I want to talk from my heart to our church family for a few moments. You’ve got, you know, that email from our elders this week that describes how I made a ministry decision about a volunteer’s participation that I should not be. And when I did this, I failed to meet our church’s important and appropriate standards and failed to meet my responsibilities as a leader of our church. And this lacked transparency and collaboration and wisdom. And because I failed in this way, it has placed a burden on many people. And I want to take a moment to acknowledge that.
I think of everybody who is a parent, whose greatest nightmare is, “What if something should happen to my child?” I’m a parent of three children that I dearly love, and I know that fear. I think of people who have experienced the evil of abuse, or molestation, or violation, and the shame and pain that can wound a soul. I think of people who wrestle with secret, unwanted thoughts and wonder, “Is there a safe place where I can get help?” I think of all of our staff and our volunteers who serve so diligently. Menlo has one of the best and safest ministries I know, especially for young people, and I deeply regret my actions contributed to that being questioned instead of being celebrated.
So I have said this to the elders, and I have begun to say it to our staff, but now I want to say it to each one of you: I am so very sorry. I’m sorry I failed to do the right thing and I’m sorry for the weight and the burden this has created for so many. I’m beginning now a restoration plan that is designed and overseen by our elders to seek to rebuild trust and repair relationships with staff and elders and our congregation. And this is an elder decision. They will monitor it and evaluate it. But it’s important for you to know, I think it’s a very good thing. It has to be a robust, unhurrying process where staff and elders and others have great freedom to ask every question and seek discernment.
You all know church ministry can only be done if there’s a community of trust and transparency at its core. And if that can be rebuilt and restored, we will all move into the future together. And if it’s the best sense of our elders, with staff and congregation input, that it cannot then we will move into the future, trusting that God is guiding all of us in exactly the right way. For my part, my clear desire is to remain here and to serve at Menlo Church as best I can. Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” I believe God can use weakness and brokenness to build deeper and more honest and more real community.
I’ve already started talking with the elders about the future, and that, if and only if the restoration process leads in this direction, I think I can contribute to our church best by focusing most on preaching and teaching and spiritual formation and to have our elders and staff look at how we might find additional help in real important areas like strategic excellence and managerial leadership. I think our current challenge is one of the indicators of how much our church could benefit from greater strength in those areas than what I bring.
So I want to ask everybody to join me, to please be in prayer. Sometimes churches don’t respond well in moments like this. People get divided or they split into factions and then the unity and harmony and beauty of the church is threatened. And we know God doesn’t want that. This is not a human organization. This is the body of Christ. Know that our elders have been praying and working tirelessly the last few months to discern God’s will. Know that our staff has been bearing an extraordinary burden of concern and pressure and added weight. So this is a real important time for me and for a lot of us to be our very best selves, as God enables us: humble, confident, truthful, courageous, filled with love. And there’s no way we can do that without God, so would you pray with me.