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The issue of hierarchy is an interesting one, though. When this story came out, I wondered how it was that Long was a bishop since he seemed to be running a church with a congregational church polity -- that is, the congregation calls the minister to be its leader; there is no external hierarchy of bishops, arch-bishops, etc. appointing clergy to a congregation. So how could he be a bishop? Who anointed him?

I am a UU & our church is based on congregational polity, but this model is common among some very conservative churches, including many pentecostal & Baptist churches.

There is (or can be) a church board that oversees the ministers' actions, & that can fire/hire a minister but taking action against a minister is very perilous for a congregation (due to rifts/factionalism) & done rarely. I suspect, in practice, boards more commonly seek to drive away a minister rather than fire him/er outright.

It might be interesting to do a story on how congregations tend to handle those problems. On the one hand, people go to church for spiritual reasons, but on the other hand, it's a largely volunteer organization with governance needs so a kind of politicking can set in. How do congregations cope?

As for the tax-free status for churches, I would suspect there would be reform rather than an outright end of the status. Up until about 20 years ago, you could write away for ordination in what was basically the church of the tax loophole, declare your income the church's income, & declare your home the church (ala C Street). For most part, the IRS toughened the rules to keep people from doing that & I believe even C Street's tax exempt status is under scrutiny. What would be a welcome reform to some number of us would be for ministers/churches whose income exceeded a certain amount (when that income was not re-invested into charitable/church works) be taxed. However, there are powerful people with access to media & lobbyists (think "the Fellowship/Family" that owns C Street, the Grahams, or the Robertson empire) who would oppose this. But don't you think reform is more probable than an outright doing away of tax exempt status? That status is well engrained into our culture.