Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hints of New ABC Structure Emerge . . . Slowly, but This Could Actually Work!

Thanks to Dr. Stinnett, we have a few hints of how the ABC will probably look in the years to come. Due to the absence of an approved summary, Stinnett felt the need to speak in generalities in his recent blog entry (http://abcviewsfrommiddle.blogspot.com/). Still the hints he offers afford readers an unusual insider's view of what things will likely look like.

Dr. Stinnett comments:

Unfortunately, there still has not been a sketch of that plan released, which makes it very difficult for me to discuss with any integrity.

In brief: The plan endorses a federation form of organization for the denomination. I have argued for a long time that federation is the best way for us to understand ourselves. Federation, however, can take several forms. As they say, the devil is in the details. This is not entirely a return to the societal days, but it is a movement in that direction. The General Board, as it functions now, will no longer exist. There will be no interlocking memberships between the General Board and the various program boards. Instead, each will become radically smaller and self-sustaining. The means for maintaining connection and accountability is not yet settled. Likewise, while it is generally assumed that covenants will be the basis of our very loose union, the nature and content of those covenants has not even been part of a casual conversation.

Bottom line: leaner, smaller, less formally connected, moving in the direction of the old societal days. Reader alert (MY opinion): This will probably reduce the flash points of controversy which have plagued the ABC (and the other mainline denominations) for years. It will also allow for greater financial sustainability due to a smaller national staff and structure footprint. While this will not necessarily remove all of the controversies afflicting the body, it could staunch the flow of congregations exiting the denomination in a very significant way. Given the financial constraints facing the ABC, it is unfortunate that the GEC was not willing to give Medley the go-ahead to present the plan without further tinkering. As it stands, a full change will await the Pasadena biennial in 2009.

This direction has been suggested by savvy organizational theorists and ABC leaders for years. The fact that the Writing Team has come to agree with the direction is a blessing to the entire denomination. Dr. Medley should be congratulated for his part in helping move the plan through the maze of the bureaucracy. It would seem to hold the best hope for a continuation of the denomination during these difficult post-denominational days. In my opinion, the sooner the better.

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