The Impotent Leader and The Legacy of the Church: The Farewell Sermon as a Bishop`s Last(ing) Act of Leadership

Professor Bård Eirik Hallesby Norheim og førsteamanuensis Joar Haga

Publisert i Scandinavian Journal for Leadership & Theology nr. 8,2021


When a leader leaves office, the leader becomes impotent,divested of power.This makes the actual moment of farewell a particularly interesting case study in leadership, as the farewell moment marks the transition of power from one leader to another. Many leaders use the point of departure as an opportunity to articulate the legacy of the institution they leave behind. This article offers a rhetorical and theological analysis of the farewell sermon delivered by former presiding bishop of the Church of Norway, Helga Haugland Byfuglien in January 2020, and a shorter, comparative analysis of the equivalent farewell sermon of the former Archbishop of the Church of Sweden, Anders Wejryd (2014). The article analyses howBy-fuglien and Wejryd conceptualize the legacy of the churchwith the use of epideictic and de-liberative rhetoric (rhetorical analysis) and discuss what kind of legacy (theological analysis and discussion) they promote. The article argues that both Byfuglien and Wejryd use the fare-well sermon as a rhetorical opportunity to articulate the church`s legacy for the future, alt-hough their own formal power to execute that legacy is coming to an end. Byfuglien appeals to a diaconal vision of the church`s legacy, with a tendency to emphasize the church`s wel-coming and inclusive character. Wejryd addresses the current ecclesiological situation in more detail. By assessing the church`s numerical decline and changed societal status as a cri-sis, he mainly appeals to the church`s missional legacy. The article concludes that the farewell sermons of both Byfuglien and Wejryd may be interpreted as a sort of inheritance dispute, or better heritage dispute: In their farewell sermons, the departing bishops present their last(ing) act of leadership, appealing to the audience to commit to a particular vision of the church`s legacy.


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