This is a second email which RB sent to the same group of people after a response to his first email was sent from BF to everyone on the list but him.
Date: Fri, June 29, 2012
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am growing in my understanding that the Lord may be calling me, too, to help bring clarity and instruction to the Body of Christ in this moment. Please read my words as words arising from a heart of love and deep concern for all of you, including the Grace Church leadership. Whether or not these words are directed by the Spirit, time will tell I suppose, though the inner wrestling and anguish of heart I’ve felt as I’ve composed them feel a lot to me like what Jeremiah talks about…”a fire shut up in my bones.” I acknowledge that my tone is strong and direct, but I feel that I cannot, at this moment, sacrifice clarity and precision out of a fear of offending or being labelled, whether explicitly or subtly, “ungraceful”. I am responding here to B’s response to my email that included an invitation to you all to meet with the elders last Sunday.
1. B’s response was a “reply-all”, minus me. I received my own, very different response. Later in the day, our entire group received an email that mentioned my email but made no mention of B’s response to you all. Only by accident did I learn that such a response had been sent, and that you all would have a chance to meet with the elders and deacons.
2. The response includes several ambiguities that I feel to be self-serving and that are doubly troubling in that they occur in a pastoral email aimed at “clarifying” the situation:
- B states that the elders and deacons (within which he includes himself) found out about our intention to seriously explore leaving Grace “several weeks” ago. B was informed of our intentions on January 19th — five months ago, and the elders and deacons were formally informed and asked to meet on March 19th — more than three months ago.
- A large-group gathering with elders/deacons, all of us, and key women from the church is what we’ve been asking for since March 19th, and it has been twice denied us. The way in which B now marshals this vision, claiming it as his own in order to demonstrate that the elders and deacons will continue their commitment to “encourage and bless us” even after we’ve decided to leave, is misleading and disturbing.
3. We have been unable to speak face to face with the elders and deacons, individually and communally, for three months in spite of repeated requests. When I sent an email last Friday sharing with you all my own experience of this process, the entire elder/deacon group was marshaled in less than 24 hours and made available for private, face-to-face meetings on a Sunday with anyone who might want to meet (minus me or anyone in my community). Why? Because, they say, “we realize the importance of this matter.” The defense and highly controlled explanation of the elders/deacons’ response to the VAP community is important. More important, in actual fact, than meeting together with that group of 9 individuals who have each given a decade or more of their lives to Grace Church and who are seriously considering leaving. This course of action is defensive, controlling, and deeply insulting.
My dear brothers and sisters. This is heart-breaking. I want you to know that at this point, I am unwilling to accuse anyone, including B, of malice, or of an intentional desire to do harm. Somewhat strangely, I have no doubt of the care and concern of the pastors, elders, and deacons of Grace Church for me or my family. But in this moment I feel I must bring forward a question of fitness to lead. I will be clear. I do not feel that in their current configuration, this group of elders/deacons and pastors is fit to lead Grace Church. Hear me out. This situation (and it is by no means unique) brings to light something that is by no means a new reality: a leadership system and culture that has been and continues to be (in spite of its own, repeated assertions to the contrary) unaccountable, self-selecting, defensive, controlling, manipulative, and, at the core, unable or unwilling to see how the decisions they make affect other people. Grace Church leadership regularly elevates the value of trust: something, it seems, one shouldn’t have to do if one’s behavior is demonstrably and historically trustworthy. I, for one, cannot and will not acknowledge their behavior as such. Because there is no process at Grace Church for bringing forward such a charge, ____ and I have voted with our feet.
Believe me. I am not interested in trying to “wreck” Grace Church, nor in trying to convince any of you to follow my lead and leave. There are numerous reasons I’ve chosen to leave Grace. What I am interested in and praying for is that the place that has been my home and family and friends and EVERYTHING for the entirety of my adult life (and that is still the home of people I count dear brothers and sisters) would walk in truth, grace, love, freedom, and in the way of God’s glorious, radical Kingdom. I must state it again: I am deeply and sincerely grateful for Grace Church. There aren’t words enough to express it. I am deeply grateful for B and the people on the elder/deacon board and have been blessed and encouraged by them throughout my life. Again, I am not accusing anyone in leadership of intentional evil or even mean-spiritedness. But I am willing to state that I believe them to have acted, both now and in the past, in untrustworthy ways that make them, in their current configuration, unfit to lead Grace into its next season of life in a graceful, truthful, trustworthy, community-strengthening way.
Let me be clear about something else. I do not believe that the Grace Church leadership, as it exists right now, is capable of self-correcting. I challenge Grace Church to open itself wide to the eyes and input of some body-selected (not leader selected) outsiders. I also challenge Grace Church to institute an open-forum not lead or controlled by anyone currently in leadership where the true feelings and opinions of the body can be voiced freely and without fear in the hearing of the entire community…a forum a far cry from the tightly controlled, private meetings held this past Sunday afternoon.
My dear brothers and sisters, something must change at Grace. I acknowledge that some things have changed. I certainly acknowledge that the leadership of Grace assert that lots of things have changed. However, I believe there is significant work still to be done that may require more radical changes in leadership than have been up to this time entertained by the church at large; and I believe, even more strongly, that the determination of what needs to change, and when/if it has actually changed must be given, freely and fearlessly, to the BODY.
My dear brothers and sisters. I pray that God would allow these words to have their way among God’s people. I’m okay if you disagree with what I say, but I’d ask you to read this email at least twice, just so you’re at least disagreeing with what I’m actually saying. My love for you all, including you elders, deacons, and pastors, is strong. I pray that God would let his kingdom come and his will be done in our midst, just like it is in heaven.
Love to each of you in Jesus,
ps. I humbly ask the Grace Church leadership, if they truly believe I have not “fallen” and am not “less spiritual” than them (as B asserted to you all), to avoid the tendency, exhibited last Friday, to immediately respond to this communication. Let it sit in the hearts and minds of your people…people who are spiritually discerning and mature and who also have the Spirit of the Lord.