News Intelligence Analysis
165 Members Ousted from Gardendale Baptist Church
Plus a Follow-up Article
Originally Posted: Thu Jul 22, 2004 7:49 am
And see this blog: http://gardendalebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/
By Brad Olson at Caller-Times
July 20, 2004
Members of Gardendale Baptist Church voted Sunday to expel about 165 members from their congregation because they did not support the leadership of the church's pastor, according to a church spokesman and several ousted members.
In a letter to the congregation, Micah Davidson, the church's pastor, called a business meeting after a July 18 baptismal service at which members would vote on the following statement: "Pastor Micah is the God-called pastor for Gardendale and is leading us in God's direction or not."
Davidson also stated in the letter that he would leave immediately if the church voted against him. If the church votes for me to stay," he wrote, "those who vote against me will be removed from membership in the family immediately."
The vote was about 750 to 165 in favor of the pastor, according to John Gilbert, administrative pastor of the church. Immediately after the vote of confidence, members voted to revoke the memberships of those who voted against Davidson. Gilbert said that of the 165 members who were "removed from membership," all could come back to church if they "signed a covenant for church unity."
Davidson was not available for comment Monday, a church spokesperson said.
Gilbert said the controversy arose over Davidson's leadership and changes relating to certain programs in the church.
"Most of it centered around Micah's leadership," Gilbert said. "Some people liked it and some didn't like it. This whole thing is like a divorce. You have new leadership and some of the old leadership decides they don't want to follow the new leadership.
"Our church is totally committed to reaching people in the community. Some people were willing to sacrifice some personal preferences and traditions and some were not willing to do that."
Members voted unanimously in approval of Davidson when he first came to the church in May 2002, Gilbert said.
Several ousted members said the main questions being asked to Davidson were procedural, such as why the church wasn't holding business meetings or why the church didn't meet on Sunday or Wednesday nights.
Piedad Ymbert, a member for five years until she was voted out Sunday, said many members were concerned because the church stopped holding regular business meetings, such as a meeting in which an annual budget is approved. Members also questioned why new pastors were hired without approval of the congregation, she said.
"There would just be a sign on the bulletin board that said, 'We welcome so and so as this pastor and we welcome so and so as this minister,' " Ymbert said.
Gilbert said opposition in the church was impeding the church's progress. He said the members could not vote on every decision Davidson made, but could vote on whether he was called by God to be pastor.
"They just couldn't continue with the gossip and slander and misinformation," he said.
Others said their concerns were not due to the pastor's leadership, but to their disagreement with voting members out of the church.
Amelia Burleson, who lost her membership in the church due to her vote Sunday, said she voted against the pastor because she thought the vote was a mistake.
"I got thrown out because I don't think people should be outcast," Burleson said. "God forgives everybody. If he is our shepherd, he's supposed to get those sheep back that are straying away. Instead, he was letting go."
Gardendale 165 seek new churches Dispute pits modern vs. traditional worship backers.
Caller-Times July 22, 2004
Gardendale Baptist Church has been the cornerstone of Herb Fondren's life for more than 60 years. He and his wife raised four daughters in the church and watched each one marry there. He has taught Sunday school and served on advisory boards. And, as of Sunday, he is no longer welcome there.
"It's very disappointing and hurtful," said Fondren, 74.
Last weekend Fondren was one of 165 people voted out of the church's membership for disagreeing with some of the decisions of Senior Pastor Micah Davidson.
Fondren and his wife, Joyce, plan to search for a new church home.
"I'm sure we'll visit some of the other local churches and find a place where we can worship and feel like we can contribute," Fondren said.
On Sunday, Davidson called a special business meeting in which he told members they would vote on two recommendations, the first to decide if he should remain as pastor and the second, to eliminate those members who voted against him, if it was decided he should stay.
Associate Pastor John Gilbert, 59, estimated that of the church's 1,500 membership, 1,039 attended Sunday's meeting. There is some disagreement about the number of people who voted to keep Davidson on board. Some say it was around 450, but Gilbert said ushers estimated more like 750.
"We did have some people abstain who said it was too painful and refused to do it," Gilbert said. Gilbert said the way opposing members behaved during the videotaped meeting helped convince others that voting them out was the right thing to do. A request to view the tape was declined.
Davidson declined to comment on why the vote to eliminate members was necessary, but Gilbert spoke on the church's behalf. "This has been brewing for a while," Gilbert said. "There have been lots of meetings and discussions over the last year and a half to try and resolve differences. Pastor Micah has gone to incredible lengths to try and make things work. But just like a divorce, this has built up to this point, and it's been painful for everyone. There is a possibility of reconciliation but (the 165) have to be open to that themselves."
The 165 members were told they could all come back if they agreed to sign a covenant for church unity. "I can't and I won't do that," said Grady Jackson, 81, who had been a member for 35 years. "I won't sign something that says I can come back if I follow his leadership, no questions asked. That's what he really means." Jackson said for more than a year he personally tried to speak to Davidson about changes within the church, like the elimination of Wednesday and Sunday night services and the incorporation of less traditional music and programs that made some of the older members feel alienated.
"In many respects our church under this pastor has a much more energetic service than some of us would like to see, with lots of hand-clapping and jumping up and dancing. Some of us would have liked to see it toned down a bit," Jackson said.
"I realize these are all trends among some churches, and we are not against change if it is for the church and doesn't leave anyone out."
Gilbert said the problem boiled down to older members who didn't want to let go of older traditions. For months, he said, there were e-mails filled with misinformation, gossip circulating through the congregation and secret meetings held in an attempt to convince people that Davidson, 33, should step down.
"When voting to remove them from the rolls, we were saying we know you are unhappy with the leadership and want you to go to a church that you can be happy and productive and that you want to be a part of," Gilbert said.
But Jackson said their meetings were never a secret and only meant to determine concerns and possible solutions. In the end, he said, the real problem wasn't about the music or service times.
"None of us in the group ever asked (Davidson) for a resignation. We have been supportive of his leadership," he said. "We have only asked that he consider some of our desires. He refused to take any suggestion seriously."
Gardendale Baptist Church's mission statement says part of its purpose as a family is to love each other unconditionally, so that all people everywhere can discover real life in Christ. But Fondren said the church failed to live out that mission.
"Calling for a vote pitting friends against friends and even family members against one another, rather than praying and working toward reconciliation, could only result in many fine people being hurt and hinder the cause of Christ," he said.
Blogger Comment: I ask whoever reads this page to please pray for all the people effected by this Break-up of a Wonderful Church. Please say a special prayer for an elderly man named: Grady Jackson that got very upset over this and now his health is at risk. I wish Pastor Micah would have asked Jesus what to do instead of making the church members turn on each other. A very cruel deed. Pray for Micah Davidson, he needs much help.
Pastor Micah Davidsons contact info:
Gardendale Baptist Church 5633 S. Staples St. (Staples @ Holly)
Corpus Christi, Texas 78411
office: 361.991.0285 home: 361.850.8810
email: Pastor@Gardendale.org Micah@gardendale.org
See the article: "Purpose Driven Villification" at: http://fclight.org/FCLight-purpose-driven-vilification-1.htm
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