Well it’s good to be back. I felt that I went straight from the Oxford high table to the breakfast muffin at Birmingham Airport.

Anyway, I was reading ‘The Starfish and the Spider – the unstoppable power of leaderless organisations’ while I was away. Spiders don’t function if you lop bits off or disable their central brain – starfish don’t have a central system at all. It’s on the reading list for the College for Bishops – I’m doing another week of training in May with the most recent three years of bishops of TEC – as a consumer, I hasten to add.

The suggestion is that organisations which don’t have any central organisation or direction – like Alcoholics Anonymous or Skype – energise people at every level. Efforts to stifle simply make them stronger. Organisations with a centralised structure stifle initiative and flexible response – and can be readily disabled. So that’s the Vatican dealt with for a start! But what of the SEC, one wonders?

Well – we are a church of small government compared with many. We have a fair amount of collegiality and collaboration in our DNA. But I find myself of divided mind. I like nothing better than to be surprised by something that happens at the ‘grass roots’ and we are attempting to create a culture which makes that more rather than less likely. But I suppose that an episcopal church recognises the need for a ‘minding’ function – a bit of protecting, a bit of making safe, a bit of creating a space in which all can be heard and alternative possibilities created. But the distance between that and stifling is very small.


  1. Maybe we need to see a church building more as a railway station and less as a function suite.
    Something the Catholic church has never lost is the common touch,someone can walk into a service straight from work still wearing their overalls and no one would bat an eyelid.

    1. Ah the common touch …. well I do live in Perthshire! But I apply what I call the ‘herd of goats’ principle. It’s a test which Orthodox Churches would always pass – that one could bring a herd of goats through the middle of the liturgy after an hour or five and that would be just fine.

    1. Chris – do you mean that we would speak to one another or something radical like that?

  2. I came across this a couple of years ago, and have used it quite a bit in training presentations to try and unlock people’s thinking about how they think the Church ought to be – The childish centralised autocracy model so beloved of some sections of the Daily Telegraph is actually less adaptable than the “Incomplete and yearning” model of Michael Ramsey, and the greatest strength of Christianity historically has been its capacity for inculturation.

    I am alsos questioning the whole concept of leadership (valuable as it can be) in the light of Peter Block’s concept of Stewardship. but that’s another story…

  3. Somehow, comparing the Church of Christ to Skype or AA seems somewhat absurd. The term heterodox might apply to small groups with no guidance. Hmm, sounds like the protestant reformation. Everyone left to define truth for themselves. Still, Skype is a communications tool, not a piece of banking software. It also is not an organization or a creed.It stifles its use as a food blender.

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