Credibility and the Christian Church.


  • the quality of being trusted and believed in.
  • the quality of being convincing or believable.

Our current theologians, church fathers and congregants wring their hands over the fate of the Church universal. For right or wrong it is a fact that the Christian Church is struggling worldwide.

What has been happening to the Church Universal over two millennia that has brought us to the current state; loss of pride, loss of churches, loss of congregants, loss of belief and faith.

This document will present the issues of credibility within the church from both a real and imagined view. First, what are some points that may be made regarding the mission of the church:

1. Bring the word of Christ to the people

2. Come together in common fellowship

3. Embrace the Sacraments

4. Exist in harmony with diverse societies, traditions, and cultures. Our Christian witness should respect, honor, and seek to understand the value of other cultures and traditions

5. Respect and practice moral and ethic precepts as presented in biblical text (The Old Testament Commandments and the New Testament Commandments of Jesus)

6. Serve the needy

7. Establish prayer as a way to strengthen faith

8. Embrace all peoples as part of the church no matter their status in life; the words of salvation are not in place just for the ‘faithful’, and the ancient (and some contemporary) liturgies are split into two parts for that reason. The sinners require the word as much as the faithful.

9. “Go forth...”

10. “Do this...”

These points should suffice to set a simple base to work from.

The issue of credibility is a complex subject, so we shall at random record issues that have, and are, affecting the church; past, present and future.

1. Sex abuse in many, if not most, of the mainstream churches

2. Drug and alcohol abuse

3. Secular politics as part of church operations

4. Denouncing the norms of morality and ethics in favor of secular endeavors

5. Internal church politics

6. Running a church as a business with a secular business model

7. Seminaries train theologians rather than practicing priests

8. Accreditation processes that are designed for Secular Universities with no relationship to religious training.

9. Accreditation agencies that operate on a financial business model and drive seminary costs to an unsustainable level

10. Accreditation processes that are corrupt and based on a form of conflict of interest – Many accreditation members are the individuals who sit on the seminary boards and hence accredit themselves.

11. Rampant schismatic practices

12. Canons and rubrics based on ‘what we think’ and traditions rather than hard spiritual facts

13. Lack of fellowship and active participation within the church clergy or membership

14. Independent churches that reinvent the wheel, attempting to do something new but end up formatting themselves in the same operational mode as the mainstream churches they denounce

15. Creating church plants in areas that can only support ‘missions’ and hence create tensions for a small church plant that will only struggle for survival with no hope of growth or stability

16. Operating churches with no accountability (Churches that only exist on ‘paper’)(A First Amendment Church without a regulating charter or accountability document)

17. Clergy that DEBATE as theologians rather than practicing the solace of the church: (Sacraments, homiletics, shepherding, prayer, liturgical, fellowship)

18. Independent churches that steal clergy from other independents with the promise of titles

19. Independent clergy that most literally ‘take over’ the church they are part of. In many cases pirating the name, web presence and sometimes finances.

20. Seminaries that utilize ‘backscratching’ where, in a peer evaluation, a peer institution will ask special favor of another peer to give favorable evaluation for the promise of ‘like kind’ response

21. Clergy that place secular above the divine

22. Churches that place canons and rubrics above love of the divine and FAITH

23. Churches that treat the liturgy as a Broadway play or rock concert

24. Priests who practice as theologians rather than priests

24. Clergy that only desire honorifics

25. Clergy that utilize the pulpit for their personal oratory, and not for the praise of the divine or even the simple teaching of the congregants

26. Clergy, church fathers and congregants that attack the operation of other organizations rather than concentration on the operations of their organization

These points should suffice to set a simple base to work from.

The above points demonstrate some elementary reasons why Independent Movements came into existence. Clergy had the honest foresight to visualize the issues of the church and with good intentions desired a change.

The intentions and expectations have gravely fallen short.

The issues today with any independent movement revolve around the fact that is in a ‘movement’, always moving, changing with no finite focus or endgame. There simply is no consensus on direction or mission.

What are some of the points that indicate the struggles of the Independent Churches:

1. The belief that forming the church and registering it with the government makes it credible. Here in the United States that is only true if the Independent Church or Communion wishes to operate as a business, with tax law accountability and legal protections. This is called a 501c3 Not for Profit. It is nothing more than tax protection and access to certain monetary transactions and even grants. The draw backs are the cost of the proper filing, the law restricting the churches free speech and the fact that the church relinquishes to some extent their 1st Amendment Rights.

The Independent and Communions that file as a 508c1a (a 501c3 with ‘exceptions’ for churches) is just as valid. This filing has the benefits of NOT reporting in any way to the Federal Government, it operates as a state entity only. The draw back is not all agencies are required to honor this Not for Profit State (Under the Johnson act 1959). This would include certain grants or something as simple as “Facebook” donation registration as examples. Again, this really does not create a status of credibility.

In the United States there are also ‘First Amendment Religious’ organizations. They exist outside of State or Federal laws or ‘direct’ oversight. The Independents that operate as a First Amendment Organization take 100% responsibility for operating within the general and tax laws of the State and Federal Government, unlike a 508c1a or 501c3 where the board takes legal responsibility. This type of organization is no more or less credible than its registered peer.

2. Charging money to belong to an independent church or communion does not create credibility. In some cases yes, certain costs must be covered. This is a simple fact. That not withstanding, prices are HIGHLY elevated in most organizations and the organization operates with those finances much like a secular business. Money does not buy credibility.

3. The Independents desire to create physical churches just like the mainstream churches, desire tithe money, set canons and rubrics and operate with the same or similar ‘governmental’ structure.

The independents are increasingly targeting the precepts of the mainstream churches: Paid clergy, huge church finances, forcing expensive accredited seminary training and training theologians rather than practicing clergy.

Why? Rather than following the EXACT model of the mainstream organizations, why not simple join an existing organization that operates EXACTLY like the organization the Independents are forming? 

4. The Independents desire extensive continued formation for the clergy and are reinventing the wheel to define and deliver that formation. 

Why? Rather, why not utilize the formation processes of a plethora of organizations that have years, if not centuries, of experience far above and beyond the Independent. 

5. The Independents have come to believe that a ‘physical’ church is the only real church. For a good while in history, the independents did a great job locating and assisting the disenfranchised. Now, just like their mainstream brethren, they will create “cliques” of churches and the disenfranchised will remain forgotten. 


Credibility of a church, communion or other religious entity is not inherently tied to any government entity in the U.S, or other countries for that matter. The only reason for governmental registration is legal protection if someone does something outside the law, usually tax law. 

Credibility of clergy is not directly tied to accredited seminaries. The accreditation system in American higher education began in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a way for colleges and universities with high academic standards to distinguish themselves from institutions that had curricula based on the primary education model. 1 

Accreditation was a ‘voluntary’ process until 1944. The GI Bill of that era allowed veterans to use federal funds for a college of their choice. After an initial attempt to allow states to generate a list of ‘approved’ colleges, the issue of corruption in the process was raised and affected the release of federal funds. The Federal Government did not process a law until 1952 to create a federal system of accepted accreditation agencies. 2 For a one and a half millennia, clergy where not trained in university. The training of clergy was accomplished either in a monastic environment of by apprenticeship. Many of the most accomplished church fathers were trained this way. Seminary was ONLY the purview of theologians; those individual who wished to do translation, research and debate. What theologians learned was passed on to the church hierarchy, the information trickled down to the priests in the form of liturgical and rubrics changes. One example of this was the priesthood of Martin Luther. In 1507, Luther was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Jerome Schultz. Luther did not earn his bachelor's degree in biblical studies on March 9, 1508. 3Hence, he was a practicing priest long before he held a religious degree. Once he achieved higher degrees, he then became a professor of ‘biblia’. The previous statement is of great consequence, Luther was a priest BEFORE university training in religion. 

Credibility of clergy is not determined by theological ‘acedemia’ formats of study, as a priest is not a theologian – they actually perform liturgies, sacraments, shepherding and present the solace of the church. Practicing clergy have no need for extreme debate, translations of nebulous texts, or advanced research that will not benefit the masses they serve. The job of practicing clergy is to bring the word of living bible to the people based on faith, serve the needy, bring fellowship and solace to the people. 

Credibility of a church is not tied to owning physical property. While there are benefits to a central meeting place, the practice alienates those who are disenfranchised or physically incapable of attendance. 

Credibility of a church, or communion of other religious entities is not tied directly to charging ‘fees’ to be part of the ‘club’. 

Credibility of clergy is not tied to making a living wage off of the people they serve. The apostles who were fisherman did not get paid by the ‘church’, when they were done evangelizing the went HOME to their jobs and family. Paul payed for his ministry and travels by performing duties as a tent maker. 

Credibility is lost quickly in many churches (and by clergy) that introduce far to many ‘secular’ activities and policies into an organization. 

Credibility will never be fully achieved without ‘fellowship’. People of the church feel a part of something if they can dine, pray or socialize before or after Mass. The ancient church succeeded because the church met as a family. 

Credibility will wane in large churches, and this is seen by the decline in attendance at many of the larger churches worldwide. People do not feel ‘a part of something special’. The ability to have true fellowship with 300+ congregants is logistically unrealistic. 

Credibility of a church in large part is defined as the love of the people for the sacredness of the Mass, its meaning and presentation. The liturgies before the 19th and 20th century where beautiful in content and context. The liturgies of today are watered down, lack liturgical value and some designed to get the congregants ‘in and out’ as fast as possible. 

Credibility of the Sacraments has waned over the decades. No one takes them seriously, clergy or congregants alike. 

Church plants with no planning on what ‘benefits’ clergy can bring to the table for a group has created a credibility issue of its own. 

Credibility is being challenged by tradition. There is nothing wrong with tradition. Yet, church traditions based outside of ‘biblical’ FACT are a turn off to many clergy and congregants. Tradition based on ‘we think this is what Christ and the Apostles wanted’ or a single act in biblical text that is contradicted somewhere else will lead to controversy and disenchantment later. 

Independent churches that ‘cannibalize’ a church (schism) in order to fulfill their desire for power, control or just arrogance have done great credibility damage that may never be overcome. 

Churches of huge numbers of ‘titled’ clergy with few or no minor practicing clergy (priests/deacons) damage the credibility of all independent. 

Putting this all in context: (This is the process many startups follow, and the bullets are designed to target and organization that wishes to ‘provide’ credibility) 

  • Create a church/communion/organization to ‘create’ a credible environment for clergy and churches alike.
  • Register the church for TAX purposes.
  • Create an environment where all clergy must have at ‘least a bachelors degree’.
  • Pay the clergy. (They need to be paid to offset the extreme debt of an accredited seminary degree) ($80,000 to $130,000+ assuming seminary expenses and possible room/board at $14,000+ per year)
  • Have paid church fathers.
  • Buy property.
  • Create a bunch of canons and rubrics.
  • Have a membership fee for clergy or churches. (Assuming the organization is creating credibility standards).
  • Chose a liturgy.
  • Recruit congregants (or clergy if the organization is setting only credibility standards).
  • Collect tithes.
  • Other church organizational stuff.

Why? Creating an Independent Church is one thing. But, creating a communion or religious organization to dictate credibility is counter productive. After deciding on the bullet points listed above, we have just created the IMAGE of the exact structure of organizations that already exist.

Why not join the WCC, ICCC, AFC, Union of Utrecht, Anglican Communion, Orthodox Church or even the Roman Church? 

We just created another image of what we claim we do not wish to be. We just created another denominational rift in a church worldwide that is fragmented in many thousands of sects. 

It must be understood that certain organizations have been created because of issues outside their control; a church, communion or religious organization that was abused by others, in many cases multiple times and went off on their own to protect themselves from the abuse. This is not the intent of this document to discuss that particular situation, This document targets the abusers, not the abused. 

The question any organization must ask is: “What is different regarding our credibility policies? What is our finite rationale for seeking a new credibility policy? Are we creating this credibility policy for the glory of our Lord or for our personal needs?







1Higher Education Accredidation and the federal Government – Kelchen 2017

2Higher Education Accreditation and the federal Government – Kelchen 2017

3 Bainton, Roland. Here I Stand: a Life of Martin Luther. New York: Penguin, 1995, 44–45.