June 27, 2016

Response to Baptist of the Year


            This past Friday the Baptist Center for Ethics awarded me “Baptist of the Year.”  I am very grateful for this honor, and I will share the mercifully brief response I offered.  Of course, I appreciate any good will that accrues for Central because of such an award.  It has been my place of ministry for 21 years now, and I have the privilege of a vow of stability in our seminary.  This is what I said:
            The Baptist Center for Ethics is one of the most entrepreneurial and creative entities in the CBF constellation.  For 25 years this prophetic partner has called us to be more just as a people.  Regularly this small staff pursues BIG projects that illumine critical concerns and offer new perspectives.  Race, interfaith issues, gender equity, ecological education and advocacy, immigration reform, prison reform, and global justice issues are among the thoughtful initiatives of the Center.
This past year, BCE engaged the new papal encyclical Si Laudato, which calls for new practices in light of the global environmental deterioration and its impact, especially on the poor.  Can you imagine: Baptists learning from Catholics? I love it!
            One of BCE’s creative innovations is to name a Baptist of the Year.  By doing this, they ensure that the nominee will give—at least for that year!  I sure did—and talked my seminary into buying a whole table. There are usually just a couple of us back in the corner; today Central is well represented.

            This award draws attention to varied pathways of ministry: public service, race relations, peacemaking, environmental justice, engaging the needs of incarcerated women, philanthropy, and theological education. (Glad that last one got in there!)  Theological education has been my life’s work.  God put me on the planet to love students and stir the pot.  God has preserved my vocation over these many years.
            Since this award began 11 years ago, BCE has honored some of my heroes:  Al Gore, Emmanuel McCall, Wayne Flynt, Linda Leathers, Glen Stassen, and my dear friend Babs Baugh.  It is remarkable to be in their company.
            When she learned of this award, one of my friends asked if it came with a cape.  I wish it did so that I might be in more places more quickly.  Only the Holy Spirit is omnipresent, but I am chasing her example as best I can.
I appreciate the presumptive (love that word!) reasons for the award, and I will strive to be worthy.  Dag Hammarskjรถld observed, there is “the humility that comes from others having faith in you . . .” 
Indeed!  Thank you.

            Molly T. Marshall

Central prepares creative and entrepreneurial leaders.

June 20, 2016

Creativity and Entrepreneurial Leadership

            I spent an hour this past Thursday in a Doctor of Ministry seminar on campus.  The title of the course is “Entrepreneurial Leadership,” and the professor invited me to share some lessons about this kind of leadership, which churches and institutions find so necessary.  Some of these lessons are hard won, and I have no purchase on being a fully developed entrepreneur; however, that has been the nature of my calling over these past 11 years.

            As you might imagine from a theologian, I offered a theological framework.  Made after God’s likeness, creativity is a key attribute of what it means to be human.  God has imbued humanity with imagination, varied gifts, and resilience.  Problem solving is an expression of this creativity, and we can improvise solutions out of the store of our endowment as imago Dei.

            Another aspect of the theological framework is that our lives are future-oriented.  We live with an eschatological sense that we are not “finished,” and that God is inviting us to craft the future as divine partners.  Indeed, God is calling upon our creativity to give shape to the realization of God’s own reign.
            Some of the leadership lessons (in pursuit of being entrepreneurial) are as follows:
1.              Be receptive to the chaos that is inevitable when innovating.
2.              Learn to embrace calculated risk.
3.              Give back a sense of calm and stability in the vortex of change.
4.              Pay attention to personal resistance to change and the desire to repristinate the past.
5.              Remain hopeful in the midst of unknowing, and walk by faith.
6.              Carry a disposition of “why not?” rather than “why it won’t work.”
7.              Cultivate a life of prayer, and become ever more deeply rooted in faith.
8.              Seek wise counsel.  An isolated leader cannot impose vision; rather, vision arises out of thoughtful collaboration.  Leadership entails being a “keeper” of the vision, however.
9.              Find or construct a supportive professional network that can offer forthright perspective.
10.          Focus on performance objectives that align with values and vision of the school.
11.          Understand critical tasks unique to discrete positions and require accountability for their accomplishment.
12.          Continue to practice discernment about strategic direction.

Practitioners pursue a Doctor of Ministry degree because of a learning readiness and felt need to improve their practice of ministry.  Central’s focus on cultivating creative leaders interfaces with current challenges.  It is how we serve churches and other forms of direct service, such as a neighborhood center.
            I invite you to add to the list.  We are all learners on this pathway.

            Molly T. Marshall

Central prepares creative leaders for diverse ministry contexts.