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What can the Episcopal Church learn from Kodak’s bankruptcy

What can the Episcopal Church learn from Kodak’s bankruptcy

In 1996, Kodak was the fourth most valuable brand in the world behind only Disney, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. Last week it filed for bankruptcy. At this blog Preaching Scarf, Jake Dell contemplates Kodak’s fate and wonders if there are lessons in its downfall for the Episcopal Church.

First, examine the church’s — particularly the Episcopal Church’s — core competency. Where do we dominate? Are we at risk of losing that dominance?

Second, will a “turnaround” be the answer? Restructuring didn’t save Kodak.

Third, can we identify any areas where we once led or innovated but where we have not realized the benefits of that innovation? In the mid-1970s, Kodak’s R&D developed some of the first digital cameras, an innovation that in the end killed the brand. What was our “digital camera”, if any?

Fourth, where is there fear of cannibalizing our existing church models? Is that fear acting as a bottleneck stifling innovation?

Finally, what’s in our name? Here is another take on Kodak’s fall that says it wasn’t their failure to adapt to digital, but that it was actually in their name — a name that screamed “print photography!”

Could our very name be dead?

Are there lessons in Kodak’s failure for us? If so, what are they?


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Respectfully, Fr Hoss, if you treat everyone (each individual Imago Dei) as something that lives under a rock, I think you will find they resent it.

It is the quality of Being Christ to another—loving them AS they are, for WHO they are, regardless of religious affiliation—that fulfills the Great Commandment.

The most important “disciple” we can make, is ourselves: to discipline our egos, that thinks WE, personally, have Some Saving Secret, that the blurting of which will transport another all the way to the Pearly Gates.

No. Being a disciple is taking up the cross of our egos, asking instead “What can I learn? How can I love you as you need to be loved? How can I give as Christ gave?”

In this kind of evangelization, we ought (as the Christlike Francis taught) “use words only when necessary”. And the biggest “rock to turn over” is Always Me.

God’s Shalom,

JC Fisher

A Facebook User

Forgive me beloved siblings in Christ, but the “Quality over Quantity” position just gets right-up-my-nose!

God’s love is all about Quantity, one quantity in fact, to wit:


As in: Go into ALL the world. Make disciples of ALL nations.

In truth we can’t contribute quality in any meaningful sense. If we are wisely humble, we recognize that Jesus contributes all the quality.

All we can do is turn over every rock we can find, and tell everybody living underneath about the Good News.

And YES! That does mean counting the people in the pews. Because those are the hands that will turn over the rocks. No matter how strong in quality, one pair of hands will not turn over as many rocks in a day as one thousand pairs.

Nor will all the work-outs in the world (formation) give a giant as much strength as the Holy Spirit will provide in the hands of a little child who loves.

Leave the quality to the Master. Let us be about the harvest.

Fr. Hoss

Vicar of Matagorda TX

Jim Naughton

Paul, I agree entirely that one size doesn’t fit all. But I don’t know any parish or diocese of any size that wouldn’t benefit from an understanding of what it does best, how it is perceived or whether good ideas are being stifled within the system. In my current work, my clients encompass the diversity you describe. They don’t end up with the same sorts of communications plans. But we often reason toward those plans from the same basic questions.

Paul Martin

Jim, I think your point is well taken, for some churches. Other churches have other problems, such as responding to the changing needs of a changing society, re-attracting youth, etc. Some analysis of the numbers might be illuminating.

I have regularly attended services in at least 9 of this church’s dioceses. TEC is large and extremely diverse province. I am skeptical of commentary that identifies one single problem and one unique solution. I suspect that our challenges break down into a number of broad categories, and I am not even sure yet what those categories will be. Urban vs. rural? Small vs. large? Central city vs. suburbia? Decaying rust belt vs. growing sunbelt? Young vs. old? O something we never suspected?

It may also be that the real issue is well trained and supported clergy taking care of business at a local level.

Kodak is (was?) a single company with a single business plan and vision. TEC is much more complex than that. The point is well taken that we need to re-imagine our mission in a world which is changing radically. On the other hand, it is dangerous to push the analogy too far. A large church in Manhattan does not have the same mission as a small church in the Illinois cornfields, or a mission in Navajo country. Each faces their own challenges, and each will find a separate solution. Until we face the problem in all its complexity, we will be engaging in useless platitudes.

Jim Naughton

Excellent point, Eric. Taking care of the people in our pews is not work to be taken lightly. My concern is that a fair number of our communities–parishes, but also dioceses–may be becoming too small to do a good job of caring for members.

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