In my doctoral work for on my dissertation on fresh expressions, I often stumble over the term “mixed economy.” It is a term coined by Archbishop Rowan Williams when he referred to fresh expressions and ‘inherited’ forms of church existing alongside each other, within the same denomination, in relationships of mutual respect and support.
In my ministry I experience, that mixed economy is not a theory – it gets real. Innovative and traditional forms coexist. It’s a fact, but mixed economy is getting interesting where it is not so much about autonomous coexistence. My ministry doesn’t primarily seek to supporting the particular ways of being church, but rather helps to peacefully or more preferable fruitfully coexist in synergy.
“To me, participating in the ‘mixed economy’ is the act of realising our ecumenical [a biblical word] status as the wider and deeper family of God. Its a challenge to not forsake of assembling ourselves together and instead to take a step forward to mixing with the full sweep of that assembly, even parts of it we don’t appreciate. When we do that [when I do that] i find myself moving away from a homogeneous corner of God’s body, away from a consumer mentality that chooses people like me and people who like me, and towards something that might occasionally be uncomfortable but is a more accurate picture of this peculiar aggregation that we are called up into.”
This definition of ecumenical life and coexistence in peace and synergy is noting new. Even the first congregations, the bible tells us about, had hard times to cooperate. Some worked their coexistence out, in synergy, some in a peaceful and independent way and some even couldn’t unite. (Think about Jerusalem and Anioch)
We are in good company, experiencing challenges of different opinions on innovation and tradition, frameworks and mindsets.
But not only our biblical testaments recall those incidents. Looking in the past, we also find examples in the history books.
This week I read Team of Rivals: The political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (who – by the way – also won a Pulitzer Prize with “No Ordinary Time” – A book on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. She seems to be attracted to US-presidents). One might think, that there are enough biographies about Abraham Lincoln, but Doris Kearns Goodwin created something unique. After ten years of research she published a brilliant biography, but not only with a focus on Lincoln. She offers parallel biographies of US president Lincoln and the three men who were his chief rivals for the Republican nomination for president in 1860: William Seward, Salmon P. Chase and Edward Bates.
Following his nomination, Lincoln weaves a political masterpiece in his choice of cabinet members. Seward becomes Secretary of State, Chase is named Treasury Secretary, and Edward Bates is picked to be Attorney General. The way Goodwin focuses on Lincoln’s political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, turns the historical biography into a book on leadership. Lincoln’s mostly successful attempts to reconcile conflicting personalities are portrayed and also the political factions on the path to abolition and victory in the American Civil War.
What I like about Goodwin’s book is the way, she perceives. She is very sensitive for the different layers of Lincoln’s personality, but also for the interactions he has with others. The first nine chapters only focus on the life stories of the rivals, with contrasts and similarities skillfully detailed. Their personal struggles and victories dominate each personality and specify their strength and weaknesses.
Goodwin’s emphasis is on how the personal and political lives of the rivals shaped their personalities and their destinies, as well as how circumstances compelled them to accept posts in the Lincoln cabinet.
Lincoln is portrayed as a person, who is well aware of the gifts of his team members and very skillful in bringing those gifts together. It is not so much about the tactical intuition, but also about the perception in the first place.
Goodwin not only tells history, but also introduces the reader into the history itself, to pursue Lincoln’s steps and choices to turn rivals into team members, to bring the best out of them. Lincoln’s leadership approach isn’t only politically effective, but also personally impressive. He does not only gain respect, but is rather able to gain favor and a resilient friendship with his former enemies.
… I am taking away from Goodwin’s book that might be fruitful for my work on mixed economy:
1. Perception: Noticing, watching and listening to others, especially when they are of a different opinion are important.
2. Appreciation: Concentrating on others reveals their strength and gifts. Those gifts can be helpful, not matter how much we might contradict on some topics. Appreciate and value them!
3. Plurality is a gift. The church as a body need the assembly of different form. One alone is never self-sufficiant. You need the others, no matter how much you might differ on certain things.
4. Reach out and unite: An ecumenical approach is not only biblical and desirable but it can be also practically useful and efficient for our ministry, in our churches and in the way we interact with our context.