Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Strategic Plan Wrap-Up #2

Theme 2: Increased Involvement
Goal: Increase involvement by providing more opportunities to utilize greater variety of people and life experiences (especially younger leaders, women, ethnic leaders, and global church representatives) in the discussions concerning PCA ministry direction and development.

What initially strikes me as I reread this after a few days is that virtually all of this could be accomplished in a single stroke. Stop making GA a convention and make it again a deliberative body, a court of the church. As I noted in the last post, only 752 churches (43%) were represented at GA. The unrepresented churches are largely pastored by young men and men from ethnic minorities. Further, fewer than 300 churches actually had ruling elder representatives. The concerns of women in the local churches are generally more ably represented by their ruling elders than by their teaching elders. Further, the broader inclusion of REs will increase the representation of various minority viewpoints, as the REs have not attended the same half-dozen seminaries that virtually all the TEs in the PCA have attended. Thus, the REs are not thinking as part of the herd.

How do you change GA from a convention to a deliberative body? First, stop advertising it as family vacation. Second, locate it at something like Covenant College. Have the men stay in the dorms and eat in the cafeteria. If CC is not large enough, have it someplace larger but with the idea remaining the same: no luxury hotels, no spending large wads of cash at local eateries or at overpriced convention center food courts. Third, without the distractions of vacation and resort, and with no place else to go, men will actually go the the GA meetings. There were at least two votes during this past GA that required a "yes" vote by more than half of those registered in order to pass. The measures did not pass. Why? There were fewer than half of the registered attendants present. Ask your TE, and your RE, if he actually attended the business sessions of the GA. Ask him to explain to you what happened. These men who attend GA but do not attend GA need to be called to account, and they need to repent.

Action 2 in the preceding paragraph will immediately cut the cost of GA by a significant margin. Right now, depending on where GA is, and where you travel from, attending GA costs in the range of $1,500 to $2,000. That is a prohibitive for many small churches. It is also prohibitive for REs who have to take off a week of work in order to attend.

If the Administration Committee (which currently spends about one-quarter of its budget on GA) took these actions, it would say to the REs that it really is worth your time and expense to make your voice heard at GA. With this kind of encouragement, smaller churches will also be encouraged to send their due representatives, even if thay have to take up a special offering to do so.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Strategic Plan Wrap-Up #1

As you know by now, the recently completed PCA General Assembly approved the Strategic Plan in the following fashion. We approved three themes, each with a single goal. Under each of these themes we approved both specific and general means. I have three general complaints (specific complaints to follow as examples). First, some of the things we approved are already being done. So what is intended by the fact that we approved them? Are we to continue to do them? Are we to do them more? Are we to do them differently? No one knows. My second general complaint is that we approved things that don't need to be done, because there is already a mechanism in place for dealing with them. My third general complaint is that we approved some things as "specific means" that are either entirely undefined, or they are almost incomprehensible. Thus they cannot serve as means to accomplish the stated goal.

I here list exactly what was passed, with my comments serving as specific complaints.

Theme 1: Civil Conversation [Who can be against that? But what constitutes civil conversation? We tend to think of our country's founding fathers as being masters of civil conversation. But check out last week's Wall Street Journal article "Our Feuding Fathers." 'Nuff said.]
Goal: Establish places to enter into civil conversation about the best ways to advance the PCA's faithfulness to biblical belief, ministry, and mission. [Who can object? But who has the time? Does this mean face-to-face, in person meetings? If so, where and how? If not, doesn't the blogoshpere already accomplish much of this (though admittedly not always civilly)?]
Means 1: Provide public forums at GA to discuss difficult subjects or new ideas without vote, offering charitable judgments among elders in the fellowship of the ministry. [Again, who can object? But it is already being done. In addition, GA is becoming in some sense less and less relevant to the issue. This year we had 333 Ruling Elders and 919 Teaching Elders in attendance. That was up a little from last year, but the general trend is still downward. Only 752 churches were represented (about 43% of the whole). In some sense, even fewer than 752 churches were represented, because there were only 333 REs present. So, as far as RE representation goes, fewer than 333 churches were represented (some large churches bring more than one RE. Even 2nd Pres Greenville, SC, not a terribly large church, brought three REs.)
Means 2: Encourage similar forums in the presbyteries (possibly continuing discussion from each year's GA). [Again, who can object? But reality is against us here. Calvary is a geographically small presbytery with approximately forty churches. So attendance should be around one hundred (including all TEs and some churches having more than one RE). But it is rarely close to that. Some men chronically do not come, though the shepherding committee is trying to work on that. If something like this is going to work, there has to be the commitment to make the time, and with all due respect to my brothers in the ministry who voted for this thing, I don't see the commitment to make it work.]
Means 3: Encourage gatherings of non-agreeing enclaves to discuss major denomination-changing or culture-changing ideas, and how to live together with differences. [Who can object? But there needs to be a commitment to make it work, and I do not see that commitment. These things take time, planing, organization, and I don't have the time or other resources to do that. There may be people who do, but they don't appear to be doing it. To some extent, the blogs do this, but there is so much invective, and so many blogs, that no one has the time to keep up with them, and fulfill their ministry responsibilities as well.]