We have all come up against bureaucracy in our lives, from the moment we need to see a doctor, claim sickness benefit, get planning permission to build a new garage or extension to our home, deal with our tax declarations and all that sort of thing. That is in civil life, and no one expects the Church to suffer from the same malaise.
I left the Church of England as a young layman, and I had very little experience of committees and everything that makes people do nothing urgently! This is an article that has been recently published about bureaucracy in a large ecclesiastical institution – The Episcopal Church: Bureaucracy, Madness and Methods.
My first reflection is that human institutions can get too big for their own good and cease to serve the purpose for which they were originally intended. Bureaucracies take away personal responsibility and accountability and replaces human values by meanness and selfish ambition. The sole motivation of many politicians is to get voted into power and get second and third terms in office. Bureaucracy enforces compliance through regulation to cover up its own failure in human terms. They depersonalise human beings and turn them into objects to be administered and controlled. Thus, church institutions prefer to sue their internal “enemies” than examine the reasons why there is dissent and revolt, why people perceive grievances and injustice.
This article discusses the American Episcopal Church, but all Churches become bureaucracies once they have grown to such a number of staff and members that they can no longer deal with people as unique human persons. We are given a fine quote by Sir Winston Churchill – “insatiable lust for power is only equalled by their incurable impotence in exercising it“. The same thing happened in France when the plutocrats took over from General Charles de Gaulle.
I see this as one of the biggest causes for the disintegration of the big “mainstream” Churches. We are all alienated from them, even if we are believers, convinced Christians, morally upright and critical of the materialist / consumer culture. Bureaucracy has turned those institutions away from what they were intended for.
All we could do as Continuing Anglicans, traditionalist Roman Catholics, etc. was to break away and start again with our intimate little dioceses and communities. We in the ACC can hardly claim to be the “true Church”, but we can at least claim to be a Church of human dimensions.
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Update: Fr David Chislett has sent the link to Reorganizing Religion – Why the Church Bureaucracies Have to Go by David Mills in the comment box to this posting. This article is so apposite that it deserves greater emphasis. Read it and you’ll understand everything!