The pastor of a prominent Southern Baptist church in Tennessee for three decades resigned abruptly March 6 because of a leadership dispute with the congregation’s four-member elder board.
Rick White, 63, pastor of The People’s Church in Franklin, Tenn., for 33 years, announced at the end of his sermon March 8 that he had verbally agreed to the elders to step down but then reconsidered. He asked the congregation for a vote of confidence in his leadership.
That portion of the service is edited out of video and audio posted on the church website, but White reportedly told a capacity audience that church elders the previous week held a series of meetings without him and that they had been given misinformation which led to “fear, frustration and speculation.”
All four elders were present March 8, and one rose to speak on their behalf. The elder reportedly said there is no issue with the pastor’s preaching or his pastoral skills, but the board was dissatisfied with White’s management style in his daily direction of the staff. He said the biggest problem was what they viewed as “insubordination” to the elder board.
According to one report, an “overwhelming majority” stood in support of the pastor, “with cheers and jubilation,” and some also stood in favor of the elders’ recommendation to accept White’s resignation.
The next day White met with the elders and their legal counsel and was advised Sunday’s vote was in violation of the church constitution and his agreement to resign was still in effect.
In an open letter on the church website, White described his resignation as “final and absolute,” and urged the congregation “to move forward without distraction.”
“Stay committed to one another and to your church,” he said. “This is how family operates during hard seasons of life. Do not be divided and ‘choose a side.’ The cause of the gospel and the kingdom of God must be the only side we ever choose.”
The action led to resignations of White’s two sons-in-law: Derek Jones as “kid’s pastor” since 2007 and Matt Roden as student pastor at the church’s Franklin campus.
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SOURCE: Baptist News Global