Life Cycle of a Diocese

Life Cycle of a Diocese image

Some time ago, I wrote about the lifecycles of the average church. I have been thinking about applying the same model at the Diocese level, particularly over the course of the Day 2 at synod. In a growth phase, an organisation is driven by ‘Vision.’ As structural considerations take over and drive agendas, very often a decline phase takes hold.

Why have I been thinking about this over Day 2 at synod this year? 

The very nature of synod involves dealing with at times complex internal structural matters. It is a good, right and necessary thing, as we should work out how to organise ourselves. The ultimate end is to bring glory to God, by seeing the name of Jesus proclaimed. But when these kinds of matters draw more energy than vision and mission related matters, one should at least pause and reflect.

At the end of Day 1, a motion to enable our synod to embrace modern technology for synod related communication saw queues form to ask questions. Then today, on Day 2, for example, a new Governance policy for our Diocese organisations provoked passionate debate. 

It is interesting to compare the energy drawn by these kind of internal ‘structural’ issues compared to the energy unleashed on the several items on our agenda relating to evangelism and mission: the ‘2014 Jesus brings’ initiative; the funding of and support of various ministries (that is, the budget); the major review of the Diocesan Mission; and the critical area of Church Planting. 

Some of the background material contained evidence based statistics suggesting that we are facing some pretty significant issues in our future. For example, while more people say they are willing to invite people to church, less are actually doing so; more people being at ease to talk about Jesus is not translating into more doing so. I will focus on some of these in upcoming blogs. 

But back to my synod reflections: while there certainly were mission and vision type items on our agenda, there seemed to be relatively little synodical engagement in such matters. For example, the proposed major revision of our Diocese Mission did not provoke even one question, nor any amendments! 

While it is possible that the motions surrounding these items were so well expressed that there was no need for anything else to be said, my fear is that this may be more indicative of more energy going into structure than vision. The notable exception to this was the matter of the continuation of a levy to fund new land purchases for new churches.

None of this is to minimise the importance of dealing with internal structural matters. They must be dealt with, and synod certainly has such responsibilities. However, my point is slightly different: perhaps synod’s unwitting allocation of engagement and energy toward internal structural matters and away from external vision and mission matters is, at the very least, a worrying inward looking sign. 

Maybe I wrong, even to try to apply Bullard’s life cycle model to our Diocese. Or maybe I am wrong in my analysis of synod’s ‘energy.’ Perhaps the third and final day of synod will bring some clarity.

The Rev Raj Gupta is the senior minister of Toongabbie Anglican Church, member of Standing Committee, and Mission Area Leader of the Parramatta Mission Area. He is also a partner with the 'Exploring Effective Ministry under God' team, and currently undertaking a Doctor of Ministry at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDs).

Comments (3)

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  • Eddie Ozols
    October 16, 13 - 8:02am
    I was interested in your article in the last Briefing as well as this blog. Is not the refreshment of structure an indication that the vision and mission of any organisation one that is responding to the demands for change? How often have businesses "structured" themselves and grown, only to maintain the structures which are obsolete and potentially cause problems. I would suggest that the evolving and changing structures are a result of visioning and looking to the future. It would be sad if structural change was reactive rather than planned. As the Royal Commission will highlight, many denominations will be revising their structures in response to the issues that emerge.
  • David Milne
    October 18, 13 - 8:40pm
    Thanks for your comments Raj, I too found some of the debate tedious. However, in light of the Royal Commission and even some of the debate about the quality and consistency of SRE curriculum delivery in schools, I think that we need to be considering the effect of public's perception of our organisational structures and governance. I know our Church has and does have evangelism and outreach front and centre on our agenda, but how we care for people needs to be above reproach, so I think governance issues are vital in helping us do this - especially where public perception is involved. I think sometimes in our enthusiasm we can inadvertently overlook such issues. Synod is a good checking ground to remind ourselves of these important issues.
  • Neil McMullen
    October 19, 13 - 4:53pm
    At the annual conference of the Anglican Mens Society recently held in Perth considerable time was spent on procedural matters as commented on by Rev Gupta. Overwhelmingly the need to win the souls of the people associated with the Anglican Church in Australia should have pride of place. Archbishop Davies underlined this in his presidential address.
    The Anglican Church today is an almost entirely different creature than it was as the Church of England when many most- of these bodies such as AMS were established well over 100 years ago . Society itself is entirely different and the acceptance of change is the challenge we face every day in each of our lives.We are now right in there with Galatians 3:28!
    What if an entirely new organization is established for the Anglican Church ?– ‘The Anglican Lay Network’ – not ‘revolutionary’ but ‘evolutionary’- that is evolving from a coming together of all the Churches lay organizations of both genders, forming a national movement within the Anglican Church whose aims should be a amalgam of the best of the ‘Aims’ of the contributing mens and women's organizations. A summary of all existing aims of existing organizations is the participation as an "Anglican Christians".