For the last five Sundays I have been responding to the individual essays in Beyond Rebuilding: Shaping a Life Together. Today I want to say a brief overall assessment of this debate.
The core issue is whether the church should seek to build up the authority of its national leaders to lead the whole denomination, or whether it should break down any power accumulating in its national leaders to tell anyone what to do.
I say you can't have authority without power. When Jesus was praised as one who taught with authority, that was not just a personal compliment. His authority was the reason that he should be listened to and followed. When Jesus gave the keys to Peter, he was confirming that Peter had the authority to use the power that is necessary to run the church. The church serves the powerless, but it does not serve them by being powerless.
Every organization needs power to run. The more that power comes from the authority of its leaders, the better. Authority comes from other people recognizing and following. No recognition of authority, no following of leaders, no church.
The best organizations coordinate the authority of individual leaders into a group that works together, following a coherent vision, for the good of the whole organization. They seek to reproduce that coherent group of leaders for the good of the organization in the future. That is an Establishment.
I think it is clear that the church should seek an Establishment. Whether it will find one even then is still unknown. But I think it is clear that if we do not even seek an Establishment, if instead we undermine any possible Establishment, then we will have a weak church that continues to decline.