Some of you may have been wondering why our dialogue ended so abruptly almost four years ago. Many were concerned that perhaps I had disappeared or maybe I was a conglomerate of disgruntled ministers and lay workers who couldn’t agree on the direction the blog since the election of Sam Green, our Southwest Region Conference (SWRC) president. I began this blog, as a lay person, for one purpose to inform the constituents. To ensure that the lay people, the major stakeholders, in this conference knew how their governing body was conducting business and making decisions on their behalf. I took some time to pray and ask myself is this conversation still relevant with the new leadership we have had the last four years? I must say, sadly, Et Tu Brute?
The Shakespearean adaptation of the Roman ruler Julius Caesar is very famous, other than the story of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus Christ, it is the most famous story ever told of the ultimate betrayal of a friend. When I think of this story I think about how many literary authorities have perceived Julius Caesar as an egotistical narcissist who may have had it coming. Some readers get so enthralled with Caesar’s position they neglect to focus on the human relationship between Caesar, Brutus, and Cassius. It is the relationship that makes this story powerful, in my opinion, not the status, class, or title that Julius Caesar held. His position as king is what gives the story its fan fare, but it’s the relationship that truly breaks your heart in the end.
Our conference has been plagued with low employee morale, political positioning, and struggling churches even in our heavily populated urban areas. The question is why? I can only answer this question by asking another, Et Tu Brute? This Latin phrase in plain terms translates, “you too Brutus?” This is the question that pierced Caesar’s dying lips as he drew his last breath. The disbelief that such a friend could be capable of such a horrendous action. Every time we think we have found the leadership that can bring our ministers and lay workers together we are somehow stunted by a sharp left hook of betrayal by our administrative leadership. This has been the state of our conference for quite some time. And now, the ultimate betrayal is being felt by many senior ministers all over this conference. The men who baptized your children, blessed your babies, visited you or your family member in times of need, or perhaps eulogized a loved one that you only hope to see one day soon are currently suffering the same fate as Julius Caesar.
Let Me Clarify
A letter was released to most senior members about a month ago offering a buy-out for early resignation and retirement. You may be thinking to yourself, what a wonderful opportunity our conference is making to offer each minister $20,000 to retire early and ride off into the sunset with their families. What you do not know is that many of our ministers will lose their medical benefits by taking this option, thus, the upfront cash will barely cover the expenses they will incur to stay alive to enjoy the very retirement they have vested in for over 30 years. Not to be cold, but the conference stands to financially gain, if ministers die early, or retire without being medically covered before the age of 65. This letter, brought by the angel of death, the FEDEX man, offers this option in lieu of a potential reduction in staff that is rumored to occur once the deadline passes. Essentially, they are being pressured to take this option to prevent from being terminated at a later date and at the conference’s discretion. Interestingly enough, this option was only presented to them once they passed the open enrollment date for the federal Obama Care program. By taking this option there is a window of time, for some two to three years, that many of our senior ministers will be forced to pay high premiums and exorbitant medical care costs. Some ministers who are considering this option are liquidating what minimal assets they have to weather the storm until they qualify for senior health care provided by the government. Should they have to sacrifice everything they have to stay alive? I mentioned earlier that most senior ministers are being given this option. Senior ministers who serve on the executive committee and/or hold a departmental office are exempted from this fate. Their employment remains protected and intact. Many of these ministers had knowledge of such devastating financial news and stood alongside of their brothers for months. Our younger ministers famously called the fraternity brothers, advocate for this option, including our newly appointed ministerial director, as it opens up opportunity for them to jump ahead to what they believe to be the finish line, ah yes the golden office on Lanark. How is this the “Adventist way?” Actually, how is this the Christian way? The sole purpose of the ministerial director is to advocate for the ministers…right? These men have given their lives to this work, and are now being handed their walking papers? Surely, someone knew this was coming, or had an idea? Our beloved president never met with a single minister to discuss this option with them before disseminating this written communication. Didn’t the annual workers meeting session just occur in January? What about the pastoral advisory council? Each senior minister who met a certain criteria, who was not protected or exempted by the all-powerful executive committee, received this communication via FEDEX at their door step without warning or discussion……Et Tu Brute? Our president will not meet with ministers before the deadline of May 15, could it be that he is waiting for the opportunity to begin clearing house? Surely, the executive committee communicated to their constituents of such a decision? Why would they? According to our bylaws, they don’t have to. Our bylaws give them the authority to unilaterally railroad an entire ministerial staff without approval from the constituents. Did you vote for this? How can you face your pastor on Sabbath knowing that essentially, “WE” have fired him, so I ask, Et Tu Brute? We should be appalled at the ministerial director and members of the executive committee who would vote for such an action, and turn around and vote to invest 5 million dollars to purchase a church that seats 5,000 in Houston, TX. How can they stab their brothers in the back and vote to entrust our properties and investments to a group who used us to build a church on our abandoned Dallas property and when they decided they didn’t like it anymore they simply abandoned our conference with the mortgage. Where is the transparency Pastor Green? Who are the senior ministers on the executive committee who will be free from this “buy-out” so we can ask them to look their brothers in the eyes, Et Tu Brute? Actually, who are the executive committee members? Our all-powerful executive committee is no longer listed on our conference website. A governing body with so much power can sleep under the cloak of anonymity? Finally, I ask our president and secretary who have stood alongside them the last 30 years, Et Tu Brute? Our conference would rather hurt the very men who built it, rather than take responsibility for their irresponsibility?
Our executive committee pours money into failed projects and consultants who drain our bank accounts, yet we want to cut the fat or “dead weight” with the men and women who have served us tirelessly the last 30-40 years? Well, if this is going to happen it violates the clear values that SWRC has posted on their website. The menu above contains a link to our conference by-laws, mission, vision and value statements, please read it carefully, as you will find that you, constituents, have no power to thwart this deadline on May 15. My fellow constituents, you will not find record or minutes of these decisions for any executive committee meetings related to this topic, as they have been taken down from the conference website along with our conference bylaws and list of executive committee members. Additionally, our conference is not required to disseminate its minutes to its constituents. Where is the transparency we were promised four years ago? The Mission, Vision, and Values so eloquently written on the Conference website? Are we going to elect to go into four more years of this nonsense? The only way this can be overturned is if our executive committee has a change of heart and compassion for these men and women, or in a special constituency meeting that may be called by the executive committee. To conduct a special constituency meeting without approval of our executive committee, our bylaws require that 50% of our conference church membership go on record in their business meeting to demand a meeting. That is the only way YOU can address any grievances on this issue in lieu of the executive committee calling one on their own. After having been informed of this egregious act by our leaders to their ministerial staff I realized that this takes us to a bigger issue, our by-laws are constructed to protect the committee members and departmental workers, not the constituents and ministers who are in the field and we voted for this in 2008? Are we reading the fine print?
Interestingly enough, in our by-laws, our conference had a moral duty to discuss such a “pertinent” issue with its workers in lay and pastoral advisory committees prior to the dissemination of such news, I would conclude that this information is “pertinent” as it relates to the state of the conference ; they however, opted to stay silent. A very wise deacon used to tell me that “everything done in the dark will eventually come to the light.” Our leaders have gone rogue and have forgotten who pays their bills. It is reprehensible that we as lay people would be left out of such a huge decision and will then be made responsible as voters for this rogue decision to cover up their mismanagement and disregard to the health and well-being of our senior ministers. I have not always agreed with every minister I have served under the last 30 years, however, I would never want to see such a thing befall them. It is time that we take back our power, ask the hard questions, and seek understanding. Call your executive committee members, if you can find them, and demand an explanation for this and a special constituency meeting so that we, as constituents, have the opportunity to address this unilateral decision that will implode the lives of so many good men and their families. This is not our way; this is not God’s way. At minimum, our conference president should face his brothers and explain this offer to them, as our senior ministers are not allowed to bring legal counsel with them to any proceedings that are related to their employment in formal meetings with the conference. Would you sign such a document ending your career without clear legal explanation? If they opt to have an attorney explain this legalese to them they must do so out of their own pockets, and cannot be represented formally with the conference. I ask any senior minister who would be willing to step forward and produce a copy of this letter for constituent review, it will be posted on this website for the public as they have a right to know the fate of their beloved leaders. You may email: email@example.com. Constituents, what are your thoughts? This forum is open to hearing your comments. What can we do? What options do we have to help the men and women who have served us? You do not need an email address to participate and we welcome anonymous contributors. There must be something… to do nothing, begs the question…….Et Tu Brute?