Our Attitudes Toward Our Leaders

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Ever since the “resignation” of our executive director, lots of questions have been raised. That’s fine. But lots of allegations have also been made. That’s not so fine.

When our denominational Board of Trustees (BOT) announced the resignation of our executive director, Rev. Jerry Dykstra, most of us were surprised. In fact, even Rev. Dykstra was quoted as being surprised. Thus, we had a number of questions. Our questions increased when our Director of Denominational Ministries also resigned, and then we also wondered about the previous resignation of the director of our Safe Church Ministry. Both the Board of Trustees and synod are certainly aware that the denomination expects and deserves some information that helps explain this turn of events. Some questions need to be answered.

In addition to the questions, however, a number of allegations have been raised, especially regarding the BOT. The Board has been accused of wielding too much power, of whitewashing and sanitizing the truth, of deceit, etc. One person hoped “the BOT doesn't use our donations to pay off Jerry and Sandy and buy their silence under the guise of confidentiality agreements.” Another said we ought to hire a competent leader who has proven himself as a corporate executive and the BOT will not be able to push him around.

After the speeches given to Synod 2011 by Rev. Joel Boot, our Interim Executive Director, and Rev. Mark Vermaire, the president of the BOT, another commented, “These were just little political speeches…It's easy to hide behind advisory committees and executive session, but this secrecy will not build up the CRC but just contribute to its decline.”

Accusations about secrecy, advisory committees and executive sessions miss the mark. Synod always handles its work via recommendations from its advisory committees. Synod always goes into executive session when people are discussed. When Rev. Vermaire said, “Because the resignation of Rev. Dykstra is appropriately being explored in an advisory committee, I will not address it tonight,” he was not hiding behind an advisory committee. He was acknowledging that the BOT’s work is properly supervised by synod. In fact, he stated such: “We welcome and appreciate the oversight and responsibility of synod, through its advisory committee, to attend to this matter.”

Let’s assume that Rev. Vermaire would have made some comments about this matter. Based on the repeated accusations leveled at the BOT one can imagine that someone would have said, “I'll bet that explanation is just a 'little political speech' to paper over what really happened. Why is the BOT attempting to run the show again? Why doesn’t it keep its mouth shut since this matter has already been assigned to an advisory committee?"

It's easy to criticize people at the top, and we all do it---our council, our classis, our synod, our boss, our president, etc., etc. Criticism gets easier when we don't personally know the people we're criticizing. We need to remember that BOT members are volunteers, ministers and church members just like the rest of us, and are attempting to do what is best for the church. That doesn't mean we can't question their judgment. That does mean there’s a certain attitude that must characterize our questioning.

When I participate in the ordination service of a candidate or the installation of elders and deacons, I frequently read Hebrews 13:17: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” I typically say, “That doesn't mean we always have to agree any more than our children have to agree when they submit to our leadership in their lives. We don't have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand, but if the church is going to be a vital force in our lives and in the life of this community, leaders and followers certainly must walk hand in hand.”

I like to see a bit more of that attitude displayed when questions are raised and comments are posted.  

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THANK YOU for this. What is unsaid here is that most of these critics are themselves hiding behind the relative anonymity of the Internet.

I would never suggest that our leadership should not be questioned, but I see such disrespectful and hateful comments being made via online forums (comments here or on the Banner site, blogs, etc.) that it makes me shudder. The most offensive to me personally, as someone who is committed to racial reconciliation and to increasing the diversity in our denomination, was a comment made by a blogger that Jerry Dykstra was removed from office because he wasn't "tan enough". 

Thank you again for this reminder . . . I pray that we will all take it to heart and commit to respectful, non-inflammatory dialogue.

Participant

Thanks, George.  I agree.

 I have commented previously on my opinion or read on what happened with the changes in our leadership, but I have never questioned the integrity of the BOT.  Even though I had concerns, I suspected nothing underhanded.  

I think Matthew 18 is in effect as well.  For those who are quick to chime in their conspiracy theories or cynical message board comments, they need to think seriously about giving their regional BOT representative a call and speak to them directly rather than question their integrity without giving them a chance to respond or answer questions.

I have spoken with my local BOT representative as well as other members of the BOT at Synod, and I am pleased and have trust that they are doing their level best to lead our denomination and its offices with integrity.  We might not always agree with their decisions--and agreement is not mandatory; we CAN disagree--but we should give respect.  

As members of the CRC, our level of dialogue, while sometimes informal, should be raised to higher level than what we wiitness from many message boards and online editorials.

Thanks George.  I have a lot of respect for our recently departed administrators and for the board members whom I know personally.  I don't know what went on in full and I don't feel the need to speculate.  The advisory committee and synod will address this on our behalf.  I'm grateful that a proven leader like Joel Boot is willing to step into this difficult situation and provide some much needed transitional leadership.

Thanks for this! 

There is another perspective I would like to share.  There are many of us who love our church and denomination and yet are not in the loop as to what happens outside our Classis.  Though I attend Classis and sit on a committee, read the Banner and keep in touch on the Network I am often clueless as to what the full context is for the discussion.  As engaged as I try to really don't know anything about the workings of the executive and don't know the individual people involved.  Yet it is hard to be a passive observer when so much discussion is now available in an instance.

Open communication is great - but without context it can be very easy to take a side and make a judgement based on emotion and misunderstandings.  For those of us not quite in the loop we may need to watch ourselves so that we don't judge others based on our limited exposure to them whether via the Network or a meeting.  I would not want people to know me only based on a few heated words said in passion.  In context people understand that there is more grace and kindness to me then what I may be showing in the moment :)

I will pray for the continual healing of the hurt that I have been hearing through different channels and to watch myself before I jump to judgement.

Blessings, Victoria

Victoria,

 I think you hit the nail on the head here.  If I only knew the administrators, I would be wondering what was wrong with the board.  If I only knew board members I would assume that they were in the right and the administrators were all wrong.  Knowing people on both sides, I am puzzled as to how things could have gotten this far off track.  If I knew neither, that would be even more difficult. 

We live in a world where a lot of one-sided information comes our way.  It is very easy to grab onto one bit of data and run with it.  There is usually another side to the story.  Proverbs 18:17 says,

"In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right,
   until someone comes forward and cross-examines. "

George, a fine article and many good points. You missed one. The BOT lied to the membership. Gerry did not resign for personal and family reasons. He was shoved out according to the latest report from synod. When a board makes such a grieveous error it should resign, as the membership's confidence in this board has been compromised.

I wasn't thrilled with the way Jerry's "resignation" was announced and almost immediately communicated with the Board of Trustees about that.  However, it's a stretch to say that the BOT "lied to the membership."  The recent posting of synod's dealing with this matter indicated “The BOT and Rev. Dykstra mutually agreed to inform the denomination that Rev. Dykstra resigned 'for personal and family reasons'. The Board appropriately honored this agreement in its limited communications about the matter.”  

For whatever reasons all parties agreed that this wording would be best.  I think a different wording would have been better, but I'm not prepared to accuse the Board and Jerry of lying.

If everyone of us had to resign because of an error in judgment, none of us would be able to serve the church.

I have to agree with Lorraine's post and pdr just confirmed her thesis. Those who like to lash out at the church, BOT or any thing else they do not agree with do so from their anonymity. The things I have read on this forum along with comments attached to articles in the newsroom make me shake my head. I'm all for good discussion but if you are not willing to sign your name to your comments don't comment

Larry Luth

Why should a full name make a difference . Sorry for offending anyone, but we are simply not getting the real facts on the Dykstra/Johnson departures.. Listen to Synod's discussion on this matter - archived on the synod webcast page. Maybe "lying" by the BOT was a bit to strong; scratch that word and insert " misled the membership". As a pew-sitter I expect the BOT to be upfront and they have failed to do this.

pdr,

In my experience, knowing the source does make a difference in how we judge the weight of a comment.  I have never posted an anonymous comment anywhere.  Some may think knowing I am commenting adds weight, others the opposite.  But they will know the source.

Bill Vis

P.S.  As a pastor I occasionally receive anonymous communication.  I always destroy such. 

Bill:

With all due respect I totally disagree with you on the matter of "anonymous communication."  Apparently this CRCNA website does as well because they follow the common internet practice of allowing for it.  

One presumes that they could use a filter if they wished.

Also, "anonymous communication" that you might receive in the world of a pastor may well be a different world than this one.

Having had decades of experience in the social services field I can say how very, very careful we are about protecting sources--if you had detailed information on a possible case of child abuse in your congregation, I hope that you would not follow your stated practice of "always destroy such."

"pdr"  I support you.

precherkid, I didn't condemn anonymous comments on the web.  I merely note they carry less weight than when a comment comes from a named source I know and trust.  Not sure how you make the leap to child abuse.  As a mandatory reporter I have and will report such when there is credible evidence.

Bill:

It appears that you agree that different venues may allow for different rules for attribution and/or anonyminity and therefore do not condemn anonymous comments on the web.  (allegations of child abuse being only one example of a venue where anonyminity should not be the primary issue)

In some venues such as that of a pastor receiving allegations etc, knowing the source may have weight but as you say comments should be judged on the merits of their content.  

I will agree that, sadly, much of what is posted on the internet under anonymity allows for inferior content but names attached to postings does not always ensure weighty content either, in my opinion.

I am happy to hear that as a mandatory reporter you follow up on allegations of child abuse and do not "always destroy such" just because they happen to be anonymous.

If we are going to say that the BOT misled the membership, we will also have to say that Jerry misled the membership since the wording of the statement was mutually agreed to.  I think everyone recognizes now that this wording was an error in judgement since it invited speculation.  Synod Advisory report 1C tells us what we need to know about this matter.  It is time to move on in my judgement.

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