Wednesday, August 02, 2006

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 . . .

Peace.

(This post has been slightly edited from its original version.)

11 Comments:

At 6:58 AM, Blogger judas icarus said...

Jared,

I am a former BCC staff member. My name is C. Evan Leonard, although most folks call me Chuck. I appreciate how well you have shared this situation. How clear you have made the reasoning behind the decision of the elders. If, in fact, the ousting of David Foster sticks... I, and my family, will be the first to return to BCC.

I served there for three years as Associate Music Director and lead the Wednesday Worship Service. I believe I was asked to leave BCC for speaking up and speaking out about some of these very same issues associated with David Foster and my family and I were ex-communicated by the whole staff and congregation at BCC but I know that is how church goes oftentimes. So, I'm willing and ready to return in spite of what I experienced. And, I think it would be nice to make the point of how many people who have left BCC... might, in fact, return to BCC once Foster is gone. It might be just enough to balance the amount of people who might leave BCC because Foster is gone. I enjoyed serving in the music ministry at BCC but my being on staff was an incredible drain and the source of much pain and discomfort. I was actually glad once I left. I felt better emotionally, spiritually and physically but I also felt I left numerous relationships and a ministry I was deeply drawn to as a worship leader. So, that's kind of my story. I really wish more folks would speak up and speak out that once served at BCC.

I was and have been very verbally at times with many people that were aware of what was going on as far back as my season - 1999-2001 - at BCC. I was very hurt and I'm sure that I might not necessarily be welcomed back to BCC.... but I would be willing to return because I think BCC was not all about Dave. I think over it's history it has had an amazing amount of talented, kind and loving Christians serving in various areas.... although many were ousted, left quietly or were fired and David never once cried out for a "vote"!

Kind regards,

C. Evan Leonard

 
At 7:23 AM, Blogger Jared said...

Evan, thanks so much for sharing your story.
Last night, a member of the music team related a story that sounds a bit like it might have been about you. If it was, kudos for your courage.

Thanks for reading!

 
At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jared,

Thank you for posting very thoughtful and fair commentary/summary of the elder's meetings. I am a former BCC member (now at Cross Point) and my heart aches for what your church is going through.

Know there are people at CPCC who are praying for God's clear direction, healing, and peace at BCC. You are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we love you just the same.

Jonnelle

 
At 7:51 AM, Blogger Jared said...

Jonnelle, you're welcome, and thank you. Your thoughts and prayers are much appreciated.

 
At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of quitting...
5 years ago when Foster threatened to quit claiming-"I've got my resignation in the drawer in my office-I'll give it to you (the elders) now if you want" (paraphrased) when first confronted about these character issues. Unfortunately, that claim was followed by a reminder from Dave that the huge church debt would then fall on the elders. Needless to say, they backed off.

 
At 8:28 AM, Anonymous Rod Frank said...

Jared ...

I know this is your blog and you have the right to say anything you want here. In fact, your series on the Elder Meeting is an important series of message many need to read. You made one comment I hope you will conisder editing. It is the only thing that causes me a little concern when recommending people read it.

You say, "Based on some of the comments in support of Dr. Foster last night, I wonder if he couldn't have actually physically abused folks and be excused as just "being really passionate." I think you are commenting on how far people are willing to go to excuse some behaviours, but it could easily be misread as an accusation you are making or one that was strongly hinted at by the board members.

Clearly this is conjecture on your part. It may be true, I don't know, but the board members never said anything like this in the meeting I attended. I would hate for someone to completely dismiss the accurate things you have reported based on this one statement.

So I'm asking you to please consider editing it out of your blog.

You may of course delete this comment, too.

I would have sent this via email to you privately, but I don't know how to do that.

Rod

 
At 8:57 AM, Blogger Jared said...

Rod, I appreciate the counsel. You are right that I only meant to characterize the potential in the extent to which behavior is being excused/dismissed. Nobody ever has accused, and I am certainly not suggesting, that physical abuse ever occurred.

I will delete that statement from my post, because your reasoning makes sense. By itself, it's an unnecessary statement and the thrust of the post does not rise or fall on it.

For the time being, though, I'm going to leave this exchange in the comments, mainly so nobody thinks I'm trying to hide anything.
But I will probably delete it, as well, sometime in the near future.
But I also wanted to leave it up so you could see my response! ;-)

I have not included a contact email mainly for privacy purposes, and also because I didn't want to get inundated with "Inside Info" (otherwise known as gossip) for me to post on the site. But I think there is a yahoo email addy connected to my forum profile at TalkBCC. I don't check it that often, but if you really need to contact me privately, you can do that, or email Devon Weller (provided you have his email address).

I'm not trying to keep from giving you my email addy; just trying to figure out how to give it you in something other than a public forum. ;-)

Peace.

 
At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am on staff currently. Torn between loving and fighting for the mission with ALL MY BEING, and loving a man too much....I honestly wrestled with the decision, not because I don't 100% support our elders nor because I don't 100% believe in the mission, but because I couldn't see(by design) past the love and graciousness that Foster always extended to me and how gifted he was on stage. Was he my "pastor"?..no not really..more like an exercise coach that I got to hear during my weekend workouts. its up to me to "workout" and build my muscles during the week.... I was challenged by calling Dave my pastor... Pastoring--IMHO ,however biased it may be in my life now, requires more ground level work(and I mean hands on with the people) ... can you do that with 3000 ... no prolly not, but you can gather people around you to do that..such as a Bill West, Dennis Conniff to help. I believe they are the true "pastors" in this house.

At the end of the day through prayer, clarity came when I met with people touched/moved by other elements at BCC(Music, Children's Ministry, Fellowship in the atrium, 40Days small groups, Conexus) Those people said we are HERE for the whole thing, not Foster.... and thoughts like "how can we help you guys".."we love you and please don't leave" ...they were not taking sides, they believed in the mission of the church to reach people...

jared, I want to commend you on your, nothing short of amazing, gift of discernment. God has really enlightened you and the fruits of the spirit are evident in your words and your actions. I saw you at the meeting Tuesday and you balanced the room with fair and level-headed words. I appreciate and welcome your intellect and your insight. I hope we can meet someday and have a one on one...I hear there is a great Starbucks place open on the weekends...

I of course, support David/Paula and all the Foster's in there future endeavours and I LOVE them deeply. This is painful for all of us. I pray that God will safely deliver them to a new chapter in their life and that they will welcome it with a warm and humble embrace. God can use "all things to work togther for good".

I believe we are headed for great things here at BCC. I believe God will continue to bless efforts made to protect His vision here. I will continue to serve it and all of you as long as BCC will have me. It is an honor and proviledge to get to serve you the way I do!!

Speaking to the past staffers. I applaud your courage to speak up here, and I acknowledge the hardship you must have faced here. I saw it to various degrees on some of the other staff but to a larger degree on the executives. Maybe I was operating under the numbing - "I guess this is the way things are" or the sometimes willful "out of sight out of mind." Again, he had been nothing but gracious and supportive to me. I am encouraged to hear some of you may return to BCC, but I pray you don't return only because "Foster" is leaving, but return because you stand for the mission of the church beyond the face of whatever speaker stands on that stage. We welcome you back with open arms to embrace this journey, this frontier together.

I love you all.

Jared....YOU ROCK!!!!

 
At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jared,

This is an exceptionally painful thing for me personally...not so much about my "love" or "devotion" for any particular person, but for my own personal fellowship within the body of Christ. Having been raised in a Christian home and also having the blessing of a life-long relationship with Christ, I have been through many different types of situations within church that has been for the most part discouraging, disappointing, deflating...and ultimately displacing.

The draw for my wife and I to BCC has been the powerful, inspiring, relative messages that we would hear every week from Dr. Foster. He was the reason we drove all the way from Antioch to attend. Sometimes we couldn't make it due to time constraints (it's a 4 hour excursion when it's all said and done) or due to the cost of gas, but each time we went we renewed our hunger for the life-affirming messages that Dr. Foster delivered.

I am broken-hearted and disappointed...yet again. I must admit I could not understand why this "drastic measure" had to take place. I was one of those at Red Cabosse Park showing my support for Dr. Foster. I have yet to attend a meeting with the elders to hear them fairly, but I do appreciate your summary of the information you gathered from your experience there. I do hope to attend a meeting to hear these men tell their side of the story. But for now, after gathering insights from both sides of the issue, my soul aches.

I just cannot fathom how a Christian man - a leader of a church with such a dynamic gift - could perform on Sundays one way and not carry it through in his daily walk with those that work in the trenches with him? And these are people who work with him that believe in this ministry and were initially drawn by the same teaching that I was! My heart breaks for everyone who is hurt, confused, angry...my heart breaks for Dave and Paula.

I just hope that when the dust settles that everyone involved will submit to the truth...humble themselves before the Lord and before the wonderful people of this congregation. Repentance, forgiveness, healing...these are all WONDERFUL things about the message of Christ.

I, however, for now feel very discouraged...and I fear that yet again I will be displaced. But in all of this, I know that I remain in the loving grace of Jesus Christ. And that means more to me than any church ever could.

Thanks, Jared, for this resource.

Brian

 
At 12:04 PM, Blogger judas icarus said...

To the current staff member at BCC who pointedly asked that if I were to return that it not be because David Foster is possibly leaving:

It would be impossible to return under any other circumstance. But, I would be willing to return due to all that I experienced before that was positive and wonderful about serving with some of the most amazing and talented people who have a sincere heart for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the lost souls that we have been commissioned to try and reach. I'm not saying ministry is or will ever be perfect.... but I know it can be better than what I experienced over three years. And, many of those that I worked with are no longer there but I know that there are many awesome people currently at BCC doing their very best to be like Jesus and humbly serve others via their gifts and talents. I once felt like that... and how could I not want to feel like that again? What caused my feelings to change was the mantle I was under for three years and my inability to do anything about it other than to finally speak up and speak out... which I believe was central to my being asked to leave my staff position at BCC.

Somewhat of a conundrum, I suppose... but my heart still belongs to Christ and I would be willing to risk it all again... hoping to find BCC a place where I could serve and worship God once again... because that is what I was created for. Time will tell and I continue to watch and pray for everyone involved. I have been very verbal in several forums due to this recent development at BCC... because I feel that there have been people over the years that served with their heads down and their hearts broken, afraid to speak. I could never return to BCC under those circumstances. And, whereas nothing is guaranteed.... knowing that David Foster is no longer at BCC... would give me hope that BCC would be a safer, kinder and sweeter place to give my all to servanthood. Forgiveness has been easy.... forgetting has been difficult.

Kind regards,

C. Evan Leonard

 
At 1:50 PM, Blogger Randy Ehle said...

Wow! Jared, your posts appear to be as factual as possible, while exhibiting much grace to all involved. I praise God for men like you. This is an exceptionally difficult situation for which few of us in the church are ever truly prepared.

I experienced a similar - yet vastly different - schism during my time on a church board, and I know how difficult it is to be balanced. I'm afraid that I wasn't as good at that as you have been here.

I also want to commend the former and present BCC staff members who commented. You both also displayed grace in your comments. To the anonymous current staff member: It sounds like you have your priorities right - follow the vision God has given the church, not just the leader, no matter how much you may love and respect him. As God told Joshua, "Moses my servant is dead. Be strong and courageous; I will be with you as I was with Moses." Dr. Foster isn't dead, but it seems that his ministry at BCC is; for as long as God's call for you to serve at BCC remains, you must follow a new leader. That will be hard at times, but is critical.

This will likely be a "pruning" time at BCC. You're all in for a hell of a ride - and I don't say that loosely or flippantly; at times it may seem that you are walking through hell. Or at least, as David said, "the valley of the shadow of death."

Oswald Chambers reminded me this week that often in Scripture God's presence was displayed by clouds; let the clouds you see each day - whether literal or figurative - be reminders of God's presence, even when his voice is silent.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home