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May 31, 2011

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James M. Leonard


See my post in Arminian Baptist arminianbaptist at blogspot dot com

Dr. James Galyon

One might also consider Rick Warren's influence on church growth, etc., in SBC life. Saddleback utilizes elders as well.

peter lumpkins

Dr. Galyon,

I agree. As does Willow Creek. Yet I recall no focus from either Warren or Hybels on elder-rule/elder-led congregations. There approach was the more corporate-CEO type of leadership model.

With that, I am...
Peter

Randy

I'm not sure what the concern here really is, but I think it's rooted in the usual misinformation. Having served 12 years in the PCA, the congregation does all the things they do in a SBC church; pulpit committees made up of a cross section of the congregation screen candidates, the congregation calls a pastor and other staff just the same as and SBC church. The congregation votes to build or not to build, how to raise the funds, maintain and own property, they can even vote to withdraw from the PCA, why they could even become SBC if they wanted to!

Elders are responsible to the that theology is adhered to, church discipline is exercised when needed, the deacons are meeting the needs of the widows and orphans, etc... Elders teach most of the adult classes or screen who does teach, as well as screen new members. I just never saw a down side to it my friend.

I must admit that what I've seen of "Calvinist" in the SBC; aren't the real deal theologically or ecclesiastically, they're amateur wannabes lol just kiddn' but they do seem a little flipped over doctrine and less flipped about Jesus.

Chuck

I agree with your abiding concern that elder-oriented church governance is a slippery slope towards more Calvinistic ecclesial parameters, especially with respect to church plants. But I don't believe that the more temperate elder-rule polity will have such fundamental impact on our denominational identity.

TRB

Since it seems so many trends are cyclical and mimic prior trends, was there a trend 10-20 years ago towards a "team" approach in church leadership that is now being repeated in the plural elder concept?

If they existed, did these teams include just the pastoral staff, or did they also include the deacons or whatever title was given to the lay leadership board?

TRB

peter lumpkins

James,

Thanks for the heads up on your piece. I read it...

Chuck,

Thanks. Ultimately only time will tell. However, I think there may be more gravity toward an hierarchical structure in SBC life than you appear to allow...

TRB,

Interesting question. I cannot say for sure. I do recall a specific focus in the 80s and early 90s to purge Baptist culture of the concept of the "board" status of Deacons. Lifeway (then, BSSB) placed a tremendous amount of resources in educating churches on deacons as "servants" of the churches not "settlers" of opinion. "Deacon Ministry Plans" were ubiquitous as were Deacon ministry "retreats" where Jim Henry materials were used to show deacons as servants. Perhaps at least part of the motivation of the thrust was not only emphasizing the New Testament view of deacons, but also to free pastors up to led the ministry as elder/overseer/pastor. The "staff-led" concept may have been an outcome of this but I'm unsure.

The irony is, what SBs did in the 80-90s to purge the "board" idea from Deacons, many appear to turn around and attempt to set up once again with a "board" of elders.

With that, I am...
Peter

peter lumpkins

Randy,

Thanks. I assume you're referring to the "usual misinformation" concerning church polity specifically and not "misinformation" which you sense is norm (i.e. "usual") for this site. My question then is, what exactly leads you to believe I'm basing anything I've written in this piece on misinformation? Have I misstated Presbyterian polity in this post? If so, please point it out.

And, I won't quibble with your assertion that PCA churches do "all the things [we] do in a SBC church" including choosing pulpit committees, congregational calling of a pastor, and other staff. On the other hand, what I cannot overlook is your comparative description--"just the same as and SBC church." Just the same, Randy? Hardly.

For example, PCA pastors cannot go from church to church as they please nor may churches call whom they please--that is, if they want to remain in good standing with the PCA--apart from the local Presbytery's approval. As for the pastor selection committee, albeit it can be a "cross section" of the congregation--correct me if I am mistaken--does not the local Session play a non-negotiable role in deciding exactly who is going to be proposed to the congregation? In other words, the local Session controls what candidate is brought before the church for consideration and when the candidate is brought. If I've misunderstood the BCO, please let me know.

As for the "downside," I'm not here to point out "downsides" to what you're obviously satisfied, Randy. So far as Baptist principle is concerned, I do see many "downsides" not the least of which is a breach in individual believer's priesthood, a "downside" were we to explore, would unfortunately take us far from home (i.e. theme of this post), I'm afraid.

As for Calvinists in the SBC, I have no real problem nor ever have. Unhappily, the "flipped out" ones are becoming more and more aggressive in the latter days and constitute the squatters about whom I have grave concerns.

Grace, brother.
With that, I am...
Peter

Eric Opsahl

Greetings Peter,

Can you elaborate on the many downsides to Elder rule.
How does elder rule breach an individual believers priesthood?

Eric

Eric Opsahl

Oops,
You did say exploring the "downsides" is not for this post.

Max

Peter,

I'm not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but I predict that NAMB's new church plants will be largely characterized by elder-led (ruled?) church polity. There's no doubt that some church plants in my area have been influenced by the non-SBC entities you note, as well as certain SBC leaders who are encouraging the young, restless and reformed (YRR). These young pastors are standing in line to lead NAMB church plants, most likely with such church structure in mind.

I have observed that the YRR in my area have two models to effect a rapid change in church governance: (1) new church plants where a plurality of elders is quickly established, or (2) gaining leadership of an established traditional work and then promptly moving the congregation to adopt such church polity. In a recent example of the latter method in my area, the YRR pastor (after already splitting the church) took the matter to congregational vote. The measure was defeated, but the pastor promptly declared that he would keep bringing this back to the table until the measure passed ... so much for majority congregational voice!

From my vantage point, "elderizing" is but a symptom of ecclesiological and theological drift to a more reformed leaning within the SBC and a fundamental shift away from the SBC identity I have known for more than half a century.

Max

Jon McManus

Paul in his letter to Titus tells Titus to set up the church in each town with elders. The elders are to have qualification that will make them good shepherds to the flock of each town so that the church in each town will not fall prey to false teachings and other errors. These elders are to teach the flock sound doctrine. This is the biblical model in Titus. I do not see how this breaches the priesthood of believers as far Baptist principle is concerned. Please clarify this for me as I have limited knowledge of Baptist principles.

TRB

Peter,

Thanks for the insight on the "board" issue and how it was addressed in SBC culture. Prior to joining an SBC church, I attended a church that had a "plurality of pastors" (paid staff) and a board that wasn't titled either elders or deacons--it was just the board. The board and pastors functioned as a plurality of elders jointly providing spiritual leadership, and with the hiring of a senior pastor with Reformed leanings, the board was formally renamed to be called the "elder board".

There were also deacons, but their role was service, not shepherding or spiritual leadership.

From what I've come to observe of SBC churches, the pastor/deacon model elevates the pastor with a classic clergy/layity distinction and provides him significant authority, and the deacons are servants with limited shepherding or ministry skills, resulting in spiritual leadership pretty much confined to the man at the top. To me that appears to under-utilize the spiritual leadership skills and calling that may be available within the layity.

If not recently here, elsewhere it has been pointed out that Reformed leanings and a plurality of elders are commonly found together. Does anecdotal evidence support the premise Reformed senior pastors are more willing to share leadership responsibilities than would be found in the classic SBC model? Or are egos similar in both models?

TRB

Mark

I asked a friend who is a PCA elder about how they select pastors. He said the info is public and emailed me some pertinent points below. (Bold his.)

20-2. Every church should be under the pastoral oversight of a minister, and when a church has no pastor it should seek to secure one without delay.A church shall proceed to elect a pastor in the following manner: The Session shall call a congregational meeting to elect a pulpit committee which may be composed of members from the congregation at large or the Session, as designated by the congregation (see BCO 25). The pulpit committee shall, after consultation and deliberation, recommend to the congregation a pastoral candidate who, in its judgment, fulfills the Constitutional requirements of that office (e.g., BCO 8, 13-6 and 21) and is most suited to be profitable to the spiritual interests of the congregation (cf. BCO 20-6).

The Session shall order a congregational meeting to convene at the
regular place of worship. Public notice of the time, place, and purpose of this meeting shall be given at least one week prior to the time of the meeting.

20-3. When a congregation is convened for the election of a pastor it is important that they should elect a minister of the Presbyterian Church in America to preside, but if this be impracticable, they may elect any male member of that church. The Session shall appoint one of their number to call the meeting to order and to preside until the congregation shall elect their presiding officer. All communing members in good and regular standing, but no others, are entitled to vote in the churches to which they are respectively attached.

20-4. Method of voting: The voters being convened, and prayer for divine guidance having been offered, the moderator shall put the question: Are you ready to proceed to the election of a pastor? If they declare themselves ready, the moderator shall call for nominations, or the election may proceed by ballot without nominations. In every case a majority of all the voters present shall be required to elect.

20-5. On the election of a pastor, if it appears that a large minority of the voters are averse to the candidate who has received a majority of votes, and cannot be induced to concur in the call, the moderator shall endeavor to dissuade the majority from prosecuting it further; but if the electors be nearly or quite unanimous, or if the majority shall insist upon their right to call a pastor, the moderator shall proceed to draw a call in due form, and to have it subscribed by them, certifying at the same time in writing the number of those who do not concur in the call, and
any facts of importance, all...
http://www.pcaac.org/BCO%202010%20Reprint%20All.pdf

peter lumpkins

TRB,

You make a valuable point and ask a good question concerning Reformed Senior pastors. Unfortunately, I have no sufficient response to your question about Reformed Senior Pastors. On the other hand, I do think over-bearing Senior Pastors can be detrimental to healthy spiritual progress in any church polity context...

Mark,

Thanks. I've read the relevant BCO sections, and so far as I know, nothing I've written disputes its required protocol (not that you necessarily implied such). I was in hopes Randy--who is now PCA but formerly SBC--would have shed some light on the supposed "misinformation" apparently being proposed here. Perhaps he may yet respond.

Grace.
With that, I am...
Peter

peter lumpkins

Mark,

I think I deleted your last comment by mistake. I was using my android. Go figure.

I have an email copy of it and will c/p it back in.

Thanks.

With that, I am...
Peter

Mark

Mark,

Below is the comment I accidentally deleted from my android. My apologies again...
With that, I am...
Peter

=====

Peter, I believe your statement on Session control is in correct. You stated, "In other words, the local Session controls what candidate is brought before the church for consideration and when the candidate is brought.” The BCO quoted above states, "“The Session shall call a congregational meeting to elect a pulpit committee which may be composed of members from the congregation at large or the Session." I am told that the congregation does elects the pulpit committee which may consist of any combinations of Session and members. And they are electing the pulpit committee to bring them candidates that are suitable and even after that the congregation gets the final say-so on whether or not they are suitable. So it is ultimately up to the congregation.

peter lumpkins

Mark,

Well, if what you're suggesting is so, then, for the last 5 centuries or so, there's been a lot of ecclesial hoopla over nothing really--"it is ultimately up to the congregation." Interestingly, that is precisely what the Baptist elder-rule/elder-led guys with whom I've conversed insist upon is Baptist congregationalism.

Honestly, I do not think you are taking seriously what Presbyterianism is. Presbyterianism by its nature is rule by representatives and teased out denominationally, it is connectional rule by hierarchical courts. Say what one will, but no committee has the authority to by-pass the local Session. Period. To do so is scandalous to Presbyterianism. Hence, as I suggested, the Session "controls what candidate is brought before the church for consideration and when the candidate is brought" because they control the agenda.

Beyond the Session, the Presbytery must approve both the process for calling a particular pastor and whether or not the pastor is suitable for the congregation. And while no particular pastor may be imposed upon a congregation from the top down--"...no man can be placed over a church in any office without the election, or at least the consent of that church" (BCO, 16-2)--neither may the church present whom they unilaterally please to be pastor (i.e. unless they are prepared to jeopardize their good standing with the local Presbytery and ultimately the General Session). Hence, Mark, to suggest "it is ultimately up to the congregation" simply makes no sense in Presbyterianism.

I'm not sure who your friend is, but if he practices Presbyterian polity like you suggest, I'd bet a week's Starbucks his Presbytery knows nothing of it. On the other hand, perhaps Presbyterians are experiencing a crisis in their own ranks, those "bucking" their historic ecclesial patterns and moving toward congregationalism similarly to those in Baptist ranks "bucking" congregationalism and moving toward Presbyterianism. You just never know...

Thanks.
With that, I am...
Peter

Ronnie Brown

Hi Peter,

I’m Mark’s friend, and I’m a Ruling Elder in the PCA. Our polity for how a Pastor is elected is clear, documented, and available for any and all to see. It is contained in one of our Constitutional stands, the Book of Church Order ( BCO ). Whereas you are right and accurate on many points it seems you are ignoring another specific point that I quoted to Mark from the BCO. Now that may not fit exactly with your ideal of how things work, but that doesn’t change the fact of what the BCO teaches. So instead of making the unfounded insinuations about what would happened to me, you should have interacted with the quote I provided from the BCO on which my statement was derived. With that said, here is the issue at hand. You made the following charge:

“In other words, the local Session controls what candidate is brought before the church for consideration and when the candidate is brought.”

Well that is obviously not true based on the BCO. The BCO clearly states the following:


20-2. Every church should be under the pastoral oversight of a minister, and when a church has no pastor it should seek to secure one without delay.A church shall proceed to elect a pastor in the following manner:The Session shall call a congregational meeting to elect a pulpit committee which may be composed of members from the congregation at large or the Session, as designated by the congregation (see BCO 25). The pulpit committee shall, after consultation and deliberation, recommend to the congregation a pastoral candidate who, in its judgment, fulfills the Constitutional requirements of that office (e.g., BCO 8, 13-6 and 21) and is most suited to be profitable to the spiritual interests of the congregation (cf. BCO 20-6).

A couple of points from the above quote clearly documents your statement is not accurate.


  • A pulpit committee is elected by the congregation. The committed is not appointed by the Session it is elected by the congregation.
  • The committee may or may not consist of the Elders. So if it is not made up of the Elders how can it be that they are controlling what candidate is brought forth as you state? The church I’m a member of elected a Pastor about 8 years ago and the pulpit committee consisted of a diverse group of people there was even a high school young lady on the committed. It was this committee, not the Session that decided what candidate was brought forth.
  • When the committee recommends a candidate is entirely up to them, and not the Session.
  • Finally, it is the congregation’s vote that is the final determiner, not the Session’s dictate.

Now none of the above means we are in no way different from Congregationalist, even thought we are in some ways similar, but that is to be expected, isn't it? You also made the following statement to my friend Mark:

"Honestly, I do not think you are taking seriously what Presbyterianism is. Presbyterianism by its nature is rule by representatives and teased out denominationally, it is connectional rule by hierarchical courts. Say what one will, but no committee has the authority to by-pass the local Session. Period."

It is ironic that you are saying Mark or indirectly I, wasn’t taking “seriously what Presbyterianism is” when he was quoting the process that takes place from a constitutional document of Presbyterianism! The local Session is not a law unto themselves, they too have to answer to an authority and one aspect of that authority says the congregation plays the role it plays. So it is not a “by-pass” of the local Session, as if it goes against our polity, but instead it is the right working of our polity as outlined in the BCO.

Finally I want to comment on this statement you made:

"… neither may the church present whom they unilaterally please to be pastor (i.e. unless they are prepared to jeopardize their good standing with the local Presbytery and ultimately the General Session). Hence, Mark, to suggest "it is ultimately up to the congregation" simply makes no sense in Presbyterianism."

Of course no one is arguing that the congregation can go out into the streets, grabs a street preacher, and elect him as their Pastor. There are a number of conditions that must be met before the congregation can *ultimately* decide. But this is true for us all. Even the most autonomous independent churches have some criteria and rules that must be met before the church elects their Pastor. However, the reason I said it was *ultimately* the congregation’s decision is because once all rules/conditions/criteria has been met by an individual. The one thing that has the final say-so is the congregational vote.

Grace and Peace,
Ronnie

peter lumpkins

Ronnie,

Thanks for the lengthy reply. I’ll try to be concise as possible (given your long comment).

First, I’m aware of the BCO and cited it more than once. Second, be assured my goal is not to make things “fit exactly with [my] ideal of how things work.” I have no other intention than to state specifically what “the BCO teaches” (or any document I might engage for that matter).

Third, the little barb about “making the unfounded insinuations about what would happened to [you]” was really unnecessary, Ronnie. There was plainly nothing in what I wrote for you to make my statement into something personally  and specifically directed toward you.

Fourth, you take issue with my statement concerning the local Session, particularly what candidate and when the candidate is presented to the congregation, concluding that your citations from the BCO “clearly documents your statement is not accurate.”  You made several words embolden to emphasize your conclusion. One phrase you overlooked which would support my conclusion, however, you failed to embolden. Allow me to do so: “A church shall proceed to elect a pastor in the following manner:The Session shall call a congregational meeting to elect a pulpit committee…”  This easily takes care of the second leg of my conjunction—“and when the candidate is brought.” As with all business of the church, the Session oversees the process. Agreed? Nor does it seem correct that one could counter that the BCO says, “seek to secure one without delay.” Granted again. But the Session obviously interprets what “without delay” means.

Hence, it seems my problem now is the first leg of my assertion namely, “the local Session controls what candidate is brought before the church for consideration.” You ask, “if it [i.e. pastor search team] is not made up of the Elders how can it be that they are controlling what candidate is brought forth as you state?” Well, are not the elders involved in the “consultation and deliberation” process through which the pulpit committee progresses as it seeks out a pastor?  If not, then are you saying that a pulpit committee may lawfully bring a candidate to the floor of the congregation independent of elder approval in advance?

Stated another way, is it acceptable for the pulpit committee to propose a candidate to the congregation which has not been thoroughly vetted by the eldership? If the pulpit committee can, in fact, by-pass the elder board and propose a candidate directly to the congregation—a candidate not necessarily acceptable to the elder board since they haven’t personally vetted him--I’d personally like to know how that maneuver squares with the stated responsibilities of the elder.

For example, the BCO states that elders “ensure that the Word of God is preached only by such men as are sufficiently qualified (BCO 4-4, 53-2, 1 Timothy 2:11-12)” (BCO 12.5.e). May I ask how the elders would fulfill their duty to protect the flock from unqualified men if they could not scrutinize a prospective pastor before he gets to the church floor for a vote? In fact, given your own circumstances you cited, if the elders did not filter the candidate brought to the congregational floor, then what does it say when a high school girl among others was enlisted to bring a pastor to the church and doing the elders’ work of ensuring them that the Word of God is preached only by such men as are sufficiently qualified?

Fifth, I don’t think I suggested the Session was a “law unto themselves”'; nor did I remotely suggest as you seem to imply “that the congregation can go out into the streets, grabs a street preacher, and elect him as their Pastor.” What makes you think I have this scenario in mind, Ronnie? On the other hand, since you brought it up, according to your words above, is not a congregation free to nominate and elect as pastor whom they will, no matter "whom they will" is? The obvious answer is no, they may not. One doesn’t have to think of a transient hobo when thinking of street preachers. For example, suppose First PCA Church wanted to elect someone on the order of George Whitefield as pastor. Could they do it? Whitefield was a ‘street preacher.’ And a darn good one. Could a PCA church elect a GW type to be their pastor? The obvious answer again presumably is no they could not. Unless the Presbytery approved him, he could not be their pastor. Now if I’m missing something somewhere, I certainly stand to be corrected.

With that, I am…

Peter

peter lumpkins

All,

If your comment appeared here and now doesn't refer to my updated commenting policies. In light of two recent incidents, I am no longer catering SBC Tomorrow blog-threads to tendencies of some visitors. Know also that just because your comment may disappear, it may only be because you may have responded to those which I am determined to purge from the threads. Frankly, I’m no longer interested in catering to those who complain about me personally rather than deal with the point I work hard to make in the original posts.

In addition, I’m leaning toward a zero-tolerance position for those who seem bent on questioning my moral integrity, my sincerity as an author/writer/blogger, and using my own site to do it. The last exchange I had here was one facet of the tipping point. The other facet I logged in the commenting link above.

Grace to all of you. I really do appreciate the readership of SBC Tomorrow.

With that, I am…

Peter

Max

And most of your readership sincerely appreciate you, Peter. If some of these "SBC Voices" on "SBC Today" and "SBC Tomorrow" get their way, there will soon be an "SBC Yesterday".

Max

peter lumpkins

Thanks, Max. I appreciate it...

With that, I am...
Peter

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