‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth’. Jn.17:17
If you have been led here by anyone associated with the church/community in question, or by a letter or email from me, this is the place to begin. This is an introduction to the Exhibits themselves; for more on me, see About on this site, though doing so is not essential to understanding what we are discussing here.
[To go straight to the Exhibits, click here for the Table of Contents.]
[Author’s Note: I had originally planned to keep the denomination under whose umbrella these events took place anonymous. Because of this, some references to the denomination and church structures in the Introduction and other posts I deliberately kept vague. I explain why I’ve changed my mind, and offer some clarifying statements and brief definitions for CRC terms in this Update post. –12 July 2016.]
veritas praebita: a ‘clergy-killing/church coup’ case study.
This blog is about a church scandal, and Christian-on-Christian spiritual abuse and violence. It is a catalogue of the events that led up to a wrongful termination of a pastor, and indeed of the often disgusting aftermath.
Given what happened in October-December 2015, and given that most from our former church have heard nothing from my father, either in church or out of it (not by his choice!), and given that the church’s council of 2015 do not believe it necessary to tell the members of that local body, who elected them and entrusted to them the care of their souls, what happened–providing clear explanation, justification of their actions, and documentation of the events–I created this blog to present the unspoken, unshared, and for the most part, unsought, side of the story. I believe the behavior of certain people in this church, and the actions of some on the council, exemplifies the worst in contemporary American so-called ‘Evangelicalism’ (for further discussion of such behavior and attitudes, see the link to my personal blog on the About page), and I will not rest until the truth is at least exposed, and perhaps admitted to–though confession and repentance would also be an unquestionable Good. This is an attempt to allow the evidence to speak, and a safe place for the curious to get some answers.
By beginning with the first documents in the Table of Contents, the reader should get at least a barebones idea of the community involved, and the events & conversations which led up to the termination. I will briefly say here that my father pastored this church (‘A.’) for almost 8 years. The church supported him through two rounds of chemo and the amputation of his left leg. My younger sister was a faithful attendee, and then member, from the age of 15. I was a member from age 21, though I was only there seasonally due to college and then grad school. Nevertheless I considered A. my home church. My husband and I were married there in March of 2012. More than half of the congregation celebrated with us at our reception, and many of them danced in our Scottish ceilidh. So one must wonder–what happened? The blog’s Exhibits should go a long way toward answering that question. It is impossible to give a novelesque rendering of the years of ministry and friendship which preceded the hell that was 2015, but Exhibit C. is an attempt to tell the story of the first half of that year, and in combination with Exhibit A. should offer a fair foundation on which to build with the remaining documents.
If you read only one post from the Contents, it must be Exhibit J. This is the official document on which everything hinges, as it is the thing which allegedly (according to the council) got my dad fired. If after reading that, you want to know what comes in at a VERY close second, it is Appendix iv., on the Ninth Commandment–how we are bound to honor the truth and disavow falsehood. This material from the HC and WLC may motivate you to read further, as we are to dedicate ourselves to the ‘studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.’
I make several statements about the local church in question which should be read as generalizations. It is a group of at least 50 people, perhaps 70–it is diverse. Some who remain there are genuine, committed Christians, and I am still in contact with some of them, who know little or much of the story, and who remain at A. for various reasons. So while this is meant to expose the bad behavior of several, likely as many people who still attend at A. are walking rightly before the Lord, and have indeed extended to my family Christ-like compassion (or probably would if they weren’t frightened by the prospect of finding out how ugly the truth is, or weren’t rightfully anxious about being ostracized for reaching out to the outcasts). Nevertheless, in spite of the confusion, in the case of information-gathering, a few have shown a real commitment to integrity.
Some have said, ‘It’s over. It’s done.’ That’s a little too conveniently said by those who got what they wanted, then were admittedly enabled, and–unwittingly or not–incentivized with monetary support, after the fact by a classis who wouldn’t (or couldn’t be bothered to?) investigate, though they were practically begged to do so. But anyway, back to the point–‘can’t we all just move on?’ I suppose the apostle Paul should have just moved on rather than mentioning by name, in the scripture, those who had attacked or undermined him. We contemporary westerners just hate the idea of naming names and risking confrontation, and certainly of telling people they’re wrong. Paul prioritized the truth (again, see Appendix iv.), and the safety of the flocks whose churches he helped to plant. In the end, the vast majority of defendants are tried in court after a crime has been committed. Justice can often only be sought after the fact. My purpose here is not in changing what happened. That is a fool’s errand. It is in telling the truth, and exhorting people to learn the truth–what they do with it is, I suppose, between them and their Lord.
Some have also said, ‘We can never know what happened.’ I hope the sheer superfluity of documentation here provided blows that out of the water. But also, we are a people of faith. We believe Truth can be known without having a video recording of an event or conversation. Indeed, as Christians, we trust the claims made by the Bible about itself–why? because the Spirit of God bears witness to us. Witnesses who testify (if I can return to the courtroom imagery) are heard as credible attestors to reality, and their testimonies are weighed against one another to come to a conclusion. Besides, if we can never know what happened, and never know for sure whether a decision was sinful or not, why would we allow it to happen? Wouldn’t that put us on shaky ground with a God who holds us accountable? Wouldn’t it be better to err on the side of caution rather than action? (AGAIN, see Appendix iv.)
Finally, some may think that to compile all of this indicates an unhealthy fixation on the events. I will say now that, yes, this has taken a LOT of time, a LOT of energy, a LOT of thought, and has added to the past year’s stress, which I’m sure has shortened my lifespan, and no doubt those of my dad and sister. But it takes time and effort to get to the truth, and to get justice. I’m willing to do the work that others would be too tired, too daunted, or too LAZY to do, while continuing to live my life, to see my friends, to go to work, and to write my dissertation.
I’ve discovered that so many people nowadays just can’t be bothered to read two or three pages of text, let alone do so carefully. I’m sorry, but Christians are people of the Book. We have no excuse for not reading and thinking. Innocent people have been deceived; others have been driven out of their life-long home church for taking a stand; church leaders and pastors have lied, while others have believed the lies and enabled the liars because they didn’t do the work to find the truth; my sister has been bullied and abandoned; my dad has been slandered, his character impugned and his career endangered; and the denominational authorities, whose Christian duty is to uphold the truth and righteousness, allowed an unlawful termination and the circulation of defamatory comments in writing, with seemingly no regard for God’s word or its exposition in the catechism about how we’re to speak about our neighbor, and to further his good name. This was gross communal sin, made up of a composite of a bunch of sins of commission and omission, and the reputation of the church is on the line, in a community where so many unchurched people already look askance at churchgoers. The denomination needs to stand up and stop this abuse of its clergy.
Yes, sheep are abused, often in megachurches with rock star pastors, all over the country. See my personal blog for comments, as well as discernment blogs and podcasts! But the sheer proliferation of books on the phenomenon of abuse of pastors (see the Appendix) should tell us that this is an under-acknowledged, unseen epidemic, and it is an evil that delights Satan and rots the church. I hope to prove with the documentation on this blog that this was a clear-cut case of abuse of a pastor, and an unjustified termination that was accompanied by character assassination. The council had the power to get rid of my dad, for whatever reason motivated them; why they (or at least, the person who authored their documents) added insult to injury with their innuendo and vague accusations, instead of just giving their elsewhere professed reasons for sacking him, still baffles me. And, if doing this work demonstrates psychological imbalance, I direct you to other blogs and resources exposing sin and disease in the church (but in many cases, one could say, ‘it’s done, why don’t you just move on?’: e.g. on Mark Driscoll [conspicuous in the margin here: IF YOU DON’T SAY IT’S WRONG THEN THAT SAYS IT’S RIGHT], on Doug Phillips, on Doug Wilson, on American evangelicalism in general). These are products of a huge amount of labor, and mental and emotional energy, expended on the part of many, many people who simply want the truth out, and who want the church to glorify Christ by doing the right thing.
A huge motivating factor is the sheer irony in all that’s happened. Just a couple of weeks before my dad’s suspension, the church hosted a Fall Fun Fest. On the poster for the FFF (I saw it for myself while I was there in early October), there was a tagline taken from Galatians 6: ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’ That’s verse 9–I suppose it was chosen because it has the word ‘harvest’ in it. It’s a good verse, but it’s been isolated from its context. Verse 10 reads: ‘Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’ An alternate translation uses the phrase ‘household of faith’, which I love. There are at least two points of irony–again, this was only a couple of weeks before my dad’s suspension. Second point: one person from the church found out at the FFF that my sister hadn’t been asked to help with anything for the event, because people ‘didn’t want her on committees’. She was 22 at the time; she has Aspergers. See the Exhibit on the List for how this blackballing became official.
The members of the 2015 council have not seen fit to reply to my letters in any official capacity (though I did hear from one of their wives [?!]). This is my recourse. I warn them here that I am also pursuing alternate avenues with the evangelical press.
From here, ‘Exhibits’ are not offered in strict chronological order. I have sometimes posted them in order of perceived importance, or depending on the people involved (those with particular relevance to other Exhibits will include links to one another). Most posts here will simply consist of documents produced in the mayhem and turmoil that was the final quarter of last year. Author, recipient, and date of production or ‘sending’ (if an email) will always be noted; I will provide context where necessary. For those who object to sharing of certain material with appeals to confidentiality, see my discussion of this issue at Appendix ii.
Naturally, I can be contacted via this blog, and my personal one–anyone wishing for further information, or wanting to challenge the veracity of any of the content posted here, is free to send me a message. Many involved in this situation have refused me ‘audience’, which I believe is unchristian and opaque, and demonstrates a lack of ‘honesty and integrity’ (contra the self-affirming claims about the council’s actions in the letter to the congregation, ostensibly from the council, December 2015). I am, however, open to dialogue, and open to answering challenges, in both public and private forums. In fact, I would welcome those who have leveled accusations to substantiate them with specific examples and events (preferably with [multiple] witnesses). Readers may therefore also post comments, which will be vetted by me; as I said, I am open to dialogue, and will post readers’ comments and questions, provided there is no offensive language, and may follow them with my own responses. Those who post challenges will be held to a high standard of accuracy and specificity of language, and of examples and evidence if they include allegations of misconduct, as well as to a high standard of Christian decorum.
My purpose in compiling all of this is a clear proclamation of the truth, which is a Good in and of itself. But I am also keen for results. My hope with this project is an exposure of what goes on in non-reflective evangelicalism, in churches that do not hold the Bible up as the ultimate standard of thought and conduct generally. More specifically, one of my goals is to alert this denomination to its own apparent ignorance about the phenomenon, their own recent report on it notwithstanding, as it was approached in the wrong way and thus can neither adequately articulate the problem nor recommend a solution. If the denominational higher-ups choose not to hold the active parties involved accountable, then I also pray that members of the church who were not involved will, armed with this information, be able to make a responsible, prayed-over decision about their church membership, and hold the council members they elected accountable for this action, for which they never acquired congregational approval (as they had when first calling the pastor). Finally, my prayer is that eyes would be opened, and that those who have not understood what they were doing will understand now, and make it right by repenting of and repudiating their course of action, and by then apologizing to my father, and to my sister as well.
Some have described what happened as evil, and so it is. There is an obligation on the part of Christians to recognize and oppose evil, and the Bible has something to say about those who call evil ‘good’. May God be glorified in His people’s pursuit of Truth–and of Justice.
Disclaimer: Some of the Exhibits are documents written by me to other people involved in this saga. Thus, the ‘record’ here is presented from my perspective, past and present. This is obviously subjective. Nevertheless, the series of letters in particular helps to provide a timeline, and the described responses (or non-responses) of others are included as I believe they either corroborate my claims, provide insight into both motives and worldview, and/or offer points of contrast for Christian thought and behavior. Of course, some letters written by my correspondents I have not acquired permission to share, and so the content of such must be deduced from my responses to them. Additional documents not written by me are included as they are a matter of public record, such as the letter sent to the congregation by the ‘council’ in December 2015.
While I believe what I assert in the title of this blog, that what I offer is the full truth, or at least, an accurate presentation of events (and maybe not-too-far-off an interpretation of them), I acknowledge that, aside from certain documents which are ‘official records’, my letters could be said to include mere assertions. But reader, judge for yourself. I believe most of my arguments I can back up with sound reasoning and appeal to evidence, but in the end, the goal of this blog is exposure of the facts. Perhaps the documents are only a starting point, to initiate investigation and provoke questioning of those in ‘power’ (and those behind them encouraging them to take the action they did).
NB: Again, I have done my best to preserve anonymity. For the most part, names have been changed to numbers (i.e., ’13’) or initials (the church, for example, is simply, ‘A.’, with members of the church, past and present, referred to as ‘A.ns’). ‘Simon Templar’ is the pseudonym I’ve assigned my dad, also frequently referred to as ‘Pastor T.’ or ‘PT’.
Update: The blog has now been officially launched! I posted notecards publicising its existence to A. members & ex-members yesterday, pictured below, 8 June 2016; a letter to the council was posted 3 June 2016. [9 June 2016]