What Does the Calvary Chapel Association Do?
I’ve been asked this question a lot lately by people who have an issue with a Calvary Chapel.
They write or call the Calvary Chapel Association with that issue assuming that it is the governing body of the movement.
This assumption comes from a few places where the website speaks of regional authorities who have “oversight” over a group of churches in a geographical location.
They invariably get no response.
It may be helpful to start at the beginning to understand why and what’s happening now.
When the movement was founded it was founded on the principle of the autonomy of the local church.
Chuck Smith would not be told what to do or how to do it, nor did he want that power over others.
There would be no bishops or other oversight, each body would be wholly responsible for it’s governance through elders and the board with the senior pastor always having the final say.
This became the notorious “Moses Model”.
In reality, the “Moses Model” was nothing new in the church
Independent Baptists and others had used a senior pastor centric model before, though without the ridiculous Mosaic explanation.
The movement would not be a denomination, but a group of pastors who “affiliated” with each other on the basis of shared doctrine and vision.
As the movement grew, it became necessary to deal with the flood of pastors who wanted to become “affiliated” with Calvary Chapel.
Thus was born the Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowship.
That became the agency that handed out the dove.
In time, it also became the enforcement arm of the movement, dealing with issues of moral turpitude, financial issues, and doctrinal fidelity to the “Distinctives”.
That worked…until it became evident that it also created a legal liability for Costa Mesa when one of the “affiliates” got in trouble.
Eventually, Chuck Smith grew tired of “paying for the boys mistakes” in legal settlements and disbanded the CCOF in an attempt to get back to the original plan.
The buck would stop with Chuck Smith and Chuck Smith wasn’t going to have anymore of his bucks going out the door to cover some guys sin, a guy he possibly had never even met.
The affiliates would be liable for their own actions and Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa would only be responsible for it’s own.
That was the case from 2012 to when Smith died.
Smith spoke of no plan for how to govern the movement after his death, so the CCA was formed while he was still around and great efforts were made to show that he approved it.
Whether he did or not is another story, but the CCA was in place when he died.
It was created solely to approve affiliation… the “Leadership Council” would oversee things such as the annual conference and doctrinal statements, but no one was to have any authority over anyone else.
In truth, they don’t.
What the CCA does is type names of new affiliates into a database and removes names that are no longer affiliated for some reason.
Regional pastors submit names, Michelle Wright types them in and the work of the CCA is done.
The harshest “discipline” that the CCA can administer is deleting a name from the CC database.
The leadership is fractured to the point of not even being able to agree on when or where to hold a national conference.
No one wants to or will take on the responsibility or liability for the errors of another affiliate.
No one wants to be sued.
The reality is that for the first time Calvary Chapels are truly autonomous.
If you have an issue with your local CC that can’t be resolved at the church, you’re out of luck.
It would be helpful and responsible if the CCA website took away any language that indicated that there was any sort of accountability hierarchy within the movement.
It leads people to believe that there is an place to appeal…and there is not.
Any accountability is at the local level…and if there is none there, there is none to be had.
We can debate all day about whether there should be, but at the end of the day we must deal with what is.
This is quintessential American religion…the market will decide if it works.