Monday, June 27, 2011

Local Boards, District Leadership, and Mecca

Have you ever noticed that, inevitably, the people who claim to "hate drama" are the most dramatic people in your life? ... which lends me to have concern for my own self as it seems, for the last few years anyway, my life has been highly dramatic. I left the ministry, joined the USMC, left the USMC, was unemployed, moved in with my in-laws, worked entry-level jobs, then  another church on the north side of Indianapolis... and just this last month began work as the GM of a restaurant start-up (I am blogging about those experiences here).

What I want to write about here is our recent spiritual and church journey. A couple of years ago a friend of mine left my then denomination rumors abounded regarding his departure that- to this day- I am asked about. To help dispel any rumors about my situation I would like to to take this opportunity to tell it from my side.

When I came to work at the church (we will call it, "Northside") in Indy last spring there will red flags a'plenty: the senior pastor (we will call him, "Ryan") was an old school guy that had been in ministry over 30 years, he had had staff leave badly twice within the last 18 months, attendance was dropping, he seemed depressed, the board was comprised of denominational leaders or relations/friends of denominational leaders, and- almost from the first day- I told of Ryan's failings by members of Northside. After about a month Ryan asked me what I was thinking about in my new role. I told him that I believed the church and leadership were very unhealthy and that he probably needed a professional coach to talk through some issues. 

Within a few weeks that personal coaching (we will call the coach, "Rob") turned into an "intervention" for Northside as a whole. This act was approved by the staff, the board, and the district leadership. The staff supported this act so strongly that they said that if any of them (myself included) were part of the problem, they would immediately leave. We also trusted the coach/interventionist so much that we told Ryan that if- whatever Rob recommended- was not followed to the "T" we would en masse resign. 

So the day of the intervention came. There were two options based on the statistically provable fact that Northside was one of- if not THE- most unhealthy church Rob had ever worked with: one, we could shutdown, sell the assets, and church plant about 4 churches or; two, revisit everything that we were doing from the top down and the bottom up and the board could resign. Ryan stood up at the end and said that if option one or two were not carried out then the staff would resign. 

During a board meeting a week later the district leadership and the board told Ryan he was the problem and called for a vote of confidence. The staff all resigned during the following month.

As I was trying to leave and help Northside transition my position both the board and the district leadership attempted to cut my vacation time, verbally berate me, and emotionally intimidate (they didn't have nothing on the USMC ;-). After I repeatedly attempted to reach out to the denominational leadership for support or protection I was finally forced to threaten legal action and only then was the situation resolved. 

Now, it is at this point that the reader should note that my wife and I had prayed for only one door to open for my next job. Before I had evenly officially resigned at Northside my job opportunity with Hearthstone had opened up. I applied at over 50 churches and not one interviewed (not surprising in this economy). However, the job with Hearthstone opened hard and fast.

The last tidbit of information that would be helpful is that the denomination yearly has all of the pastors fill out a report in which they are asked "accountability questions". I have answered these questions honestly for years and this year was no different- not only did I say that I was not meeting the extra-biblical standards they had set but I declined to meet with the district leadership that had forcibly removed Ryan and the rest of the staff. 

Within the district- and even some general- leadership had made sure that my credentials would not be transferred (the same trick they pulled with some friends who are now safely in CA) and that my name was removed from the roster. I'm not a big believer in coincidences so the fact that this all took place on the last day I received pay from Northside was just not shocking at all. Full disclosure here: I did write a communique that asked pointed questions about both the district leadership, board leadership, and general leadership removing Ryan... I also claimed that two individuals in particular were incompetent and liars (proven by evidence that several of us have in our possession). 

So, "no" I am not with the denomination anymore. I find many of the actions I witnessed to be contemptible. Already I am being blamed for things I didn't do but, hey, I don't work for them anymore. I have learned that the leadership I was under was far more concerned with finding scapegoats than dealing with issues. Too bad, it could have been different. That's my story. 


Rjinn Suibne said...

Hmmm... I am reminded of John 9.

Judy said...

My heart breaks for you and your family. What a shameful situation.

I am glad you are free.

breadladydiva said...

Same story for my family, except leadership voted to dissolve church. Then after the pastor left, the church body sued the deacon board individually... husband was a deacon. So disheartening to live through.