My personal opinion is that the Wesleyan church should seek God first. There is nothing there spiritually. If not, you will merge with another denomination because of necessity not because of some pious reason.
--Pastor Karl said...
This is THE major issue many small
denominations (and all major ones) will face in the coming years--how to
restructure with a more "libertarian" approach allowing local
churches greater ownership and rights. the day of
large centralized denominational bureaucracies is numbered. I still can’t
believe this United Brethren thing came from the top down—what kind of leader
has that much guts? (Maybe he could rotate around from denomination
to denomination restructuring them one at a time!)
You asked what I thought of it. I like the “clusters” the best—“districts” worked fine in the 1800s, we now need a different way. I like the lower taxes. I like cutting out the middle people—the Districts and their growing copy-the-headquarters bureaucracies. I like send education money direct to colleges—then we can support those schools who are most responsive to the church instead of collecting all the money for headquarters an letting the give it out equally.
So YES I like the idea. But I can’t imagine any leader with enough guts to introduce such an idea in our own denomination. I can wish for such a leader but I don’t expect one to rise up. You know I’ve always wondered why most of the people in my denomination believe in small and uncentralized government for the nation, then turn around and set up large centralized high-tax governments in the denomination. It doesn’t compute.
It does compute, when it comes to man, he wants to be governed liberally. When in charge, he wants to control--$ and power.
Peter had the same problem as did many of the other disciples. Always trying to fix and control everyone else. And, Jesus said just let them go.
Could it be that the hearts of the leadership are evil yet cloaked beneath a nice theology of holiness?
Before you put the United Brethren's leader on a pedestal, check him out first....was he old enough to retire, did he have other job goals in mind to supplement his income, where was he headed. I personally would not be overly impressed with him unless he was about 30 or 40 and walked away at the prime of his career! It may not have been guts, just old age.
If that is the case, don't wish for that on the Wesleyan church!
As for denominational taxes, how can a denomination be tax-exempt and yet charge its member church a tax? Is this legal under the IRS code?
The AJ Thomas said...
I would say in general I like the
idea. I get a little nervous about the whole local churches owning the building
thing though. The church I currently pastor had a situation in the 90’s where
the pastor basically went off the deep end and started something pretty close
to a cult. He was a very charismatic leader and when the district revoked his
credentials and sent him packing a lot of people went with him. Previous to
that many people had left because of the direction he was taking things.
Roughly 30% of the congregation stayed to rebuild what is now a healthy,
growing, effective church. Most of the people who had been here from the
beginning and had built this church were the ones that stayed. Under the
structure you are describing they would have been left out in the cold. The
former pastor would be using these facilities to promote his rather suspect
version of Christianity and this church would likely be dead. Those who were
left after the schism were to demoralized to start a
whole new building program. In that situation strong district leadership both
structurally and the actual DS saved this church. On that subject of districts,
I get way more out of my district that I do headquarters. I suspect that if
Few of us United Methodists would
ever stand for such a break-up of our denomination--we have too strong an eccelesiology for Baptist-localism. We may fight against
some of our liberal tilting leaders and grumble and complain along with the
Asbury Seminary folk against the liberals, but few of us are really interested
in breaking up the strong ties we have with each other. If anything I think the
nate richardson said...
good and bad
denomination vs district- this takes away the connection of the family within what district can have but is hard with a denomination.
finances- lets you still be able to support the denomination but doesnt use up a big percentage to free up money to know where the money is going.
accountability- i like the sense of accountability that we have with a ds. it keeps us in a good direction. with clusters this might work but because of location of churches might not.
there is definately pros and cons like anything else. there really is not a perfect format.
The idea of "clusters"
I wonder how this works... Could a local church join any cluster it wanted? Would they have to be voted in? Would a cluster of mega-churches allow a limping church to join? What if one cluster became too big? Too popular? Would they split and start another cluster?
I wonder how clusters would form...would they form based on size? Worship preference? Location?
I'm eager to see how this plays out!
David Drury said...
The most complicating thing in the
United Brethern's change is the issue of Church
As it was, they could remove credentials, take back property from a local church's use, even move then to be governed by their "annual conference"... now they have no "hammer" to conjoin with the discipline.
But, since few of us long for discipline I imagine everyone will love it.
Until one of their pastors has an affair, apologizes on Sunday and preaches the next week... Head will turn, but little recourse will be provided for discipline.
That's when the plan hits the fan.
These "clusters" sound like little more than our Wesleyan Leadership Development Journey groups...
On it's face value I'm intrigued by all this reorganization but I struggle with some of the implications.
There is more to this story than
you published here. ACTUALLY the leadership of the UBIC denomination tried to
get their people to merge with the
Thinking in Ohio said...
Many of my thoughts have already
been better stated by others, than I might myself. I especially agree with
David on the matter of accountability. The two key issues of property ownership
and ministerial ordination are the only "teeth" denominational
leaders have in their arsenal to maintain holy order and doctrinal purity in
the church. Take those away and I fear heresy will rise along with highly
charismatic leaders with little or no spiritual authority over their lives
(that may be a strong assumption).
My only other thought (mind you I'm merely the young and lowly pastor of a small church), is that our denominational leaders are not all corrupt pyromaniacs--we do have godly leaders in our denominations (or am I just naive?).
From personal experience: My first pastorate was in a small "independent" church that was lost in a free-for-all power struggle among its members. I was young and didn't remain long, but the lesson learned was that I would never minister in a church without an authority over both the pastor and the congregation.
I will agree that many denominations probably do need restructuring. I think fiscal obligations (on the part of the local church) and fiscal integrity/responsibility (on the part of the denomination) are the issues that produce the greatest frustration among pastors and lay-leaders alike.
I find it so intriguing that leadership is so stuck on accountability and discipline. It is as if nothing else exists in their job responsibilities. Shows where their minds are!
James Petticrew said...
Being used to a centralised
structure focused on
The United Brethern's FIRST plan was the better one--merge with another denomination. I'm just a student but I hope that we can some day disolve denominationalism and come together with a unified voice to the world. *Tim
The AJ Thomas said...
I think there are some things that
denominations do well and there are some purposes that they are best suited to
serve. What if rather than re-invent the denomination we just stripped it down.
I would say that we could easily live without about 50% of the departments we
have right now. For example I was looking at the lates
issue of Wesleyan life and noticed that the director of Wesleyan Women is on
the General Board. Is that really necessary? For that matter as a youth pastor
I receive more recourses, ideas and encouragement from Doug Fields and Youth
Specialties than I do from the denomination. Do we really think that “Heaven
Week” is going to produce better kingdom results than the latest wiz bang deal
Part of me says this is a innovative way to rework ineffective structures. The other
part of me sees as another commenter mentioned this is a way to dissolve a
denomination. which begs the question what are the benefits
of being associated with a denomination (future Tuesday column? maybe you
already wrote it). In college they told us we needed to be part of a denom. for legal reasons (better backing, more protection).
But with the state of legal affairs in our country and the availability of
business insurance it seems to me that those reasons mute. The only other
surface benefits are the camping programs and conventions. But with every other
para-church offering "ministry cruises" and
high adventure camps those benefits are easily replaced. The one thing our denom does offer is a tight social connection for our
I happen to be part of a zone (read cluster of 8 churches grouped by geography) that actually works very well together. We alternate years doing an evening of singing and a week long revival on the other years. But with the UB church my main concern is that alot of churches will fall out of connection with their 'cluster groups' either by design or by default. I see the larger churches pulling away from the rest of the denomination (because they can) and smaller churches falling out of touch (because they have nothing to offer so no one reaches out to them)
"Re-inventing" implies that denominations were originally an "invention" - a manmade invention formed as people separated themselves to follow a particular human leader. Paul chastized the Corinthians for such foolishness. Until "re-inventing" breaks down denominational barriers, restores unity and the many other spiritual things we've lost over the years, I see no reason to get excited.
Lee Crist said...
Are the negative comments typical
of the way the majority of pastors feel about their denominations? Some
comments are down right venemous.
Lee, I don't know if you are an
older guy, but some older ministers think that what we younger
ones say here online sounds "negative" or "venemous"
but actually some of us just are honest and authentic in saying here openly
what older ministers said privately at their district conference or when they
are golfing with other ministers. Actually we CARE deeply about our
denominations and their structures which is why we discuss it. We are open and
honest though in seeing the weaknesses of our denomination and its leaders--we
do not idolize our denomination's leaders or John Maxwell, or Rick Warren, or
Rob Bell--we've seen too many idols fall in our lives. And we don't
automatically give respect to leaders or structures--they must earn it through
relationships and authenticity. (Sorry if I guessed wrongly you were an older
pastor if you're not)
Lee Crist said...
You pegged me, Tim. I'm a fogey just a few years shy a codger and another few years
shy a coot. I surely carry my share of modernist baggage.
I share you concerns about our denominations, primarily The Wesleyan Church and The Free Methodist Church. I neither idolize their leadership nor venerate them unduly as institutions. I have both failed in leadership and have been failed by leadership. God knows our denominations are, if anything, imperfect.
My comments flow from a concern not about authenticity or honesty. They flow from compassion. I fully support criticism and candor. I've done my share of both. I just believe they should be tempered by compassion and that apparent.
On point about denominational decentralization and downsizing, I would generally favor it. However, in my experience demand for services still exceeds supply. I remember an executive in the youth department of the
God bless you, Tim, and all pastors who love the Church and want to see it do better.
When thinking of reinventing the
denomination I sure wouldn't begin with structures. If we are ever to reach
How many Pastors, leaders, believer do you know who intentionally spend time each week disciplemaking?
While I do believe denominations pick up alott of system clutter I don't think the clutter is the main problem. If we had authentic New Testament communities filled with mature, Spirit-filled believers who are consumed with Great Commission hearts and sold out to Great Commission priorities none of the structure clutter would stop us.
I intend to make disciples who make disciples. Isn't that what is really at stake here? Just wondering!
Steve Dennie said...
Communications Director for the UB church, I find all of this extremely
interesting. Many of the comments and concerns have been said in our own
discussions, and they are valid.
A big issue with us is critical mass--we're too small to do the things we'd like to do as a denomination. That's why we initially explored joining with the
The critical mass issues remain. The cluster system CAN address some issues, if it works. There are other aspects that concern us. It's all an experiment right now, and frankly, we're kinda making this up as we go. We're trying to be faithful, but we're not geniuses. Check back in five years.
Let me also affirm the godly, selfless leadership of Bishop Paul Hirschy, who led us toward this.
I'm always amused by the "Huntington Watcher" types who throw out garbage and don't have the courage to sign their own names. A lot of them have surfaced in our midst during the past two years. I'll bet you Wesleyans have a good share of them, too.:)
Keith Drury wraps up with…
Thanks for the interesting feedback on this news report type column—very interesting thoughts on denominational reorganization. I’m not really much of a structure guy. I am often caught saying under my breath, “Structure is neither our problem not our solution.” But nonetheless I am interested in people who disagree with me (like most of my denomination and all of my family. The United Brethren experiment is a bold thing and I admire them for trying it. I know Paul Hirschy personally and have been in an accountability group with him off and on for more than a decade—I also know him to be an incredible example of “selfless leadership” as Steve Dennie has labeled him. Will this experiment yield ideas for other denominations? Is there a new coming wave of merger negotiations? Will denominational revise their tax system to reflect their own more conservative low-tax national political convictions as one writer above points out? I don’t know. But I’m having fun watching. I do know this—there has never been a time in my lifetime when we needed more and needed less our denomination. The trick will be for denominational and district leaders to focus on the “needed-more” things and quit spending people and money on the “needed-less” ones. I wish them God’s speed in these decisions.
Thanks again for some delightful positive and provocative discussion!