We can even address this the other way. If the guild level is to reflect how active the guild is, then leave decay in. Make all of the guild gear usable by anyone and remove all level requirements for guild bonuses. This way you can still swing your epeen that you have the highest level guild/most active guild. The status symbol remains.
Then make all guild buffs available to all guilds. If you want the buffs, fork over the plat. You could even make the system more convoluted by adding another kind of currency that can only be spent on guild buffs.
This way players would be back on an even playing ground while still maintaining the coolness of being able to level your guild and having that status symbol.
It's a two fold issues linking guild renown levels and buffs together. If you can't quite get the guild level OR IT IS TAKEN AWAY, as is my biggest issue, then you can't get the buffs and boost to help you quest to help to raise your level. It's a catch 22 atm. At least from that perspective.