Report of the Providence Presbytery Pastoral Care Committee
To the Congregation
March 1st, 2012
The mandate of the Pastoral Care Committee of Providence Presbytery, according to our Presbytery by-laws, is to “inquire into matters and offer counsel” when invited by a pastor, session, church, or the presbytery. On January 17th the Committee received a letter from the Southwood Presbyterian Church Session, requesting “input, counsel, guidance and care as we continue looking for clear direction moving forward.” On January 26th, the Pastoral Care Committee decided to expand its number by seven to form the Southwood Ad Hoc Committee (SAHC), which was formally approved at the next Providence Presbytery stated meeting on February 14th. We have been at work until this day. We estimate that we have had hundreds of discussions, phone conversations, and email exchanges and have met regularly through the month of February.
The Committee acknowledges that this report and these recommendations may meet resistance from any of the numerous factions currently at Southwood. The Committee reminds all that the problems and issues that currently exist have developed over many years and have no easy solutions. Nonetheless, the Committee, acknowledging that God is sovereign and accomplishing His purposes, and reminding all that the Committee did not ask for this assignment, issues this report and these recommendations with the firm and certain hope that God’s sovereign will shall be accomplished notwithstanding the sin amongst us all. We call upon all parties to study the Lord Jesus Christ and His grace, and meditate on Him, and on Scriptures which specifically apply to the situation, such as Philippians 2 and Ephesians 4.
When Jean Larroux walked into Southwood for the first time as its Senior Pastor, we believe he entered into an environment that had the seeds for difficulty. Actions and reactions within that environment led the Church to where it is today. The SAHC sees four key factors in the decline of your church’s peace. These factors in our report were: Issues within the Session, Communication, Reaction to Conflict by all parties, and Theological Misunderstanding. The SAHC has communicated this in full to the Session.
The SAHC commended the Session and Staff for a variety of their actions, especially as of late.
In the midst of this month we have arrived at several concerns about the pastoral staff and the Session, both past and current. We have had concerns with nearly every party in this conflict. These were fully communicated to the Session.
1. We recommend that Jean Larroux be given a 30 day leave in either April or May for the purpose of rest, recovery, repentance, reflection and renewal, then return to the pulpit at Southwood Church.
2. We recommend that the SAHC set up a Reconciliation Committee made up of Southwood members with help from key Christian leaders in Huntsville. This committee will set up a program designed to bring reconciliation across the board at Southwood.
3. We recommend the current Session request a congregational meeting at its earliest convenience. The purpose of this meeting will be to approve a motion from the Session to ask Presbytery for a Temporary Session made up of members of Presbytery. When the Temporary Session is in place the current Session will resign. This Temporary Session will govern the church for 120-180 days. During this interim time the current Session will rest, recover, repent, study, and reflect on their calling for the future. Pastor Larroux will moderate the Temporary Session. The other current Teaching Elders will continue their ministry in assistance to the Temporary Session. At the end of the appointed time, new elections will take place from men who have been nominated in the usual fashion, according to the Book of Church Order. All these men will go through the Reconciliation Committee’s program and will then be examined and/or interviewed by the Temporary Session. The Teaching Elders will resume their Session membership at that time as well.
4. We recommend the current Deacons continue in their service, fully cooperating with the Reconciliation Committee and the Temporary Session as they support the direction forward after the interim period.
5. We recommend the current staff continue at Southwood.
6. We recommend to the congregation of Southwood that they study their membership vows and throw themselves once again into the ministry of the church. We believe all members ought to examine themselves and repent of any past acts or omissions toward one another, the Church, or otherwise, which were contrary to Scripture. The members, staff, and officers ought to seek the peace, purity, and unification of Southwood. It is hoped that the interim period, prior to the selection of a new Session, will allow all concerned an opportunity to repent, forgive, reconcile, and begin anew. We desire all of the Southwood community to fully cooperate the Reconciliation Committee and the Temporary Session.
7. The SAHC has heard much in the form of accusations, rumor, innuendo, and otherwise. The Committee recommends that all concerned parties work toward forgiveness and not file any formal complaints or charges arising out of any events which have occurred up to the present time, but turn toward our Sovereign God and call upon Him for help and assistance.
The Southwood Ad Hoc Committee