Plural eldership – principle or practice

At our Union Learning Community today we ended up talking about how we approach the question of plral leadership. We spent a little bit of time talking about approaches that emphasise a single leader within the hierarchy. What We actually tried to do here was be fully empathetic with the view and understand the arguments for it ( I may try and include a post on this sometime). This was stretching. However, I think that our group remained convinced at the end that leadership in general and leadership in particular should be plural. 

The challenge is that we can say that in principle but how do we actually work that out in practice, especially when we are in churches as the only paid/ full time worker and the only theologically trained worker.

Here are some of the things we talked about.

1. We should not treat our theological training as personal and privileged knowledge but should seek to help fellow elders grow in their knowledge, love and competence to teach God’s word and pastor the flock. The aim is not that other elders sit back and let one paid elder tackle the challenging stuff but that all are spurred on together.

2. A vital question to consider is ” What happens when we don’t get our way on key ideas. Do we sulk? Do we exercise veto? Do we walk out. If the church does not buy into my vision does that mean I must leave and go somewhere else? That will really test whether or not I believe in plural leadership.

3. Do different leaders take responsibility for chairing church meeting and presenting proposals?

4. We talked about the difference between democratic votes, veto, consensus and seeking to come to one mind on what God’s will is. This means that I don’t simply go along with a decision but if I am of a different view, I am ready to change my mind in the light of Scripture and the wisdom of others. It also is different from hiding behind  collective responsibility.

5. It means we must not be tempted to act as the final court of appeal. It may be tempting for people to think that if they do not like one elders decision that they can appeal to the pastor. It also tempting for us (indeed for any other elder) if we were not party to a conversation to want to see the person ourselves before we make our mind up. However, we should trust other elders to act in  a wise, godly, biblical way in their dealings with pastoral situations. This also means we should be careful as elders to ensure that we do act and speak in a way we know will reflect the common mind of all the elders.