The following is Synod 2012's response to Overture 52: Revise Church Order Article 40-c.That synod insert the word ordinarily in Church Order Article 40-c so it will read: “ordinarily the same person shall not preside twice in succession.”Grounds:There is no scriptural warrant for limiting the term of presiding officers.This will allow each classis to judge what is most beneficial for the local churches in different times, places, and circumstances.This honors the principle of Church Order Article 85.(Acts of Synod 2012, p. 768)
The Church Order wants to avoid the dangers associated with people who stay in their leadership role too long. I applaud that. Organizations get into ruts, things go stale, power-hungry people hold onto power, we are led by the willing instead of the capable, innovation becomes rare, vision dims, and who knows what else could befall us when we keep leaders in place too long.
Yet it’s become all too evident that councils and classes are very often weakened by the constant turnover they experience in membership and in leadership. Now we have a change in the Church Order that allows for more discernment at the level of classis – what kind of leadership do we need for this situation at this time? What do we need to get us from here to there? What WILL we need to ensure we can cope with coming change in the environment? Whom is God calling? Who has the skills, and the experience, to lead?
As we’ve noted in an earlier blog, leadership at the middle judicatory is different from leadership in the congregation in some important ways. Now we have the option of choosing for continuity, and retaining the gifts of the current leader of classis if that’s what the situation calls for. Are the most needed leaders at the classical level also the busiest people? Often that’s true. If classis is going to be not just reformed but transformed, and if classis is going to be not just transactional but transformational, then we need to attend to leadership at the classis. Classis has far too much potential to be allowed to squander the time of the delegates for a whole day. The denomination urgently needs healthy middle judicatories. Congregations need them even more.