Pastor Rodney Wills was just nearing four years at Mt. Salem Baptist Church in North Carolina. He is the youngest pastor to be installed at 26 years old and is now the shortest term pastor in Mt. Salem’s 109 year history. On Saturday, Mt. Salem voted him out for attending a local Rick Ross concert. With a vote of 11 to 3, the 14 deacons met at 11 o’clock Saturday night to discuss and come to a conclusion that they did not need his services anymore.
William Leonard Roberts II, known by his stage name Rick Ross (often stylized as RICK RO$$), is an American rapper who is no stranger to the drama associated with “thug life.” Rick Ross recently made nationwide news when he was dropped from Reebok and other endorsements for lyrics advocating rape towards women.
He was criticized for a line on rapper Rocko’s song “U.O.E.N.O.”, Ross raps the line, “Put molly all in her champagne/ She ain’t even know it/ I took her home and I enjoyed that/ She ain’t even know it.” A petition containing 72,000 signatures was presented to Reebok, demanding they drop Ross as a spokesman for the lyrics which appeared to condone date rape. Ross has apologized for the lyrics, claiming they weren’t about rape. He was dropped by Reebok on April 11, 2013. A Ross concert organized by the student association of Carleton University was cancelled after protests that his lyrics promote ‘rape culture’. Rocko later dropped the Rick Ross verse in order to get radio play.
Rev. Wills arrived to the church the next day for Sunday morning worship service and notice his parking sign taken down and his name removed from the office door. The deacons even asked another minister from the community to officiate the service that morning.
“We cannot have our leader supporting people of this world who are tearing down the kingdom of God.” said Deacon Miles Langley.
According to Deacon Langley, this is not the first time Rev. Wills has attended a concert while pastoring Mt. Salem. 9 months ago the diaconate board met with Rev. Wills when word was given to them that many youth and young adults spotted the pastor at a Lil’ Wayne concert.
“We know that many saints will have mixed opinions from our actions, but this is not how we do things here at Mt. Salem. We cannot have a pastor praising the world one minute then praising the Lord the next. Period” said Deacon Langley.
Ethics are often a victim of forced pastoral terminations within the Baptist Church and for that matter, the continuing conflicts in church life which lead to such traumatic moments. Nearly every minister who has suffered an involuntary termination or a ‘near miss’ can testify to a universal theme of compromise in congregational ethics. Likewise, under the pressure of the dynamics leading toward termination, ministers are sometimes tempted to compromise professional ethics in their responses to adversaries within the congregation and, at times, in a failure to review and correct their own actions or statements which may have led to perceptions or misunderstandings.
The most frequent violation by churches is in the failure to observe established procedures and processes for evaluation, conflict resolution or review in pastoral relationships. Terminations commonly are accomplished without a meeting of a pastoral relations committee, Diaconate or church board taking place.
Instead, small groups or powerful individuals often accomplish their purpose by private meetings or conversations followed by the use of threats, intimidation or enticements designed to encourage a pastor to resign. These practices not only compromise any possibility of a pastor being treated fairly, but also compromise the integrity of congregational practice and the level of trust within the congregation.
Each Baptist church selects the person to be its pastor. The specific process differs to some degree among churches, but the following pattern is followed by most.
- When the church is without a pastor the congregation elects a pastor search committee to prayerfully evaluate the qualifications of various persons to be the church’s pastor.
- After careful deliberation, the committee recommends to the church as a whole the person it believes God wants to be the pastor.
- The prospective pastor visits the church and preaches “in view of a call.” The congregation then votes on whether or not to “call” the person. If the vote is favorable, the prospective pastor either accepts or declines.
- A pastor serves in the church as long as both pastor and congregation agree the relationship should continue.
While Baptists are certainly not the only group to believe the church must operate by congregational vote, their statement is very clear and serves to illustrate the position held by many today. Their position is that the church is designed by God to function by majority rule through the voting of members of the congregation. As the phrase “democratic process” implies, each member in good standing has equal input in decision making.
Congregational voting dates back at least to the mid-seventeenth century. At that time, most Baptist congregations selected their leaders by popular vote. Regarding the elder and his office, the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith states: “That he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage [vote] of the church itself.”
In other words, within the Baptist church they employ their pastor through the process of voting. They vote them in and reserve the right to vote them out.
Reverend Rodney Wills served as pastor for Mt. Salem Baptist Church close to four years but was suddenly voted out. The Church’s spokesperson stated they will have guest ministers preach each week while they move forward with the next step.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)