Let’s hand over church governance to some kids
Specifically, I think it might do us well to let the Sunday School class at Mark Harris’s parish govern our church. He recently had the chance to spend some time with the kids in his church, and he writes about the experience:
They had been talking the previous week about the disciples and so the take off point was to ask them first how did the disciples get to be that, and then what do suppose they did when they started getting arrested, or god old or died? So we talked about prayer and asking the Holy Spirit to fill new followers with the gifts to lead the Jesus people into life together.
That got us to bishops. So they all made miters and place cards. “Bishop Lizzie,” “Bishop Josep,” etc. We sat around the table and I called the meeting to order and we proceeded to talk about the following questions, and took votes.
The questions were:
- Should Children receive Communion? 5 for 2 against. We then talked about what happens if you are in the minority. Answer, go to church, don’t receive.
- Should women be priests? 6 for 1 against. The person who voted against did so, it appears, just so there would some opposition.
- If someone does something really really really bad – like killing their whole family, the dog and a next door neighbor – should they be punished by killing them? (by now two more children had joined us) 5 against 4 for.
- Question: what do we do if it is close? You could see the light go on in one kid’s head: “I know, the majority rules.” We talked about that. In the end we said, this is what the church says, but if you disagree you are still part of the church.
- Can a person who cannot read be a priest? This really puzzled the kids, but one of the younger, who can’t read very well yet, said that he thought yes. Somebody else could read, but the priest could still lead.
This is thoughtful reflection. The kids get it. Which is more than I can say for the Houses of Bishops and Deputies lots of the time. Spend time reading the voluminous email traffic of the HoB/D list, and you encounter a very shrill conversation. Again and again, grown-ups hurl ad hominem attacks at one another. Again and again, these adults argue about sexuality while the church’s fundamental mission is ignored.
Sure, sexuality is important. But it’s also important that our church’s attendance is dwindling. It’s also important that we often appear to have forgotten who we are. And so it goes. We don’t leave ourselves much time or energy for these important conversations, because the grown-ups go back & forth on issues of sexuality. When someone (usually a GenXer or younger) points this out, patronizing replies roll in. There’s no room for other conversations while the baby boomers duke it out.
So I’m officially in favor of letting Mark’s elementary school kids take over. I think they’ll have some great ideas and not so much baggage. Our church would definitely be a more fun place to be! If we need a grown-up to run the show, Mark can do that job, or our current Presiding Bishop. I think she’d enjoy the improvement of working with second- through sixth-graders.