The following was written by Gregg Neilson, with an intro from “Phoenix Preacher” (from his blog, see below):
Let’s Discuss the New By-Laws of MHC
Pastor Mark told a member that she had unintentionally stumbled on the problem he had with the fired pastors by asking for a copy of the by-laws. It is clear that the fired respected pastors had concerns about the proposed by-laws.
Here is an excellent look at the problems the new by-laws contain. Let this be the beginning of a healthy discussion of the new by-laws.
The original preface to my annotations follows for those who did not catch it earlier………..
I have been a reader of this blog [Phoenix Preacher’s] since its first week. However, I have noted that there is a glaring omission in the posts here.
We have been much distracted by the great effrontery and injustice meeted on Paul Petry and Bent Meyers. This distraction stems quite naturally from either not being acquainted with them, or from being their advocates. In all of this we have concentrated on the process of these proceedings at Mars Hill but not upon the substance, i.e. the by-laws themselves. It is in fact the by-laws which have been at the heart of the disagreement. Paul and Bent were the only elders at the time who had the courage to express concerns with them.
Toward this end, I am posting the annotated by-laws which I shared with two serving elders in early November. As I shared, I checked with them at regular intervals throughout the proceeding, they neither chastised me for my attitude, nor did they dispute my close reading.
Unfortunately, I have not heard from anyone in leadership since. Though I would have preferred to have my concerns handled within the leadership of Mars Hill, I think it will now be most fruitful to bring my conclusions to the larger forum so that they may be discussed in the light of day.
Here is an “executive summary” of the document that follows:
The full council of elders has been reduced to only 5 ruling elders.
These Ruling 5 are self-appointed and serve for life without effective accountability.
There is no effective oversight of Mark since he serves as his own supervisor on the Ruling 5.
These by-laws were voted in by the former full council of elders thus revealing the inability of these men to critically read, voice any comments, or express any substantive opinion.
Since a quorum is only 50%, effectively only 3 Ruling elders govern the church..
These Ruling 5 may only be supervised by those whom they hand pick, as they also control the slate of those who may be appointed.
No scriptural basis is necessary to discipline any member of the Mars Hill body.
There remains no protection and no recourse for any member so disciplined, as has already been demonstrated when our very leaders have been subjected to having their character inpugned in public.
Following are the annotated By- Laws of Mars Hill Church. They are meant to focus discussion on the substantive matters of church government which have proven so disruptive to the body of late, and which have been largely ingored by the leadership.
I trust this will stimulate vigorous discussion and result in substantive changes in a very inadequate church government structure.
The by-laws are those originally published by Jamie Munson. The annotations in [italic] are my own.
Annotated update 11/07 (by Gregg Neilson)
Bylaws of Mars Hill Church
Last updated – 10-29-07
[Freedom4Captives Note: Only a sample of these will be posted in this blog in #12 post, but first, a bit about Neilson as he tells it on Phoenix’s blog]
I wondered why this church [Phoenix Preacher’s] has any interest in our troubles, but my reading between the lines at the beginning gave way to some specific answers due to some posts at the end, telling me that several of you have been terribly hurt by many of the same issues we are facing.
These pastors [Paul Petry & Bent Meyers] are terribly hurt, their families traumatized, their wives grieving, their livlihood suddenly up in the air. And for what? Godly, humble, disagreement with they way the church would deal with discipline. How utterly and terribly ironic.
To make full disclosure, our family has been close friends for nearly twenty years with one of the fired pastors. What Mark has done in a fit of anger was wrong. It was immoral and it was ungodly. Mostly it was bizzare. Why would he fire and seek to humiliate and ultimately cause an entire congregation to shun the man he considered a friend just a couple of months before. Over by-laws? Yet this is apparently so, since no other offense was on the table.
For all of us who have been affected, no traumatized, by these events, it has been deeply troubling, and we do not want to see this quick tempered pique of anger visited on anyone else. That is why we have spoken up on our blog in the only venue open to us since we have been shut out of the member’s site.
I echo Sad’s heart ( http://prayingheart.wordpress.com/ )
in this matter and would like to see the following:
1) A repentant heart from a pastor whom we love. Exoneration of the two elders and some restitution for the harm they have suffered.
2) A fair and open discussion among the elders about the by-laws. They were passed without discussion and coercively.
3) A clear method of holding all of the pastors accountable to each other and to the flock that they are called to serve.
4) An open and heartfelt look into how many members have been treated in the same abusive manner and a decent attempt to properly disciple these harmed ex-members.
I can tell you this with all hearfelt sorrow. By-laws, church governance, or shared values – no matter what we call them – must result in mutually accountable relationships amongst the leadership, not corrosive power. Only in this way will MH leaders ever construct a healthy model of community for the people of God to follow.