Maybe the Church should be the way it is?

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Tom Haws
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Re: Maybe the Church should be the way it is?

Post by Tom Haws » 23 Apr 2009, 07:50

Heber13, your response its thoughtful and nuanced, and I appreciate it for its balance.

Ray and Morzen/Gabe, you seem to be disagreeing on where the church falls in this view of James Fowler's (the Stages of Faith guy). Fowler says most of the U.S. churches seem to operated modally at Stage 3. In other words, that (Synthetic-Conventional) is where the main message is directed. Fowler also points out that an effective community should have good ways of sponsoring individuals as they move into Stages 4, 5, and 6. Particularly Stage 4, since that is the Individuative-Reflective stage. Morzen and Gabe seem to be saying the church operates modally at Stage 3 and has very little in the way of sponsorship for those in Stages 4, 5, and 6. Ray seems to be saying either that the church operates modally at Stage 5 or that the church sponsors well those in Stage 4, 5, and 6. To answer this question objectively (which should be possible), we would all be well served to get Fowler's book and read it. Even having read it, I am not prepared yet to make a call without some extended discussion. I intend to go back to the beginning and read it again before returning it to the Mesa Public Library. Hey, I still don't understand why he says Synthetic!
Tom (aka Justin Martyr/Justin Morning/Jacob Marley/Kupord Maizzed)
Higley and Guadalupe
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Sure, any religion would do. But I'm LDS.
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Curt Sunshine
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Re: Maybe the Church should be the way it is?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 23 Apr 2009, 09:56

Tom, what I'm saying is that the Church needs to function primarily at Stage 3 - but it needs to allow for people who are trying to move to Stage 5 and beyond. I also am saying it CAN'T help people who either remain stuck in Stage 4 or who don't want to move on to Stage 5 but rather return to Stage 3 with just a different mindset.

I think it "wants" members to be at Stage 5 or higher (where they live and breathe and teach the ideal), but they recognize that they can't spend most of their time (not much, really) preaching at a Stage 5 level - since they simply will end up alienating and losing the majority who live primarily in Stage 3.

Look at the Proclamation to the World, for example. When it comes to the actual wording about marriage, the paragraph is a combination of Stage 3 ("primary roles" for fathers and mothers) and Stage 5 ("equal partners" and "individual adaptation" for personal circumstances). Iow, they focus on providing general guidelines for those who just want to be told a default position, but they then lay out the ideal - and it is, essentially, "Work out what will be best for your own marriage and situation."

I think the Church operates that same basic way on LOTS of things - most things, actually. It's just that those at Stage 3 only read, hear and understand the Stage 3 stuff - and, because they are Stage 3, they tend to teach that Stage 3 portion as exclusive Gospel Truth.

Does that make sense?
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Tom Haws
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Re: Maybe the Church should be the way it is?

Post by Tom Haws » 23 Apr 2009, 10:26

Ray, I think it makes sense. Where I come down on all this I am not sure yet. I probably feel the church needs to do a lot better at (to use Fowler language) "sponsoring" people in Stages 4, 5, and 6. I need to share a lot more from Fowler, but ponder on this: Fowler says it's important not to want rush people from Stage 4 to Stage 5. In other words, Stage 4 isn't some kind of evil, angry, bitter place we should hide in the closet. And it's not an inter-stage event. It's a full-blown equilibrated stage of faith. At least that's the theory. So perhaps I can't help asking, what about adults at Stages 4 and 2 in the church? Are we serving (sponsoring) them as we could?
Tom (aka Justin Martyr/Justin Morning/Jacob Marley/Kupord Maizzed)
Higley and Guadalupe
Gilbert, Arizona
----
Sure, any religion would do. But I'm LDS.
"There are no academic issues. Everything is emotional to somebody." Ray Degraw at www.StayLDS.com

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Maybe the Church should be the way it is?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 23 Apr 2009, 10:56

what about adults at Stages 4 and 2 in the church? Are we serving (sponsoring) them as we could?
Not at all - but I'm not sure if that is a "global Church leadership" responsibility or a "body of Christ / fellowship of believers / local church leadership / individual family" responsibility. I think, in general, the apostles and prophets get blamed often for what really is the membership's inability to live the ideal the leadership teaches.

Granted, there are areas where I think the leadership doesn't teach the ideal (or where I disagree about what that ideal is) - where they cater to the Stage 3 members and don't expound a Stage 5 alternative, but I really do think those are the exceptions. They sometimes are much more visible, so people can get a distorted perception of the actual ratio, but that almost is unavoidable, I'm afraid, for an organization built on a foundation of not being totally right or complete to begin with. (We believe there are many great and important things that still are unrevealed.)
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

Gabe P
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Re: Maybe the Church should be the way it is?

Post by Gabe P » 23 Apr 2009, 11:08

Tom, I've read Fowler and I think that's a fair way to characterize my position, with the following caveat. I think we can safely exclude Stage 6 from our discussion of church policy/practice, since there's basically nobody who's actually there. Stage 2 fits into a Stage 3 organization pretty easily. I also think the Church sponsors Stage 5 pretty easily, because Stage 5 people are not generally super-confrontational. They're honest about what they think, but they're not looking for a fight and aren't going to upset the apple cart. They also probably won't get promoted all that often, but the Church doesn't clamp down on people at that point in my experience.

It's Stage 4 that's the problem. Fowler seems to see Stage 4 as a transitional phase, but I also read Fowler to say that once you get to Stage 3, there's more attrition than progress: many more people stay in 3 than go to 4, many more people stay in 4 than go to 5, etc. There is no organization on earth that wants stage 4 people around: why would they? Stage 4 isn't a constructive phase, it's a destructive phase. It's a point where you can come up with some important insights, but your primary focus is on deconstruction. If the Church accommodates a Stage 4 person, then the Stage 3 people get confused.......and the Stage 4 person finds another hobby horse. There's no reason for the Church or any organization to want that person around. The Church (and any other organization) needs a lot of Stage 3 foot soldiers, some smart Stage 3 people to implement it more effectively, and a few stage 5/6 visionaries. They absolutely do not need Stage 4, because they just blow up the stable consensus that forms the vast majority of the organization's work.

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Re: Maybe the Church should be the way it is?

Post by Tom Haws » 23 Apr 2009, 12:13

So is Fowler likely tilting at windmills when he discusses Communities of Sponsorship (I can't remember the actual section heading at the moment) at the end of the book? Can't the individuals in a tradition create and sustain institutions that serve individuals rather than the institutions' own preservation and growth?

I have wondered whether at a different time in our history we might not be able to sponsor classes and seminars that are for the "middle-aged folks" and "old-fogeys", but turn out to be really addressing the stages 4 and 5 needs and interests? I realize that one could suggest our men have priesthood quorums, but that's really a poor fit. And our women and Sunday School have absolutely nothing that sponsors stage growth. About the best you can do in today's church is suffer in lonely silence or go participate in the oft despised "alternate voices" like this forum, Dialogue, and Sunstone, which are merely shadows of what's needed.
Tom (aka Justin Martyr/Justin Morning/Jacob Marley/Kupord Maizzed)
Higley and Guadalupe
Gilbert, Arizona
----
Sure, any religion would do. But I'm LDS.
"There are no academic issues. Everything is emotional to somebody." Ray Degraw at www.StayLDS.com

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Re: Maybe the Church should be the way it is?

Post by hawkgrrrl » 23 Apr 2009, 13:55

I believe Gabe is correct from all I have read. FWIW, there are many online references to Fowler, and some for other religions as well (e.g. evangelical). It's fascinating, but Stage 4 is defined as being counterproductive to the organization. It exists in contradiction to the organization. If you deal with it directly you will not only confuse Stage 3s and possibly knock them to Stage 4, but you will also fail to reach the Stage 4s anyway. What DOES work, IMO, for someone in Stage 4 is:
- one on one validation and empathetic contact from other Stage 4 or Stage 5 (organizational outreach is viewed with cynicism and disdain); moving away from tribalism toward individual choice
- universalism and broadening of perspective; transcending the organization at least conceptually; opening the Stage 4's view to a broader view of 1) religion, 2) ethics/morality, 3) God or 4) personal growth that is not confined to the original religion.
- time and space

At least that's how I would describe what I think works.

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Re: Maybe the Church should be the way it is?

Post by Gabe P » 23 Apr 2009, 13:55

Yeah, I think Fowler is tilting at windmills so far as major religious institutions go. I think smaller communities of faith might be able to do it. I see a real prospect for sponsorship in, say, an independent church in Indiana. But when you've got a major institution, you've got major institutional commitments, and aside from trying to establish a parallel church experience, I see little that can be done. A parallel church experience would not work in the Church for obvious reasons: if it's "advanced Sunday School", everyone will want to go. If it's a voluntary program, you'll have incompetents screening the entry. If it's not completely acknowledged, you get the worst of both worlds. If you make sponsorship the standard correlated curriculum, then you acknowledge that Stage 5 is desirable, you become Methodists, and you lose all your tithing money once you admit "well, yeah, we're not really the one and only path". That wouldn't be a problem except that the 90% of the active members of the Church that are in Stage 2 or 3 and always will be then have their faith crushed for no good reason.

I really just think major institutions can never serve anyone beyond the guy who's in the 60th percentile. Once you've made a decision to be open and honest with yourself, the experience in the Church won't really help you except insofar as it provides an opportunity to help others (which is of course very significant). But within the institution, you'll always be a net contributor. That's fine, because if everyone were net receivers, we'd be bankrupt.

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Re: Maybe the Church should be the way it is?

Post by Gabe P » 23 Apr 2009, 13:57

Hawk's approach makes a lot of sense to me. It's just that the Church can't do it because we then have to admit that there's truth beyond our perspective and that just blows up the Stage 3 approach. We can say "there are lots of things yet to be revealed, we're not perfect, etc.", but we basically have to tell people that while maintaining their real belief that we are perfect, we have all that is to be revealed, and if there is anything else left, you can count on SLC to get it first. Sure, that sounds patronizing, but that's Stage 3 for you: it'd be that way whether we were Mormons or Unitarians. Just a different orthodoxy.

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Re: Maybe the Church should be the way it is?

Post by Tom Haws » 24 Apr 2009, 08:39

I agree that "advanced Sunday School" would never work because all the wrong people would want to go to it (or rather, for the wrong reasons). I wonder if it might work to experiment with variations on "18+" "35+" and "55+" age group classes. Benefits of that approach would be
  • implicit acknowledgment that there is more beyond age 21 and even age 40
  • avoidance of the "vain ambition" factor by making it into an old fogey factor (these have come through great tribulation and have overcome)
Some kind of a mix, then split, then mix approach to the Sunday worship block might go a long way. I wonder if the leadership is conversant with the faith stages theory.
Tom (aka Justin Martyr/Justin Morning/Jacob Marley/Kupord Maizzed)
Higley and Guadalupe
Gilbert, Arizona
----
Sure, any religion would do. But I'm LDS.
"There are no academic issues. Everything is emotional to somebody." Ray Degraw at www.StayLDS.com

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