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Greater Gaston in turmoil after DOM pressured out
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
December 29, 2010
5 MIN READ TIME

Greater Gaston in turmoil after DOM pressured out

Greater Gaston in turmoil after DOM pressured out
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
December 29, 2010

Some pastors of Greater Gaston Baptist Association are

requesting a special called meeting of the association to clarify circumstances

around the sudden resignation in October of Larry McElreath, director of

missions for 16 years.

“We want the associational leadership to understand there

has been an error made and to make sure going into the future this doesn’t set

a precedent for how we do things,” said Greg Neely, pastor of Chestnut Ridge

Baptist Church in King’s Mountain.

No one is trying to get McElreath’s job back, Neely said,

but “it is cowardice to give a man a good review, then turn around and fire

him.”

McElreath, who received a positive evaluation of his work

less than three months earlier, was asked to resign by members of the executive

team, led by association moderator Wayne Key, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist

Church in Cherryville. Key said in a December 16 telephone interview that

McElreath had been advised over the past five years to seek other employment.

McElreath said that other than a single pastor or two making

such a suggestion, he was never officially encouraged to leave.

The request for his resignation from North Carolina

Baptists’ second largest association — with 144 churches and growing — came as

a complete surprise to McElreath, a former evangelism staffer with the Baptist

State Convention, former missionary with the Home Mission Board (now North

American Mission Board) and former director of missions in Sandy Creek Baptist

Association.

McElreath said the officers asked him to resign after a

two-hour session in which he was not present, that he thought was just a budget

review. They asked him to submit his resignation at the annual associational

meeting, but forbade him to stay after he spoke.

He made a statement at the annual meeting that fell short of

actually resigning, then left as some bewildered messengers followed him out the

door.

A host of procedural shortcomings has been named in the

request asking for a special called meeting. Association bylaws indicate that

employment status of the director of missions can only be determined by

messengers of the association, and not by the executive board or any

sub-committee of the board.

“The bylaws state very clearly you can’t fire the

missionary, period. The body voted him in and the body would have to vote him

out,” said Joe Drum, pastor of New Faith Baptist Church in Alexis, and a

petition signer.

“The thing that bothers me more than anything — and we’re

not trying to cause problems — but our bylaws have been violated, big time. If

you let this go by what’s saying that down the line they couldn’t do it again?”

Resignation clouds issue

McElreath eventually resigned in the face of pressure to

resign with a severance or to be terminated at the end of the month. McElreath

admits a return to his role as DOM in the association is unlikely, but he is

concerned that unanswered questions surrounding his departure have sullied his

reputation.

Key said he is confident proper procedures were followed.

The executive team denied an initial request for a special called meeting, and

Key doesn’t see how such a meeting would help.

Petitioning pastors are resorting to a statute in state law

governing non-profits, which declares that an organization must hold a called

meeting within 30 days after receiving such a request from at least 10 percent

of voting members. That would mean a petition signed by about 130 persons for

the Greater Gaston Association and in mid-December representatives of almost 40

churches already had signed such a petition.

Key, whose church is the largest financial supporter of the

association, said, “We feel we’ve done it decently and in order and what God

would have us to do.”

“We asked for Larry to resign,” Key said. “We did not fire

him. I cannot tell you these reasons; they are confidential.”

Key said the

executive team provided McElreath a letter of reference and that he “has done

nothing immoral or illegal.”

Key, who said he did not know about the petition until a

reporter informed him, said, “I sure hope this is not going to happen. It would

be detrimental to our association.”

While traditionally recordings and minutes of any

associational meeting have been available, Key has denied such requests because

“some people want to nitpick some things. We did do things according to

Robert’s Rules of Order. It would not be wise of us to let those copies go

out.”

Neely said if Robert’s Rules had been followed, the meeting

itself would have been declared out of order.

Office disarray

After the meeting McElreath found his office in disarray and

some items missing.

When he told Key he needed to report a burglary Key said

there was no break in.

“No one broke into his office,” Key said. “By law we have

the right to go in there and look at anything we want.”

Key said whoever was in the office representing the

association removed items out of concern that McElreath “would not leave

anything we might need.”

“The only things we removed were things we needed to keep,”

Key said.

Because he is association moderator, Key has become interim

executive director of the association. He is chairing a search committee that

includes Tom Kinman, pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Gastonia;

Chester Waters, pastor of Ridge Baptist Church in Gastonia; Mike Staton, pastor

of Second Baptist Church in Cherryville; and Brian Detrick, pastor of Calvary Baptist

Church in Gastonia.

Key said he stands by the actions of the executive team,

saying, “I believe we did the right thing.”