calendar May 21, 2019 in Assembly

Leadership Rooted in Baptism

“Our purpose comes out of the baptismal waters, where our leadership is grounded.”

The Rev. Dr. M. Wyvetta Bullock, Assistant to the Presiding Bishop/Executive for Administration and ELCA Churchwide Representative, led a lively forum – “Leadership Rooted in Baptism” – on the first day of the assembly. As she began the forum, she shared that her roots in serving the churchwide organization began in Philadelphia, where she was Director of Congregational Services at the Queen Lane office of the LCA before moving to Chicago to serve as part of the ELCA churchwide staff for more than 30 years.

“We are called to love and serve our neighbor,” Bullock said. “This is our highest calling.” She spoke about her young adult years and “not having a clue” about what this meant and growing into that calling over a lifetime. Now, she said, she loves working with young adults and mentoring the younger generations in their discipleship journeys.

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“When you cannot figure things out, love somebody, serve someone. This is always on point. We can do this when we’re trying to figure out other things.”

Bullock pointed to the work of contemporary luminaries like Margaret Wheatley and Parker Palmer to begin a conversation around how participants define what a leader is. Her favorite definition of a leader comes from Margaret Wheatley, “A leader is anyone who sees a need for a change, and is compelled and willing to step forward.”

Bullock held up several biblical texts to illuminate a Jesus-led understanding of leadership identity. From Luke 4:14-21, Bullock asked participants to consider Jesus’ sense of call rooted in baptism. Following his baptism and temptation in the wilderness, Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, steps into his leadership. He is identified in the baptismal waters as God’s child and as beloved.

“And so are we,” she said.

From Mark 8:34-35, a second examination of identity rooted in God was considered. The disciples are asked by Jesus who people say he is. He points to his identity grounded in the cross. Bullock offered a provocative question to participants as she invited people to step away from their comfort zones.

“If our identity depends on status, what happens if we lose any of that?”

Participants were invited to partner with someone they do not know and to talk about ways they have been called to step out of their comfort zones while leading.

Being a leader is to break out of personal and community comfort zones and may require love beyond what people and communities actually love.

“Giving ourselves away, forgiving, loving, leading among people who may not appreciate us. You see God’s hand through it all.”