Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Style over Substance

I had every intention of leaving the Mike Guglielmucci story alone and then it became apparent to me that the more important story is related to it, but one step removed. You won't have to read through a scathing attack on Mr Guglielmucci. His denomination, on the other hand, might not come away from this so clean and smooth. I'll let you make up your own mind.

As I considered the situation, it became apparent to me that Guglielmucci is not the only party which needs to take responsibility. The ACC (formerly the AOG) itself must take a share of the blame for this. There are theological and institutional problems within the ACC that contributed to the whole mess.

Theologically, they are quite focused on a spirit-led approach, similar to that found in the book of Judges. A person can be a faithful member of the assembly and then the spirit can descend on them (like a dove?) and lead them into some kind of act. The person is anointed, is empowered - and above all else is permitted. They are given license to embark on any action they see fit. Furthermore, the actions are sanctioned because they have the status of anointed. Such a person should not be questioned, because they have a greater measure of the spirit than the rest. The theological problem here is one of status. The primary Pauline literature insists that the way of the spirit is common to all believers, producing a Sameness, therefore status is not an applicable category within the Church. Christians are simply brothers and sisters, or comrades if you prefer. It seems to me that the ACC theology credits anointed pastors with some measure of preferred status, almost infallibility. This is not obvious at first read, but has become an institutionalised reality.

To make it plain, the idea of elevated status has manifested itself in the form that an anointed pastor who has a divine vision is a person who should be obeyed and not questioned. Anyone who bows down before that pastor is endorsed. Anyone who questions or opposes is not welcome. It is clear that the institutionalised culture of the ACC allows style over substance because the substance can hide behind the style. The style (the appearance, the manifestation of anointing) is enough to prevent questions. Any threat to the substance can be defended by style-based arguments such as church attendance, impassioned preaching, album sales, or whatever. The appearance takes the place of the substance itself, meaning that substance is irrelevant as long as the style meets the requirements.

It is a culture of appearance, enforced by an institution that promotes a theology of status. If there is anything that should be learned from this sordid affair it is that the ACC must engage in internal reform and an increased level of transparency.

I don't expect it to happen. Rather, I expect that they will see these criticisms as cynical and as "raising a hand against the Lord's anointed." It is not a institution that will change, but one that will give the appearance of change. I expect that they will remain just as they are.

Prove me wrong.

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