ON SYNODICAL POLITY AND THE TROUBLE WITH IT
If anyone expects me to be able to completely untangle the mess that is our synodical bureaucracy, then you have another thing coming. I shall attempt, with this post, to at least try to clarify the relationships by telling you how things should work, in theory, and how things are working, in practice, and add my own commentary along the way.
In reality, there are two different governments that exist in the synod and, quite unfortunately, we have done our best to muck it up. First, we have what might be called the ecclesiastical government. This government is Episcopalian in nature (no matter how much the people at Reclaiming Walther might think it isn’t) and its duty is to make sure that the right hand of the Church is preaching the Word rightly and administering the sacraments properly. The chain goes as follows: the Synodical President (SP), the District President (DP), the Circuit Counselor (CC), and the individual pastors. The circuit counselor visits and checks in with the pastors, the district president visits the circuit counselors, and the synodical president visits the district presidents. The SP should be kept in check by the Praesadeum (the vice presidents of the synod) and everyone is happy. This, of course, is all theory. The reality is that all of these offices neglect their duties to keep the right hand in check and decide to dither away with responsibilities best left to others. They only get involved when a pastor is getting shafted by the congregation (and, more often than not, help the congregation shaft the pastor) or when a pastor is installed or ordained. The CC shows up also if a congregation is calling a pastor, not that anyone would know who he is because he doesn’t show up otherwise.
The second government is not at all like the first government, because it has a very Congregationalist feel to it. The reason why I say this is because the money flows from the congregation upwards. That’s what really makes it Congregationalist. Even so, there are three separate layers of government, one stacked on top of another. These governments start at the congregational level and work its way up. The voters meeting at the congregational level is the starting point. After that, we work our way upward to the Board of Directors for the various districts and on up to the Board of Directors of the Synod. The various duties of this government are to make sure the bills get paid and the properties are properly maintained, and other duties to make sure the right hand can run smoothly. At each level (congregational, district and synodical) there should be someone besides the ministers making sure the day to day operations run smoothly, whether it be a secretary, and executive director, or a lawyer even. Our modern church, however, has found this arrangement to be too annoying so we now have DPs and the SP dabbling in the affairs of the left hand, so much so that they neglect their responsibilities to the right hand. In essence, many of our pastors, DPs and SPs are now the CEOs. Often, they are trying to run a bureaucracy in which they have little to know experience in, unless they were CEOs of their churches, in which case they are plenty experienced when they shouldn’t be.
So, what do we do to fix this? The first thing I would say is actually force the SP, DPs and CCs to make the rounds and visit the congregations like they are supposed to and yank them away from the CEO roles they have been playing. Secondly, I think that, if need be, executive directors be hired to do all the crap the DPs are doing now that keep them away from visiting congregations. Finally, actually enforce the rules we have. So many of our problems as a synod is because DPs do not either have the balls or the will to tell pastors not properly performing his duties to straighten up or be removed from the roster instead of just letting them infect the synod with novel ideas like the Purposeless Driven Life. The are many problems that can be solved by a swift boot to the rear.