A Progressive Theo-Political Blog Bringing You The Best and Worst of Baptist Life.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Two Rivers Baptist Fails To Oust Members

Back in early October, Rev. Jerry Sutton - a former SBC Presidential candidate - survived an "ouster" vote by the margin of 1,101-286 at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville. Why the vote? Here's a snippet from ABP:
[Sutton] has been at the center of a controversy over his leadership since the summer. In September, a group of 54 church members sued Sutton and other church officials for alleged financial improprieties. The suit charged Sutton with refusing to release church records to members and with using church funds on his daughter’s wedding reception and other questionable expenses. Sutton has repeatedly denied the allegations.
The Associated Press reported last August on allegations of a former Administrative Assistant of Rev. Sutton who claimed that he looked at pornography on his church computer and had an affair with a church staff member. According to Two River's Executive Pastor, these charges were investigated by "human resource officials" who found no evidence of porn or the affair.

After the lawsuit was dismissed, Sutton called on the plaintiff members to "repent for their sins" or risk expulsion from the congregation. The members were accused of harming the health of Two Rivers by filing the lawsuit. According to a letter from Sutton, in order to avoid church discipline, the members must apologize in writing, drop all lawsuits against the church and stop meeting together.

In the middle of January 2008, a second similar lawsuit was filed by members of Two Rivers.

On April 23, 2008, Sutton announced in a letter to the congregation that a vote would be held to oust the 71 plaintiff members.

Meanwhile, the members continued to push forward and announced their plans to ask a Court for access to more detailed financial records. The Tennessean reported that a Two Rivers staff member tipped off the members that financial records had been tossed in a church Dumpster. From The Tennessean:
"Inside, we found counseling records, credit card receipts, and even staff Social Security numbers," said Dennis Shipp, one of the leaders of the plaintiffs. "Those should never have been put in the trash. Apparently, the church can't even afford a shredder."

Shipp and other plaintiffs also say they found what appear to be more personal expenses on church credit cards.

"We have questions that need to be answered," said Shipp, a former bank examiner for the state.
Yesterday - May 5, 2008 - Two Rivers held a vote to expel the 71 plaintiff members.

Jerry Sutton lost...by four votes.
A total of 1000 votes were cast by TRBC members. 663 members voted to support the motion to dismiss the plaintiffs from TRBC membership. 337 members voted not to support the motion to dismiss the plaintiffs from TRBC membership. The percentage of votes to dismiss was 66.3%. The percentage needed to dismiss is 66.6%. Therefore the motion failed by 4 votes.

Though Robert’s Rules of Order states that those being disciplined are not entitled to vote, the deacon chairman made a decision before the beginning of the counting process to include the votes of the 71 plaintiffs. Mark Freeman, attorney for the plaintiffs was present to observe the vote count.
There is some irony in all of this. If my older readers will think back to 1988 - exactly 20 years ago in San Antonio. At the 1988 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, The Rev. Jerry Sutton brought to the floor of the convention Resolution #5 entitled "On The Priesthood of the Believer." Here's a snippet:
WHEREAS, The doctrine of the priesthood of the believer can be used to justify the undermining of pastoral authority in the local church.
...Be it further RESOLVED, That the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer in no way contradicts the biblical understanding of the role, responsibility, and authority of the pastor which is seen in the command to the local church in Hebrews 13:17, "Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account;"
I have to wonder whether Jerry Sutton blames the historical Baptist distinctive known as "The Priesthood of ALL Believers" for his troubles at Two Rivers?

Sutton and others might do themselves a favor and remember the words of Stewart Newman, a former distinguished professor theology at Southeastern Seminary, who often described pastors and other church leaders as "FIRST AMONG EQUALS."

First Among Equals = The Baptist Way


Blogger Dr. Glenn Jonas said...

The fact that Jerry Sutton had a Ph.D. from SWBTS with concentration in Baptist History made Resolution No. 5 even more amazing. He majored with Leon McBeth and W. R. Estep, both of whom were embarrassed by him. I recall specifically what Dr. Estep told me about him but a repetition of those things does not belong here.

7:36 PM

Blogger Dan Trabue said...

WHEREAS, The doctrine of the priesthood of the believer can be used to justify the undermining of pastoral authority in the local church.

Perhaps it should be resolved to say:

WHEREAS, The doctrine of the priesthood of the believer can be used to justify the undermining of pastoral authority in the local church - WHICH SHOULD SOMETIMES BE ACTIVELY ENCOURAGED.

9:24 AM

Blogger Cat's Dad said...

Sutton would have been more accurate if he had said "doctrine . . . can be MISused to justify . . ."

11:14 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bottom line...Jerry Sutton needs to go. He's causing to much controversy to the church and the Body of Christ.

10:21 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Sutton is finally gone now, and praise the Lord he is.
But he sure got a big early retirement package that he quite politely, or politically, forced them into - it depends on however your eyes look at his letter and his request.

But at least he's gone, though the people who remain are tied into him financially for a few more years. And if any of them that voted for that package leave the church, retire from it, or don't fully pay their tithes and offerings, then I pray that God exposes their names publicly, because they'd have voted a great financial burden on a local church, binding the Bride of Christ into an agreement, but they're refusing to help pay for it themselves.

God will judge them for it in their own home finances, or their children's. And I will pray right now that He is swift with His chastisement or judgment on any who would dare do this, that He'll call them on what they are doing, and expose them for the burden they've bound the church to, by their rash and sinful contracts and indulgent oaths.

Better learn the fear of the Lord now and not later, after all He's exposed before your very eyes.

May God heal the people that this man has hurt, because as for some of us, it looks like this is going to be a long haul. But a true believer in Christ has a big, big God, and He is very, very good. He doesn't forget those who'd "rather have Jesus than silver and gold", who'd "rather have Him than have riches untold".

1:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sutton at Bellevue Baptist 8 10 2008

A friend of Steve Gaines

6:09 PM


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