Opinion: Democracy or Doctrine

From Bev Floyd

What else hasn’t ‘organised religion’ understood?

It doesn’t realise people no longer want to be TOLD what to believe. They’ve gone off ‘authority’. It’s let them down so much in the past. A fair proportion of both secular and religious leaders have been arrogant or corrupt or just ‘not up to it’.


The culture of ‘organised religion’ is very patriarchal. In an era where concerned folk are striving to obtain equality for women, most religious leadership positions are reserved for men… particularly so (and medievally so) in the Catholic church but also in other religions and denominations.

Structures and procedures are also based on what I call a ‘male’ hierarchical model.    It is the ‘who can get to the top model?’ and the ‘who can we kick off the bottom?’ model.

This is a power-based model. Not inclusive. Decisions flow from the top to the bottom. It does have its uses. Emergencies are best handled this way,  as are certain key decisions that need to be made quickly and expertly, such as construction and war (both of which men seem to like and to do so well).

The alternative is a flat structure where decisions are made collectively at the lowest suitable level. It is an inclusive model. No-one is left out. Everyone can participate.      It does take longer and can be challenging to ‘efficiency nuts’ or people who are impatient, but the outcome is better. People feel involved… part of something. Decisions are more likely to fit the needs of the group. I’m inclined to call this the ‘female’ model. It’s emerging more as more women are coming into their own in the secular world. It seems to be a better way of for people to share decision-making and problem solving.

How far behind can ‘organised religion’ get?

The problem seems to be ‘doctrine’… that’s a set of ‘beliefs’ which have been formalised and handed down over many years. They appear to be set in concrete… never-changing.

I suppose for many the idea of something unchangeable in an ever-changing world would make life seem more comfortable, more certain, more manageable.

But people who are searching for ‘Godliness’ should not be using doctrine and churchiness as a mattress to slumber upon… true religion can be a springboard to life abundant… to joy and love and hope.




9 thoughts on “Opinion: Democracy or Doctrine

  1. paul wildman

    Thx Bev – the UCA doctrine is that the Bible is not democratic. what do you think? No evidence of voting even in the NT even between the disciples? So church meetings i have been involved in quite some years back were avowedly not democratic.

    As ever i enjoy reading, and being challenged by, your missives. ciao paul

  2. John Gunson

    Dear Bev,

    One of the three partners in the Uniting Church, the Congregationalists, expressed their life in the church in much the fashion you favour.
    They were born in the 16th century in England, during the early days of the Protestant Reformation, and were known principally as Dissenters, Separatists or Independents.
    After their initial period of persecution when members who were found worshipping outside the Church of England were hung, drawn and quartered, they gathered into loose associations of churches for common support and to undertake together those things they could not achieve on their own. They never belonged to a top down bureaucratic structure like the Uniting Church.

    The basis of membership in a Congregational church was by confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and a life lived in conformity with that belief.
    Beyond that there was no dogma or creed to assent to.

    Congregationalists always had a highly trained ordained ministry, but the local congregation’s life and mission was ordered through monthly church members’ meetings in which every member had a responsibility to attend and contribute.

    Congregationalists joined the Uniting Church out of an ecumenical passion and spirit, but found ourselves overwhelmed and let down by the superior numbers of Methodists and Presbyterians without that experience of participation and equal responsibility of every member for the life and mission of the church, and with traditions of fixed theological and credal orthodoxy. Sad, indeed!

    John Gunson.

  3. Paul Inglis Post author

    Would love to have an article from you John, about the part played by the Congregationalists in the establishment of the Basis of Union.

  4. John Gunson

    I meant to add for Bev that women always had an equal role in the life of Congregational churches, including leadership positions and of course ordained ministry. We had ordained women in Australia over 100 years ago.

    John G.

  5. John Gunson

    And, Isaac Watts was our greatest hymn writer : e.g. “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the prince of glory died -”

    and the one we loved best :
    “We limit not the truth of God to our poor reach of mind,
    By notions of our day and sect, crude, partial and confined.
    No, let a new and better hope within our hearts be stirred,
    The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from his word.

    John G

  6. Dr Michael Furtado

    Spot on, Bev! Not absolutely sure that ‘doctrine’ should always be up for review, but maybe it’s ‘belief’ I’m on about instead, as this should always be up for challenge (as I’m sure you’d agree). I’m not into the model of an ingrowing toenail that seems to typify the moribund ways in which we do ‘church’.

    Michael Furtado
    St Ignatius’

  7. Bev Floyd

    This is a ‘Dear John’ letter…
    It must feel sad to see
    the Congregational practices discarded. I wonder if you are part of a small group at present with the idea of doing ‘inclusiveness’?
    Like Paul I would like to hear what you think. Everald Compton, up here in Queensland, often says his faith is simply to ‘walk with Jesus of Nazareth.’

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