This past weekend in all three of our gatherings we shared a difficult announcement with you about the resignation of one of our church’s staff members.
I, along with our church board, serve as your elders. This means we carry the responsibility to ensure our church is spiritually healthy and protected. I am sharing this update with you as your pastor, with the support of our church board. Joe Woodruff came to Cedar Hills in October of last year with his wife Natalie to serve as our Executive Pastor. In that role, Joe was also a regular part of our teaching team.
Last Wednesday morning (May 15), Joe walked into my office and announced that he was resigning his position effective immediately. As the morning unfolded, it became evident that Joe has had a moral failure and has engaged in behavior unbecoming of a minister of Jesus Christ and of this church. On that basis, his resignation was received, and as of Wednesday morning Joe is no longer a part of or a pastor of Cedar Hills Church.
Obviously news like this creates many questions and emotions that are hard to know what to do with. I am still processing my own questions and emotions as this situation continues to unfold. So I’d like to share a few thoughts with you as your pastor.
We are a church committed to authenticity and transparency. While we must exercise discretion in speaking of details, you can count on us to be as open as possible.
While we cannot disclose specifics about what has occurred, there are two things that you need to know are not at risk. Firstly, we assure you that no financial impropriety has occurred. Secondly, we assure you that no children or minors are at risk.
While we desire to extend grace and forgiveness to all who seek it, at this time Joe has not expressed sorrow or a heart of repentance. Until that changes, our board has a responsibility to establish appropriate boundaries and is requesting that our church not make contact with Joe, but rather pray wholeheartedly for him.
Grief is a natural outcome of news like this. No matter your emotion—anger, shock, sadness, confusion—know that your grief is important to us and we are here to listen and help. If you would like to contact me directly, you can email me at email@example.com. Our board of directors (elders) are also available to you and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will prayerfully read and respond to every story, question, and comment.
This weekend I took a few minutes to talk about our identify as a church. I shared 5 cultural statements about the kind of people we are at Cedar Hills. I have provided a brief outline of my “What Do We Do When Life Gets Messy" talk at the end of this email.
While some of us may not have developed a connection with Joe during his time here, others of us became quite close to him and Natalie, which makes this very painful. It’s much more difficult to communicate my emotion in an email than it is in person, but please know I am grieving with you. Nicole and I take our task to lead and serve you incredibly seriously. Our board feels the same way.
We believe this is a time for us to exercise wisdom, clear communication, and unity. My hope is that this letter provides all three. There will be a time in the future where we talk about what is next and where we go from here. Until then, let us not forget that "if God is for us, who can be against us?" God has great things in store for our church. We will honor him in how we handle this. We will serve him even in the mess. We will rise to the occasion.
You are loved. Your pastors,
Eric and Nicole
WHAT DO WE DO WHEN LIFE GETS MESSY?
We are authentic about our emotions. Messes are emotional, and whatever you and I are feeling is okay. Grief is not a sign of what is wrong with us. It is a sign of what is right with us.
We put our faith in Jesus, not in a person. When storms kick up, we need an anchor to stabilize us and keep us grounded. Jesus is the only one we can count on. As Hebrews 12:2 says, we “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Fixing our focus and faith on any other person will always lead to disappointment.
We refuse to gossip. Human nature wants to fill in gaps with whatever “feels right" to us. Unfortunately what "feels right" rarely is. We are careful to protect church unity and resist division by guarding our words. Gossip always involves two people…a speaker and a listener. We refuse to do either.
We risk being hurt in order to experience deep love. The possibility of hurt and love must always go together. The only way to avoid being hurt is to close yourself off from others—which guarantees that you’ll never experience love. We are people who believe in love so much that we gladly accept the risk that others might hurt us.
We trust our leadership. While our faith is only in Jesus, we choose to trust in our leadership—our pastors, staff, and board. We trust that our leaders love us. We trust that our leaders want the best for our church. We trust that our leaders will deal with this with wisdom and discretion. Our prayer is the same as Jesus’ prayer in John 6:39…”The will of God is that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me.” We don’t want to lose a single person who calls this church hom