Posts Tagged leadership

Influence others like Eleanor Roosevelt – Rev. Margaret Marcuson

Margaret Marcuson

March 18, 2020 – The Christian Citizen

What does an American First Lady who died in 1962 have to do with leadership in 2020? She was never elected to public office. Yet she was the most well-known woman in America for years. She was both loved and vilified. Eleanor Roosevelt faced challenges and shows us today ways to step up to leadership in anxious and difficult times.

She is one of my heroes. She survived a difficult childhood, a challenging marriage to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the many restrictions on what women could and couldn’t do during her lifetime. She was cripplingly shy, yet became the most well-known woman in America. She was a visible First Lady from 1933-1945. During and after that time she spoke publicly, wrote a column and books, and played a key role in the first U.S. delegation to the United Nations (1945-1952). Eleanor Roosevelt’s story is compelling. And her own words and example are inspirational and challenging.

Here are three ways that we can lead as she did, with her own words to reinforce them.

  1. Face up to difficult tasks. “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”[i]

Leaders must speak and act in ways that are frightening and difficult. It may be standing up to a bullying staff person or church member or making a public statement about a controversial issue. Sometimes it’s just getting out of bed and going to work when you are discouraged and exhausted. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

  1. Immunize yourself to criticism. No doubt the pace of vicious criticism has accelerated in our day. But Eleanor Roosevelt faced her share of it, both before and after her husband’s death. Many people thought she was too bold (perhaps including her own husband). They tried to put her in her place. In this regard, she said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”[ii]

To lead is to invite criticism, condescension and worse. It requires a strong sense of self to handle the barrage that can come your way when you lead, and to hold on to your clarity about who you are and what you are called to do.

  1. Act according to your principles. “In political life I have never felt that anything really mattered but the satisfaction of knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed, and had done the best you could.”[iii] She also said, “If silence seems to give approval, then remaining silent is cowardly.”[iv]

Here’s one example: The African American singer Marian Anderson was refused the right to sing in Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Eleanor Roosevelt resigned in protest. She worked behind the scenes to see that a massive outdoor concert took place instead.[v]

In politics, at church, in our wider world, there are no guaranteed outcomes. Be clear about your principles and assess your actions in their light (sometimes with the help of others). Then do what you can and let go of the rest.

The Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out, through ministry coaching, presentations and online resources.

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Baptist of the Year: Molly Marshall – Robert Parham – EthicsDaily

Baptist of the Year: Molly Marshall | Robert Parham, Molly Marshall, Baptists, Baptist of the Year

Molly Marshall is a Baptist trailblazer in interfaith and intercultural engagement at a time when the cultural and religious tectonic plates are shifting. (Photo: EthicsDaily.com)

Molly Marshall is EthicsDaily.com’s pick as Baptist of the Year for 2015.

A Southern Baptist by heritage and academic training, Marshall is now affiliated with the American Baptist Churches, USA, through her membership at Prairie Baptist Church in Prairie Village, Kansas. She is president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary.

She is a Baptist trailblazer in interfaith and intercultural engagement at a time when the cultural and religious tectonic plates are shifting. She leads with word, institutional investment and a global presence.

Challenging the “nativist rhetoric” against immigrant refugees, she wrote in October, “It would be a wonderful Christian witness if each church would sponsor a family. It is an achievable and transformative action. Welcoming the stranger is at the very heart of the Gospel.”

Marshall wrote in September about Central’s partnership with Myanmar Institute of Theology, which was renewed under her watch.

In a predominantly Buddhist country where churches are burned and minorities are persecuted, her task that month was theological training in peacemaking.

The month before, she did something too few Baptists do. She spoke up for earth care and praised Pope Francis’ letter on the environment.

She was at the Baptist World Alliance Congress in Durban, South Africa, in July, delivering a presentation titled “A New Reformation: Challenging Gender Discrimination.”

Equally important, she was visibly networking with the global Baptist community.

Where was she in March? Back in Myanmar – where she asked questions of seminarians returning to the U.S. “How do you think you have cultivated respect for the lived religion of others?” and “Have you gained any intercultural competency?”

And that’s just in 2015. Read her blog, Trinitarian Soundings, for earlier moral reflections as well as her 24 columns that have appeared on EthicsDaily.com.

For example, she wrote in 2013 about improving Jewish-Christian relations.

She provided leadership also in 2013 at an event to facilitate conversation between Baptists and Muslims.

“Too often we demonize a whole tradition because of the actions of a few. A growing suspicion of the Muslim neighbor has become a part of the national discourse, and it will take great intentionality for this to abate. Joint humanitarian work and respectful speech can foster much greater understanding,” she wrote.

Noting Central’s wholehearted support of the event, Marshall added, “God has granted us the gift of common ground that we may plow together – for the love of God and the love of neighbor.”

We need more Baptist institutional leaders who trek globally, speak constructively, work collaboratively for interfaith and intercultural engagement and prepare intentionally seminarians for ministry in a much different world. Marshall has demonstrated such leadership.

For more than a decade, we have made a surprise announcement at the end of the year about our Baptist of the Year.

Don Sewell was EthicsDaily.com’s pick for 2014. He is the director of Faith in Action Initiatives at Baylor Scott and White Health in Dallas, Texas, which has been shipping containers of medical supplies and equipment to trouble zones around the world, including Syrian refugees and Ebola patients and families in Liberia.

Linda Leathers was our 2013 pick for the work she and The Next Door are doing to address the needs of incarcerated women and lower the recidivism rate of those released from the Tennessee Prison for Women. She was an interviewee in our documentary on prison ministry, “Through the Door.”

Glen Stassen was our 2012 Baptist of the Year for his lifetime of work on peacemaking and his focus on the “thick” ethic of Jesus.

Known as the “conscience of Alabama,” Wayne Flynt was named in 2011 for speaking without flinching when Alabama adopted the nation’s meanest anti-immigration law, and for working tirelessly on tax reform.

Babs Baugh was named Baptist of the Year for 2010. She was recognized for her philanthropic leadership. Social justice, moral reformation and advancing the common good happen because moral individuals with generous means make them happen.

We named Emmanuel McCall in 2009 for his leadership on race relations, recognizing his lifetime of commitment. In fact, the title for our documentary on Baptists and race – “Beneath the Skin” – was drawn from a quote by McCall.

Other recipients include David Coffey in 2008 for his leadership on interfaith dialogue between Baptists and Muslims, Al Gore in 2007 for his leadership on the environment, and Paul Montacute in 2005 for his being a global Good Samaritan.

Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.

Editor’s Note: Marshall spoke with EthicsDaily.com media producer Cliff Vaughn about CBTS’ longtime engagement with the Myanmar Institute in a 2012 video interview, highlighting the vibrant Baptist witness that exists in the country. Pictures of Marshall from various global events are available here. Email pictures of Marshall to EthicsDaily.com managing editor Zach Dawes who will consider them for posting.

Baptist Center for Ethics will observe its 25th

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What It Takes to Model Humility – Molly Marshall – www.ethicsdaily.com

What It Takes to Model HumilityMolly Marshall

What It Takes to Model Humility | Molly Marshall, Humility, Philippians

One who understands incorporation in Christ knows that one must also follow the pathway of humility, Marshall writes.

Few passages in the New Testament rival the great Christ hymn of Philippians, which offers a three-stage Christology: pre-existence, incarnation and exaltation. Theologians just love this kind of symmetry!

In just a few verses of Philippians 2, Paul spells out the downward mobility of Jesus and invites us to embark on the same pathway.

The very Word of God, the living Christ, takes the form of a slave, after the likeness of humanity.

He does not cling to equality with God, although in God’s relational self-giving, both Spirit and Son are fully personal and fully God.

Rather, he empties himself for our sakes. The Greek word “kenosis” carries rich meaning, and it discloses how God is present in Jesus.

A key phrase in this passage is “he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death” (Philippians 2:8).

Paul goes further to say “even death on a cross,” which was the most excruciating and tortuous death he knew.

There is no atonement theory offered in this text; it simply delineates the extent of his mission: serving others even at the risk of dying.

Humility is the master virtue, according to the ancient Abbas and Ammas of the desert monastic tradition.

As Roberta Bondi writes, “Humility accepts our human vulnerability and the fact that we sin. It is not so overwhelmed by human weakness that it is left paralyzed, thinking over its inadequacy.”

When one no longer has to preserve a heroic self-image, one can begin to empower others with collaborative insight.

Humility requires a generous hospitality, not simply thinking about one’s “own things,” but capacious welcome, creating space for others.

When one understands one’s role within the larger body of Christ, there is less anxiety about being “solely responsible,” which allows a greater humility.

Jim Collins, researcher and writer about great organizations and great leadership, names humility as the key quality for effective leaders.

In his study of those companies who moved from “good to great,” he identifies the essential quality of “extreme personal humility” for effective leaders.

One who understands incorporation in Christ knows that one must also follow the pathway of humility.

Humility helps us find those tasks that no one else is eager to do. Humility listens to stories recounted again by our elders.

Humility prompts us to “regard others as better than ourselves.” Humility helps us to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit” (Philippians 2:3).

Humility allows us to be patient with children, even when they prove contrarian or in the crass calculus of the economy, insignificant.

Humility reminds us “it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for God’s own good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). For this, we give thanks.

Molly T. Marshall is president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (CBTS) in Shawnee, Kansas. A version of this column first appeared on her blog, Trinitarian Soundings, and is used with permission. You can follow CBTS on Twitter @CBTSKansas.She is a favorite speaker at the Hamrick Lectureship in Charleston,SC.

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Thankful Thursday – The Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell

On this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for the gifts that the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell brings to my life. Dr. Campbell is currently the Director of Religion at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State. She is formerly executive director of the US office of the World Council of Churches and former general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. She holds ordination in both the American Baptist Churches and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ.) She encouraged me greatly in the writing and editing of, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World. She has shown remarkable leadership in her role as chaplain at the Chautauqua Institution. She has demonstrated such an understanding and acceptance of people of different faith traditions. Because of her influence my religious and spiritual boundaries have been broadened and deepened. She has brought religious leaders into my life that I would have never heard any place else. She encourages young ministers and reinforces experienced ones. When our visits to Chautauqua have coincided with the annual ecumenical communion service, I have hardly been able to contain my joy at such a moving, meaningful service. She has gathered a devoted staff around her. She is a player on the world stage, but when she is in her role at Chautauqua, her humanity and her humility shine through.  She is the author of, Living into Hope: A call to Spiritual Action for Such a Time as This. In 2010 she received the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award. Her daughter, Jane, is the first woman elected mayor of Cleveland. On this Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for the gifts that Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell brings to my life.

Thankful Thursday is a day set aside to recognize the importance of someone to our lives and to let her or him know of our gratitude. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Say Something Nice; Be a Lifter. You will be glad that you did.

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