Over at the FutureAG blog, Tory Farina posts six questions he wants candidates for the Assemblies of God’s next general superintendent to answer. I think that’s a bad idea. Here’s my response.
As I wrote in an email to you, I’m opposed to asking these kind of questions of the candidates for several reasons:
1. The AG has a longstanding tradition that prospective national officers do not candidate for office. This has served the denomination well so far, and it fits within the biblical qualifications for office, which focus on character and proven competence rather than vision and future plans. I fear that if we begin to ask candidates essentially to write a platform for office, we will needlessly politicize the process, as people openly jockey for office. Do we really want our denomination’s elections to resemble our quadrennial presidential election campaigns? I don’t.
2. Some of the questions lend themselves to boilerplate responses. Most candidates will probably say that our biggest challenge is to make more and better disciples of Jesus Christ. I think, in fact, that all of the candidates would say something like that. We are, after all, an evangelistic movement. So what we will have learned if the responses are that generic? Nothing. The only thing we will learn is what jargon or lingo the prospective candidates use to express this basic vision.
3. Asking for specific policy ideas(women in ministry, outreach to younger ministers, etc.) is also not, in my opinion, a good idea. First, why focus only on these issues? We younger ministers think they are important, but they are not the only important issues our denomination is facing. Asking a candidate to declare what he is going to do may alienate people who like the person but disagree with the policies. Second, while the GS plays an influential role in shaping policy, much policy is actually determined by the board of administration, executive and general presbyteries, and even the general council.
4. Question 4 especially (about unique qualification) asks the candidates to openly campaign for themselves, and thus lends itself to a little chest-thumping.
5. One of the reasons many of us don’t know who these candidates are is because we are just showing up at general council for the first time. Many of us are uninvolved with the denomination (at the sectional, district, and general council levels). But all of a sudden, we are showing up on the scene, asking denominational leaders to change longstanding traditions, and respond to our specifric concerns as young ministers. If a person showed up at our churches one time and insisted that we make deep changes in our preaching and worship in order to satisfy his interests, we wouldn’t give them the time of day. Shouldn’t we be more involved in the system (at sectional, district, and general council levels) before we begin asking for major changes in the way things are done?
We younger ministers will lead this movement in the next generation. And we do things differently than the ministers and leaders older than us. But if we want them to respect us and our concerns, shouldn’t we show them the same respect by honoring longstanding traditions and refraining from politicizing this process?
We need an open forum for discussion, which is why I appreciate this blog so much, and especially your efforts. But we also need to realize that change takes time, and if we want to change the system, we must work from the inside. Asking potential candidates questions such as these, in my opinion, is an outsiders’ attempt to change the system.
See you at Indy!