A recurring question is how the Administrative Board is elected. Each year, the Lay Leadership Committee meets to review any open leadership positions, including the membership of the Administrative Board. Nine members of our congregation serve on the Lay Leadership Committee, and they nominate people for leadership who the Charge Conference elects at its annual meeting in November. All church members are eligible to serve if they faithfully maintain their membership vows by supporting the church through their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. Those who lead our congregation must be active in the worshiping community and give according to their ability.
People have also asked about how the church put the Discernment Team together. As an ad hoc committee of the church, Steve White, as the Administrative Board Chair, appointed the committee after consulting with the District Superintendent and various members of the Administrative Board. Originally there were fifteen people on the Team. In addition to the two pastors (who do not vote), four others are on the Team by virtue of their elected positions: Administrative Board Chairperson, Lay Leader, Staff-Parish Relations Committee Chairperson, and the North Alabama Conference Lay Leader. Steve White as Administrative Board Chairperson, Calvin Durham as Lay Leader, and Lindsey Davis as Staff-Parish Relations Chairperson all have a vote. As Conference Lay Leader, Lisa Keys-Mathews is not a voting member of the Team.
Steve White requested that every adult Sunday School class elect someone to represent their class on the Discernment Team. With the diversity of adult classes, this selection method would most closely reflect our members. The Almon Class elected Kathy Gamble and Gary Jester to serve alternatively with only one vote between them, and only one attends the Discernment Team meetings at a time. The Discussion Class elected Katy Beth Carr, the Ferguson Class elected Al Ford, the Graham Class elected Roy Stevens, the Norton-Mussleman Class elected Terry Buchanan, the Parlor Class elected Paula Michael, and the Sonshine Class elected Will Beadle. Since Steve White, Lindsey Davis, and Calvin Durham are members of the Cornerstone Class, the class did not elect a representative.
As some members are not involved in Sunday School, Steve White asked the Adult Choir to elect someone, and Ann Lyndon was elected. Mak Knowlden, whom Steve also selected, represents our Children, Youth, and Young Adults. All these people have a voice and vote on the Discernment Team. Roy Stevens stepped down, and the Graham Class chose not to replace him. The result is eleven voting members, seven elected by Sunday School classes, and four appointed by the Administrative Board Chairperson. These people have served diligently on the Discernment Team, and we are grateful for their efforts.
A statement I’ve heard frequently is that the only way for people to voice their concerns is for the Administrative Board to allow a vote. It’s as if people are unwilling to dialogue on these issues openly. We are not a congregation that can only speak through a secret ballot. The ability to debate over controversies has long been a part of our Christian tradition. Acts 15 describes the Jerusalem Council, where the church struggled with including Gentiles. This passage exemplifies a discernment process where the church reached a compromise on a highly divisive and Scriptural issue. The church did not vote on this matter. After much debate, James, representing the church’s leadership, offered the decision to make the gospel available to the Gentiles. This decision was probably not one that reflected the values of most of those Christians present in Jerusalem. Still, it was discerned through the Holy Spirit’s guidance and undergirded with the wisdom gained through deep conversations with others.
There is another way for people to hear your voice. Please take advantage of the video sessions arranged by the Discernment Team and talk openly about the issues presented in the videos. The Team designed these sessions with dialogue in mind. Participate as much as possible and remain curious about what others think. Speak your heart, then listen to the others in attendance. If you don’t understand something or someone, ask for clarification about what was said. Listen deeply—not to respond, but to understand. Once you know the heart of someone who disagrees with you, you are more equipped to respond as God requires. We all may be surprised by the outcome if we speak openly to one another in the Spirit of Love that Jesus provides to us in his promise,
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
(Matthew 18:20, NRSVue)
Finally, refrain from assuming that someone who disagrees with you has abandoned or scuttled biblical authority. Instead, presume those with whom you disagree love Jesus, his church, and Scripture as much as you do. Instead of questioning their faith and integrity, acknowledge how we can all believe in Jesus and the authority of Scripture and come to different conclusions about what the Scriptures say to us today.
In healthy Christian communities, disagreements are not a threat to avoid but an invitation to further dialogue and inquiry, often resulting in deeper and more meaningful relationships with God and one another. Sometimes our hearts and minds are changed. At other times, we remain unmoved. Still, conformity is not a requirement to stay in fellowship with one another. Love for one another is the glue that holds diverse faith communities together. We can be one of those types of communities of faith if we choose. We don’t have to agree for me to love you. I love you because God loves you. And regardless of who’s right or wrong, love never ends (See 1 Corinthians 13). I choose to remain in fellowship with all of you because God is among us, doing miraculous things in you and me, and I don’t want to miss it. I hope you feel the same.
— Senior Pastor Rev. Dale Cohen