Your denomination is undergoing a massive structural reorganization, and you are the expert consultant. They will probably take your advice. Of the following methods that are currently in use in different churches, which method of selecting pastors do you recommend? I asked a number of people, and here is what they said:
- 56% of them:
- Recommended that a lay committee within the congregation select the pastor within the denomination’s requirements for credentials and background checks. The pastor cannot be fired without getting higher church authorities involved. (Used by, among others, the Episcopal Church of the USA)
- 21% of them:
- Recommended that the pastor be assigned to the local church by a higher church jurisdiction, which certifies qualifications, performs background checks, and monitors their performance. The higher jurisdiction can also remove the pastor. There is a mechanism for congregations to express their grievances or preferences. (Used by, among others, the United Methodist Church)
- 11% of them:
- Had a different idea that is not listed here.
- 7% of them:
- Recommended that the congregation hire and fire the pastor, within the denomination’s requirements for credentials and background checks. (Used by, among others, many Baptist churches.)
- 5% of them:
- Recommended that the congregation hire and fire the pastor without any restrictions from the denomination. (Used by, among others, many Baptist churches)
I was surprised by the results. I thought everyone would vote for congregational autonomy. However, I have been through the agony of having the congregation elect the pastor, and perhaps many of you have, too. I agree with the majority; I like the first method best myself. However, in practice, these methods are converging. Most autonomous congregations, for example, rely heavily on a pulpit committee and require credentials, while in practice Methodists often have more input into the process than in the past.
Marion Mayes wrote with a different idea:
Having been reared in the Southern Baptist church and having spent most of my adult life in the United Methodist Church, I prefer the Methodist process. I have experienced a couple of perfectly awful situations under the Baptist process. The Methodist process is less than perfect though. I think that a combination of your first and last suggestions might be better. The church should have a lay committee which gives a great deal of input as the bishop and the bishop’s cabinet deliberate the appointments. The bishop should have the last word on the appointment and a pastor should not be dismissed without the approval of the bishop and cabinet.