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.

Stony the road we trod…

A big salute to Lipscomb University’s Institute for Conflict Management for hosting an interfaith dialogue on campus. Thank you for being forthright, proactive, intentional and honest. A big salute for taking a risk.

Given the significance of such an event 1) at all, 2) in Nashville, and 3) at Lipscomb, you’d think the Tennessean could have done a better job of covering it. Sure, they gave the event front-page coverage today, but gracious, what sorry reporting it is. It’s sensational, uselessly provocative, and rather dismissive of the true import of what Lee Camp said.

So, another big salute to Randy Lowry for issuing this statement. Kudos to Lipscomb for being forthright, proactive, intentional and honest by issuing the statement. Way to go friends, I’m impressed.

If the talk-radio blather from early this morning right on through the afternoon is any indication, I’m sure there will be letters to the editor (look at some of the comments already online) and lots more ranting. In their righteous indignation (based on a poor example of newspaper work) I hope folks will take the time to hear Dr. Camp out and try to understand the larger context of his argument (see Mere Discipleship and this blog (

I hope they grapple with how truly radical his call is. It’s radical all right, but not in the ways they think. In fact, its much more provocative and much more significant than we would like to admit.

And so it goes in Nashville tonight. Hope things are well with you, wherever you are.

And so to bed.