Let’s Get Rid of the Pastor

Recently received an email:
Mike,
We have a bit of upset in our Church that I really feel like we are not hearing the entire story.
Our Pastor [X] was accused of plagiarism in his sermons, he was talked to by our governing session, admitted that he used his friend's words in his sermons without accurately giving sites. He apologized publicly and has since sited all references used in his sermons. Other members of the Church were unhappy and ultimately thought he should have suffered greater consequences and continued to question the session about their decisions. On [Someday] one of the other pastors [Y] who was our [... ]was put on administrative leave I assume for questioning the session farther and on [Date] the Church will decide for or against his termination. Groups on Facebook are going up for or against one party or another...it's super childish and has really diminished my respect for many longstanding members of our Church.

My question is this...am I missing something Biblically? Are we not all reading the same Bible? Is this bigger than just a couple of copied sermons because that really doesn't bother me at all but the behavior of adults acting like children is really upsetting. This entire experience has caused me to lose a lot of respect for many of the elders of our Church. Hopefully, I am just ignorant and missing a big part of a bigger picture....

This is a summary of one of the groups on a private FB page......
Please browse through the group members and invite any members of the church that are missing.

This group is a private group for members of [Z] Church.  Any posts in it will not be able to be seen publicly on Facebook, even if you see it in your own feed. Recognizing that the meeting scheduled for [DATE] and decisions made in that meeting will affect the church for years to come, I wanted to begin the conversation now as a few hours on a Sunday afternoon will certainly not be enough. Discussion itself isn't good enough either, be in constant prayer and fasting that we the congregation would see the way forward that God is calling us to, that truth would be known, and that God would continue to use this church as a light into the future.

As we know how people act on the internet, this group will be moderated, anyone being insulting or rude to another brother or sister in Christ will be removed from the group. Even in the midst of our struggles we are still called to act in the manner that Christ called us to and to even internally where no one from the outside is watching to love in a way that those outside would know we are Christians by our love if they could see. Strive to talk about the issues at hand and the qualities of the arguments made themselves, not about the people making the arguments.

I seriously feel like I am back in high school...are these people for real?
Suggestions?

My Response:

There has got to be more to the story than plagiarized sermons. In the broadest sense plagiarism is taking credit for another’s work. Was their credit taken? Was a copyright infringed? What is the view of the one who was plagiarized? This seems to me to be a very trivial matter unless it has somehow brought discredit to the body of Christ. Sermons are not part of the publishing or academic world where such behavior is totally unacceptable.

What “greater consequences” should there be other than a public apology and behavior in keeping with repentance (and again I would question if repentance is even necessary for something like this)? What kind of “church discipline” are the folks who are unhappy calling for? Censure, suspension, termination? These all seem like over the top punishments, and I do mean punishments, not corrective discipline.

Most often the execution of a pastor is because a power player in the church wants him or her gone. I am not sure how your polity is organized, but it sounds like you have an elder board that makes hiring/firing decisions on the senior pastor. When it comes to staff, in my group the senior pastor hires/fires staff. Reading your letter it sounds like "X" wants to be the senior pastor and has a group supporting him in his attempt to oust the existing senior.

According to how the senior pastor handles the situation, it most often results in a church split. This, of course, is totally against scripture ( 1 Corinthians 1:10 and 12:12-13, Ephesians 4:3 and 11-13, Colossians 3:13-14, John 17:23, 1 Peter 3:8, Romans 12:16a, Matthew 23:8, Philippians 2:1 ) which address the imperative of maintaining unity in the church.

Private Facebook meetings! That sounds like a lynching. What’s at stake here that your elder board can’t deal with it? They are duly appointed to handle problems that arise in the fellowship. How does “longer discussion” with everyone in the church going to benefit anyone? It seems like this will polarize people into those who support and those who oppose, and that there will be a bunch of folks who quit coming because of the drama. It sounds like a decision has already been made, someone has to go so that we can be a “light in the future”  and to make it spiritual we need to pray and fast that we can figure out what “God is calling us to do.” Those are scary religious words that are nothing more than Pharisaical.

Unfortunately, these people are real, and they are also wrong. It sounds like pettiness to push the preacher to other pastures. It would be more honest for the leaders of the “private Facebook Meeting” were to say, "I think it’s time for a pastoral change because of …" instead of this farce of having to deal with a serious problem of pastor stealing someone else’s sermon and preaching the good word to us. This is why people are dropping out of the Church. God’s calling us to love, to forgive, to bear with one another, to live in unity and harmony, if there is a moral failure of some sort church leaders are held responsible, and pastors that much more so. But plagiarism, unless the one whose material was taken was somehow defrauded in the act---I just don’t see the huge problem.

Basically, I think you have a group of people who want your senior pastor gone and they are taking this approach to get that task done. Post this on your "private facebook meeting discussion page" and say its from the right reverend doctor Michael J. Boswith.

Sorry, your fellowship is being attacked like this. Unless God does intervene it’s not going to go well for the Kingdom. Sin has a way of doing that.



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