Cindy Tutsch has served the Church as a Bible teacher, pastor, conference youth director and associate director of the Ellen G White Estate. Now retired, she lives with her husband in Washington in the north-western United States. She spoke about her books and what leadership means in an Adventist context.
In retirement, what is the most important work you are still doing?
Definitely my most important mission is to spend time with our young grandchildren! I also just completed an online course about Ellen White for pastors and teachers in the North American Division through the Adventist Learning Community. Additionally, I serve the General Conference Ministerial Department as the blog editor for revivalandreformation.org, and preach occasionally for conferences, camp-meetings and at my local church.
Why is it important to talk about leadership in the ways you have in your writing?
Every Adventist should recognise their leadership potential, because Christian leadership is simply influencing others for Christ in every aspect of life. Learning to carry out our leadership with excellence and wisdom is a lifelong responsibility. Some are called to be leaders in an administrative capacity, some as managers, some as teachers, pastors, parents or civic officers. Whatever the specific leadership role, there is much to be learned regarding the integration of spirituality and integrity with the calling.
How do you assess leadership in the Adventist Church today?
There are incredibly gifted and able leaders within the Adventist system today, Christ-centred leaders who are intentional about delegation, mentoring and inclusiveness. However, there is the perennial temptation for leaders to reflect secular and nationalistic trends toward hierarchy, consolidation of power and elitism. We are a long way from the unity Christ longed for His people to demonstrate.
"Rather than looking for gender differences as a 'reason' for women in leadership, I prefer to focus on the importance of 'calling'."
What does Ellen White add uniquely to our understanding of leadership?
Ellen White’s recurring theme of the great controversy between Christ and Satan is probably least like the ideas of current leadership literature. The great controversy theme is the structural basis from which all of her spiritual and practical leadership counsel emerges. This framework of the battle between Christ and Satan, and the consequent need for humanity to choose one or the other as life’s leader, is Ellen White’s unique contribution to leadership theories.
Why are women important for leadership in the church?
We could stereotype by gender and suggest women bring compassion, nurture and sensitivity to the leadership table. While that may be true of some women, those qualities are also found in some men. Rather than looking for gender differences as a “reason” for women in leadership, I prefer to focus on the importance of “calling”. If the Holy Spirit gifts an individual for a specific leadership role, the rest of us should not stand in the way.
How do we balance recognising and affirming the special calling of leadership with our belief in the “priesthood of all believers”?
According to Martin Luther, there was no hierarchy where the priesthood was a calling and milking the cow was not! Everyone is a priest if they are carrying out the task to which God called them, connecting their convictions to daily activities. Not all are called to be pastors or teachers or conference presidents, but some are. And that calling is of the Spirit, without man-made restriction.
What can church members best do to help and support their church leaders?
Using the “every Christian is a leader” motif, each of us can treat others with respect, charity, and a recognition that God does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, age or economic status. As we allow the Holy Spirit to anoint whom He will for the task to which He calls, that same Spirit will bring us together as a unified movement, praying with and for each other, and so much the more “as we see the Day approaching!”
Ellen White on Leadership and Questions and Answers About Women’s Ordination are available from Adventist bookstores in Australia and New Zealand.