Monday, August 20, 2012

Mars Hill/Governance "that required more than 20 elders to vote in 100% agreement on everything" ... did it?





http://marshill.com/2011/09/06/important-letters-from-pastors


... While we celebrate the past and honor the present, we also need to prepare for the future by God’s grace. We’ve been here before, many times before, in fact. As our church grows, we encounter obstacles and hit ceilings of complexity and need to adjust as necessary to get through the next size barrier. This was true at 200, 800, 2,000, and 6,000, just like the experts predicted. At 10,000 we are there again. I’ve been working on the beginnings of a comprehensive plan, as I can see into the future to 25,000 people a week, Lord willing. A finished version of that document will be released once it is revised with input and change from various leaders in the church, as well as wise counsel from leaders of churches larger than ours who have become friends. 

Last fall Jamie Munson announced that he was stepping down from being executive pastor at Mars Hill.  This was discussed at some length back in September 2011.  Driscoll indicated above that a finished version of a comprehensive plan would be released once it was revised and completed.

Some time in 2012, though the document itself isn't exactly something with a date, this went up.
This may or may not have been the statement Driscoll was referring to.  It is not something you'll find is linked to from anywhere on the Mars Hill sites.  You can link from it to just about anything Mars Hill related to it but you can't get to it from those sites.  However, it just so happens that it's up.

It is also not entirely clear that it is entirely accurate. For instance let's consider the passage below.

http://marshill.com/governance

From Mars Hill, Governance


How has church governance within Mars Hill Church changed over the years?

As Mars Hill Church has grown over the years, we have had to reorganize ourselves more than once. We do this because we love Jesus and want to love and serve people and steward resources as well as we can. For example, when Mars Hill started, it was a very small church of a few dozen people all meeting at one time in one room. At that time Pastor Mark was the only pastor, and we did not yet have any other official elders, deacons, or members. When things are small they tend to be informal. Most churches operate in an informal way as the average church in America is roughly 70–80 people. For a church to grow it has to reorganize itself much like a married couple that has done things one way for years has to make serious changes if they birth triplets. In the same way, a church has to make changes when God brings the new birth of new Christians. While the growth makes things complicated, we praise God for it because we love people and want to serve them. In 2011 alone, we baptized 1,392 people! But to welcome that many people across multiple states is complicated.

When Mars Hill started Mark Driscoll was not the only pastor, was he?  If he was then I have no idea what those co-founding elders Mike Gunn and Lief Moi were doing there all the time.  Were they window dressing?  Mike and Lief even preached from time to time.  Driscoll mentioned the roles that Mike Gunn and Lief Moi played at Mars Hill in the beginning numerous times in Confessions of a Reformission Rev.

It's not quite clear to me how anyone who was at Mars Hill from its inception to 2002 when Mike Gunn left would get the idea that Mark Driscoll was the only pastor.  Maybe there's a formality that's being considered.  It would appear to be that is what was meant.

... At Mars Hill, this means we have had to make changes as we have grown. For example, for the first year or two of the church, we had one formal elder, Pastor Mark. Then, a few other elders were added. By 2007, the church was approaching 6,000 people and meeting in multiple locations but still had the same governance structure that required more than 20 elders to vote in 100% agreement on everything.[emphasis added] It was impossible for the elders, many of them unpaid volunteers with more than full-time jobs, to keep up with everything that was going on across the various Mars Hill churches. So, the elders voted for a new governance structure at that time which has allowed us to now become one church, meeting in 14 locations across four states, caring for upwards of 14,000 people each weekend.

Actually, it wouldn't be accurate to say that all 20 elders had to vote in 100% agreement on everything. In fact, you can read the Bylaws that were in place prior to 11-1-2007 for yourself over at.

http://joyfulexiles.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/bylaws-prior-to-10-29-2007-official-mars-hill-church-bylaws-2-11-06-rev.pdf

And here's an article discussing the Full Council of Elders.  Read through it carefully and point out, if you can, where it indicated that all the elders had to agree 100% on everything for things to get done.

Article VII
The Full Council of Elders
Section A - The following issues are reserved for the full Council of Elders, with any voting requirements other than simple majority specified for such issues.  

* Election of an elder. Approval requires no objections (abstention permitted)
* Discipline or removal of elders. Voting requirements and procedure are set forth in Article III, Section E.
* Changes to and adoption of articles of incorporation or by-laws: three fourths approval of all elders
* Any significant change to essential doctrine: three-fourths approval
* Election or Removal of Executive Elder Team or Officers: as set forth in Article VI, Section C
* All powers reserved for the full Council of Elders as described in RCW 24.03.115 or similar statute

Furthermore, any decision by any elder team, including the executive elder team, may be overridden by a simple majority vote of all elders. An objection to a decision by the executive elder team may be brought by any elder, and the matter scheduled for a review and vote, provided the objection was brought within a month of the decision being made.

Section B

To ensure that there is full disclosure to all elders, proper notice of all proposals requiring a vote of the full council of elders or the executive elders shall be provided to all the elders at least 30 days in advance, unless a credible emergency exists. Detailed minutes and voting record of each executive elder team meeting, as well as all other elder team meetings where a vote is taken (e.g., department, site, ad hoc) shall be published and disseminated to the elders, with records kept on file.  The following information shall also be provided to every elder:
* Annual financial statements from CPA review
* Annual salaries and benefits list
* In-ouse prpared quarterly financial statements
* Quarterly church-wide tithing/giving report.  

There's nothing there that even remotely indicates that all the elders had to all agree on something to get something decided.  Simple majority applies in a few cases and three fourths is not "all".

What Article VII Section B indicates is that proper notice of all proposals requiring a vote of the full council of elders or the executive elders shall be provided to all the elders at least 30 days in advance, unless a credible emergency exists. Detailed minutes and the voting record of each executive elder team meeting shall be published and distributed ot the elders, with records kept on file.

Great, so that means there'd be a record of how many executive elders were active at Mars Hill in September 2007 when the bid on Tabella was made and that this decision by the executive elders would have been distributed to all the elders 30 days before the bid was made?  Or did I misread the bylaws there?  Someone can spell that out for me, perhaps.

Now on what basis or at what level would all the elders in a particular set of elders need to agree on everything in the bylaws that were in effect prior to 11-01-2007?

Well, here's some of Article VI regarding the Executive Elder Team.  Let's see if we can find any language that could be construed as requiring complete agreement.

Section B

The size of the executive elder team shall be no less than four men and no more than seven men

Section C
The executive elder team shall consist of men who meet the following criteria in addition to the qualifications and duties of an elder outlined in Article I:
* The elder must be a full-time employee of Mars Hill Church
* The elder must have served as an elder for at least one year
* The elder must nominate himself for consideration to be a member of the executive elder team
* The elder must receive a two-thirds vote of approval by all elders
* If more than seven men meet these criteria, then those seven men receiving the highest number of votes will be accepted
* If there is a tie among two or more men for the seventh seat on the lead elder team, a new vote will be taken by all elders (on only the seventh position) with the man receiving the highest vote total being appointed to the lead elder team. 

Section D

The executive elder team will serve for a term of two years. Executive elder team terms shall commence on July 1. Every two years the process of electing the executive elder team shall be repeated.  The election, by secret ballot, shall occur at the first all-elders' meeting of June preceding the end of the executive team's two-year term.  Vacancies on the executive elder team shall be filled as soon as practical by the full Council of Elders.

Section E
Except for those powers and duties reserved for the full Council of Elders under Article VII, Section A and RCW 24.03.115 or similar statute, the following issues are reserved for determination by the executive elder team and may not be decided by a Departmental, Site, or Ad Hoc Elder Team:

* Establishing the overall vision for the entire church
* Purchase, sale, or rental or real estate
* Approving new services and venues
* Comprehensive operational budget line items
* Capital expenditures budget
* Hiring and firing of elders who are also employees (the employment status of an employee who is also an elder may be determined by the executive elder team, but such person's status as an elder is reserved to the full COuncil of Elders)
* Issues delegated or reserved to the executive elder team by resolution of the full Council of Elders

Section F
For an issue to meet the approval of the executive elder team it must receive a unanimous vote (abstention permitted). [emphasis added]

Section G. 

Immediately following the election of the executive elder team pursuant to Section D, the full Council of Elders shall appoint members of the new executive elder team to serve as President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer to serve as officers for purposes of the Washingotn Nonprofit Corporation Act. The president shall be the chief executive officer of the corporation and the lead elder/pastor of the church described in Article I, Section B. He shall chare the meetings of the Council of Elders and the executive elder team. The Vice President shall serve the role of president during the absence of the president. The reasurer shall maintain proper books of account for the church. The secretary (who shall not also be the president) will ensure official minutes of each executive team meeting are kept, as well as meetings of the entire Elder Council, and will keep on file and authenticate all pertinent minutes and other appropriate documentation used in making decisions and/or taking action.  An officer may be removed as such by the full Council of Elders without regard ot such person's status on the executive elder team. A vacancy in any officer position shall be filled as soon as practical by the full Council of Elders.


So the claim that "By 2007, the church was approaching 6,000 people and meeting in multiple locations but still had the same governance structure that required more than 20 elders to vote in 100% agreement on everything." is simply not backed up by the actual bylaws that were in effect up until November 2007.  While it was stipulated that the executive elder team had to vote unamimously even this had the proviso that abstention was permitted.  So even here it wasn't strictly true that all the executive elders had to agree on everything for things to get done.

The by-laws in effect up through November 2007 did specify that documentation and notification for actions taken by the executive elder team needed to given to all the elders 30 days in advance.  This gets back to the question of the bid on the Tabella.  When where all the elders notified of the intent to bid about $3.95 million for Tabella?  How many executive elders were in place when that happened?  If there were less than four executive elders who decided on the bid; if the elders as a whole weren't notified and that 30 days in advance of the decision to make a bid then it doesn't seem like there would have been anything about the purchase that complied with the by-laws that were supposed to be observed at the time.

And, once again, there's nothing in the pre-November 2007 by-laws indicating that 100% of the 20 pastors had to agree on everything for things to get done.  In fact the full Council of Elders would have been called on for something as big as a change in doctrine or changes to by-laws and articles of incorporation.  The claim that a new structure was needed to anticipate growth could plausibly be defended but that would have entailed calling for by-laws that more thoroughly addressed the needs of the multi-site model which was said to be necessary for the re-org.  The thing, though, was the newer by-laws didn't seem to address multi-site even as clearly as the old by-laws did.  What changed will take other posts to explore and/or discuss.

Moving on, then, we get to a further explanation that because of how badly Mars Hill was hamstrung by all 20 elders having to 100% agree on everything it was necessary to approve a new governance structure.

***

So, the elders voted for a new governance structure at that time which has allowed us to now become one church, meeting in 14 locations across four states, caring for upwards of 14,000 people each weekend.

***

Certain guys on the team didn't agree with where that governance structure went.  

***
In the fall of 2011, we undertook yet another restructuring as we planned for more churches in more states to serve more people. As part of the restructuring, we researched the governance structure of other large churches across the United States. We sought counsel from outside attorneys with practices devoted to providing legal services to large churches. With this background and research in mind, Mars Hill’s in-house legal counsel, who specialize in corporate law and came to Mars Hill as a partner in a national law firm, together with our Executive Elder Team, proposed a revised organizational structure for the church that would allow us to plan for, rather than react to, the rapid growth we have experienced by God’s grace. 

***

Sounds sort of like the rationale for the November 2007 bylaws changes.  Now for those who read the November 2007 by-laws they'll recall that the Lead Pastor was made legal president of the organization and the preaching pastor was made vice-president, only able to act as president in the event that the president vacated the role.  That gets us to ...

http://marshill.com/2011/09/06/important-letters-from-pastors

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