Five months after 150 defiant SBC church members voted to fire the pastor, nine-member board of trustees, and half their deacons, the tables were turned on them when all the dissidents were expelled from the church in a mass culling.
Last December, the self-styled “Advocacy Group” and attendees of First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale sought to oust head pastor James Welch, the trustees, and half the deacons, taking the vote at an offsite and private unofficial business meeting. They accused him of being a bully, creating a toxic atmosphere, financial impropriety, and overall not a good fit, with the bulk of their grievances seem to stem from Welch canceling the yearly Christmas Pageant.
At the time the church leaders rejected and ignored the vote against them, noting “the church’s bylaws “contain no provisions for removing the pastor to be initiated by a vote of no confidence from any portion of the congregation.”
In an email sent to church members, the leadership told the remaining congregants that the excommunicated dissidents were axed with cause for the following sins:
- attempting to overturn decisions made by the church’s duly elected leaders;
- attempting to force the resignation of the lead pastor and to remove other duly elected leaders;
- refusing to respond to the church’s attempts to resolve their dispute with leadership through biblical peacemaking and mediation as mandated by the Church Bylaws;
- attempting a hostile takeover of the church through illegal meetings of their groups, claiming to act in the name of the congregation;
- refusing to respond with repentance to Church discipline; and
- haveing throughout the course of this dispute, engaged in a public campaign of slander, defamation, accusations and threats against the pastors, trustees, deacons, and other Church leaders.
As a result of these actions, the Trustee Board voted to terminate the membership of all church members “who have identified with, participated in, or supported any actions of the Advocacy Group and/or Concerned Members group against First Baptist Fort Lauderdale, its pastors, trustees, deacons, or members.”
It is unknown at this time how that took place, or to what degree Matthew 18:15-18 and the steps of biblical church discipline were (or were not) followed.
The church says that they are willing to take back any mutinous congregants, but that before they do, they first must:
“respond with repentance and willingness to complete a restoration process that includes a minimum waiting period of one year, the completion of a course in biblical conflict resolution through Peacemaker Ministries, reconciliation with all persons harmed by their actions, and re-application for church membership.”