The Faith of the Armenian Church » The Functional Structure of the Armenian Church
The Functional Structure of the Armenian Church
The functional structure of the Armenian Church is primarily based on the canons and established traditions of the Armenian Church, which were formulated over the centuries. One of the most important aspects of the Armenian Church administration is its conciliar system. In other words, the administrative, as well as doctrinal, liturgical, and canonical norms are set and approved by a council — collective and participatory decision-making process. Indeed, conciliarity in decision-making is a significant aspect in the Book of Acts 15. The Council of Bishops (or Synod) is the highest religious authority in the Church (24).
The norms of the administrative structure of the church go back to the Apostolic times. A point could be made by the fact that there was a quasi-organizational structure in Christ’s group of twelve apostles. Perhaps not as clearly defined, but nevertheless, it was an organizational sub-system that was endowed with a specific task and purpose. While the Scriptures do not record the organizational aspect of the “apostolic college,” their activities and interaction underline the existence of certain “norms.” For example, the group of the twelve disciples of Christ had a treasurer (Judas Iscariot) and a “natural” division of labor based on the talents or traits of each apostle. Matthew was a tax collector (a “government employee”) and had certain familiarity with management practices of the time. In fact, Matthew was “sitting in his office,” when Christ met him and asked him to “follow” him (Matthew 9: 9). Then, it is said: “Jesus called his twelve disciples together and gave them authority” to carry out their mission (Matthew 10:1). There are also certain “rules” for carrying out Jesus’s instructions recorded in the Gospel: “The twelve men were sent out… with instructions” (Matthew 10:5ff). One could even see traces of “bureaucracy” (as defined by Max Weber) as early as Christ’s time: a) recruitment and hierarchy, b) division of labor, c) set of rules.
The apostles continued the mission entrusted to them by Christ. The first thing they did was to elect a replacement for Judas. “There was a meeting of the believers... so they proposed two men… then they drew lots to choose between the two men, and the one chosen was Matthias, who was added to the group of eleven apostles” (Acts 1:15ff). Interestingly, this “democratic” election and the process of proposing a candidate is indicative of yet anther bureaucratic norm, namely “promotion based on merit and qualification.” Eventually, as the church progressed from being a persecuted entity of believers to an institutionalized organization, the rules and admonitions of “the apostles and the elders” (Acts 15:6) were integrated in the canon books of Christian churches, including the Armenian Church.
By Hratch Tchilingirian