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I have given myself the task of talking about the future of office in the Reformed Church in America in light of a number of larger realities in church and society. I have struggled with this decision in recent weeks as I have tried to probe possible connections between a Reformed understanding of office and such things as the World Wide Web and secular leadership theory. Early in my exploration, I read an essay by leadership guru Warren Bennis titled, "The Future Has No Shelf Life" (never mind the content of his essay). The title alone immediately filled me with a sense of humility, if not futility, in the face of my assignment. To say "the future has no shelf life" is to acknowledge that we live in a time of exponential change that emerges from within a web of complex global connections that we cannot even begin fully to see, much less try to predict their impact on us. Prognosticators of the future are forced constantly to revoke their predictions and to acknowledge that change is the only constant, and it does not unfold in a neatly causal, linear fashion. So I will offer you no predictions about the future of office. Rather, I will sketch several realities, past and present, encompassing the church and the larger society, which shape the context in which we consider both our theology and our practice of ecclesial office in the Reformed tradition. Before naming these realities, I wish to locate our current concerns about office and ecclesial leadership within our own recent history as a denomination.
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