#3 The Congregational Meeting: 4/30/06 PM

Sunday evening, April 30, 2006

6:00 pm Emergency Congregational Meeting

[Because of the extraordinary nature of this meeting, the following reads best if the reader reads it like meeting minutes].

The “Emergency Meeting” was attended by Mike, Todd, all 4 now-resigned Elders (Scott, Jason, Jerry and Don B.), the Deacons and the vast majority of the entire congregation of TBC. The Deacon’s home in which it was held was at standing room only. Todd and Mike were seated up front, facing the congregation with Don B., and Jerry to their left – also facing the congregation. Scott Brown and Jason chose to sit in seats at the front, facing the front, rather than the rest of the congregation. Don A. chose not to attend and Ron T. was the moderator and stood most of the time.

Strangely, also in attendance were some non-members who were affiliated with Vision Forum and the NCFIC conference that was led by Scott over the weekend. Presumably they had been invited by Scott to attend the meeting.

The meeting began with a reading of 1 Corinthians 13. Scott then informed Ron that he was recording the meeting and his son, David, set out a recorder up front. David and Scott’s daughter, Kelly, had also brought computers and took notes the entire meeting.

Ron informed the congregation that the meeting’s purpose was mainly one of “fact-finding.” He acknowledged that no one in the congregation was aware of the last couple of months’ proceedings – including the deacons for most of that time. This was owing to the fact that Mike, Todd and Don A., had been diligent to not talk amongst the congregation, but rather with the Elders alone and also because the Elders kept the Deacons “out of the loop.”

Ron then explained that after the Elders had agreed to have a further congregation meeting and then reversed their decision, the Deacons decided to go through with a meeting with Mike, Todd, Don A. and elders Jerry and Don B., on 4/27.  Scott and Jason had been invited, he said, but had refused to attend.  After that meeting, the Deacons had concluded that it overwhelmingly appeared as though there had been a definite abuse of Biblical authority that revolved around two points: a lack of mutual submission amongst the Elders and then a lack of submission by Scott and Jason to the congregation.

Following Ron’s opening statements, Mike, Todd, and former Elders Don B. and Jerry were asked to testify. There was no objection from Scott or Jason.

Don A.’s Testimony

Mike first read a statement from Don A., who did not attend. Don’s letter communicated that it was Don’s (and Mike’s and Todd’s) firm belief that the LOGS statement was a false statement and should have been removed. However, the three men had not accused anyone of blasphemy. Don relayed that even at a lunch meeting with Jason, Jason had been in agreement that the statement “had to go.”  He wrote further, however, that at the 4/21 meeting, they were told by Jerry and Jason that the concern [regarding the LOGS statement] was “reckless.” Don wrote of the men appealing to the two elders 3 times, following Acts 15 and of sending a letter to Scott with their concern that the statement’s investigation was being incorrectly handled. He wrote of the denial of the three men’s request to be allowed to bring the issues to the congregation of TBC and the resulting deterioration of the discussions.

Mike’s Testimony

Mike then read from his own notes of the 4/21 meeting. According to his notes, after Jason had told the three men that the elders were not budging from their position, Mike had exhorted the elders that they were doing a disservice to the body of Christ by not bringing the matters to the congregation. Mike had gone on to remind Jason and Jerry that the role of the “body of Christ [was] to keep Elders accountable.” Jason’s reply to Mike, though, had been to tell him that “the issue is closed, it will not go to the members, our [the Elders’] duty ends here.”

According to the notes, Don A., had asked if there was any “accountability for elders?” To which Jason had replied, “Yes, I have to honor my father.” Mike concluded his testimony by saying about the 4/21 meeting, “We came with Scripture, they came with a rebuke.”

Chronology

Don B. then read a chronology of events that had been drawn up by the Deacons and was based on multiple witnesses’ testimonies. This time line included, in part, recognition by the Deacons that according to testimony, the Elders had been in unanimous agreement that the LOGS statement was “troubling, not defendable [sic], unhealthy and that it should be removed from [Doug’s] blog and the DVD.” Also included was recognition of Scott’s continued reversals on his position on the LOGS statement, and his reversals of support for the other Elders’ efforts to make sure that it was corrected.

The Deacon’s chronology additionally recognized that in the 4/17 Elders’ meeting, Scott had demanded that the Elders vote amongst themselves to block the three men from ever being able to call for a congregational meeting. Also highlighted were Scott’s efforts to have the three men counted as non-members, thereby eliminating any further procedural mechanism for a congregational meeting.

In their chronology, the Deacons noted that these efforts were “exceptional” and were designed “to squash genuine Biblical dissent.”

Mike’s reading of his notes from the 4/21 meeting with Jason and Jerry was then confirmed by the Deacon’s chronology which went onto to say that it was recognized by the Deacons that at every turn, Mike, Todd and Don A., had been careful to keep these matters confidential until they had resigned and Deacons had requested a hearing with the men.

Finally, the Deacon’s chronology confirmed the Elder’s 4/23 unanimous agreement to have further congregational meetings to address the lack of “due process” that had been given to the three men along with the Elders’ failure to consult properly with the Deacons and engage appropriately with the congregation. It was stated that the Elders had indeed “characterized Don B., Don A., Mike and Todd as ‘quitters’, leaving the church too early and ‘giving up on the church.’”

Jerry M’s Testimony

Next, Jerry read the following statement:

I have known Scott Brown for over 11 years. He has been my pastor, my counselor, my brother and my friend. I love Scott Brown. He has taught me so much about living the Christian life. His heart is generous. . . he has done so much for me and my family.

That is why making this statement is probably the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. It is out of love for my brother that I believe I am compelled to do this.

First of all, let me say that I do not believe that Scott Brown is guilty of blasphemy. I do believe he could have chosen better words to illustrate a point. Who among us is not guilty of that?

I do believe Scott Brown has failed to properly execute his God-ordained duty of Elder of Trinity Baptist Church. That being said, I believe Jason Dohm and I are also guilty of that charge. I believe we “lorded” our positions as Elders “over” brothers that brought a charge to us, and this contributed to their abrupt departure. For my actions, I am deeply sorry and beg forgiveness. . .

I believe the New Testament teaches that a “self-willed” man, “lording it over” others does not qualify to be a church leader and should be removed from office.

Titus 1:7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick tempered, not given to wine.
1 Peter 5: 1-3 The elders who are among you I exhort . . . Shepherd the flock of God. . . [not] as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

I believe we as Elders erred in our duty to guard the flock. I believe when we were approached with concerns from three Godly men, we did not receive their concerns with hearts of love. We demonstrated arrogance and “lorded” our positions over them.

After we met on Sunday night [4/23], there was a consensus that a follow-up meeting would be a good thing to bring healing and restoration to the church. Jason and I were hopeful and looked forward to bringing the issues before the body. After everyone left, we walked into Scott’s office and were both shocked at his view of the outcome of the meeting. He remained defensive and thought a meeting before the body was a bad idea. He thought we had just experienced a [name withheld]-led coalition that was out to get him.

I took Jason aside and told him we had to save Scott from himself. Scott was not going to relent and the church was going to suffer for it.

I then told Scott that he needed to stop his doom and gloom thinking, and look at this meeting with the same hope that Jason and I had of saving our church and stop thinking about saving face. This was not about him, but about those 39 hurting men that came to the meeting. I told him we could not guarantee that the offended men would come back to the church but this was a wonderful opportunity to “heap burning coals on their heads.” He apologized for feeling sorry for himself, and we prayed for him before we left.

Over the next few days, his defensive tactics grew worse and he adopted an US vs. them mentality that was replete with the discrediting of every Christian brother who opposed him. He questioned the motives of the offended men and described them as angry men with hidden agendas. He discussed strategies of protecting the church, dealing with angry men, dealing with gossip, dealing with men who reject authority and entertain dishonor, defending brothers who are wrongfully attacked, leading the church by clear direction, and the rights and responsibilities of membership.

In the book, Biblical Eldership, Alexander Strauch speaks of the danger of shared leadership and the pitfalls of the “first among equals” concept. He says there is a danger of that this principle will be. . . “abused by a dominating, controlling leader. Such a leader may monopolize key ministries, seek his own way, and force out all dissent and disagreement. Controlling leaders don’t want colleagues; they want ‘yes men,’ ‘rubber stamps,’ and loyal subjects.” (p. 49)

This is what I saw occur on our Elder board. I began to see a side of Scott Brown that I had never been exposed to. I believe my love and loyalty for him blinded my ability to see the Truth.

When I communicated my concerns to him, which I did in person on two occasions and in the presence of Jason Dohm, as well as in two separate emails, one of which was copied to Jason Dohm, and in a telephone conference call of which Jason Dohm was also a part, he appeared to listen and receive what I was saying. However, he never repented. What I saw in Scott Brown in the days preceding my resignation were the actions of a desperate man willing to resort to desperate measures to save himself and the tight reins on what he believed to be HIS [sic] own church. this is not his church. this is God’s church.

Continuing Discussion

After this, Elder Don B. confirmed Jerry’s testimony regarding the lack of mutual submission between the elders and lack of engagement with the congregation.

Discussion then broke out on both sides. Those in support of Scott and Jason decried the meeting, calling it a “soap opera,” “[something to] satisfy angst,” “melodramatic,” “unbiblical,” “gossip” and “speculation.”

Although repeated requests were made to show how the proceedings were unbiblical, no Biblical support of such claims was given.

A question was asked by a member about why the Deacons had voted “no” during the Confidence Vote on 4/28. Ron answered with,

“That meeting was directed by Scott and Jason [and] men were not prepared to vote. There was information to be presented [by the Deacons]. . . the Elders said “no.” [But] there were no ‘no’ votes. [The abstentions] should be interpreted as ‘we don’t have enough information.’”

Following up, a member of the congregation added,

“He who answers a matter before he hears it is folly. . . Prov. 18:13. . . The vote was forced. Scripture calls this folly. 19 men abstained, trying to believe the best. [Remember], an elder ‘worthy of double honor’ also brought charges [against Scott and Jason].”

Some then protested that Matthew 18 and 1 Timothy 5: 17 – 25 no longer applied to Scott or Jason as they were no longer members or elders at TBC, having resigned the previous Friday.

But another member countered that regardless, “If individuals. . . run, the charges are still there.” And again, that “repentance is being sought. . . repentance is the issue, elder or not.”

There was further testimony by Jerry and Don B. that there had been unanimous agreement among the elders [Scott included] that something needed to be done about the LOGS statement – directly contradicting what was said on 4/21 about there never being such an agreement. Also, there was supposed to be a statement written to Mike, Todd and Don A. and an appeal to Doug Phillips. But that neither had happened.

Both Jerry and Don B. testified that Scott “continually shift[ed]” and quickly decided not to do anything about the LOGS statement.

Discussion again broke out in the congregation as to what the charges would be against Scott and Jason – abuse of power, lying, conspiracy to protect Scott Brown and Vision Forum Ministries were some of what was mentioned. However, no conclusion was made as Deacon Ron instead reminded the congregation that this was a meeting primarily to present facts, to start to bring things out into the open.

A number of members emotionally appealed to Scott and Jason to see their errors and repent – that Matthew 18 was ultimately about repentance and restoration. Mike and Todd also affirmed that what they sought was restoration, not retribution.

Don B. testified again to the pattern of Scott agreeing to a course of action (e.g. meeting with the congregation) and then immediately reversing. He asked,

“Is the body there to follow the elders or to be engaged by the elders? Is there to be dialogue with the body or are decisions made behind closed doors and [then] pat people on their heads and say, ‘we’ll get back to you’?”

Jerry affirmed Don’s testimony and added that the elders had “too much control” and “no accountability.”

Jason Dohm’s and Scott Brown’s Testimonies

Deacon Ron then asked Scott to present his testimony. Scott refused and indicated that he wanted Jason to go next.

Ron again asked Scott to proceed, saying that the Deacons wanted him to testify first. But, Scott, again in open defiance against the Deacons’ authority, adamantly refused and said that it was his desire that Jason go next.

To avoid further argumentation, Ron acquiesced and turned the time over to Jason.

Jason began by saying that Mike, Todd and Don A. were “impatient” and “alarmist”. He said that he had assumed that the 3 men had wanted to remove Scott as elder [this assumption had already been cleared up at the 4/21 meeting, but he does not mention that]. He defended the elders’ handling of the LOGS statement and said they “[had] not [been] sitting on it.” He told how he watched the DVD and felt like the quote was defendable [sic] within the context of the DVD. Jason then said that while they never sent the appeal to Doug, they did talk via telephone with Don Hart about the quote.

NB – this is in direct contradiction to what he told Mike, Todd and Don A. at the 4/22 meeting in which he said, “You made an appeal and Doug said ‘no.’ He won’t delete it.”

Jason related Don Hart’s assertion that Vision Forum was “a lightening rod and gets lots of criticism but there has not been any criticism on this quote.” Jason then claimed that, “it would not be the right use of resources to change the quote.”

[It can only be assumed he was referring to changing the quote on the DVD as changing the quote on Doug’s blog would have been a simple and cost-free task. Additionally, it would also have been simple for Scott to have written a clarification on his own blog.]

Scott then interjected that when the LOGS statement was first brought to his attention by his brother-in-law [Don A.], that it “bothered me too.” But then he said that in the context, it could be defended, however, he provided no Biblical defense. Scott then claimed that he and Don A. had “labored together. . . [Don] was not blown off at all.”

He continued by saying,

“Thoughts at the end of a matter often become more clear than at the beginning. I thought my comments were being taken in the wrong way. I came to the conclusion that this was madness. Why was this a huge issue? . . . I was accused of lying about the statement not being on the website. I looked for it but I couldn’t find it. That is why I said it was not on the website.”

Jason picked the discussion up by saying that

“emails between the Elder team being revealed ‘outside’ [was] unscrupulous.” And that, “things discussed in Elder meetings are confidential and sensitive. I register a foul! This shouldn’t have been done.”

[Jason did not address the dilemma Elders face when their fellow Elders are sinning in Elders’ meetings or emails. Was it “unscrupulous” to reveal sin? Did “confidentiality” in Elders’ meetings trump Matthew 18 or 1 Timothy 5? These issues were not brought up.]

Jason continued with an explanation of why the three men were not allowed to speak to the congregation at the 4/28 meeting. He claimed that Ron had asked “5 minutes before the meeting to let [them] in.” And that Ron had said, “There are new charges” that he couldn’t discuss. Jason asserted that he and Scott had “had no time to process.”

[Remember, the heads-of-households were given no time to process or prepare for a Vote of Confidence that night. They were not even given opportunity to consult with their wives and thus involve the whole congregation.]

Don B., then answered Jason, “you were asked to come to the meeting on Thursday with these men and you didn’t come.”

Jason explained that Scott had had visitors. He also claimed that [in spite of originally agreeing numerous times to come] he “had a previous engagement” and was therefore unable to attend.

In response to a question about the “vote of confidence,” Jason asserted,

“The vote was never intended to be a power play. Someone has to lead the church. Can we lead? Yes. Forward. We were the unifying influence. . . Resignation is not taking our ball home. Someone needs to unify and take the church forward. . . The vote said ‘no,’ ‘not us.’”

Scott then stepped in and said,

“Anytime you decide to lead, when leaders come to the conclusion that ‘this is right,’ [then] you look back. Mistakes were made that left [TBC] with no Shepherd. Elders make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean they should [be confronted] unless it is a moral issue.”

Someone from the congregation then asked Scott directly, “How does God appoint Elders?”

Scott answered,

“By the Body. [But] there are a number of things going on [here]. There are hurt feelings and misinformation. We said we would write about the [7] issues. We wrote with clarity on the doctrinal positions. [However] there were many who wanted to take the church in a different direction.”

[Scott did not elaborate on what he called, “misinformation.”]

The congregant followed up his original question with, “Was the body around in that process? Do you think the elder is subject to the congregation? If a number of people come to you [with a different perspective], is it sufficient to say, ‘I am and Elder, period?”

Jason replied, “I do.”

Scott then claimed that he and Jason were being “subject to the Body” on Friday evening [4/28] – when the Vote of Confidence was taken.

Jason followed with,

“In my view, this was God’s outcome and we are not supposed to be elders. There are 2 churches [within TBC] who differ but like each other. We acted within our rights as elders. I am sorry we didn’t labor more patiently or carefully with you [to Mike and Todd]. I reject the term ‘forced out.’ I have a different perspective of how elders should rule.”

Then in direct contradiction to prior testimony by Mike, Todd, Don A,, Jerry and Don B., Jason continued with,

“Membership was not used as a wedge . . .We never prevented these guys from coming to us. . . The vote on Friday night had no technicalities. . .  There has been plenty of accountability to the congregation. . . I always answer my phone and I haven’t stopped my calls at all.”

And after questioning by other members of the congregation about the apparent departure from the Elders’ prior teaching of Alexander Strauch’s book on Eldership, Jason said,

“I would consider us to be in lock-step with Strauch. . . There is comfort in saying, ‘I’ll override.’ That is what elders do. . . I don’t view ‘rule’ as a bad word – it is a Biblical word and I embrace it.”

The congregant persisted that Strauch said “led” not “rule.” Don B. then read Chapter 15 where Strauch concludes that Acts 15 was an Elder “led” situation – where the Elders engaged with the congregation.

But Scott maintained that,

“Jason and I became convinced that someone had to lead the church out of a hole. This required boldness and clarity. In the crisis we had the confidence that this was consistent with our heart’s desire.”

Another member of the congregation asked, “If there is a family crisis and the crisis is the husband, he is to be held accountable – not to lead. Where is your accountability?”

Jason answered, “God and among each other.”

[Jason did not address his and Scott’s rejection of 4 elders’ attempts to hold them accountable – all within the previous 4 years.]

After a comment by Todd that the Constitution of TBC made it clear that the Elders were to be accountable to the Body, Don B., began to read again from Strauch’s book, Biblical Eldership.

Bill Brown’s (Scott Brown’s father) Comments

[Just prior to this, Scott Brown’s father had interrupted the meeting when he came in the home and made his way to the front of the group. Although not a member of TBC, he then sat in a seat beside Mike and Todd, facing the congregation.]

Bill Brown then stood up in front of Don B., and asked Ron if he could have a minute to speak.

Taken aback at the interruption, Ron respectfully told Mr. Brown “no.” But, Mr. Brown persisted and asked for “30 seconds.”

Bewildered, Ron relented and Mr. Brown stated,

We all understand about eldership. My son invited me tonight. . . Did you consult your own father before you came tonight? Scott has a heart for healing the brokenhearted. He is President of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. . . Treasure the opportunities we have to talk about Jesus Christ. It is most important that you [communicate] to your children and wife that you love the Lord. . . Don’t squander your time. Lead them to know the Scripture, not irrelevant pursuits like sports. . . Your time is limited. Scott spent his whole life collecting friends and those needing help. . . I testify that Scott has been honorable. Talk to your [own] father and acquire wisdom. If you are not grateful about your dad, you won’t be grateful about a holy God.

After concluding his remarks, Mr. Brown then made his way back out of the house, not staying for the remainder of the meeting.

Conclusion

There was more discussion, appeals for repentance, and tearful pleas to stay together and not split the body over these issues; to work them out together according to Scripture.

Todd took the floor to speak directly to Jason, saying with great emotion, “Earlier you confessed to ‘derailing the process.’ I forgive you [for that]. There is no victory apart from repentance and restoration.”

The meeting was brought to conclusion with some last questions from members of the congregation.

Jerry asked Scott, “Jason expressed repentance [over not being more patient]. Is there [any] repentance from you?”

Scott answered, “I don’t think I lied. Men make mistakes. . . there are a number of things I could repent of . . mistakes.” [He does not clarify “mistakes.”]

Another congregant persisted, “[Others have] mentioned that this meeting was about repentance and restoration. Scott, do you have anything to repent for?”

Again, Scott answered, “Well, maybe about the meeting Friday night. . no, I do not feel God is calling me to repentance”

Still another congregant pressed, “Do you think that you lorded it over them [Mike, Todd and Don A.], and us [the congregation]?”

Scott replied, “No.”

Then to Jason, “What about you, Jason, did you lord it over them?”
Jason answered, “No.”

Finally Scott and Jason were asked, “Will you continue in this fellowship?”

Scott, “No.”
Jason, “No.”

After prayer, the meeting ended.

Afterwards

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