SouthLake Christian Academy’s athletic program looks shiny on the outside. Recent additions are a turf field, a field house and softball field.

But on the inside – where it counts most – the program is a mess.

Athletic director Joe Haney was fired. A week later, he was rehired. Huh?

Bobby McLaughlin was offered the job as football coach. When Haney was fired, the offer was rescinded. A week later, McLaughlin was re-offered the job. Huh?

In between the yo-yo roster moves involving the two most visible positions in SouthLake’s program, more than 250 parents and booster club members went to a four-hour meeting with Wade Malloy, SouthLake Church’s senior pastor.

Malloy, who oversees the church and school, didn’t give clear enough answers to many parents about why Haney was fired. Many left the meeting angered, confused and frustrated.

It’s a tale of abuse of power, not enough checks and balances, and treating people in a markedly un-Christian manner.

Malloy, who declined to be interviewed, is at the top of the chain of command at SouthLake. He started the church and the school. He’s been described as arrogant and authoritative at times. A parent, who asked not to be identified, said at last week’s meeting Malloy was asked whom he reported to. No one, was the reply.

That’s where the church “session” (similar to a board of elders) comes in. It is an 11-member group that seemingly didn’t take enough responsibility with the happenings in the athletic department. Perhaps they figured Malloy, who is a member of the church session, was handling it.

There also is a faction of athletic department officials who didn’t agree with the process or decision to hire McLaughlin, a longtime assistant at Lincolnton High. They found an ally in Malloy, who canned Haney (who did the coaching search) on March 14.

“Our children are the ones suffering,” a parent told me.

“He’s messing with peoples’ lives,” said another. “Joe didn’t deserve this.”

Haney coached the middle school baseball team, which had a coach, then didn’t, then did. Confused players and parents received no explanations.

Four days later came the parents’ meeting, which raised lots of questions. Malloy, according to several who were at the meeting, didn’t offer a lot of clear answers.

In an amazing turnaround, the following morning (March 19) Malloy sent an email to parents saying SouthLake was “pursuing reconciliation” with Haney and McLaughlin.

What made Malloy change his mind? If Haney wasn’t good enough to be athletic director on March 14, what changed in the ensuing week?

If you liked McLaughlin enough to hire him in February and announce it publicly, why embarrass him and school by taking back the offer? How do you think that will play on the minds’ of future coaches and teachers who may consider working at SouthLake?

Perhaps Malloy realized he’d created too much unrest among the parents at the meeting. They are, after all, the lifeblood of the school. They’re the ones writing the hefty tuition checks. They’re also the ones who have to explain SouthLake’s murky situation to their children. And what type of recommendation do you think some will now give a neighbor or relative wondering about sending their kids to SouthLake?

I’ve heard a lot this week about what stand-up Christian men of character Haney and McLaughlin are. But they’re human, too. Sure they can be forgiving, but the scar tissue is there. How can they work with complete piece of mind?

The church session on March 24 sent an email to parents accepting responsibility for the recent events. It admitted that Haney was “inappropriately terminated,” asked for forgiveness and invited him to return as athletics director.

The session also said it has begun a “complete top-to-bottom review of all aspects of SLCA” and tossed in a reference to a Bible verse about undue haste (Proverbs 21:5).

Haste isn’t the issue. The question is what took the church session so long to take control?

While the session did a correct thing – in theory – by exerting more control over the athletic program, it’s yet to be seen what effect it will have. What if Malloy, one of the 11 session members, is the loudest voice in that room? We can only hope that the group sticks to the new guidelines and makes decisions based on 11 viewpoints.