Men who are near kin serving in office together

Discussion in 'Church Office' started by Broadus, Aug 7, 2019.

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  1. Broadus

    Broadus Puritan Board Freshman

    We have an in-house debate among our elders whether we should include a clause in our bylaws prohibiting near kin from serving on staff together or as elders together or as active deacons together at the same time (near kin serving on the same “board”). Frankly, I find nothing in Scripture prohibiting near kin from serving on the same board and actually find support in Moses and Aaron chosen as leaders over Israel and Jesus’ choice of two pairs of brothers as apostles.

    What is driving the push, though, is experiential, having seen or known about a church where one family was thought to have too much control. My position is that the biblical principle is to examine the individual man as to doctrine and practice, not his blood relations.

    Besides, if a church has such a prohibition, what is the definition of near kin? A father and son? Two brothers? Two first cousins? An uncle and nephew? Father-in-law and son-in-law? What about two men who are lifelong best friends, closer than brothers? Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems silly and contrary to Scripture to me.

    Any thoughts?
  2. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    I can understand the concern of one family taking over. I've seen it become a negative thing. However, that is man's sight, determining things according to man's understanding and sinful actions of the past and others.

    If a man is called to an office of Christ's church, then who is anyone to stand in his way? God has called him.

    Now maybe theological/bible knowledge only is used too often to determine if one is to be ordained, but that's the elder's and congregation's sin for ordaining a man who is unqualified. There are many qualifications...

    Perhaps there are other things that a congregation and elders determine that a man is qualified by, but that shouldn't stop your congregation and your elders from ordaining a man who is thoroughly qualified (according to God) while at the same time being a family member of an already existing officer in the Church.
  3. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Forgive the cheeky touch but wasn’t Jesús related to some of his Twelve?
  4. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    A few questions.

    Why now?

    Is there a particular family being targeted?

    Looks like you all would have about 80 family units in the church, maybe 200 - 250 (I think I counted 108 parking spaces, which would work out to be a little smaller than that, and the officer count might suggest smaller, as well). More outsiders among the leadership than I would have guessed. So I do wonder if there is more of a back story to this.
  5. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    In my first congregation, my father was one of the members. In a previous church, he had served as an elder several times (we have term eldership in Reformed churches). In my first pastorate, however, even though he was nominated each year, he was never elected. As soon as I left, he was! It was strange to me, since my father and I are quite different. But the perception was that it would not be desirable to have a father and son on the consistory.

    In my current congregation, we have relations between some of our elders. We have two sets of brothers and then a number of in-law relationships as well. Through our congregational elections, it could have turned out differently. But this is the way it is. It seems to work okay. Just because two guys are brothers doesn't mean that they think identically on an issue, nor does it mean necessarily that they're best friends who could conspire together to achieve their own aims in the church.
  6. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I don't think I would change the bylaws to prohibit it, but the concern is not silly. Scandals sometimes arise when one family starts to rule a church, or appears to. As a general practice, it's probably good to think twice before electing a close relative of someone already serving. But an all-out prohibition might go too far.
  7. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Nepotism is a nasty sounding word. But I think it is usually a good idea. Of course, you have to judge each case on its own merits, but a good and godly family relationship often make excellent teams. I see nothing at all inherently wrong with family members serving together at the same time.

    Mary and Elizabeth were related, probably cousins making Jesus and John the Baptist cousins. Jesus, James, and John we're apparently first cousins. James and John's mother was Jesus aunt. There are still more connections, but I'm sure you get the drift by now. Godly family members working together I think should actually be preferred over non-relatives. Consider that half brothers and sisters of Jesus that were brought with him and later became followers of Jesus, James becoming prominent in the church in Jerusalem.
  8. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    Might there be possible legitimate concern in any circumstance for the abuse of power that could involve the establishment of a faction (whether among relatives or close friends)? This certainly has happened in the history of the church.

    To think that such can be avoided by restricting leadership ("a father and son may not be active office-bearers in the church") is simply misguided. The giftedness and calling of every man must be considered in its integrity and, if problems arise subsequently due to factionalism, duly dealt with at the time.

    It is fundamentally wrongheaded to think that we can so tweak our polity (church order, local bylaws, etc.) as to achieve the reformation that we need in the church. This is the error to which Ron spoke lately when Reformed brothers, seeing sin and other problems among independents, acted as if a proper church order eliminates such. The only thing that eliminates sin in this life is its mortification and in the next its defeat and extirpation from the new heavens and earth. No church order can eliminate sin among its practitioners: to think this is naive and to fail to understand the real dynamic and intractability of sin.

    In the meantime, we can achieve no utopia here by so manipulating the law as to achieve the desired state. This is one of those situations of hard cases making bad laws and the cure ending up killing the patient. We have no warrant to add to God's Word in this--none whatsoever, and thus there is no place to put in our by-laws something like "two brothers cannot serve in the governance of this church." Not only is there biblical precedence for brothers serving, it simply is a fleshly response that has an appearance of wisdom but upon a sober examination lacks it altogether.

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  9. Broadus

    Broadus Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you all for your input. What I described as "silly" in the OP was where such lines of near kinship would be drawn. I don't see how it can be done. And I agree wholeheartedly with Alan--the idea of regulating the potential for sin out of a fellowship in this age is completely out of touch with reality and the Scriptures.

    There is backstory here (there always is), but I wanted to keep the discussion away from particulars and more towards biblical teaching and principles.

    The reality is that there are few in the way of extended families in our fellowship, only a couple. Our church (some 75-80 in weekly worship) isn't exactly the "happening" place in town, and our county doesn't have much opportunity for employment, so adult children typically marry and move for employment reasons.
  10. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    There's a good reason why, historically, Reformed church polity (i.e. in the line of Dort) has never made any stipulations on such things.
  11. chuckd

    chuckd Puritan Board Sophomore

    My church the pastor's son is the youth pastor and secretary. Both are godly men and I've never suspected any issues of too much control. Now, if the entire session consisted of one family, it would look suspect, but I wouldn't write anything in the bylaws over it. Sounds like a solution looking for a problem.
    Jesus did not have any blood relatives besides Mary. According to tradition, she remained a virgin.
  12. Susan777

    Susan777 Puritan Board Freshman

    For real? Joseph “knew” her after she gave birth.
  13. Broadus

    Broadus Puritan Board Freshman

    I know of similar situations. Of course, there can be negative ones, especially when due diligence is not done before installation, but that's always a danger regardless relations.

    Yes--a solution looking for a problem
  14. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    I don’t think we should disqualify the qualified. That said, I’d be satisfied if we could curtail the proxy-impact of elders’ wives and their adult children.
  15. Broadus

    Broadus Puritan Board Freshman

  16. Hamalas

    Hamalas whippersnapper

    Seemed to work for Increase and Cotton Mather.
  17. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor


    I was going to suggest that 'Rome is that direction' but even the Papists don't go that far.
  18. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    A variety of theologians, in addition to Rome, including Luther, have supported the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. For Rome, it is dogmatic Marian doctrine. (We demur, of course, as it is not biblical.)

  19. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Do they also contend that Elizabeth and John the Baptist weren't blood relatives? That Jesus didn't have at least cousins that were blood relatives?

    Because, as I said, even Rome doesn't go that far.

  20. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    Sorry, Edward, I just picked up on the last part of the quote, which now I see was not what you were addressing.

    No, Rome does not contend that Jesus had no consanguinity with others.

  21. chuckd

    chuckd Puritan Board Sophomore

    Not sure what I was thinking when I wrote that. Probably the "related to the twelve" comment and I was thinking half brothers.
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