Pastor-Church Conflicts Don’t Belong in Court

Sad to read about the ongoing conflict between James Flakes and his former church, New Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist. Mr. Flakes served as its part-time pastor for several years, until he was terminated in 2017, which he evidently deemed unfair. Rather than resolve their differences within the church, as St. Paul exhorts Christians to do (I Corinthians 6:1-8), the parties are battling this out in Michigan courts. The Oakland Circuit Court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction over this intra-church dispute – a ruling in keeping with St. Paul’s biblical injunction. But Mr. Flakes persuaded the Michigan Court of Appeals that this should be viewed as simply another contract dispute (Flakes v New Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church, Case No. 345988), so now it will be returned to the Oakland Circuit Court. We hope and pray that the parties will remove this case from the court system altogether, and find caring Christians who will help them resolve this privately. One suggestion for doing that: contact the Institute for Christian Conciliation. The court system is ill-equipped to address the spiritual and relational issues at stake in a dispute like this; these folks need the church.

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