Sep 28, 2010

Is There a Way to Be Presbyterian Other Than Having to Be "For" or "Against" Each Other?

One of the things I hear people say as we consider the shape and scope of life in the PC(USA) is how we need to be more courageous, prophetic, bold, strong, etc. 

As a type "A" person, I like those words. It's words like that that get my blood pumping and engaged.

I like clarity. I like boldness. I like strong.

However, as I consider the climate of ministry life in the PC(USA), I think it's words like these that are part of the problem.

It's not that I favor weak, muddy, go with the flow, compromises with the culture. There are some things that are absolutely non-negotiable - like the Lordship of Jesus Christ, that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, etc. But there are so many other things we have to decide and discern as fellow brothers and sisters that could be helped by not having to only vote "for" or "against".

I appreciate Robert's Rules - the system by which our church governs itself. Robert's Rules is great for bringing clarity because you only have two choices. By its very nature, it pits people against one another. 

In such an environment, bold, prophetic, clarity can only mean that the other side is weak, compromised, confused, and wrong.

Maybe we are facing a time in the life of the church where we need something other than Robert's Rule where everything is spoken of in terms of "for" or "against" in order to discern what the Spirit of God is up to.

I wonder what our church life would be like if we didn't see each other only as people to be "for" or "against".


Anonymous said...

* What is your biblical basis for this proposal?
* How would you apply this to things that are absolutely non-negotiable for you but are not seen that way by others?
* In what way will it be decided that the discernment process is over? By unanimous vote?

James Kim said...

As I wrote in the blog, there are times when an up or down vote or a vote "for" or "against" is absolutely necessary. However, not everything that the church deals with is of essential nature. Robert's Rules puts all relationships in an oppositional stance. I don't think that's helpful when we're talking about whether we should hire a full time associate for youth or should we hire a part time for both youth and children, or what color the carpet should be in the fellowship hall, or whether there should be carpet at all in the fellowship hall, etc.

We don't have to be oppositional toward one another. I think there are situations where other means of discussing the matter might be helpful.

You ask, "What is the biblical basis for this proposal?" I think that's an interesting question because what we're talking about is process. There is no mandate in scripture that Robert's Rule is the only way the church should conduct business.

I think we can think of many scriptures that do talk about how we ought to relate with one another.
- Love one another John 13:34
- submit to one another out of reverence for Christ Eph 5:21
- Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment Rom 12:3
- How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! Psalm 133:1

I don't think it says anywhere in the Bible that Robert's Rule is the only way the church is to conduct its work.

James <><

Deborah Hollifield said...

I don't completely disagree on your assessment of Robert's Rules; but there are other problems with consensus, the worst of which is that it makes it VERY difficult for a dissenting opinion - especially for an introverted person - to voice their views, knowing they will be perceived as an "obstacle" to consensus, so many times such voices are merely silenced. I think your Scripture references are spot-on.

BTW have you read John Leith's Generation to Generation? There are some great observations on the expansion of the B.o.O. (ca. 1989 or so) and the destructiveness of institutionalizing of a spiritual organism.

James Kim said...

Deborah, you are right about consensus and dissenting opinion. Those can't be the only two ways in which organizations can work together. There has to be some better models. I recently heard Gradye Parsons talking about the way the Presbyterian Church in Australia does their work, and I don't remember what it's called, but it's different than both Robert's Rules and consensus.

I have not read Generation to Generation but will check it out.


James <><