The Religion Business: How the Local Franchise Is Run

by Robert Brow   (web site -

This article originally appeared in The Business Keeper, Kingston, Ontario, [December 86/January 87 issue], p. 31.

(This article illustrates the use of Model Theology to communicate a Christian model in the business world).

 In 1986, our operating budget was $148,000, of which we had to pay $32,000 for our franchise from the Anglican Church of Canada. This is part of a world-wide franchising organization with hundreds of thousands of outlets all over the world.

 I live in a huge house next to the plant, on the corner of Barrie and Union Streets in Kingston; a building which might sell for a quarter of a million dollars. The company not only provides this house but also pays the taxes and utility bills, plus a car allowance, which explains why my salary of $23,000 appears modest.

 Half of the remaining budget, i.e. about $40,000 a year, goes to maintain, heat and service the $3,000,000 plant which includes the auditorium, offices, and meeting rooms. The other half pays an office manager, treasurer, accountant, caretaker, child-care worker, my four assistants, and an organist-choir director. Obviously, 10 persons paid $40,000 between them, are unlikely to get rich moonlighting with the franchise.

 The remainder of the work is done by volunteers who are paid nothing at all, not even a car allowance. A choir of 20 work four hours a week. Twenty directors meet monthly. The two chief executive officers are also honorary. There are dozens of volunteers who take care of the arrangements for all our meetings, visit hospitals, care for and teach the children, and do a hundred other things in the community. It has been calculated it would cost the government a minimum of $3.23 million a year to conduct our business. (That was under the previous government.)

 Where does the income come from? Well, strangely enough, from the volunteers, who pay whatever they want, to be part of the franchise. Most of them think our main product is love, and that is what our world was designed for. The problem is we give the product away free. Like sunshine, you can't really put a price on it. All you can do is to offer a place and a group of people with whom to enjoy the product.

 Admittedly, people who despise this kind of business, view our volunteers (and myself in particular) as hypocrites. This does not bother me. Our advertising budget is only $1,200, in case you wonder why you have never heard of us.


(This article was copied ten years later to the CETA discussion list on Sept. 17, 1996, and the next day this further explanation was offered)

 At first sight the franchise parable looked like a model to explain to worldly business people that St. James Anglican had as much right to exist as Becker's, Mac's Milk, and Loblaws. That appeared to be the first horizon meaning ten years ago when it was published in the Kingston Business Keeper. But, please, I told it in the context of denominational bickering. So I have to tell another story to retrieve the situation.

 Once upon a time Loblaw's and A & P spent millions of company hours discussing which is the true grocery store. The Becker's franchise wisely kept out of the fatuous argument, but they advertised themselves as the only true convenience outlet. There was even one little convenience store that imagined they were the only store in town. The argument was wasteful but harmless until Loblaws issued a canon law. Anybody who patronises the opposition is disloyal to the true grocery store, and if they persist they will be excommunicated at the cash counter.

 Several of the big food franchises realized people were making fools of them, so they decided to merge into one big true grocery franchise. The object was that nobody but nobody would be able to buy food anywhere if they did not toe the line. At that point ordinary eaters made it clear that they intended to patronise whatever store they damn well pleased.

 When my model theology disciples came and asked me what on earth I meant by this story I had to spell it out and explain that a denominational franchise corporation can never be the Body of Christ, or even part of the Body. The body is the people who exercise the gifts of shopping and cooking and serving up the food nicely for their family thanksgiving.

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