Must hierarchy mean dominance, patriarchy, and oppression? This and other questions split the Church during the Reformation and still polarize it today.
In addressing these questions, Nichols, in That All May Be One, maintains that hierarchy has become almost a pejorative term. Both its attackers and defenders tend to identify it with centralized authoritarian control, which raises a problem for those Churches with a hierarchal episcopate -- especially the Roman Catholic Church, which is, according to Vatican II, hierarchial.
But to Nichols this notion of hierarchy as domination is distorted, because hierarchy's role is to preserve apostolic teaching and the unity of the Church and to foster integration. In That All May Be One Nichols maintains that the ecclesial structure of the Church should reflect both the invisible (ontological) aspects and visible (institutional) aspects of hierarchy. Presenting a perspective on hierarchy drawn from Church history, the natural sciences, and contemporary social models, Nichols suggests that this existing model of ecclesial hierarchy -- hierarchy that does not dominate, but draws people into participation in the life of Christ and the Spirit -- should be reexamined and recovered.