Friday, February 04, 2005

Being Wise With the World

I guess this will conclude what has become an unintentionally tripartite thought reflection on accountability structures. That is, unless something else crops up to prompt more.

So what do we do for people who feel that the implementation of accountability structures like auditors and child protection policies compromises the trust relationships within a fellowship?

I think the first thing we have to do is admit that there is a valid point to be taken from that feeling. The whole concept of checks and balances in the secular world is one based on fear and mistrust, and the desire to protect oneself, to create hedges. That sort of thinking is, quite simply, anathema to a fellowship. Church fellowships are based on trust, mutual vulnerability, and love. We do well, I think, to admit that those differences exist, and we need to affirm those who sense them. We would be making a mistake to vilify these folks. They are, IMO, acting like an early warning system; they are telling us that we are incorporating a system whose foundational principles are contrary to the foundational principles of fellowship. We should listen to the those warnings.

That said, we need to also admit that there is nothing necessarily contradictory to fellowship to be found in accountability systems. As I said, in the secular world the foundational principles of such systems are incompatible with those of fellowship. Yet I think we can and should work to discern, not to say manufacture, principles that are compatible with fellowship to have such structures. We can have child protection policies for the sake of outreach; we make it easier to reach out to the children of the world by addressing the fears of the parents for one example. Having financial accountability structures makes it easier for us conduct business, like building projects, getting loans and mortgages, which will further the ministry of the church for another.

At the same time though I think we need to confess we have done a poor job as a Body of doing this. We have too easily given in to and accepted the paranoia and fear principles that the secular world puts forward for such policies and structures. That acceptance has led us to marginalise those who disagree with the structures.

So I think we need to reach out to those whom we would otherwise eye suspiciously for their lack of enthusiasm for such structures. We need to show the very love of, and for, fellowship, that these folks express by their opposition.

Now, that is not to say that there are not people who have something to hide, or that there are no people who simply kick because they have authority issues and don't like being restricted. But we need to deal with them pastorally as well. Those who have things to hide need to be helped to come into the open, and to be loved. Those with authority issues, really a spirit of rebellion, need to be helped to embrace mutual submission.

I believe it can be done, and if there is one weakness accountability policies and structures have, it is a lack of pastoral concern. That isn't''t inherent to them, but it is the way we implement them and use them. That needs to change.

Enough rambling. Let me know what you think.

1 comment:

Kim said...

Well all I can say is that we are not of the world but we do live in the world. We are bound by God to submit to all authorities. I don't believe that this needs to compromise fellowship. It just means good stewardship as Christians. We are also here to set an example to the unbeliever and to say that we are above the laws that govern the rest of the world is to come across as pious. We need to protect our children and that doesn’t mean mistrust and paranoia of those in the fellowship. It is being responsible followers of Jesus Christ.
How many times have we heard of people who have been involved in lives of sinful behavior have been abused as a child. Remember the words of Christ:
"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” Mark 9:42
I would rather do all I can to avoid a child being compromised and deal with a hurt feeling or two. The consequences of children not adequately protected can at the very least, result in them being traumatized and turning away from the church as an adult. This would be because the responsible adults and followers of Christ at the time didn't provide a secure haven in a place of worship.