I have just read the doctoral thesis titled “Effective Church Operational Systems” by Deacon Dean. The 252-page thesis-project outlines the plan he has been implementing at All Saints Parish, particularly in the last few years.
Awarded a doctorate in the ministry program at the Protestant Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary this year, Dean has synthesized “successful operation methodologies and principles developed for other types of organizations” and has implemented “a strategic operations system into a Roman Catholic parish to position it for effective ministerial development in the future. This system is transferable to other church settings.” (My emphases throughout.)
This fundamental change is predicated on three things according to the thesis: declining finances, declining participation, and declining vocations. “The author explores how to generate healthy church growth by focusing on the development of an effective operational systems [sic] for church leadership.”
In short, this is a manifesto for a secular/protestant hybrid model of parish governance. It is all laid out.
Dean writes, “This thesis-project explores how to implement effective change to move a particular Roman Catholic parish toward greater health and growth…It will examine the unprecedented implementation of an unpublished process, developed by James Moore for use in industry, into a Roman Catholic parish. The process and its implementation will be contextualized within systems thinking and healthy church development. The principle focus will be in how the process can be used to develop an effective operational system for the leadership of the parish. With an effective operation system on the leadership level, those in leadership will be able to cultivate desired changes that lead to greater congregational health.”
Let’s try to get at the motives undergirding this change. First, the emphasis is on ministerial development and leadership as the driving force behind parish health. That is certainly a major factor, and using the statistics provided in the thesis, one can make a strong case that the drive in the Diocese of Rochester to move parishes from a priest/pastor model to a lay-run model has had catastrophic results.
There is a great deal of information that we’ll be going through in the next few weeks that will make clear what has been happening and why it has been happening. While our own parishioners, former staff, and churches have and are suffering the effects of the implementation of this type of model, I ask that we all try to keep our comments impersonal and focused on the ideas and not the individuals. It is going to be a bumpy ride.
Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities.