Church Mess (2 of 2)

church fights 2

(Continued from yesterday)

There are 4 parties in the story, each with actions that are not handled properly:
1. Pastor A who accused his associate in public.
2. Pastor B who was accused, which accusations may be true or false.
3. Church members who reacted negatively to A at the members’ meeting and wrote a joint letter to the board demanding that A be disciplined.
4. The board who took no action when the accusations first erupted and wrote a letter to all members requiring them to cease all forms of communication, private or public.

Taking things at face value, i.e. everything is accurately reported, my principles and gut reaction are:

• Deal with public matters publicly, private matters privately. I don’t know whether they had private discussions prior to the public outburst, and whether they are at the same job level or not, but A should have approached B in private to resolve the grievances first. If there is no resolution, then bring it to B’s supervisor or the board. Only when there is still no satisfactory resolution then it’s up to the board to take the matter to a members’ meeting, not A. This is standard Mt 18 procedure regarding conflicts between members or staff.

• A is handling things immaturely. In general we can tolerate a pastor’s poor performance due to inexperience, bad behavior (up to a point) due to immaturity, but usually sever employment when his integrity is compromised, whether it is morals (infidelity), money (embezzlement), or when he drifts into heresy. Here A has not gone so far to warrant dismissal, but needs disciplinary action so that he can repent and be restored, and the congregation to learn grace rather than legalism.

• The board does not have the authority by virtue of their position to require members to cease private communication. They can appeal, but cannot demand. They have also lost their moral authority when they stalled and did not deal with the issue as it happened. A healthy board should be aware of the dynamics between its staff, and keep their eyes/ears open as to what’s happening among the members. This board seems very reactive and dysfunctional.

• Since events have already degenerated, the board should:
o investigate the allegations and discipline A for his outbursts and immaturity,
o discipline B if the allegations were true,
o call a members’ meeting to inform the congregation the facts as appropriate; educate them what is the biblical way to handle such matters, and exhort to deal with grace rather than law.
o come up with a plan to prevent similar grievances from recurring, and recast the vision what the mission of the church is, to refocus everyone’s attention to God’s purpose for the church, not on the disunity that obstructs the church’s progress

Depending on whether there are particular church members or board members who are stirring up trouble instead of solving the problem, they may need a private admonition apart from the public address. Persistent antagonists should step down from leadership if they are causing the church to regress instead of progress. Public apologies from A, B, member ringleaders, the board may be needed as appropriate to move the church forward.

There are other issues e.g. salary disparity, but we just don’t have enough details as to the scope of each pastor’s responsibility, years of experience etc. to determine whether the difference is justified.

That’s my humble opinion without deeper probing. Hope that helps.

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Church Mess (1 of 2)

church fights 1

My brother sent me an article for my comments. It goes like this:

Recently, a problem arose in a Chinese church in Southern California that needs deep reflection and careful handling. A pastor accused a fellow pastor in Sunday School and even in a business meeting of members of coming to work late and leaving early, and improper use of funds. He also said he knew his salary is lower, which is grossly unfair. Some members reacted immediately by questioning the propriety of his accusations, leading to chaos.

Afterwards some members wrote a joint letter to the Board, demanding that they discipline the accusing pastor. The Board did not know what to do, so did nothing. After a few weeks, the attendance kept declining. The majority of those who remained felt they should tolerate the pastor, but others believed if that pastor stays, it will hinder the church’s progress and long-term development.

One thing led to another. The Board sent a letter to all church members, stating “The Church Board requires the constituents to immediately cease all forms of communications, private or public”. Some members find this letter offensive. (Two thousand years ago, Emperor Qin forbid criticizing state policies, with offenders to be beheaded.)

The incident is still developing. They hope to hear from readers suggested solutions, which could also be a reference for other churches in the future:

1. When should a pastor be tolerated? When should he be dismissed?
2. Does the Board have the authority to forbid members from expressing their opinion in private?
3. Under present circumstances, what can each party do to:
a. pacify the situation,
b. resolve division,
c. allow people to feel at ease to stay in church,
d. cooperate and develop the future?

(To be continued)