Some of you may or may not know this, but I am a voting member in next week’s ELCA Churchwide Assembly. Because of that, I received about 500 pages worth of the Pre-Assembly Report in the mail a few weeks ago. It’s filled with reports from churchwide officers and offices, recommendations for action, information about procedures, the ELCA Constitution and Continuing Resolutions, and on and on. As a voting member of this assembly, I am quite conflicted.
My gut instinct says that this is not the way the church is supposed to operate. The church is not stacks of paper dictated by Robert’s Rule of Order where the majority always gets their way. And yet, on the other hand, when you are talking about coordinating efforts between massive groups of people, is there really any other way? When missional activities involve millions of dollars and millions of people, doesn’t that necessitate a slow-moving bureaucracy?
For example, one of the great things we are considering is our participation in a serious effort to fight malaria in Africa, an effort that spans across churches other than the ELCA and requires a commitment of tens of millions of dollars. Obviously, to make any significant dent in this disease across a whole continent requires a massive undertaking. I’m not sure that a bunch of independent local churches could coordinate this sort of large-scale initiative. Perhaps I’m wrong.
So, I am going into this assembly with an open mind. While my instincts tell me this is not the way a church should be structured, I am open to being proved wrong. This will be an interesting adventure in ecclesiology.
What about you? Is denominational bureaucracy a two-edged sword? Is there an alternative, especially as it relates to large-scale efforts?