It will come as no surprise, given the name of this blog, that Christiana Rice’s third posture for midwifing leadership in the church strikes a particularly strong chord for me.

3. Open the space for new life to be birthed

Nurturing an environment conducive to birth is a key role of the midwife. She looks at a space to determine its assets and its liabilities. She creates an inviting setting of welcome and nurture, protecting the space and pushing back potential barriers, be that physical, systemic, spiritual or relational. A midwife guards an environment from anything that may hinder the birthing process.

The role of any leader in the church is to create open spacious places for people to become more fully the people they were created to be.

In order for a leader to fulfill this role of leadership, two things are necessary.

Rice articulates the first essential ingredient for leaders who desire to create open spaces in her fourth point when she states that a leader who is going to create open space must “trust that the Holy Spirit is” at work. I need to rest absolutely in the deep conviction that it is not my job to be the Holy Spirit. I am not called to create the church, build the church, or fix the church. My calling is to attend to the work of God’s Holy Spirit and trust that the Spirit knows what needs to be done in order for the church to become a place of prospering for all people.

The second thing that is essential if I hope to assist in enabling the church to be an open spacious place for “the birthing process,” is that I must start by having this open spacious place within myself. I cannot share in the creation “out there” of qualities that I do not possess “in here.”

It is one of the great tragedies of the church that we have so often failed to take seriously the instruction Jesus is said to have given when he told his followers they should

not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. (Luke 6:37)

We have so often turned church into a tight little knot of rules, regulations, procedures, and hierarchies of status and privilege that there is almost no room for anyone to find and connect with their true self and their real calling. An institution that is intent on making sure everyone does “the right thing,” is an institution that will always be threatened by the freedom that is an inevitable characteristic of really open space. When church focuses on establishing criteria for deciding who is in and who is out, there is really no space for anyone.

Open spaces make room for mistakes. They allow mess, confusion, and disorganization. It is no mistake that Jesus’ directive against judgment and condemnation is followed immediately by the recommendation to

Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)

A forgiving community is inevitably a messy place. It is a place where wounds are welcome, even when they cause chaos and confusion.

Forgiveness is the fundamental basis for creating space for people to be. Forgiveness says, “You will get it wrong; I will get it wrong. We will make mistakes; we will hurt each other, let each other down, and fail again and again. But we will carry on together. We will persevere. We will hold each other up with honesty, truth and gentleness; because we know that without the assumption of forgiveness there is no hope of any human community.”

When forgiveness lies at the core of a community space opens for people to truly be as they are. In a forgiving community we do not need to protect ourselves. We do not need to pretend to be stronger, smarter, better than we know ourselves to be.  Forgiveness dissolves barriers and allows walls to come down. It makes it possible for us to find our deeper truer selves in God and to live from that place of openness that is the place of true strength.