Exhibit J. The Mighty List, 6 Oct. 2015.

[Return to Table of Contents.]                                                    [Exhibit K.—>]

‘So [Paul] reasoned in the synagogues with the Jews and devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.’   –Acts 17:17

Just before I arrived home in the US, there was a council meeting, at which the List (capitalized because it has grown into something of a monster or mythical creature in my mind) was handed over to the pastor. In a previous meeting, the Church Visitors had suggested the council come up some requirements/suggestions/requests/recommendations (what they were called varied depending on whom you asked) for my dad to consider—I assume, though I can’t be sure, since it was so rare for anything to be clearly articulated by anybody involved, it was to let him know what people’s concerns were, how he could address ‘people’s pain’ and stop being the problem. Or something.  As I said in the introduction, this was the ‘last straw’, this was what the council told parishioners after the fact why they had to sack my dad.  This was also the ‘event’ that got the A-17 ball rolling in earnest.  Oddly enough, it got him terminated before the council had even seen it–in the classis documentation written up by the CVs, PT’s firing was backdated to 25 October, the day before the meeting where this was shared.  Clerical error?  Deliberate misrepresentation of the timeline? Hrm.

Part a.  

The ‘List’ of ‘Recommendations’ given to my dad by the Council, 6 October 2015 (preceded by abridged contextualizing comments, written by my dad, as they were offered to Classis in December 2015):

List of Instructions

On October 6, at 6:00pm, the Elders and Deacons met, without the pastor, to discuss a “list of instructions” that they were going to give him at the Council meeting the following hour. This meeting came one week after meeting with the Church Visitors..

The Church Visitors, who entered our picture on September 15 with declarations that they weren’t here to “do anything” or “tell us what to do,” rather, just “make sure both sides talk” recommended to the Council (on September 29) that after all the pastor has been through, he should go on a retreat for three weeks. They also recommended that the church have a “cooling off period” of one month, where the pastor would absent himself from the church for 30 days.

The Council presented the list to me at the October 6 Council meeting, and they were read to me by the Clerk of Council. The instructions had been cobbled together between 6 and 7 o’clock and consisted of two sheets of paper on which were longhand notes, written in pencil. 

The “List of Instructions” follows:

{I have re-worded and clarified number one somewhat. Numbers 2 through 6 are written as I received them.}

1. Do a three week retreat at Alongside Ministry

Go on a four week Sabbatical; this ”separation” would serve as a “cooling off period.”

2. Build a sense of unity and communication with teachers, committee members, and church members

3. Visit shut-ins / Nursing Home 1 -2 times per month

4. Be available to counsel church members and make people welcome to come and share (time?) and give encouragement where needed.

5. Sermons be less about sin and guilt and more about Christ’s love and grace. Have more compassion / more encouragement.

6. Have [ekkles’ sister] step down from committees during my “trial period”

Part b.  

My dad’s response to the ‘List’ (which in the intervening three weeks became, unbeknownst to him, a ‘package deal’; dear reader, you will have to ask the Council of 2015 what this means), given to the Council and read in meeting 27 October 2015.  The response to the list was prefaced by some (re)orienting comments and reflections by the pastor, which I will not include here (some of them were references to many questionable remarks made by ‘elders’ in the church’s council room in the past, most of them questionable because they were unbiblical, some bordering on heretical).  I may make them available on my personal blog, and then link to them.  Alternatively, the Council should have a copy of this document, and be able to make it available to anyone in the church who asks for it.

Council Meeting October 27, 2015

 

….

Now, for the list of “instructions.”

At the October 6 Council meeting, I was given a list of “instructions” which were compiled prior to the scheduled Council meeting. I believe we’re familiar with the events which precipitated compiling the list, and I won’t review them here. I do feel compelled to point out that, as far as I know, the Council never took the time to pray together, reflect, and “define the problem” which is ostensibly addressed by the list of “instructions!”

Remember, what led to our meeting with 54 and N was the belief that we needed some direction because things weren’t going well. There was a sense in the fall of 2014 that something had changed, and this was expressed at the congregational meeting in November.

You may recall that what disturbed me was people thinking there was a problem, or detecting something was wrong, and talking about it to each other, trying to find solutions, whatever, but nobody came to me and asked me, “Pastor– what are you seeing? What are you sensing? Are you feeling like something’s wrong? What’s your take?”

Nobody asked me, which I thought was odd. After all, as the pastor, I’m charged with leading the church, spending time in God’s word, and seeking Him. It just seemed strange that no one would ask how I see things.

Then I informed you all that in seeking the Lord, I believe He showed me some things in the months of January through March. Does any of this ring the proverbial bell? Do you remember that I mentioned counseling with Spiritually gifted people outside our church who hear from God and received insight from Him about our church? Some of this happened in an office at #### K—- Avenue– the headquarters of the [denomination]!

I noted back in March, and I’ll reiterate: The Lord has shown about a half dozen people some things about our church and our community. Are you interested? That said, what follows is the list of instructions, including my response to them.

List of Instructions:

1. Do a three week retreat at Alongside Ministry

Go on a four week Sabbatical; this ”separation” would serve as a “cooling off period.”

I do not feel God’s leading in this matter. While spiritual retreats are great and have their place, that is not the need at this time. The need at this time is for the Council to encourage and support the pastor as they vowed to do when ordained/installed. This would include telling people who have complaints to talk to him, rather than gossiping behind his back. It would also include gently correcting those who have an improper understanding of the pastor’s role or don’t know what biblical preaching is.

With regard to the four week Sabbatical. I am not in favor of this either. I am especially opposed to characterizing it as a “cooling off” period. Who needs to “cool off?” Is somebody “hot?” Is there some animosity or heated conflict that I am unaware of? If so, what is the BIBLICAL way to handle this? When I read Galatians 6, Ephesians 4, Philippians 2, and Matthew 18, I don’t see anything about “cooling off periods.”

In my opinion, calling it a “cooling off period” suggests that I have been engaged in provocative or offensive behavior. I have not. Period. In fact, there are current members as well as past members of our Council who have firmly stated that I haven’t done anything wrong.

Finally, and I say this tongue in cheek, those who need to “cool off” are free to take a month away from me, if that will help. Seriously, what does it say about certain of our members who have allowed their level of offense to reach a point that they need a “cooling off period”?

And– has anyone thought about what [the pastor’s daughter, ekkles’ sister] would do during these three weeks?

2. Build a sense of unity and communication with teachers, committee members, and church members

I am all for communication. I’m not sure why or how this is perceived as a problem, since I try to be diligent to communicate what we’re doing as a church on a regular basis (special services, speakers, etc.). With regard to unity: Unity should start in the Council room, and we should lead by example. But this is a unity of the Spirit, which comes as we openly share and bear one another’s burdens. I informed all of you last March that I did NOT feel comfortable doing that in our Council room, and I also told you why. I cannot build a “sense of unity” with teachers, committee members, and church members. They will have to do that with the assistance of the Holy Spirit as they spend time together in authentic fellowship. [author’s note: I would refer the reader to the duties of elders and deacons in the church order; see excerpts thereof in Appendix ii., 25 March 2016]

3. Visit shut-ins / Nursing Home 1 -2 times per month

I agree with the recommendation to be regular in the visiting of shut-ins. It has been my goal in the past to visit shut-ins at least once per month. At times, I have done so successfully. With recent health issues, it has been hit-and-miss. The conflict and stress of the past 10 months has required a great deal of my time and energy to deal with.

This might be a good time to inform the readers that being mistreated as I have been has caused me considerable emotional pain and stress. At any rate, I remain committed to visiting shut-ins at least once per month.

4. Be available to counsel church members and make people welcome to come and share (time?) and give encouragement where needed.

This recommendation, like number 2, is unclear. It also raises questions. Who is in need of counsel? Are there people who don’t feel “welcome?” How widespread is this problem? Did you hear this concern from 2 people or 22? If there are members who are truly in need of counsel and feel unwelcome, shouldn’t I know who they are? (Yes, I should.)

One of the elders and I discussed the merits of having office hours for people to drop by. I am willing to create that space if it will foster a greater sense of availability.

5. Sermons be less about sin and guilt and more about Christ’s love and grace. Have more compassion / more encouragement. Don’t have the series go on so long.

As I stated in my report at the August Council meeting, I seek God diligently for both the subject AND the content of the messages. I will continue to do so.

6. Have [ekkles’ sister] step down from committees during your “trial period.”

I do not agree with this at all. Quite honestly, I am troubled that Council members would entertain such a proposal. I have served with [ekkles’ sister] on the committee in question for many months. The VAST majority of the time, she is quiet and generally offers input only when asked. To blackball her from committee involvement seems to me to be inconsistent with the “acceptance” and “love” our church professes to have, and which was such a point of emphasis in 54’s report. Finally, I must ask, how is it that the term “trial period” was introduced into this discussion?

Conclusion:

I want you to know, I have taken these suggestions seriously and sought God’s leading on them over the past three weeks. Even though I am in agreement with the intent and desired outcome of a few of them, the underlying problem(s) to which I have made reference earlier must be addressed if we are to have the Lord’s blessing and favor on our church.

Cordially,

Pastor S.T.

<—Exhibit I.                                                                     Exhibit K.—>

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