Saving the Church - Integrity and Leadership
Eestlased Kanadas, EWR Online - 16 Jun 2022
Our mission began with the simple objective of preventing a misguided church executive from acting on a resolution wrongfully passed to close our columbarium, as a prequel to selling out church. By applying criteria which had no basis in our constitution this executive arbitrarily reduced the voting membership list down to 134 members from a membership roster which the auditors established as 1466 and the pastor himself had reported as 1466. Over a thousand members were not invited to that meeting, all were misled about who had the right to vote, and some who came to cast their vote were improperly refused a ballot.
Only 78 eligible voters were confirmed to be present in person and by proxy at the March 13, 2022 meeting. Yet when the votes to close the columbarium were tallied, 6 additional votes mysteriously appeared in the ballot box. There were now exactly 56 votes in favour of the closure out of a new total of 84 ballots. This was exactly the two-thirds majority that the needed to pass the resolution which the executive urged. Yet the Chair ignored this discrepancy, and turned a blind eye, though it was immediately brought to her attention, and declared the motion passed.
The validity of the vote was challenged — first by concerned members themselves, and then by our lawyer. St. Peter’s church, by its own lawyer, has acknowledged in writing that the vote was not conducted in accordance with the constitution of the church, that there were in fact no communion or contribution prerequisites to the right to vote at that meeting (contrary to what they told members in the notice of meeting), that their list of 134 voting members was wrong (by hundreds of members) and that a new vote must be held on the issue to close the columbarium— so all members can exercise their rights to vote.
It is important to remember that these mistakes the executive made were not just minor procedural slips. No — they were breaches of the core duty of the executive that in our view were as serious as they come. By their conduct, the executive disenfranchised hundreds and hundreds of voting members, and barred them from voting on perhaps the most serious question our congregation has faced in its history.
Has this executive apologized to the members? Have they resigned as they promised — in writing — they would do if the closure resolution did not pass? No, they have not. On the contrary, the church executive instead continues to try to avoid their responsibility for the grievous errors in judgement which they made. Publicly, they have tried to walk back the written admissions made through their lawyers concerning their fundamental errors.
Now, remarkably, on June 06 , 2022, they sent out a letter to some members of the church stating that at this meeting of the General Assembly in March 2022, 2/3 of the members who attended voted in favour of closing the columbarium, and that a “small group” opposed the closure resolution.
To be frank, this is shameful and misleading — in the face of their admission that they were wrong about who could attend and vote at this very meeting. It is brazen — in the face of their admission – that the meeting was not conducted in accordance with the constitution. It is incomprehensible — in the face of their admission – that a new meeting is accordingly needed to vote on the columbarium resolution.
And still, there remains the unanswered question of how more votes were found in the ballot box than the number of votes which the Chair had announced were at the meeting, and yet the Chair purported to declare the vote had passed.
This executive would have left hundreds of members disenfranchised, but for the efforts of dedicated members who raised their voices about these serious wrongs. Turning their backs on their promises to resign if their resolution failed, this executive instead now states in their letter they will make “good faith efforts to comply with all requirements”.
We presume that means they will try to comply with the Church’s constitution and the law. We believe that was their duty to begin with. It is clear they have failed in that duty, failed the members, and failed the Church. Those failures are serious.
We believe the members of this executive should face up to their failures: they should resign and make room for the election of a new executive in whom the members of the church can have confidence.
Further, as noted above, the executive put in writing a commitment that “if the resolution to close the columbarium was not passed, they would resign.” We expect the executive of our church to act in good faith with integrity and honesty. It is time for the executive to honour their commitment to resign.
Post script: Their recent letter was addressed to “Members of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Toronto”. If you have not received the letter, you may have been improperly struck from the membership roster. Please let us know if this applies to you and we will try to have you re-instated. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is ironic that the executive keep alluding to the “small group who call themselves Friends of St. Peter’s”. This “small group’s” determination to save St. Peter’s Church is endorsed by an on-line petition to “save St. Peter’s Church” which has already been signed by 822 people. This compares to the 56 people (counting the mystery ballots) that voted to close the columbarium to allow the church to be sold to developers.
Please help us save the church. Sign the petition.
The Friends of St. Peter’s