This weekend marks an important waypoint in the life of our church. After the morning service and over lunch, the session wants to deliver a "State of the Union" address for our fellowship. Over the past year, we have seen the Lord do marvelous things, many new faces have joined our fellowship, many new gifts are ready to engage in the work of service for the building up of the body of Christ, and many physical and financial assets have been dedicated to the work of the Kingdom in our midst. As a result, we would like to take a moment to clarify our current position, look back to see just how far we have come, and to look forward to the bright vision we believe beckons us towards the future.
Integral to this vision for the future, of course, will be the installation of new elders to our congregation. And while we are not in a position, just yet, to present particular men for your consideration, I do want to address an important change we would like to make to the way our session functions.
At the moment, Christ Covenant operates with a rotary session. What that essentially means is that elders remain active for a four year term (our Form of Government specified a term of not less than three years) and then they rotate off when their term is over. Re-election is then necessary for them to serve again in the future. We would like to recommend that we stop this practice and revert to the more traditional non-rotary scheme practiced in most Presbyterian Churches. (NB Both schemes are allowed under the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church's Form of Government, Chapter 8, paragraphs 4-7)
In general terms, as your pastor, I believe a non-rotary session is the best way to run a church session. I say this for a number of reasons. First, men who have the spiritual, intellectual, and leadership gifts to be elders in the church are by definition a rare breed. Furthermore, like good wine, their gifts and character tend to mellow and mature with age (and with use). It makes little sense to me for a church to intentionally rob itself of these men's oversight and experience every 4 years. No doubt, there will be times when every elder will need to take a sabbatical break from service. But rather than impose this in a wooden and mechanistic fashion every 4 years. we believe a better system is for each man to request such a hiatus in his active service as he feels the need arises over time.
The persuasiveness of this logic only increases when you consider the particular challenges facing our own church in this season of tremendous growth, not to mention our desire to expand your existing session with between 2-4 new elders over the next few years. This already ambitious task will be rendered much more difficult if we start rotating Eric and then Jim off during that same period-- a period when their steady hand, clear head, and stout hearts would be so clearly needed at the helm and as a foundation while the new elders find their feet.
In favor of a rotating session, some would argue that it affords the church a painless way of weeding out unqualified or frankly unhelpful elders from the church leadership. It also prevents "Old Dogs" from having too much power and influence in the church. No doubt, in a purely pragmatic sense, this is true, and it certainly works in the boardroom. But we believe the Lord Christ has given the church more effective ways of addressing and if necessary removing rogue elders from the session. And, what is more, as I alluded above, the pragmatic logic. of a rotating session cuts both ways, indiscriminately removing both the bad and the good from a church's leadership every 4 years.
While there are arguments on both sides of this debate, we want to strongly recommend this change to the congregation on Sunday, and it is one on which you will need to vote in order for it to be approved. We will hold this vote in June when the congregation meets to approve the budget for the upcoming year. I trust you will prepare for this meeting in prayer. Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to contact Eric, Jim, or me. We want to help you make this change with informed consciences. Pressing on in Christ...