McLean Bible Church, an evangelical multisite church with several locations in the Washington, DC area, is preparing to elect new elders for the first time since a legal dispute surrounding the congregational voting process in June 2021.
McLean lead pastor David Platt had become the center of controversy after speaking to issues of racial justice in America, causing some within the broader evangelical movement as well as within his own church to doubt his leadership, stoking a conflict that came to a head in a bitter dispute over the 2021 McLean Bible Church elder selection process.
According to Platt, a small group of disgruntled church members had begun a whisper campaign against him during the spring and summer of 2021, accusing him of planning to sell church property to a Muslim group to be used for a Mosque. This group also allegedly spread rumors that Platt was going to change the church’s pro-life stance, as well as broaden its definition of biblical sexuality. None of these claims were true.
Nevertheless, on the strength of these claims and the alarm they caused, this group then campaigned to call together members, former members, and inactive members of McLean Bible Church to vote down any elder candidates presented at the June 2021 congregational meeting.
The campaign was successful, and for the first time in the church’s nearly 60-year history, the three new elders presented to the congregation failed to receive the required three-quarters vote.
Aware that a number of votes were cast by former and inactive members who traveled to the church specifically to vote down elder nominees, McLean church leadership presented three new elder nominees in a subsequent meeting, requiring identification for current members and giving provisional ballots to inactive members. The three new elders received 80% of the vote and were subsequently confirmed.
Following that meeting, five members of McLean Bible Church filed suit against Platt and other church leaders, alleging that they violated the terms of the church constitution in order to silence the voices of those who disagreed with them.
Almost a year later, McLean now faces the task of nominating a new class of elders, and McLean leadership is hoping to do so without incident.
To that end, the church’s website is extending an invitation to church members to approve a clearly defined course of action, accounting for the various contingencies that may occur in the election process.