Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Middle Governing Bodies—Straight Talk: Talking to Whom and for Whom?

Today’s edition of Presbyweb linked to a Presbyterian News Service article on an upcoming meeting concerning the future of middle governing bodies in the PCUSA. The meeting will take place on February 14-16 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is a discussion that needs to take place.

Major League Baseball (MLB) has a problem—drug use is compromising the integrity of the game. A famous home run hitter did not get elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The reason is that he admitted to using a particular supplement (Andro) and refused to testify before Congress on steroid use in baseball. Last year major league baseball decided that they were going to “crack down” on drug abuse. What did they do? The player’s union agreed to the ban of steroids—except, they refused to have a testing for human growth hormone and amphetamines! Only a player with the IQ of a rock would still be using steroids—today they will be using human growth hormone!

Why am I bringing this up? I am bringing this up because the MLB decision on drug testing has some similarities to the upcoming meeting on middle governing bodies. MLB couldn’t get a tough drug testing policy because the player’s union would not agree to a tough policy! The players union is afraid that some of its members would lose their jobs if a truly tough testing system was put in place. In our case, current middle governing body staff persons are “like” the MLB players union. How objective can they be when their jobs are at stake?

If the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is truly interested in looking at the long-term viability of our middle governing bodies then they had better talk to people who are not employed by that “system.” Otherwise, we will get another reshuffling of the ‘chairs on the Titanic.”

Here is a plan I would suggest:

  • Have each presbytery randomly select six churches to be a part of the study (two with a membership of 500+, two with a membership of 200-500 and two with a membership of <200.
  • Pastors and elders from those churches would gather together to talk about what they view as the needs of the denomination between the local session and the General Assembly.
  • From the presbytery gatherings, one pastor and one elder would be selected to have their names put in a “pool” of names at the synod level.
  • Each synod would randomly select one pastor and one elder from the pool of names gathered from the presbyteries. These persons would attend a national gathering to discuss the governing body needs.Current governing body staff persons would not be allowed to give any input to the presbytery or national gatherings unless specifically asked for specific information.
  • The meeting would be moderated by our current moderator. The only other denominational staff person present would be the Executive Director of the General Assembly Council.
  • The recommendation from the national group would go to the General Assembly Council.

I know that I live in fantasy land! This will never happen because we are too vested in the current system. Wouldn’t it be nice though…


At 7:12 AM , Anonymous will spotts said...

The main priority of just about every organization is preserving itself - the organization. Things like its purpose or mission are secondary - if they're even given thought at all. The odds are - when contemplating the future of the PC(USA) those doing the contemplating regard themselves as the PC(USA) - and it never occurs to them that the 11000 congregations have any legitimate concerns.


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