Polity discussion at NACCC site

I was over at the website of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, seeing if there was more news about their forthcoming hymnal. It is an organization with a tidy little site, and they put church growth up as a priority on it. Lots of easy to download resources. Worth a look in any case.

Happened by their online forum and discovered a discussion prompted by a paper given at the Wisconsin Congregational Association by a colleague, the Rev. Sam Schaal, who is currently serving in a Congregational church in Wauwatosa.

Credentialing Ministers in the NACCC

I haven’t read the paper yet (which can by downloaded at the WCA site) but the discussion is pushing some buttons and raising issues around congregational polity. (Which I’m growing less and less enamored with.)

Still, one rarely sees these things played out in public, so go take a look.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. An interesting paper (what I have read of it so far) and I am beginning to wonder a bit, too about our (congregationalists in general) polity. Maybe we (you and me, Scott) are getting old, or maybe it is because we have passed the dreaded MFC. Still, it seems that the potential for abuse is high in our system as it is. I will read the rest and see if there is anything clever that I can add to the discussion…

  2. While congregational polity may be horribly flawed… I still think it is better than other commonly chosen options. Would you really want Methodist style episcopal polity?

    I’ve skimmed Sam’s paper. Key issues involve power, accountability, quality controll, and dissent. Congregational polity allows alot of freedom for dissent, but also alot of freedom for skirting quality control (as Adam points out). But do non-congregational polities provide higher quality clergy with more accountability? No! Not in my opinion. And I’ve got a spouse trying to get holy orders in an episcopal system.

    In my own case, as somebody who has been thoroughly blockaded by the MFC process (a process where my only hope for success would involve abandoning my spouse to relocate and meet internship requirements), I hardly see how more centralized credentialing is inherently better. The demonstable fact is that getting blessed by the MFC (or a bishop for that matter) simply means that one can succeed at jumping the hoops. I’ve met very gifted non-fellowshipped clergy who could not jump all the hoops; and I’ve met folks who got fellowshipped who are incompetent and mentally unstable, and who have repeatedly damaged the churches they’ve served.

    Congregational polity isn’t perfect, but I prefer its vagueries to the alternatives. The non-fellowshipped face reasonable limitations on their ecclesiastic standing, and congregational dissent allows for an escape valve in cases of injustice. Nobody ever said that the freedoms of congregational polity would come at no cost, and with no risks. But the risks of episcopal and presbyterian polity include forced conformity, and the abuse of influence by bishops and presbyters (who like to promote clergy candidates who are most like themselves).

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.