This is the response of leadership to the letter we sent rescinding our membership. "The Elders" referred to here are pseudonyms for the couple who led our small group, Mr. and Mrs. Elder. The husband was also an elder on the church's elder board. For the entire story of why we left Harvest Bible Baby Church, please see the following posts: A Letter to My Friends at Our Former Church The Molehill that Became a Mountain The Feedback My Pastor Labelled "Possibly Aggressive" (or How NOT to Respond to Solicited Feedback) Our Resignation Letter to a Former Church...
From: Mr. Elder
To: David, Sarah, Pastor Associate [if you were wondering, yes, he cut the senior pastor out of the loop in his reply]
Date: May 3, 2019
Subject: Re: Follow-up to Small Group Conversation
David and Sarah:
Just wanted to acknowledge your email and let you know that Pastor Associate and I plan to take some time to process it with the Lord and then respond next week.
With love and sadness,
From: Mr. Elder
To: David, Sarah, Pastor Associate, Mrs. Elder [yes, Pastor Senior has been left out of the loop, again]
Date: May 9, 2019
Subject: Follow-up [yes, he started a new email chain and added his wife to the group. I don’t know if she ever saw the original email David wrote; we deliberately did not include her. We didn’t think it polite to call a man a liar in front of his wife (even if he were one).]
David and Sarah:
We have read and processed your 5/3/19 email with the Lord and deeply regret how things played out in your home on Monday, April 29. In hindsight, we should have given you a heads-up that we had concerns about you leading a small group and your accelerated start date. We also hope you can forgive us for not putting a pause on the conversation when Sarah needed to attend to your daughter.
We are sad that you have chosen to leave and avoid fully working through your concerns and ours in-person as Matthew 18 would encourage us to do. And, we are disheartened that we see many things described in your email so differently from you and Sarah. However, we find comfort in knowing that we share a common faith in our God who is a gracious, loving Father who sees and judges both you and us justly.
We would like to share with you a couple of verses that God put on our hearts as we processed things with Him since Monday:
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” Psalm 115:1
“These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:4-6a
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Grateful that God brought us together for a good season at Harvest Bible Baby Church,
Mr. Elder, Mrs. Elder and Pastor Associate
To: David, Mr. Elder, Mrs. Elder, Pastor Associate, Pastor Senior [yes, I added Pastor Senior back to the chain. Because I’m thoughtful like that.]
Date: May 31, 2019
Subject: Re: Follow-up
Dear Mr. Elder,
Thank you for getting back to us. I’m sorry this response is so delayed; it’s been a hard email to write.
While I appreciate your intent, your words sadden me: “We had concerns about you leading a small group and your accelerated start date.” As a gentle reminder, David and I did not seek out the position of small group leaders. You and Mrs. Elder are the ones who brought up the idea in the first place, then strongly encouraged us (along with Pastor Associate), even in the face of our hesitation. Pastor Associate was the one who pushed an accelerated start date, not us. It is ironic that after we submitted to your urgings, questions are raised as to my willingness to “submit.”
Instead of apologizing for your own role in placing perhaps unqualified people too quickly in the position of leading a small group, you use words that absolve the three of you from having pushed us toward the situation in the first place. For my part, I apologize for not listening to what I perceived God to be telling me, instead of trusting in the “we think God is telling you” messages received from others.
I freely forgive you for not putting a pause on conversation so I could tend to Miss Bee. I also forgive you for raising questions about my “heart” in front of my children. And for saying one thing to me in December, then saying different things in front of the group on April 29. I also forgive you for thinking that my attempt to provide constructive feedback about the building was possibly aggressive or written from fear or distrust. To be honest, it is only because I trusted leadership back then that I felt comfortable attaching my name to something potentially controversial. And we both forgive you for your defensiveness and for taking our shared concerns, and those of others in the body, lightly.
We also forgive you for the implication that we are bypassing Matthew 18. Ironically, as we have shared our communications with a few trusted advisors to test the motives in our own hearts, we have been taken aback by the strength of their responses upon taking in your words. Additionally, the fact that you failed to acknowledge any of our confessions, apologies, or heart to see Harvest Bible Baby Church grow and mature in our May 3rd email, helps us to realize that a Matthew 18 process is unlikely even if we stayed. We are leaving because we have lost trust in you, and because it seems as though you have lost trust in us. This saddens us. We can throw Bible verses at each other and try to win an argument, but I think that would be doing a disservice to Scripture.
We are heartbroken for the direction we see Harvest Bible Baby Church headed if leadership continues on its current trajectory. By happenstance recently, we’ve run into others who’ve also seen this trajectory. This has only affirmed our decision, and we’ve returned to the church we attended when first married. We’ve been open about our reasons for returning, just as we were open about our reasons for leaving that church originally. We have definitely returned in more humble, less prideful attitudes than when we left, and have felt embraced with open arms.
I considered Mrs. Elder a mentor, and David thought of you as a friend. We will always treasure the positive ways you both have impacted our walk with Christ, even in light of our more recent hurts.
Mr. Elder, we pray that you experience the immeasurable depths of Christ’s grace and mercy in your pursuit of His truth and love. We pray that we will all grow in the humility of the Gospel and find ourselves, by His grace, growing worthy of the callings Christ has placed on our lives.
Sarah (and David)
Note: To date, we have not received a response. None was expected.
What in particular sticks out to you from leadership’s response? Please feel free to share below.