Guiding future Anglican leaders toward their full potential
during a four-week retreat in Charleston, South Carolina
In his 2014 Convention Address, Bishop Mark Lawrence called for the creation of a leadership training initiative that would bring future leaders in the Anglican Communion to South Carolina for periods of study, teaching, reflection, and nurture.
The Anglican Leadership Institute (ALI) is a response to Bishop Lawrence's call.
We offer men and women with a proven track of ministry a chance to spend a month in community under the guidance of expert leaders who have exercised faithful and effective ministry in their own contexts.
Global Anglican leaders will nominate those with distinctive leadership potential for submission to the Session.
Once chosen, these candidates will receive coverage from ALI for travel, visa, training and residential expenses, as well as any other out-of-pocket costs during the retreat.
Strangers No More
Take somebody out of a small village in rural Tanzania and ask him to share a room for three weeks with someone who’s never been to Africa. Next take someone who’s a pharmacist in suburban Cairo, and ask him to live three weeks cheek-by-jowl with a sophisticated community leader from Belfast, N. Ireland. Then take a youthful 35-year old Brazilian, less than one-year married whose wife is expecting a baby, and ask him to eat three meals a day next to a married lady with a college-aged daughter and a professorial husband from America’s Deep South. And what do you have? It’s not too far from humorous mayhem—or at least a faint echo of the Tower of Babel after God changed everyone’s language.
The cultural and ethnic differences that exist when you bring total strangers together for a three-week “think tank” to explore issues of poverty, freedom, persecution and faith… well, that’s one thing. But both pale in significance to the fact that only about half of them speak English as their native tongue. They may have learned English as children in school, and all are quite intelligent. But most speak English with an accent that is uniquely different from our American mélange.
Such is the challenge faced by the Anglican Leadership Institute, a new institution that was birthed here in Charleston, South Carolina, which is now entering its fourth year.
Twice each year, for a full three weeks, fifteen men and women arrive from the four corners of the earth to live together, and work to break the culture barrier that would naturally keep them apart. None of them have ever met, many will never come this way again, and few have ever experienced the culture and customs that shaped their classmates.
The only common factor is that they are all ordained Anglican priests. Some are bishops, and others are relatively new to the ministry, but most fall somewhere between the 35-55 age group, are married, and are open to learning about leadership in the modern world.
You would think that the common link to the 75 million-member Anglican Communion would suffice as a bond. But all you have to do is hear each of them say the Lord’s Prayer in their own native languages (at the same time) and you understand that to visitors it may sound like gibberish, but to us perhaps more the language of angels than of men.
So, how do they get here? Well, first of all, they’ve been invited because of a well-earned, stellar reputation. Financially, they are sponsored through the generosity of South Carolinians and a few others who pay everything, including their airfare.
These men and women, soon to be over 110 in total from 27 countries, know through their own experience that leadership of something as diverse as a church (or a diocese) calls for more than a few years of theological studying. They know that building a team, confronting political and moral crises, and guiding a populace through the rapids of modern secularism requires wisdom, courage, and humility.
And so, through the foresight of Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina, and a board of trustees that consists of women and men who are clergy and business leaders, the Anglican Leadership Institute (A.L.I.) was created to further the education of these men and women.
During A.L.I., the participants attend lectures on leadership, dig into case studies addressing situations like “human trafficking” and “honor killings”, and learn about the causes of poverty and what can be done about it.
More importantly, they are exposed to biblically-based teachings from leaders all around the world who’ve traveled to Charleston for this specific event: Lawyers, bishops, theologians, local and international clergy, and laity who’ve run major corporations – all of whom have experienced the crucible of guiding their faith communities through difficult times. With the twin emphases of “competence” and “character,” these emerging leaders wrestle with uncovering God’s vision for their life and their ministries, while immersed in a tight-knit community that eats, sleeps, prays, laughs, and learns together.
Their personal stories are amazing.
Take Daniel, a bishop whose was called back to South Sudan after his family emigrated to Australia, and now copes with bombs being regularly dropped on his villages by next-door Sudan. Or, Ben, a Nigerian bishop who had Fulani tribesmen steal all his cattle while he was away, then fatally shoot his neighbor who stepped out into the dark to investigate the commotion. Or, Yopi who is trying to establish a theological seminary in his native Indonesia while concurrently working to provide emergency aid to the victims of a recent earthquake and tsunami. Or, Emad who struggles to keep his pharmacy in Egypt open and profitable, so that in his spare time he can plant churches in his overwhelmingly Muslim country. Or Alison, a single woman of rare gifts who leads several congregations of Anglicans in Northern Ireland where Protestants and Catholics are too often taught to hate one another from childhood.
The stories are legion. In fact, each one has a heart-breaking background just beneath the surface—even those who come from Western and relatively wealthy parts of the world. But what often strikes me powerfully is the poverty that stalks those who come from developing countries, and despite it they press forward with a relentless drive to share the Gospel. One bishop said that among his 125 clergy, only five have salaries. The others make do with hand-outs, the occasional donated live chicken, and vegetables grown in their back yards.
But behind these troubles and difficulties often lies some of the most mature faith I have ever encountered. These are men and women who love with all their hearts, and who live by trusting a merciful God. They keep their eyes focused on Jesus who “for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God.” The privilege of witnessing this twice a year is incalculable. Just to rub shoulders with men and women who live the Christian life amid incredible hardships, but with smiles, warmth, laughter and joy is incredible. When each institute is over, these strangers have become brothers and sisters, and the memory of their good-bye hugs lingers for months. My wife and I, as well as our volunteers, are honored to have met them.
It’s hard to calculate the impact of these remarkable comings-together. But it’s the letters and emails from participants that tell us that we are on to something important. Correspondence about how A.L.I. prepared them for their next job… caused them to offer leadership seminars of their own back home… or rechanneled their energies into more productive work… or gave them a feeling for the worldwide body of Christians of which they are part… these are the things that convince us A.L.I. is not just effective, but vital. Consider: If doctors, academics, executives, and lawyers participate in continuing education to keep up with new thinking in their own spheres, how much more do those who lead faith communities of hundreds and thousands need the same?
Please don’t think each institute is all work and no play. It’s hilarious to watch some learn to bowl, eat oysters, wash dishes, meet the Mayor of Charleston, or even take a “polar plunge” in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. Laughter is everywhere, as is heart-felt prayer. We are experiencing strangers becoming a family—and revel in the thought of the stories they will tell upon returning home.
As soon as one A.L.I. ends, the detailed planning for the next begins. But with a goal of training 300 Anglican leaders over a 10-year period, we are almost one-third of the way there. Each participant who comes costs roughly $10,000 lovingly donated dollars, but to hear or read their words of gratitude makes every dollar and every minute worthwhile. To know we are sending out into the world better equipped leaders—men and women who’ve been taught a new set of skills—is thrilling. They are the modern-day Apostles, and they leave better prepared to lead, teach, and mentor their flocks.
Thanks for reading about this global adventure. You or I may never get to Brunei or Malawi or Australia – but people from these outposts can come here to learn—and while here enrich our lives and encourage our churches, and while doing so share with us a wide-angled snapshot of the fellowship of the Saints.
Seventeen participants have come together from all corners of the Anglican Communion for three weeks on Martha's Vineyard to be refreshed, renewed, and challenged to grow into the leaders God has called us to be.
As we conclude our Institute we have covenanted together to remember each other before God in prayer.
We wish to reaffirm our commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. We reaffirm our belief in the Holy Scriptures as God’s inspired and inerrant Word.
We also reaffirm our ordination vows to be diligent in prayer, to faithfully preach the Word of God, to administer the sacraments and to live holy lives.
We commit ourselves to stand firm on the teaching of the historic creeds, the Thirty-Nine Articles and especially on the clear teaching of Scripture on human sexuality.
We commit ourselves to stand alongside and in solidarity with all faithfully orthodox Anglicans throughout our Communion. We seek to maintain the faith once delivered and to chase away all error from our churches.
We have been greatly blessed by God during our time in community together. Over the past three weeks we have been deeply moved and saddened by the stories of martyrdom shared by our brothers and sisters from Nigeria, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. We are alarmed that the Anglican Communion has been so silent in the face of such atrocities against our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have been made aware of the increasing Islamization of Africa and the statistical information that if birth rates continue as at present then Europe will be an Islamic continent by 2050.
We have been deeply moved by the accounts of our brothers and sisters in India standing firm in the face of persecution. We have been moved to seek God’s face in prayer for these situations.
We commit ourselves to the work of raising up new lay and ordained leaders.
We leave the Anglican Leadership Institute with a renewed sense of our calling to servant leadership in our vocations. We also leave with a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit who enables us to do all things in Christ to the glory of God.