February 6, 2023
Princeton Theological Seminary is pleased to announce the launch of the Center for Contemplative Leadership. Founded and directed by Bo Karen Lee, associate professor of spiritual theology and Christian formation, the Center for Contemplative Leadership will offer training and resources for cultivating vision, resilience, and joy through contemplative practices both ancient and modern.
"Professor Lee has shown extraordinary leadership in developing theologically rich and spiritually life-giving programs for people interested in developing their capacity to lead, nourished by the riches of the Christian tradition. I am delighted that her excellent work will now have a more permanent home in the Center for Contemplative Leadership where its resources can reach broader audiences that yearn for what it has to offer,” says Jacqueline Lapsley, dean and vice president of academic affairs and professor of Old Testament.
The Center for Contemplative Leadership seeks to train leaders in the art of contemplative group listening and spiritual peer mentoring; to intentionally identify, recruit, and resource ethnic minority leaders; and to reach leaders beyond traditional audiences through cohort-based learning and experiences. By supporting leaders inside and outside the church, the center embodies a robust integration of deep spiritual roots with the wider work of liberative justice in the world.
“Without contemplative grounding, one’s passion for a more just world can easily be drained, and activists can become discouraged. Burnout is real, and without God’s love to sustain us, our best efforts fall short,” says Lee. “The Center exists to help leaders draw resources from the deepest well of compassion and courage, thereby strengthening our loving action on behalf of all creation.”
Rooted in building communities of trust and active listening for the Spirit, the center equips individuals to nurture vibrant, close-knit relationships with their peers and with the God we serve, inviting us to rethink traditional power structures to create shared, collaborative leadership models. The center’s Advisory Board lends their wisdom, counsel, and prayers and helps set the vision for the year’s offerings. The board includes Lisa Bowens, Heath Carter, KC Choi, Keri Day, Trey Gillette, Shawn Oliver, and Abigail Rusert of Princeton Theological Seminary; spiritual directors BJ Katen-Narvell and Ruth Workman; David Kim, ThM ’07, of Goldenwood; Leonard McMahon of Common Ground Dialogue and Pacific School of Religion; and Shann Ray of Gonzaga University, who serves as the chair of the Board.
“I am excited about the Center for Contemplative Leadership and the vision Dr. Lee has for empowering leaders through spiritual practices of the Christian faith. The Center exists to help all kinds of leaders (corporate, nonprofit) for which I am grateful. However, I am particularly delighted about how the Center will encourage pastors and those in ministry,” says Bowens, associate professor of New Testament at Princeton Seminary. “I know the difficulties of ministry firsthand, and due to a number of traumatic events over the last few years — such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing racial violence — many pastoral leaders are experiencing severe pain and exhaustion. I am hopeful that the center will be a source of renewal and encouragement for them.”
The Center for Contemplative Leadership enriches Princeton Seminary’s community of faith and scholarship. Jonathan Lee Walton, president of Princeton Seminary, says, “The center’s mission to empower faithful Christian leaders in ministry and secular roles is vital to the future of the church. Princeton Seminary is committed to serving the world of tomorrow, and I firmly believe the Center for Contemplative Leadership will help us do so.”
In 2022, the center hosted Prayer as Resistance: Contemplative Practices for Liberative Justice at Princeton Seminary, as well as specialized workshops and cohort-based training programs. This March, it will host an expanded follow-up conference, further delving into the nuances of how contemplative practices can fuel action, lead to greater concern for social justice, and help reshape cultural standards to prioritize care for one another and the planet. The center’s offerings will include workshops and trainings, as well as listening circles for ministry and lay leaders, and collaborations with other centers and institutes on campus.
“One of the center’s foci is to offer healing spaces of authentic vulnerability, for leaders to listen for the Spirit’s wisdom and to receive strength and find resilience within intimate community together,” says Lee.
Learn more about the Center for Contemplative Leadership on their website, and register to attend their March 2023 conference here.
“Informal time in discussion groups with faculty and students discussing feminist theological literature altered my views, excited my spirit, and greatly influenced my teaching.”