Gospel Order—Some Guidelines for Eldering Discipline
March 4, 2016 § Leave a comment
While serving in the early 1990s on New York Yearly Meeting’s Ministry & Counsel Coordinating Committee, as it was then called, which had oversight for the yearly meeting committees concerned with worship, ministry, and pastoral care, and for the support of worship, ministry, and pastoral care in the local meetings, I participated in a few “interventions” with meetings that were experiencing conflict or difficulties of some kind with members.
In that service, I noticed some themes that were common to all these cases:
- Meetings inevitably wished that they had acted more decisively and sooner than they did.
- They wished that they had talked with each other more about what was going on; a culture of silence had masked unacceptable behavior.
- They were not clear collectively as a ministry or pastoral care committee or as a meeting about what exactly was not acceptable behavior.
- They had experienced some denial, considerable confusion about how to act, and a deep hesitancy to act in a way that might harm someone, even when that someone was harming others or the fellowship or the worship.
- They lost members, and some who did not leave still felt deeply betrayed or hurt by the meeting’s actions and/or inactions.
When we set out to create the Gospel Order Packet, I developed two documents intended as aids to a meeting’s efforts to protect the worship and protect the fellowship of the meeting. One was a tentative list of unacceptable behavior and the other was a set of “triggers” and response to those triggers, a list of behaviors or incidents that should attract the meeting or committee’s attention, and some tentative general suggestions about what to do when these things happened.
I have converted these to pdf files, which you can download using the links below, and I have also entered them as their own blog posts.