Thursday, August 03, 2006

On Not Giving Up and On Making Hard Decisions

In Defense of the Elders and Their Actions

1. Some are saying what the elders did at the weekend service was disruptive.
I say, compared to what? How could a decision of this difficulty not be disruptive? If you think the elder board (and the staff) thought this would go over smoothly and wouldn't interrupt some lives, you haven't been paying attention.

I don't see how they could have handled it a better way. Some are complaining the weekend service was the wrong place to make this announcement.
When is? When should they have done it? At one of the midweek services nobody attends? In a newsletter nobody gets?
No, the truth is, the weekend service was the only suitable time because it was the only time and place where everybody could hear the news.

Those of you complaining that worship was interrupted should realize that if anything should interrupt worship it is an announcement of this magnitude. At any rate, the brief worship time led by Lionel Cartright at the 8:30 service was, to my recollection, the most worshipful that auditorium has been in quite a while.

2. Some are saying this decision happened too quickly.
That is just wrong, folks. I know it seems that way to those who had no idea what was going on behind the scenes, but this was the culmination of more than a year's worth of attempts at fixing the problem and of several years, actually, of the leadership and accountability structure being broken. Think about staff other than Dr. Foster for a moment. They have lived through and worked in a lot for longer than 18 months, and certainly longer than a week. This move, while very painful, was a long time coming for them.

3. Some are saying the elders should have brought all the info before the church first.
a) Our church never has worked that way. It's not set up to work that way. Dr. Foster himself did not set it up to work that way.
b) Some folks need to realize that the very reason why the elders withheld information was to prevent disruption, to prevent people knowing unfortunate things about Dr. Foster. They didn't want to have to tell you about his problems and how they affect the church and the staff. Out of respect for him and out of concern for you. Were they naive in assuming our church would understand this concern? I guess so. But it wasn't them trying to "hide" anything. It was them trying not to have to reveal a dear friend's specific sins in such a public way.

4. The way this was handled was wrong.
You're right. It was handled wrongly by Dr. Foster, who, as far as I can tell based on his public statements, is unrepentant.
The elders did the very best they could, with a necessary decision, to act honorably and peacefully.
What should they have done differently? What I saw on Sunday morning were men and women with tears in their eyes and trembling bodies, heartbroken and devastated by the news they had to deliver. They delivered it in as best the way the knew how, telling the congregation what they believed you ought to know while hoping not to have to tell you all the sordid details.

Now that you've demanded the sordid details, and they are providing them for you, please don't complain that they are providing sordid details. As far as I can tell, they are bending over backwards to accomodate the reasonable concerns, and in some cases demands, of the congregation.

5. The decision they made was wrong.
It is your right to think so. But it was not wrong. The events leading to this painful decision did not begin last week or Saturday evening. They began long ago. It is possible, you know, for something to be broken on the inside. It is impossible for people to come to a place designed to impress them for one hour on a weekend and then understand all that goes into it and all that goes on inside the place the other 167 hours in the week. There is more to pastoring than public speaking.
Go to a meeting. See for yourself that this is not about personality differences or wanting to change the church into something "churchy" or not loving Dr. Foster. Love for Dr. Foster permeates the whole story.

6. We can still work this thing out!
I know the image of the elders and the Fosters reconciling on stage is a tempting one. And it would be a beautiful sight, I agree.
This sentiment fails to understand that the elders tried, at every step of the way, for almost two years, to work this thing out. The consistent themes of the chronology presented at the cottage meeting are the persistent grace-giving of the elders and the persistent unrepentance of Dr. Foster. The elders tried desperately to keep Dr. Foster at the church, they tried for so, so long to make it work. They wanted restoration, they wanted healing, they wanted reconciliation just as badly as you do.

But there comes a point where hard decisions must be made. At some point the elders realized that the integrity and concerns of the Church must come before Dr. Foster. They didn't operate that way from the beginning, or this decision would have been made long ago. Honestly, after hearing all that has gone on in this process, a better question to ask is why they took so long.
The answer is that they didn't want to have to make this decision. Discipline is never an easy thing, and these days, obviously, church discipline is rarely even heard of. It is a biblical mandate, but some people would probably think the very notion against the spirit of grace.

But discipline is actually part of the whole counsel of God's grace. When you discipline your children is it because you don't love them? Isn't it because you realize your child's discipline is good for him and good for the family? Isn't it because there is a right and wrong and you want to demonstrate that to your child?

From the beginning to the end, the disruption was caused by Dr. Foster himself. We'd never be in this place if it were not for his actions from the very beginning. The elders made a hard but necessary choice, after more than a year of attempts at restoration and reconciliation failed. And trying to protect his reputation and trying to protect the congregation from knowing of his sins, the elders offered him the option of peaceable separation. Dr. Foster rejected it. The conflict was his decision.

I know it's a hard thing to say, but one who is repentant cannot bring conditions to the table. It's an all or nothing deal. People are acting as if the elders have dropped the ball in this situation when it comes to forgiveness and grace and reconciliation, when the truth is, they've been trying to do that for so long for someone who just decided he wasn't interested. And you can't restore someone who isn't repentant. That's the gospel Dr. Foster himself preaches.

The gospel is not a soft concept. It is scandalous. It deals with sin, which is the worst thing in the world.
We cannot, in this time when people are desperately in need of reconciliation with Jesus Christ, enforce cheap grace. The Bible does not allow it, and sinners like me and you and the elders and Dr. Foster cannot afford it. We cannot afford cheap grace.

Peace.

8 Comments:

At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jared,

You continually speak in a reasoned and informative voice, without your blog there wouldn't be a correct forum regarding this situation. Other boards offer empathy to the Fosters that is understandable, but even the most heartfelt and honest comments call for unbiblical resolutions.

This most recent entry of yours, and the parable from Willow Creek are simply encyclopedia worthy in terms of what we are finding out.

Any individual that comes away from this situation believing that the Church was taken from the Fosters is just plain wrong. In Steve Lamm's heartfelt letter he still makes the assumption that the Elders forced this into the public when it's clear that Foster chose TERMINATION over RESIGNATION after a long process of negotiation.

Foster wasn't robbed or run away. He and Paula tried to quit on many occasions and entertained moves to other Churches, perhaps as a method of holding up the BCC Elders and gain bargaining chips. Quite worldly in practice.

Finally he chose TERMINATION and sent an unfortunate and chaotic message of personal martyrdom to his followers over the initial weekend of unrest. Does the word "Hi-jacked" ring a bell ? nWhat about the last paragraph of his initial myspace blog that advertised his books and complained of persecution for those ideals ?

The post-mortem on this shameful episode is the following.

1) David has problems he is unrepentant of. He immediately sent the message that he would start another Church without repentance. "The Elders can't turn that on or off" , he told the States most widely circulated paper.

He frames too many of his shortcomings as bad coming with the good. Passion being good.

2) David can't seem to live without the spotlight. He can't seem to imagine, or "vision cast" a life of humble servitude to Christ that Christ's followers are really called to. He views himself as special and comes up with any lable that can be used to advertise or set himself apart.

3) David had undue influence on people in the Church. This happens in many Churches all over the place so it doesn't mean that people in Bellevue own a special kind of ignorance. However, we have witnessed a lot of people who base thier faith on Foster as they declare loyalty as such....

"I won't listen to another preacher"

"I will go where David goes."

Are these statements and sentiments in line with prayerfully seeking God's will ?

4) Speakers and Authors can make lousy Pastors. Pastoral leadership is not about blazing a trail or influencing a vast ammount of people. Pastoral leadership is about effectively leading a staff, then being available to people within the localized Church.

How does David's behavior in meetings mesh with that ?

Innovator, Renegade, agent of change ? These are all the descriptions he chose for his Super Pastor identity. That identity was portrayed on the stage and in the books but it is downright scary how many people accepted that superficial presentation as being ... well Dave likes the word "authentic."

 
At 8:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please read this letter sent this morning from Foster.
It is the reason people listen to him and the reason I would continue to....now only if he were to have had this spirit filled mentality when he was asked to....

http://www.weloveyoudaveandpaula.com/?page_id=74

 
At 9:12 AM, Anonymous Jim Voorhies said...

Jared,

Thank you for being a voice of calm and reason and faith throughout this.

Jim

 
At 9:47 AM, Blogger Jen said...

Jared, I'm so sorry that your church is dealing with this conflict. I so appreciate what you're doing with this blog and I want you to know that I'm praying for you, the church, and the leadership in this situation.

Jen (Speaks)

 
At 11:35 AM, Blogger judas icarus said...

Jared,

OMG....OMG.... (can I say that here?)

Wow... double wow... triple wow....

And, as I said earlier....

This crew of elders should be given the churches highest honor....!!!

How more apparent can a lack of depth be demonstrated by so many people supposedly changed so profoundly by the teachings of David Foster?

And, how, like so many contemporary movies, TV shows, and books... is this a case where the victims are victimized (again and againg) by the perpetrator... who, when finally stood up to, goes public.... and gathers public support and sympathy and loyalty.... espousing... as you well put it.... Ya gotta take the bad with the good....!!!

How wordly.... how shameful... how shallow some Christians are before they "get it"! I heard someone say Foster must be bi-polar... perhaps that's something to consider and have mercy for.... but it don't qualify him for a return to the pulpit via a congregational vote... he needs help.... serious help.... loving help.... understanding help....

It will all eventually sink in.... the truth shall set them (this new tribe - the Fosterites) free.... the elders will be exonerated.... there will be healing for many, many people.... past and present.... and in the end....

GOD WILL PREVAIL..... we just need to get out of the way.... be humble, honest, contrite, repentant and REAL.....

Thanks for illuminating so much for so many.... in so many wonderful and insightful ways....

I'm already a better person... for just reading your impassioned overviews.....

Hey.... could I be your disciple?????? (Just kidding... again!)

It's all in the Word.... everything we need to know, understand and emulate.....

And, I can't help feeling that Jesus.... would not ride a Harley....

If he were in a crusing mood... I think He would want folks hanging out with him.... close by, in a seat next to him.... I think Jesus would get a bus.... or a mini-van.... something like that.... you just couldn't fit all of his disciples on one Harley.... traffic laws.. weight... and such.... nope.... no Harley for Jesus....

C. Evan Leonard

 
At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

can't thank you enough for taking the time and effort to craft your thoughts together so elegantly...
truly, thanks

 
At 11:14 PM, Anonymous scott said...

In 2001 when BCC was in the process of investigating and asking one of their associate pastors to resign, Dr. Foster reminded us that it wasn't a Matthew 18 issue, it was an issue of employment and liability. That pastor had acted improperly with several women in the church. In this current situation I don't think they need to bring Foster before the congregation (a la Matthew 18) for some sin he committed. That's not what this is about. The elders have decided that he is no longer fit to hold his position of pastor. I'm not sure that those complaining that he was never brought before the church can cite Matthew 18 under these circumstances. Even though it sounds like the evidence being laid out cites some sinful behavior, there apparently was some serious insubordination. The pastoral position isn't just about speaking. It's about encouraging, building up and leading your staff, It's also about working WITH the elders to create growth and health in the church. Like any of us, if we're not doing the job, we risk getting canned.

 
At 6:15 PM, Anonymous Paul Baker said...

I don't suppose you would classify me as a "real christian" yet because I am still searching for something of which I am unsure what it is myself. I do know that I am not a traditional "Christian" in that organized and strictly structured religion is not what I seek. I for one am turned off by individuals who feel they need to make decisions for me when it isn't they who know what demons I face. I can tell you that Dr. David Foster is and shall always be a special man and pastor in my book. I don't discount some of the things the elders presented at their "cottage meetings" were, by business standards, a little shakey if David did indeed do them. But I wouldn't classify them as sins. But, if it were permitted to go unchecked then others are as guilty as it is presumed David is. I myself will keep searching and I will also attend services if David has them. I still attend the services at BCC. And even though I think Bill West is a fine pastor I still miss the zing and passion with which David presents his thoughts and ideas and then lets me decide for myself if I agree or disagree. To me that is what religion is all about. Give me the data, tell me your interpretation and then get out of the way and let me decided for myself how I wish to believe.

 

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