Monday, May 24, 2010

More Ponderings on Itinerancy and Appointability

One of the reasons I chose United Methodism as my place of service is the connectional system. I think such a system ultimately reflects more health and has more opportunity to be fully transformational than stand-alone isolated churches.  Just as I don't think there can be a spiritually healthy Christian who refuses to interact with other Christians, no matter how challenging that can be, I also don't think that churches can be spiritually healthy when they choose to disconnect from other Christian bodies and act fully independently.  I've been a part of the independent Bible church movement, and I know how easy it is for such a place to become cult-like and scarily ingrown.

There are those who have great power in this organization by virtue of position, salary, status and influence.  This has the potential for great good, for good leadership must exercise holy power to actually lead and make important decisions. But power, as most of us know, is also addicting, and, once achieved, very difficult to give up.  And that is where I wonder if giving even more power to Bishops not only to make and fix appointments, but to able to deny someone an appointment for this undefinable "ineffectiveness" reason has crossed the danger line. 

Ideally, an itinerant clergy offers so much to so many.  At its best, congregations are given the right pastoral leadership for their particular time and place of ministry.  Messages are fresh, and the laity know that the church is ultimately theirs to love, nurture and grow, and not a personality cult of a particular clergy person.

At its worst, it is punitive, both for clergy and congregations, and extraordinarily unequal in its manifestations.  Instead of a means of graceful service where needed, it becomes a career path, with reward appointments going to those who know the right people and can play the game well, but who are not necessarily the right person for that particular church or administrative ministry setting.

One question I've often pondered: what would happen if some of the clergy who have the proven gifts and graces to facilitate great growth in churches, or have served with exceptional  competence in high-level administrative positions, were to be appointed to small, struggling, entry-level pay and substandard-parsonage churches? Would they find it part of their connectional responsibility and receive the word of their moves with joy? 

I firmly believe that most clergy with the high-status and high-pay appointments work very, very hard to serve the greater good of the Conference and for the kingdom of heaven.  They are not sitting back in isolated luxury, ignoring their responsibility to the connection.  But they are also not going to be left out of the next round of appointments while the far more vulnerable ones, those who do serve the struggling churches, could easily get axed because they can't show visible results. 

I am just very, very concerned.  It's too much power in the hands of too few. And it is increasing the distrust level that already exists among the clergy.  We are not modeling the gospel message here.

1 comment:

Angie Hammond said...

I think you have a valid point. It's no wonder that the church is having a hard time getting younger people to make the commitment to ministry. It seems that it is becoming more about how well you can perform rather than how well you can do as Christ commanded. That being to love one another and go and make disciples of all nations.

It is said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The sex scandals of the Catholic church come to mind here. Too much power in the hands of a few and look what happened all because those few refused to do the right thing when it was required of them.

Thank you Christy for voicing concerns in such an open way. Food for thought for all christians no matter the denomination they claim.

When we replace God as our focus with our own label of effectiveness then we've created our own standards where we are both the judge and jury.

And as you say, this is definitely not modeling the gospel message.

I'll continue to pray for these concerns.