Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Does the Church have Evolutionary Purpose?

I started my career in professional baseball player as a catcher. Wasn’t too long though I became a utility player. Over the five years I played I logged at least an inning at every position. Being a “Jack-of-all-trades” also made me a “Master-of-none.” Labels are hard to shake.

When I started my new job a few weeks ago, someone from the diocese office sent me an email asking me to proof my new business cards. I’m not accustomed to having business cards—haven’t used one in ten years. When I saw my title on the card as “Canon” I laughed. I know I’m the Canon Theologian, I just didn’t expect it to show up on a business card. I had to look up what the title “Canon” meant on the Episcopal Church website. Fortunately, the title is honorary. I was afraid it was going to say, “Someone who shoots off their mouth very loudly.” I promise I’ll do my best to stay away from such a thing.

I’m uncomfortable with labels. I know my Myers-Briggs type and my Enneagram number. The type and number is important—I just don’t want to be pigeon holed. I think I’m more interested in the shadow side of the Myers-Briggs and wing and stress number of the Enneagram for reasons that make my type and number too obvious. While these types of labels can be valuable for self-reflection, they can also be dangerous.

James Fowler’s faith stage development and Ken Wilbur’s integral spirituality (spiral dynamics) are helpful when thinking about personal progression. However, it does seem rather presumptive to self-identify as being at the highest level in either model. Ten years ago, I wondered though, if an organization could be identified with a label using Fowler or Wilbur’s model. Recently, I read Frederic Laloux’s excellent book Reinventing Organizations where he has adopted spiral dynamics as a way of identifying the evolution of an organization.

Laloux has borrowed the color scheme of spiral dynamics as a means of measuring the higher consciousness development of for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations. Red is a tribal organization where the leader’s power is absolute. In Amber organizations there are more formal roles, but the power of leadership is still held at the top of the pyramid. At the Orange level the business or group is after growth and innovation, management by objectives; still leadership is pretty much top down. Green organizations follow the classic pyramid structure as well but use culture and empowerment to motivate the employees. They typically call themselves a family and their employees partners. At the height of the spiral are Teal organizations. These highly evolved businesses and non-profits are guided by three principles—self-management, wholeness, and evolutionary purpose.

In Teal organizations, 1) the employees have real decision-making power, self-management. The owners and CEO are no more powerful than the employees. 2) Everyone is encouraged to bring his or her whole self to work, wholeness. And 3) the purpose of the company will be expected to change over time, evolutionary purpose. The company must be agile (to use another business term) in management, operation, and vision. Teal organizations have self-management, wholeness, and evolutionary purpose.

Laloux is a researcher, not a businessman. I think his work could be important for the church for three reasons. 1) He included non-profits in his examination of sixteen companies. 2) In his work he included the Roman Catholic Church as an example. 3) In Teal organizations, he recognized that employees who were allowed to bring all of them selves (wholeness) including their spirituality to work, contributed more fully at work, home, and in the community.

So where did Laloux place the Church on the spiral? He included the Church, the military, most governmental agencies, and public schools in the Amber level. That’s top down command and control where stability is valued as the most important commodity in order to preserve the past so that it may be repeated in the future.

So what does all this color stuff really mean? The Rev. Gae Chalker, rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, recommended I check out Laloux on YouTube. She has hopes that Laloux might be offering something very powerful for the church. I watched the YouTube for ninety-minutes. Laloux is an excellent speaker who described his research using understandable examples. I bought the book because in it he gave the recipe for taking an existing organization, like a church, to the Teal level.

Not surprisingly, the ingredients needed to take an organization to the Teal level are simple—yet rare to find. First, the leader must him or herself be at the Teal level in their personal life and then must be willing to take the risk to lead their organization to the next level. Second, the owners of the organization (board, vestry) must be willing to step back and let the CEO and the employees (church members) lead through self-management; while bringing their whole self to work (church), and allowing for an evolving purpose (something not imagined yet). In other words, the CEO and owners must let go of their control and power.

Is this possible? Laloux is hopeful because he believes that Teal is the next stage of human consciousness. He believes the old ways will naturally die and a new model will evolve. He suggests this is already happening and sites the global economy as an example.

Are all these labels useful? Could be, as long I, we, and the church are not checking our navels for labels. Self-reflection is valuable if it produces action. When the synthesis of contemplation and action are achieved we might recognize a resurrection happening in our midst. I pray I will live long enough to see the church with the beginnings of a teal hue.


Susan Brown Snook said...

Thanks, Gil. I've been thinking lately about Fowler's stages of faith as they apply to the Episcopal Church. It seems to me that other churches do a much better job with folks at Stage 3 - we are too open to questions and wondering to do that stage well. But Episcopalians might have a real mission with those at Stage 4 who are ready to begin moving into Stage 5. We may have a mission in helping people make that transition into a new reintegration of the symbols and traditions of faith with a personally-authenticated system of values. But I think it would help us to be purposeful about helping with that transition, and recognizing that that's what we're doing with many people. I may get around sometime soon to writing a blog post about it.

I'll read Laloux's book - sounds very interesting and helpful.

Gil Stafford said...

Thanks for your valuable insight. We can do a much better job of helping people to learn and work with the ancient biblical stories. At that point then we can provide them with some options on how to process those stories for a way of living into today's world. To move along the faith spiral, which is an open circle, we are working towards the synthesis of contemplation and action. Contemplation alone leaves us stuck in a loop. Action alone also spins in its own circle. But when we can figure out how to work for the synthesis, the union, of both these valuable components of faith, we will indeed be moving further up the spiral, individually and as a community.