"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Grace Grieving 9: THE MANUAL

     The "Manual," variously called Manual of Policies and Procedures or The Board Policy Manual, is an extraordinary document--worthy of an extremist political party or a Jim Jones-type cult
     Dated April 22, 2010 when it was approved by the Executive Board of Elders (EBOE), and updated June 16, 2012, it appropriates for itself all power and authority over every minutiae of our church leadership, including the senior pastor. 
     It is a masterpiece of absolute, chilling control. The Manual is mentioned in the bylaws but it was approved by the EBOE without the knowledge or consent of the members. Until the Watchmen of Grace posted it on their website, we didn't know of its existence. And I hadn't read it until last week.
     Although you and I had no say in yielding all power to the EBOE through the Manual, its authority apparently supersedes the church bylaws we did have a say in. It governs every aspect of the Executive Board of Elders, that group which often meets in secret to determine all our destinies and which demands our total allegiance.
     God is given a token, flowery nod at the beginning of the Manual but it is really all about THE BOARD. Loyalty must be to THE BOARD. No elder can do anything without the permission or imprimatur of THE BOARD. Despite lots of good-sounding verbiage throughout, certain passages assure that the Board--particularly the Chairman of the Board--retains a tight fist around the church.
     "Board members will support the legitimacy and authority of the Board on any matter, irrespective of the individual elder's personal position on the issue." I guess this is where the Board can declare a decision unanimous even when it isn't--and require all elders to concur. 
     The Board "will direct, control and inspire" the church--don't miss that word "control". You'll read lots of examples in the Manual of how this control is applied. It will also "enforce upon itself whatever discipline is needed. . ." (They are big on conformity and discipline.) They will "allow no officer, individual, or committee of the Board to hinder or be an excuse for not fulfilling group obligations." I can hear boot heels clicking together.
     The EBOE looks over the shoulder of every elder as he speaks to the Senior Pastor or the staff: "Board Members' interactions with the Senior Pastor or with staff must recognize the lack of authority vested in individuals except where explicitly Board authorized."
     Board members are to report on each other if one "may be falling significantly short of adherence to one or more of the qualifications," at which point "communication and potential discipline shall be followed." We know what happened to Jesus Eyes when he tried to take exception to some of the board policies early on. They "communicated" with him and threatened "discipline" so effectively that he not only came back into lockstep with the leadership but became one of their most effective enforcers.   
    Much of its interpretation rests on the meanings of words whose definitions are not given. "The purpose of the Board is to. . . ensure that GBC achieves appropriate results for appropriate persons. . . and avoids unacceptable actions and situations. . ."  What results and persons are "appropriate"? What actions and situations are "unacceptable"? I guess we'll find out when we cross their invisible lines.  
     There are some odd additions in the Manual. Why is there a section on how to conduct "interfund shifting"? Is there a legitimate purpose for "interfund shifting" of church monies?
     Why is the Senior Pastor instructed to keep the Board informed of "anticipated media coverage" and "threatened or pending lawsuits"? Why would a church need to have rules covering potential confrontation with the community? 
     And why would our leaders need a document regulating their private conversations, personal opinions and thought life--and by extension ours, when we talk with them. 
     "The Chairperson" of this powerful Nine is "a specially empowered member of the Board." (emphasis added) He seems to hold himself above all the rules. For instance, when we reminded Chairman Carl that the elders are required by the bylaws and Robert's Rules of Orders to publish in the minutes of the February 5 business meeting the number of votes--not just percentages--received by each elder, he could blow off those requirements with, "We decided not to because it would just look like a popularity contest." And then "Maybe we will before our next business meeting in June. We'll think about it."    
     The existence of the Manual explains so much! It explains Board directives like the one we've been told about whereby a single elder is designated to speak to each of us dissenters. All others are apparently forbidden to approach or respond to us--even with a greeting or a smile.  
     It explains why the elders--men we've known, respected, and considered friends for decades--have turned into automatons, like someone stole their souls and consciences, why you can't sit down with them and discuss concerns, human being to human being, without their reporting to the Board that we are deviating from their script. It explains why they are all so intimidated by their own Board--and why they turn around and pass that intimidation on to us with a vengeance.       
     The EBOE (hereinafter called "THE FIST") is a pocket of power, submitting to no authority but their own, as determined and defined by their chairman. 
     Call it power grab, coup, or hostile takeover, now I finally know where all this bizarre cult-like Big Brother stuff is coming from.You might want to refresh your memory on cult characteristics in our post of January 5, 2012. You may be seeing more examples of them in the very near future.
     Now everything makes sense. This is where all the fear is generated. This is where all the threats come from. This is where mindless conformity is turning good men into cold-blooded agents of a dictator.
     This is where God is stepping in and saying, "NOT IN MY CHURCH!"



  1. Hi Jessica. I noticed that this post is numbered 9 and that the board referenced has 9 members. Nine, in scripture, is used for judgment. I will not try to interpret this, but thought you would like to know.

  2. How interesting. It is also #9 in the current Statement of Faith that some are trying to eliminate.

  3. Jtasresq jtasresq@aol.com

    9:24 PM (1 hour ago)

    Jessica and Jerry: The exposé on the Manual is right on and one of your best among many. I cannot imagine anything like this written for a church. I wonder if it came to us from the Great Leader's foundation. Don't drink the koolaid, okay? John