By: Stephen Lewis
November 11, 2016
Dear FTE Community:
Members of our staff gathered on Thursday morning after the election to check in with each other. Our collective experience during this presidential election cycle and the shocking results this week were deeply upsetting for many. After allowing space to acknowledge our feelings, fears, and facts, we turned to think together about what this moment means for our shared work.
We seek to cultivate leaders in the Way of Jesus who inspire and mobilize Christ’s diverse body—the church—to participate in God’s healing work in the world.
FTE does not typically make public statements on the outcome of elections. As you know, we care for a diverse network of young leaders, rising scholars, and organizational partners who span the spectrum of political opinion and affiliation.
However, the election of Donald Trump creates a moment into which we must speak about the kind of leadership on display in this year’s political season. FTE’s mission is about Christian leadership and vocation. We seek to cultivate leaders in the Way of Jesus who inspire and mobilize Christ’s diverse body—the church—to participate in God’s healing work in the world. For us, Christian leadership is not merely a label, but a practice of embodying the Good News as proclaimed in Jesus’ statement of his own mission:
In his rise to the highest political office in the U.S., Trump’s public statements unleashed a wave of blatant racism, xenophobia, and misogyny against communities and persons strongly represented within FTE’s community and our brothers and sisters of other faiths. We cultivate and convene diverse communities and voices, not merely for the sake of appearances, but because the Beloved Community involves the full participation, gifts, and leadership of the marginalized, those whom Jesus called “the least of these.” Trump’s model of leadership is the antithesis of the kind of faithful leadership we hope to nurture.
We have witnessed many of you step boldly into your leadership and vocation. In the past three days, you have created space for lament, mourning, anger, and peaceful protest. You have turned to the language and practices of the Christian faith, unearthing resources of healing and resistance. You are offering shelter to those who are afraid and anxious today, even as you host conversations about effective strategies for the weeks and months ahead. This is courageous work that draws upon your deep reservoir of wisdom and resilience. It enlivens and quickens, affirming the gifts you have been given “for such a time as this.” It is also exhausting work that requires renewal through the support of community. This work must continue.
While there are no quick fixes, the extreme challenges we face as a country call for courageous and innovative solutions to the deep divisions in our communities…
In this moment, we too are inspired and called to step further into our vocation as an organization. We will continue to co-create spaces that nurture, embolden, and equip faith leaders—healers, organizers, community builders, prophets, liturgists, pastors, scholars, administrators, and citizens—who work together to inaugurate a new heaven and a new earth.
These are moments to ask “What is our next most faithful step” in the company of trusted friends and colleagues—those with whom we have worshipped, envisioned, learned and practiced tools for leading change.
While there are no quick fixes, the extreme challenges we face as a country call for courageous and innovative solutions to the deep divisions in our communities which can only come from the collective wisdom that arises from diverse perspectives working together toward a more hopeful future. In the coming days, we will invite a conversation among the FTE community about ways to go forward. How are you now being called to be and lead? To teach? To build community? What, specifically, are you doing in your context that others might benefit from knowing? In the meantime, we invite you to be in conversation with us about what you may need from FTE, including our staff and the larger community.
Stephen Lewis, FTE President