I recently heard Bishop Willimon speak about the serious problems facing the church, and after it was over I thanked him and asked if these conversations were taking place among the rest of the episcopacy because they certainly weren't taking place in New England. I have heard members of the cabinet give some startling numbers to the clergy, but as soon as the laity are in the room a different image is portrayed. There is no doubt we face a serious crisis, one that I do not believe is unbeatable, but in order to face that we have to be honest with ourselves and with our churches, and we are not yet there.
We are not ready to face the serious and hard decisions necessary to turn the church around. What Bishop Willimon told me is that sometimes the problem is so big, and the hole so large, that people cannot simply even begin to talk about it because to do so will make them face the serious challenges, issues, and decisions that they simply don't want to take.
The question is, when will we be ready to face it? When will we be honest with our laity? And what are we going to do if there is a "shareholder revolt"? What if the laity rise up and say, "we are taking back our church because we can tell you can't run it properly?" Could that even happen? Would the clergy allow it to happen?
But here is the more serious question and issue: What if those who truly care, those who want and need the church to be something else have already left? That is, to put it into Rappaport's analogy, they saw their stock prices continuing to diminish and they sold out a long time ago and have left the corporation behind? What if the people who could lead the shareholders revolt have already revolted by leaving?
Now do I think that's the case? No, I think there are still people here who care deeply about the church and have that innovative edge that is needed in order to get the church moving in a different direction. Unfortunately, as I have said many times, most of the time these innovative ideas are not being heard at the center, are ignored if they are heard, or just dismissed because they don't promise the "thing" that will solve everything or because "they are not the way we have always done it."
Unfortunately, we are at step four, but we are still working on the first three solutions. I still hear lots of people who still blame the customer, while also saying we just need to market better, and simultaneously searching for the thing. I don't know what Rappaport would say about companies who are doing all three, but I'm guessing he would say they are in serious trouble.