"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 14, 2012

Grace Grieving 4: Members denied the right to vote

Letter to John Anderson, GBC member, att'y:
     Hello John,  I wanted to let you know what I experienced when I went to the church vote last Sun. [Feb. 5] I met Nelline and Betty Frank when I arrived and b/f heading over to the gym, Nelline mentioned that I needed a packet to be allowed in the meeting.  She said members could pick theirs up at one of the tables in the patio, so I headed over to the one that listed Ha and asked for my member packet, which. . . wasn't there.
     When I said I was a member and should have a packet, he sent me over to another table where 2 women had a tablet to sign if you didn't get a packet and felt you should have had one there.  One of them asked me if I was a current member at the church, which I replied that I'd been a member since 1947 and had not sent the church a letter of intent to remove my membership.  Also, I had not received a letter telling me that my membership at this church had been removed.  I mentioned that I had been attending Los Altos Grace Brethren Church but had not changed my membership.
     The other lady told me that there were criteria for removing members from the church membership, one of which was not attending for a period of time.  The member would then be mentioned at a board of Elders meeting and they would vote to remove the name.  I was so taken back that I didn't think to reply with, "How would they know I wasn't attending here unless they have members sign in as proof"?
     Anyway, standing next to me was a member, Mrs. Schilling, whom I remembered from our days together at the church at 5th and Cherry, many years ago.  She spoke up and said, "I'm a member of this church and also send in money and also attend, so why don't I have a packet?" They said they would look into the names on the tablet we were to sign.
     I was told non-members could observe the meeting  from the chapel on closed circut TV.  I went into the Chapel and saw Betty Frank sitting in the back and sat down by her.  She told me that she was a member who has been attending and sending in contributions, but was told she didn't have a packet.  She wasn't told of the table with the sign-in tablet for those who felt they should have a packet.  I would like to know if removing my membership without proof of my non-attendence and not notifying me of the removal is contestable?  Do you have any suggestions for me?

Thank you,
Shirley Ketchum Haralson

Response from John Anderson:
     Love you Shirley! Be advised that not allowing you to vote was illegal. I corrected the Chairman during the meeting when he tried to say that was the rule. To apply the section they "cited" incorrectly to you, you would have had to have been taken through a Mt 18 discipline process. . . someone has to approach you about your "sin" (which in this case would be the man-made sin of failure to regularly come to Grace).
     If you heard me during the first part of the meeting you heard me raise the issue of denial of the right to vote. By being timely raised it does not matter whether or not your vote would have changed the outcome. It automatically voids the entire vote. They will not respond or accept this but it is correct. . . I am so sorry that you and others were abused like this and I hope that someone will raise this issue to Chairman LaBa[r]bera, the elders . . . at the EBOE meeting, and anywhere else they can. They will not provide us the exact vote or the list of people (all.  Not just those that went the extra mile they were not legally required to by signing their list) who were denied the right to vote.  John


  1. I was also turned away from the meeting. When I told the gentleman at the back door of the fellowship hall that I believed that I met the criteria to vote but had no packet, he instructed me to go outside to a table for "people with your problem." (not kidding, exact quote). I would like to see the bylaws but they are not on the church's website.

  2. If I had been a member when I attended Grace, I would no longer be one now. I don't attend regularly, but every now and then I like to go for nostalgia and to hear Lou speak. But even if I had been a member, I wouldn't have gone to vote. I love Grace Brethren and all of the people who go there, but my absence from the church negates my ability to vote. If I'm not there to really know what is going on, then I should not have a right to vote. The majority of the people involved in all of this stupid arguing are involved based on hearsay. They don't attend regularly, but they did at one point, and so they take the word of their friends and stand on one side or the other condemning the side that they are not on. I can say that I have been one of these people..but the more I look at the situation, the more my heart breaks for my old church. The problem here is not who is right and who isn't. Look around and see the division that this is causing. Are the elders really the problem? Are the watchmen really the problem? Satan is dividing you all and everyone is letting him do it. No matter who wins in the end, relationships and people will be broken. Is that really winning at all?

  3. Um, your church has never had voting freedom.

    I was shocked beyond belief when i was there in the mid-80s for the vote for your senior pastor. The church had been without a senior pastor for some time, and in my opinion, was quite desperate. The search committee had made their decision, and then the elders met with him and made their decision. They presented that man to the congregation and asked for a rubber stamp approval. I was one of the few (6 ?) who was opposed. But the way the presentation and voting was done, i'm sorry, i saw no choice given to the congregation.

    It has evidently been done that way for years. The elders decide and so the congregation says "Yes" with no other option presented. There you have your 90% majority. But currently there is a large faction in your church that can't agree with the elders and so there are huge problems because there is no precedent for working out such problems. The congregation followed before.

    I'm not meaning to be unsympathetic at all. I am so sorry this is happening. But i don't find it a surprise.

    The way leadership has been run made this an inevitable problem eventually. You also need to remember that the way church - any church - is run currently is a business, and not much more. THE Church of Christ (not the denomination) is what each of the people of the universal, catholic Church do in their every day lives. That is a huge discussion for another place, but it means that decisions are made that are for the business, not for God or the people of God.

    I love attending corporate worship and feeling part of the whole in that attendance. But i never mistake any church i attend for THE Church. A building and the way the congregation runs it is a business.