I was reading a book on Buddhism in Korea today and the author got me to thinking about polity of the various Buddhist temples and monasteries. The Japanese system seems to be very ecclesiastical in structure, very top down. It was apparently introduced to the Korean peninsular where it has survived despite some Korean overhauls. In China, I honestly do not know how polity works--- are there independent monasteries or is it all tiered with greater and greater control in smaller and smaller circles? I guess the Tibetans have a hierarchy of sorts but again I am clueless.
On the Theravada side of things, what of the monasteries of Thailand? I have a limited knowledge of such matters even in my own culture. Local Protestant Churches are wholly autonomous, started by one or a maybe few true believers, more or less. The UU is a national association of churches which recognizes the polity of it's individual congregations, kind of an affiliated but not dominated approach. The Methodist Association enforces standards of representation for the organization and will shut down any congregation that can't sustain that representation (as happened locally when a small congregation could no longer afford to pay an organizationally trained minister his requisite fees). Finally, of course, there is the Catholic Church who recognizes the Pope as their God's infallible representative on earth.
Do Buddhist organizations also run the spectrum?
I just realized how little attention I've given this topic but anyone interested in how the Dharma may take shape in the West should think to ask. Top down systems that work well in other cultures may or may not be sustainable in, for example, the United States. I would bet the idea of the small temples ran as hereditary family affairs as found in Japan would so clash with our American ideals of independence which we culturally which project onto our children.