Vision of Unity
“I have discovered that there is no real clear definition of what a Presiding Bishop is or what the office is – and maybe that’s just as well. As I see it, one of his roles is to be the center of unity.” 25
The Church’s work in defining the scope of the office of Presiding Bishop has been an ongoing process, especially since the centralization of authority in the Executive Council under Bishop Hines in 1964. By Allin’s tenure, the role of Presiding Bishop and the breadth of the office had expanded to include executive officer, chief pastor, and primate. Allin was able to build his own program staff with an independent base of operation, and increasingly the “Council’s staff” was replaced with the idea of the “Presiding Bishop’s staff.”
Allin preferred to describe the office of Presiding Bishop as one of a servant and center of unity. He led the Church at an odd juncture of concentrated authority on the one hand, and wider participation by women, minority groups and advocates for structural and liturgical reform on the other. The increased authority and staffing during Allin’s term, augmented by VIM-funded programs, created a paradox of centralized governance and bureaucracy that was contrary to Allin’s ideal of Church polity rooted in local and diocesan initiative.
He communicated his goal of “decentralization” of church structure in his first press conference as Presiding Bishop on June 11, 1974: “I’m talking about the coordination of this branch of the catholic church involving as many of her people as possible in the total life, decision-making, service and the rest of it – and to do that I think the network has got to be spread out in that sense decentralized, strengthened across this country. If all we’ve got is center and not outreach, that’s going to wither.”26