Friday, September 22, 2006

ABC Organizational Scholar Briefs GEC on Upcoming Meeting

While I was driving by the corner of 8th and Figueroa in Los Angeles, I saw a guy selling oranges. He had run out of fruit, so he offered me a copy of some background reading going to GEC members for the upcoming meeting. In a few days leaders of the ABC will gather to discuss five different proposals for restructuring the denomination. He told me that “The guys who broke the system are the ones proposing the solution.” That sounded amazing to me. What do you think? What are the leaders who are planning to tackle the vexing issues of ABC structure next week thinking about now?

“Bolman and Deal suggest that conflict in organizations is inevitable due to varied individuals and their enduring differences regarding their values, preferences, beliefs, and perceptions of reality. Such conflict, however, only becomes intolerable when there is a scarcity of resources. I believe that this is what has happened to the ABC in the last several years. Whenever we collaborate to engage in a common mission or to support a local church, we spiral upward. Whenever we compete for resources, we spiral downward. Our downward spiral has finally necessitated the need for change. The only question is how to go about the process of change.”

Permit a little translation of bureau-speak. One of my programs in school was in organizational management, specializing in leadership and change. They gave me a degree in interpreting bureau-babble. The italicized words in this blog were all written by a scholar of leadership working for the ABC. He accurately assesses the current situation from the perspective of the literature and research current in the field, and suggests what he sees to be the seminal issues facing denominational planners.

What follows explains two of the leading models for understanding change popular today: the one associated with Harvard’s John Kotter and the other, Appreciative Inquiry, the method associated with Case Western University and utilized in the recent Seek It! process. Remember that Appreciative Inquiry was the tool employed by the ABC in order to come to a new overarching vision.

“There are two main schools of thought in today's literature regarding change. The first school of thought suggests that we must have a sense of urgency about our present situation. This is the "John Kotter" approach that has been adapted for use in many types of organizations, including religious ones. The second school of thought suggests that we ignore what is wrong and focus only upon the positives of the past. This is the "Appreciative Inquiry" approach.

Whenever two dominant schools of thought emerge regarding a particular topic, I usually sense that the answer is somewhere in between the two. For this upcoming GEC week to be successful, I believe that we must balance urgency and hope. Certainly an adequate supply of urgency can be found from even a brief perusal of our balance sheets, income streams, and survey data. Likewise an abundant supply of inspiration could be gleaned from even a minimal mention of our past American Baptist heroes and heroines of the faith. But we must have both. I believe that we must have the audacity to abandon what is not working as well as the courage to create what will.”

One of the leadership gurus who has met with the GEC and interpreted the data on denominational trends is a man by the name of Dr. David Roozen. He and James Nieman authored one of the more important books on the topic within a denominational context. Their Church, Identity, and Change: Theology and Denominational Structures in Unsettled Times (Eerdmans; ISBN: 0802828191) tackles some of the structural issues facing ecclesiastical modalities today.

“For the new to be implemented, it must be built upon the identity of the past and the relationships of the future. Roozen and Nieman suggest that denominations have five potential sources of identity, namely people, polity, practices, purpose, and theology. They further suggest that “Any one of these elements can provide the linchpin of distinctiveness.” A strong identity can survive a rigorous conflict, but the identity must come from a different source than the one which has given rise to the conflict. We indeed have sources of common celebration; the “Seek It” statement confirms that. But too often, we have focused on the unnamed pieces that divide rather than the named pieces that bond us together.”

What does our scholar in the OGS say he hopes will emerge from the meetings of the GEC after next week?

“Ultimately, whatever we produce must also be coupled with a renewed commitment to one another as we move forward. No structure can survive divorced from a people with a common bond and purpose.

I don't want to "return to" anything as a denomination, but rather "mature" into a denomination capable of helping its congregations become 21st century congregations responding to needs around them that were not present just a generation ago. I look forward to our time together next week.”

The Christian faith bristles with faith, hope, and love. Naturally, one would expect that denominational leaders would bathe their meetings in prayer and put the emphasis upon forward leaning proactivity. However, the New Testament also speaks about truth and purity concerns as well. In an environment where biblical authority has been under assault, whatever structures emerge will be meaningless unless the planners deal with the real problems, not merely the surface dilemmas.

[Still beset with a virus, His Barking Dog has little to do besides watching the reruns of "24" on DVDs and catching up on denominational matters via the Internet. My writing remains unassociated with any powers or entities in the southwest. I am, however, developing a real sympathy for CTU's Tony Almeda.]


jesuit spy said...

I think your sympathy for Tony Almeda is misplaced. All he does is scowl & act exasperated most of the time & then act impulsively - like some evangelical ABCUSA pastors I know. James Heller (SECDEF - Season 1) had the potential for real leadership. Of course if Jack Bauer actually showed up at a GEC meeting things would really get moving!

Dennis E. McFadden said...
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Dennis E. McFadden said...

I never saw Jack Bauer wearing a WWJD bracelet. But, if he ever did show up in a GEC meeting, you're right . . . it would never be the same again. It would be sortof fun, though. A man who can never follow the rules stuck in a room with a group that can't think of anything but procedures, policies, and rules. Wow!

baptistlikeme said...

Hi Dennis,

Thanks for your recent comment at BLM regarding the Lancaster Document.

I would very much like to share the most recent version of the Lancaster document I have encountered, but I've basically been asked/told to stop talking about it by a regional leader. I haven't exactly heeded this request but am treading carefully for vocational reasons (this is one symptom of some of the problems associated with the current regional models in my opinion, problems that have kept me from affirming the Rochester Statement, actually).

I will say that the lastest revisions I have seen are not large depatures from what was presented in various forums in April but that more attention and importance is being considered for national arms of the polity. Of course the truly current version of Lancaster has probably changed again since then and will continue to change next week. Let's all agree to keep the GEC and this process in prayer.

Also, you're right that Lancaster is a product of the GEC. My point of concern is that between April and June and then again between June and now, EMs have been free too include or exclude laity from the revision process basically at their discretion. Some do keep things close to their chests, but part of that might have to do less with pressure from VF and more with being able to think radically in the planning stages without alienating people they might have to rely on later.

I'm certainly not a person of consequence in all of this any more than your average lay person, but I will continue to call for equal lay access in accordance with how I understand our polity. I covet your prayers.


baptistlikeme said...

PS: It's late...sorry if I was less than cogent above!

Dennis E. McFadden said...


Actually, I tell everyone you are one of the very best of the Baptist bloggers! Even your work late at night is better than some of us at the top of our game. Keep up the great work!

Dennis E. McFadden said...


BTW, I understand "vocational" pressures VERY well. Why do you think I put in my anoying disclaimers all the time? Especially with my name out there on the blog, it has become important to separate myself from ANY and EVERY entity in the southwest.

jesuit spy said...

Correction: Heller was in Season 5 me thinks. Still, considering that the present administration seems to take its torture policies from "24" I see no reason why the Grand PooBahs of ABCUSA shouldn't as well! It would do alot for our image!
"Take no apostate prisoners!!!

Dennis E. McFadden said...
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