Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why the Church Bureaucracies Have to Go - by David Mills

Back in 2004 David Mills wrote an article that deserves a wider dissemination, on account of the way that the layers of church bureaucracy and the manipulation of “representative” democracy in synodical processes is slowly strangling the people of God. (But don’t expect to see a copy of it in your diocesan mailing!) It should be said that David’s observations are not “Anglican specific”, as they apply across the board to all mainline churches.

Of particular importance is David’s observation (at the end of the article) on the crushing impact of all this on the parishes and the truly pastoral clergy.

David Mills is deputy editor of First Things, having been editor of Touchstone from 2003-2008. His books include: The Pilgrim’s Guide: C. S. Lewis and the Art of Witness (1999), Knowing the Real Jesus (2001) and Discovering Mary (2009). Former director of publishing at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, and member of the Forward in Faith North America Council before becoming a Roman Catholic in 2001, he regularly wrote the "Letter from America" for New Directions.

. . . Any revival in these (mainline) churches will require not the reform but the abandonment of the many layers of bureaucracy they have built up over the last few decades, giving the local bodies the authority to act as they think best and forcing the center to be as close as possible to the local bodies, in particular guiding, aiding, and inspiring them far less by law-giving requirements, for example – than by personal authority, and to rely for its support on the voluntary giving of the flocks it serves.

The resources and energy these bureaucracies consume (not only from those who work in them but from those who must spend time and money to oppose them) and the ends to which they direct their work make it harder for the churches to bring the gospel to the people who need to hear it, and make it much harder for the churches to say the clear word the culture needs to hear from it.

Even at their best, they devour resources and energy that could be better put to local uses, and set the churches’ corporate witness and public agenda to reflect the bureaucratic consensus, which means a general and minimalist statement too indefinite to inspire and guide action. At their worst, they actively distort the churches’ witness and work by demanding too much of their resources and proclaiming an alien gospel.


Alice C. Linsley said...

Hello, Bishop David. I hope that you are well!

Thanks for calling this to my attention. I will read it carefully.

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