Elders Meeting: Reflections
This is the fourth and last post in a series based on my attendance of the Tuesday, August 1 meeting with the elders. First things first: You must go to a meeting. Please sign up before they fill up.
You can read the introduction to this series here, my full notes on the meeting here, and my bullet points from the meeting here.
I really was disturbed by the development of this decision. I said before I didn't care to know details but trusted the elders, as the spiritual shepherds charged of our church with both biblical and "legal" authority, to make a reasonable and prayerful decision. By choosing BCC as my discipleship community, I by default submit to their governance.
Now that I have heard the details, I am more firm than ever in support of these men and women. Remember, this is not two or three egos with a beef with Dr. Foster; this is the entire elder board, all local former elders, and nearly all the staff standing unanimously. Anyone who thinks they made this decision rashly, lightly, enthusiastically, with the motivations of money or power, or out of personal enmity agains the Fosters is, to be blunt, irrational and/or heartless. You cannot watch them present this chronology of events, dotted with their persistent efforts to be the Gospel to Dr. Foster at every step of the way, and come away thinking this is a "farce" and they have committed a grave sin. If you do . . . well, I'm sorry, but you've got a major spiritual gutcheck to undergo. I have little patience for irrationality, and still little for willful beligerence. But I know God honors open minds and repentant hearts.
The reversal of key claims made by Dr. Foster the morning of the Red Caboose rally I attended were very key to me, as well. Firstly, Foster claimed no one ever came to him privately to discuss the matter of his daughter being hired. That is not true. Randy Holland did that. Secondly, Foster claimed he and Paula never quit BCC and never had any intentions of quitting BCC. That is not true. The process appeared to begin with Dr. Foster approaching a church in Austin for a position, was repeated when the Fosters said they quit in the meeting with Holland, continues for the entire 18 months with the Fosters repeating desires to leave, and is sustained by the elders continued efforts to keep them.
Thirdly, Foster said he does not have a problem with anger, but that he is just a very passionate guy and demands excellence. If you think berating a guy at the very moment the guy's wife is undergoing cancer surgery -- in the waiting room -- is just "passion," you are in need of a revolution of definitions.
Some of the rabbit trails chased by the two or three vocal Foster supporters in the meeting really got my goat. Not because they supported Dr. Foster, but because the length to which they'd go to defend and dismiss literally everything. They just sit through an agonizing series of personal anecdotes detailing verbal and emotional abuse, disturbing enough to prompt several staff members to announce they were leaving, and yet these inquisitors would want to know if moving Foster to another office was a "little dig" at the man. Talk about straining out a gnat to swallow a camel.
I've been blogging for a while, and one of the problems with the medium I have come to recognize is that people don't actually read. This is why, in my other weblogs, I get comments all the time that demonstrate no basic comprehension of what I wrote in the post. After last night's session, I wonder if people don't listen to anything either. Grown men and women. Don't listen. They only wait for the opportunity to put some spin on a few picked nits.
Here are some things that came out of the elders' mouths at several moments. "In hindsight, I don't know if that was the best way to handle that." "Maybe that wasn't the right thing to do at the moment." "I probably made a mistake at that point."
You don't hear anything like that from the other side. Men who have put themselves under great personal and emotional (and apparently financial!) risk to protect the best interests of Christ's church are admitting imperfection and lack of knowledge at stages of the process. There are no dismissals, no spin, no excuses. There is a transparency and an honesty there that, frankly, is quite scandalous even in churches these days. I'd never met any of those men before in my life, but at the end of the meeting I felt like these were godly guys I would trust my family with.
The through-line of the meeting was the gospel. The elders repeatedly took steps to restore Dr. Foster to his position and to fellowship. At every turn, and in the face of his attitude and actions, they relentlessly sought reconciliation. They did not want to give up.
But, folks, the flipside of the Gospel is that unrepentance creates disfellowship. One lady asked "Where is the grace for Dr. Foster?" at the end of a three hour long narrative full of demonstrations of grace for Dr. Foster. I was shocked. But for her, I'm guessing, grace means letting someone who is unrepentant have their way because it's the nice thing to do. Even if it hurts the fellowship.
No one is writing off David Foster. Nobody. Grace has been and is ever available. Forgiveness is at the ready. The elders did not set out to make the case that Dr. Foster is not a Christian and deserves to be treated shoddily and disfellowshipped as a Christian brother. They set out to make the case that his spirit of unrepentance had undermined his "moral authority." They were not making the case that Dr. Foster is a bad or unsubstantial public speaker. They were making the case that he is unfit to pastor BCC. They absolutely made that case, in my mind. You will have to make up yours.
More blogging to come . . .
(This post has been slightly edited from its original version.)