Sunday, August 10, 2003
The Joys of Congregational Polity-This Derb post in The Corner caught Amy Welborn's eye
Bigger than usual congregation this morning at St. John's, Huntington. I guess that in religion, as in showbiz, there is no such thing as bad publicity. An exceptionally fine, eloquent, blunt but charitable, here-I-stand sermon from our rector, James Byrum. (Here he stands.) One passing thought: why, in mine and the other hierarchical Christian churches, is it hardly ever the devout, humble, hard-working parish priests like Rev. Byrum who ascend to bishoprics? Why is it so much more often, it seems to me, the bureaucrats, time-servers, schmoozers and fixers like Robinson--who has not done regular parish duties since (I think) the Carter administration? Not that I want them to take Rev. Byrum away from us to give him a bishopric. No, no, please not. Hey--maybe that's why.Amy goes on to comment on that-good pastors don't want to play the politics needed to advance; they'd rather do the pastoral duties that they've been called for. She came to the same conclusion my dad came to about Ed. Adim.-being a principal is more bother that it's worth for someone who likes teaching. Go read the whole thing. One of the things that may lead hierarchical denominations to the left is that the traits of an administrator tend to draw less-godly people. Firstly, power draws the power-hungry. The pastor who wants to serve the Lord will be less interested in promotion, while the people who want power and the perks of power will seek promotion more than the more humble pastors. Secondly, advanced schooling tends to lean people to the left. While a M.Div. might be enough to be a pastor, a D.Min. is what will open the door to administrative positions. Secular degrees in psychology or councelling can add to a resume as well. Advanced theological studies will be more likely to lean to the left, as being critical of scripture and doctrine is prized. Getting doctoral students to challenge the status quo helps to advance the field in other disciplines, but it is corrosive to the faith of many theologians. A simple faith will be looked down upon as simplistic. Thirdly, the gifts of an administrator are more worldly than of a pastor. Fundraising, legal hassles, personnel management and other issues need secular gifts and draw a less-godly crop of candidates. The giftings tend to be different than a pastor; not that a godly person can't have giftings in management, marketing and law, but that's a different set of gifts from that of the typical good pastor. That's one of the reasons why the hierarchical denominations will drift to the left. The pattern in the mainline denominations is that the leadership is more liberal than the rank-and-file pastors; often, the leadership gets voted down at the national convention as the committee's proposals go too far to the left. There aren't too many churches with a non-congregational polity that are growing these days; it might be the nature of a hierarchy that might be helping a decline.
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