Mac still owes his congregation an explanation of the $307,000 land gift he accepted three weeks after he came to pastor us. He owes us a better explanation than "I'm paying for that house" (uh, we're paying for that house), and something better than "Last time I checked the U.S. government said I could live anywhere I wanted."
He can strut around like he did Sunday night and tell us in the most theatrical manner how "Kingdom Killjoys" at church take the insignificant, minor details in church and blow them up to find a reason to complain...and he can tell his congregation to "shut 'em down" when the "killjoys" bring up such matters that rob their joy.
It still doesn't address his problem: he needs to deal with the land gift. It ain't a minor thing when at the very least he accepted a land gift that on the surface appears to be unethical - taking a large gift from one of the donors of his church.
But most ministers won't give answers or explanations about income or gifts unless forced to do so.
And its not easy to force them to do so.
And with the recent bylaw changes at FBC Jax, there is no way the membership could ever force Mac or the church to give details of this gift or other financial matters - the moment that a member files any legal action to access financial information, the bylaws will allow the member to be kicked out for violating the bylaws - since the bylaws now state that all members have forfeited their rights to file any legal action against the church.
But there was an interesting lawsuit involving a church and a member where a minister WAS forced to give details about a gift received from a member. Read this interesting article about a deposition given by a former minister of First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach (FBCWPB).
Lawsuite Reveals Ministerial Ethics Breach
About 4 years ago a mentally-ill member of FBCWPB inherited several million dollars. The pastor and other ministers of FBCWPB allegedly began to "...systematically, repeatedly, and relentlessly solicit money" from this lady, who had inherited the money from her great-grandmother. Within several years she was destitute.
The article above zeros in on one particular minister, Tommy Weir at FBCWPB - a graduate of Criswell College and Liberty University. According to court records, Tommy Weir accepted a $25,000 gift directly to the minister by the woman, whom Weir says he hardly knew.
Several interesting questions asked by the author of this article:
"Should he have asked [the woman] to process her gift through the church?
Should a minister ever accept a personal check from someone they don’t know, especially a $25,000 check? Is that wise decision making?
Although he was leaving the church, the church was still his employer. Did Weir have an obligation to report such an unusual gift to his employer?
Should the church have had a clear policy about employees accepting checks directly from church members?"
Weir was forced to give answers to some hard-hitting questions about his gift. No doubt he would not have provided ANY truthful answers to ANYONE on this gift unless forced to do so under oath by a lawyer and the threat of perjury.
It is a sad day when our church won't get answers from Mac Brunson about his $300,000 land gift he and his wife accepted just 2 weeks after arriving in Jacksonville - from a man that Mac hardly knew. If Mac was able to do this, what about other ministers at our church. Can they now accept large gifts from members too and claim its a private matter and no one's business? Or does that privilege only rest with "God's annointed", the mega-church pastor?
Some questions Mac might have to answer some day:
"So how long did you know this man at the church that gave you the land gift worth $307,000? When did you first meet him face to face?"
"On what date did you learn that this gift was available to you? Were you and/or your wife made aware of this gift before or after you accepted the job offer at FBC Jax?"
"Did you think it strange a man you hardly knew wanted to give you a quarter of a million dollars? Would you characterize your relationship with the giver of the $300,000 give as one of 'love and affection?' as stated on the deed?"
"Did you discuss this gift with your wife? What was her view of the gift, did she want to accept it?"
"Did you have any reservations about taking such a large gift from a man you hardly knew?"
"Did the church reduce your relocation package in proportion to the size of the land gift?"
"Would you allow one of your ministers to accept such a gift, even if both parties said it was a private matter, and it was for love and affection?"
"Was there any spoken or implied requirement attached to the gift that you were aware of?"
"Did your decision to play the commercial/testimony of the business owned by the sons of the man who gave your this gift - was it at all influenced by the fact that this man gave you the gift? Did this man, ever, say, or even hint or suggest at any time that he might expect some sort of quid pro quo for the land gift? "
"Did you discuss with this man other options for donating the land that might benefit the entire church and not just yourself?"
"What policies existed at your church that governed the accepting of such large gifts directly from donors, and not requiring the gift to go through the church? What policies exist now that govern you and other ministers actions regarding gifts made directly from church members to the staff members?"
"What was your decision making process of accepting the gift, given the contents of your book that counseled other pastors to avoid accepting gifts; gifts much smaller than this one you accepted? Did you foresee any ethical problems, or appearance of ethical problems in accepting such a sizeable gift so soon after arriving at FBC Jax?"
Mac owes an explanation to his church of the land gift. Of course he doesn't have to answer detailed questions like the ones above...just be honest, explain what happened, explain why it was or was not unethical. If he has any regrets or would do it differently, tell us and apologize.
He should have never accepted that gift, unless he was willing to be totally open and honest and transparent with his congregation concerning the details of the gift.
We hope he provides answers now on his terms in his way.
Or who knows, at some point he might find himself being asked more difficult questions not on his terms. And no theatrics or yelling will help then. Only the facts.