Leading Edge 2014 Day 1: Moral Courage

Hello, friends!

Today was day one of my journey at the Leading Edge Conference at Middle Collegiate Church, East Village, NYC.  I got up at 4:30 am CST to catch my 6:30 a.m. flight out of Tulsa, and have currently been up for 20 hours, so in the interest of my self-care, I’m going to give you three takeaways from this abundantly soul-feeding day, starting with:

  1. Self-care is a key skill in leadership.  “We know where our responsibility starts, but not where it ends,” said Irshad Manji in response to the question of how to do self-care as leaders in moral and spiritual movements. “The first thing I had to learn to do was say no,” she went on — a statement that might have been a glib sound byte had she not followed it up with a gripping personal story of how the pressure of trying to do it all landed her in the hospital from a stress-related seizure.  How does she recommend putting this into action?  “Ask for what you need, and ask again, and ask different people.”  Or, as I heard years ago, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.”
  2. Love is not always patient and kind.  Jacqui Lewis, Irshad’s conversation/presentation partner, says that “we need some impatient love” for moral courage, “especially when there is evil in the room.”  As spiritual leaders, we are frequently held to the image of the beatific Jesus, emphasizing patience to the point of complacency.  Jacqui clarifies that God’s love is always patient and kind — but we are not God.  To love impatiently means that we do not have time to wait for bad situations to correct themselves; we are God’s agents of change on earth, and that requires decisive action, based in love.  We must love the world enough to push for change.  To take such action lovingly, we must “place the evil in the system, not the people” by choosing to view individual actors as “good people caught in a bad system that needs to be redeemed and restored,” rather than as an oversimplified Other who is a one-dimensionally Bad person.
  3. People emphasize separateness — of religious and ethnic groups, economic classes, subcultures, even families — “because we know that when we get together, we are going to change each other; we think we have so much to lose when in fact we have so much to gain.”  This is another gem from Jacqui and Irshad.

I’ll write more on these ideas, and on Marcus Borg’s talk “The Historical Jesus and Moral Courage,” when I’ve had sleep.  You can find bios for all three presenters here.


Goodnight, and namaste,



Walk With Me: An Invitation to My Journey

Hello, and welcome to my blog!

I created this space to share what I’m learning in my journey of ministerial formation, seminary education, and creating a Border-Walkers street ministry in downtown Tulsa and beyond.

My first set of posts will be reflections on my experience at the Leading Edge Conference in NYC April 26-30, which I’m attending thanks to the generous support of my community through a GoFundMe campaign. I’ll do my best to post every day of the conference. After that, we’ll see where the blogging path leads!

So, you ask, what’s all this about border-walkers, and what does that even mean?

Borders often represent separation and differentiation, but they are also points of connection, as theologian Paul Tillich notes.  Since my first steps in this body, I have found myself walking (and stumbling) along many borders — familial, social, economic, religious, and identity-based — and for many years, felt that I belonged nowhere and existed on the margins.  As my path has unfolded, I have learned that I needn’t stay in the neutral ground between worlds; to do so is to deny my spiritual mission in this life.  Instead, I can use my gifts to stand in multiple worlds at once, reaching into each and guiding people to stand together in the liminal space that once kept them apart.

My goal and call is to help individuals and groups walk those borders that have historically separated them and transform them into points of connection.  Here, I offer my contemplations and lessons — personal and professional, theological and philosophical, sacred and profane — on that journey.

I welcome your questions and insights — and hope that you will join me in this mission of connectivity.


Steven Leigh Williams