Since I know a number of others are reading Will Willimon's new book Bishop: The Art of Questioning Authority by an Authority in Question, I thought I might as well. I don't plan to write extensively, just give a few tidbits and perhaps reflect a little. For today, I read the Introduction and first chapter. My numbers are just to keep track of subjects.
1. Willimon is quite proud of the episcopal structure of the UM church. He in effect calls John Wesley an "ecclesiastical whiner" for discouraging it. (xii) This is a hint of his somewhat in-your-face style. Hey, he's a retired bishop. He can say pretty much whatever he wants.
2. He doesn't like idea of it being lonely at the top. He quotes approvingly a quote by Ron Heifetz that the greatest "myth of leadership is the myth of the lone warrior" (5). He saw himself as continually surrounded by co-workers and saw the appointment of District Superintendents as the most important appointments a bishop makes. "Nothing moves in the UMC until a DS commits to leading that change."
3. He likes John Kotter's stuff on Leading Change. Strong leadership without good management gets an organization nowhere (6). Yet, "Change cannot be managed; it must be led" (7). "While DSs need not be great leaders, bishops must perform both management and leadership functions."
4. Obviously he thinks the UMC needs to change or die. We'll see what he has to say. He sees a need for risk. "Management values control and devalues risk" (8). There may be some here of relevance to IWU as it searches for its next president.
5. The final section of the first chapter has some rather blunt words by Willimon about both the privilege and challenge of being bishop in Alabama. On the one hand, it is the state of Rosa Parks and Helen Keller. On the other, it was there in 1921 that a Methodist preacher who was also an active member of the KKK shot a Roman Catholic priest dead for marrying his daughter to a Puerto Rican. This Methodist was acquitted and went on as a preacher.
It was there that Governor George Wallace physically tried to block black children from going to school with white children. He later would renounce his earlier attitudes, not wanting to meet his Maker before he had repented. Willimon clearly does not believe that the state has changed entirely, and mentions what he considers some of the most mean-spirited anti-immigration legislation in the nation in recent days.
More perhaps next week...