Church and business – some thoughts

For not the last time, here is an enumerated list of things that were prompted by a talk I attended at LST:

1. I already am threatening to invite Manny Pangilinan to address the Provincial Synod of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, together with the trustees of almost all the Anglican institutions in the country. Including St. Luke’s. They deserve to hear what he said: the Church may have a lot to say about business, but business also has a lot to say about the Church. So the days of financial amateurism, power plays, and lack of professionalism ought to be over, to a point.

2. What Pangilinan said about the Church as an institution in need of serious structural and management reform is at first sight agreeable but therein lies a serious problem: is it not the fact that we as Church ought to be confronting the presuppositions underlying business? Here again is the necessary corrective a renewed ecclesiology like that being offered by Radical Orthodoxy would provide. We can only go so far with being “corporate” because our very existence as Church, radically opposed to even the capitalist world’s claim to fulfill our needs, puts capitalism into question. Perhaps this is what Rowan Williams puts into question with the lost icons of childhood and charity.

3. If I were braver I would have wondered if the Roman Catholic Church could indeed learn from Anglicans in terms of accountability. The Episcopal tradition prides itself on being “episcopally led and synodically governed.” The structures of the undivided Church, like synods and councils, which some Christian communions have maintained, ought to be “revived with vigor,” as the Second Vatican Council puts it. It would provide part of the key to seeing how the crisis of confidence could be resolved.

4. But if we ought to be learning from anyone how to raise funds, it is from our Evangelical and other Protestant brethren. They take stewardship very seriously, and see the act of tithing as a legitimate response to God’s gift of faith. They can point to the experience of people doing better financially if individuals and companies give regularly, and in relatively high proportion to their income, as possible. They also rely a lot on volunteerism, which the Church ought to be encouraging by making sure a kind of Gnosticism by church people is eradicated.

5. None of what Manny Pangilinan said earlier was new for me. Some time back, a group of Catholic laity in the US, called the National Leadership Roundtable for Church Management, writing in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis, demanded structural reforms in the church that were somewhat specific. For instance, they wanted to see regularly published reports on the church’s finances and greater use of financial accountability mechanisms already possible under canon law, such as the parochial finance committee. Here is their website.

6. Of course, the problems Pangilinan saw with recruitment and hiring of talent would be resolved if we accepted that celibacy is not a matter of dogma but merely of discipline. Not to mention that when the Pope silenced debate on women priests, he did not silence the debate on women deacons, which would strengthen the permanent diaconate (and the diaconate as a whole) so it can effectively exercise a ministry of administration.

(ETA: Reference to the NLRCM.

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