The Fosters and elder Richard McKinney were both interviewed (separately) for a piece on yesterday evening's Channel 5 news. I only caught a snippet of the broadcast, because I was at the gym and the shoulder press machine was taunting me.
But I did find this transcript of sorts from the Channel 5 website. Here's an excerpt:
Foster was relieved from his duties in a unanimous vote by church elders. He said that the elders cited his “wrath and anger.”
“David, when he was confronted with operational or managerial issues, he tended to be very difficult to talk to,” church elder Richard McKinney said. “In fact, he would get quite angry. As the elders of the church, it’s our responsibility to safeguard the organization.”
Foster prefers to call himself a passionate leader, but church elders said a massive turnover in church staff speaks to the contrary.
The former pastor said though he isn't perfect he had the same administrative assistant for more than a decade.
“Does a strong leader rub certain people the wrong way? You betcha. They do,” Foster said.
Probably the only thing both sides agree on is the church is headed in a new direction that obviously doesn't include Foster at the forefront.
“They want me to move over and have a figurehead role of founding pastor,” Foster said.
“Our solution was to hire a new lead pastor,” McKinney said.
(Update: There is video (mpg) of the broadcast available here. Thanks to Devon Weller for that tip, and to the folks at WeLoveYouDaveandPaula.com for hosting the clip.)
1. The soundbite feel to this thing, while understandable given it's from a broadcast news story, is nonetheless really unfortunate. I notice immediately a real lack of context, if only because the media folks assembling the piece wanted to zero in on key informational quotes.
But what we end up with is Dr. Foster saying "they want me to move over and have a figurehead role" without the nuance of because they have lack of confidence in my leadership. Still less is there the between-the-lines thing sticking out at me, which is that the elders DID try to figure out a way for Dr. Foster to stay at BCC. If it was all about kicking him out the door, they wouldn't have even offered him a so-called "figure-head" role.
2. Then there is Mr. McKinney saying "Our solution was to hire a new lead pastor." This is an unfortunate soundbite, also, because by my understanding, Bill West, who will retain his teaching pastor office, will only be the interim lead pastor. In other words, Pastor West is not going to be "the guy." In fact, he's only by default "the guy" right now. (That's what "interim" means.) As I suggested in an earlier post, saying this kerfluffle is about replacing Dr. Foster with Pastor West is nowhere near the real, whole, contextual thrust of this story.
3. The anger/passion thing. Nobody denies Dr. Foster is a passionate person, a charismatic personality. That is what attracted many of us to BCC in the first place and continued to captivate us week in and week out. But the idea that this is as basic as a misinterpretation between "he's a hothead" and "I'm just a really passionate guy who demands excellence" asks a lot of us who are playing at home.
The story does mention the high staff turnover rate. I have to be honest, just on a personal level, that has always bothered me. Why we can't seem to keep a steady team of pastoral staff has always suggested a Problem of some sort, but I never got nosy about it, and I never really worried about it. (And I never automatically assumed it was because Dr. Foster was a jerk or anything. Honestly.)
Let's look at the figures here. This is not one or two (or three or four) employees upset because Dr. Foster is hard to work with. This is the entire board of elders, backed by former elders, and, as far as I can tell, the entire ministerial staff (minus one?) supporting a statemen saying Dr. Foster's problem with anger has "undermined his moral authority."
That is NOT "he's a hothead." That speaks to biblical issues, "fruit of the Spirit" issues like peace, patience, self-control. And while it seems obvious to some, who a pastor is on stage is not the only thing that matters. Character matters. As lead pastor, the ability to shepherd fellow ministers to best shepherd the flock matters. Who you are behind closed doors matters.
I served on the staff of a church once under two ministers whom I believe subjected me to what amounts to spiritual and emotional abuse. (Not manifested in anger, though.) It was quite frustrating to be hurting all the time as the result of working under these men but be distrusted and disbelieved because those who only saw them on Sundays just couldn't believe they would act like that. So I totally get the "you just don't know" thing. I've lived it.
Now, we don't know the details. Many folks want to know exactly what happened, to see if they agree with the elders/staff, to see if what went down really does constitute an undermining of Dr. Foster's moral authority. Me personally: I don't care to know. I don't figure it's my business, really. I trust the unanimity of the elders and the volume of staff supporting them; those numbers of folks who worked with Dr. Foster in the trenches day in and day out for years speak volumes to me. But I understand the need to know. And I understand the elders are doing their best to meet that need in these meetings.
It's not just about anger, though, either. There is still that issue of quitting vs. being forced out, and as far as I can tell, one side is not telling the whole truth in that matter. Either the Fosters did leave the church at one point, or they did not. You have to do a lot of finessing to make both true.
There's this again too:
He said the people should decide whether he goes or stays. Foster’s supporters also said they want a congregation vote next Sunday on Foster’s fate.
It's unclear from the flow of the transcript whether that first "He" is Mr. McKinney or Dr. Foster. Given the previous paragraph, it seems to suggest Mr. McKinney, but that's the first I've heard of the elders wanting a vote.
I promised to talk about the congregational vote thing today, and I will, more than likely this afternoon.