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October 22, 2014

Accountability: Why ECO Believes It Matters


Who holds you accountable?

Happy fall, y’all!!

This is my favorite time of year, not because of the changing season and cooling temperatures, but because it is the season of college football! It’s been a fascinating year so far and there’s much anticipation surrounding the inaugural college football playoffs. I’ve been intrigued by the discussion over the past week or so about two renowned players: Todd Gurley, a running back for the Georgia Bulldogs, and Jameis Winston, the quarterback for the Florida State Seminoles. Both players have gotten into a bit of trouble this season for breaking the rules — supposedly for accepting payment for signed memorabilia.

Winston, last year’s Heisman trophy winner, has had his fair share of woes and bad behavior beyond the latest autograph-for-payment controversy. Recently, on one of the national sports talk radio shows, a caller cried out to the show’s host, “I mean, really, who is holding this kid accountable for his actions?!” Immediately my ears perked up. Accountability is at the top of my mind constantly and continually and a key word in our ECO world.

The question raised by the caller was fresh on my mind as I pondered the recent news article about an Alabama pastor with the headline “Pastor’s secret included sex, drugs, HIV” Or, yet again, as my husband and I walk alongside a pastor friend and wife who are struggling mightily in their marriage. “Who is holding these people accountable for their actions?” I’ve thought. For what it’s worth, neither of these pastors are ECO pastors, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our own issues going on inside the ECO family. So, at the risk of beating the proverbial dead horse, please, if you have not gotten into a Pastoral Covenant Group yet, get connected to one today. Instead of being fussy about it, let me give you a few words of encouragement and reminders as to why this is so important in our life together in ECO.

Why ECO chooses Pastoral Covenant Groups (PCGs)

1. Being in a PCG is important for the cultural development of ECO

I don’t think I need to restate that being in a PCG is part of our ECO polity, it’s important for the health of our movement, or remind you of the biblical mandate “to spur one another on to love and good deeds.” Yet, I think it’s important to remember that our movement began with a desire for high trust among each of us in our life together. In order to have high trust, we must have high accountability. To further the development of the culture of ECO and within each of our presbyteries, we must all live into our covenantal relationship with one another. If we don’t develop the depth of authentic and accountable relationships among our leadership, it will be like we’re planting plastic flowers in a garden oasis. It’s not real and it won’t grow. Sure, it may look like everything is fine, but in reality, it’s just fake.

2. Being in accountable relationships with one another means job security

Well, I say that a bit with tongue in cheek, but thought that after reading the recent blog post of Thom Ranier who penned, The Ten Traits of Pastors Who Have Healthy Long-term Tenure. Ranier studied the long-term tenure of 30 pastors whose pastorates he considers healthy and loving. Trait #5 of the pastors studied reads, “They welcome structures that make them accountable. Certainly they don’t seek structures that hinder their leadership. But a leader who avoids accountability is headed down a path of destruction.”

3. The vision and work of PCGs connects us with our reformed heritage while equipping and nurturing us as pastoral leaders of the church today and for the future

I’m working my way through (albeit, quite slowly) Scott Manetsch’s recently published book Calvin’s Company of Pastors: Pastoral Care and the Emerging Reformed Church 1536-1609, which examines the pastoral ministry of Geneva during Calvin’s day. If you want a quick preview of the book and subject matter, check out this interview and discussion with the author.

I was particularly struck with Manetsch’s comments at the end of the interview when asked how Calvin might view the current pastoral culture today and what he might say to us. Manetsch responded with this,

“What Calvin might encourage us to do today is to recover a vision for collegial ministry where pastors are recognized as possessing the same calling, occupying the same office and thus being responsible to one another, responsible for correction, encouragement, holding one another accountable and providing what we might call continuing education.”

He goes on to acknowledge that our current context is very different from 16th century Geneva, but adds,

“Calvin’s example encourages us to be creative in the way we group pastors, companies of pastors, associations of pastors who know one another, who care for one another, who pray for one another and also hold one another accountable. So certainly the implementation of the specifics might well not be practical for today but the overall concern or what we might say Calvin’s vision for a collegial pastoral ministry, I think, is an encouragement and challenge for us today.”

Amen, Scott Manetsch! Yet, here we are in ECO giving it our best shot. Who knew we might just be making John Calvin proud?!

So, let me know how it’s going with you and your PCG. If you need to get connected in a PCG, I’d be happy to help, or you may have better luck connecting with your presbytery moderator or Chair of the MAT/MPT of the presbytery. And, if you need some suggested guidelines on how to structure your meetings, you can find a document on Pastoral Covenant Groups by clicking here.

Blessings, y’all!

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