Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Worldly to Just Wise?

There are a number of things which over the last number of years churches have adopted which seem to spark a debate between how much we Christians let the world dictate our practices, and what the theological implications are for adopting them.

That may sound complicated, but really its not. I'll give some examples and you'll see what I mean. I hope.

One example is accounting practices and accountability. Here in Canada, the Government is being stricter about how churches are organized. For example, I know a church where, at one time, the Management Board set all the salaries. The salaried people in that church were the pastor, the organist, and the janitor. The Management Board had four members: The Pastor, the Treasurer, the Janitor, and the Organist. The Government thought this was improper and the church was threatened with losing its charitable status if something was not done to create a more arm's length relationship between the group setting salaries and those salaried.

Now that may seem like an obvious conflict of interest, but to the church it was not. These were all Christian brothers, loved, respected and trusted. The Government seemed, from their point of view, to be asking to mistrust these Christians just because they were salaried. There was a question about the theology that would be implied by creating structures in church that seemed to presuppose mistrust.

The Government, you see, has not read the gospels. If it did, it would find that the disciples were mostly family, and relatively close family. That would not fly in this day and age, and yet Jesus had no problem with it. What are Christians to make of this? How are Christians to respond to the government?

For my part, I am uncomfortable with the trust issue, yet I believe that Christians can easily think of good gospel reasons to implement such administrative checks and balances. Off the top of my head, I think the principles of mutual submission, and mutual accountability are most applicable.

Some of course might choose to harp on the trust issue, even when trust is not, from the church's point of view, the issue. What do we do about that?

I'll think about it and get back to you.

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