I was fascinated by a letter of apology from current and former elders at Mars Hill Church to two members of their staff who were put on trial some years ago, found guilty without due process and publicly humiliated them by their communication to the entire church which included "rejection and disassociation" from the church and members of the church. Now, members of the board at that time and new members are calling their actions sinful and asking the forgiveness of these two former staff members. As I read their letter it raised some issues for me.
First, when you shut down legitimate discussion in an organization and take dissenting viewpoints as "sinful" or "disloyal" or "causing division" and shut those voices down with threats, intimidation or termination we create a toxic workplace where candid dialogue is not allowed. Ironically, the issues that these two men were raising, were the very issues that allowed the church to get into trouble and eventually led to the downfall of the church.
As the elders wrote to them, "you each had every right as an elder to openly express your strong concerns about the bylaws and to influence our thinking so that we might have made the most informed decision possible. You also had good reason to contact the church’s attorney about those bylaws. These were not sinful acts of mistrust on your part, but reasonable acts of due diligence. We needed to learn from you at that time and we should have trusted you and respected your spiritual authority as elders of the church to educate us about potential problems with those bylaws. Instead, we silenced your voices through our complicity in your terminations and our decisions to remove Paul as an elder and keep Bent on probation instead of examining the issues more closely."
Any leader that tries to shut down discussion by intimidation is a toxic leader and it is their toxicity that needs to be addressed rather than legitimate discussion over legitimate issues. In our organization we allow "Robust Discussion" on any issue with the exception of personal attacks or hidden agendas. If your organization practices any kind of intimidation for candid discussion, take heed. Often it is the senior leader who leads the charge because they are threatened by voices that disagree with them.
Second, there are thousands of church leaders who owe an apology to staff members that they have treated unfairly, badly and without due process. I was saddened by friends of ours who were fired from their pastoral position without any due process or even conversation around the reasons for the decision. I suspect the senior leader was threatened and led the charge. He had stated he did not want them there. Then when the same was done to him by the elders he wined about what had happened to him. They had simply done to him what he had done to others.
There are many deeply wounded staff who have been unfairly treated by their senior leader and boards have allowed it to happen. If you are guilty of this, please don't ignore the pain you caused, the lack of due diligence you allowed or the actions you were a party to. Make things right. Jesus will one day hold us accountable for how we have treated those entrusted to us. One friend who read this letter from Mars Hill wept because of the pain they had experienced and wished someone would reach out and make it right. Sadly it probably will not happen.
Take a few moments and read this letter of apology
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