The Leadership Development Initiative works to awaken the Church and enable it to live into its true vocation to social justice, reconciliation, and the transformation of individuals, communities, and the larger world through the power of the Spirit of Christ. In the service of our mission, we gather, train, and send out prayerful and prophetic teams of Christian leaders, and build community among them. By forming teams in the practices of contemplative prayer, collaborative leadership, and community organizing, we equip leaders to strengthen, and summon to faithful action, the larger body of Christ.
LDI is committed to several core values:
We believe that we were created to live in unity with all of creation. However, sources of injustice, fear, pain and separation prevent us from experiencing unity with self, one-another, and the world. These sources of inequity have developed long standing systems of oppression. These sources of inequity have developed long standing systems of oppression. These systems, including racism and patriarchy, are manifested in society today in incidents such as gender-based violence, our disparate education system, mass incarceration and disregard for creation. LDI seeks to develop leaders who can name, address, and work, in our context, to overturn these sources of oppression and cultivate right-relationship through Christ with self, one-another and the world. Although we will never fully realize God’s dream of unity, when we seek right-relationship we join in God’s ever present movement towards reconciliation.
As people of faith we believe that God’s love has the power to heal, meanwhile, we live in a state of disunity. This produces in us a perpetual longing for change and a constant willingness to speak out against collective forces of oppression in our world. We do so knowing that we may never fully experience the fullness of God’s dream. We are inspired by prophetic forebearers like Jeremiah, Mary the mother of Jesus, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, and Cesar Chavez who named this longing publically as a way of calling God’s people into the ongoing movement of reconciliation.
Because humanity is both created in God’s image and still imperfect, we have the ability as individuals and communities to learn, change, and grow. An infinite God of infinite love challenges us as Christians and as the Church to love better, wider, and more deeply. Through training, coaching, and modeling of contemplative and community organizing practices, LDI believes we can all better equip ourselves for the sacrifice and challenge this transformation requires. As we continually wake up to God’s dream of reconciliation and better address injustice, we become more responsive as the living Body of Christ.
We are committed to building communities and teams that promote collaboration, mutuality, and relationships to do the work of reconciling together. It is through relationship that we build power, distribute access to decision-making to affirm all contributors’ perspectives, and witness truth in new ways through conversations across difference. This kind of operating is different from a model of ‘leading from the center.’ Through collaborative leadership, each person on a team develops their own capacity and identity as a leader--affirming, through practice, the belovedness of each individual and voice.
LDI believes a deep engagement with the brokenness of society inspires meaningful action that addresses root causes of social injustice. We encourage leaders to use prayer and other contemplative practices to get in touch with the needs, dreams, and motivations of themselves and their communities. This internal work requires us to acknowledge and connect with the pain we find in ourselves and those around us, and to see how our lives are connected to all creation. Effective community organizing flows from this awareness of ourselves and our communities, and leaders must remain prayerful throughout action so that their work responds openly to shifting realities, rather than adhering to a rigid plan or individual ideals.
Speaking God’s Truth
To embrace God’s truth, we must notice how our preconceived notions are operating and let go of assumptions about ourselves, other people, and other communities. LDI believes that the deepest expression of God’s truth is love, and that oppression is the subversion of God’s love. To dismantle systems of oppression, we must recognize our own belovedness, bear witness to the experience of others, and examine those experiences through the phenomenon of Christ. When we discern God’s truth, we have the obligation to share the reality which often disrupts the status quo and subverts social order. Jesus, in speaking God’s truth, embodies a challenge to social norms. As Jesus said, “the last will be first and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16). By asking what we see in the pain and joy of ourselves and others, we can speak the truth that will lead us towards God’s radical love.
The Leadership Development Initiative’s vision of success is of a Church come fully alive to the Spirit of God, in its own body and the larger world. This Church looks like:
- Energetic leadership teams of both lay and ordained leaders working within congregations to give them new life through practices of Christian contemplation, deep listening, and effective organizing
- Vital, growing congregations that act in response to the vocations of their members and the needs of their larger communities, and come to be seen as places where the Spirit can be met and transformation happens
- Networks of diverse individuals and congregations that understand themselves together as Christ’s hands and feet, and take action collectively to bring about effective social change in the service of social justice
LDI was founded in 2008 by a small team of collaborators working in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. This team included clergy, trained lay-leaders, and community organizers. They saw an urgent need to develop leaders that could enable others to achieve purpose; leaders who could work in teams to achieve measurable, high-impact outcomes in their communities. They formed a team, and offered tools and training to others – and LDI was born.
Constituency and Supporters
LDI works with any and all Christian or ecumenical teams including: Episcopal churches, other mainline denomination or non-denominational Christian churches, schools, and nonprofits. LDI is funded by private individuals, congregational and organizational participants, and by generous grants from the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, Episcopal City Mission, and the Narthex Fund.