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Monday, March 06, 2006

Ohio Pastor Sues to Get His Job Back

This from News 4 in Columbus...

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A local pastor is suing to get his job back at a Columbus church, but congregation members say they don't want him in the pulpit.

The Rev. Alvin Ballinger appeared in court Friday because he had recently been fired as pastor of St. Mark's Missionary Baptist Church, NBC 4's Erin Tate reported.

Ballinger is suing for improper termination. Directors on the church's board said they were only acting on behalf of the majority of their congregation.

"We felt we had the power and right to do it and anyone in our position would do the same thing," said Anthony Wilson, director of the church.

Board member said Ballinger was fired, in part, because he married several couples in the church in 2005 without a license to do so in Ohio. The Secretary of State's office said Ballinger was not licensed through its office until last month.

"I think this is all a communication problem and a misunderstanding that can be resolved," said Byron Potts, Ballinger's attorney.

A magistrate decided Friday that Ballinger will be restored to his position temporarily.

"We're disappointed at what we've heard today that this person will be back in charge of the church," Wilson said.

Ballinger will remain in the position until a mediator can take an official vote from the congregation on the matter.

QUESTION:  Is your church constitution and/or by-laws set up to handle a possible problem like this without a law suit; local tv coverage; or a major media circus?  Are there clear guidelines on personnel issues (who can hire?  who can fire? etc.)

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March 6, 2006 in Personnel Issues | Permalink

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My,my... Where is the church going to these days?

Posted by: Clairvoyent 1 | Mar 6, 2006 11:24:17 AM

Most church constitutions have a statement about both the “calling” and the “termination” of a pastor. I for one would never want to remain as the pastor of a church that does not want me. I can’t imagine trying to work with a church board that wanted you fired. It’s not a matter of who’s right, it’s a matter of preserving the testimony of the church again. I know little about this situation, but I believe that this brother needs to move on and let God direct him elsewhere.

Posted by: Andy McAdams | Mar 6, 2006 11:52:01 AM

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time I have heard of this sort of thing. There was a battle in one area where the pastor locked the church board out of the church.

I agree with Andy. For me, it's not about bylaws, it is about the people not wanting me to be their leader. Even if it is a misunderstanding, the tension will always be there.

Not to self, go check the by-laws at my church.

Posted by: eric | Mar 6, 2006 12:16:17 PM

I agree with the above sentiments on not being wanted as a leader anymore. How could one successfully minister to those who do not want your ministry?

Beyond that, what about I Corinthians 6? Why do we do this kind of thing to one another? It is to our shame.

Posted by: Jeff M. Miller | Mar 6, 2006 1:02:11 PM

Well-written constitutions and by-laws will address these possibilities, but in the litigious American society, nothing will absolutely prevent a lawsuit...even among church people.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Mar 6, 2006 1:45:34 PM

I am normally not a process oriented individual, but this is one of those situations where clear and well defined rules would have prevented this. One question I would ask is was this termination a surprise? If it was then the church leadership dropped the ball on this one. If this was a problem for a while and they did nothing to resolve it, then the courts are not going to take their side.

Posted by: Kent | Mar 6, 2006 5:28:45 PM

Most states have "at-will" employment laws. This means that, unless there is an employment contract (which might be the case with pastors), either party (employee/employer) can terminate the relationship without cause and without notice. However, in today's litigious society, a prudent employer will not use their "at-will" freedom. A well written personal policy manual will contain an "at-will" agreement every employee signs upon hire. Even an employment can contain “at-will” language, as long as that language isn’t contradicted by some kind of implied promise elsewhere in the contract.

In my opinion, if the church didn't have good reason not to want Pastor Ballinger's leadership, his actions now gives them plenty of reason. God is the one who builds the body, and sometimes He uses difficult circumstances to move people, even pastors, to another fellowship. To go to these extremes to "force" his congregation to have him as their pastor is, at the very least, questioning God's sovereignty.


Posted by: Wendi | Mar 7, 2006 12:12:15 AM

I wonder if the board fired this guy over the no license thing, or they were just looking for a reason to fire him? I suspect they were just looking for a reason. However, I wonder if they had confronted him with this issue before, and he did nothing about. I also wonder if they just fired him with no severance.

Posted by: Jade | Mar 7, 2006 3:21:22 PM

I know what it feels like to be fired without notice and without the boards approval just a call from the senior pastor and told not to come back.And there are bylaws on how to hire and fire.but they were not kept.In the church I was fired from you need to call a special meeting with the one you intend to fire at this meeting so they can answer all charges against him.Then you need a 3/4 vote to fire him none of this was done in my case just a phone call that I had a sinful- hurtful spirit and that I might be demon possesed,but he wasn't sure about that.When I called the ones that I was suppose to have hurt they all told me that I had never hurt any of them.Then I received another phone call and was told I should be ashamed for the calls I made to apologize And was told not to call anyone else.And I haven't as of yet. Its been about a month.But as it says 1st. Cor.6:6-8 don't go to the unbeliever just take the wrong.Thank you for letting me vent .Sometimes I need to do that and there not always a place to go to do that.Thanks again John.

Posted by: john | Mar 7, 2006 8:07:14 PM

Brother my heart goes out to you. I will be praying for you, because I know what it is like. They never told me I was fired I was run out of the church and told not to come back. I have been threatend that I would be beat up, shot, stabbed and other things that I cannot mention on the blog. This was church people. So now I minister to those who really need it. The ones on the street. I have never been threatend by any of them.

Posted by: Clairvoyent 1 | Mar 7, 2006 8:36:18 PM

John, I obviously don't know the particulars of your situation, but I will challenge your understanding of 1 Cor 6. Paul is condemning the Corinthians for having non-believers judge in disputes between believers, while also acknowledging the very problem that there ARE disputes between believers.

I can't provide adequate counsel in your situation without more info; I don't think I would fight for a job where I wasn't wanted, but from what you've said, you were wronged. I don't know of any scripture that teaches us to take that laying down, especially from a brother. Matthew 18 provides a process for taking up such an offense (and hopefully avoiding Paul's caution in 1 Cor 6!), but I think you need to be ready to go the distance...in other words, do you have "witnesses" if necessary? Can you present your case to the church? (Preferably your church, but a denominational body may be the next step.) I don't know what the end goal might be - maybe not getting your job back (unless the Senior Pastor is truly repentant, would you want to work there, anyway?); but certainly our goal needs to be a reconciliation of relationships and the restoration of one who is in sin.

And, of course, go into any such discussion with eyes wide open and looking in the mirror! God bless.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Mar 8, 2006 12:45:56 AM

Randy thank for the info. I have given a lot of thought and prayer to this .If I go to the elders board then the church I believe this will cause a church spilt .And I know no one wins in that but the devil.And you are right there is no way I could be effective in my ministry there.This happen over what I thought was confusion that was aloud in the church.Should we have a play that had disembody spirits "Ghost"I said no senior pastor said yes and I should get over it I couldnt.And that's what cost me my job of 4 year's I believe there is to much of that kind of confusion on T.V. we need not bring it into the church.Guess I was wrong.Maybe light and darkness can stay in the same place at the same time. But I just dint think so .THANK again for your help. John

Posted by: john | Mar 8, 2006 8:19:28 PM

I'm out-ta here, c-ya! Here, let me shake the dust from the souls of my feet.

My experience was when I was a teacher at a Christian school. The pastor felt threatened by our ministry there, it was our home church with a new pastor. The people flocked to my wife and me.

The principal (who we later found out was a pedophile) and my wife had issues, told her she had a spirit of bitterness and I stood by her (as I believe I should have) and he went to the already challenged pastor.

We were let go and asked not to return, but we did go back to say our good-byes since it was our church, but we moved from the area soon after the firing.

I was young and foolish I guess. Today I would have left without the prompting from the pastor ;) God always has bigger and better for His servants.

Posted by: Jay Gainer | Mar 8, 2006 9:39:38 PM

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