Dear Church Family Members:
The email below was sent yesterday from Steve Blount to a group of church members. It is unknown how many members received it, yet it discusses a proposed dispute resolution process, involving a third party organization, that per the email below was “sanctioned” by the Church.
The position / recommendation of the FBCFTL Advocacy Group is that we do NOT support this action and request a congregational vote at a Church Meeting at the earliest opportunity, where we can openly discuss and resolve concerns as a Body, per the Church approved Bylaws.
Whether you received this email or not, please share it with those who may be concerned and send your response ASAP to Steve Blount (SteveB@fbftl.com).
Dear Valued Member of First Baptist Ft. Lauderdale:
Understanding our shared anticipation and interest in uniting the entire church membership and worshipping together, I have been encouraged by the many expressions of support for a return to a “new normal” following the disruptions related to the unprecedented global pandemic – including by representatives of a recently formed ad hoc group of members.
However, we are all grieved by the undercurrent of discord and disagreement within our Body. Therefore, we seek to follow the procedures for dispute resolution as specifically prescribed in our Church By-laws with Peacemaker Ministries, a non-profit, nondenominational ministry with a mission to equip and assist Christians and their churches to respond to conflict biblically.
The purpose of this email is to first inform you that Peacemaker Ministries has now been retained and is officially sanctioned by the church for the purpose of beginning their resolution procedures. Secondly, I am inviting you to be an active part of this process, as a result of your interest or involvement in this dynamic, either through leadership as a trustee, deacon, or member of the church staff or because of the opinions or concerns you have expressed or made known through various forums regarding matters related to the future of our church.
If you are willing and able to participate in this recognized procedure for biblical reconciliation, please send a confirming email reply back to me by September 22, as we are making this a priority and moving forward quickly.
Following your acceptance, in the coming days, Peacemaker Ministries will be reaching out via a confidential introductory email to forward a written Conflict Style Assessment and explain other steps in their process, including some reading and homework assignments and a follow-up intake conversation by phone, in-person, or via Zoom in advance of a face-to-face meeting (or via Zoom video conference) with a goal of reconciliation among all participants.
Thank you for your consideration of the vital role you can play in this important discussion regarding the future mission and direction of our church as we unite together in seeking to invite, involve, and inspire people in our community to a Jesus First Life. May the Lord continue to bless you for your faithfulness in service to Him.
Executive Director of Ministry Services
First Baptist Ft. Lauderdale
ADDENDUM: Below are the applicable sections from our Church By-laws related to the Responsibilities of Membership of First Baptist Church of Ft. Lauderdale and procedures for Dispute Resolution with respect to any conflict that may arise:
SECTION 3.5 | DISPUTE RESOLUTION
We believe differences or conflicts should bring receptivity to change and growth, not litigation. Therefore, in order to avoid litigation, we have adopted the following conciliatory plan to manage unresolved disputes with the church and between members. By ratifying and approving these Bylaws or by hereafter accepting membership in First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale under the Bylaws, each member acknowledges that the Bible commands us to live at peace with one another as set forth in Matt. 18:15-20 and 1 Cor. 6:1-8, and we hereby agree to resolve any and all disputes by mediation or arbitration or both. In accordance with this biblical principle, we hereby consent to mediation and binding arbitration, if necessary, instead of litigation in the law courts. Any and all disputes shall be administered under the procedures hereafter set forth.
SECTION 3.6 | DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCEDURE
It is agreed that any claim or dispute arising from or related to the church body or these Bylaws, or both, shall be resolved by biblically-based mediation or legally binding arbitration in accordance with the Rules of Procedure for Christian Conciliation for the Institute for Christian Conciliation, a division of Peacemaker Ministries as said Rules are set forth. Venue will be in Fort Lauderdale and jurisdiction will be under Florida law. Judgment upon an arbitration decision may be entered in the appropriate court having jurisdiction under the Laws of the State of Florida. We understand and agree that these methods shall be the sole remedy for any controversy or claim arising as heretofore set forth. Furthermore, pursuant to these Bylaws, we hereby expressly waive the right to file a lawsuit in any civil court against First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale, Inc. or against another member of the church, except to enforce an arbitration decision as herein set forth. Provided further, since we maintain liability insurance to protect the church from various liabilities, it is understood that this dispute resolution provision is intended to insure consistency with all agreements with our insurers and that this provision, and the process it establishes, will not diminish any insurance coverage maintained by the church. Provided further, the parties may utilize the services of such other mutually agreeable mediation and/or arbitration arrangement that is acceptable to all sides of the disagreement.
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