Thursday, October 12, 2006

What if… the Presbytery – Part 3

The General Assembly Council met with presbytery and synod executives a few weeks ago. During that meeting there was going to be some discussion about whether there should be synods and presbyteries. I thought this would be a good topic since nothing from that meeting, on that subject, has hit the public domain. Monday I talked about the synod. Tuesday I talked about the benefits of having a presbytery. Yesterday I began looking at the drawbacks of having a presbytery and will continue that today and tomorrow.

  1. Change comes slowly, if at all: There are several reasons why presbyteries are so resistant to change. Take a few moments, close your eyes and picture your past few presbytery meetings. My guess is that the vast majority of delegates were “older.” I turn the “big five zero” next month, and yet, I am always one of the younger people at a presbytery meeting (at least three quarts of the delegates are older than myself—maybe even 80% - 90%). These well-meaning folks are vested in the current system—they are comfortable with it. It is like an old shirt that a person refuses to throw away. They like presbytery just the way it is. Efforts are made to encourage younger delegates. We have tried having meetings on Saturdays to attract working folks. We found that we don’t get any younger folks to attend and fewer pastors attend. Younger parents are so busy between work, family and church that they have no desire to spend their one day off at a presbytery meeting. This leads me to the next point.
  2. Presbytery meetings are a waste of time: Time is the most precious thing that we have. There are only so many hours in a day. Nothing we can do will change that. Typically, people who are considered “professionals” get paid to get the job done—no matter how many hours it takes (they are paid a salary—no overtime). It is not uncommon for these folks to put in 50-60 hours each week—or more. I typically work six days each week—many times it is seven. I only go to presbytery if what they are going to be discussing will have a direct bearing on my church. This means I only attend one or two meetings each year—and I may leave those meetings early. There are only so many hours in a week. I don’t need to see cute little skits to remind me of our camping program or of the peacemaking even that is about to happen. I don’t need a talking head to read a committee report to me. Most of the “action” items are on the consent agenda so we don’t even discuss or vote on them (yes, we can take them off the consent agenda if we want). Many items have already gone before the General Counsel and thus come to use through the General Counsel report. Our General Presbyter gives a thirty minute report—every meeting (e-mail me the report—I can read it five times faster than it can be reported). Presbytery meetings waste my time. The few “younger” elders that we have do not want to go to a meeting that wastes their time.
  3. Too much is a “done deal” behind the scenes: Several years ago, it seemed to me that a lot of decisions were being made by “someone” behind the scenes. I was truly excited when asked to serve on General Council. For once, I though, I would be able to make a difference. Wrong! For two years I was the lone voice on Council that would ask, “Why?” The Council was a rubber stamp. Items would “appear” before Council. There had been no complaint or call for the changes from the Presbytery, yet we were being asked to change policies. It was VERY frustrating. A few people have too much control of a presbytery.
  4. Rural churches get the “shaft”: There are two major population centers in my presbytery. The issues facing these population centers may be very different than those facing our rural churches. Most rural churches have very limited resources and every dollar that is sent to the presbytery is one less dollar that they have to support their ministries. Our small church use to give thousands and thousands of dollars to the presbytery. We gave so far above our ‘fair share” that it was sickening. We couldn’t afford to buy curriculum for all of our classes because our dollars were going to the presbytery (this giving “policy” had been in our local church for many years before I came on the scene). We finally cut our presbytery giving by 75%. Most of our rural churches are “conservative.” Our most liberal churches are in the major population centers where the majority of our presbytery meetings are held. You get the picture?!? It is great to protest logging until the mills close and our small, rural churches see their members laid off. It is great to protest salmon fishing until our coastal churches find their members without jobs. Rural churches get the shaft time and time again.

That’s enough for now. Check back tomorrow.

9 Comments:

At 9:37 AM , Blogger Bayou Christian said...

Lance,

Refreshing stuff here. The very system is becoming the problem. I hope I will have time to back track.

It would be interesting to see you loop back through again consolidating some of the ideas or what you would change

 
At 12:28 PM , Blogger Toby Brown said...

Same goes here in Mission Presbytery (south and central Texas).

It must be a pandemic of malaise...

 
At 12:49 PM , Blogger Dave Moody said...

Lance,
Good honest bracing words. Lets continue to speak them winsomely. And act in our respective presbyteries accordingly.

geat stuff, thanks!
dm

 
At 7:57 AM , Anonymous Larry said...

What you described in Olympia Presbytery is similar to what I have observed in Peace River Presbytery.

 
At 10:29 AM , Anonymous John Foreman said...

My goodness! I thought you were describing the Seattle Presbytery!

 
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