The Institutional Context of affiliation
Explanations of congregational affiliation depend, in part, on institutional factors (Chapter 1). Part Four is concerned with the local institutional issue of the roles of clergy and laity and the national institutional question of the role of the denomination.
In discussions about congregations, we increasingly hear the words "empowerment," "ownership," "stakeholders," and other terms that indicate giving ordinary people a central role in the life of the church. Not only do we see congregants take a growing part in managing the institution or making policy, but also in the religious realm, in setting spiritual direction for the church or synagogue.
In Chapter 11, James R. Wood notes that lay people often provide expertise, experience, and practical wisdom which are valuable supplements to the training and experience of clergy. He contends, however, that clergy have a distinctive leadership role that they may share with laity but must not surrender. No matter how democratic or how expanded the role of the laity, congregations still need leadership that is spiritual. As knowledge, sophistication, and consciousness grow among the laity (perhaps along with increased demands, expectations, and levels of criticism), the clergy must adjust their leadership style and methods, but they cannot abandon their leadership roles. It is the job of the clergy to vitalize the faith of the laity, to raise the consciousness of the scared values of the religious tradition, and to connect transcendent truth with everyday life. It is the unique work of clergy to help the congregation achieve maturational growth (Chapter 2) by educating the laity and leading them to deeper faith.
In Chapter 12, William McKinney calls for a reexamination of the role of denominations in helping local congregations. He begins with a standard equation: people come into religious organizations through birth, transfer from another tradition, or conversion from unaffiliation. They leave because they die, transfer out into another tradition, or drop out into