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Ecclesiology discuss Church Officer Rotation in the Theological Forum forums; When we began attending a URCNA church a little over four years ago, we learned of their policy of rotating their church officers. I believe ...

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    Knoxienne's Avatar
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    Church Officer Rotation

    When we began attending a URCNA church a little over four years ago, we learned of their policy of rotating their church officers. I believe this is also the practice of the RCUS. We were unfamiliar with this practice, as they do not practice this in the OPC.

    When I asked one URCNA elder why this is done, he said that it's easy for officers to get tired after awhile and they need a break every so often. This is understandable. Both offices require lots of hard work in addition to the normal everyday load of a job/career and providing for a home and family, etc.

    He also said that if elders are serving for too long a period, they tend to get "heavy-handed" because of burn-out. It would seem to me, however, that heavy-handedness (if that's even a word!) can come from other things other than just fatigue.

    I'd like to know people's thoughts on the subject - both pro and con. I'd really like to study this subject further and I'd like your views! Thank you all.
    Toni Cunningham, Wife of Bill (Theognome)
    Parkwoods OPC, Overland Park KS


    "Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, As, to be hated, needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace." ~ Alexander Pope

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    We had that in the APK in South Africa, and the reasoning was similar in that it was pragmatic. In their case it was that a secret society was dominating the churches and a rotation would keep them from having too much power.

    I don't see where it's anywhere allowed in Scripture, and I've never heard any but pragmatic reasons.
    Tim Vaughan
    Member, Redeemer Presbyterian, OPC,
    Santa Maria
    California

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    I don't think it is constitutionally required in our denomination but particular churches often limit church officers (ruling elders and deacons) to two 3 year terms, then they must take at least 1 year off (something like a sabbatical).
    Scott
    PCA
    North Carolina


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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott1 View Post
    I don't think it is constitutionally required in our denomination but particular churches often limit church officers (ruling elders and deacons) to two 3 year terms, then they must take at least 1 year off (something like a sabbatical).
    This is the practice that I'm most familiar with in the PCA - and it seems odd (and out of accord with the spirit of the BCO) to force sabbaticals on serving elders. Sabbaticals by request make sense... forced rotation seems completely wrong (imho) and certainly not to be found anywhere in Scripture.
    Todd K. Pedlar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toddpedlar View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott1 View Post
    I don't think it is constitutionally required in our denomination but particular churches often limit church officers (ruling elders and deacons) to two 3 year terms, then they must take at least 1 year off (something like a sabbatical).
    This is the practice that I'm most familiar with in the PCA - and it seems odd (and out of accord with the spirit of the BCO) to force sabbaticals on serving elders. Sabbaticals by request make sense... forced rotation seems completely wrong (imho) and certainly not to be found anywhere in Scripture.
    Good point - I never thought of it before as a "forced sabbatical". And I was just thinking, "Can't the officers request a sabbatical as needed?"

    I'm wondering if the practice doesn't encourage laziness in character - i.e., Oh, I'm not an elder right now - even though I can give sound counsel to "this couple" and should, let Joe handle it because he's "on". Or, yeah, I could clean the Widow Simpson's gutters and mow her lawn and trim her hedges, but I'm "off" right now and Jack can do it because he's "on".

    Please do not take the above paragraph the wrong way. I am not in any way saying I've seen attitudes like this or accusing any officer of laziness or any character flaw in any church we've been in. I'm just speculating for the potential for those type of attitudes with a rotation-type structure.
    Toni Cunningham, Wife of Bill (Theognome)
    Parkwoods OPC, Overland Park KS


    "Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, As, to be hated, needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace." ~ Alexander Pope

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    In the Baptist church I attend we have three year terms for our deacons. One deacon every year is always supposed to rotate out if they want to. Even if they do not want to the nominating committee can always put forth another qualified mans name. The problem is our church is so small that we do not have the men to fill the position. My term is up this year and I am conserding not seeking re-election.

    We have some men who are filling three or four jobs in the church at this time. So some men do become burned out.
    John Komenda
    Attending: Refreshing Springs Church
    Buffalo, New York
    http://www.refreshingspringsministri...c_id=140000066

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    Quote Originally Posted by Knoxienne View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by toddpedlar View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott1 View Post
    I don't think it is constitutionally required in our denomination but particular churches often limit church officers (ruling elders and deacons) to two 3 year terms, then they must take at least 1 year off (something like a sabbatical).
    This is the practice that I'm most familiar with in the PCA - and it seems odd (and out of accord with the spirit of the BCO) to force sabbaticals on serving elders. Sabbaticals by request make sense... forced rotation seems completely wrong (imho) and certainly not to be found anywhere in Scripture.
    Good point - I never thought of it before as a "forced sabbatical". And I was just thinking, "Can't the officers request a sabbatical as needed?"
    That's what the BCO suggests.

    I'm wondering if the practice doesn't encourage laziness in character - i.e., Oh, I'm not an elder right now - even though I can give sound counsel to "this couple" and should, let Joe handle it because he's "on". Or, yeah, I could clean the Widow Simpson's gutters and mow her lawn and trim her hedges, but I'm "off" right now and Jack can do it because he's "on".
    Well, that example is really a diaconal task but I get your point. I don't think a rotation scheme encourages laziness, though. What it does do is confuse the congregation... it makes the eldership almost a political function, I think. Honestly I think the practice is absymal and denigrates the meaning of the office, and what you end up having, then, is a session that's ruled by the pastor, because he's the permanent one - the rest end up being his servants in a sense.

    Perhaps the rotation scheme is older than the 20th century, but it seems to me to be a modern phenomenon - where "fresh blood" is deemed to be needed for an organization to run smoothly and responsively. It's a mistaken idea, but it seems quite prevalent when I talk to people about my opposition to a forced rotation scheme.

    Please do not take the above paragraph the wrong way. I am not in any way saying I've seen attitudes like this or accusing any officer of laziness or any character flaw in any church we've been in. I'm just speculating for the potential for those type of attitudes with a rotation-type structure.
    Certainly I drew no such implication from your statements
    Todd K. Pedlar
    member, First Congregational Church, (CCCC) Cresco, IA
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    [quote=Knoxienne;585585]
    Quote Originally Posted by toddpedlar View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott1 View Post
    I don't think it is constitutionally required in our denomination but particular churches often limit church officers (ruling elders and deacons) to two 3 year terms, then they must take at least 1 year off (something like a sabbatical).
    This is the practice that I'm most familiar with in the PCA - and it seems odd (and out of accord with the spirit of the BCO) to force sabbaticals on serving elders. Sabbaticals by request make sense... forced rotation seems completely wrong (imho) and certainly not to be found anywhere in Scripture.

    Good point - I never thought of it before as a "forced sabbatical". And I was just thinking, "Can't the officers request a sabbatical as needed?"

    Another thing I have noticed. About every 7 years (or so) it has seemed the Senior Pastor (teaching elder) gets very tired and the session graciously intervenes and gives him some sort of extended leave (e.g. a 3 month "sabbatical"). Wouldn't it also be appropriate to build that in for them as well- you have got me thinking. Thanks.

    I'm wondering if the practice doesn't encourage laziness in character - i.e., Oh, I'm not an elder right now - even though I can give sound counsel to "this couple" and should, let Joe handle it because he's "on".
    Also what I've noticed (local practice observation only) is that "inactive" officers form a pool of support for the "active" ones, e.g. if there is an (active) deacon unavailable, they immediately can go to the "inactive." This works well.
    Scott
    PCA
    North Carolina


    Post Tenebras Lux; "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever." - Revelation 11:15

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    One thing I've *never* heard suggested is a forced term rotation for pastors... but if the ruling elders are on a rotating schedule where each is put out for a year's "sabbatical" on a regular basis, why isnt' the other elder (the teaching elder) put out to pasture like that also? All the arguments I've *ever* heard against putting the pastor on a rotation scheme just as the RE's are are successful arguments against a rotating scheme of any kind. (i.e. that he's specially *called* to his office <so are the REs>, i.e. that continuity is important in his role <that's true for REs also>, that it would be confusing for the congregation <ditto in the case of REs>, that his authority would be thereby lessened in the congregation's eyes <ditto> etc., etc.)
    Todd K. Pedlar
    member, First Congregational Church, (CCCC) Cresco, IA
    My Blog: In Principio Deus
    24/7 Reformed Internet Radio: Sola5 Radio

    "As God did not at first choose you because you were high, He will not now forsake you because you are low."
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    Knoxienne's Avatar
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    "What it does do is confuse the congregation... it makes the eldership almost a political function, I think. Honestly I think the practice is absymal and denigrates the meaning of the office, and what you end up having, then, is a session that's ruled by the pastor, because he's the permanent one - the rest end up being his servants in a sense.

    "Perhaps the rotation scheme is older than the 20th century, but it seems to me to be a modern phenomenon - where "fresh blood" is deemed to be needed for an organization to run smoothly and responsively. It's a mistaken idea, but it seems quite prevalent when I talk to people about my opposition to a forced rotation scheme."

    I've never thought about CO rotation leading to the pastor running the congregation before, but it certainly makes sense.

    But the "fresh blood is deemed to be needed" quote does smack of pragmatism and seems to be the same logic of term limits in the civil realm. If a ruler rules justly, he should continue ruling! That would be one reason I would think rotation denigrates the office.
    Toni Cunningham, Wife of Bill (Theognome)
    Parkwoods OPC, Overland Park KS


    "Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, As, to be hated, needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace." ~ Alexander Pope

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    MMasztal's Avatar
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    Our church officers serve 4 year terms and then take one year sabbatical.
    Michael Masztal
    Ruling Elder, Chapel By The Sea, ARP
    Melbourne Beach, FL

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