Krister Stendahl on Leadership and Dialogue

Krister Stendahl, longtime ecumenist, prof. and dean at Harvard Divinity School, died this week. In the notice on the HDS website ( this stands out to me:

In an interview published in the Winter 2007 issue of Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Stendahl reflected on what qualities had served him well over the course of such a variegated career. “I would,” he said, “apply the same rules for good leadership that I often do for effective interfaith dialogue: let the other define herself (‘Don’t think you know the other without listening’); compare equal to equal (not my positive qualities to the negative ones of the other); and find beauty in the other so as to develop ‘holy envy.’ “

There is some excellent wisdom here. 1) listen, 2) be fair, and 3) find beauty. Would that we would be known for these qualities in our churches, in our leadership and in our dialogues. I don’t much of this in partisan politics. I don’t see much of this in our church journalism. I often hear war stories about how churches pursue the very opposite tack. We can do better, and Krister Stendahl has shared a way forward.

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