership: An Evolving Model

James Melchiorre

In one of the first co-led activities since announcing their partnership earlier this year, Church Divinity School of the Pacific and Trinity Church Wall Street convened leaders of the Episcopal Church to discuss ways to identify and equip emerging leaders for the Church and the world.

The convening in Berkeley, California on November 15 and 16 included almost 40 church leaders.

Hosted by CDSP on its California campus, the gathering brought together diocesan bishops, deans of cathedrals and seminaries in the United States and Canada, and leaders of other church institutions which have leadership development as their ministry. CDSP President and Dean, the Very Rev. Dr. Mark Richardson, hailed it as "a long overdue gathering of such a large and wide-ranging Episcopal Church-related group to explore leadership in the context of seminary education."  

The two-day event at CDSP included lots of brainstorming and interactive sessions.

Rob Garris, Trinity's Managing Director of Leadership Development, says a workshop model was intentionally used. 

“We wanted people to get the feeling of creating a concrete proposal for new structures of leadership formation through the church, for the church and for the world.”

Rob Garris is Managing Director of Leadership Development at Trinity Church Wall Street.

In his introductory remarks, the Rev. Dr. William Lupfer, Trinity Rector, explained how leadership formation, as one of the parish's strategic initiatives, fits into the wide-ranging ministry of Trinity.

“When I was called as Rector at Trinity in 2014, the first thing I did was travel across the Anglican Communion to learn what needs were most on the minds of the people," Dr. Lupfer said. "I kept getting the same two answers wherever I went--resources to finance ministry and methods to find and develop future leaders."

Trinity Rector, the Rev. Dr. Bill Lupfer (left) with the Rev. Andrew Hybl, Dean of Students at CDSP.

Among the proposals for innovative leadership development discussed by participants were models that can counter and disrupt the inequalities of the current global economic system, and recommendations for creating digital platforms for sharing resources. Those resources could include training clergy in non-traditional subjects such as real estate management, communications, and finance. Faculty members from CDSP organized and facilitated many of the sessions.

(From left) Scott MacDougall, CDSP; the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism and Reconciliation; John Dwyer, Caroline McCall, CDSP

Dr. Richardson called it “true and rare collaboration among our seminaries in an examination of a common challenge.“

“The event itself modeled something we urgently need in our church: working across things that often present barriers—regional differences, theological differences,” Dr. Richardson said.

The Very Rev. Dr. Mark Richardson (center) is President and Dean of Church Divinity School of the Pacific, host of the event.

Garris called the collaboration between Trinity and CDSP in sponsoring the meeting an example of a mission to which both are long committed.

"Trinity and CDSP have come together in part based on their shared vision of leadership formation that is based in the inspiration of faith linked with the skills needed to carry God's mission to the world," Garris said.  

"Creative and effective leadership is essential for the mission and future of the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican community," said the Rev. Jim Lemler, president of the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation and a retired Episcopal priest.  "The joining together of the tradition of theological education and the rich learning in contemporary areas of leadership development was at the center of the conversation." 

Miguel Ángel Escobar, Executive Director of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, hopes for future church leaders with expertise beyond traditional academic disciplines "whose justice-focused work and witness occurs in public schools, hospitals, in courtrooms, and politics."

The Rev. Dr. Cathy George (center) is Associate Dean, Director of Formation at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale.

The shape and structure of Trinity's work on leadership development will continue to evolve in the coming months. Rob Garris believes the conference in Berkeley represents a solid start, especially in adapting traditional approaches to ordained ministry.

“We want to create some structure to concentrate more on leadership qualities, especially when candidates are in the discernment period,” Garris said.

"It was inspiring to work together on how we might uniquely equip Christian leaders," said the Rev. Dr. Cathy George, Associate Dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale.

"There was passion for building a community of leaders rooted in Scripture and tradition that reaffirms relationships, cherishes differences, and welcomes voices beyond our own church community." 

CDSP plans to distribute detailed notes from the Berkeley meeting to Episcopal bishops across the United States in the coming weeks and intends to continue the dialogue.