Exhibit V. Letters to the Council, Dec.-June 2015.

[Return to Table of Contents.]                                             [Exhibit W.—>]

‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.’   –II Tim. 2:15

‘But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession,  to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,  who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen….O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.  Grace be with you.’   –I Tim. 6:11-6, 20-1

I have over the past couple of months found out that many more were complicit in the conspiracy than I formerly guessed. The motives, knowledge, level of involvement, attitude and proactivity vary, however, from family to family and even person to person. One person, I am convinced, regrets her involvement, but not enough to admit it. Some people I knew about from the beginning, and was never surprised at their enthusiasm for the sacking; others I have found out about during the course of events, and still others since. Most of these latter two groups have really disappointed me, because these were the people whom I trusted, and people whom I not only considered friends, but believed to have a higher level of commitment both to the word of God and standard of Christian living than apparently is true of them. In sum, I gave them too much credit. To be fair, some involved I have never attributed a great amount of discernment; they are actually decent people who don’t think for themselves and were led astray (though I should have thought this would have been more difficult for the coup, because some of them actually liked my dad, and one approver has recently said he/they missed my dad’s preaching—how confusing!).  Still a more interesting phenomenon are those still in the church who are unhappy about what happened, who feel they shouldn’t leave; others who feel remorse, and are just waiting for the right time to leave.

I made an attempt to contact a couple of people from the small group whom I believed to be simply ignorant of most that has happened, though I know they had their share of complaints and did approve of what they knew. What they actually know I have to guess at, because their excuses for not taking a closer look consist of the assertion that this is a council matter and ‘no one can ever know’, nor apparently should know, since it’s all confidential…or something (again, see Appendix ii for a discussion of this). Still, I think they know more than they’ll admit to, because it will turn out that they’re guiltier than I suspected. They got swept away in the spiritual confusion, and in what I believe was a persistently told lie about their own self-importance, and were encouraged in a shallow reading, diagnosis, and ‘cure’ of the church’s problem, which allowed them to keep the truth at a distance, not take any responsibility for the church’s plight, and congratulate themselves on their courage and initiative in saving the church from the ogre, that is, the pastor, whom they’d previously seemed to love. But who knows!?

One person was triumphant from the beginning, though also very angry. One person was sad ‘to’ me, and to my dad, but apparently puts on an (over)exuberant front in church itself. What’s she really feeling? Again, who knows!?

And then there were the people who didn’t know us all that well—who reached out, looking for the truth. I will forever be in their debt, because if it hadn’t been for them, my dad may very well have despaired of his own sanity. To get several independent voices confirming his convictions, from both people who have left A. and stayed on (for the time being), was an incredible Provision by the Lord.

In October, the mantra was stated: ‘we can’t afford to lose any more people.’ A. has, in my accounting, lost 8 adult members, + two young children, the only ones they had. Most of these departed in the fortnight following the announcement at the congregational meeting. One of the young couples who left are the daughter and son-in-law of one of the elders of 2015. As of late March 2016, the church has no new attendees. [**author’s note: I have only just learned that the young couple with the two small children are actually still at A.  The father, 24, met with my dad sometime in December, and the declaration then was that they were ‘gone’. A short while later I heard they were attending a non-denom local church in the area.  Apparently, this is no longer true.  What happened to bring them back, I’m not sure; 24’s wife is the daughter of one of the elders of 2015 (still an elder in 2016).  The insights 24 shared with my dad in December indicated maturity of thinking and real perceptiveness.  Again, why they’re back, or whether they ever really left, I don’t know.  There may be a clue: sometime early in 2016 there was a remark in the bulletin about hearing the sound of ‘little feet’ in ‘our’ sanctuary.  Perhaps that was when they returned, if they were gone?  I mentioned this family in my emails below, and in Exhibit W., though not by name.  If any of the recipients were reading carefully, he/she should have corrected me on this sooner.  Perhaps the readers didn’t really know about whom I was writing, or didn’t care to get clarification. 

This couple and their kids are very significant, though–many of the worriers and grumblers expressed anxiety about how few children A. has (had); one remarked to one of the other women in December that ‘at least’ the number of children seems ‘stable’.  They are anxious about the future.  We have no small children in our church here in Bristol either.  The same person who talked about ‘stability’ said this (the termination) is all God’s will and God’s timing.  Why couldn’t lack of children for a short time or any time also be God’s will?  They look for the guarantees and guarantors of the church’s future in what they can see, while talking about being ‘mature’ and professing waiting on God and His will.  That isn’t faith.  Still, my point can be taken: committed, lifelong members of this church left because of what the council did.  The council did it because they ‘couldn’t afford to lose any more people.  You don’t need Mr. Spock to tell you those things don’t quite fit.  The church could apparently afford to lose at least those 6.  25 April 2016.]

Below are my letters to the council; what I am looking for from them should be clear. To date, I have received no official reply from them. One person who did take the time to reply was one of their wives (!), who had read this letter (explicitly addressed to the council members) and replied to me before her husband had even seen it. One has to wonder about the application of this confidentiality defense/excuse…. my emails to her and another current parishioner can be found in the next exhibit.  What follows the letters to the council is an email to other A.ns, to fill them in on what I was writing to the council, and encourage them to ask questions themselves.  While I did get some sympathetic replies, no one would commit to pushing the 2015 council on this.  I can’t say I blame them, but I was hoping for more.  Accountability just isn’t enough of a priority, perhaps not only in this church, but also in the wider culture.  If the council gambled on no one taking up the challenge, well, they bet on the right horse.  The last text is a personal email to 13, one of so many to which I have received no reply.

 When the blog is complete, I will send a final missal to the council to let them know of its existence; this final letter I will append at the bottom of this exhibit.**
My first letter to the council:

29 December 2015

Dear Council Members of A. church;

I recently acquired a copy of the “Letter to the A. Congregation”, dated 17 December. I’ll assume that the fact it was not sent to me, though I am still a member at A., was an oversight. Since it was the formal communication from the council to the congregation concerning the Article 17a proceedings, I have two questions for you.

First, the official line on the reason for the termination of Pastor Templar seems, according to the letter, to be a difference between the “vision on the heart of the pastor for his ministry” and the “Council’s vision of what the congregation needed and hoped for”. Is a “difference of vision” a fire-able offence?

Second, even if it is, why was the pastor not simply asked to take the next six months to find another call? I think that is a very reasonable question, given the apparent cost of terminating him. I also assume (again, given the apparent cost of termination) that if this alternative had been explored or even considered, such would have been mentioned in the letter as one of the “courses of action” undertaken by the council to try to “avoid this outcome”.

I can be reached by email at ——-@gmail.com. International calls via Skype, for which I am happy to pay, can also be arranged. My postal address is printed below.

Yours in Christ,

ekklescake

PS. I would like to hear personally from a member of A.’s Council, and not from an outside party, with a reply to these questions.

PPS. I will be in touch in due course regarding my membership papers.

…United Kingdom

Follow-up letter, sent January 21:

Dear Council Members of A. Church:

It has been over three weeks now since I left my letter (dated 29 December) with you in the consistory room. I of course don’t know what your schedules have been like, and perhaps you have mailed something that has not yet arrived, but I thought it wise to check in via email.  I realize now that I should have been clearer about what I was looking for in terms of a reply from the council, and I now have an opportunity to clarify: I would like official, publishable answers to both of my questions, which have been deliberated over by the council, and sent via a spokesperson/writer on behalf of the council (this can be either the council of 2015 only, or those members in combination with the current consistory).

I will wait another week (until the evening of 28 January), and if I still have not heard anything, either formal acknowledgement of receipt, with the promise of follow-up, or written answers to my two questions, from the council in an official capacity, I will disseminate this and my initial letter to some still-attending members of A., with a request that they put the questions to you in my stead. I am more than certain I’m not the only one who would like answers to them, and it is only fair that a decision supposedly made on behalf, but without consultation, of an entire church be explained and justified (especially biblically) to members of that church. Any dedication to transparency would also dictate that justification (and perhaps a modicum of documentation) be readily available, indeed offered. Also, each one of you should be able to clearly articulate and explain that justification himself, by himself, as an independently thinking adult, and as a responsible, elected member of the church’s council.

I have both attached and copied below my initial letter for those of you who may not yet have it.

With all due respect,

ekklescake

 

Letter to 5 current attendees, sent 15 February 2016:

…a plea for help…
Dear Fellow A.ns,

You are receiving this email because you have either been touch with my family since my dad’s termination, have heard some of his side of the story, and/or have in the past demonstrated some commitment to integrity in the Church.

Just before the New Year, I wrote a letter to A.’s council(s) (of both 2015 & 2016), asking them two questions. Three weeks later, having heard nothing from either set of consistory members, I wrote a follow-up letter, clarifying what I asking from them. I also wrote a more personal and specific letter to 13, which I both emailed and posted to his office.

In this second letter, I asked that the council (particularly of 2015) send me some form of official communication within one week, either an answer to my questions, or some acknowledgement of my letter with a promise that they would follow up with me. I have heard nothing.  Both letters to the council I have attached to this email, and pasted below.  I may at a later stage forward what I wrote to Mr. 13.

Still, I have heard, directly and indirectly, from a few A.ns, with their perceptions of what happened, and it appears there is a lot of confusion. This makes me wonder what people have been told about what happened in the autumn and early winter. Very few have heard my dad’s take on events (the entire church has heard nothing from him since the last sermon he preached on October 25—having only heard announcements from the council, since he was barred from even attending services at A.). Indeed, some people whom I believed closest to our family, including members of the small group, for whatever reason have not called or emailed since the termination, even with the holidays and the move in January, just to check in on him and my sister.

At any rate, why am I writing to you? I told the council that if I didn’t hear from them in an official response by 28 January, I would contact other current members of A., copying them on my letters, and asking them to consider carrying on asking questions themselves. I of course cannot continue to to push for answers, as I’m so far away, and it’s very easy for them to ignore me.

All I want is some transparency and accountability from professing Christians in the church’s leadership. I don’t think Jesus disapproves of this—just wanting a biblical explanation.

If A. wants to go forward, her members need to know whether God was in this decision or not. If He wasn’t, it would be good to find out sooner rather than later, especially if it means regaining His blessing.
I’m asking you to please read my letters to the council, and prayerfully consider taking up the challenge of asking for the truth, and for clearly articulated justification from the council for their actions. If not as a favor to me, then please consider doing so for the good of the A., which was once my home church too.
I continue to pray for God’s best for this local body.
In Him,
ekklescake
PS. One other thing is worth pointing out at this juncture: one narrative I’ve heard from a couple of people is that the church visitors recommended the termination/firing to the council. This has not been acknowledged by the church visitors in their correspondences with me, or with others outside A. According to them, everything originates with the council, and the church visitors were simply there to “make sure everyone talked to each other”. If “releasing” my dad was so right and good, why should anyone be reluctant to take credit for it? Whose idea was it, and why did it happen so fast, without the whole of the congregation being consulted, as they were when he was first called to A.?  I find this strange.
 
Email to 13, also posted to his office, sent 21 January 2016:

Dear 13,

Due to some logistical difficulties, my follow-up email (sent just a few minutes ago) to the original letter to the council was distributed some days after I’d expected, and so my originally intended deadline of 20 January (after which I will disseminate my original letter and follow-up to certain current attendees at A.) will have to shift accordingly (I have now made it 28 January).

I do believe, however, that sufficient time has passed during which I should have received something “official” from the council, that is, a statement in response to my questions, which has been deliberated over, by at least the members of last year’s council, and perhaps also this year’s, in toto, approved, then sent to me via a representative. I will not be fobbed off; other people in A. were allegedly “carefully listened to”, and I think I can assert with some degree of certainty that I have as good a standing in A. as they do, and perhaps a better one in the church universal than some of them, given that I take God’s Word as it comes to me and not as I would edit it.

I would have expected something from you sooner than anyone else. I have heard that you appear particularly pleased with the outcome of the past several months’ events, and more than willing to talk about it. That may or may not be true—I have not been in church or in council meetings, so I don’t know. You now have the opportunity to set the record straight.

I do know (I heard it for myself, live over Skype) with what great enthusiasm you repeatedly brought up the concept of “journeys” at the congregational meeting in November. Furthermore, you have been described as the only one with the “courage to speak” and/or “do something”, both by 14, during our lunch in October, and by the church visitors in official communication to me and to the classis. Given this, and your emphatic reading of Phil. 4:8 (surely this termination must have been exemplary Christian nobility), you should be the first among 2015’s council to stand up and defend its actions. Certainly the first among 2015’s elders, since at the same congregational meeting, 11 sounded far from convinced that this was the right course, and 12 could hardly keep from weeping while giving the closing prayer. The oft-purported unanimous conviction with which this decision was made, and henceforth approved of, did not then seem obvious to me, nor has it since.

So, I’m giving you the opportunity to explain the council and yourself, answering the two questions in my first letter. This seems only right, for the reasons given in my follow-up email (as a former prosecutor you understand the importance of transparency and justice), and again, given how enthusiastic you seemed at the congregational meeting, and the fact that multiple parties have given you the “credit” for pushing this forward. This is also in spite of the fact that at least one person still attending A. seems to be under the impression, apparently after talking with you, that in fact it is the classis (and perhaps even the church visitors, which they may be surprised to hear) who are to blame for this. I guess this is also an opportunity to confirm or deny that bit of hearsay as well.

I ask that you please be as prompt in your reply as possible. This is something which I am understandably concerned about, as you have not hitherto answered my communications, though I have tried to confirm your email address with 14, and have sent messages from both my personal and university emails, in an attempt to ensure they would not get sent into your spam folder. Surely something must have gone through to your inbox.

ekkles
**Final letter to council (notification about blog), sent on 3 June.   The original full version follows below.

3 June 2016

This note is primarily for the council members of A. serving in 2015, but ought to be shared with the current council as well, for their own information. This is a shortened version of the original letter I wrote; the rest of it can be found on the website cited below.

Dear A. Council of 2015:

I received no official reply from you, to either of my communications from late December and January.  I also received no reply from my personal note to 13. Instead, the wife of one of the council members wrote a response to my second email (which I sent 21 January; of course, it was clearly addressed to the council) before her husband had even read it, which I found both strange and inappropriate.

Regardless of whether the council wanted to interact with my questions, it would have at least been courteous to acknowledge receipt of the letters. The fact that I didn’t even get that makes me look a bit askance at A. leadership’s standard of Christian conduct, and the ‘honesty and integrity’ alleged in the December letter to the congregation–though perhaps I’ll have to give you a pass on that, since I know you didn’t write it.

At any rate, this is to make you aware of the publishing of my new blog, which can be found at

https://veritaspraebita.wordpress.com/

This blog is dedicated to the documenting the unfolding of events at A. last year. It contains as much material as I could acquire, and as could be published, given the permission granted from various parties, and given the official documents that are a matter of public record.

I will be publicizing this blog to other members at A., and, Lord willing, to members of the Christian media. I just wanted you to be made aware of its existence first, as that only seems polite.

ekklescake

PS—the blog is my work and mine alone; all included documents are either public, written by authors sufficiently anonymous or distant from A., or published with permission.

PPS—I will be officially notifying other members of A. of the blog with a mailing postmarked June 8, five days from the posting of this letter. The 8th of June is six months to the day since the special meeting of Classis.

Original full version:

This note is primarily for the council members of A. serving in 2015, but ought to be shared with the current council as well, for their own information. This is a shortened version of the original letter I wrote; the rest of it can be found on the website cited below.

Dear A. Council of 2015:

I received no official reply from you, to either of my communications from late December and January.  I also received no reply from my personal note to 13. Instead, the wife of one of the council members wrote a response to my second email (which I sent 21 January; of course, it was clearly addressed to the council) before her husband had even read it, which I found both strange and inappropriate.

I did in fact get in touch with other members, as I said I would in my second letter, but if you were betting on no one challenging you, you put money on the right horse. Some whom I contacted are not happy with what happened, but don’t know what to do about it, and for different reasons couldn’t commit to investigating the situation. One thing is certain—there are still discerning people in the congregation, but ‘what’s done is done’, as they say, and they are powerless to hold anyone accountable, or to go about uncovering the truth.

I have heard from one current member that it was claimed that if my father wasn’t fired, 60% of the congregation were going to leave. I am reluctant to believe this rather large number is accurate (I wonder, do people talk about those who left because of the step the council did take, rather than the one they didn’t? What does it mean that some people were kept ‘happy’ by a move that other people thought was evil?).

If the number is accurate, however, some questions must be asked: what happened to people’s hearts? What sort of church is A. now? The kind of coldness I’ve met with from some supposed brothers and sisters at A. since last Fall is staggering. There are three possibilities: either I’m delusional, and every experience I had with many of that 60% (or those whom I’ve been led to believe were in the contingent, especially those involved in my wedding and in the small group) was a hallucination; or, people were fake, and what I thought was sincere Christian affection and fellowship was all superficial and a matter of the moment; or people have changed. How and why? Just a thought.

Regardless of whether the council wanted to interact with my questions, it would have at least been courteous to acknowledge receipt of the letters. The fact that I didn’t even get that makes me look a bit askance at A. leadership’s standard of Christian conduct, and the ‘honesty and integrity’ alleged in the December letter to the congregation–though perhaps I’ll have to give you a pass on that, since I know you didn’t write it.

At any rate, this is to make you aware of the publishing of my new blog, which can be found at

https://veritaspraebita.wordpress.com/

This blog is dedicated to the documenting the unfolding of events at A. last year. It contains as much material as I could acquire, and as could be published, given the permission granted from various parties, and given the official documents that are a matter of public record.

I will be publicizing this blog to other members at A., and, Lord willing, to members of the Christian media. I just wanted you to be made aware of its existence first, as that only seems polite.

ekklescake

PS—the blog is my work and mine alone; all included documents are either public, written by authors sufficiently anonymous or distant from A., or published with permission.

PPS—I will be officially notifying other members of A. of the blog with a mailing postmarked June 8, five days from the posting of this letter. The 8th of June is six months to the day since the special meeting of Classis.

<—Exhibit U.                                                                    Exhibit W.—>
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