How do we act like a church?

Author:MacDonald, Mark

UNTIL VERY RECENTLY, it was widely accepted that models of governance, administration and decision-making used in government were also appropriate for the church.

Today, this assumption is being questioned. The struggles over human sexuality and other matters that challenge the church's sense of community have revealed the weaknesses of modes of decision-making that follow the legislative practice of democratic governments. People, in general, appear to be longing for a way of decision-making that is more reflective of the Christian reality that underlies our identity, hope and destiny.

That does not mean that an alternative is quickly or easily available. Though Indigenous churches have successfully used culturally-appropriate consensus procedures to make decisions for a number of decades, they have not transferred smoothly elsewhere. The Council of General Synod, for instance, has tried to use consensus in some of its decision-making, but its application is still experimental and uneven. The World Council of Churches uses consensus for decision-making, along with other means of equalizing the power dynamics between different churches with different cultural backgrounds. While it seems to be working well generally, it is not without complaint.

The Indigenous churches have used consensus within a context that involves five basic communal assumptions:...

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