What if unity were the rule?

I’d never heard of Terry Fullam until he died. After reading the news accounts of his ministry in Darien, Connecticut, though, I scrounged up a copy of Bob Slosser’s book Miracle in Darien.

The book is a fairly inside-church-baseball look at what Fullam did when he was called to the church in the early 1970s and how the church grew from fewer than 150 on Sunday morning to well over 1,000.

One of the early decisions Fullam made was that he should not make the decisions. He got the leadership of the church to agree that they would not take any action if they did not have unity among the board on the decision. His reasoning strikes me as pretty sound. If Christ is the head of the church, would you expect his church to be divided? Of course not. So if the church is divided, it must not yet be listening carefully or fully enough to Christ.

Reading that, I thought of the churches I serve and wondered if such a formal rule would change anything.

I also thought of our denomination. What would our Book of Discipline look like if you removed every provision that did get unanimous support? All of it would be gone, I suspect. Indeed, we would have no denomination at all, as I gather there were some dissenting votes on the idea to form the United Methodist Church.

I’m not sure what to make of that thought.


4 thoughts on “What if unity were the rule?

  1. What is unanimous support? Super majority? or are we talking 100%? That would mean that even one person would have veto power over all the others. Every statement and initiative would have to be watered down or the level of apathy raised until all were on board. Don’t think I would like that.

    1. In the case of the church in the book it was 100%. Or so they said. They recount stories about times that delayed things or made things difficult. This was unanimity on the board, not the entire membership. I should probably make that more clear.

  2. Consensus processes are often extended, tedious, and have mixed results, as per my own Mennonite-grounded experience. They can produce cooperation but should not be idealized. These processes do not work for some psychologies; they can generate ambivalence to an exasperating degree and a marked propensity for coercive subtuning.

    1. coercive subtuning. Can I borrow that phrase? Might come in handy next time I attend a meeting.

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