What is the responsibility of elders to the truth, to the members and to God?
The following is a call to the Elders of Mars Hill Church to examine themselves and a call to their brothers and sisters in Christ to challenge them in their responsibility:
These are some of the qualifications for elders / deacons – see 1Tim 3 and Titus 1 – these are prerequisites and an ongoing code of behavior: here are some to consider: Self-controlled, Able to teach, Not violent but gentle, Not quarrelsome, Has a good reputation with outsiders, Not overbearing, Not quick-tempered, Above reproach, Holds to the truth, Sincere…
They are to hold themselves and one another accountable to these. It should go without saying but it needs to be said: holding all accountable equally, without partiality. Can each elder look at himself in the mirror and before God and assert he has made truly independent judgments of his fellow elders in terms of accountability and treated them all equally? Or, has he “trusted” others and just gone along with the group?
In light of that let’s recall the troubling episode surrounding Pastor Driscoll’s comments about Ted Haggard’s tragic sins and spouses. Pastor Driscoll was called to account, over a period of time, by a large group of people. Ultimately he confessed (which is good) he was wrong ( were the comments about spouses incorrect teaching, not gentle, quarrelsome, hurt his reputation with outsiders, overbearing, reproachful, untruthful, insincerely unloving – any or all of these?) – So, Mark himself, at the promptings of outsiders (at the threat of picketing) determined his behavior and actions were unacceptable. Where were his fellow elders? Why was he not held accountable by those closest to him? This is just one example – but the most public and verifiable.
There have been reports of bullying and elders that changed votes after a call so that votes could be unanimous, comments made that there has been “errors on both sides”, votes were cast without truly understanding matters that were voted on, voting according to another’s recommendation without doing the work of studying an issue, abdicating responsibility due to lack of time on the elders’ part and acceding to artificial timetables and acceptance of the violation of the bylaws. One comment reported was “the new bylaws were just formalizing what was already going on…” which would mean that the old bylaws were being violated. Some of the charges against Pastor Bent were determined to be false – what happened to the false accusers? Are these reports true? They certainly have a “ring” of truth about them and each, by itself, can be discounted and rationalized by the perpetrators but the truth is known by the elders and their willingness to operate in that culture is a violation of Christian character.
Godly men have been fired, a godly man has been shunned and directed to be treated as an unbeliever and his reputation and motives savaged and judged by men in such a culture. Each elder willingly participates in that culture and conjoins his reputation to the reputation of those actions – each owns personally the errors, damage and sins of that process. What is the responsibility of the elders with respect to the operation of the church? MH has gross revenues of $9-12 million annually. Those offerings are entrusted to them – the elders – partly based on the expectation that those godly men are exercising oversight and accountability. The change in the bylaws, the minimal time for deliberation, indeed no deliberation as a group, and light manner in which the elders abdicated their oversight authority reflects on their judgment and should rightly be questioned. Two elders did – and they were fired. This is a glaring example of the methods and character of the 5 self-selected executive elders that now effectively control the finances of MH. All these facts were known when the elders voted “unanimously” to remove their own authority and concentrate the power in the hands of these five, self-appointed without term. Does it remove their responsibility? They must think so…but from here it looks like the elders are responsible but they no longer have control.
Interestingly, weekly giving figures used to be available to the members, now it is not. The management of the church has become increasingly less open to the members.
Each individual elder has endorsed this culture of heavy-handed bullying by acts both of commission and omission and it does not reflect well on them or their church and they are responsible.
(While every effort is made to know things correctly we see through a glass darkly and if facts are available that contradict the discussion above we earnestly invite correction – the desire is for truth and right understanding.)