In an article written around 1999, Ginny Hunt writes,

Sociologists have discovered that in virtually all forms of social organizations, from friendship groups to nations, a small self-perpetuating group grabs most of the power. This tendency to concentrate power in the hands of a few persons is called the law of oligarchy. Through His various words and actions that we read in the Bible, Jesus condemns oligarchy in social, economic, political and religious spheres of life. Kraybill wrote, “Designating Himself as a waiter and criticizing the scribes’ drive for prestige touches the social area. … His hard words about economic stratification where rich dominate the poor…The comment that His disciples should not be like the kings of the Gentiles who lord it over their subordinates strikes at oligarchy in the political sphere. Jesus’ harsh words and acts against the oral law and the temple demonstrate His rejection of oligarchy in religious institutions.”

More (PDF).. 


9 Comments on the kingdom of allelon

  1. [...] Today, Len at NextReformation quotes a 1999 article by Ginny Hunt (the article, in its entirety, can be found here): Sociologists have discovered that in virtually all forms of social organizations, from friendship groups to nations, a small self-perpetuating group grabs most of the power. This tendency to concentrate power in the hands of a few persons is called the law of oligarchy. Through His various words and actions that we read in the Bible, Jesus condemns oligarchy in social, economic, political and religious spheres of life. Kraybill wrote, ?Designating Himself as a waiter and criticizing the scribes? drive for prestige touches the social area. ? His hard words about economic stratification where rich dominate the poor?The comment that His disciples should not be like the kings of the Gentiles who lord it over their subordinates strikes at oligarchy in the political sphere. Jesus? harsh words and acts against the oral law and the temple demonstrate His rejection of oligarchy in religious institutions.? [...]

  2. ron says:

    Hey Len, thanks for digging up the article…a great read, and I’m still processing it. But Mark brought this up, in his response to the article…

    As I read the article, I couldn’t help but notice the irony that the organization called “Allelon” has been moving away from these sorts of principles (which were at the heart of Allelon in the beginning). Allelon used to be almost exclusively about fostering conversation. But over time, it has become about a particular ecclesiological/theological agenda (which I happen to affirm), has become centered around the personality of Alan Roxburgh, and has been trying to move into publishing. Does this sound familiar? It is the same trajectory that Emergent has been on. The New Monasticism has begun to move in the same direction as well.

    I’ve noticed the same reality, the these so called ” allelon ” groups always seem to evolve to the exact thing they fight to avoid. I think this is why I enjoy the ” Resonate ” conversation so much. There is such a depth of leadership within the conversation…but there is no fight to assume power to create something else. The respect to preserve an open conversation is beautiful. There is something profoundly simple in listening and learning from one another. Thanks again…Peace Ron+

  3. len says:

    ron, its a dilemma. When we organize we choose a path, and inevitably exclude other directions and some voices. Maybe a good analogy is a laser beam.. we focus light waves because it generates power to accomplish a task. Only coherent light makes up the beam. So, the margins move a bit further away, and complexity and chaos are reduced. We gain something, we lose something. The challenge for ALLELON will be to find ways to continually embrace the margins and include other voices. My guess is that over time that will become more difficult as a new center is formed and people gather around.. including those who may be less widely embracing of the margins because, after all, they were attracted to the center.

    Its a dilemma because in order to preserve something good and generate energy, some focus and intentionality are necessary. So on the one hand I recognize that necessity, on the other hand I worry, along the lines of Wendell Berry “In Distrust of Movements.” Perhaps the important thing is to keep talking about these things, continue to push to include many voices and options, not close the conversation and let it generate even more conversations and more options… keep the “creative commons” open.

  4. len says:

    ANother thought.. in the end ALLELON is one good path among many.. and so long as they understand themselves that way, there are many conversations possible. Its very evident that they are working across traditional lines and boundaries and embracing diversity.

    Perhaps another challenge will be to avoid becoming a “closed” conversation and continue to network with other groups on other paths and recognize the validity of these other efforts. Rather than inviting everyone to form a single force, remain committed to resourcing, talking, loving one another and encouraging diversity and resist controlling the network. Genetic diversity is important and has long been missing from the church, and its lack is one reason we find ourselves where we are. We will continue to need “edge walkers” and “boundary crossers.” Mark and Alan understand this.. they are, after all, all about the kingdom :)  In the end we may have many lasers.. emergent, allelon, and whatever else pops up with focus on specific tasks..

  5. len says:

    Incidentally, I think the new ALLELON organization exemplifies this desire to serve shoulder to shoulder. As they look toward launching a missional order that will become more obvious.

  6. [...] David Fitch, On Resisting Oligarchic Leadership in the Emerging/Missional Church following on a post by Mark VanSteenwyk, Beware the Subtle Shade of Oligarchy, who follows on a post by Len Hjalmarson, citing a 1999 article by Ginny Hunt on allelon (the Greek word, not the organization) as opposed to oligarchy. [...]

  7. Kevin Powell says:

    Could one person’s oligarchy be another person’s 80/20 rule?

    Just askin’

    kgp

  8. [...] the kingdom of allelon Sociologists have discovered that in virtually all forms of social organizations, from friendship groups to nations, a small self-perpetuating group grabs most of the power. This tendency to concentrate power in the hands of a few persons is called the la (tags: church jesus oligarchy) [...]

  9. brad says:

    so, here it is, less than four weeks away from the Allelon-sponsored formative meeting on a missional order, and it appears i will be able to go.

    i’m ambivalent … as usual, for this far beforehand. but i have learned to persevere thru that early stage in order to move into the constructive stage and be fully present by the time of the event. meanwhile, there are things i’m looking forward to, and things i am dreading. i suspect i have something to contribute, especially on cultural pieces in mentoring missional/contextual leaders, which is why i feel drawn to go. but i also suspect that the chaos of being my post-ness may catch up with me and lead to friction (whether internal or interpersonal). i didn’t set out to be one of the postests with the mostests, but i am post-liturgical, post-liberal, post-ecumenical, post-fundamentalist, post-conservative, post-separatist, post-modern, post-evangelical, and post-emergent. (too bad i wasn’t a catholomatic pentadox disciple to bring things up to nearly past a pre-dozen posts!) lots of possible reasons to feel marginalized, and how will that translate to concerns about “in power” versus “empowerment”?

    it’s hard to wait for this disconcerting tension of chaos “versus” continuity to be transformed into dynamic tension. i like what author Klyne Snodgrass calls this in his out-of-print book, *Between Two Truths.* he says we should see paradoxical tensions not as tightropes where we’ll fall off EITHER this side OR that if we don’t stay “balanced.” instead, view it as the dynamic tension in a violin string, BOTH with one end anchored AND the other cinched up to the right tension so the string can sing.

    perhaps what can keep a group from going oligarchical is dynamic tension; it tends to lead to creativity. if enough “members” have sufficient links with people at the margins, perhaps our practices will ensure we develop relationship that bring a constant flow of new melodies and harmonies into the group’s DNA, instead of just the same old melodramas. since we’re there at this Allelon event to see what the Spirit is leading in terms of mentoring next generations of missional leaders, surely those used to the margins can keep that perspective intact as we come to the center to converse on ALL of us being at the margins in a post-Christendom world, and to prepare the way for those who will succeed us.

    i know that’s a lot of random rambling, so thanks for putting up with it. hmmm … maybe feeling a few degrees more ready … will any of you be there next month?