10-A: raising the bar?

My friend Ed Brenegar commented this morning on my last post, talking about the balance of local control and the connectional system of the PC(USA).  I appreciate how he brought up the presbyteries’ role in helping congregations, so that no congregation is stuck trying to figure out how to do ministry alone.

A lot of folks have wondered how 10-A will apply in the broader contexts, as governing bodies of the church continue their functions of calling, ordaining, and installing the officers of the church.   A lot of people are wondering — if sessions and presbyteries seek to interpret the new text faithfully, will every candidate for office be painstakingly scrutinized?  And if so, what will that mean?   (I remember speaking about this ten years ago at presbytery meetings!)

It remains to be seen how this one amendment will change (or not change) the preparation and selection of the church’s leaders.  But I do know one thing, regardless of what’s in the Book of Order:  it’s time for officers of the church to humbly kneel in awe of the sacred trust placed in our hands.

We pastors, elders, and deacons ask a lot of church members and visitors.  We ask them to conform their lives to a standard that is totally foreign to some cultural contexts.  We ask them to give their hard-earned money.  We ask them to give the precious time that seems to slip away faster with each day. 

When church members do those things, they expect to have something back, and rightly so.  Sometimes the expectations get mixed up, as in, “I gave a lot of money and you won’t put my name on a window,” or “I worked hard to pick out pretty carpet for the sanctuary and the pastor’s baby crawled on it!”  But on average, those who commit their lives to Christ and his church expect that the leaders will make serious commitments too.

When our sermons turn into rants, or when we fail to provide quality Christian Education programs, or when we brush people off when they express fears and doubts, or when we treat our own bodies as throwaway commodities, we, the leaders of the church, are in deep trouble.  It’s not just that these failures could result in poor church attendance or low giving.  If we ask people to make commitments on a certain level, and we fail to keep our commitments at that same level, we have turned into snake oil salesmen:  exchanging people’s trust for slick and meaningless promises.

Again, I have no idea what 10-A will bring in terms of the preparation for ministry process, examination of elders-elect, and so on.  But I do hope that those of us who are currently called to office (or seeking office) will take this opportunity to re-commit to high standards and best practices.  The world is desperate for leaders who walk the walk.

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