Thursday, August 03, 2006

How the Whole Elder Thingamajig Works

I've received more than one e-mail asking if I could clarify how our elder board was formed and how it is maintained. That's a great question, and I neglected to include it in my notes from the elders meeting. The elders did address, and I do think I remember fairly well what was said. But in the interest of accuracy, please ask them again if you attend a meeting. (Also, anybody who's "in the know" can correct or clarify in the comments.)
In addition, the church by-laws are now available online on the BCC website Governance section.

I'm going to bullet-point this, just to clear out any unnecessary commentary on my part.

- My understanding is that the church originally had a congregational governance. Given that it started under the auspices of the Southern Baptist Convention, that makes sense. That it started really, really small does also. (Just as an aside, some folks are saying they can't understand how a small board of men can make so many decisions for thousands of people. Actually, I think this is a preferable scenario to letting thousands of people have the reigns of church governance. But I know that's my own opinion, so I'll just cram it.)

- Dr. Foster later changed the church governance himself from congregational to elder-led. I believe the stated year for this change was 1994, but I could be wrong on that. I do know that Randy Holland said the reasoning Foster gave for this change was that he (Foster) believed an elder-led governance was "more biblical."

- The original elder board was appointed by Dr. Foster.

- I am unclear on the term of service, but I know that the rotation involves 2 elders rotating off and 2 new elders rotating on.

- The rotation of 2 elders into the board begins with nominations from the, you guessed it, congregation. But also Dr. Foster.
According to Randy Holland, in the past Foster made sure the announcement that elder nominations would be accepted would be made once. The nominations would be called for once, in a business meeting after a Wednesday night service. This ensured as few nominations from the congregation as possible. Our Wednesday night services are sparsely attended; I think the last one I attended included, maybe, 50 people. And who sticks around for business meetings? ;-)

- So the congregation does have a voice, technically speaking, even if just means being able to nominate elders for the board. Randy Holland said he thought that in the entire history of the elder board governance, maybe 2 nominations came from the congregation. The rest were by Dr. Foster, and in effect, ever elder we've ever had has been a Foster appointee (including the present board members).

- After nominations are made, the returning elder board votes on who its 2 joining members will be. As another qualification, the elders have never not voted in a nominee Foster wanted. So this notion that Foster and elders are like two warring political factions is wrong. As Holland said clearly last Tuesday night, "We're elders because Foster wanted us to be." That is not necessarily to imply bullying, btw. All of the appointees Foster has made, by the current elders' appraisal, have been smart, godly, and reasonable men and women.

- The entire elder board and all former elders still in the church agreed this decision was necessary. In fact, it was stated that the current elders presented the information you can receive at a cottage meeting in a meeting to the former elders to basically ask, "Is this the right thing to do, or should we just resign?" So, again, this is not about a new board trying to take over the church. Former board members confirmed this was the right stand to take.

Look, guys, this is so much bigger than clashing personalities or Dr. Foster rubbing a few people the wrong way. The enormity of the elders, former elders, and the staff standing unanimously against what has happened is very, very significant. I know it is hard to fathom when all you have is a one-hour window designed to impress, but so much more goes into a church and a church vision than 30 minutes of message.

13 Comments:

At 5:51 AM, Anonymous Rod Frank said...

I was a little surprised not to see in the BCC By-Laws any mention of the process of electing elders. All the By-Laws say on this matter essentially is that the board of directors of the corporation will be one and the same as the eldership, but no mention of the details of eldership. Most By-Laws I've seen go into great detail on elections, terms, how to remove, how to replace, etc. a board member.

Randy Holland talked about the same things at the Monday night meeting you attribute here regarding this. If there are 6 elders and they rotate off two at a time, then the term of office would be three years. I'm a little surprised that there would be an even number of members as that begs the question of how to handle the eventuality of a tie vote (3/3). If so, this situation is also usually outlined in By-Laws and is absent from the BCC document.

Maybe you can show the scripture that talks about eldership. I admit my ignorance. (Crossposting the Bible ... now there's a concept!) Perhaps there is another document specific to BCC that speaks to eldership that we haven't seen yet.

 
At 7:37 AM, Anonymous scott said...

"The enormity of the elders, former elders, and the staff standing unanimously against what has happened is very, very significant"

I couldn't agree more. This wasn't one or two renegade elders that were raised up through the congregation. These were 6 Foster-appointed, Foster hired elders/staff agreeing Unanimously. How can you not see that as significant?

 
At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe the term for an elder is 4 years with two rotating off every 2 years. I also believe there are 8 elders.

Randy Holland or Alex Poston mentioned exact details as far as numbers of elders/and terms. You should ask them where those docs are if not in the by-laws.

 
At 8:47 AM, Blogger judas icarus said...

Jared,

I think this particular post will hopefully be a great source of clarication for those that haven't had a clue about the who, what, where and why elders are appointed.

I would only add that how they are elected is as important as how they act as elders. With this particular crew... they acted... there have been various/previous crews that perhaps should've acted and didn't... for reasons I imagine we will never know. But, somewhere along the line... God had his hand in picking/pulling together this particular bunch and they acted according to the situation/crisis in a manner that exemplifies eldership!

This is not to negate any/all past elders... only to say that... under the circumstances over the past 18+ months.... something developed among them that perhaps only these circumstances could have caused to develop.... and that was courage. Moses-like courage. Joshua-type courage. Paul-like courage. Peter-like courage. Because what they have stood up to and what they have gone through and what they will still feel repercussions from for a seaon or two (hopefully less).... takes that kind of courage.

I stand in loving awe of them all. I lift them up in prayer. I say... give us more elders like these. Not to forget... staff members, as well.

This was not a jog in the park... this was not a flippant decision.... this was not a "we're mad as hell and we ain't gonna take it anymore" knee-jerk reaction!

This was a courageous act of LOVE! For everyone involved... including David Foster and family.

And, what were those two commandments Jesus spake to us all? Anyone remember?

Something about loving God with all your.... and the other one about loving your neighbor like....

Well done, my good and faithful servants... well done!

Kind regards,

C. Evan Leonard

 
At 2:08 PM, Blogger salguod said...

I too would like to hear how the scriptures on what sort of men Elders ought to be come into play.

Out congregation has no eldership and I think it needs one. This situation at BCC shows me just how valuable they are.

Our church history (church of Christ) is to be, I think, overly concerned with 'the list' of elder qualifications (see 1 Timothy and Titus, I believe) and overly dogmatic about it. But I'm surprised to see here no mention of what the Bible says about elders, particularly from you. :-)

 
At 3:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jared, everything I read from you and other bloggers says that the decision among the current/former elders and staff was unanimous. However, my husband said that he saw a TV interview a day or so ago in which one of the elders apparently said it was NOT unanimous, but rather there were two who desired not to take this action. He did not get the name of the man who was speaking. Have you heard anything about this?

Thanks for the info, perspective, and balance you are giving us. While a fasinating story to follow, those of us who are in other churches in other communities should pay close attention so that we can learn and hopefully prevent situations in our own churches from escalating to this extent. Thanks again.

(sorry to send this as "Anonymous"... don't have the time to sign up as a blogger just now)

 
At 3:38 PM, Blogger Jared said...

salguod: Ouch!
The purpose of this post was not to defend biblical eldership but, to answer a couple of e-mails, explain how BCC's elder board is nominated and voted on. It was a church polity clarification, not a doctrinal position.
I may get into what the Bible says about church governance in the future, but I will be up front in saying I don't think the Bible is all that clear on an absolute one way to do it, which a variety of church governance styles certainly testifies to.
---

Anonymous:
It was stated more than once in the meeting that all the elders are unanimous. One elder resigned, but not because he did not agree, but because Craig Barber sent a threatening email to all elders telling them their "personal net worth" was in danger if they proceeded. He was present at the meeting I attended and affirmed his solidarity with the board he resigned from.

Now, you might be thinking of the entire staff. I imagine there might be support staff, Dr. Foster's admin. assistant Barbara McGee for one, who do not support the decision. I have also tended to add in my other posts (all staff minus one or two), knowing that we haven't seen Dennis Conniff in any of this.

I am sorry for the confusion on the "unanimity" issue. My second to last sentence is technically inaccurate, so I will consider editing it.
But when I say "staff," I do mean the Staff collective, not necessarily unanimous, as we have lots of employees. I certainly don't mean to confuse.

Thanks for the question.

 
At 4:01 PM, Blogger Phil said...

For those interested in the Scriptural authority behind elderships, it mainly comes from Acts through Jude. I've done a search on BibleGateway and linked to it here.

That should at least give some direction as you study the subject.

 
At 6:23 PM, Blogger judas icarus said...

Phil,

You are one very resourceful guy. : - )

Thanks.... FOR THE LINK ABOVE REGARDING SA BE from the book of Acts through Jude.

And... hey... could you look and link any information about - temporary "reinstate David Foster as Senior Pastor at BCC" insanity?

There's got to be something on that subject out there somewhere on the BibleBeltway Gateway highway internet world wide web blogosphere.... I just know it.... gotta be...

Maybe use these keywords as search criteria....

CRAZY!
NUTS... I mean nutty nuts!
LOBOTOMY - How it affects the brain!
OBLIVION - The place too many projection screens, videos, dramas, feel-good-about-myself worship music and God-lite speeches will get you to...
INSIPID... as it gets!
POLARIZING... due to someone's pride and ego!

Those are pretty good starter words.... maybe someone can offer a few more.... but start with those.... okay? I'm busy writing all these blog entries all over the internet to help you find some links to.... well.... you know....
-----------------

Hey, it's me... remember? The sarcastic narcissistic dyslexic cinyc! : - )

.... and I sincerely do appreciate your SA BE...

Kind regards,

C. Evan Leonard

 
At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enough Chuck! You have been absent from BCC for many years and it is apparent that you STILL have an ax to grind. The name calling and cynacism is getting old and needs to stop. Try some forgiveness for the past hurt you experienced while on staff. Thye angerr you continue to display only hurts you.

 
At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anna Wilcoxson said...

So, the elders serve a term of 4 years. The rule is no more than 10, no less than 6 at any one time. Of the current elders one resigned due to a work-related move to another state. Another withdrew due to the Barber threat. And 2 current elders should have rotated off last December, but, due to the circumstances, they were kept on for continuity.
Also, there have never been, as far as I know, female elders. I sat with the elders on Sunday, but only as a staff member to show my support for their decision. There were about 5 other staff members who chose to be up there. As to Dennis Conniff's abscence in all of this, he has been ill and the doctor's ordered him to take a break before any of this hit. So, although I haven't spoken to him to know where he stands, please don't misconstrue his abscence.
Hope I helped.

 
At 9:33 PM, Blogger judas icarus said...

At least I say who I am... and what you perceive as an ax to grind... I see as something else. It might even be said... if there is an ax to grind in all of this.... David Foster fashioned the wood handle... and smelted the blade. But, I won't and wouldn't censor you or tell you what you should or shouldn't say or feel... I would take it with a grain of salt from the pile of tears that so many have cried due to how they were treated... as I have taken what you've stated to me anonymously. Feel free to email me at: cevanleonard@mac.com

And, consider all that I've said/blogged before you judge it as merely or only anger. It might could also be interpreted as outrage, hurt, healing, venting, therapy, and many other adjectives... depending on one's perspective.

I have openly agreed that all parties should forgive and love each other... but ultimately do what is right for EVERYONE that has been affected by this situation as far back as... at least 1999 to the present. Reconciliation should not be for the few... or the privileged... or be determined by anyone/someone that was not personally involved or affected... without proving and showing their own heart... no matter what shape it might be in due to this saga. I've shown my heart... broken... hopeful... willing to laugh... poke a little fun at our humanity... and many other shades of a colorful... well-worn.... tried and tested heart.

I have openly asked that the elders be lifted up and that David Foster and family find peace and God's blessing and God's best.

Perhaps this weekend at BCC will be a testament to everyone's ability to move closer to the standard that Jesus set for us to all follow. I'm hopeful about that... not cynical. Do I score any points for that? : - )

I plan on attending with my family after being an ex-BCC staffer for 5 years.... that may be a long time for you... but not necessarily for me. I see at as an opportunity for me to re-connect with the best of what I experienced at BCC. Grant me that... if you have the grace, mercy and love. But, don't judge me too harshly for not appreciating and celebrating the bad I experienced at BCC.
--------
If you will or might recall (whoever you are)... I spent/invested 3 years of my life at BCC and considered it my church... my place to serve and worship God... along with my wife and two children. I was asked to leave BCC... I wasn't fired... but the circumstances under which my ousting... and 40-50 others have never been clarified for those outside the office doors... and I'm not suggesting that it needs doing so now. I only suggest that you either know me personally or you don't. And, depending on that... you may or may not have the fairest or clearest understanding of what happened to me, the way it happened, why it happened... and how it made me and my family ultimately feel... because my wife and children were also ousted. Some folks get real angry when their family is mistreated... or Christian love is feigned.

There are blogs, forums and places to voice our differences... our feelings... to comment and reflect... via our different personalities and imperfections. But because you say it is "anger".... says that you know what it's like to be me... and frankly.... you don't and you can't. I won't deny that anger is something many people have been feeling for a long time... not just recently. I think we are seeing varying degrees of anger that are being applauded... depending on the side taken. I don't applaud it... but I do accept it as a by-product of many things that have transpired at BCC. It is human.... although not Christ-like... depending on the flavor.

But, my hope is to find that after the dust has settled at BCC... I can permanently return home to BCC and find it to be a safe place to serve and worship God (first) and then try my best to once again be Jesus to everyone else.... and trust that it won't be like the place it was... when I was there before.

I have admitted I'm cynical.... and I'm not so proud of it that I can't admit it.... but it is a cynicism might have been born and bred out of my experience under the mantle of David Foster. You'd have to know me to know that... so, I don't think you really know me... but you may know "of" me.

Try your best to understand at least that... forgive me if I've offended you to the point that you cannot show me the love, support and understanding... that I would almost guarantee you've been willing to afford David Foster.

I will gladly apologize, whole-heartedly to you... whoever you are... and I will... without knowing who you are.... love and support and understand your feelings, too... as unconditionally as humanly possible.

Thanks for being bold, compassionate, tolerant, understanding and honest with me and loving me with the love of Christ.... I would've really appreciated much more of that from those that were personally involved with my ousting from BCC in 2001. I didn't... and I think everyone that lived through what so many lived through during the unbelievable staff exodus at BCC from 1999 to now, derserved or deserves that... at least.

Kind regards,

C. Evan Leonard

 
At 8:31 PM, Blogger salguod said...

Jared, No offense intended, sorry if my words brought too much ouch. I am with you that the Bible is not crystal clear on church structure. The office/position of 'Elder' is one of the most defined in scripture, however, and it is rather curious to me that there wasn't more biblical definition of what an elder is in this, as far as what the BCC defines as an elder.

My comment on you not saying much either was simply meant to say you're not one to leave out what the Bible says on stuff like this. Sorry again if I offended.

I understand that the point here was to show how the BCC eldership functions more than anything. I was just saying that I'm interested in how the BCC applies the verses that talk about elders in their selection process. It's another subject, but I'm genuinely curious about that.

 

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