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Bishops explore the topic of leading from the soul


United Methodist Communications
Office of Public Information

November 5, 2015

Lake Junaluska, N.C.: We need to focus on what it means to lead from the soul, the Rev. Dr. Greg Jones told participants of the bishops’ learning forum in the last of a three-part presentation.

“We’re in the business of leading from the soul to nourish other people’s souls and equip people to continue to deepen the reservoirs of what Wesley called ‘holiness of heart and life,’” said Jones. “We’re called to lead from the soul because that’s what is the depth of who we are created to be and our relationship to God.”

Part of the challenge for leaders is that it often depletes the soul to engage in leadership activities.

He quoted Ron Heifetz, author of Leadership Without Easy Answers, who says leadership is like walking along a razor’s edge in that you feel the cuts.

Jones said that it is only out of practices that replenish the reservoir of our souls that we discover and nurture the intimacy with God that enables leaders to remain focused on what it means to help nourish others souls.

Leading from the soul is about the continual replenishing of that reservoir which only happens when one is engaged in patterns of thinking and feeling and perceiving and living.

Learning throughout life

A shift is needed to a model that’s about learning throughout life.

“It is what is at the heart of the Wesleyan standard of what it means to go on to perfection . . . it’s a matter of unlearning all those habits of sin and brokenness that marked our life pre-conversion so that we can learn the patterns of holiness of heart and life,” said Jones.

He added that we have gotten preoccupied with expertise rather than actually exploring what people have already discerned in their wisdom and whether they’re committed to growing and learning wisdom throughout their life.

“All of us ought to be on a journey of learning wisdom from whatever point we come into the church, whether it’s as infants and toddlers, all the way to our dying breath,” he said.

Jones suggests the hunger among the laity for the formation of souls is incredibly strong. “There is a yearning and a desire that we are ill-equipped to deal with."

"When lay people find a congregation that has a robust sense of what it means to form people as Christians and to challenge their imagination, they don’t want to let it go."

He shared a story about a woman who drives 80 minutes each way four times a week because that is what is shaping her life.

Spiritual formation

Bishop Robert Hoshibata and Bishop Sandra Ball worked together to integrate the daily worship themes throughout the learning forum in ways that supported the theological context and helped to empower spiritual leaders through the adaptive challenges they face.

After conversation with the Rev. Dr. Greg Jones about his presentation content, they talked about images that came to mind and Scripture that would support the day’s learnings.

Wednesday’s worship centered around the call to be humble servants.

“Today the image of being humble servants just spoke to us as we strive more and more to bring about changes in our churches and our conferences and the denomination. One of the things we need to remember is to be humble and not think too highly of ourselves,” said Bishop Hoshibata. “The altar was designed to reflect very humble, simple but powerful images; so burlap instead of silk and satin and the rope is all tangled up, kind of like our lives – not perfect but beautiful indeed.”

Participants shared a love feast of cinnamon rolls and apple cider as they reflected together upon these questions: How have you experienced the love of God in Creation? How have you recently experienced the love of Jesus Christ in your life?”

Mission moment

The Rev. Julia Trantham, Minister of Education and Spiritual Development at Cullowhee (N.C.) United Methodist Church, shared with forum participants how a summer outreach project is providing a safe space for more than a dozen sixth- through twelfth-graders.

The Matthew 25 summer camp is a free educational enrichment program staffed by 60+ volunteers that meets twice a week in July. Camp attendees get a meal, learn life skills like swimming and cooking, complete service projects, and have some fun – whether its whitewater rafting or a trip to the mall.

“During the first summer, we wondered if two days a week could really make a difference,” said Trantham.

The answer to that question, she would learn, was a definite ‘yes.’

She and a young camper were laughing and talking after a day spent eating pizza and bowling.

“Suddenly he grew quiet and looked at me,” said Trantham. “He said, ‘If you all hadn’t been my friends this summer, I probably would have tried to kill myself again.’ It was in that moment that I realized the power of Jesus’ love to start healing these kids and transforming their lives.”

The retreat concludes

On Wednesday afternoon, the bishops continued working on case studies and practicing the techniques learned during the retreat. The retreat concludes Thursday with an evaluation and closing worship.


Media contact:
Diane Degnan
615.742.5406 (o) 615.483.1765 (c)