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.