With recent news, my thoughts turned to the dangers of institutionalism, particularly in the Church.
First, let me define my terms. I am using institutionalism to describe an unhealthy attachment to an institution, not to argue per-se against institutions. Whenever a group of people get together to do something, they will become organised and lead, and an institution of one type or another will be formed. Institutions are, in my view, inevitable. But they bring an associated risk, one that has to be continually fought, of a selective blindness towards that institution – of valuing adherence more than valuing truth, righteousness and justice.
We have seen that over the years in the Catholic Church, and the fruit of that is being brought to light by the coarse brush of the press. I have no illusions as to the press’s motives, however it is God’s good pleasure to use a scourer when other methods have proven fruitless. There is a judgment in that, but a judgment hopefully to repentance and restoration.
I would wish to see that form of judgement also in the Anglican Communion, where institutionalism has lead to duplicity and deceit. There is no glory to God in such practices, indeed Churches that operate in such manner may soon find themselves severed from the vine by their own actions.
In either case, there is a salutary lesson here, one which those dedicated to the renewal in Anglicanism should bear in mind. No institution, on whatever ‘side’, should command more loyalty than God, lest we replace one blind organisation with another.
Does the church really have to become institutionalized? If we meet around Jesus wherever we happen to be and go, do we also need a hierarchy? What if Jesus were the head? What if we, His body, just followed Him? What if we really became one in Him, as He prayed?
Good question – does it have to? I think it is inevitable – even in the Bible they had overseers, now called Bishops. There is a degree of organisation that is a simple requirement of a body of people getting together. The issue arises when that organisation becomes a master rather than a servant.
One day this will change, and we can see shades of this now, but I suspect not while we are still in the process of waking up, waiting for the real Day to begin.
Christian institutions cease to be relevant once the institution itself becomes more important than its reason for existance. Institutions can create rallying points and even a form of loyalty, but they cannot in the spiritual sense create unity. At least not the unity our Lord was talking about. That must be based on the conjoined elements of Love and Like-mindedness. This is the neccessary
combination that joined together become a single element that makes it possible to become “one”, as our triune God exists. Until our institutions recognize this as its raison detre, it will, under the weight of human frailty, fail.
As we are seeing….