Monday, March 24, 2008

Council Recognizes the Train Wreck

Exeter CRC Council has finally made a united response to the blog. It didn't answer any burning questions but went on a righteousness tour in an attempt to legitimize their views.

Council suggests that that the blog was an "attack" against the church. Perhaps they missed the point. The blog is an accountability mechanism for Council, not the church, not Exeter CRC, not the denomination. The Council. The Council is being asked to be, in a word, "accountable." This Council is garnering a long history of keeping issues secret. Why would it go to such great lengths to make their vote regarding women in office by "secret ballot?" Why would they be under a gag order? Could it be because they know full well that they would be the object of ridicule and persecution if they individually and publicly made their views known? Council's secret vote is the mechanism of allowing Council members to make anonymous, hurtful public statements while keeping their identity beyond scrutiny. (It is a veritable public blog in it' own right!)

Council did however convene all of the men into a room and asked them if they were responsible for writting the dissenting post to the blog. They all said no, so, it must not be true. Case closed. How quaint. Did you really expect a member to say, "yes, I posted a note to the blog that said we were under a gag order and I'm not putting my head on the chopping block?" Wouldn't this meeting BE THE CHOPPING BLOCK? Do you not think there is an element of fear of reprisal? The whole congregation is walking on eggshells and you expect someone to hold the axe while you prepare to chop? How self serving was this demonstration of mutual finger pointing?

Council states that it wishes members to speak in an open, honest and respectful manner. There was however, no open forum or open discussion before they decided on the fate of women. They then insulted many more by making a 5 year moratorium on discussing the matter.

Ask yourself, does this really sound like an open, honest and respectful manner? What it does sound like is a patriarchal, unilateral, closed and disrespectful manner. Quoting the Bible does not legitimize your sinful behavior, nor does it even qualify as a discussion as that would include the interaction of people other than yourselves. I too, would like to remind Council of their own words and be an example of what they speak of.

Anger in and of itself is not sinful. Jesus was angry with the money changers in the temple. It was justifiable so Jesus took fast and furious action. In another verse when the Pharisees refused to answer Jesus’ questions, “He . . . looked round about them with anger.” This verse goes on to give the reason for His anger: “the hardness of their hearts.” Wow. Talk about a parallel!

We often think of anger as a selfish, destructive emotion, however, the fact that Jesus become angry indicates that anger itself, as an emotion, is “amoral.” African Americans were legitimately angry about their historic treatment and it was justified. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr was angry, critical and forceful. Angry does not justify violence but it is a legitimate emotion that can drive issues. Council should be the champion of healing, reconciliation and comfort.

Yet, Council laments about a blog not having any accountability. It is Council that has no accountability. Whether that be to the 40% of the congregation that wanted to see women in office, or to the ambivalent, if not fearful 60% of the remaining congregation that is seeing the turmoil in their congregational family. Council has lorded over their weakest and has shirked their responsibility and have shown their incompetence to lead our congregation. Mere numbers does not make right anymore than does "might make right." Council may be irritated that one can make an anonymous blog that criticizes them but perhaps should channel their efforts into doing good with the God given power.

Council can continue to ignore this issue as it has or it can attempt to salvage what it can, admit it's mistakes and show a new kind of leadership that doesn't lord over it's people but takes on the form of servant, not master. It takes a big man to admit his mistakes especially in the path of self destruction we have been accustomed to. It is time for the congregation to step in and demand a non-confidence vote on the leadership of Rev. Harry Frielink and bring this congregation back to where it was, two steps back. At least from that point we can choose a new path, perhaps not the path that can be shared by one side or the other but a path that considers open talk amongst the congregation with an air of compromise.

The point of the blog was to keep this issue in the forefront and I think that it has succeeded in that respect. I would like to thank Council for legitimizing this blog and increasing it's readership.

Joan of Ark


Anonymous said...

Oh, to be a fly on the wall of that council meeting. They don't take well to moles.

Anonymous said...

Our church went through the same thing. It is frustrating but keep praying and encouraging your council to find the common ground in Christ and come to some sort of agreement that can most parishioners can live with.

Jonathan said...

What particularly interested me when I read the letter on Sunday was the keen interest that council members had taken in scrutinizing the blog, and its many comments. It was clear that they had given the blog a thorough read, and undoubtedly continue to do so -- maybe even right now. I am sure they, like myself, were eager to read your response to their letter. I have to confess that I checked the blog when I got home from church! That gave you about a half an hour!

What is forgotten in the council's letter is that their *reading* of the blog is also anonymous. We know that in real life, when you approach a circle of people talking, that your arrival will change the conversation -- you may have entered a conversation where you were the topic, for instance, and suddenly an awkwardness descends.

In the real world we are not allowed to eavesdrop anonymously on actual conversations. We have to make our approach known, and we should be respectful towards social circles that are not our own. If, instead of blog, JofA called for a meeting at her house, where we sat around the living room and said nasty things about council, council would not be allowed to hide in the bushes outside, recording their findings and reporting them in a letter to the congregation. That would be considered eavesdropping.

What's great about the blog is that council is invited out of those prickly bushes, and inside where its warm, and they are free to hover as long as they like. They have free rein to read this blog, and scrutinize it closely if they wish. There is an openness here that simply couldn't happen anywhere else.

I read that council feels "under attack". I wonder if the opposite is true. Here we find a situation where we are all gathered in the same room, and can speak and share with openness. This is a rare thing, and strikes me as more a gift than an attack. Council doesn't have to wonder what those that support women in governance feel about things, they can read it here, freely.

I also read council describe itself as "unified while diverse". I am not sure I understand how a gathering of men could be described as diverse. The real diversity is happening here, on this blog, where people of all stripes, and all genders, have a voice. This is where the unity is happening. Now we are all here. Now, thanks to the letter, even those three people who didn't know about it do.

It's better that these conversations take place here instead of in someone's living room, and it's better that council is in the room too. What is wonderful about the letter is that, while before we wondered if they were here, now we know for sure, and we know they are listening.

Stratford said...

Would someone be willing to post the letter from council in the comments? I am curious to hear their side of the case.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous...."to be a fly on the wall". Well why don't you? As far as I understand, the doors are open. Walk on in. You don't even have to be a fly!


Anonymous said...

I would suspect that discussing the blog would be held behind closed doors.

the Samaritan said...

Having been in Exeter council in the past, it is obvious that council itself does not understand anymore what open and closed meetings are. Due to lack of interest from the congregation, the only person usually kept from the closed meeting is the secretary. Generally, except for her, no one really sits in on any meetings just for interest sake alone. Whenever there is something even remotely "sensitive" the closed council is brought up so that everyone can say their thoughts without fear of any personal reaction. This would be fine except that generally not much is said by the majority of those attending. Over the past few years many of the items of interest are prediscussed at the executive ie pastor,and the chairs. By the time it comes to council most don't have a firm grasp of what's going on and rely on the wisdom of the executive in their recommendations. As council only meets once a month, most decisions have to be dealt with promptly so a "rubber stamp" of approval is given for decisions made or letters to be drafted.In essence, many items are left to be decided by a few. We are a busy congregation. Unfortunately most of us don't believe we really have time for church matters to interfere with our busy busy lives.(being a bit sarcastic) So we delegate. You take care of this, I'll take care of that. You trust me, I'll trust you that its done in the proper way. Unfortunately, that sometimes leaves one or two people to decide what's relevant and whats not. Whats to be discussed and what 's best left unsaid. For council, hoping that this issue will just crawl back under the rug for another 4 years before they have to plug their noses and haul it out again just won't do. I KNOW there are those in council that would like to really address the issue in an open and loving manner but just don't know exactly what to do. Please pray about it. Let the Spirit guide you. He hasn't failed the Church yet...
Its very sad that this blog has become the only channel of communication between members in this church. We have our general meetings and deem it to be successful if the budget is passed and no one really objects to anything. No matter that only a small number actually attend. We have to be good stewards and we're all too busy singing " I have married a wife and bought me a cow"
The kingdom is coming, lets march forward not build walls.