On NDAs: “Such clauses can help a company in manage its image. But they also dampen the early warning signals about a dysfunctional workplace, and can even hide the emergence of toxic behaviors” link
I had to take my mother to see a heart failure specialist and we need to change her treatment plan. This caused me not to be able to do a commentary on the documents presented. It is my plan to discuss the following items:
- How does one determine when it’s time to leave a church? I have some experience in this matter.:)
- Why is CHBC, a church that follows the One who is called Truth, demanding NDAs of their employees? Do these allow the truth to be exposed?
- The use of NDAs by Christian organizations is currently under fire. Think SBC.
- When 78 people sign a petition regarding problems in a church, that church should stand up and listen (It’s sad I even have to say this.)
- Why in the world have the elders chosen this time to do a “Pray for our Pastors” event? (Good night! How incredibly tone-deaf.)
Hmmm, the more I look at this list, the more I think it may take a couple of posts. We’ll see. In the meantime, I have an assignment for TWW readers. Here is a real-life petition presented to the church leaders and a real-life NDA which was rejected by a brave former employee. I am grateful that the people involved with this turmoil care enough to call out their church. Good for them. I wish there were more people who cared enough to understand the serious nature of what is going on. There is also the real-life NDA to help you to see why lawyers are very well paid, sometimes they even use your tithe money.
God brought these things to the light for the good of the church.
September 20, 2021
To the Elders and Deacons of the Chapel Hill Bible Church and the consultants of
Leighton Ford Ministries (LFM) and GRACE:
We the undersigned have significant questions and concerns about our church, and we do not
think they are being adequately addressed. The investigation into allegations of years of
systemic abuse by our Executive Pastor (which led to his immediate resignation) has provided a
glimpse into this dysfunction. Despite apologies and assurances from the CHBC leadership that
this season is now behind us, it has come to our attention that the abuse of power continues to
occur. We applaud the hiring of LFM and GRACE, but we are concerned that the truth will not
reach their ears and that the findings of their consultations will not be made fully known to the
congregation. In addition, we are concerned that the members of the Elder and Deacon Boards,
who are responsible for the oversight of the church, are not fully aware of this ongoing
Each firing, ministry cut, separation agreement, new hire, by-law change, budget increase, etc.
has been presented as a separate incident, yet together they reveal troubling ongoing patterns.
We ask that you, as members of the elder and deacon boards, fully engage in addressing and
influencing change regarding these concerning patterns:
● Lack of Care and Concern for All Members of Our Church Body: Trust and grace
are being given to people in power, not the people who have been harmed and are
asking for help. Lack of pastoral care has been confirmed by current and former
congregation members (many of whom have left for other local churches).
● Lack of Oversight: Significant changes to the leadership structure and bylaws in recent
years have contributed to the ability of leadership to act without supervision.
● Lack of Transparency/Improper Communication: In our experience, congregants’
concerns do not seem to be openly addressed across the entire board of elders, leading
to pockets of knowledge across leadership groups at CHBC. Following what are
considered to be the “proper channels” does not result in concerns being addressed. It is
difficult to know who to contact and how to contact them in order to be heard.
This plea comes from our deep desire to help CHBC heal and to restore trust. We desire a
Godly, positive unity at CHBC that comes from truth and transparency – from letting the Light
shine in the Darkness – not from a false unity that comes from obscuring the truth.
The sudden firing of veteran CHBC staff member xxxx xxxxxx is just one of many examples
of an ongoing dysfunctional culture. After her firing, xxxxxxx was asked to sign a strict
non-disclosure/non-solicitation/non-disparagement agreement, or NDA, in exchange for three
months of severance pay. Because xxxxxxx declined to sign this document, she is able to share
its contents, which are linked in this email. You will notice that the nature of this document
restricts xxxxxxx ability to reveal the truth of her experience working at CHBC or even to reveal
that such a contract exists.
Although we are disturbed by the contents of this severance agreement, some may claim that
NDAs (or other limiting contracts) are a common, albeit controversial, characteristic of large
churches. Indeed, we have been told that for at least the past year, limiting contracts have been
a common practice at CHBC. Some of us have reached out to our connections at other
like-minded area churches and have been told unanimously and unequivocally by leaders at
those churches that NDAs have no place in the Church and should be considered a serious red
flag. All eight articles on the first page of a Google search for “Church NDA” yield the same
former board member of GRACE.)
The timing of this severance agreement, presented to a long-time staff member in the midst of
several investigations that are meant to uncover the truth about allegations of systemic abuse,
is very troubling. The fact that these agreements have been a common practice, coupled with
many other actions over the past several years, raises many questions. We would like to
request the following:
● That each person who signed any limiting agreements with CHBC be released from their
contract in writing and be offered the chance to speak fully and freely with LFM, GRACE,
or whomever they wish.
● That the process of oversight for all staff be shared with the congregation.
● That the congregation receive reassurance that the consultant groups will be allowed to
do their full scope of work and broadly investigate both past and the present instances of
● That the congregation receive reports directly from both LFM and GRACE with their
● That an emergency meeting be called within two weeks and, if possible, for the
consultant groups to join, so that we can have a controlled, action-oriented discussion
that allows everyone –non-staff elders, deacons, concerned congregants, and
consultants – to hear the same story at the same time. These steps may help begin to
restore trust in CHBC leadership and ensure that consultants have a complete
understanding of our church’s struggles.
To be clear: our frustration is not only about the manner in which xxxxxx was fired or the
presence of limiting agreements at CHBC, but it is about a continuing lack of transparency that
breeds distrust, systemically hurts members of the church community, and potentially misuses
donations intended for ministry work. We are seeking truth and transparency to help our church
heal, and we hope you’ll join us in making that possible.
Though we represent a variety of experiences and perspectives, our common thread is that
we are concerned about what we are hearing and would like to see greater transparency
and understanding regarding the issues raised here.
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no
darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and
do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with
one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
1 John 1:5-7 NIV
(To be signed only by members of the CHBC community)
A CHBC NDA .
SEVERANCE AND RELEASE AGREEMENT
This SEVERANCE AND RELEASE AGREEMENT (the “Agreement”), is entered into by and between CHAPEL HILL BIBLE CHURCH OF CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA, INC., on behalf of itself, its officers, directors, shareholders, employees and agents (in their individual and representative capacities), and its affiliate, predecessor, successor, subsidiary and other related entities, and its insurers and each of them, jointly and severally (the “Church”), and xxxx xxxx on behalf of herself and her heirs, executors, guardians, administrators, successors and assigns, jointly and severally (hereinafter referred to as “Employee”) (collectively, the “Parties”).
Whereas, the Church has elected to exercise its right to terminate the at–will employment of Employee and provided Employee with notice of the same. The Parties desire to fully and completely resolve, settle and dispose of any and all disputes or claims of whatever kind or nature that Employee ever had or may now have against the Church, whether known or unknown, with respect to any and all matters between the Parties. Therefore, the Parties acknowledge and voluntarily agree as follows:
Employee‘s employment with the Church is terminated effective August 4, 2021 (the “Separation Date”). The Church will provide the Employee with all final wages earned as of the Separation Date on the next regularly scheduled payday following the Separation Date. Additionally, if necessary, the Church or its plan administrator will provide Employee with all documentation necessary to elect her right to continued health care coverage, and in relation to any other benefits.
Provided Employee signs this Agreement and does not revoke it, the Church agrees to pay Employee severance benefits as follows: (i) Payment equivalent to Fifteen (15) weeks‘ regular wages amounting to Eleven Thousand Eight Hundred Eighty and 0/100 Dollars ($11,880.00 USD) less any applicable federal, social security, state and local tax withholdings and other lawful deductions. In addition, the Church agrees to (ii) continue to pay $345.41 per month toward Employee‘s health insurance premium costs up to and including November 17, 2021; and (iii) directly pay a qualified company of Employee‘s choosing up to $1,500.00 for employment outplacement services (Items (i) (iii) herein are collectively referred to as the “Severance Payment”). Employee acknowledges and agrees that she is not otherwise entitled to this Severance Payment. The wage portion of the Severance Payment will be provided to Employee in monthly installments in accordance with the existing payroll schedule, with the first installment payable no later than September 30, 2021 with such payments beginning after the Effective Date (as hereinafter defined).
Release by Employee
In consideration of the mutual agreements and covenants set forth in this Agreement, the sufficiency of which is hereby acknowledged, Employee agrees to completely and irrevocably waive, discharge and release the Church (along with any related parties, whether directly or indirectly, including, but not limited to, elders, officers, deacons, staff, employees, pastors, advisors, representatives, any related committees and members thereof, etc.) (the “Related Parties“) from any and all claims, charges, demands, suits, complaints, grievances, causes of action and/or liability whatsoever (the “Claims”), involving any matter arising out of or in any way related, directly or indirectly, to her employment with the Church, her compensation and/or her separation from employment, or with respect to any other transaction, event or occurrence pre–dating the Effective Date (as hereinafter defined) of this Agreement, whether now known or unknown, including, but not limited to, any claim of breach of contract, wrongful discharge, intentional infliction of emotional distress, retaliation and/or employment harassment or discrimination, whether in tort or in contract, any employment intentional tort or violations of specific safety requirements, any statutory or
common law claim for attorneys‘ fees, any claim for interest on the amounts paid under this Agreement, or any other claim under present or future federal, state or local statute or law, including, but not limited to, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, the National Labor Relations Act, the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (“ADEA”), the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act, the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act, the North Carolina Persons with Disabilities Protection Act, and/or the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act, with the exception of any claim that applicable law precludes her from waiving such as (i) any right to file an administrative charge or complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or other administrative agency, and/or participate in the investigation of any such claim; however, the Employee waives any right to monetary relief related to such a charge or administrative complaint; or (ii) claims for unemployment benefits; and (iii) claims for workers‘ compensation.
ADEA Notification of Rights
Employee is hereby notified and acknowledges as follows: (a) Employee has had the opportunity to review and consider the terms of this Agreement for a period of 21 days, although she may accept the terms of this Agreement at any time prior to the expiration of the 21–day period; (b) Employee understands that she has the right to obtain legal counsel regarding Employee‘s rights, obligations and liabilities under this Agreement before she signs the Agreement; (c) Employee agrees that any modifications, material or otherwise, made to this Agreement, do not restart or affect in any manner the original up to 21 day consideration period; (d) Employee is not waiving any rights she has against the Church that may arise from events occurring after Employee signs this Agreement; (e) this Agreement is entered into knowingly and voluntarily and the Severance Payment is made without any pre existing obligation by the Church; (f) Employee has the option to revoke her release within a seven (7)–day period after Employee signs the Agreement; and (g) the terms of this Agreement will become legally binding, effective and irrevocable seven (7) days after the date this Agreement is signed by Employee, unless within the seven (7)–day period, Employee provides the Church with written notice of her revocation as explained below.
The effective date of this Agreement shall be the eighth (8th) day following the date that Employee signs this Agreement and does not revoke her release of claims (the “Effective Date”).
Notice of Acceptance. The employee may accept this Agreement by returning a signed original, either in person, or by e–mail to the undersigned Church representative at the contact information below. This Agreement may be withdrawn if not accepted in the above manner on or before 21 days following Employee‘s receipt of this Agreement. The employee received this Agreement on August 4, 2021.
Notice of Revocation. Following Employee‘s acceptance of this Agreement, Employee may revoke her waiver by providing written notice in person, by e–mail, or facsimile to Greg Omland at the contact information below on or before seven (7) days following the date this Agreement is signed by Employee.
Employee agrees (i) to return all other Church property by August 6, 2021; (ii) that she will not disparage or defame the Church, or any of the Related Parties; and (iii) that she will not disclose any confidential information of any of the Related Parties to any third party; and (iv) that she shall not reveal the existence of this Agreement, nor any of its terms to any person, entity or organization except her tax advisor, attorney, immediate family members,
accountant or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and similar state or local tax authorities or pursuant to a valid order or subpoena issued by a governmental authority or a court of law.
Covenant Not To Sue
Employee represents that she will not commence, maintain or file any Claim against the Church or any of the Related Parties, including, but not limited to, a lawsuit in any federal, state or local court, with respect to any matter arising out of or in any way related – directly or indirectly – to her employment with the Church, her compensation and/or her separation from employment, or with respect to any other transaction, event or occurrence pre–dating the Effective Date of this Agreement, whether now known or unknown to Employee, with the exception of any Claim that applicable law precludes her from waiving. If Employee has filed any Claim against the Church or any Related Party prior to the Effective Date of this Agreement, Employee agrees to immediately withdraw (with prejudice) any such Claim and provide the Church with documentation from the relevant court or administrative body of the withdrawal. Employee understands and agrees that the Severance Payment will not be provided to Employee until the Church receives documentation of Employee‘s withdrawal of any such Claim. Employee agrees that if she does file a Claim in any court or administrative body, she will not oppose any motion to dismiss or similar motion filed by the Church (or any Related Party) based upon this Agreement. Employee is not waiving her right to file a charge or any claim that the Church has breached its commitments under this Agreement, to file a claim for unemployment benefits under North Carolina law, or to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Department of Labor/NC Department of Labor (collectively, the DOL); however, Employee understands that she is waiving her right to receive a monetary recovery under any Claim filed with the EEOC or the DOL. Employee further agrees to waive the right to receive any monetary recovery under any Claim filed by another person or entity on her behalf or on behalf of a class. In the event that Employee fails to comply with any provision in this Section, she shall waive her right to the Severance Payment, and if such payment, or portion thereof, has already been provided by the Church at the time of Employee‘s breach, Employee shall be required to immediately return the Severance Payment to the Church.
Employee Non– Solicitation
In order to continue to protect the interests of the Church, including the confidential information and trade secrets that are known by Employee, Employee agrees that, for the period of one (1) year following the Separation Date, Employee will not directly or indirectly:
(1) solicit, hire, recruit, attempt to hire or recruit, or induce any Church employee to end his or her employment with the Church; or
(2) solicit or attempt to solicit, contact (including but not limited to communications using email, regular mail, express mail, telephone, fax, instant message, social media, text or any other oral, written, or electronic transmission), or attempt to contact, the Church‘s current, former or prospective members or attendees with whom Employee interacted, about which Employee acquired any confidential or proprietary information, or otherwise had any ministerial, business, or other Church–related contact with within the twelve (12) months prior to last day of Employee‘s employment, for purposes of offering services similar to or competitive with those offered by the Church.
This non–solicitation provision explicitly covers all forms of oral, written, or electronic communication, including, but not limited to, communications by email, regular mail, express mail, telephone, fax, instant message, and social media, including, but not limited to, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and any other social media platform, whether
or not in existence at the time of entering into this Agreement. However, it will not be deemed a violation of this Agreement if the Employee merely updates the Employee‘s LinkedIn profile or connects with a Covered Employee on Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media platform without engaging in any other substantive communication, by social media or otherwise, that is prohibited by this section. This Section does not restrict or impede, in any way, and shall not be interpreted or understood as restricting or impeding, the Employee from exercising Employee‘s rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
All payments made pursuant to this Agreement will be reported to the IRS. The Church expresses no opinion concerning the allocation or taxability of these payments. Employee acknowledges that, to the extent that she may incur any additional tax liability as a result of the payments made to her under this Agreement, such liability is her sole responsibility. The employee is hereby advised to seek professional tax advice. This Agreement is intended to comply with Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (Section 409A) or an exemption thereunder and shall be construed and administered in accordance with Section 409A. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Agreement, payments provided under this Agreement may only be made upon an event and in a manner that complies with Section 409A or an applicable exemption. Any payments under this Agreement that may be excluded from Section 409A either as separation pay due to an involuntary separation from service or as a short–term deferral shall be excluded from Section 409A to the maximum extent possible. For purposes of Section 409A, each installment payment provided under this Agreement, if applicable, shall be treated as a separate payment. Any payments to be made under this Agreement upon a termination of employment shall only be made upon a “separation from service” under Section 409A. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Church makes no representations that the payments and benefits provided under this Agreement comply with Section 409A and in no event shall the Church be liable for all or any portion of any taxes, penalties, interest or other expenses that may be incurred by Employee on account of non–compliance with Section 409A.
This Agreement contains the entire agreement and understanding between the Parties and supersedes all other verbal or written agreements, offers, acceptances or negotiations. This Agreement may be amended only by mutual written consent signed by both parties. In the event that either Party breaches any promise made under this Agreement, the breaching Party shall be liable for all damages, attorneys‘ fees, costs and expenses incurred by the non breaching Party in its defending or pursuing the same. By entering into this Agreement, the Church does not admit to the breach of any contractual or other promises to Employee, and does not admit to the violation of any federal, state, local or other statute or law. This Agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with North Carolina law. Should any dispute arise, such matters shall be litigated in the state or federal court located in Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina, provided, however, that the parties shall negotiate in good faith for at least 120 days (based on Biblical principles) before filing any lawsuit. The Parties hereby are consenting to personal jurisdiction in North Carolina, and this provision shall be construed as a mandatory venue selection clause.
SIGNATURES APPEAR ON FOLLOWING PAGE]
Employee and the Church acknowledge they have read and understood the Agreement and, voluntarily, have executed the Agreement on the dates provided below.
(ED. The signature page has been removed )
Tough reading ahead.