Church Officer Rotation

Discussion in 'Ecclesiology' started by Knoxienne, Mar 31, 2009.

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  1. Knoxienne

    Knoxienne Puritan Board Graduate

    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. :)
  2. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    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.
  3. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    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).
  4. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist Staff Member

    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 (In my humble opinion) and certainly not to be found anywhere in Scripture.
  5. Knoxienne

    Knoxienne Puritan Board Graduate

    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.
  6. baron

    baron Puritan Board Graduate

    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.
  7. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist Staff Member

    That's what the BCO suggests.

    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.

    Certainly I drew no such implication from your statements :)
  8. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

  9. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist Staff Member

    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.)
  10. Knoxienne

    Knoxienne Puritan Board Graduate

    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.
  11. MMasztal

    MMasztal Puritan Board Sophomore

    Our church officers serve 4 year terms and then take one year sabbatical.
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