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. . .and the people who want to preserve what the institution has stood for must leave and create a new institution to preserve the values of the old institution?
The United Methodist Church, which I recently joined in the hopes of avoiding just such a fracturing, has before it a proposal to split over whether to adhere to traditional church teaching. Although the triggering issue is listed as human sexuality, sexuality is merely the surface issue for a much deeper conflict over many aspects of traditional church doctrine, the authority of scripture, the value of traditions, and questions of how God has related to His people throughout history. But this is not the thread in which to discuss the specifics of the Methodist controversy. For better details on the Methodist proposal, go to the thread entitled, “This Week in the UMC” by @philo and scroll down to Comment #79 by @jimchase.
The proposal in the UMC is just another example that (according to the proposal) the faction that seeks to retain the existing values of the institution is required to leave the existing institution and to establish a new institution, while the faction that seeks to fundamentally upend the values of the existing institution gets to claim the shell of the existing institution (the name, most of the physical property, and any people who don’t actively transfer to the new institution).
This dynamic (those who seek change get to claim the shell of the institution while those who seek to preserve what the institution has always been must leave the institution) has played out many places, most prominently universities and other churches, but also sometimes in business corporations.
Why is this? It seems to me that those who disagree with an institution’s existing principles so much that they are willing to split the institution to achieve their fundamentally different vision should be the ones forming a new institution. They aren’t really interested in the existing institution. They want a different institution. So why are they so intent on claiming an existing institution in order to transform it, rather than seeking to build a new institution?
I don’t think it’s that transforming an institution is easier than starting a new one. Fundamental transformation of the Presbyterian Church (USA) took about 40 years from first formal transformation proposal in 1978 to complete takeover in 2016. And there probably was background work going on before the first formal proposal. Some of the largest companies in the world have been built in less time than that.
One of my cynical views is that those who want a different institution understand that there is not enough public support for their desired vision on which to build a new institution. So their only hope is to take over an existing institution and remake it. My other cynical view is that they want the public “goodwill” that comes with the name of the existing institution. Although they want to change the institution to be something very different from what the name of the existing institution means, they know it will take a while before the public realizes that the name no longer means what it used to mean.
Is the value of physical property really enough to justify the effort? So, why does this dynamic keep happening?
Why don’t people who want something that does not currently exist not start a new institution, and instead take over an existing institution in order to remake the institution into something different from what the institution has always been?
Are there approaches people in existing institutions might take to reduce the possibility that the institution will be captured by those who seek to fundamentally change it?
This is not the thread to discuss the details of the proposal for splitting the United Methodist Church. For that, go to the thread by @philo.
Also, my intention is not to discuss here the correctness or incorrectness of traditionalists vs. transformation seekers. Here I am curious about why the transformation seekers keep taking over institutions rather than starting new institutions.Published in