The Elders Declaration
[In December 2004, the elders assembled in Baltimore and issued the following statement. This is an interesting study in accountability].
Sunday AM Service December 12, 2004
Elder Roger Stenger speaking
After last Sunday’s meeting, we were very, very touched by the service last Sunday morning, all of us. So we had an elders meeting. We all unanimously agreed that we wanted to keep the fire going. We just said that we wanted to do something somehow to express that same heart expressed last Sunday and we thought we would like to make a declaration of a statement to the body together collectively, unanimously, eight unanimous votes to be here before you today to do this.
December 12, 2004 Elders Declaration
The elders…by the way, we did this in such a spirit of joy together…(Laughter) met on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2004 for two hours and rejoiced in the visitation of God during last Sunday morning’s service. Motivated by a desire to continue in the same sense of love and brokenness demonstrated by the Holy Spirit that morning, we prepared the following statement.
We all have been greatly blessed throughout these many years by the faithful ministry of a man truly called by God…our pastor Carl H. Stevens. ( Extended standing ovation). We the elders desire to be faithful as well in the position entrusted to us by you, our body. We have all watched in awe as the vision imparted to Pastor Stevens unfolded over time and has been fulfilled by a group of weak, and lowly individuals such as we are. For this reason and for many others this great ministry with its rich legacy is worthy of our unswerving commitment….
Various events that have transpired over many months have presented many challenges to us as a ministry. Many body members have asked questions of the elders ranging from the functioning of our church government to Pastor’s health, to the establishment of a church in Aberdeen, to accusations of mishandling of particular situations in the church and to slanderous evil reports. Most decidedly we are not here before you today to present the shopping list of sins of any of our brothers or sisters in Christ. Furthermore, please understand with us that we have no desire as a ministry to cover sin or to manipulate this body in any way. As is always the case with human nature, we are often confronted with our own sins or with the sins of another that is close to us. Additionally, these sins are not always, excuse me, these situations are not always straightforward but on the contrary, very complex. Elements of human nature, sin, misunderstanding, personality conflicts, perceptions, differences of opinion, presumptions, hurtful words, sentimentality, and even a commitment of love can add to the complexity. We are very thankful that we did not lose Pastor Stevens to his battle with his illness. (Applause) And we continue to pray for his longevity and strengthening of his health. We make no apology for Pastor Stevens’s health. He is in his mid-seventies and we feel that that should be self-explanatory. (Applause) The depth of our thankfulness for all he has given to this church exceeds any lack of patience with regard to his debilitating illness. (Extended applause)
One of the concerns that has been brought to our attention is the question of integrity in the area of finances with regards to a settlement paid for compensation in a legal matter because of an indiscretion and failure of a staff member of the church. As elders of this church we state to you affirmatively that no illegal action was taken by your church or by your board of trustees. We also affirm that the church books are open for your examination because, after all, this is your church. We also stand ready to respond to your questions about this matter.
Another area is the question of the pulpits and future leadership of the ministry. Once again we thank you all for your continued patience and believe, as was the case Sunday morning, that God will anoint the various men filling any gap as we humble ourselves before God. (Applause)
The third area that needs to be addressed is the departure of various ones from the Baltimore church. Our prayers are genuinely with each and every one that has been led by God to a different place while at times it may hurt very much to part with someone you have walked with for many years. We understand that this is a part of the reality of the ministry of a local church, a local body. There are many other matters that could be addressed and we are sure other questions are out there that need answers.
The purpose of this statement is simply to reassure you that we as elders sincerely want only the best for this church and that we have a plan to work through all of the various issues. We come to you today as one board fully in agreement of hearts that you, our body, deserve transparency, honesty and our commitment to make this church the best that it can be. We apologize from the bottom of our hearts with regard to the above mentioned issues if in any way we have sinned, acted apart from the Bible, been a false covering or been insensitive to the needs of this precious congregation. We ask your forgiveness for any unwilling lack of integrity or any appearance thereof. Furthermore we repent for any lack of oneness or spirit of division that may have been entertained through these long months as a result of our frail human frames. We acknowledge misuse of words that can sometimes be so hurtful and purpose that our tongues will be used to edify.
Please help us to live in the spirit of this statement. If you have any questions, please come to us. We’ll do our best to be forthright with you. The humble confession of our mistakes in no way negates our awareness of Satan’s sophisticated onslaught against our ministry. We know that he would like to stop this worldwide work of God in any way he can.
Finally, we are ever grateful to you, the congregation, the affiliate ministries, to the faithful pastors who have stood the gap, to those who have been faithful prayer warriors, teachers in the bible college and day school, music ministry, our tremendous youth ministry and all the faithful from various departments, all of whom have fanned the flame for an anticipated revival.
The Lord spoke to us very deeply Sunday morning through the manifestation of His Holiness with a little help from Pastor Hadley. (Laughter and applause) That is what Greater Grace Church is all about. This is our church, our family. Let’s stay put together…let’s be right with God together. Let’s build a more powerful ministry then ever before. And most of all, let’s give all the glory, praise and honor to Jesus Christ that He deserves.