Two Rivers Approves Sutton Retirement

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Two Rivers Approves Sutton Retirement

Postby Timsings » Mon Jul 28, 2008 7:25 am

Here's the link (http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080728/NEWS06/807280340) to the article in today's Tennessean.

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Re: Two Rivers Approves Sutton Retirement

Postby William Thornton » Mon Jul 28, 2008 9:26 am

Salient points in the story:

Changes at Two Rivers played a role in Sutton's downfall. He and other leaders launched a contemporary service several years ago to bring in younger members. That service was a success but created divisions in the church. Most of the plaintiffs attended the earlier traditional service.

At Sunday's traditional early service, the Rev. Jerry Highfill was dressed in a suit, and music was led by a small vocal group, along with piano and few other instruments. After the service, a group of volunteers swarmed over the stage, setting up platforms and stage lights, and hoisting a truss supporting two screens for video.

A boat was set up in the center of the stage as a prop for Highfill's sermon, based on the New Testament story of Jesus walking on the water. At the later service, Highfill preached in jeans, an untucked short-sleeve shirt and sneakers.


Church finances have suffered as a result of the conflict. Two Rivers has a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year, and by the end of March had donations of more than $400,000 below budget. The proposed 2009 budget, which was available in the church lobby Sunday, calls for $3.4 million in expenses, or $600,000 less than 2008.
John Levesque, chairman of the human resources ministry team at Two Rivers, confirmed that the church recently laid off three staff members. He said all three received severance pay.

"We know where we are financially," Leversque said earlier this week. "That's why the retirement plan will be paid out over five years."
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Re: Two Rivers Approves Sutton Retirement

Postby Norm » Mon Jul 28, 2008 10:21 am

William Thornton wrote:Salient points in the story:

Changes at Two Rivers played a role in Sutton's downfall. He and other leaders launched a contemporary service several years ago to bring in younger members. That service was a success but created divisions in the church. Most of the plaintiffs attended the earlier traditional service.

At Sunday's traditional early service, the Rev. Jerry Highfill was dressed in a suit, and music was led by a small vocal group, along with piano and few other instruments. After the service, a group of volunteers swarmed over the stage, setting up platforms and stage lights, and hoisting a truss supporting two screens for video.

A boat was set up in the center of the stage as a prop for Highfill's sermon, based on the New Testament story of Jesus walking on the water. At the later service, Highfill preached in jeans, an untucked short-sleeve shirt and sneakers.


Church finances have suffered as a result of the conflict. Two Rivers has a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year, and by the end of March had donations of more than $400,000 below budget. The proposed 2009 budget, which was available in the church lobby Sunday, calls for $3.4 million in expenses, or $600,000 less than 2008.
John Levesque, chairman of the human resources ministry team at Two Rivers, confirmed that the church recently laid off three staff members. He said all three received severance pay.

"We know where we are financially," Leversque said earlier this week. "That's why the retirement plan will be paid out over five years."


I can't speak to the traditional/contemporary issue as to whether it was or was not a good decision, but the cavilier treatment given members on the financing issue (and all the assumptions and implications associated with such) was a huge, job disqualifying blunder on Sutton's behalf. Sutton lost his job by his own doing and I would hope all pastors adopting this strategy experience the same fate, however without the benefit of the more than generous severance. Sutton may be a fine preacher, but he failed this church as pastor and leader, and given the pastoral aspects of preaching, he compromised that, too. He has the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson and until he has, he is not fit for congregational ministry, but even with said learning, he is not ready for a church of this size. He has some remedial work to do and would do well to do so in a much, much, smaller church. His severance will allow him this opportunity. He, like others like him, needs rehabiltation due to megageist.
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Re: Two Rivers Approves Sutton Retirement

Postby Haruo » Mon Jul 28, 2008 1:47 pm

William Thornton wrote:John Levesque, chairman of the human resources ministry team at Two Rivers, confirmed that the church recently laid off three staff members. He said all three received severance pay.


22 months' worth? "As you have done to one of the least of these my siblings..." I always worry about the eternal fate of churches that think their pastors need health insurance and their secretaries and janitors don't. And me a universalist. ;-)

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Re: Two Rivers Approves Sutton Retirement

Postby David Flick » Mon Jul 28, 2008 2:25 pm

William Thornton wrote:Salient points in the story:

At Sunday's traditional early service, the Rev. Jerry Highfill was dressed in a suit, and music was led by a small vocal group, along with piano and few other instruments. After the service, a group of volunteers swarmed over the stage, setting up platforms and stage lights, and hoisting a truss supporting two screens for video.

A boat was set up in the center of the stage as a prop for Highfill's sermon, based on the New Testament story of Jesus walking on the water. At the later service, Highfill preached in jeans, an untucked short-sleeve shirt and sneakers.

Jerry Highfill?! Well I'll be a monkey's uncle!! He was my immediate predecessor at the FBC in Elmore City, OK. Jerry was pastor of the church from 1974-76. I went there in January of '77 and left in December of '84. Amazing... :o
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Re: Two Rivers Approves Sutton Retirement

Postby William Thornton » Mon Jul 28, 2008 4:28 pm

David Flick wrote:
William Thornton wrote:Salient points in the story:

At Sunday's traditional early service, the Rev. Jerry Highfill was dressed in a suit, and music was led by a small vocal group, along with piano and few other instruments. After the service, a group of volunteers swarmed over the stage, setting up platforms and stage lights, and hoisting a truss supporting two screens for video.

A boat was set up in the center of the stage as a prop for Highfill's sermon, based on the New Testament story of Jesus walking on the water. At the later service, Highfill preached in jeans, an untucked short-sleeve shirt and sneakers.

Jerry Highfill?! Well I'll be a monkey's uncle!! He was my immediate predecessor at the FBC in Elmore City, OK. Jerry was pastor of the church from 1974-76. I went there in January of '77 and left in December of '84. Amazing... :o


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Re: Two Rivers Approves Sutton Retirement

Postby William Thornton » Tue Jul 29, 2008 7:53 am

Paragraph from letter of the pastor to members prior to the vote:

"I am fearful that if you fail to support the motion [to provide the severance package]," Sutton wrote, "it will simply prolong the conflict and further damage the church's future. Your voting 'yes' does not mean that you do not love me or that I do not love you.... It simply means that a good faith attempt is being made to end this awful situation."
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Re: Two Rivers Approves Sutton Retirement

Postby Sandy » Tue Jul 29, 2008 8:20 am

A couple of notes from the article in the Tennessean:

Membership of 6,400, peak attendance of 1,900

3,000 baptisms in 22 years

Interesting math. Their attendance is about a third of their total membership, right in line with what is reported for most SBC churches. Their annual baptisms per year, divided into their average membership, is slightly less than the convention-wide average, but in the same ball park.

This is one of the churches that is high on the approved list for SBC and Lifeway employees in Nashville, and as I understand it, many of their members work at one or the other. Yet, statistically, they fall right along the average line for the whole convention.
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