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Church Officers In The Netherlands Come To A Consensus

The church of St John & St Philip in The Hague has hosted more than 30 Anglicans from various parts of the Netherlands for a Renewal and Resource Day organised by Area Dean Sam Van Leer for chaplaincy wardens, treasurers and secretaries.

The programme began with a short act of worship, followed by Sam taking a few moments to thank the wardens, treasurers, secretaries and group facilitators with tokens of appreciation symbolic of the work they do -- church key rings for wardens, 1 Corinthians money purses for treasurers, 'Jesus' pens for secretaries, and Bible-quote note books for the facilitators.  To whet our appetite for thinking about how we exercise leadership in our chaplaincy roles, Sam then gave a brief presentation on some of the more common models of Church which have ‘done the rounds’ in recent decades, pointing out those models/approaches which particularly seem to speak to our experience.

In smaller discussion groups participants shared experiences of working as wardens, treasurers and secretaries: highlighting responsibilities, key factors for success, constraints regularly faced and the source of support etc.  The groups discovered many connecting themes – we are not alone!

The afternoon programme consisted of a short, thought-provoking presentation, given by Archdeacon Meurig on the subject of ‘consensus’. Drawing on passages from Acts and Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, he explored how, given the ‘Middle Way’ of Anglicanism, it could be argued that consensus has a long pedigree with regard to the way we exercise leadership in Anglican churches and chaplaincy councils. He touched on themes such as egalitarianism, Eucharist and ecumenical councils which may take decades (even hundreds of years) to thrash out what they believe – remember the Council of Nicaea!

The group was reminded that, as Christians, we live between Chronos and Kairos, too easily forgetting that God’s time is not always our time! Consensus means seeking to discern the common mind of the church, with regard to collective and individual matters. Operating from a process of consensus means we all have a stake in the decision making process and to serve God, rather than ourselves, we need to cultivate the spiritual discipline of Kenosis (self-emptying) which Paul writes so beautifully about in his hymn of praise to Christ Jesus who “made himself nothing” (Phil 2).

A feedback group agreed that consensus is not easy but is costly and takes time. Exercising leadership and making collective decisions for the greater good of the Body of Christ becomes even more challenging in light of power and authority issues, which also lie at the heart of leadership.

These themes will be further explored further next year among the Anglican Church in the Netherlands with another seminar on leadership.

Reports contributed to by Meurig, Sam, Andrew, Adrian, Sandra, Henry, and Susan