Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Not very pointy

Although other, non-Anglican, Churches often say of us that we are very 'hierarchical'. It's not really true. We have an hierarchy, but it's only got two or three levels. There is the Bishop, the clergy (and maybe one division within that group- the in and the out perhaps!) and the laity.
In a way this is far more frought with danger than a multi-levelled hierarchy like the army. Because it means, in reality, unless you are careful the top level can subsume almost everything it wants. It can take power unto itself, and even create authority lines that don't really exist.
This can work really well, and particularly in the country where resources are often slight, it can operate as a sort of benevolent dictatorship.
When it doesn't work well, like when the Bishop goes mad or begins to drink or starts to weaken under stress (all of which have happened in my living memory in different parts of this country) benevolent dictatorship rather breaks down.
So, it is sad to see the playing out of a fracas in our neighbouring Diocese of The Murray (here), where various people (clergy and lay) have gone to war with the Bishop and are seeking a Tribunal (here).
This process is clumsy, and is in the proces of being changed. It remains to be seen whether it can even be applied in this case. The Bishop in question doesn't think so, and the lay people who want it (I think) will find that it does not deliver what they want... the sacking of the Bishop.
There are and will be lots of lessons to learn from this. One of them will be that in a 'not so pointy' hierarchy, it does actually make a difference that you get the top right. 
In a multi-levelled structure there are always people at the next level who can be drawn up but that is not necessarily the case when the next level is fairly flat, and indeed many are the appointees of the leader concerned so may not achieve what 'removalists' want any way.
Poor old Diocese, poor old Bishop, but mainly I keep thinking poor old people of the Murray both churched and unchurched let down by hubris and infighting!

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