Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Duncan Document

Personal Thoughts
Re Duncan Document:

I grew up near Grand Junction, MI. Assisted by AC/AU and WPC, I pastored from June 3, 1951 and Sept. 18, 1996, retiring the week “VC” died. Although I received multiple offers to pastor various denominational churches, I stayed by choice--at a sacrifice.

Not being in any of the pastoral discussions of the Duncan Document, I add my 2-cents worth re said document. Some comments will sound Anti-Anderson, but should not be received that way. Anything negative I say is a lover’s quarrel, for I support the core of the document.

My Practice

I was a “company man” through 9 pastorates, although not always agreeing. I practiced mutual support and accountability among pastors and between congregation and the hierarchy. I actively supported the mainstream of the church (budget-wise et al) and gave generous time and support to district and state affairs, as well as involving myself trans-denominationally.

Wherever I lived, I participated actively in camp meeting life--altho never a camper--and the GA. For many years I have continued volunteering at Reformation Publishers and have nearly 40 years of adult involvement at Grand Junction’s Warner Camp.

Re Me-ism

I suggest the me-ism referred to from the 60s-70s (p3) came from multiple sources: culture, large churches like Dayton Salem who used independent SS literature, mission churches that needed establishing, and our anti-organization bias that allowed some to support their own missions outside the World Service budget--seen by some as non-mission causes. To categorize all of these simply as “cultural me-ism shows lack of understanding.

Re: Mutuality

I have participated in, and supported, national programs but I believe “Anderson” tends to hear in one direction only: This is a complaint I still hear in my retirement: Anderson speaks; the field complies. I believe this perception is wider than sometimes recognized.

Interestingly, my wife reminds me that we entertained many an executive at personal sacrifice, many who were “my” personal friends and peers, but I have yet to be reciprocated in any such manner. I mention this only as an aside to the one way street that has been too often taken for granted.

In the early 50s I was a World Service Day Man and could not get a hearing with World Service personnel about the double salary standard between people like me and “them.“ Although Stateside, I just as well have been in a cross-cultural context and when challenging the issue the answer was “it is comparable to others in similar context.” I and my congregation were living sacrificially to establish a local church (that I was paying off for some unwise older brethren), and I had none of the perks “they” had (for example: $45 wk salary and no Secretary and support system). I was brushed off without “empathy”!

As recently as the 80s I faced laypeople weekly that felt their first duty was to support national missions--Anderson--even if I did not get my pay check.

I do not see these as complying with the NT standard. The fact is, It took Robert Schuler to help me understand my need to stand up for myself in such matters.
Re: Our anti-organization bias

Our commonly accepted anti-organization bias shows up in many ways: the failure of pastors to understand the budgetary correlation between the Missions Board and for example the Board of CE. It showed up in pastors I frequently heard complain about GA attendance, confessing they didn‘t like such non-spiritual “business”. They took their expense accounts but frequently did not represent their congregations.

The demise of “VC” revealed much about us that was unhealthy. There was abundant blame for all sides, but I believe the church carries a HUGE blame for the demise of VC. In the crunch, the church--and pastors--did not understand needing to support what had originally been the church’s primary supporter and the single institution that helped us launch as a Movement and continued carrying “church” obligations for many years)

As Strege points out in I Saw the Church, several of the earliest crises came out of our lack of organization and/or our bias against it. That has been true throughout our history and it points up our need to mutually-discuss our common problems and reconcile those differences between our academic and institutional theorists and the practitioners, between our romanticized “heritage” and our factual “history,” (cf Strege) as well as the inconsistencies within our individual theological structures.

In Conclusion

The Bible is to the church what the Constitution is to our country. I, for one, read it as calling us back to the biblical “Body of Christ,” the Family of God concept that surges in some quarters. We will enjoy bodily health when our body parts function properly, both institutionally and on the field.

I do not support a top-down monolith; I am a strong believer in the "grass-roots" but at all levels I recognize that my hand and my body have mutual accountability. Let’s learn to listen to each other, hear each other, and "mutually function" without the politics of federalism vs. states rights. Neither our country nor our church can long maintain good health without resolving that discussion.

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