We've had a good discussion on our church political structure lately, following our last synod. (By "our" I'm referring to my denomination, the Reformed Church in America (RCA). Also following comments by our General-Secretary (first name, Wes), who recently wrote in the RCA's Church Herald magazine that he is our denominational CEO. People are asking if we're overly corporate, with too much staff, bureaucratic, and top-down influence exerted. Here was my 2 cents:
Is there a parallel with the legislative branch and the executive branch of gov't, as well as the administration that occurs between the two? The legislative should have the power to curtail the administration when it gets out of hand. In this case the checks and balances are one-way. We currently have a two-way influence, where denom. staff are also leading, directing and influencing us, presupposing two groups of people: staff-leaders and RCA(laity and clergy)-followers. I would argue that leadership should come from classes, not synods. Synods should do their best to reflect the will of classes, instead of seeking to influence them.
A lot of this is analogous to the big vs small gov't debates in politics. Sure x needs to be done. But is the best way to do it hiring a full time staff, or should it be a classis activity? "Well, classis isn't going to do it, so someone has to."
I have been very disturbed, especially hearing reports from this past synod, how delegates or committee members felt they *had to* do/vote/think a certain way, because of the words/attitudes/vibes they were getting from the people sitting up front. At the least, the front-sitters would simply assume a course of action, even if it was contrary to the delegates/mbrs. This is the opposite from the influence dynamic that should be happening.
Post 2, later
[We are] not saying that every RCA staff person is in a conspiracy with Wes at the center. [We ARE] saying there is a coporate agenda being pushed which is separated from congregational and pastoral life of RCA congregations. That is bad.
Authority should flow upward, from consistory to classis to synod. We need less of synods telling consistories and classes to do x, y and z. We need more of classes shaping synodical agendas by their overtures and advisements. When so many classis overtures ask for the same thing, and they get rejected by synod, it's a major red flag. Who decides the makeup of the committees that decide what gets to the synod floor?
And yes, the positive picture would be less staff, more lay elders and pastors picking up the slack.We're not saying NO staff, or that we're against needed staff. But you do reach a critical mass, when it becomes a "4th branch of (RCA) government," then there is a problem. We seem to be there.
More bluntly, Wes' position ought to be more one of clerking and moderating (as secretary) the various synods' and classes' ideas, and less driving an agenda for them to follow (as a CEO). I realize that's not an either/or statement. Moderating entails some synthesizing and definition of where we are. But this should be more reflective than directive of the group.
Let the elders and pastors lead (consistory and classis), as we say we believe Scripture teaches. Other levels are supportive to them.