What appears just below I wrote in 2003. It was part of the original Alternate Vision paper. I was proposing an hypothesis that behind the explicit Statement of Mission and Vision was an implicit vision for denominational restructuring. I offered it as one possible analysis of what was going on, and I suggested that it was not far-fetched. It turns out it was not far-fetched at all.
“As the Vision has become gradually incorporated into the complex structure of the RCA, the process implicit in it has continued to develop. As the process has become necessarily more for-mal and institutional, it has required the use of new models and procedures in order to advance it, and also the evolution of historic church structures and behaviors in order to integrate it.
“It is by means of these new procedures, structures, and behaviors that the implicit vision has become discernible. And what became discernible at the most recent general synod was that the implicit vision of the RCA, in its structures and behaviors, is that of a religious corporation on a sort of business model something like a non-profit, or a para-church organization. (Program has subordinated governance.) This is certainly not the whole story, and it is an analysis from one particular point of view. Much is being left out. But I don’t think the analysis is far-fetched.”
Yup, it was already apparent in 2003. The following paragraphs are from the same section. What it describes is what we just saw illustrated in the Task Force, which ignored the mandated conversation and consultation, was staff-directed, and had its report written by the staff:
“Quite apart from not being challenged and inspired by what is explicit in the Vision, I have a considerable problem with what is implicit in the Vision. Implicit is a vision of the RCA as a sort of centralized religious organization which gets its direction from the center, and which passes the energy out from the center to the edges by means of concentric circles. Implicit is the idea that the RCA is led by the head of staff, and that in order to get the vision, the staff leader goes to the mountaintop with a small circle of supporters, and then returns from the mountaintop with a vision for the church as a whole. This vision is then shared with ever-broadening circles in order to get approvals and further elaboration.”
The “open space” proposal is the means to broaden the circle in order to get approvals and further elaboration.
“This means that the unity of the denomination becomes a function of unity with the program of the head of staff. It also means that governance is made a function of program. Some would view this as a good thing. I disagree, and I believe that it not only conflicts with the historic church order of the RCA, but also in the long run is counterproductive for both program and governance.
“I believe that the historic order of the RCA is better for the future in that it is more open, more flexible, and offers more room for creativity, initiative, and leadership. As I will say in greater detail below, the church is in the dispensation of the New Testament, not the Old Testament, and Acts 2 shows us that the place of the prophet is on the rooftops and in the streets, not upon Mount Sinai as in Exodus 19. In the dispensation of Acts, the vision for the church comes to persons engaged in actual ministry.
“It is important to note here that the process of the Vision is part of the vision, if not explicitly, then certainly implicitly. The process, from the beginning, has been literally top-down and center out. The from the mountaintop metaphor has been part of the Vision from the outset. But this is to be expected when the General Secretary is made responsible to set the vision for the whole denomination, and when the General Secretary’s very job description was itself a major step in the centralization of the denominational structure.”
Dear friends, we are reaping the fruit of the seed we have sown. What were we thinking?