Epiphany Reflection

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself.

Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representatives who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent.

The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

Can anyone think of examples in church organizations? I can.

The good news is that on Epiphany we celebrate a King who defeats the power of all the Iron Laws out there, “so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 3:10)

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2 thoughts on “Epiphany Reflection

  1. Too funny! And might there also be some (few?) cases where Pournelle’s Iron Law may be supplemented by the Peter Principle?More seriously, I do wonder if many times, in my own little beauracracy of which I am president as well as pastor, I am an example of Type 2.To turn things further upside down, let me offer this: I have run into plenty in our denomination who are disdainful of our polity because, they say or imply, it gets in the way of what Christians really are supposed to be doing. These critics, I suspect, would claim to be examples of Iron Law Type 1.Dan

  2. Actually, I suspect that many of those who run down our polity–at least, many of those whom I’ve met–are somewhat lazy type 2 folks. They want to control the organization, but don’t want to be bothered to learn or live out the rules–which, as many of us CI signatories have witnessed, have an amazing potential for furthering the goals of the organization if we were to actually use them. So, these lazy type twos develop something that appears to be anarchy on the surface but is actually a strange sort of gnosticism (much like many “non-liturgical” praise-and-worship-type liturgies, where there are rules, but the insiders simply aren’t sharing them with the visitors . . . admittedly, not limited to this genre of worship, though the traditionalists at least publish bulletins).Since living in covenant is one of the goals of our little denomination, and since the rules in the BCO are actually a tangible manifestation of that covenant, making use of the polity is actually a type 1 behavior. It is the extra sets of rules, not agreed to by the whole body but somehow applicable to the whole body, directly or indirectly, that would be examples of type 2 behavior.

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