Thursday, December 16, 2004

Churchly Quality Control X: a sad case study

Over at titusonenine and at the Leadership Journal, there is a sad case study of how divisions and poor leadership brought down an ECUSA parish in the aftermath of the 2003 General Convention.

I think there are a number of things relative to church leadership and CQC to be learned from “Trinity” parish. The writer's point that striving for consensus must not become an unanimity trap is especially well taken. Now at my previous church, Denton Bible Church, the elders do insist on unanimity among them. And it seems to have worked well. But I still think insisting on unanimity can be a trap. And it certainly was for this parish.

But for all its good points, I think the article overlooks a more basic problem at the parish. The problems on the parish level after GC 2003 began thus:

During the first Vestry meeting after the crisis, we were considering a motion that would have put the church on record as repudiating the actions of the recent General Convention. As the motion was being discussed, Jane, a liberal member, blurted out on the verge of tears, "If this passes, I'm leaving the church."

And instead of gently saying they hope she stays but they are going to do the right thing, the Vestry let this and other whiny liberals delay and muck everything up.

“Jane” and other liberals should not have been on the Vestry in the first place. You don’t put liberals or anyone else unfaithful to scripture in positions of leadership. If they don’t hold to the authority of God’s word, then they shouldn’t be exercising authority over God’s church, period, no matter how much they contribute or how nice they are or how long she’s been a member, etc.

Yes, excluding liberals from leadership will have a cost in some churches. People and money may leave in hurt and anger. But real discipleship and faithfulness are always costly.

But what if you already have liberals in leadership? Then you respect their leadership as much as you can without being unfaithful to Christ until you can remove them in the proper manner. In the meantime, you don’t let them run the show if you can stop them. If that makes them have a temper tantrum or threaten to leave, you respond graciously, but again you don’t let liberals dictate the direction of the church. Trinity parish was about to head in the right direction in responding to GC 2003 until it let the liberal minority dictate matters. Instead, things became an awful mess.

Yes, this post may seem mean. And I don’t want to run liberals out of churches. But a little leaven leavens the whole loaf. Liberals didn’t lead the mainline denominations into apostasy in one day. They began by taking advantage of the niceness of conservatives to get a foothold into leadership positions many years ago. Then over decades they took over session after session, vestry after vestry, presbytery after presbytery, diocese after diocese . . .

It could have been stopped at the parish/congregation level. But orthodox Christians were too stinking nice to do so. They were too nice at Trinity parish, too, and look what happened.

Sometimes, love is being firm and standing for what is right and refusing to back down.

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