Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Addressing decline

The Dean of Dallas, Texas has an interesting discussion about how the current woes of the church might be addressed (here). I agree with some points he makes like the need to find new ways of being church and giving some credence and resources to them.
We do need to be careful here because often this sort of discussion says "let's look at new ways....and I'll tell you what these new ways are!" and there's a bit of that in Dean Kevin Martin's essay.
But I am actually more interested in one of his opening salvos which is in looking at what happened to a number of major corporations after economic rescue packages were made available. And that is that they were then subsequently analysed and advised by other governmental and industry agencies about restructuring and looking at new directions.
What, we might ask, would the Macquarrie Bank, or the Department of Treasury advise the Anglican Church to do about its current plight. He notes that the resistance to such radical analyses usually comes from existing leaders whose vested interests are both so great, and perspectives so limited that they are actually resistant to radical change. I observe that in the recent review of taxation (The Henry Report) the incumbent government has trumpeted long and loud the need for across the board reform; and yet it has by and large only chosen a handful of the possible suggestions.
Matthews notes some important directions for the church which include:
  • Develop younger lay and ordained leaders with an emphasis on reaching younger generations of unchurched people.
  • Start new congregations using proven innovative methods to reach newer and younger communities for the Church
  • Intentionally identify 10 to 20 percent of congregations that demonstrate a readiness for revitalization and give them the leadership and tools to accomplish this
  • Enact a plan to reach different populations
I think that the third point (put your money where your mouth is) is particularly salient. But also requires some key external scrutiny (à la his opening salvo). Intentional identification of fertile opportunity is vital, but needs to not be done by the vested interests. The trouble with a hierarchical organisation is that too often "Father knows best" is the worst possible filter for assessing what is the appropriate way forward.

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