DISCUSSIONS ON PROPOSED CHANGES
IN CHURCH ORGANIZATION
by Oliver R. Odhner
In response to the interest Bishop King expressed last yearin lay input on General Church planning, I offered to present to him my views on "activity planning". He asked Rev. Soneson to review my ideas for him. Larry and I had repeated discussions which are documented by memos I, II, and III (attached hereto). The result of these meetings was a group of specific proposals for reorganization of the General Church. Whether the proposals are acceptable has not been expressed, but Larry, with the Bishop's OK, has chosen to share them with other ministers for a consensus. By way of introduction, this memo will summarize the perspectives from which the ideas developed.
Organization in the church should accommodate both doctrinal requirements and business needs. Doctrinal requirements specify the spiritual uses of the church. Business needs call for practical applications that work.
The business community in the United States of America is currently undergoing intensive reformation. Challenged by Japan
and other foreign competition, the traditional business organization has become obsolete. Prime emphasis is switching
from dividends and profits to quality and service. Also from a rigid management control heirarchy to instructed,
low level self-management practices. I believe these sudden
trends are recent results of the last judgement. Doctrines of the New Jerusalem continue one-by-one to gain footholds
in our community.
The present organization of the General Church is unique because we recognize the Writings as the primary authority in all of the affairs of the church. Our church therefore has the unique opportunity to participate in the organizational reformation with a conscious knowledge of the principal causes of the current managerial revolution. I have been involved in that business revolution both as a management-level employee and as an entrepreneur. I have also been a devout lay student of the Writings. I feel strongly compelled to share with the General Church a vision which could multiply the uses of our church. In the following attempt to express the vision, I hope I do not appear too dogmatic. I invite discussion of other perspectives.
For us to properly constitute the church, we must support the divine end of creation, and so we must also abide by the laws of the divine providence which the Lord has "imposed" upon Himself. A basic law is the provision of the faculties of freedom and rationality. The appearance that man thinks, wills, speaks, and acts as if from himself underlies and is essential to those faculties. The appearance of self-life seems to be the "bottom line" of divine providence.
How can our church help the Lord implement this bottom line?
We all know that unless the Lord builds the house, they labor
in vain who build it! But we also know we are all born evil, and would not engage in labor without a proprium. The FIRST-IN-TIME priority of the church should be to defend the appearance
of self-life in all our activities, including evangelizing, educating children, leading congregations, and governing
To successfully defend the appearance of self-life, several policies should be adopted by the church:
1) Destroy Babylon! The Lord leads everyone through His
Word only. All we can do is lead people to His Word, so
that as of themselves they can come to the Lord. This has
generally been followed.
2) Utilize individual initiatives in matters of doctrine
and religion. When new-comers, our children, members of
the congregation, and workers in the school and church are fired up with ideas to communicate or programs to implement, they should be solicited and encouraged - never shot
3) Forgive evil and falsity. Let the tares grow with
the wheat. Counseling should be preferred over punishment.
4) Avoid throwing pearls to swine. Those who acknowledge nature and human prudence only are not worthy and must be led by external rather than internal means.
The policies just proposed apply to all activities of the
church. Since "charity begins at home", it was logical in
our discussions to focus upon their application within church structure.
However, chaos is the natural result of unbridled freedom.
If every member of the church can spout his opinions and impose his programs upon the congregation, there is anarchy
in the church. An organizational structure is needed to direct, channel, and coordinate the energies of the members.
The first element of structure is to provide for a process to define the goals. What is the use of the church? What are we going to do in the foreseeable future? What are the criteria for accomplishment? This process should include the participation of the whole congregation. Those who contribute to a plan are co-authors of it, and will feel personal achievement in its success.
The second element of structure is to provide for a process
to establish priorities. Although priorities are implied by goals,they are set by executives. Those who define
the goals should also elect those who will set the priorities. This is another form of participation, and should be an
A third element of structure is to provide for a process
to coordinate performance. All the organs of a body must work in harmony. If each organ knows its own function,
and all organs have mutual communication, then cooperation is possible. A system of "activity planning" is described
in the following reports which encourages effective coordination
on all levels of performance.
One element of church structure to be avoided is the "boss". The Lord describes Himself as a servant. A "minister" is a servant by definition. Everyone in the church is a servant by definition. So are the angels. I believe we should presume that everyone who advocates God and divine providence is a servant. Only by enrolling enthusiastic people in church uses can the strength of the church grow.
One final comment. Teachings concerning the priesthood imply the need of maintaining its professional dignity in order to preserve the purity of doctrine. The Council of the Clergy serves that purpose effectively. Such professional organizations are much freer and more objective if they are not structured into the service organizations which they serve. The AMA is not tied in with hospitals. The Bar Association is not administered by the courts. Engineering associations are independent of industry. Similarly it appears desirable to keep the Council of the Clergy as independent as possible from the church.
Thanks, Larry, for your letter and for this opportunity for me to communicate to Bishop King the ideas on activity planning that for years have been the subject of my constant study and reflection. This memo is to serve for reference in our meeting.
The activity planning concept presented here is not really
my invention, because it relates to what actually exists
in the organics of human behavior. The novelty of the system
is the manner of describing it and the use of the description
as a conscious guide to efficient utilization of human potentials .
The system postulates seven phases essential to the fulfillment
of any human activity. The importance of each phase individually
has been emphasized by many teachers throughout history. Also,
the importance of various combinations of fewer than seven
of the phases has been taught.
It is my thesis that all seven phases of activity must exist
for the motive to be completely fulfilled.
The most serious failures in the actions of mankind have been
in not fulfilling the Lord's directives to His church. We take
up the torch, but drop it along the way. As a method of self-discipline, I propose we make sure that all seven phases are
addressed on every level of church activity so that the Lord's
plan can be fulfilled.
After years of my employment by various corporations, Rachel
and I started a corporation ourselves. To avoid the corporate
evils and falsities I had experienced, I invented a new corporate structure. An "editorial" sketch of Odhner Corporation
appears in "The Other Ear" (attachment 1). All business activity was boiled down to seven phases which follow chronologically from conception of product or service, through performance,
to evaluation (see column 1 of "Summary of Ideas", attachment 2,
and also "Organization Outline", attachment 3, and "Corporate
Procedure", attachment 4).
These concepts, coincidentally, seemed to correspond to those which S. E. Odhner was concurrently expressing in his unfinished work entitled "The Hero". He related a seven phase cycle, such as that of the creation story in Genesis Ch. 1, to intrinsic human psychological structure.
Activity Planning (Page 2)
A few years later Gary Tennis became concerned about the uses
of the Sons of the Academy and asked me for input on a career
planning program for ANC students, which the Sons might sponsor. I responded by abstracting from the corporate planning
procedure an outline applicable to any human activity (attachment 2 column 2 parenthetical), and then applied it specifically
to career activity planning (CAP), (column 2 in upper case, non-parenthetical). After an attempt to revive the Sons, a CAP
committee was organized under career guidance counselor
I did not derive the seven phases of activity planning from
the seven days of creation (column 3, attachment 2) nor from
the seven churches (column 4). It is interesting, however,
that the phases for creating a business or a career have
a high correlation with those for creating a celestial man.
It is also interesting that the ways in which a business can
fail are quite similar to the ways a church can fail. The Spirit to the seven churches implores us to have a complete
rather than a partial participation in the activities of
the divine providence. Whether our business is individual
or collective, commercial, industrial, political, or ecclesiastic,
it will not be healthy and productive if any one of the seven
phases is not functioning. The human form is the form of use.
If an organ of the human malfunctions, then the whole man is
sick. Like the periodic physical examination, a run through
the checklist of activity functions can detect malfunctions.
Then corrective action can be taken to restore and maintain
a healthy life of the individual and the Church. The church itself is an internal thing, as I perceive it,
descending from heaven into the individual man. Men of
the church associate to form the external of the church,
which is an ecclesiastic body. (The external of the church
has been referred to as "the church specific".)
Activity planning can be used by the individual man in his role as a church in the smallest form. It can also be used by the specific church in its role as the external embodiment of the church. If the ecclesiastic body of the church exercises activity planning from the Lord's directives to His church, I believe it can avoid the error that orthodoxy falls into when the external prevails over the internal.
Activity Planning Page 3
A strict definition of each step or phase in the activity
circle is not appropriate because each activity to which
the circle is applied modifies the quality of each phase.
However* the definition of each phase also modifies the quality of the activity. The most significant phase of all in
defining the activity, of course, is the first phase, in which
the objectives of the activity are described. In the Church,
as in any activity, this phase should be constantly kept alive,
for it is its "first love11 and in a genuine church is one
with the Divine End.
The first step is properly the planning phase. It should be
spelled out not only in general terms, but also in as much
detail as necessary to carry the plans through the other
phases until the circle is satisfied and a new cycle is born.
1. Establish a program that will encourage the implementation
of all seven phases of activity on every level of Church
2. Appoint a study group to improve Church organization and
procedures to assure inclusion of each phase in all activities
3. Provide training seminars periodically in activity planning
4. Lay out a timetable for implementation of the program
on each level of activity.
5. Keep the community advised of the objectives and progress
of the program and encourage public discussion and feed-back.
6. Maintain a watchdog committee to detect shortcomings
in the program and recommend revisions or new programs.
7. Evaluate the program and the proposed revisions in terms of the Lord!s goals and the long term needs of His children.
PROCEDURE SHEET PS NO. 19
Date: December 10, 1984
To: Rev. Lorentz R. Soneson
Re: Our mtg. and my memo to you 11-26-84
As you suggested, Larry, I studied the confidential
materials you provided and applied my concepts of activity
planning to church organization, and specifically to the General Church of the New Jerusalem.
The New Jerusalem can be identified as "the New Church"
in box 1. The church descends from the Lord through heaven into the man of the church, and through him into
his marriage, family, and community (as shown in box 2).
Let us first look at the church in least form in the individual person. Later I will relate it
to the organized church.
The divine end of creation is a heaven from the human
race. The purpose of the man of the church should be to implement the divine purpose. In general there are
three heavens: natural, spiritual, and celestial. The church can therefore help the divine providence
in the following three primary activities:
Lead the purely natural man to become a natural
man open to the spiritual.
Lead the natural man open to the spiritual
to become a spiritual man open to the celestial.
Lead the spiritual man open to the celestial to become a celestial man open to the Lord.
The activity circle discussed in the referenced meeting
and memo is outlined again in box 3. It is used as a model
for checking that all essential phases of an acitivity of any kind are addressed, so that the activity can be completed
and then continue in a new cycle.
The phases are represented by key words and are:
Activity planning can be applied by the man of the church to each of the primary activities, for example:
Opening the Natural:
1. Help others to plan a useful, satisfying life.
Opening the Spiritual;
1. Encourage acknowledgement of and commitment to
the Lord's kingdom and its growth.
Opening the Celestial:
(The most effective help one can give here is by
becoming an example.)
1. Acknowledge the Lord as God and make commitment
General Assembly (now we go to the organized church):
The individual can apply such secondary activities
within the immediate spheres of his own life, his marriage,
and to some extent within his immediate family. In his
work and in the community he is less effective because of dilution. However, when individuals and families band
together, they can help implement the Lord's providence
more broadly. This is sometimes done through "charities",
government, specialized businesses and institutions, clubs,
and "old churches", any of which can be functions of
the church universal.
Those people who believe the heavenly doctrines and identify themselves with the New Church know the Lord's aims and can take certain responsibility in seeing that all aspects are addressed. When they come together at a General Assembly, they can provide the PRINCIPAL CAUSE for the General Church (see "Church Procedure", box 4, and compare with "Corporate Procedure" in reference memo).
BOx 4 - CHURCH PROCEDURE
Council of Bishops;
Government of the church is with the Episcopal council. It has seven functions (see box 4) and, per activity planning, potentially seven seats. As instrumental cause of the Church this council determines how the purpose will be carried out. (I would like to see a minimum of three bishops. The Executive Bishop would be elected by the council.)
Each committee has at least one member from each nationalbranch of the General Church, so that all branches will befully represented in each administrative function.
Each member of a council or committee has two functions.
The external function is for the committee. The internal
function is to the committee. For example, the external
function of the Pastoral Counselor is coordinating societies and ministers, and the internal function is
coordinating schedules in the Church Council. This can
be applied to all positions, see box 6.
In the Activity Planning concept vertical organization (heirarchy) is based on the number "3" because of end, cause, and effect, just like heaven. Horizontal organization is based on the number "7". just like jubilee.
Although the societies of the General Church are under the GC, they can yet have a similar structure, with the pastor acting as a Bishop's representative, and the society membership acting in the place of the General Assembly,
This proposal implies more than just a streamlined
organization chart. A new chart would be no more than a new winebag. This proposal calls for a new way
of thinking. "Performance of use" is the muscle
of the New Church — and heaven. Let us think in terms of activity planning, and use our muscles! Obviously
the organization of a church which includes so many people, and many of the people for so long a time,
cannot change completely overnight. I propose that a five, no a seven year plan be created to phase over
gradually and gracefully into a new era for the General
Church of the New Jerusalem.
Subject: Activity Planning/Church Organization
To: Rev. Lorentz R. SonesOn
From: Oliver R. Odhner
Re: Our meeting and my memo of 12-10-84
This memo is to confirm some of the points touched on in our
discussion and fill in some areas which need a little more
A review of the objectives of activity planning in church
organization may be useful.
1. Churches are commonly steeped in tradition, much
of which tends toward the traditions of men. The process of activity planning keeps the attention
2. The activity planning program requires each person
in the organization to exercise managerial skills, assuring that all jobs will be conducted with forethought, without omission of essential matters.
3. Training in activity planning skills will assure
a balance between various arms of the organization and thus discourage domination by one or two departments.
4. In order to have excellent performance from staff
personnel, work schedules must be realistic. When too much is expected of someone, either he fails
to do it all, or he does it all poorly. I suggest the Executive Bishop: l) Go through his proposed
position description and, for each task, write down the number of hours per month he needs to perform
that task with excellence. 2) From that let him calculate
the number of hours of work each day required of him.
I expect he will see the need to divest some assignments. 3) Look at the purposes of the Church in his
charge, and apply activity planning concepts in order
to clarify where his time can be most usefully directed.
5. Activity planning carries people toward doing their
thing - not for their own satisfaction, but for that
of others, and takes it from an introverted to an extroverted activity. This has implications in evangelization .
6. Tradition is broken by activity planning. It requires
that a more useful objective be found for the next effort. The purpose of the church cannot stagnate.
7. Finally, it obviously directs the minds of the individual, and therefore the organization, to the greater good — that of the community, heaven, and the Lord.
The constitution of the Council of Bishops was presented by me somewhat vaguely. It is important to insist that no one in any council or committee is over the others. Each has his unique function, and in the exercise of that function he has priority. But all functions are to coordinate rather than rule. Whoever the Council chooses as chairman, for example, will preside, but his only clout will be in conducting the meetings, etc.
The General Assembly is organized by the Bishops and Church
Councils for determining and updating Church purpose, and electing bishops to the Episcopal Council or affirming
their status by a vote of confidence. There should be enough
ordained bishops available in the priesthood that the Assembly
will have a choice. This means there would be some bishops
not elected to the council. There should be enough bishops
in their council that there is an effective division of labor.
A timetable for phasing out the present structure and introducing a new requires more knowledge of the present organization of the GC than I have. Nevertheless, I will attempt to outline graphically the steps that might be considered in the transition.