‘And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.’ –I Cor. 2:1-5
Though the response is short, close reading is certainly rewarded. I have acquired permission from CV 21 to publish his correspondence with me (he even said I might use his name!). CV 22 asked that I not include content from his emails, nor mention his ‘role’ in this in any way, and so I have not printed his text or used his name, in this or any other post.
21 September 2015
That was a highly intelligent and powerfully articulated letter, and it was certainly a help to me in trying to understand the context around the issues at A.
I’m glad you mentioned the idea of listening to a sermon or two – which is what I’ve been thinking I would like to do. You are suggesting, I think, that I get them from Google Drive – so…how does that work? I can get some from your Dad, I’m sure, but if you already have them in a format, that would be quicker and easier, I’m sure. So, if you would condescend to my technological weakness and tell me how to get that done…that would be great.
So, I don’t know how this will all work out at A. It is about sermons, but then there are, of course, a great many other large dynamics between your Dad and the A.ns (which is the first time I’ve heard that term, and it will never leave my mind!).
As I said to your Dad, he is a mighty Christian. He has suffered much, and persevered with equanimity and peace.
The A.ns, also, at least the ones I know, are serious Christian people, salt-of-the-earth Christians – not unlike the ones in the church I serve. So, this trouble is perplexing and vexing and painful to me.
Our job as visitors is to try to help churches (congregation and pastor) figure out their course, not control it. To help them talk, to try to help everyone navigate.
And your letter adds much-needed perspective, and I appreciate it.
Thank-you very much,
A few things to note:
1. In essence, what (I believed) had been the most significant issue, the preaching, was suddenly only one of multiple issues. As you, reader, can likely imagine, the way I interpreted the reply, was that the ‘discussions’ to come would involve moving goal posts (see Exhibits D. & L. on the dynamics of certain council meetings). Accusations were demonstrated to be vague or vacuous, countered with biblical and rational argument. The countered (obliterated) accusations are discarded in favor of new ones, so there is no resolution.
2. Compare remarks about the intelligence and articulation of the letter with claims made in December about the content of such correspondence (mine and others who wrote to the CVs in support of my dad) originating with my father—as if, actually, I can neither think nor write for myself, nor can anyone else.
3. There is no interaction with any of the specifics of my letter, but there is an assertion about what people at A. are like. I would think that I would know at least as many people at A., if not more, and know something about these ‘great many other…large dynamics’, whatever that means. It would have been helpful for these ‘dynamics’ to have been articulated early on. That is the only way to address them and determine their nature. Also, if what I assert about the way many at A. judge preaching is true, then ‘salt-of-the-earth’ does not mean ‘biblically oriented’. There does not seem to be any consideration of what that means—what the implications are.
4. 21 claims he does not know how things ‘will work out’. It was only months later that I looked askance at this and wondered whether this was true at the time he wrote–I gasped when I re-read this email nearer to Christmas, and it occurred to me that 21 actually knew already that termination was not only on the table, but even the outcome for which one council member was single-mindedly pushing. For now it suffices to say that 21 met with my dad before the meetings began, and told him (as a heads-up?), in essence, that it doesn’t matter if the council is a bunch of apostates—they can sack him if they want to. Pragmatism? Relativism? What does this say about the mindset with which this man started when he was first pulled in? Since then, there have been suspicions among several people that 21 came in ready to support 13 in almost anything, because they knew one another and had served on committees together. My dad learned sometime in November 2015, from another local pastor, that 21 had spoken to him in the months prior to 21’s official entry into affairs, regarding A., that ‘[my dad] would have to make some changes’. On what did 21 base this? Who had been speaking to him about A., and why was 21 under the impression, before even speaking with my dad about what was going on, that my dad would have to ‘make changes’? (See Appendix iv.) He’d taken his source’s word for it that my dad was responsible—for something or everything, whatever it was that his source was peeved (?) about. He came in predisposed against even hearing my dad’s side of the story—he’d already made up his mind.
At any rate, contrary to 13’s claim to another person at A., 21 did not come to the table as an objective, ‘impartial third party/visitor’ [author’s note: I was just informed that 54, not 21 was the subject of this statement; the expectation should hold for both–both should have come to the table as such. Since 54 had the ‘secret’ meeting with 13 (see closing passages of Exhibit C.), and since 21 had already heard dirt on A. and my dad before he was called in as a visitor, their perspectives were either tainted in the process, or from the get-go. 28 April 2016], nor did he apparently come committed to espousing his own position on discontent in the church, published in an article the denominational magazine in 2013. In this he argued that congregants ought to leave a church at which they are no longer happy, rather than stay on and try to change it, for good or ill, and I assume this means before things reach a fever pitch and the A-17 is on the table.
5. Compare what 21 claims about being there to help everyone ‘talk’ and ‘navigate’, not to ‘do’ or ‘control’ anything. This help was supposed to be for both ‘congregation and pastor’. See especially Exhibits P. (21 wrote the original article request), S., and U. on the veracity of this claim—as we go along, we’ll see how much the pastor’s voice mattered to the CVs in this.