Editor's Note: The author of this piece on organizational theory and the primates’ communiqué, Dr. Victor J. Rizzo, has served for many years as a senior collegiate administrator and consultant to major for-profit organizations in the areas of strategic management and organizational development. He received his Ph.D. in Human Resource Management from the University of North Texas (Denton) and an MBA from Southwest Texas State University (San Marcos). He has taught both graduate and undergraduate business and management courses at several colleges and universities in Texas, and more recently in New Mexico. His current areas of interest include strategic planning and the development of functional organizational structures.
This provocative piece explores the limits of conflict within our Anglican hope for comprehensiveness. We are eager to receive your comments.
An Organizational Theorist’s Reflections on “The Communiqué of the Primates”
“Organizational Theory Tests the Limits of Comprehensiveness”
(by Victor J. Rizzo, Ph.D.)
Organizational structure is the bone and sinew that enables an organization to function in the role for which it was originally created. It is easy for those not fully informed on the essential elements of organizational theory to set forth schemes to ameliorate conflicts between constituents of an organization that are at odds over the current direction or leadership of the organization to which they belong. Unfortunately, such schemes, not founded in an understanding of organizational theory, have little chance of succeeding over time and are, at best, stop gap efforts to delay the inevitable dissolution of the organization as it was originally conceived and established.
The establishment of "pastoral care" schemes, as envisioned by the primates in their communiqué, asks that a legally organized entity, namely the Episcopal Church (USA), should alter its organizational structure if it wishes to remain a full member of the Anglican Communion. While the primates may have, in good faith, offered this scheme in an effort to minister to the specific needs of bishops, dioceses, and individuals within the Episcopal Church who wish to adhere more closely to the beliefs, disciplines, and teachings of foreign jurisdictions of the Anglican Communion, such a scheme effectively creates an organization within an organization, neither of which fully supports the role and purpose of the other. Sadly, this scheme is not founded in an understanding of the fundamentals of organizational structure through which power, authority to act, and responsibility of office are channeled – and that means trouble.
The pastoral care scheme suggested by the primates is a de facto dissolution of the Episcopal Church into two (or conceivably an infinite number of) fully functioning organizations whose members do not accept, condone, or support the beliefs, disciplines, and teachings of each other. Echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln, one must ask, "How can a house, so divided, stand?" when at best, the parties are only tangentially of one mind, one heart, and one purpose on critical issues!
The very foundation of the Anglican Communion can be traced to a schism between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. Imagine the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the primates who have set forth the pastoral care scheme, as the leaders of a See within the Roman Catholic Church that is empowered to "pick and choose" the canons, beliefs, and teachings that they are willing to accept, support, and convey to the faithful within the Communion—what irreconcilable conflicts would this create? Apparently such a scheme is not workable; otherwise, some reconciliation between both churches of Christ would have been achieved many, many years ago.
It is clear that should the Episcopal Church and its Presiding Bishop implement the proposed pastoral care scheme, the outcome will in time be the dissolution of the Episcopal Church in the United States and the dissolution of its association with the greater Anglican Communion. Once this or a similar pastoral care scheme is established, and targeted church bodies are granted autonomy to “pick and choose” the conditions of leadership which they are willing to accept from the parent organization, it will not be long before these same bodies will seek their independence from the parent organization.
In conclusion, one cannot help but reflect on what seems to me an inescapable truth: that when a group of people are no longer of the same mind on critical or crucial matters, at that very moment the common organization to which they pledged allegiance ceases to exist. If the members of the larger Anglican Communion are unable to expand their views on the roles of women, same gender unions, and the like to encompass those who find themselves in conflict with that larger part of the Communion, then the body is divided, and no simplistic organizational scheme can do more than to delay briefly the inevitable dissolution of the entity as it existed.
Our Episcopal Majority editor noted that in the original version of Victor Rizzo's article, he stated a "'self-evident truth’... that when a group of people are no longer of the same mind, at that very moment, the common organization to which they pledged allegiance ceases to exist." We asked if what he saw as self-evident were really open to question – as that has been part of our genius as Anglicans.
Dr. Rizzo responded: I note your comment regarding "our genius as Anglicans" to work together. Most successful organizations have a degree of diversity of thought within them. Often this diversity leads to innovation and improved business strategies; it is only when the nature of that diversity rises to intolerable levels that the de facto dissolution of the organization occurs. I think that we may be at that threshold within the Anglican Communion. Hopefully, Christ will guide those whose task it will be to implement the primates' proposal and there will be a degree of reconciliation among the faithful.
To which our editor responds: Amen.