Monday, December 17, 2007

Some Thoughts on "Church Authority" and "Church Discipline"

Wade Burleson, on his blog, Grace and Truth to You, wrote this article entitled Church Authority: What It Is And What It Is Not in which he reprints this article, Authority in the Local Church, from his father Paul Burleson's blog.

In response, Chuck Andrews wrote this article, Authority, Leadership, & Relationships.

Wade Burleson also wrote this article, Are We Southern Baptists Becoming a Benign Cult? The Danger of Casually Dismissing Scripture When Defining 'True' Christianity.

How do these ideas relate to the abuse of "church authority" being witnessed in churches today? Are we seeing this type of abuse of authority in Bellevue Baptist Church? Please cite specific examples.

Mac Brunson, pastor of FBC Jacksonville, Florida, recently modified their church's bylaws to include a church disciplinary committee.

Dr. Adrian Rogers did something similar at Bellevue over ten years ago with the formation of a Church Displinary Council except that it's not a part of the bylaws. As we know, these are the bylaws of BBC, written in 1929, and for the most part they are ignored by the church administration. Here are the bylaws transcribed.

Has the Church Disciplinary Council ever been utilized since its formation?

Thanks to "junkster" for this topic idea.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Touch Not Mine Anointed!



This is the story of one abusive pastor, Phil Arms, but there are some similarities to what Bellevue is experiencing. This is Phil Arms' bio, copied from his website, Phil Arms Ministries.

"Phil Arms grew up in West Texas. His dynamic Christian mother raised her six children in the local church. However, Phil did not commit his life to Christ during his younger years and chose to join himself with the sub-culture of the sixties and seventies in Houston, Texas. After experiencing one dead end after another, running from the love and voice of God, he began to search for reality and gave his life to Christ on a street corner in 1972. Immediately after his conversion, he began a ministry on the streets of Houston, Texas, witnessing to those in need of Jesus. Within a short time God began to open wide the doors for Phil to minister in churches, schools and evangelistic rallies.

"He was licensed to preach in a local Southern Baptist Church and commissioned as an evangelist, birthing Phil Arms Minstries. This inter-denominational ministry went on to create weekend rallies geared to youth for many years, adding television and radio ministries, and also numerous church revivals and area-wide campaigns where Phil always focused on preaching a Bible-centered, Christ-exalting message.

"After spending fifteen years in the ministry of full-time evangelism, Phil and his wife, Suzanne, felt God strongly urging them to start a local church in the Houston area in 1986 and for fourteen years witnessed a continual, powerful move of the Spirit of God as it touched thousands of lives and homes.

"Since the year 2000, Dr. Arms, has devoted much of his time to writing and speaking at Bible Conferences and in churches as well as guesting for radio programs.

"Phil has co-authored several best-selling books with men such as Tim LaHaye and others. These books include Earth's Final Days, The Triumphant Return of Christ, and Piercing the Darkness.

"He has also written Promise Keepers--Another Trojan Horse , Wet Flies Can't Fly, The Winner in You and Pokemon and Harry Potter--Fatal Attractions."

But that's not Phil Arms' whole story...

From The Houston Press we learn that there's a whole lot more to his story than the above.

Read
In Arms' Way.

Here's one couple's experience with Phil Arms:

Spiritual Abuse - Is there such a thing?

And another's:

Houston Church - The Problem

Related articles:

What is "Spiritual Abuse"?

Biblical Leadership Styles

Tell it to the Church

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Who'd Have Thought?

Well, well. It seems the "church growth movement" hasn't been such a rousing success after all.

The ugly truth.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Prayer Guide For Our Pastor


Bellevue members are receiving this "prayer guide" in the mail this week. Enclosed along with a letter from David Coombs, it appears the guide may have been written by Director, Prayer Ministry, Carolyn Higginbotham.

Here is the 6-page guide:


Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5

Page 6

Comments?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Anonymous Letter #2

Many of the same people who received the first anonymous letter a few weeks ago received another one this week. (See "An Anonymous Letter" two topics down.)

This was taken from a scan that contained several different font styles and sizes, and some of it wasn't completely clear due to the poor quality of the scan, but I believe I have now corrected all the errors in the original scan.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Pastor Search Committee


Formerly called the "pulpit committee," is the body now called the "pastor search committee" always really qualified to search for a new pastor, and do they really do enough research before making a decision?

There were definitely some
questions regarding conflicts of interest with Bellevue's last pastor search committee.

Related articles:

Pastor searches packed with perils

INTEGRITY IN MINISTRY: NO HIDDEN SKELETONS IN YOUR CLOSET

Pastoral Search Questions

The Pastor Search Process

This illustrates how monumental the task must seem!

Pastor Search Committee Workbook

Steve Gaines addresses the congregation of Gardendale's FBC July 10, 2005 regarding the call to Bellevue in his "Didn't I tick you guys off?" speech. Summary here.

Thanks to "amazed" for this topic suggestion.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

An Anonymous Letter

This week Bellevue deacons, some members of the choir, members of Joe Jernigan's class, and perhaps others received this anonymous letter.

While I think if you're going to send a letter to someone by mail you should have the courage to sign your name, that's really not the issue here. I have no idea at all who wrote it. I can't even guess based upon the writing style, and besides, it's likely someone I don't know. But instead of criticizing the author for not signing his or her name or for sending it in the first place, why not critique the content of the letter itself? As someone so appropriately pointed out, we don't know who wrote the book of Hebrews either, but that doesn't diminish the value of what it says.

The sermon archives can be accessed here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"I'm going to teach Bellevue to be a praying church!"

What thoughts crossed your mind when you heard Steve Gaines utter these words from the pulpit in 2005?

In 2005 Bellevue's Annual Love Offering was earmarked for a new prayer chapel.

2005 Love Offering

Since that time, little has been said about a prayer chapel. Some who saw the plans claimed there was a prayer labyrinth in the plans. I've been trying for a long time to confirm this and only recently acquired what appears to be an architect's rendering of the Bellevue Prayer Chapel.

Prayer Chapel Plans

While the plan appears to include a labyrinth, upon closer inspection you can see, at least in these plans, it's really a circular room with three concentric rows of pews and kneeling benches. There are four doors off the main circular corridor leading to this room, and there's space in the center for a sculpture or some other focal point. While not a labyrinth per se, it does seem to have been inspired by the same.

Others who claim to have seen the plans have said the plans they saw specifically included a "prayer labyrinth" which was labeled as such, so perhaps it was removed from the original plans or there were more than one set of plans made.

However, the idea of a separate prayer chapel, especially in light of the recent budget shortfalls, begs a number of questions.

1. Why does Bellevue need a whole separate building devoted to "prayer"? We already have a 7500-seat auditorium that's open during the day as well as a chapel. Why the need to go somewhere special to pray?

2. Would the prayer chapel be open 24/7? If so, how safe could this be?

3. Who will "man" it? Paid or volunteer staff? (There don't appear to be any offices in this particular plan.)

4. There's a large 100-seat classroom/auditorium at the rear of the building. Again, Bellevue already has a whole building full of classrooms. Why spend money on more classroom space?


And speaking of prayer, here are the Personal Prayer Guide and the first two "assignments" for the "Pastor's Pit Crew," the children's prayer ministry that was begun by the new Director of Prayer. Is this what Steve Gaines meant when he said he was going to teach Bellevue to be a "praying church"?

Personal Prayer Guide

Assignment 1

Assignment 2

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sign It or Yer Out!


At a recent coaches' meeting BBC's volunteer coaches were given the following documents to fill out and sign and told that it would be mandatory if they wished to continue coaching.

The
first document includes the Basic Application, the Leadership Covenant, a Background Information sheet, and a Volunteer Authorization/Consent & Release form. It is obvious from the wording of the "Leadership Covenant" that it was written for use with Sunday School teachers and other workers.

The
second document includes the Coaches Covenant and a sheet concerning Biblical Peacemaking.

Finally, attached was a
copy of A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Can we assume this means there will be credit checks, too?

In this day and age I don't think anyone who's going to work with minors should object to a criminal background check, but the "loyalty oath" and checking members' giving records is too much. The latter has already been happening for some time. People have already been "called on the carpet" for not giving as much as Steve Gaines thought they should. I wonder if it's ever occurred to him that some people drop cash in the collection plate. So how does he know people aren't tithing 10%? And even if he knows how much someone gives, how does he know how much someone makes? They've got your Social Security number and a signed release to do what? Check with your bank?

Of all the red flags that were raised as I read through these documents (and they were legion), the one that stood out the most was this one:

"I waive any right that I may have to inspect references provided on my behalf."

So if a background check shows something in someone's past that is questionable, and the person questions it, he is waiving his right to ever see the information? Think about the implications of that!

Recent numbers I saw revealed that the number of Sunday School classes at BBC for 8th through 12th graders for the coming year has been reduced from 126 to 75. That's a decrease of 40% and a loss of 102 teachers (two per class). At that time they were still short 30 teachers or about 20% of the number needed. Perhaps if this is accurate, there has been a similar reduction in the number of youth participating in sports. So maybe by requiring the coaches to sign these covenants and other agreements they're weeding out the "dissenters" while reducing the staff to the actual number of coaches needed. It would certainly ensure that only the "loyal" remain.

This comment was left by "junkster" in this thread and deserves highlighting:

From the BBC Volunteer Application, last page (Volunteer Authorization/Consent & Release):

I FURTHER AUTHORIZE ALL GOVERNMENTAL, LAW ENFORCEMENT, LICENSE AND RECORD-KEEPING AGENCIES AND ANY OTHER SOURCE TO PROVIDE ALL INFORMATION REQUESTED WITH RESPECT TO MY BACKGROUND, INCLUDING CRIMINAL RECORDS, TO BELLEVUE BAPTIST CHURCH AND/OR ITS AGENT, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO PROTECT MY MINISTRY AND/OR BLUE LINE INVESTIGATION.

Note the words "record keeping agencies and any other source." Signing this form authorizes BBC to do a credit/financial check. From such checks it is easy to determine one's income, which can then be used to check tithing records (assuming donations are not given anonymously, which they usually aren't, so people can claim them as charitable donations on their tax deductions.)

But even scarier is that signing this would authorize BBC to collect background information from any source, including, in theory, your school records, traffic tickets, video rentals, library records, medical history, psychological/psychiatric history, etc. I doubt that just because I signed a church document my doctors would share my medical records with my church without checking with me first, but my point is that, legally speaking, by signing that document I'd be authorizing pretty much anything. It would not be wise or prudent to sign that sort of release, for a church or for anyone.


Sunday School teachers, staff members, ushers, choir and orchestra members, and... déjà vu, deacons... all beware. Your day is coming! Choose you this day whom you will serve!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Code of Silence

From StopBaptistPredators.org comes this interesting article about the failure on the part of the leadership of First Baptist Atlanta to inform the congregation that a prior children's minister who had worked at their church for 19 years had sexually abused children while on staff at at least one Texas church. While there is no evidence that anyone at FBCA knew about this man's past while he was on staff, the question is, why didn't they inform the congregation once they did know? Imagine how many children this man was in contact with during those 19 years!

Yet when three representatives of S.N.A.P. tried to pass out flyers to congregants leaving the Atlanta church one Sunday, security guards tried to run them off. It's not known how much of a background check, if any, the staff of FBCA did on Tommy Gilmore before hiring him, but with the "code of silence" so prevalent in the SBC and other denominations, it's doubtful a routine background check would have turned up anything. But people in Texas knew. Yet they said nothing.

Read more about Tommy Gilmore and his trail of victims
here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It's the "spirit" of the thing...

This is a continuation of the previous thread.

On Sunday, November 5, 2006, there was a marathon BBC deacons' meeting that started in the afternoon, recessed for the evening service (which was followed by the second "information meeting" where we were told how the deacons had "reviewed" the credit card receipts and determined that the pastor had done nothing wrong), then resumed after the service and didn't end until around 11:00 p.m.

Here is a clarification of what transpired during this meeting and afterwards which resulted in the deacon loyalty oath:

1. Near the end of the approximately 6-hour meeting, an idea (not a formal motion) was proposed which referenced supporting the pastor. This was thought by many deacons to simply mean "support" as in prayer, service to the body, etc., not blindly "swallowing and following" the pastor no matter what and certainly not agreeing to signing a statement that, to many members, had all the appearance of pledging an oath to a man. In any case, it was this idea regarding support of the pastor which was passed unanimously (meaning there were no dissenting votes) by those who remained in the meeting. As one deacon put it, after spending nearly six hours in that emotionally-charged, grueling, frustrating, heart-wrenching meeting, he would have agreed to almost anything just so the meeting could be adjourned.

2. A few days later the deacon body received an e-mail containing the "loyalty oath" as reprinted in the previous topic heading. For many deacons, this motion hardly resembled the simple "support" motion voted on in the meeting, and all the deacons were being required to sign it. Yet no one could remember that motion being read word for word at the meeting. However, deacon chairman Chuck Taylor stated in his e-mail that all who were present unanimously approved this motion.

3. It was later learned from some of the deacon officers that the final wording of the motion was drafted after the meeting. Apparently, the deacons' meeting was taped and the opinions and viewpoints expressed by certain deacons that evening were used as a basis for the final wording of the motion. Those supporting the motion claimed this represented the "spirit" of the original motion that was voted on in the meeting. This is where a number of deacons disagreed, and they did not sign the oath. In fact, only about 80 of the 180-plus deacons signed it. Many serious concerns had been expressed during the meeting, and it was felt these were completely ignored by those who drafted this new motion.

4. Finally, Chuck Taylor announced that the deacon officers had decided not to bring the motion to the congregation that following Sunday but to postpone it until a later time. By the way, Mr. Taylor, it's been over 8 months now, and we're still waiting....

Questions to ask:

1. Why was the wording of the motion finalized after the meeting and then claimed in an e-mail sent to the deacons that it was unanimously approved at the earlier meeting of the deacon body? Should not this finalized version of the motion have been brought back to the deacon body for discussion and a proper vote?

2. Was the objective to try and intimidate the deacons who had serious concerns about various issues into signing a document that was considered by many to be a clear violation of Scripture?

3. What authority did the officers have to postpone a motion they claimed had been voted on unanimously by all the deacons (we know it wasn't)? What's the point of voting on motions at deacons' meetings if the officers can rewrite or postpone them later?

4. What was the real reason the officers decided to postpone the motion? Was it because of the positive feedback taking place between the Communications Committee and various groups and individuals in the church as they claimed, or was there another reason?

5. Who all was involved in drafting the loyalty oath?

Concerned members are encouraged to contact deacons who remained until the end of this meeting to see if their version of these events matches those here.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Serving the Body or Serving Steve Gaines?


It's deacon nomination time again, and the qualifications have been outlined in this insert from the July 1st Bellevue Today.

It seems a few things have been added to the Scriptural qualifications -- such as adherence to the BF&M 2000 (which our pastor had a large role in penning) and "lifting up the hands of the pastor," the latter being a variation of the wording in the infamous "deacon loyalty oath" that apparently died on the vine. That letter, which all the deacons were requested (required?) to sign, but which many refused, read as follows:

Brothers,

At the conclusion of our Deacons meeting that followed the evening service, all who were present unanimously approved the following motion:

"The 2006 active Deacon Body of Bellevue Baptist Church met November 5th after the evening service and unanimously approved the following motion. We the active Deacon Body of Bellevue Baptist Church wish to convey to our Church family our affirmation of Dr. Steve Gaines as God’s appointed and God’s anointed Pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church. We commit ourselves before God and our Church family to serve with loyalty under his leadership and to free him up to do the work to which God has called him to do. We publicly demonstrate our loyalty to Pastor Gaines by signing our name to this motion and standing before the Church congregation in each of the morning worship services on November 19, 2006."

Over the next few days, each Vice Chairman will be calling the men in their group to go over the motion and answer any questions. The motion requires each Deacon to sign his name to the motion indicating his public approval of the motion, so please go to the Events Registration Center to sign it. If you have any reservations in signing this motion, please discuss it with your Vice Chairman. I want to reiterate that every Deacon that was present in the Deacons meeting following the service unanimously approved this motion, with the understanding they were to sign it and to stand before the congregation on November 19th. Our congregation needs to know where the Deacons stand during these challenging days.

Chuck


Steve Gaines has stated that he is not accountable to the deacon body. Therefore, it appears "service," as outlined in these qualifications, is a one-way street. We have many fine men serving as deacons, and certainly not all bow to the "demands" of the pastor, but some do.

You may recall the letter from Charles and Pam Gremillion to the deacons and some of the deacons' responses.


Now the "Pastor's Pit Crew," a group of children who have volunteered to pray for the pastor, have received their first assignment. Praying for the pastor is something we all should do. That's not the point. However, maybe it's "just me," but this sounds a little too much like loyalty to a man.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Shepherd's Heart

During a recent meeting of a concerned group of BBC members with David Coombs and three other staff members, one of the things the members stressed was that Steve Gaines does not seem to demonstrate that he has a shepherd's heart nor does he seem to demonstrate love to the members in general.

David Coombs asked what the pastor could do to demonstrate love. The members' answer was that there is no magic formula, that love demonstrates itself from a heart filled with the love of God.

So let's help Steve Gaines and David Coombs. What are we looking for in a pastor?

Thanks to "aslansown" for this topic idea.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Twisted Scripture

These two billboards have recently gone up along I-40 near Bellevue Baptist Church.

This one is next to the seminary and faces west:


That's a nice sentiment, but it's only part of the verse. This is the verse in its entirety.

"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." Romans 12:16 NIV

Read the verse in context here.

This one is adjacent to the ball fields and faces east:

"Pray for one another." There's certainly nothing wrong with that. But is that what James 5:9 really says? Let's take a look.

"Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!" James 5:9 NIV

Read the verse in context
here. The verse on the billboard is a snippet from James 5:16 NASB. So why doesn't the sign say "James 5:16"? Is this just another "mistake of the mind"?

And now we have word of a third billboard, this one on Summer Avenue near Mendenhall.

Here is that verse in its entirety:

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25 NIV

I've heard there are more of these billboards around town. Anyone who knows the location of others (photos would be nice), please let me know. I'm sure these aren't the only hidden nuggets just waiting for the "dissenters" to find. Think of it as a sheep-beaters treasure hunt!

Monday, June 18, 2007

What is Idolatry?


I came across this interesting blog today. There are even photos of the "Donna Gaines" display from Bellevue!

When I think of the idols described in the Old Testament, I can't help but be reminded of the "Statue of Liberation," the 72-foot-tall "altered" replica of the Statue of Liberty that was erected in front of a church on Winchester Road and Kirby Parkway in southeast Memphis. According to
this article, this statue was "inspired by a Memphis church that has three giant crosses." Hmmm... I wonder which church that could be?


I'm not saying all of these displays are bad. (Some border on tacky but aren't necessarily bad.) They are what they are -- symbols. It's just important to be careful not to make symbols into more than they are.


4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6


*******

Monday, June 11, 2007

Southern Baptist Convention 2007

Information about the 2007 SBC Annual Meeting, including resolutions, photos, and links to the live internet feed, can be found here.

The associated blog is
here.

Wade Burleson's motion regarding a study (what's there to study?) about the feasibility of the SBC maintaining a list of sexual predator ministers from within its ranks:

Preventing Child Abuse Is A Calling For Us All

At the San Antonio Convention this Tuesday morning, at 8:40 a.m., I [Wade Burleson] plan to introduce the following motion:


“I move that the Southern Baptist Convention requests the Executive Committee to conduct a feasibility study concerning the development of a database of Southern Baptist ministers who have been credibly accused of, personally confessed to, or legally been convicted of sexual harrassment or abuse, and that such a database be accessible to Southern Baptist churches in order to assist in preventing any future sexual abuse or harrassment.”

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Important Interview

On Monday, June 4th at 9:00 a.m., there will be an interview with our own David Brown on Live at 9 on WREG Channel 3. Anna Whalley of the Shelby County Crime Victim's Center is scheduled to be interviewed with him. The interview is to focus on the importance of reporting even suspected abuse to the proper authorities immediately and the services available to victims of childhood sexual abuse. David has asked for our prayers for him and for victims to have the courage to seek assistance.

If you're not in the Memphis area or not near a TV when it airs live, you should be able to watch it online
here later.

The Commercial Appeal may do an interview later.

Related stories:


Rape of Faith

America's Largest Protestant Denomination Under Fire

Victim's rights group calls for action by Church

Bellevue investigation yields sharp criticism

EthicsDaily.com

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Spending God's Money


From the FBC Jacksonville blog come these reviews of the book Spending God's Money - Extravagance and Misuse in the Name of Ministry by Mary Kinney Branson.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

What's Wrong with this Picture?

In an attempt to illustrate how Bellevue has changed, can you describe the atmosphere at Bellevue when you first joined (if you can remember that long ago!) versus how it is now or how it was before you left? Did you ever "sense" anything wasn't quite right but couldn't put your finger on it?

Thanks to "lynn" for this topic idea.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Not the Right Timing, Huh?


Well, the $64,000 question has finally been answered! For weeks people have been asking why the March 25th "business" meeting was adjourned so abruptly. Now we have the answer... or at least an excuse.

"Seekinghiswill" wrote:

"Brothers and sisters in Christ should be able to express their views and there is a proper place and time for a calm, peaceful meeting but it was obvious that the business meetings was not the right timing because there were rising tempers from both sides which would have produced no good fruits. For this reason we were for the meeting to be dismissed. I look forward to the time when we all can sit down and have a meeting with the Judge."

Oh, really? You know, I wholeheartedly agree with the first part of that statement. Church members should be able to express their views at the proper place and time, but I would hope that time and place would be sometime and somewhere this side of heaven!

I can only assume "seekinghiswill" is referring to the March 25th "monkey business" meeting. If so, I must have missed all those "rising tempers." The meeting I attended was quite calm, and the people participating in the meeting (bringing motions, etc.), from everything I saw, were always respectful of each other. There was that ugly little display by Donna Gaines' sister at the very end and the woman heard praying loudly during the opening "prayer circles" for the Lord to "deal with those... who would divide... our... church," but I digress.

Let's take a look at the rest of the motions (of which I'm aware) that members were poised to make:


1. Motion on Non Disclosure Agreements for the Staff

I move that staff members of Bellevue Baptist Church shall discontinue the practice of requesting or requiring staff members to sign any kind of non-disclosure agreement in regard to their employment at Bellevue Baptist Church; and that any staff member or former staff member having signed such a non-disclosure agreement shall likewise be released, in writing, from said agreement.

2. Motion on Disqualification of Ministers For Sexual Misconduct

I move that we affirm our belief in the scriptural authority of I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 for the qualifications for ministerial service, and that we affirm to our larger community, committees and staff, that sexual misconduct is a reason for disqualification from ministerial service within the authority of scriptural qualifications set out in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

Remember, this is the one that Steve Gaines said is "only a guideline."

3. Motion on Committees - Membership

I make the following motion regarding committee membership:

No church member may serve on more than one committee, elected or ex officio, including ad hoc committees, unless serving on a second committee or ad hoc committee in only a non-voting capacity. Laypersons should not serve more than three years on committees, followed by at least one year without serving on any committee, similar to the deacon rotation.

No member shall chair the same, or different committees more than once in any three consecutive years. For example, if chairing Committee A this year, the member cannot chair Committee A or any other committee the next year or following year.

No member may serve on the same committee for more than 3 years in any 10-year period. This does not restrict the member from serving on other committees during the ten years.

4. Motion on Financial Expenditures

I move that any financial expenditure will be subject to review by any member of Bellevue Baptist Church, upon request, at reasonable times and with reasonable notice.

5. Motion On Congregational Meetings Seeking Reconciliation

I move that Bellevue Baptist Church conduct one or more fair and impartial congregational meetings, to include our Senior Pastor and ministerial staff, as necessary to give its members the opportunity to hear both sides of the issues that continue to divide the church body and with the first meeting to be held within the next four weeks.

And the one that was actually brought to the floor and passed...

6. Motion on Committees – Conflicts of Interest

I make the following motion regarding conflicts of interest for committee membership:

1. That potential committee members shall disclose any conflict of interest, real or potential, in regard to the committee for which they are nominated. Such statements should disclose:

If the committee nominee, or member(s) of the nominee's immediate family have business relationships with, or are a partner, officer, or key employee of an enterprise doing business with Bellevue Baptist Church, or the officers or key employees of Bellevue Baptist Church, or the immediate family of officers or key employees of Bellevue Baptist Church.

2. No member shall be allowed to participate in a committee review or decision that would have a financial impact upon the member or member’s immediate family.

Conflicts should be avoided by the Committee on Committees or other nominating entities when proposing committee members. The intent of this motion is to avoid conflicts or potential conflicts, for example:

A member, doing business with the church, should not be placed upon a committee that is materially related to the business being conducted.

The important question is, have we seen any changes in committee memberships because of this motion being passed by the congregation?

Can anyone explain why "no good fruits" would (or could) have come from these motions being brought to the floor in a calm, respectful manner?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Running to Win or Running from the Truth?


On Sunday, April 29, 2007, Dr. Steve Gaines preached a sermon in the morning services entitled "Running to Win." He began by saying his family had attended the 7th Annual Country Music Marathon and 1/2 Marathon in Nashville the day before.

During the sermon they showed these photos of the men's and women's winners on the IMAG. He mentioned this year's wheelchair winner was a man from Germantown.

Unfortunately, there are several "problems" with this story. For one, it was the 8th Annual Country Music Marathon, not the 7th, but that could have been an honest mistake. If that had been the only error I'd have thought nothing of it. However, there's more.

The two individuals represented on the IMAG as this year's winners were actually the 2006 winners. Their photos and information are here. The 2006 wheelchair winner was indeed from Germantown.

However, this year's winners were a man from Kenya and a woman from the Ukraine. Their photos and information are here. This year's wheelchair winner is from Hoschton, Georgia, not Germantown. See articles from The Tennessean.

I figured I might have to explain this to someone, and one person has asked, so here's the point. The point wasn't that he didn't do his research on this particular issue but that if he isn't concerned about adhering to the truth in a situation as inconsequential as this, how can he be trusted in matters of greater importance? It really doesn't matter if his research assistant (if he even had one) is stupid or lazy (a 6th grader could have done a better job), or he didn't stay until the end of the event to see the winners (which means he is being willfully dishonest or at the least negligent), or that he doesn't do his own research -- the point is he didn't get the most basic of facts right, and that tells me he's not any more believable when he says anything else.

Personally, I think the sermon was prepared (by him or someone else) before Saturday, so the winners weren't known and that he (or someone) was just lazy and pulled this stuff off the internet thinking no one would notice. I think when he said it was the 7th annual event this was further evidence that the information came from the internet rather than firsthand knowledge.

So call it "nitpicky" or whatever. In the grand scheme of things it's not important that Steve Gaines was in error on this particular issue. It's the much bigger issue of which this is a symptom.

"He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much." Luke 16:10

You may watch the video of that sermon (and others) on Bellevue's site. To get to the sermon archives on Bellevue's site, go to the main page, click on "Watch Now" (under the "Bellevue Media - Live On Demand On the Go" logo is), and if you click on "Launch On Demand Player" you'll get a list of past sermons on video and audio, and the titles and Scripture passages are listed. You'll also see two little links in the upper righthand corner, one for "Dr. Adrian Rogers Archive" and the other for "Sermon Notes Archive." There's another link for the latter in the middle of that page where it says "Download Past Sermon Notes."

Friday, May 04, 2007

Unfinished Business


Here is the two-part motion that was on the floor when the March 25th "business" meeting was abruptly adjourned. What about either part of this motion was so objectionable that the meeting would have to be shut down?

Motion for Quarterly Business Meetings
Mr. Chairman, Bellevue leadership, I want to express my sincere gratitude for the effort you have made to have an open line of communication between yourselves and the Bellevue congregation. There are obviously many positives that will come out of this openness between the leadership and the congregation of Bellevue. With that said I move to begin having quarterly business meetings on any Sunday night of the last month of each quarter.
Motion on the Sexual Integrity of Ministers
I move that Bellevue Baptist Church affirm and adopt as its own, the June 2002 resolution of the Southern Baptist Convention entitled On The Sexual Integrity Of Ministers, as stated below, and the scriptural basis upon which the resolution stands.

Watch the proceedings.
Remember to sign the Petition to Call Bellevue Baptist Church into an Open Business Meeting and forward the link to your fellow Bellevue members.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Silent Witness

Update: Unbeknownst to me at the time, the whole "Don Lumley" fight story and the blog linked below were hoaxes perpetrated by a former Bellevue member named Rickey Green who spent several months carefully earning my trust. His motives are still unknown. I apologize for my part in publishing this deception.

If this doesn't infuriate you, I don't know what will. Read one staff minister's account of the state of things at Bellevue today.

Here's an excerpt:

"I am one on staff who does not agree with the current direction of our beloved church home. I want everyone to know that there are a small group of us on staff, ministers and staffers alike, that are working to get a heart to heart meeting with Dr. Gaines to have our say about how we feel concerning the recent issues concerning Bellevue Baptist Church. We are encouraged that this may be happening in the near future.

"However, we have recently been informed that we are not allowed to have any meetings with Dr. Gaines alone. We have been informed that Mr. David Coombs must be involved in any meetings concerning the direction and future of Bellevue Baptist Church. Most of us do understand this from a managerial standpoint, as Mr. Coombs is Administrative Pastor. It is still somewhat of a strange consideration as we reflect on our past experiences with Dr. Rogers and his ministry."




Remember to sign the Petition to Call Bellevue Baptist Church into an Open Business Meeting and forward the link to your fellow Bellevue members.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

If He Comes... ?

When God Shows Up

In his new book When God Comes to Church (B&H Publishing), Steve Gaines asserts that the great need of the church today is a renewed sense of God's presence. He writes: "I once heard an old-time preacher speaking about God sending fire from heaven onto Mount Carmel during the prophet Elijah's day (I Kings 18). He said that the manifest presence of God is 'when God shows up, and He shows off!' He comes in not to take sides but to take over. When He arrives in splendor and glory, it is obvious to everyone that He is present and He is in charge. The human agendas fade away in the overwhelmingly awesome presence of the King of kings."For years now this has been my primary prayer for every worship service in the churches I have served. The longer I live, the less interested I am in how many people we have in the sanctuary. What is far more important to me is how much of God we have in the place. If He comes, we will have a wonderful service, no matter if there's only a handful. I know some preachers who think if a thousand people come to their morning services, or fifteen hundred, or two thousand, they've had a great Sunday. Not necessarily. I say to them, 'You haven't had a great Sunday unless God shows up!'"


Learn more.


The motion to adjourn the "business" meeting could have been
worse.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

NUMB3RS

On March 25th we were told that over 1500 people have joined Bellevue in the past year. I have obtained the monthly numbers of decisions for 2006 and the first three months of 2007 that include professions of faith, transfer of membership by letter or statement, and "other," which includes all the other reasons people might come forward during an invitation without joining the church. While that 1500+ total for last year is correct, are this year's numbers showing the same trend?

Comparing the first three months of this year to last year we have these numbers -- the total of all decisions for each month:

January 2006 - 174 (POF-52, Letter-80, Statement-27, Other-15)
January 2007 - 67 (POF-26, Letter-22, Statement-16, Other-3)

February 2006 - 126 (POF-43, Letter-44, Statement-28, Other-11)
February 2007 - 80 (POF-32, Letter-18, Statement-18, Other-12)

March 2006 - 104 (POF-43, Letter-34, Statement-20, Other-11)
March 2007 - 29 (POF-11, Letter-9, Statement-6, Other-3)

Every decision for Christ is cause for celebration, and we should in no way minimize any decision based upon total numbers. Numbers can sometimes be one factor in measuring the health of a church. Often they're not, but the leadership of BBC seems to like to use numbers to make the point that all is well at Bellevue. So what can we conclude from the numbers given above?

Hangin' On


It would be interesting to know how many members we've lost -- those who've moved their membership as well as those who haven't but are attending other churches or fulfilling a commitment to a volunteer leadership position (teaching a Sunday School class, working in the nursery, serving in the music ministry, coaching, etc.) until the end of the semester. Judging by the sizes of the Sunday worship service crowds, Bellevue seems to be losing significantly more members than it's gained.

Here are some questions for those who find themselves "just hanging on" or recently departed to consider and discuss:


1. How are you handling the situation? Are you planning to leave when your commitment is fulfilled? Are you serving but not attending worship services?

2. If you have children, how are you explaining it to them? For example, if you're attending Sunday School but not worship services, are you going back home or traveling to another church to attend worship services?

3. If you've already left, whether you've moved your membership or not, how did you arrive at that decision? Was it a difficult decision for you?

4. Do you continue to have fellowship with other BBC members?

5. Do you know of others who have resigned their positions of service because of all this?

6. Do you think there's hope for reconciliation and healing at Bellevue? If so, what will it take?

Thanks to "feelingblue" and "concerned" for this topic idea.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

ABC News "20/20" Report: Preacher Predators

A producer for the ABC News program "20/20" sent the following press release regarding a story that will air on tomorrow night's broadcast. While Bellevue's story was not included in this episode, the producer stated that they may use it if they do a follow-up report.

PREACHER PREDATORS: INVESTIGATING CHILD SEX ABUSE IN THE PROTESTANT CHURCH

JIM AVILA REPORTS ON ABC NEWS' "20/20," FRIDAY, APRIL 13

Child sex abuse by Catholic priests has been headline news in recent years, but is the same abuse happening within Protestant churches? In a six-month investigation, ABC News' "20/20" found preacher predators in every corner of the country, including several affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) -- the largest Protestant denomination. Jim Avila's exclusive report airs on "20/20," FRIDAY, APRIL 13 (9:00-10:00 p.m., CT), on the ABC Television Network (Channel 24 in Memphis).

Avila's reporting finds that the SBC, an organization of 43,000 independent churches and 16.3 million members – has an overall structure that makes it difficult to police preacher predators. One example includes a profile of a SBC pastor who abused kids in Kentucky and then moved on to do the same to eight boys in Missouri before he was finally sent to prison. In an interview with Avila, the SBC president concedes that there is a problem with tracking predators.

"20/20" lists numerous SBC preachers who have been convicted or charged with child sex abuse, including pastors still identified on the SBC's own website of ordained ministers.

Avila also interviews a preacher who admits, in his jobs as Southern Baptist preacher and teacher in East Texas, that he molested more than 40 boys. For the first time, Ken Ward speaks publicly about how he manipulated families and churches as he targeted and molested children in his care, and how the church is actually a magnet for predators. "I wanted them to love me and that was part of the strategy," Ward tells Avila. He also gives insight to parents about how to spot a predator.

"20/20" is anchored by Elizabeth Vargas and John Stossel. David Sloan is the executive producer.


Here is a video preview.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Tale of Two Churches

This is a look at some of the things that happened at Germantown Baptist Church last year. Click on "The Book" to see all the links. Who would have thought that Bellevue would be facing a similar situation one year later?

Fortunately for GBC, they had a good set of bylaws, and BBC does not.


Obviously there are differences in the two churches, but there are many similarities as well. Compare and contrast those here.

Remember to sign the Petition to Call Bellevue Baptist Church into an Open Business Meeting and forward the link to your fellow Bellevue members.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Please Sign the New Petition!

There is a new Petition to Call BBC Into an Open Business Meeting.

This means a legitimate business meeting, not the "dog and pony show" we were subjected to on March 25th. It means:


1. Adequate childcare for those who need it for the duration of the meeting.
2. Voting on all motions by written ballot by verified members only.
3. An independent third party to moderate.
4. An independent third party to count and certify the votes.
5. No time limit on the meeting. If it runs too long, the meeting can always be recessed and continued later.

Please sign, then forward the above link to your friends so they can sign, too!

Now please continue...


Our New Church Logo?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Two Great Passion Plays

At Bellevue:

Memphis Passion Play

Sunday, April 1st
3:00 p.m. (Sold Out)
6:30 p.m.

Monday, April 2nd
7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, April 3rd
7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, April 4th
7:00 p.m.


At Germantown Baptist:

Germantown Passion Play

Sunday, April 1st
5:30 p.m.


There are several Bellevue members participating in this year's GBC passion play which is directed by Dr. Jim Whitmire.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Bizness" as Usual...


Please continue your discussions of Sunday's "business" meeting here.

"Transitioning" an established church -- a "how to" guide:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Monday, March 26, 2007

Polls

Do you think the motion and subsequent vote to adjourn Sunday's business meeting was properly handled?
Yes
No
Free polls from Pollhost.com


Would you have voted for the $3 million gift to MABTS if it were designated to help pay off their debt?
Yes
No
Free polls from Pollhost.com


Would you have voted for the motion to hold quarterly business meetings and to adopt the 2002 SBC's resolution on the sexual integrity of ministers?
Yes
No
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

March 25th Meeting

Be sure to tune in! Mrs. Joyce Rogers is scheduled to be on Dick Bott's "The Complete Story" broadcast on WCRV radio AM640 today at 3:00 p.m.


Special Ministry Celebration Service and

Annual Congregational Meeting

March 25, 10:00 a.m.

A Ministry Celebration service will be held Sunday, March 25, at 10:00 a.m. This will be a special time as we look back and celebrate the ministry victories of 2006. There will be no Bible Fellowship, and overflow seating will be provided in the Fellowship Hall.

This Worship Service will be followed by the Annual Congregational Meeting. Items to be discussed are:


  • Nominations from the Committee on Committees for members to serve on all church committees

  • Presentation of the church’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2007-08 from the Budget Planning Committee in conjunction with the Finance Committee

  • Any other business properly the subject of consideration by the congregation may be brought forward at this meeting

Even if you're attending a different church but haven't moved your membership, please plan to be there this Sunday, at least for the first annual meeting portion.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Uncharted Waters?


Let's try this again:

Resolution passed at the 2002 Southern Baptist Convention:

On the Sexual Integrity of Ministers

A separate thread for discussion of Calvinism vs. Arminianism is below.