There has always been a tension between being autonomous and being accountable, especially when it involves ordination and membership, which gives both parties the right to speak into each other’s lives and ministries. Our Network is built in a way that ensures mutual accountability without encroaching on local autonomy. We believe that each mature* local church should be completely autonomous; that is, locally governed, locally credentialed, and locally supported.
Our Elders Team does not have the authority to come into a local church and tell them how to function or who their pastor should be. This authority rests at the local church level. Our authority, or influence, comes from our example, teaching, and the advice we share.
However, we do require that each pastor and affiliate church be able to show that they have built real accountability into their lives. This would include a working Constitution that would guide them in decision-making and show them how to change pastors. It would also involve having an overseer appointed who can help them through any difficulties that may arise.
Our Elders Team does not provide specific oversight for any pastor or church, as our purpose is to oversee the entire Network. They would only provide specific oversight or pastoral care for a congregation if they were asked to do so because the church was in serious trouble. In such a case, the Elders may require that a system of church government be put in place that they feel would improve the life and function of that local church. This level of involvement would only happen if a congregation was in crisis or if the Elders were asked to help plant a church.
Our Elders Team would provide consultation and care for our pastors, overseers, and churches as they request it.
We think the ideal is that each local church should provide the credentials needed by their own pastors. Our goal would be to work with the church so they could do this legally and responsibly. Word of Grace would only provide temporary credentials for a pastor that was in development or transition. We would also help any affiliate church that needed assistance while going through the credentialing process.
Word of Grace Network does not own local church property or financially support pastors. Both of these would prevent the local church from truly being self-supporting and would require too much legislation, restriction, and oversight from our leaders.
In terms of accountability, we would want to know that each church is fiscally responsible and that they give a proper accounting to their members annually.
* A mature church is one that has developed to the stage that it can stand alone and has its own incorporation, constitution, and leadership in place.