“And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” – Psalm 78:72 (NIV)
These summer months have been a time to slow down, read, reflect, pray, and renew my heart, soul, and mind. I am grateful to have had this time with family and dear friends. I was also refreshed by two books that address the heart of the leader: Peter Scazzero’s The Emotionally Healthy Leader (Zondervan, 2015) and Archbishop emeritus Robert Duncan’s autobiography Safe for A Week: Essays on the Lord’s Trustworthiness (Anglican House, 2022).
Psalm 78:72 reminds us that God puts the heart (inner life) of the leader ahead of the hands (skills) of the leader. This godly order and priority shapes the AAC ministries we offer to bishops, clergy, and lay leaders within the ACNA and is at the heart of everything we do in our AAC Daniel Leadership Institute.
Peter Scazzero begins by defining an emotionally unhealthy leader as “someone who operates in a continuous state of emotional and spiritual deficit, lacking emotional maturity and a ‘being with God’ sufficient to sustain their ‘doing for God.’” He goes on to describe the four markers of emotionally unhealthy leaders: low self-awareness; prioritizing ministry over marriage or singleness; more activity for God than their relationship with God can sustain; and lack of a work-Sabbath rhythm.
I can’t help but notice these same patterns, markers, and results in the lives many leaders with whom we partner in the ACNA. This book is a must read for leaders at every level of our churches because it describes conversions from unhealthy to emotionally-healthy leadership. Scazzero describes these four conversions from his own experience in a biblically-faithful and soul-healing way.
Conversion #1 is from low self-awareness to “facing your shadow” which is facing those emotions, motives and thoughts that are largely hidden but reflect our own brokenness and compromise the heart of good and godly leadership. In our Anglican tradition, we address our brokenness through self-examination and repentance, confession, and spiritual direction. Sometimes we need a professional counselor to help as face our shadow while at other times we need trusted friends in Christ who can help us.
Conversion #2 turns from putting ministry ahead of our marriage or singleness to leading from our marriage or singleness. For marrieds, Scazzero affirms making your spouse your first passion and ambition—NOT your ministry—and letting your love for each other overflow into the lives of those you serve. For singles, it means asking God what kind of singleness he has called you to witness. For some, this will be a lifetime vow while for others, for a limited period of time. In every case, leading out of singleness bears witness to the sufficiency of life in Christ. It seems that our own Anglican tradition needs to speak with more clarity and encouragement about leading from singleness and about the mission of the Church to bring singles into the oikos or household of God, the church as family.
At the heart of Conversion #3 is the conviction that what we do as leaders is important… But who we ARE is far more important! Therefore, we must “slow down for loving union with God” through Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Only this union with God, this priority of being in Christ, will give us the kind of life that will sustain our “doings for God.” Readers participating in our AAC Clergy Care Groups will recognize this as living and ministering exactly at the speed that Jesus did (about 3.5 mph) so that we can be as connected to the Father and present to others as Jesus.
Finally, Conversion #4 is practicing Sabbath delight to recover the biblical work-Sabbath rhythm of life that God ordained from creation. Scazzero describes it as a complete halt in order to receive God’s grace, goodness, and love for us. We don’t work at all and simply rest in God’s love for us and his goodness toward us. As leaders in the church, we can find infinite reasons to cheat on this command and always for good reasons (or so we think). Instead, we will have to find a different 24-hour period other than Sundays to observe the Sabbath.
In summary, Emotionally Healthy Leadership puts deep roots into the soil of our life in Christ to “branch out” in all of the skills of ministry so that we never stop putting our hearts before our hands.
I also invite you to read Archbishop emeritus Robert Duncan’s autobiography, Safe for a Week, as a gripping inside look at history, and it’s just that. It’s an extraordinary account of the people and events that contributed, for good and for ill, in the realignment of Anglicanism in the 20th century in North America and across the globe. It’s a first-hand account of the origins, causes, and critical events in the formation of the Anglican Church in North America. For those reasons alone it is a must read for those pursuing Holy Orders in the ACNA and anyone in leadership at any level of the Church. Every chapter ends with “Life Learnings”—“Do what you believe is right, no matter what the consequences,” “Dance with the one who brought you [marriage],” “Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let everything you do be done in love” [I Corinthians 16:13-14].
Primarily, I have enjoyed reading this wonderful autobiography by this leader who shares his own journey to emotionally healthy leadership: the impact of growing up in an emotionally abusive household and how this contributed to his own shadows; how he faced those shadows when overwork led to a crisis in his marriage; how through counseling they faced those shadows together and instead led out of their marriage and their commitment to each other; the spiritual disciplines and direction he incorporated into his life and his leadership, taking time to slow down and listen to the LORD for direction at critical moments in the Realignment, again and again; how when he was vilified at the last TEC meeting he attended that left him literally speechless, he halted everything, took a time out for healing, and rested in his relationship with the Lord; how he recovered his words and his leadership; how his life in Christ and his love for his family overflowed into the leadership for which we will always remember him.
I don’t know if Archbishop Bob has read Peter Scazzero, but in any case, he has given us in his autobiography the portrait of an emotionally healthy leader. And for that we are grateful!