By: Stephen Lewis
January 06, 2020
“We need [visionary leaders who] recognize that we are at one of the great turning points in human history when the survival of our planet and the restoration of our humanity require a great sea change in our ecological, economic, political, and spiritual values.”1
With the advent of a new year, we look for the kind of leadership that will inspire us to take on new resolutions as we begin another year. But this isn’t just another new year.
This year represents another turning point in history given the looming challenges in our nation’s political, justice, educational and food systems that we can no longer ignore. 2020 marks the beginning of a new decade filled with longings stirring deep within us concerning ourselves and the world. It’s a pivotal year in need of visionary leaders—cultural imagineers, social designers, priestly activists, prophetic artists and repairers of justice—to give shape to this new moment in our history.
As FTE begins a new decade of work, we will spend time in 2020 highlighting and sharing stories of visionary leaders and faith communities.
These are leaders who possess the visual acuity to read their context in the face of global realities and envision a way forward. Leaders who dream about the well-being of communities beyond their own aspirations. Leaders who don’t just see but manifest what they have seen. Leaders dissatisfied with the status quo and pursuing alternatives. And leaders who work and build through traditional and innovative efforts toward a more hopeful and abundant future for all.
As a survivor of trauma from her childhood, Reverend Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest, envisioned building a loving community that survivors of trafficking, violence and addiction could call home. In 1997, she launched Thistle Farms providing a sanctuary for five women.2 This thriving social enterprise two decades later “continues to welcome women with free residence that provide housing, medical care, therapy and education for two years and employs globally more than 1,200 women through its global market.”3
Becca is one of many visionary leaders in Christian communities, theological schools and religious institutions. Her story defies limiting beliefs and stereotypes of what ministers and communities of faith are and do in the world. Leaders like Becca are the artists of our time.
With each stroke against the canvas of supremacy, privilege and power, freedom and justice drips from their brush as they bring to being God’s epiphanic love for the world through their artistry.
With each carefully chosen word, they poetically create alternative worlds that inspire us toward better. With each blue note they compose, these artists evoke love’s revolution in us all. With the manifestation of Spirit-inspired ventures, these visionaries call our attention to what is possible. In moments like now, visionary leaders see beyond the present and invite us to cast our gaze toward what faith, hope and love call us to do and be in the world.
The legendary artist and author James Baldwin reminds us that “ultimately, the artist and the revolutionary function…are both possessed by a vision, and they do not so much follow this vision as find themselves driven by it. Otherwise, they could never endure, much less embrace, the lives they are compelled to lead.”4
My prayer is that this new year…
Reveals God’s epiphany within us,
as followers of the Way,
Jesus’ revolutionary’s way
in pursuit of…
Not just for one, or a few, but for all.
May this new year…stir!
May it stir mischievously
Not on behalf of self,
but on behalf of others,
communities and industries,
in need of new…
vision leadership, wonderings, questions,
processes and institutional structures.
May God’s visionary leaders inspire us to imagine and embody a more faithful, wise and courageous future.
May it be so, even more, this new year and in the decade to come.