Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Elders Meeting: Notes

This is from my pen-to-notebook outline of the presentation given by the elders on the evening of Tuesday, August 1.
I will do my absolute best to refrain from commentary or characterization. I only mean to provide a basic transcription of the facts/items/chronology stated to those in attendance. I will save my personal thoughts and reflections for a later post.

Caveats, clarifications, and apologies:
One of my terrible writerly habits is to be excessively quote-happy. I use quotation marks way too often for emphasis. I will try not to do that, so that quotation marks in these notes will only denote actual statements made by the elders. The rest is, I hope, not my representation of what was stated, but a neutral paraphrase of what was stated. Those who attended can be helpful in pointing out where I go awry.
Also, occasionally I may employ a parenthetical question mark (?). I do this only to denote my own uncertainty mainly about the spelling of people's names, or the accuracy of names or dates. I don't think I will have to use it for factual claims.

It is long, so hold on strong. Okey dokey, Smokey, here we go:

Beginning of an 18 month process culminating in the dismissal of the Fosters.

Jan 2005 - Dr. Foster (hereon Foster) called meeting with Randy Holland to say he was going to a church in Austin, but decided "at the last minute" not to go.
Randy Holland was glad he wasn't leaving, as were the other elders.

Feb -- called meeting with Randy (Thompson? Holland?) and Lionel Cartright.

The days of the Crazy Campaign:
Very poor communication from the Fosters.
Critical moment given the budget crisis that began with the Campaign.
No communication from Fosters, especially Paula, affected the budget crisis because leadership in those emergencies was absent.

When people request meetings with Foster, his first response is always "why?"
When Foster requests meetings with elders, their first response, "When?"

In a meeting between Fosters and Randy Holland, Foster called former student minister Jason Pettus a profane name. Paula said Pettus wanted Foster's job.

That meeting abt. elder concern with Fosters' daugher Lindsay being hired as high school minister without any consultation. Holland emphasized he has nothing against Lindsay and had discussed hiring her for other jobs before. But the elders all agreed the hire was not just problematic because of no consultation but because they did not believe she was fit for the job.

In this meeting, Paula abruptly said, "I quit."
Dr. Foster said, "It's time. It's been like this for 16 years."
Paula said, "No, it's been 32."
Dr. Foster stormed out of the meeting and left.
Paula said, "I'll never set foot on that campus again."

Holland expresses shock at the level of reaction. It seemed completely unequal to the content and presentation of the concern he was presenting.

Follow-up meeting at Randy Holland's home:
Dr. Foster berated executive pastor Randy Thompson. Told Thompson he was "worthless," "unuseable," and "unfit for any job."
The tirade was no volatile, Randy Holland asked his wife and daughter, who were home at the time, to leave.

Foster exited (to take a phone call?).
Randy Thompson in tears. Explains to Holland that he had just learned that he was losing his hearing and the doctors didn't know why. Also that his wife Cathy's cancer levels had recently gone up.
Holland asked if Foster knew about that. Thompson said Foster did.

In that meeting Foster confirmed having quit BCC in the earlier meeting.

Later, Foster called Holland to say he thought the meeting went well. That really sounded bizarre to Holland.

Aug 2005 -- Dr. Foster hires David Fleming as a personal consultant.
Later he instructs Randy Thompson to alter contract so that the agreement for Fleming to consult with Foster and pursue other vocational options is between Fleming and BCC itself.
Foster stated that one reason for Fleming's hire, as a crisis manager/staff liaison/consultant, was to help Foster figure out why he had anger problems.

The elders were initially thrilled, and were thankful Foster appeared to acknowledge a problem and seek to address it.

Fleming informed Randy Holland that the Fosters were 95% ready to leave the church, but he urged the Fosters to take a break (a Sabbatical). To get out of the rotation of the demanding BCC responsibilities.

Foster said he'd return to the church only if Fleming could be the negotiator. The elders, who wanted Foster to remain at the church, agreed. Holland said this was "the nuclear option," because with all that was going on, they wanted Foster to stay.

In the follow up process, the elders continued to express love and support of Foster. The Fosters took it well. Dr. Foster said it was a turning point.
The elders felt great for the first time in a long time.

Fleming became the lead man for staff. A liaison. Elders were impressed with his abilities.

During the Fosters' sabbatical, Foster returned early and without notice and started conducting staff meetings. The staff was really confused by this move because they believed the decision for his return was not going to be made until the end of the sabbatical.

Fleming says "It's not working." Says Foster is not returning his emails.

Executive staff members hold individual, private meetings with the elders and say that due to Foster's abuse, they could not stay at the church.

Randy Thompson relates that the reason he subsequently asked that folks respect his privacy during his wife's cancer treatments is because during the very first cancer surgery, Dr. Foster sat with him in the waiting room and chewed him out.

During this time there are questions about a secret expense account between Foster and independent accountant Kim Beck(?). (Kim Beck is not being accused or suspected of any improprieties.) A forensic accountant is now going through these documents and it might be Friday before any findings can be shared.

Through all of this, elders still wanted to keep Foster at the church. Knowing he lacked self control, had problems with wrath, was absent as a team leader, and was apparently unrepentant about all of it, they still wanted to make things work.

They thought maybe Foster's biggest problem was that he acted many times like there wasn't a problem.

Foster said he moved church governance from congregational to elder-led because he thought it was more biblical. He reminded the elders often in meetings that the church was not a democracy.

Elders said they wanted to transition to a shared leadership structure, so that "one man cannot kill the church." The emphasis was not to demote Foster but to promote available leadership for staff who did not have it.
It would not have occurred to them to suggest this transition if they didn't believe there was an imminent risk of the Fosters quitting.

The elders presented a plan to Foster that might entail him either embracing the collaborative vision or to exit honorably.

Richard McKinney met with Foster to present the offer.
Foster said, "I'm in."
His only concern was the flexibility of the speaking schedule.
Foster confirmed his acceptance of the new direction, saying, "I'm way in."

The elders believed they had again successfully retained Foster's leadership, which was their goal.

Fall of 2005, this plan was presented to the church at weekend services.

The elders began a minister search for new lead pastor.

Foster begins saying Dave Fleming is "the enemy."
Fleming says Foster is uncooperative in collaborative settings. He won't return emails.

At this time the staff and ministerial team are hurting and wanting to know the elders are working on the problem.
The move of Foster's office, which Holland admits may have been a mistake to be carried out so abruptly, was done in part to demonstrate to the staff that the new model was indeed in effect. It was also done so that a prospective lead pastor would not be scared off by the former lead pastor still in the primary office.
The difference in office size is about one square foot.
Holland emphasized that at this point Foster's feelings were not as crucial to them as that of the rest of the staff.

Fleming went to express support to Foster.
Foster said, "Don't tell me you're for me. You're the problem."

From then Foster's behavior was erratic at staff meetings. He either overtook the meeting entirely or withdrew and maintained silence.

Holland approached Foster for a meeting during which to discuss Foster's acceptance of the new model. Holland said they did not want mere compliance, but hoped Foster would embrace and invest in the collaboration.
Foster said he'd come to the meeting only if John Danewood (sp?) would attend. Danewood was not available, so Foster wouldn't meet.

Foster finally says he'll meet if he can bring his advisors.
This is the first Holland has heard of advisors. He thought the elder board was Foster's advisors.

At this meeting, Foster doesn't speak, just his advisors. Two men: Bill Dunlop(?), and Craig Barber.

The advisors are the first to present a separation strategy.
The alternative was Foster's reinstatement as lead pastor.
One of the advisors says this is probably just a quibble over "a title," and that they are both probably wanting the same things.
This gives the elders a glimmer of hope.

End of March 2006 --

Foster says, "I can't do this thing [the new model]. It's not in my DNA not to be in charge."
The elders say, "Will you try?"
Foster says, "Yes."
"If it doesn't work, will you separate honorably?"

A plan was presented to Foster that would make him head of the teaching team, provided he continued to work on his self control issues and provided David Fleming agreed Foster was being cooperative in the restoration process.
Foster agreed to these terms.

At this point in the presentation, in a tangent, the elders confirm that Bill West is not in line for the lead pastor position. They know he is not gifted in speaking in a comparable way to Foster. He will not be the voice of BCC.

Due to busy-ness and cross communication, Dave Fleming does not know about the new agreement between the elders and Foster. In a conference call with Foster and others he suggests vision casting for a year. Foster says, "No, I only have to get through the current message series and then I get the reigns of the teaching team."

Fleming is confused.
Without the terms of the agreement being met, and with no notice at all to the teaching team, Foster reinstates himself independently as the head of the teaching team.
The first thing he did was send an email to the elders telling them that Fleming does not believe Jesus is the only way of salvation.

Fleming confirms with the elders that that is an accurate summary of his theology.

The elders are in a pinch because Fleming is scheduled to teach that weekend. Foster has told them this news at the very last minute. The elders are unable to meet before the weekend because most of them are out of town.
Fleming tells them that Foster knew about this errant belief at least for months.

The elders ask Foster why he waited so long to tell them.

Fleming is immediately let go of teaching responsbilities by the elders, the Monday after that weekend actually. In addition, he is let go from his other church responsibilites (administrative duties) also, but it took 6 weeks to transition him out of the staff liaision position.
Randy Holland insists this was as quickly as they could do it.

June 1 --
both parties agree a separation strategy is in order

July 5 -- the elders draft a letter (not a legal document) outlining their concerns and requirements for Foster's continued leadership, pending separation.

Foster says, "To 4000 people I am the senior pastor no matter what you say. If you want a confrontation, I'll you give a confrontation. I will give you terminatinon, but not resignation."

In a follow up meeting, Craig Barber arrives and gives the elders a pre-fabricated press release highlighting the anticipated leaving of the Fosters and a brand new separation agreement.
One of the statements includes the declaration, "Paula and I believe our time at BCC is done . . ."

July 11 --
The separation contract presented by the Fosters included these details:
Foster would not make any disparaging remarks about BCC or the elders
There was a non-compete clause that said Foster would not minister in a church within 12 months within a 12-mile radius of BCC.
The elders should not be able to talk about the details of the separation.
That is Foster's suggested contract.

The elders respond with caveats:
They change the press release attendance figures to be more accurate
They reduce the severance package because the speaking duties have been reduced
They leave in the no-compete clause.

July 20 --
Barber responds and says the contract was too broad. He argued with the attendance number change.

The elders ask, "Is the agreement rejected?"
The elders ask Barber, "Are you David's proxy or his advisor?"
Barber: "I am an advisor."

The statement is rejected.

Last Wednesday --
Mike Hueneke(?) meets with Foster and offers him two options. Resignation or termination. The severance package is the same.
Foster chose termination.
He was given notice that in 24 hours he'd receive the letter via courier.

Subsequently, the elders receive email threats from Craig Barber, saying their "personal net worth" is in danger.

Larry Hall resigns from the elder board, not because he disagrees with the elders decision, but to protect his family from financial and personal liability. He has interacted with Barber before and takes these threats seriously. Hall says that although he knows he's done nothing wrong, just defending himself in court would bankrupt him. He felt he couldn't risk that, but he emphasized his solidarity with the elder board.

Former elders were also present.
All of the current elders, all of the former elders still attending the church, and the entire church staff is in support of the decision.

The elders took some questions.
A few made closing statements.
Prayer closed.
The elders remained behind to answer questions personally and in private.


At 7:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very thorough. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

At 4:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From some one who does not have the time to drive to Bellevue and sit through a three hour + meeting, your thorough notes are very much appreciated. Thanks.

At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the information. I just don't know what to think. I just pray the God will heal the situation and show us all the path that is right for us.

At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's very easy to give one side, when someone else is not present. While it appears Dr. Foster was struggling and hurting over some issues and may have responded inappropriately to some situations, I would encourage the elders to consider taking the vote after both sides have shared their story to members only. The church may not be a democrocy on day to day ministry and operations, but when it comes to the fate of the founding pastor - everyone deserves a voice! You guys are sharing yours and now it is being interprated by small group members according to how it is expressed. Shouldn't Dr. Foster have the same opportunity in the court of fairness? Is there some power struggle going on here? It sounds like something right out of the board room on The Apprentice. When this happens in a church, any church, especially one this visible, it hurts all of us. Come on guys, get it together.

At 3:59 PM, Blogger judas icarus said...

Well, there's another one for the ol' congregational vote... when the very by-laws that Foster drew up and have never been changed for anyone else who was fired/dismissed are in plain sight (BCC Website) for everyone to read. But Foster should be immune to those laws. He's above them. Only Foster.... no one else....

Please give this a rest.... what you are failing to see here is that if you were to reinstate Foster so that you would no longer be hurting.... you place him right back in the place where he has hurt so many for so long..... don't you get that?

You're saying you don't want to hurt over this any longer and that the answer to your pain is to risk the continued affliction of pain on those that finally stood up and said.... ENOUGH!!!!

You are walking blindly down a path that has no sane rationale for the cause of "all of us".

Reinstating him would also just add more salt to the wounds of those long gone from BCC.... but were once in the path of his anger management issues... and more things you will probably never be aware of.... because as much as people want to forgive... and they have and they will.... forgetting is much more difficult.... and what a reminder it would be for those that have been hurt and are still healing.... to see the very person who has brought this whole imbroglio upon himself..... and everyone.... is right back in their midst.... or those now distanced.... a reminder that it's okay to do what he did... because people who have not been in that particular path of his.... "voted" him back... so they would feel no pain...

Get it together... you say?

You maybe have seen or spent an hour every week for a month of Sunday's with David Foster.... but there are people that have been in his presence for days, weeks and months of hours.... that had it together.... and he tore them apart.

Foster made the break.... and you say the Elders have it easy giving one side?

I suggest you gather your facts and make your decision based on the facts you can gather from whichever "side" you feel best being linked with.... but don't ask people to have to once again confront daily the very person that has put everyone of us in this very uncomfortable and painful situation. You are asking them to place themselves in jeopardy... that you can't guarantee won't lead to more hurt and broken hearts.

YOU DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT! Sorry.... you just don't have the right to ask that.

C. Evan Leonard

At 9:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I attended one of the meetings and for those of you who couldn't be present, the elders have an impressive amount of documentation backing up much of what was said. We came to the meeting not knowing whom to support, and I think most of the other attendees felt the same way. I think nearly all of us left supporting the church's decision. Dave Foster was an inspiration to my family, but he truly had undermined his moral authority. I'm also more than a little upset that he charged the church up to $10,000 a month in expenses on his credit card, with no one's knowledge except for one accountant who wrote him the reimbursement checks. We have really struggled to tithe each week and I'm angry that this is where some of our money was going. He and Paula already were making $250,000 a year- did he really need to take even more of our money for himself?

At 5:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for this thorough account. We have been unable to attend a meeting. Larry Hall is a personal friend, and to think of him being threatened like that makes me ill. I was very angry initially about the Fosters being fired, but having talked to many people who have worked with him and have dealt with his tirades, I agree it was the best decision for our church.

At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is just a shame. BCC is a church for hurting people. "A church where people who don't go to church go." It is hard to find all the truth from both sides. Dr. Foster has his faults, just like everyone does. I would imagine a certain amount of ego goes with the territory of being as successful as he has been. Whether, you are a race car driver, high-rolling lawyer or Rockstar Preacher. People drive from all over Tennessee and beyond to hear Dr. Fosters words of encouragement and his message. I believe Dr. Foster is a gifted speaker and a inspired writer. It is hard for me to believe this church will make it without a personality like Dr. Foster pulling people in, talking about God and the Bible in a way people can relate. I worry for the church without Foster, and I know he has ego problems and temper problems. My husband and I have attended BCC for four years and when we saw Dr. Foster and his family at lunch in our neighborhood one Saturday he seemed so brooding we were afraid to talk to him. What I am saying is that I know the man has his share of problems, but I have my own set of struggles to worry about. Overall, he inspires me when I hear him speak, I love his message and that is his true job at BCC, to be the preacher. He is a man, one man- he needs to let people help him and give up some of his control issues. My wish is that Dr. Foster would get help for what ever is causing his anger and his verbal abuse with people and stay the preacher at BCC.

At 5:09 PM, Blogger judas icarus said...

Anonymous above:

You simply have not read enough things here or elsewhere to have gotten the full scope of what you are asking/saying. And, where as your wishes are loving, they are based on BCC being about David Foster, not God. You freely admit, based on fear it appear, that you are "worried" that BCC won't survive without him.... but God is the one that would and should have the ultimate say in that. You are making BCC about "speaking"... and church is about so much more than a personality/speaker drawing people to it's seats/pews. And, what if, just maybe what if God sends an even more powerful and engaging speaker to BCC that has no problems and no history of problems with anger/abuse? I personally am not sure I would actually want someone to come to BCC based on his "speaking" ability as the main gift he would bring.... we something more than that. And, by your request/wish... you are simply stating that God is not bigger than BCC with or without David Foster. That's simply erroneous and shows what I feel is a lack of deep biblical understanding and faith in something higher than a "good speaker". And.... you are completely missing why David Foster remaining at BCC would leave BCC in a precarious... if not perilous situation. He's damaged goods that can't be fixed in an instant... nor in a way that would justify or allow him to continue speaking/preaching. And, he's created a lot of damaged goods due to his issues... but you're wanting him to be reinstated as Senior (speaking)Pastor + damaged goods, himself, right back in the place where those he damaged are forced to confront him daily, knowing that the kind of help he needs isn't the kind you can get like a prescription... pop a couple of tablets... and voila'.

It's so much more complex and complicated than that.... and you need to read everything here... now... and forthcoming posts that will be online over the next week or two.

Start by reading the post (near or at the top now) - Looking Ahead and Some Words of Advice.

You can say what you say from your point of view... but put yourself in the shoes of those that have been on the end of his anger and abuse..... if that were you.... would you be able to confront him daily and accept that as the healing folks like you seem to think will work and make everything better?

Sorry to say this... but you are one brick shy of rehabiliation. It doesn't nor should it.... biblically explained in the bible.... happen like that.

Kind regards,

C. Evan Leonard

At 5:54 PM, Blogger judas icarus said...

One last thing here to add to my response to the post by anonymous above my post before this one.... whew!!

If you will look up the job description/requirements of pastorship (try looking them up in the Bible, please... I'll wait right here.... take your time)...

Okay... do you see where it says that his or any pastor's/preacher's job is not simply, only, singularly, finitely or predicated on.... and/or entirely about......... speaking/preaching!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Gosh almighty..... hallelujah.... Praise Jesus."

uh... sorry.... there.... I got carried away with those exclamation points.... dunno.... something about having to explain that whole thing to people or inviting them to look it up for themselves (at least a thousand times this week!).... just causes my fingers to immediately go to those -shift- and hold down the -1- key caps on my keyboard and hold them down for an eternity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oops... I did it again - thank you Brittney! : - )

At 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you've got some issues yourself, Judas.

At 11:03 PM, Blogger judas icarus said...

Who said I have issues.... who???? Who????

Why, I ought to come over there and.....

Uh... ummm... errr.... sorry....

Feel free to email me with the list of issues you think I have... and we'll get together and pray about them at BCC... okay?

I have met so many anonymous here at BCC is Broken that it's hard to tell all you apart? Which anonymous are you???? : - )

Thanks for your love and concern..... email me... seriously.... email me! Besides my issues... let me show you my secret expense account.... and two used plane tickets to Austin, Texas. I've got some other things...too... look... look right here....

A basket full of ex-BCC staff members... hmmm... a trembling, broken-hearted team of elders... ah... let me see... oh... here's a couple of iPods... wow... here's a Bang & Olufsen stereo system.... a Land Rover... a Harley.... ah... a couple of blogs, a website... some Christian self-help books with cool, nifty titles.... yeah.... the list goes on.....

Email me... we'll get together and go see a U2 concert, or something. Really...!

C. Evan Leonard

At 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the people in Foster's congregation who are up set with the fact they are not able to vote for the pastor up or down. My question: Where were you when Foster moved the church governance from congregational to elder-led? Did you say anything or did you remain silent? Since Foster gave the church authority over to the elder board then the elder board has the authority to remove him, period. If you don't like it then change it, but don't be silent and then complain about it.

Actually Foster is not living in obedience to the Lord. Why do we live in obedience to the Lord? Because of our love and fear of the Lord. It appears that Foster has neither or he would change his life. Why would anyone want a pastor that apparently doesn't love or fear the Lord?

At 9:02 AM, Anonymous L Matheny said...

My family and I have been a member of BCC since the first meetings at Bellevue Middle School. We all moved out of state in 2002 and have been listening via internet ever since. To say we are very, very, disappointed in the congregation, is putting it mildly. We had no idea that the elders had the authority to tell us who our pastor will be. If we had we would all have left the minute David Foster left. We do not care what he has done in his private life, or in his dealings with the elders or staff. We just know that he is a great speaker and we have always taken something good away from BCC after listeing to him speak every Sunday. ALWAYS! His faith, humor, wit, and his caring for the congretation, to lead us in the right direction, that is all that matters to us. We are truly disgusted with the current squabbles, etc.. and will no longer listen to BCC via internet, or visit the church while in Nashville, but will instead continue to follow David Foster. We are all watching to see if this finds it's way to what appears to be a very biased and one sided reporting of incoming comments.

The Matheny, Allen, Smith, and Taylor families

At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is in response to the above families (The Matheny, Allen, Smith, and Taylor families). L. Matheny said, "We do not care what he has done in his private life, or in his dealings with the elders or staff. We just know that he is a great speaker ..." So in other words it doesn't matter what a pastor (or a Christian church leader) does in their private life as long as they are a great speaker (entertainer) that tickles your ears. Actually what someone does in their "private life" shows the character of a person. Do they practice what they preach or live according to the Word of God in their "private life"? The character of a person is extremely important especially for a pastor, not according to me, but according to God. What does the Bible say about the qualifications for a church leader? The Bible says in order to be a church leader you need to be "found blameless". Leaders are to be held to a higher standard. I really don't think you can say this about David Foster, unless he REPENTS and stops his sinful ways. It appears, according to the elder's meeting notes, that Foster has problems with anger, power, abuse, and greed (possible secret expense account).

God tells us to test everything and do not be deceived. I pray that you use the Word of God as the foundation or as a measuring rod to test everything. I pray that you will pray for discernment, so you can separate truth from error, so you won't be misled into following anyone blindly. You need to ask yourself are you following David Foster, a man, or are you following our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

Praying that David Foster will see the error of his ways and repents.

At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I started going to BCC in the late 90's when we met at the Bellevue Middle School. I was moved by the sermons and wonderful music. I also say how things began to change once Hope Park was built and it seemed as though with all the money and power that was created BCC began to lose the vision of what the purpose was really all about, "GOD".

Serving others and not ourselves, pouring money into a church doesn't get you into heaven. Jesus gave to the poor, sick and needy. Churches seem to lose themselves in money and power, when the focus should be to serve and give. I am sad that BCC had to learn from this terrible experience but hopefully in the end it will help everyone to evolve.

All had their day in the sun as superpowers before which others trembled. But today their crumbling ruins stand in silence, mute witnesses to the fact that "the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men" (Daniel 4:17,32, New International Version).


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