Exhibit T. Special Meeting of Classis, Nov./Dec. 2015.

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

‘The one who states his case first seems right,
    until the other comes and examines him.   –Prov. 18:17

‘”Evil does seek to maintain power by suppressing the truth.
Or by misleading the innocent.“‘   –‘And the Children Shall Lead,’ Star Trek: TOS

 Firstly, the reader is directed to Exhibit A. for comments and a timeline generated closer to the time at which this happened, and Exhibits J. and P., for documents my father submitted to Classis for the titular meeting, which took place on 8 December.

What followed the announcement of Pastor Templar’s termination at the congregational meeting on 10 November was chaos.

In this denomination, a request for an Article 17a separation between church and pastor must be reviewed and approved by Classis, the local/regional level of church government, who also review terms for a severance package, health insurance, and in this case, the vacating of the parsonage by the pastor and his family.

My father wrote a letter to 21 (mentioned elsewhere) the week he was handed his walking papers, describing at length how 21 had offended him in his handling of PT and the situation, how 21 had betrayed his confidence, how he believed he had not come into the situation as impartial (he noted to 21 that he’d heard from a fellow minister that, months before 21 was appointed as a CV to A., that 21 was telling at least this minister that PT was going to ‘have to make some changes’!).  PT never got a reply to this letter.  Instead, the communications from 21 which followed seemed to have been written in an alternate timeline in which PT’s letter did not exist.  These communications were concerned primarily with the scheduling of the ‘Special Meeting of Classis’, which was to be convened to review the ‘council’s’ Article 17, and, it turned out, the closing of a struggling church elsewhere in the Classis.[For those of you unfamiliar with the process, a quorum of representatives from the highest level (Synod) in the denomination must be present for such a meeting.  They are called Synodical deputies.]

What is offered immediately below are emails between PT and another pastor in the Classis who was handling the admin for the scheduling of the meeting, whom we shall dub ‘WVW’.  He also held an administrative position on one of the Classis committees, but we won’t include the title in the interest of doing the most to preserve anonymity.  This pastor is no longer in the same Classis, and so it seems safe to include his correspondence here.

What is most important about the scheduling of this meeting are:

a. ‘people’, whoever it was who was responsible for setting up the meeting, wanted it to happen ASAP (see again Exhibit A.)  When certain pastors were asked why ‘people’ seemed to be in such a hurry, the reply was, ‘There isn’t a hurry.  Classis wants to be seen to be handling the concerns of a church council in a timely manner’.  And yet, the evidence does not bear out this claim.  See, for example, the 21 November email from Simon to WVW.

b. fellow pastors with official responsibilities in this situation were passing around PT’s emails without permission.  When called on it, there seems to be no awareness that this was inappropriate, and certainly there was no apology.

An introductory message (to a counselor from my father), sent 4 April 2016, just a few weeks ago (the correspondences described in the message are from the time of the debacle; I felt it pertinent to include this recent email because it shows how the ‘little’ actions of the past still affect the present):

“Hello again, Sir.  It’s after 1 AM, Monday morning (Sunday night!), and I’m about to call it a day.
Before I turn off the computer, I wanted to send you some e-mail correspondence between a member of the [classical committee x] and me.  The names have been changed to protect the guilty (apologies to Jack Webb!).  The issue concerns the scheduling of the Classis Meeting which was convened to discuss my separation from A.; several related matters were also discussed.  Please take note of the dates, and understand that I was trying to get information pertaining to a meeting scheduled less than two weeks after my dismissal, and one week after A.’s Congregational meeting, where my dismissal was announced!
Another set of correspondence will follow– I’ll send it out tomorrow.
Take care,
Simon Templar”

 

The author would like also to publish an email exchange between PT & 21 of which she is aware,  but permission to do so may be difficult to obtain.  Instead, the contents will have to be summarized, with some excerpts included.   We feel it is not wrong to include the email exchange immediately below, as it is clear from the 16 November email from WVW to PT, that PT’s interlocutor (another pastor) was not particularly concerned with confidentiality (again, 42 observed that after a certain point, observance of confidentiality could no longer be expected from anybody).  We may also, further below, introduce one of the secretaries for Classis, whom we will call Dwight, and who also is mentioned in the correspondence below.  While emails between PT & 21 are not printed here, much of their content can be inferred from the mention of them in the correspondence between PT & WVW, which is prefaced by two emails which were sent out to the whole classis:

Email Exchange, 5-21 November

NB: the spelling, grammar and mechanics have not been altered in any way.  The formatting, font & colour have been adjusted either to make the distinction between authors clear or to represent PT’s highlighted passages in forwarding the exchange to Sir.

On Thursday, Nov 5, 2015, at 9:58 AM, WVW writes:

The [classical committee x] has deemed it necessary to call a special classis meeting for November 18 at 6:30 PM location to be determined if either V—- Church or P— Church could host let us know.

I am aware that this is short notice but the matter has been brewing for some time and has been dealt with well by church visitors.

WVW

On Monday, Nov 9, 2015 at 09:40:AM, WVW writes:

To all,

Due to conflicts for many of the pastors involved it has been deemed necessary to change the date of the Special Classis meeting.

We still need to act on this as soon as possible so it has been decided to change the date to Monday Nov 23 again at 6:30 PM at P—– Church.

Di— respond if we need to find a different location.

Please respond to Dwight concerning your availability.

Dwight sorry to complicate the process of finding synodical deputies.

If you are back from your trip Da—- this would once again place you as chair of the meeting.

The special meeting is necessary to address A. and Simon Templar concerning their ministry.

WVW [classical committee x] Chair (short term)

On Thursday, Nov 12, 2015 at 7:49 AM, Simon Templar writes:

TO: WVW

FROM: Simon Templar

Hi, WVW. I received your note sent Monday morning, Nov 9, on Wednesday afternoon.

I had not received your communication from Thursday morning, November 5; did you send an e-mail to me that got lost?

I need to know a couple of things.

First, am I expected or allowed to be at the “Special Classis meeting” planned for November 23?

Second, in the event that I desire to be present but am unable to attend on November 23 (Thanksgiving week!), at what date in December could the meeting be rescheduled?

I’ll wait to hear from you.

Thank you.

Simon Templar A. Church

On Thursday, Nov 12, 2015 at 11:20 AM, WVW writes:

Simon,

You are allowed to attend this meeting, you are not compelled to be there.

The meeting will not be extended to a later date it is time to conclude this matter.

WVW

On Thursday, Nov 12, 2015 at 12:04 PM, Simon Templar writes:

Hello, again, WVW.

Thank you for responding.

I am curious, since I am so directly involved in this situation, why was I not asked about my availability for this meeting?

I am also left wondering, is there some deadline we’re trying to meet? Please do not misunderstand– I am not in favor of dragging this out until June. However, the phrase, “it is time to conclude this matter,” puzzles me. Are there some parameters with respect to time that the Classis is expected to honor? Or is there some standard protocol or procedure? I guess I’m just interested in the basis of the decision not to have the meeting in December, after the Thanksgiving week.

By the way, I noticed in your reply that you didn’t make reference to my question about your communication of November 5. Did you send this e-mail to me?

We’ll be in touch.

Simon Templar A. Church

On Thursday, Nov 12, 2015 at 12:25 PM, WVW writes:

Yes I did

On Friday, Nov 13, 2015 at 4:12 PM, Simon Templar writes:

Hi, again, WVW. Happy Friday! I’m sure you’re busy getting ready for Sunday, but I’m still in the dark about a couple of questions from my e-mail below.

As I noted, I am directly involved in this situation, and have a considerable stake in how this all goes forward. Wouldn’t it make sense to ascertain whether I desire to be at the meeting, and what my availability is?

I realize that we do not handle Article 17 cases on a weekly basis, so probably a lot of us are unfamiliar with some of the procedures. In light of these circumstances, where would you recommend I go to get more information on these matters? I am willing to do some investigation.

In the meantime, I’m assuming you must have awareness of some information that I don’t have. In your e-mail dated November 9, you wrote, “We still need to act on this as soon as possible.” As I asked in the note I sent to you Thursday, is there some deadline we’re trying to meet? Why does action need to be taken “as soon as possible?” What parameters (if any), with respect to time, is Classis expected to honor? And, who determines the date of the meeting?

Please realize, WVW, I honestly don’t expect the date of the meeting to be scheduled at my convenience. But to set the date without even asking me what would work in my schedule or how much time I need to prepare seems to suggest that I have little or no role in the proceedings.

Finally, I noticed that you provided an assessment of the work of the Church Visitors to the Classis ministers. May I ask, in what sense has this matter “been dealt with well by church visitors.”?

Did the Church Visitors report to you on their visits and tell you personally how well they dealt with the matter? Or did someone from the Council of A. Church communicate a favorable report?

I’ll wait to hear from you.

Thank you.

Simon Templar

A. Church

PS: Is there some reason why B—- or M— of the S— C— Team would need to be apprised of these deliberations?

On Friday, Nov 13, 2015 at 4:27 PM, Simon Templar writes:

Hello again, WVW!  I forgot to ask you– do you have the names of the Synodical Deputies?

 Or should I check with Dwight?  Or go online?

 Thanks again! Simon T.

On Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 5:32 PM, Simon Templar writes:

Good Sunday afternoon, WVW.

 I’m just checking in to see if you received the e-mail I sent Friday afternoon (see below). 

 I’m assuming you’ve had a busy day with two services and all, so I understand if you are unable to get to my questions until Monday.

 Incidentally, on Saturday morning, I received a note of apology from 21 for not including me in the “scheduling process for the special classis meeting” because “this is your life and ministry.”

 Does this mean that 21 was responsible for scheduling the meeting?

 Whatever the case, even though I appreciated his apology, it did seem strange to read his expression of regret.  I say that because I have not communicated my concerns about the meeting and my stake in all this to 21.  His acknowledgement of my position seems to have come out of left field!  Have you forwarded my e-mails to 21?

 Well, that’s all for now!  I’ll wait to hear from you.

 Thanks, W.

Simon Templar

A. Church

On Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 7:34 PM, WVW writes:

Simon,
I have received your email and it is now out of my hands to deal with this. I have to get finished packing and on my way to H—- [in another state]. I understand your concern but we sent a team in to work with you and with your council. This team reported on their work and advised the [classical committee x] and recommended classis take up at this point. That is the why of special meeting. I have to rely on work of church visitors and they will report to classis. So they are your best source to stay in contact with and it might be wise to heed their advice. You can also contact either N—- or C—- at  [denominational department]. That is the best I can do because as of now I am no longer a member of Classis N——–.

Thanks
WVW

On Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 11:42 PM, Simon Templar writes:

TO:   WVW

FROM:  Rev. Simon Templar

RE:  Questions Related to Special Classis Meeting

THE FOLLOWING IS PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL AND MAY NOT BE SHARED WITHOUT MY PERMISSION

Good Sunday Evening, WVW.

Because you’re busy packing, I’ll try to make this as brief as possible. I am not asking you to “deal with this.” I would like answers to some questions I raised in previous e-mails, and I’m wondering why you won’t supply them. You don’t have to be a member of Classis N——- or part of the church visiting team to answer questions about which you have personal knowledge.

So, if you would please, let me know the answers to the following questions:

1. Your two statements “We still need to act on this as soon as possible” and “it is time to conclude this matter,” suggest there is some deadline that Classis must meet. Why does action need to be taken “as soon as possible?”

2. In your assessment of the work of the Church Visitors to the Classis ministers, you noted that this matter has “been dealt with well by church visitors.” In what sense has this matter “been dealt with well by church visitors,” and on what did you base your assessment?

3. Is there some reason why B—– or M—- of the Safe Church Team would need to be apprised of these deliberations?

4. Was 21 responsible for scheduling the meeting, and if not 21, who is responsible for setting the date of the meeting?

5. Have you forwarded my e-mails to 21?

I would appreciate an answer to these questions “as soon as possible,” to coin a phrase!

Thanks in advance, WVW.

Simon Templar

A. Church

On Monday, Nov 16, 2015 at 11:04 AM, WVW writes:

1. You know why this has to happen.
2. Yes they report as to the steps they think necessary.
3. That was due to missing the fact that they were on the mailing. I sent a further email B—- telling them to ignore.
4. He was consulted and had a hand in it.
5. Some not all.

On Monday, Nov 16, 2015 at 3:54 PM, Simon Templar writes:

THE FOLLOWING IS PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL AND MAY NOT BE SHARED WITHOUT MY PERMISSION

Once again, WVW, I say hello. The following letter to you is, admittedly, a bit pedantic, but I hope my point will become clear as you read through this.

I gather from the tone of your last e-mail (there was no greeting, no signature, and the statements seemed somewhat curt) that you were put off by the communication which I sent Sunday evening.

I urge you to put yourself in my position and try to be “empathic.” Until the note I drafted and sent last night, I believe I was fairly cordial in my correspondence with you. Admittedly, I felt I had to be more direct with my last e-mail. If you will take the time to review our correspondence since Thursday, November 12, you will notice the following:

1. I asked three times why it was necessary for the Special Classis meeting to be convened “as soon as possible,” and whether there was some deadline that had to be met.

2. I asked twice if it wouldn’t make sense to determine my availability for the meeting.

3. I asked twice about your personal assessment of the work of the Church Visitors.

I also asked several other questions in my previous e-mails which were neither answered nor acknowledged. It was not until the e-mail you sent this morning, November 16, that you finally responded to some of my questions. To put it bluntly, these delays, along with the fact that I asked for this information more than once, leaves me feeling stonewalled. Am I “on the outs” for some reason?

And even after you supplied some answers to the short list of questions in my Sunday night e-mail, I’m left wondering.

For example, my first question: Based on your own statements, it appears as though there is some deadline that Classis must meet. My question is this: Why does action need to be taken “as soon as possible?”

Your response, “You know why this has to happen” does not answer the question. Obviously, a special meeting of Classis must be convened to deal with an Article 17. My question was and still is, why the rush? Why the push to have it on November 18, and then November 23? Is someone’s carriage going to turn into a pumpkin? (By the way, that question is rhetorcial!)

Secondly, question number two is very significant to me. As I stated, you made an assessment of the work of the Church Visitors, noting that this matter has “been dealt with well by church visitors.” My question was really a two-parter:

A. In what sense has this matter “been dealt with well by church visitors;”

B. On what did you base your assessment?

Your reply, “2. Yes they report as to the steps they think necessary” doesn’t really get at the first part of the question. The simple fact that they report “steps they think necessary,” does not mean the matter has been dealt with well. I’m assuming that the basis of your assessment is the report of the Church Visitors themselves!

In essence, you have told all the Classis Ministers, along with B—- and M—-, that this matter, which “has been brewing a long time” (!), has been dealt with well by the Church Visitors, simply because they told you how well they handled it!

[author’s note: is this like a restaurant reviewing itself on Tripadvisor? 20 April 2016]

Let me assure you, I take STRONG exception to your assessment. I have solid grounds for asserting that the Church Visitors did not deal with this situation well at all! More to the point, you did not have enough information about what has happened hundreds of miles from R—– [WVW’s church, before he moved to H—-] to inform the Classis of how well the Church Visitors handled matters!

So, one more time: HOW has this matter “been dealt with well by church visitors”?

Finally, I wanted to know if 21 was responsible for scheduling the meeting, and if not 21, who is responsible for setting the date of the meeting? You answered, “He was consulted and had a hand in it.” Notice, your reply only gets at the first part of the question. I understand from your answer that 21’s opinion was solicited, and that he provided some input.

But, what about the second part of the question? Who is responsible for setting the date of the meeting? Evidently, it was not 21, as he was merely “consulted.” So, one more time: Who consulted 21, received his input, and based on 21’s “hand in it,” would make the decision regarding the date of the meeting?

Once again, thank you for any information you can provide.

Simon Templar

A. Church

On Tuesday, Nov 17, 2015 at 2:40 PM, Simon Templar writes:

Hello, WVW.

I’m just wondering if you received the letter below which I sent out at about 4 o’clock yesterday (Monday).

If you could bounce me back a reply that you got this, I’d appreciate it.

Simon T.

A. Church

On Tuesday, Nov 17, 2015 at 7:14 PM, WVW writes:

Just got back on the web. And I haven’t had time read it yet as I drove all day.

WVW

On Saturday, Nov 21, 2015 at 1:00 AM, Simon Templar writes:

THE FOLLOWING IS PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL AND MAY NOT BE SHARED WITHOUT MY PERMISSION

Good Friday evening, WVW. I trust your trip to Minnesota went well. If you recall, I sent a follow up e-mail to you on Tuesday, November 17, which you responded to that evening {Just got back on the web. And I haven’t had time read it yet as I drove all day.  WVW}.

Thursday, I left a message on the answering machine of the church in H—–. Did you get my message?

I am still seeking answers to the questions I asked in the e-mail sent on Monday afternoon, November 16. I include it here for your review.

You should know that the “Special Classis meeting” has been postponed to the week of December 6.

Now, permit me to set forth my questions again:

1. Why was it necessary for the Special Classis meeting to be convened “as soon as possible,” and was there some deadline that had to be met?

2. A. In what sense has this matter “been dealt with well by church visitors?”

    B. On what did you base your assessment?

3. Who is/was responsible for setting the date of the meeting? Who came up with November 18 and November 23?

4. How many of my e-mails did you share with 21, and why?

Thank you, WVW, for your prompt attention to this request.

Best Regards,

Simon Templar

On Saturday, Nov 21, 2015 at 7:25 PM, WVW writes:

Simon, Sorry, for being so short with you in earlier e-mails I was trying to get everything tidied up at R—— and be ready to move as well.

To your first question, it seems that working through art 17 that getting the matter moving keeping pace works best for getting resolution for both parties.

2. I based that assessment on the reports I received from the church visitors.

3. The [classical committee x]

4. Two because he was the church visitor working with you and A. Church.

I hope this answers you questions,
WVW

On Saturday, Nov 21, 2015 at 8:30 PM, Simon Templar writes:

Hello, WVW. Thank you for your reply.

I am glad to know you have the self-awareness to realize that you were short with me in earlier e-mails.

As of Friday, November 20, the “Special Meeting” has been postponed to December 8th. This will be nearly three weeks after the original target date of November 18, which was barely a week after the Congregational meeting when A. Church was informed of my “release.”

I must point out the folly of being in such a hurry to schedule this meeting. It was hasty and unwise for two reasons:

1. As I have indicated previously, no one consulted me, the person with the most at stake in this, as to my availability or the time I would need to prepare.

2. In a recent telephone call with the Clerk of Classis, Dwight informed me that no one in our Classis had handled an Article 17 like this before, and therefore, didn’t know what to do. I believe the following is an accurate quote: “We’re just learning as we go along.” My, those are comforting words when one is on the receiving end of having his career destroyed by a lawless elder and complicit Church Visitors!

At any rate, the answer you provided to my first question still doesn’t make sense in light of what’s transpired. I will quote you: “{I}t seems that working through art 17 that getting the matter moving keeping pace works best for getting resolution for both parties.”

I have to wonder, where did you get that perspective? Is there some denominational literature that discusses procedural matters like Article 17 which is the ground for your assumption (“getting the matter moving keeping pace works best”)? Or is this just someone’s opinion, and if so, based on what? I have just learned that the Classis has little or no experience in these matters, so why would the [classical committee x] assume that “getting the matter moving keeping pace works best”?

Furthermore, your initial e-mails and responses to me indicate a greater urgency to convene the “Special Meeting” than your answer above. For example, in your communication of November 9, you wrote, “We still need to act on this as soon as possible.” And when I indicated my desire to have the meeting scheduled at a later date, you wrote:

The meeting will not be extended to a later date it is time to conclude this matter.” {emphasis mine}

Really? That kind of dogmatic response appears to be at odds with your less definite answer quoted above! It is also inconsistent with the phrase, “works best for getting resolution for both parties.” As I noted previously, I did, indeed, indicate my preference for the meeting to be scheduled in December. If you really wanted to do what “works best for getting resolution for both parties,” you would have at least consulted me, or, upon learning of my need, tried to accommodate my request. You didn’t even consider my situation!

And as I informed you in a previous e-mail, 21 apologized to me for not including me in the “scheduling process for the special classis meeting” because “this is your life and ministry.” Interesting, isn’t it! Both 21 and the [classical committee x] erred in not including me in the process, and they compounded their error by ignoring my request to convene the meeting at a later date!

And all this goes on while the Clerk of Classis can’t get a Synodical Deputy for the meeting of the 23rd to save his soul, if you’ll pardon the expression! He actually reached into [neighboring states of the Union] to get Synodical Deputies!

At this point, I will summarize:

1. In your November 9 e-mail, you wrote: We still need to act on this as soon as possible

2. In your November 12 e-mail, you wrote: The meeting will not be extended to a later date it is time to conclude this matter.

3. In your answer to my question from the November 15 e-mail, “Why does action need to be taken ‘as soon as possible’ ”?, you responded as follows: You know why this has to happen.

4. More than once, I asked if there was a deadline Classis had to meet, or time perameters Classis had to follow, with respect to the meeting. You never gave me a direct answer concerning a deadline.

5. The Clerk of Classis felt so obligated to convene this meeting that he contacted Synodical Deputies in [neighboring states of the Union].

In light of these facts, I find it difficult to believe, as 21 communicated to me Thursday, that “There was no particular pressure in the scheduling of the meeting.” If there was no particular pressure or urgency, why was there resistance to setting the date in December?

Just a couple more things, then I’ll close. You have probably detected that I am less than satisfied with how the Church Visitors handled our situation. In fact, I take strong exception to your assessment that the matter has been “dealt with well” by the Church Visitors.

The reason I have pressed this point, WVW, is to raise the issue of your weighing in with an evaluation or opinion of our situation. You simply do not have sufficient data to make an informed judgment on the performance of the Visitors, or the length of time we have had “problems” at A..

Thus, your comment “the matter has been brewing for some time” is also questionable. Whether you meant to or not, your uninformed comments have formed a perception in the minds of the delegates. I will say it again– reports received from the Church Visitors are not an adequate basis for declaring how well they did their work.

With regard to question 3: Thank you for letting me know who is responsible for scheduling the meeting. You said the [classical committee x], but in an earlier communication, you noted that 21 “had a hand in it.” Was it a group decision to attempt meeting on the 18th or 23rd, or was it the preference of 21?

Finally, pertaining to the matter of forwarding my e-mails to 21. Why did you need to include him in our interaction? Surely, you were able to answer my questions without his input. (Such as, why the pressure to convene the meeting ASAP, who is responsible for setting the date of the meeting, what is the basis for your assessment of the Church Visitors, why was I not consulted).

So, what was the purpose of sending my e-mails to him? Are you planning to forward the reports of the Church Visitors to me? I would be interested in seeing them for myself.

I will sign off as I did last time, asking for your prompt attention to the questions in this letter.

Cordially,

Simon Templar

To date, Pastor T. has had no reply from WVW.

Next, I include an email, the introductory letter PT  wrote, just a few weeks ago, to the above-mentioned counselor before sending the correspondence for his information (with names changed).  At some point in the future I may be able to post what PT mentions at the close of this email.

PT on the Role and Comportment of 21.

This was sent 5 April 2016 (again, while this email is recent, it is a helpful summary written to someone who ‘wasn’t’ there):

Hello again, Sir. I am attaching an exchange of e-mails between one of the Church Visitors, who was appointed by the Clerk of Classis in early September, 2015, to assist the Council of A. Church.  The recommendation to involve Church Visitors came from 54, who had compiled the results of interviews between three elder/deacon teams and various attendees of A. Church. The purpose of these house visits was to get the “pulse” of the church. 54 reported that there were “longstanding issues” between the pastor and some of the members which needed to be addressed. The Council followed 54’s advice to enlist the support of Church Visitors for guidance.

Several days later, the Clerk of Classis appointed 22 of L—- Church and 21 of H— Church as Church Visitors. Rev. 21 met with me to give an overview of their role as Church Visitors, and to get some feedback about my perspective. He also wanted to inform me that the Council had the power to get rid of me if they wanted to, regardless of my conduct. He emphasized that it didn’t matter who was right or wrong, good or bad, if they wanted to fire me, they had the authority to do so!

I mention this because I didn’t think we were that far “down the road,” and I was not aware that our task was to deal with me! In retrospect, it is clear that Rev. 21 had been discussing issues pertaining to our church at length, prior to meeting with me.

At some point, I may need to describe in greater detail the conduct of the Church Visitors. For now, it will suffice to point out that:

1. Rev. 21 sent a letter to the Council, including me, describing their role. He emphasized that they were joining us strictly in an advisory capacity. He all but stressed that the Church Visitors were only with us to observe, and to make sure we met!

2. It seemed to me that the Church Visitors, especially Rev. 21, took the side of the Council. The way it was handled from the outset, the way the meetings and correspondence were structured, it became Pastor vs Council! Or, Council vs Pastor! Consequently, I felt like I had no advocate– it was 8 against 1! (6 Council members plus 2 Visitors = 8!)

3. The Church Visitors did not know what their roles were, did not have a clear plan for how to address our issues, and lacked the necessary background and objectivity to properly assess the alleged “problems” at A. For example:

A. Neither of the ministers pastors small churches or have day-to-day familiarity with small church dynamics.

B. One of the Church Visitors comes from the [different denomination], and has only been affiliated with our denomination for two years.

C. One of the Church Visitors is FAR too familiar with the community and the congregation at A. Not only has he pastored in this area for 18 years, he served on a committee of Classis ——- with the influential member of the A. Council […]. Rev. 21 discussed our church’s situation with this elder at length in the months prior to his appointment as Church Visitor. In fact, another minister had told me in June that Rev. 21 was aware of problems at A. Church, and quoted him as saying, “Simon better make some changes, or he won’t be there much longer.” Again, this was three months before being appointed as Church Visitor. It seems clear that Rev. 21 lacked objectivity, and should have recused himself.

D. In early October, 2015, the denomination hosted a seminar in [city of denominational headquarters] for Regional Pastors. At this seminar, denominational officials candidly acknowledged that there must be guidelines and training for Church Visitors, because they don’t know what their roles are, and they don’t know what they’re doing! I am not making this up!

Prior to the Classis meeting of December 8, I wrote a response to the Article 17, which included an introductory statement, and an addendum. In this document, I described some of the interplay between the Church Visitors, the Council, and me. This document is included in the long attachment which I e-mailed a few days ago. I won’t restate those details here, but I do want to note that only 7 weeks had passed from the time the Church Visitors became involved until I was fired. We only met ONE TIME as a group, for about 15 minutes. The rest of the meetings were convened without my presence.

Additionally, I was suspended for three Sundays on October 27. The following Sunday, November 1, my suspension was announced in the AM service (I was not present), and the following Thursday, I was terminated. It all happened very fast, and caught me by surprise, because so much was happening behind my back!

Well, with that as background information, I invite you to read the e-mail exchanges between 21 and me. Note, between Sunday, November 1, and Thursday, November 5, 21 received a letter from 42, a letter from my older daughter, ekkles, and a lengthy letter from me, all of which urged the Church Visitors to look more deeply into the situation at A.

The way this all unfolded, and the shift in Rev. 21’s tone towards me is interesting. I will send what he wrote about me to Classis in a couple days. It is in marked contrast to some of the e-mails in the attached!

Please begin with the 21 e-mail exchange, then the letter to 21, then the “response”, the audio file, and finally, the transcript.

Thank you for your patience, Sir. I hope this makes sense.

Talk to you soon,

Simon T.

Intellectual Sloth & Lack of Professionalism

My curiosity is piqued by the seeming inability of several pastors, whose job mostly consists of praying, reading, writing, and speaking, to read carefully, especially texts [i.e. emails] that are longer than a few sentences.  Several exchanges my dad had with fellow ministers boggle the brain–why can’t people answer simple, straightforward questions?  Why can’t they understand why inability or refusal to answer questions (especially from a brother whose career is on the line) would bother the one asking the questions?

Certainly these pastors didn’t ask to be dealt into this poker game, but they are nevertheless obliged to do their Christian duty by seeking truth and justice, and of course are always bound to treat their fellow believers with compassion.  What did it mean that they couldn’t be bothered to read, to inform themselves before taking action (namely their deliberations and decision-making on 8 December).  Was this really an issue of people not having enough time to read an email properly, or are people just lazy?  You’ll notice above, reader, that PT points out to WVW repeatedly that W didn’t interact with all of his questions, answered only some of them, or answered them inadequately/incompletely.  It shouldn’t be necessary to call a pastor out on this more than once–again, reading and understanding, then explaining the written word is WHAT THEY DO FOR A LIVING!

Aside from not reading carefully, there was a certain lack of diligence in even responding to PT’s messages in a timely way, if some received replies at all.  There was a string of them sent over several days to one pastor which were ignored.  When an email finally elicited a reply, the pastor had obviously (again) not read carefully–the content of his email did not correspond to PT’s.  See Email 2 from Dwight below.

Timeline and Confusion

In the end, the meeting was not scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving.  The right people, or enough of them, were not available.  We mention again here that Pastor T. was pretty much the last person to get confirmation that it would not happen on 23 November–an elder from A. was everything but certain, by 19 November, that it would be pushed back to December, and told Pastor T. so on the phone.  21 kept telling PT up to and through part of the weekend before the 23rd that it could still happen.  Was he purposely trying to keep PT on tenterhooks?  Why?  And if 21 didn’t know, but the elder did, and so did a parishioner who had already left A. over the scandal, how do we account for this administrative fumble?

Anyway.  Instead, it was set for the first full week of December, which was still not much time for PT to prepare to counter, in whatever way he could, what had been written and said about him.

Different people suggested different approaches to challenging the Article 17 (some of which are described in his document to the Classis in Exhibit P.).  In the end he took the tack there posted.  42, meanwhile, had agreed to the inclusion of his rebuttal to the A-17 in the group of documents distributed to Classis; he asked 21 to distribute it.  21 promised he would do so, whether via email, or by presenting all or some of it to the Classis at the meeting (by reading it aloud?).  This was 16 November.  One week later, he still had not sent it, and 42 was anxious for it to be shared with Dwight, and the delegates to Classis as soon as possible.  He agreed to its distribution by Dwight in a conversation with PT.  PT passed this on to Dwight in a phone conversation on Monday 30 November (we believe), when he also learned that 21 had not even sent it yet to Dwight (after 2 weeks!), and PT thought it was clear to and understood by Dwight that he should send out 42’s documentation immediately.  5 days later, this still had not been done.  When 42 and/or PT contacted Dwight to ask why the rebuttal had not been sent, Dwight said that he hadn’t had 42’s direct permission to do so, in writing or otherwise!  Why PT had to elicit this piece of information, after thinking that it was settled, is strange–if Dwight discussed it with PT but thought he still needed to get permission from 42, why had he not, during the intervening week, contacted 42 to get it?   At any rate, a mere 3 days (early morning, 5 December 2015) before the special meeting (8 December), Dwight sent out a whopping collection of documents to the classis delegates.  I use the term ‘days’ loosely; since many of the delegates were pastors, the vast majority of them would not have been able to start reading all the documentation until Monday the 7th.  This included 42’s rebuttal, which was supposed to have been almost a week before.  PT shared these electronic proceedings with some of his confidantes:

5 December 2015:

“The attached is a stunner.  You may want to pray before you read.
Thanks.
Pastor T/ Dad/ Simon/ Big Brother
Good morning, one and all.  It’s hard to believe, but [Dwight] finally sent out the documents for the TUESDAY Classis meeting early this morning, in two separate e-mails.  These e-mails included a rebuttal to the Request for Article 17, which was written by 42, a lifelong member of A. Church and former elder.
The Rebuttal was sent to Church Visitors on November 16, who were supposed to forward it on to the Clerk.
Had I not connected with [Dwight] on Monday, November 30, he may not have received the Rebuttal!  I told him in no uncertain terms that the Rebuttal was intended for all the Delegates and Synodical Deputies, and that it should be sent on to them.  There was to be some discussion between the Clerk and two members of the [classical committee x] about how to present this material, but that was supposed to be on December 1!
Anyway, the document that’s most pertinent I have included in the attached.
I’ll refrain from comment until you read it.
Below, you will find the e-mail from Dwight (to all Delegates), and then two more which were responses to me.
I think you’ll find those two interesting.
I hope to talk with you soon,
Pastor T/ Dad/ Simon/Big Brother”
–Email 1 from Dwight (5 December) was addressed to the delegates, including the date and time of the meeting; an agenda; the A-17; Classis credential forms; ‘Guidelines for Article 17,  taken from the Synodical Deputy Guidebook’.  Attached was a document written by 21, comprising a ‘timeline’* and ‘overview’ of events at A. as he saw them (or as put to him by a party or parties at A.).  There was also a PS., in which Dwight hinted there may be more documents to follow pending acquired written approval.
*This timeline is riddled with errors, which seems odd–of all things to get right, dates should be easy, since all it takes is going through a calendar, and if needs be, phone and inbox for calls and emails.
–Email 2, to PT, 5 December: Dwight explains that he did not send Simon’s document because he didn’t know whether it was intended for ‘all delegates and/or Synodical deputies’.  He says he also opted not to include 42’s rebuttal as he ‘did not have permission to distribute it either.’  He indicates that he needs written (email) permission from the ‘author’ to distribute both documents.  PT had already written to Dwight in an email on 27 November the following (emphases mine):
‘Third, a former elder of A., 42, has written a rebuttal to the “Request for Article 17” submitted by the Council of A. On November 16, he sent the rebuttal to the Church Visitors, Rev. 21 and Rev. 22.
It is my understanding that Rev. 21 was to contact the [classical committee x] the week of November 15 in order to inform them about the rebuttal and the manner in which it ought to be presented to the Classis Delegates and the Synodical Deputies.
Has any decision been made pertaining to how this rebuttal will be distributed, or how it will be discussed at the December 8 meeting? It is my conviction that the rebuttal should be read and considered well before the meeting. Also, I plan to write a response to the “Request for Article 17” which the Delegates will need to read before the meeting.’
If Dwight had read this email, ought he not to have mentioned then to PT that he would need written authorial permission from 42 to distribute 42’s rebuttal?  If there was any confusion on this point, why was it not noted when PT was obviously concerned about its being shared in a timely manner, so that the delegates could read it thoroughly and think about it?   PT had also shared some of his concerns about the strange treatment of him by WVW and 21; instead of addressing these concerns, Dwight considered it more important to dwell on the fact that PT somehow ‘found out’ who the synodical deputies were, and thought he should advise him not to ‘contact them directly’, as it would be ‘inappropriate’.  PT hadn’t contacted them: they had hit ‘reply to all’ when responding to an email from Dwight to confirm that they would be in attendance at the special meeting.  And given the overwhelming amount of documentation wherein PT is careful, professional, and minds his Ps & Qs, one has to wonder why he needs to be told the obvious, given no benefit of the doubt on questions of ‘appropriateness’ despite evidence that PT takes this more seriously than others at the table, while so many other clerics can persist in their odd behavior, raising nary an eyebrow.  Peculiar indeed, and this is only one example!
–Email 3, to PT, also 5 December:  Dwight reports that he has just finished reading PT’s document and ‘realized’ that it was intended to be sent to both delegates and Synodical deputies.  He says he has sent it and 42’s rebuttal, though he hasn’t had ‘written approval’, as he judged from Simon’s document that distribution was the intent for this document as well (though he doesn’t acknowledge that this had been previously agreed upon earlier in the week).  Dwight apologizes for the ‘misread’.

fin.

‘It’s a TRAP!’

ekkles will refrain from further comment on this point, except that this ‘miscommunication’, in the end, served the interests of the cabal, whether unintentionally or not.

Among the collection of documents was the latest bombshell drafted by the ‘wordsmith’ (according to 13), CV 21 (though at least 21 signed this one).  We will not post it here because it is both slanderous and undeserving of the light of day (though that light be the internet), and is too potentially damaging to 21 and to his church.  His church was unfortunate enough to be represented in and by him (as he’s their pastor), but his actions in this situation are his alone, and this document simply goes too far.  We can’t be responsible for making it public without being able to guess at the ramifications.

While all of this brings reproach on the name of Christ and cripples the preaching of the Gospel, the document called ’21’s Overview’ is abjectly sickening (literally, that is, physically, as well as emotionally and spiritually–my reaction in reading it was one of four times in my adult life when I have been out of control and been able to name the cause–experienced pure, raw, pathos [one of the other incidents was when I read the Article 17.])  in its unbiblical employment of innuendo instead of facts; its postmodern slant in prioritizing feelings and perceptions over God-honoring reason and weighing of evidence; its unChristian tearing down of a fellow brother in the pastorate; its irresponsible furthering of a narrative of which the validity had been challenged by several committed Christians with appeal to Scripture, truth, and justice; and its unquestioning crediting and enabling of a contingent in a church who could not only not accept the trustworthy word as taught, but also insisted on a smear campaign (to make themselves look good? to vent?  to justify their rush?  to explain the loss of ‘joy’ in the church without having to do any self-reflection?) rather than simply asking their pastor (not guilty of any ‘wrong-doing’ according to 21 himself!) to start looking for another call.

Again, we are not ready to post this ‘overview’ here.  It is very possible the world (including contemporary ‘evangelicalism’) is too ‘moved on’, like Rob Bell says, from biblical values, and our perhaps archaic ideas of virtue–maybe people would read it, yawn, and say, ‘Who cares?’  Maybe no one would be scandalized that an ordained minister produced something so vile (in a deliberate effort to slam a fellow minister?).  And why is still not clear to us; we think it sounds angry.  If we, like 21, believed ourselves psychologists, we might venture a guess that encapsulated in the ‘overview’ is his pent-up anger toward ekklescake, 42, and PT for their defiance of his ‘authority’ in all this, and unwillingness to admit his genius.  It was in this document that 21 insinuated that PT was the source of the material they’d received from at least 42 and ekkles; it was a convenient assertion, it turns out, since no one of the people who had appealed to him, including 42 and ekkles, were able to challenge this to the Classis.  More on that below.

As for the timing, certainly it all seems very…sketchy? shady? dodgy?  that Dwight sat for so long on 42’s rebuttal (after 21 and 22 sat on it for a fortnight), and still sent neither it nor Pastor T’s response to the A-17 before distributing the ‘overview’.  Why does it seem that 21 and his perspective is the one that’s always published (verbally or in writing) first?*  To WVW, perhaps to Dwight, and certainly to the whole Classis? And–how long had it taken 21 to produce the ‘overview’?  Did he ask Dwight to hold off distributing any documents at all, until he had the ‘overview’ ready?

*this makes one think of 13, who had 54 over to his house for a (secret?) meeting (see the closing passages of Exhibit C.), with no other council members present, let alone PT; and who also jumped ahead of the clerk of A. council to secure CVs from the Classis, perhaps making sure that he was able to get pastors he knew would be sympathetic to his position?

And now we come to the meeting itself.

8 December 2015

We will ‘nutshell’ it.  The Synodical deputies ran late, so the order of business was reversed; A. and the A-17 was discussed after the closing of the other church.  ekkles’ sister was present at this meeting, and was connected via Skype to ekkles, who was staying up late in the UK.  There wasn’t much to hear; once the A. business was opened, it had all the structure of an informal cocktail party, without the benefit of cocktails–not even the salt to rim the margarita glass.

The floor was opened for the [Aetna] delegates (it wasn’t possible to get a complete consensus from eyewitness if the chairman opened the floor for delegates generally, or just for A.’s council delegates’; what is clear is that attendees were never given the opportunity to speak), if ‘any of them had anything to say’.  11 stood up in his pew and described how awful an experience it all was, a source of great stress and depression, that he didn’t like the A-17 process (understandably so), and that he wished the denomination had something different in place [I assume for the separation of pastors and churches].  Unfortunately, it was unclear what (or who?) had made it a bad experience, and ekkles (among others) was unsure of the impact it would have on the other A.ns in the pews, especially those who supported the cabal.  ekkles is of the opinion that it took guts–real courage, in fact–to do what 11 did, in that sort of majority-hostile environment (several pro-A-17 parties were in the sanctuary, including 13), and 11 felt it was right and necessary to speak out–but it might have been difficult to deduce from his statement alone that something (or more than one) untoward had happened, or that this was wrong.

What is disappointing is that no one apparently approached him for clarification–not any of the A. members in attendance (except 42), and more importantly, none of the classical delegates.   If anything, the fact that 11 felt compelled to speak up as he did should have got some people thinking, and wondering, ‘Why has this been so bad?’  His short speech, combined with the paperwork the delegates had already (supposedly) read, should have given them pause.  At the very least, they should have understood that this action was controversial, was not just ‘stressful’, but spiritually oppressive and troubling for at least one of the council members involved, and thus, making the proper decision about it was likely beyond the scope of the deliberations of one two-hour meeting on a December night.

At any rate, after this invitation, the meeting went into executive session.  I will here dive into first person singular narrative voice.  My sister hung up on me and her boyfriend, who were parties to a group call she set up.  The noise she made as she vanished was something like a surprised and angry sigh, while her boyfriend was typing frantically in the Skype IM box, such as ‘nononononono’ and the like.  I didn’t understand (as they apparently did) what ‘executive session’ meant: everyone from A. was to leave the room, including the council’s delegates (again, 13 was there, but not a delegate), PT, and 42.  It had never been clear on the agenda whether anyone involved would have the chance to explain himself, interact with the delegates over what he wrote (this is either PT or 42), and so to prepare, and to know when to jump up and say his piece, was nigh impossible.  The CVs were permitted to stay, with no one from the ‘other side’ (how sad it is to say that about a group of Christians) there to even know what 21 and 22 said to the Classis behind those closed doors in the sanctuary, much less were they able to cross-examine the CVs, or provide clarification on the A-17 rebuttals.  Nope–the CVs were permitted all the time and freedom they needed to say whatever they liked, with no alternative viewpoint and no challenge, though it should have been obvious to the delegates, who had had to wade through all of the documentation (if they had time) that the alternate viewpoint existed, and that the other party merited a hearing, and deserved an opportunity to hear and counter the narrative offered to Classis by the CVs.  No… everyone else was waiting around outside what 42 later called the ‘Star Chamber’…

Someone had said over the weekend of 5-6 December that 21 had to write (as in, he couldn’t help himself) his ‘overview’ because he had to find a way to counter and discredit the documentation of PT and 42*, which were far superior to the A-17 he (it is believed) wrote, in every possible way, particularly in terms of language, style, reasoning, and biblical basis.  That is why so much of the ‘overview’ is threaded through with allegations of mental instability (to cast doubt on PT’s reliability and conduct; again, there are no examples, just innuendo and ‘it seems that something just isn’t quite right‘, that sort of mush) and ghostwriting (to cast aspersions on the integrity of the material submitted by 42 and ekkles).  Low.

At any rate, people were called in one by one, haphazardly, once the CVs were apparently ‘done’, though my sister and a family friend present said 21 looked stressed, even angry.  PT was called in, asked if he had ‘anything to say’.  He said no; everything he had to say was in the document they already should have read.  He should have been asked specific questions if he was going to be called in at all; how could he know what he was supposed to say in support of his own case when he wasn’t aware of what his detractor had said about him behind the glass (the church that hosted the meeting has a window in the wall between the narthex and sanctuary), which may not have been covered in his document?  That’s not what happens in secular courts! And of course, he hadn’t had time to familiarize himself with the contents of the ‘bomb’, so, was it not best to stick with what had written before being blindsided by 21’s ‘overview’?  42 was never asked for his input.  At a later date I would like to post his rebuttal–any curious, honest mind who had looked into all the documents in advance should have wanted to hear from him.

The opportunity to speak in any meaningful way was extended to the non-impartial CVs only.  After 2 hours, the Classis decided to approve the A-17 as it was, though they graciously agreed to give Pastor T. and his daughter an extra month to vacate their home of 7 years, rather than having to be out by New Year’s Eve [a tasty dickensian touch in the November proceedings, as 42 noted!].  Now–they (the delegates) had had only 2 days, give or take, to read all the written material; they had allowed no direct interaction or cross-examination between the main spokespeople for the two sides (I’ll note here that 13 was adamant that he himself not be a delegate–he didn’t want any written association with the Article’s success or failure on the record!); they knew there was a strong disagreement on the nature and progression of events–not just a mismatch, but the two sides were presenting polar opposite versions of what had happened, and insisted that very different people were responsible, acting from very different motives.  At least one version had to be wrong, and both might be wrong.  With this kind of dissonance, and with a man’s career on the line, how could the delegates have thought they were making a valid decision to accept 21’s version (as it seems that it what happened), so thoroughly (and capably) contradicted by not only PT himself, but by an extremely accomplished, articulate Christian with not only high standing in the community due to his position as a judge, but also a lifelong member of the church in question?  How could they have thought their approval was one qualified by due time and energy spent on prayer, deliberation, research and investigation?   They didn’t even realize that 21’s ‘overview’ should have disqualified him from being a credible, impartial witness to events (though he was of course witness to very few anyway, the dates of which he couldn’t get right [but people don’t check their work, and no one was going to read it closely anyway, right?!], and besides, he had never been there to ‘do anything’, though the council credited the CVs with every decision they made).

The whole thing was a disappointment.  A joke.  They didn’t even realize that the whole thing should have been tabled.  Someone in the Classis had already admitted that they hadn’t handled an A-17 like this before, and that they were ‘learning as they went along’.  Maybe it would have been better to channel Indiana Jones: ‘We’re making this up as we go.’   Either way, it’s not very reassuring, if you’re the guy who was first accused of being an impossible-to-work-with jerk, and second, crazy, and if you’re depending on the same denominational people to give you the green light for your next job.

This was negligence.  And it was a miscarriage of justice in the household of faith.

[*Author’s note: I recently learned from delegates who were present in the closed executive session that PT’s emails were described as ‘sounding like an attorney’–this is, I assume, meant to be pejorative, though certainly not every attorney is like 13; also, at least someone was interested in discrediting 42: he was made to look unstable.  Go figure.  25 September 2016.]

 <—Exhibit S.                                                                       Exhibit U.—>

 

 

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Exhibit T. Special Meeting of Classis, Nov./Dec. 2015.

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