by the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
We have all been painfully stuck. Being at a key transition-point in our lives, we do not know how to move forward, finding ourselves immobilized.[i] I have been there many times. My perfectionism makes it worse. A key turning point for me was when as I attended a Leadership Conference at the University of Kent in England.[ii] Walking into a seminar, God ‘whispered’ to me that I would be receiving a message. The Rev Freda Meadows suddenly called me out of the crowd and gave me a specific prophetic message, saying:
You don’t need to run in keeping up with others. Enter into God’s rest. Keep your eye on the finishing line which is Him. You will be moving into new things, having words of knowledge. You will be gifted in this area. You are in an apprenticeship time at present. You will disciple others. You are a man of God’s Word, things of the Kingdom. You are a person of vision, a long-range visionary. God is going to put you in a key place and you will find yourself training and discipling others.[iii]
I had no idea how powerfully God was going to use the 1998 Pre-Lambeth Leadership Conference. Most of us as North American Anglicans were still stuck in the ‘inside strategy’ mindset. Being conflict-avoiders, we were going to ‘fix’ the North American Anglican churches while still inside the old institution. This virus of institutionalism can slip inside the mind of even the most sincere believer, turning us toxic. It is so easy to become the hollow, stuffed men of TS Eliot’s poem: “We are the hollow men. We are the stuffed men Leaning together…”[iv] We Canadians were still quite ‘gung-ho’ at the Canterbury Leadership Conference, but the Americans were unusually quiet. They lacked their usual American ‘get-up-and-go’ attitude. When Americans go quiet, you can tell that something is up.
At the official Canadian night, Bishop Eddie Marsh of Central Newfoundland invited the Americans to come up and share. I will never forget how our American colleagues Bishop Alex Dickson and Dr. (now Bishop) John Rodgers stood up and repented to our African colleagues for the shame that the USA had brought on the Anglican Church, and for Bishop John Spong’s castigating African Anglicans as just one step out of animism and witchcraft.[v]
“(Bishop Spong) has insulted you. We are ashamed for him; we are ashamed for ourselves. We ask your forgiveness and we assure you that he does not speak for us.”[vi]
Hundreds of African bishops and clergy spontaneously flocked forward and hugged the Americans, weeping and declaring God’s forgiveness. Todd Wetzel of Anglicans United said that ‘this was one of the American Church’s finest moments in decades.’ This prophetic action of repentance and forgiveness was a new beginning for Anglican Christians around the world.
I am convinced that we are not to despise prophecy, and that the prophetic gift is still in operation today. Prophecy does not just address the global picture. It can also address our personal situations, even regarding writing a book. Through prayer, I have received very clear direction about the topic of this current book.[vii] Pushing through our toxic stuckness is key to restoring health, and key to strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders.
The purpose of prophecy is to encourage, build, and strengthen.[viii] Yes, all prophecies have to be tested. As children of the New Covenant, we only prophesy in part.[ix] Prophecies help me push through my ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’. In the 21stcentury, a sensitive use of the gifts of prophecy and exhortation will be essential to getting unstuck, to becoming a healthier and more Christlike leader. As Paul said to Timothy, by following prophecies made about us, we leaders more effectively ‘fight the good fight’ and live out our daily lives.[x] Out of these prophetic encounters, I have become convinced that North America desperately needs to recover from its toxicity, and that the key to restoring its health is found in strengthening a new generation of holistically healthy leaders, as illustrated in the person of Titus.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
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