A grievance policy gives elders of any church a clear procedure for raising concerns with the members and/or actions of the leadership council, the executive elder team, and/or the full council of elders.
Such a policy seems unnecessary until there is disagreement or tension among the elders. Therefore, it is important for us all to consider the spirit of the policy to maintain unity (1 Peter 3:8; 1 Cor. 1:10), to pursue reconciliation (Heb. 12:13; Eph. 4:32), and to bear with one another (Col. 3:13), as long as we are able.
If we approach disagreements in such a spirit, it ought to lead to greater unity in the end. This policy intends to provide room for discourse and consideration in the event of disagreements and tensions.
A disagreement versus a charge
This policy covers only those concerns that would be categorized as disagreements rather than disqualifying sin on the part of an elder or a council. Charges of sin require an investigation and are governed by our church’s bylaws. This grievance policy handles disagreements or tensions over an elder or a board action.
The intent of this policy is to give elders a formal procedure to share concerns but should in no way undermine the relational connections we have as elders. All members of the leadership council will adhere to an “open door policy”—willingness to discuss any and all issues—in relation to any member of the full council of elders (FCE). Ideally, most concerns will be noted and addressed through this informal process. If, however, an elder is not satisfied with the response and feels convicted to escalate the concern, he may do so through the formal process outlined below.
If the concern is with another elder, the basic plan of reconciliation found in Matthew 18:15–20 is the guide before entering into a formal process. Additionally, elders are encouraged to discuss their concerns with their local lead pastor (when appropriate) to seek guidance on how to proceed.
Level 1, Concern: Communicate a formal concern to the leadership council. The purpose of formalizing a concern is to ensure that all members of the leadership council are made aware of it. This should be done only after informal efforts have been made to find resolution to the concern, without creating division among the full council of elders. A formal concern can be brought against any member of the executive elders, the leadership council, or the full council of elders. Formalization requires that the elder put his concern in writing, which will be distributed to the members of the leadership council.
Level 2, Challenge: Request a response from the leadership council. If the concerned party is not satisfied with merely informing the leadership council, he may request a formal response. The leadership council (LC) will establish a committee to draft a formal response to the elder on its behalf. This response is intended for the concerned party but may be shared with the FCE in level 3 (below) if the concerned party is not satisfied.
Level 3, Censure: Request a “confidence vote.”
- Step 1: The concerned party makes a request for a confidence vote.
- Step 2: The LC will post the written concern (level 1) and its formal response (level 2).
- Step 3: The FCE will vote to formally hear the concern. A 33 percent vote will trigger a hearing. The LC may choose to call a hearing even if the vote does not reach 33 percent.
- Step 4: If the FCE votes positively, a hearing will be called for the concern to be discussed and the leadership council to respond. In the event that an investigative committee is warranted, both the LC and the concerned party will approve the committee. In the case of an impasse on the makeup of the committee, each party will choose two representatives.
- Step 5: The FCE will give either a vote of affirmation of the elder or decision in question, or a vote of no confidence.
A vote of affirmation gives the LC the option to continue with the action or reconsider it. A vote of no confidence requires the LC to revise the decision/action and present the revision to the FCE for affirmation. In the case of a vote of no confidence of an elder, his affirmation of calling is withdrawn, requiring him to step down from his office. This withdrawal is different than disqualification. His calling may be reaffirmed through the normal elder process at the time he chooses to restart the process.
Level 4, Charge: Formal charge of disqualification or misconduct by the board. Formal charges of disqualification or misconduct are governed by the bylaws.
— Brad House & Gregg Allison, MultiChurch: Exploring the Future of Multisite
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