Friday, June 17, 2011

Denominational Accountability and the PCA

I made a comment on the blog Johannes Weslianus concerning Dr. Bryan Chapell's membership on the Standing Judicial Commission of the PCA, reflecting that it represented a problem with accountability in our denomination. A brother gave me a well-stated and kindly challenge on my comment and I explained my concerns in more detail as follows:


I don't think that Bryan Chapell is ill-intentioned by any means. As far as I know he is a godly guy. I am simply pointing out that denominations in our age tend to fall through their seminaries. If anyone thinks that age is over, they should cast an eye towards Erskine and the ARP. Dr. Chapell's position on the SJC violates both the principle of layered accountability and the principle of separation of responsibility.

Since seminaries are a danger point for a denomination, what does it mean for him to be on the SJC? Well, does anyone think that if he were to fail to deal with a professor as the president that he would be vigorous on the SJC? Accountability doesn't mean much when everyone's well-intentioned and responsible, it's meant to provide protection when people are NOT well intentioned or responsible.

So if Dr. Chapell were NOT doing his job well, then someone would catch it. Except in this case all the people dealing with the problem would either be the one who was asleep at the switch or part of the problem (Chapell) or people who had very close relationships with the guy who was either asleep at the switch or telling them "everything's" fine (the rest of the SJC). It's just a really bad idea.

Accountability means that there's some kind of system or structure to catch things is there's ever a problem. I don't have a half-glass office door because my elders don't trust me, I do it for accountability.

If you want another PCA example, look over at MTW. Dr. Kooistra serves as the coordinator (CEO) and his brother serves as CFO. In accounting, this is called "an issue of deficiency in control." To compound that, I understand that the Permanent Committee on MTW operates with a much smaller Executive Committee which makes the key decisions. Roger Kooistra is on that Committee, which increases his influence and power within the organization.

Now, I am confident that Dr. and Mr. Kooistras (did I say that right?) have the absolute best of intentions. But accountability is not about intentions, it's about wisdom and the acknowledgement that the best men are still sinners.

Does anyone else find it uncomfortable that the Strategic Planning and old PPLN process was dominated by Committee Heads (otherwise known as the best paid denominational employees) and their closest allies and that said process resulted in less functional power for the Committees of Commissioners (otherwise known as the accountability structure for the Permanent Committees)? Nobody sold it like that. It was for "efficiency" and "encouragement of ruling elder attendance." But if we cut all of the talking points away, the employees of the denomination spearheaded an effort which resulted in their oversight structures being less powerful.

Did they do it for bad intentions? Probably not. Is it a good idea? Not at all.

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