7th Day Adventist Church has to go further with Greener Village to correct wrongs
I wish I could join the chorus of people who see the announcement that the Fredericton Seventh Day Adventist Church is going to add some community members to the Greener Village Board as a positive step, I really do, but I’m not there yet.
Maybe it’s my journalism background that leaves me sceptical, or maybe it is the manner in which the Seventh Day Adventist Church has acted to date. Probably it’s a combination of both. To my mind, it will take a whole lot more than an announcement that it will allow a few community members on their board to repair their credibility and restore the community’s faith that Greener Village is something they can get behind and support. The heavy-handed meanness of spirit the church demonstrated in dismissing Executive Director Elizabeth Crawford Thurber, and the shoddy treatment toward their long-time employee and volunteer Jim Smith after he had a stroke, isn’t something easily forgotten.
In short, because of their actions, the credibility of the Seventh Day Adventist Church is at an all-time low, the morale of employees and volunteers is terrible, and donors are stuck between not wanting to support the church but at the same time not wanting to leave the people who need the help high and dry.
So no, adding a few community members to the board doesn’t fix everything. What would fix things, if that really is their objective, would be to start with some honest answers to some important questions.
What we are talking about here is transparency and direction, both of which are terribly lacking.
In their announcement, the church speaks to the fact Greener Village is much more than a food bank, with references to the community gardens, the teaching kitchen and the clothing boutique, without any acknowledgement whatsoever that these were all innovations borne of Elizabeth’s vision, not their’s, as they tried to imply. Not cool Seventh Day Adventist church.
But it is what it is, and in the grand scheme of things certainly not the most important point, so on to what matters, the questions that need answers. You may have your own, but here are mine:
1. How can the SDA church convince the community that they aren’t simply going to choose people who aren’t going to make waves, rather than people who may have a vision to put Greener Village back on the progressive course it was on before Thurber was let go?
2. Does the church plan to constitute the majority of the board?
3. With an obligation to hold its AGM before the end of December, why has it still not published a time and place, and will it be publicized outside of the SDA church, so community people who may want to attend will know about it and can do so? Or would they even be welcome?
4. Since the interim Executive Director, Alex Boyd has told the CBC he is stepping down at the end of January, what is the process to hire a replacement?
5. Since the SDA church is looking to again have community representation on its Greener Village board, what was the real reason it removed the community people it had before? The church has pointed to a bylaw that had been ignored for years that said only church members could be on the board, but that’s more an excuse than a reason, as they could have simply changed the bylaw (or kept ignoring it) rather than removing the community members, so the question remains.
6. Related to the above, Boyd told the CBC the bylaw on board membership has now been changed. How could this have happened if the AGM hasn’t been held yet?
7. Again in the interests of transparency, how much donor money has gone to the SDA’s legal fees in negotiating Thurber’s unfair dismissal settlement, for dealing with the bylaws, and in union negotiations fighting the union’s efforts for a first contract? Speculation has it at somewhere at between $75K and $100K, but don’t quote me.
As you can see, there are a lot of questions. If the church wants to have any hope of restoring the faith the community had in Greener Village back before it decided to get involved and fire the one person who more than anyone else built it into the vibrant centre it had become, it needs to commit to transparency. This includes not only addressing these questions, but also the lingering one of the real reason behind Elizabeth’s firing.
So we are at a crossroads in regards to Greener Village. As they say, a leopard doesn’t change its spots, so I don’t see the Seventh Day Adventists turning a complete 180 and coming clean with the community and answering these questions.
Since this isn’t going to happen, the only viable solution is for the SDA church to step back, and have a community-controlled board in charge of Greener Village. Not a board with token community representation, but a board comprised of solid, talented and committed community members. They are out there. We just need the Seventh Day Adventist church to do the right thing….for once.
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