Structural change as use of power

Behind the claim that the major structural shift (re-ordering of the church) is being proposed to assist the church function in its essence as mission is, in fact, a matter of power.

This isn’t simply a shift of power from the periphery to the center, although it is that. Something more fundamental, and more dangerous, is going on. Philosophers use the notion of “totalizing.” That is to bring everything under the umbrella of a ruling idea executed through those who have power over those on the outside.

Here’s how it might work in the church. The ruling idea is that of mission conceived in a particular way. As it’s stated in “Our Call” it is that the RCA will focus its efforts and resources on starting new congregations and revitalizing existing congregations. Not a bad idea, as ideas go. But this one “call” rules out all others who don’t line up.

On the ground, this means that the small church, the church that isn’t “revitalizing” or that isn’t busy starting a new congregation is judged as “not healthy.” And ministers, elders and deacons who don’t or can’t go along are judged as “out of the loop,” unhealthy, old-fashioned, etc. A church must either produce or be judged ready for the scrap heap.

This is dangerous, unethical, and it betrays theological integrity. It’s why some read the MSTF report as violent. Because this says to the little person: you count only as you fit the narrative imperative of the “one thing” that the church is to be about.

I can think of few things that violate the Reformation confession of justification than this. This sort of totalizing was, in fact, what our Reformation forbears set up their resistance against. Dare I say that this is the status confessionis in which the Belgic and the Heidelberg emerged?

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Structural change as use of power

  1. Two thoughts: first, before certain types of congregations are eliminated, it seems to me that certain types of ministries and commissions (History, Theology, Women, Unity, Action, Order . . . do any of these multiply or revitalize congregations?)would be on the way out the door. Second, if we find ourselves in a status confessionis on, say, 12 June, just what do we do?

  2. “first, before certain types of congregations are eliminated, it seems to me that certain types of ministries and commissions.”Oh, but that wouldn’t be necessary. These are already so marginalized and ignored, that they wouldn’t be worth the effort to wipe out. Simply continuing what has been happening should be enough. Over time, the timy voice these groups will by then possess can be quietly extinguished with no political cost, because they will no longer have any practical impact on governance.

  3. “Second, if we find ourselves in a status confessionis on, say, 12 June, just what do we do?”That’s my question, too.

  4. Actually, I was getting at how ideology has replaced theology in the church. Ideology ends up in death as it sweeps all in its path. Ideology provides the intellectual rationale for what power has desired in the first place. Theology emerges from the God whose love leaves none behind.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s