The following piece is posted with the permission of the author, 43, and has not been edited in any way. It needs no introduction:
Where do I begin, to tell the story?
I didn’t see it coming.
I figured everything out after the fact.
I couldn’t believe that our friends and fellows at Aa could, as a group, turn so suddenly, radically and cruelly on someone. The ‘someone’ that they turned on was their Pastor – Simon Templar.
The first time Pastor Templar preached at Aa in 2007, he used a sports analogy. In spite of that, I really liked him. His preaching was consistently researched, linear, insightful and always faithful and Biblical. I loved how he didn’t talk down to that country congregation as just about every other pastor, both those visiting and sometimes those in residence, did. I thought it was good to stretch our vocabularies and our theological insights. There is no time for wheel spinning and idleness in the Christian life! It is a Pilgrim’s Progress, onward and upward! I trusted Pastor Templar to help keep the Adult Sunday School on track theologically and solidly in the Reformed tradition that we all professed. Each Sunday, as we would file out of church and shake his hand, I always had a sincere appreciation of his preaching and told him so. As an example, once I said, “Pastor Templar, you set before us a theological banquet, a feast!” And I always meant what I said. It was the truth.
After the fact, I heard that people thought he was: ‘gloomy and his sermons made them feel sad and go home and cry’. I found that astonishing. My experience was that he was able to deliver sermons with conviction in them. Conviction of the seriousness of sin but that there is a way out and that way was, is and will always be, Jesus. I never felt pointed at, singled out, or made uncomfortable, even me… “such a worm as I”. To the contrary, Pastor Templar did an excellent job of including himself as a sinner in need of repentance and his hope as a forgiven follower of our Lord.
The first sign of trouble for me was when 42 and I were driving home from church one hot, July Sunday. 42 isn’t often shaken but he acted really funny on that drive to Cadillac. I was puzzled. What had troubled him? We had just left a typically fine service with an excellent sermon and the usual friendly chitty-chat afterward, I thought. Then 42 told me how, after church, 13 had stormed across the whole length of the fellowship room and charged up to 42 and another congregant and said words to this effect, “He has to go! We’ve had enough of this John the Baptist stuff!” 42 was stunned. When he told me the story on the ride back to Cadillac, I assumed it was a personal problem in 13’s life. In a ‘me thinks he doth protest too much’ way, I assumed some sinful behavior(s) and then the subsequent resistance in repenting of the behavior(s). While that may have been and may still be the case, there was so much more to come.
We were gone a lot that late summer and fall. Family in Indiana and Virginia kept us away many of the weekends as the dark clouds continued to gather in and over Aa.
42 and I were sitting in church on Sunday, September 20, 2015 when an announcement (the lead up is fuzzy in my memory because of what came next) that the Council was going to be ‘working with’ Pastor Templar and his ‘messages’. I thought, “I don’t think that the Council should stand between a called Minister of the Word and the Holy Spirit.” I continued to think, “It is like that portion of the Gospel where Jesus said the Pharisees were like children and their little chant that went something like: ‘We sang a song for you and you did not sing, we played the flute and you did not dance.” I mulled how the Council wanted Pastor Templar to ‘sing and dance’ for them and that was deeply, deeply wrong of them to interfere with the preaching of the Word and that this was a very, very serious business. I wanted to look up the verse because I was pretty sure I did not remember it accurately and I wanted to check the exact phrasing. (I am sorry to say I don’t know the Bible by chapter and verse.) Then spoken into my mind was, “Matthew 11:17”. I thought, “That isn’t likely where that verse is located in the Bible.” Then picked up the NIV pew Bible to turn to the Gospel of Matthew and I caught my breath. It was the exact verse I was thinking of: ‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” Matthew 11:17.
Some would just say ‘why you know the Bible better than you think’. But, sadly, I am very poor at memorization and almost always have look up verses using web-based products and concordances to find what I want to read and to find exactly where in the Bible the verses are and to be able to quote then accurately (including the chapters and verses at the end of this testimony). Knowing where to find that specific verse wasn’t my thinking or memory, of that I am sure. I wrote on my Aa Bulletin insert, that I’ve attached below, and then when I got home wrote what I thought at the time so I would remember that remarkable occasion.
It is so interesting to me that that particular verse – Matthew 11:17, spoken by Jesus, follows the imprisonment of John the Baptist for his message of Repentance.
I have often thought of that interior experience while hearing about Pastor Templar and his valiant daughters as they walked through the difficult times caused for them by the betrayals and accusations. I am absolutely certain that what happened to them at the hands of Aa was the work of the evil one.
As the situation escalated, 42 shouted – in letters and emails – to try and warn the church visitors, the Aa Council and a few key players in the ugly drama that what they were doing was horrid and evil. They wouldn’t listen. I could never understand why no one would give a second to listen to, or a moment to consider, the warnings and good counsel of a wise and respected man who had been their Adult Sunday School teacher/leader for the past eighteen years!
The situation continued to escalate at a perplexing and fevered pace. Why such a rush! I wondered? True to my profession, I searched out ‘biblio-therapy’ books to help me to try and figure out the motivation in these scenes for the church visitors, the Aa Council, the congregation and Classis. The first book that came up on my search was: Pastor Abusers by Kent Crockett. I bought a copy from Amazon. Once again, I was astonished. It was as if the situation at Aa was scripted. 42 and I copied portions of the book to give to the regular members of our Aa Adult Sunday School. We delivered them to the individual mailboxes at Aa and never heard a word about the portions that so clearly paralleled Aa’s drama. Couldn’t or wouldn’t the members see what they were doing or what was happening around them? Why didn’t they care?
It was as if by the rushed attacks and the character assassination of Pastor Templar the congregants wouldn’t have to listen to him anymore. It was as if what they had done and continued to do would cancel out any of the Biblically based sermons he had given for the past eight years. By saying he was _____________ (fill in the blank) – unreasonable, difficult, tuned-out, essentially any negative and unsubstantiated accusation – they would thereby negate what he had said in his Biblically sound sermons.
The drama and trauma continued. All the while, the excellent and faithful preaching of the Gospel never seeming to be considered as an issue that anyone (except Pastor Templar and his supporters) took into account. The BIG issue for those at odds with this servant of the Word seemed to focus solely on how he seemed to be responding to: being taken by surprise, being ganged up on and then being railroaded out of his church, home and profession. So, how does one respond appropriately to those types of situations? Hmmm? What is the ‘right way to be’ when that happens to one? Really? What would have made any one of the inquisitors ‘happy’? In the blazing and shifting sand of that arena how could anyone ever respond appropriately? And, if so, what was the appropriate response? Why, if he was to say or do too much = obstinate, to say or do too little= clearly an admission of ‘guilt’.
When it was all over the only thing left was the silence. Silence towards Pastor Templar, the valiant daughters and 42 – those who has spoken boldly out in defense of Pastor Templar. Silence is the refuge of those who have a great deal of emotion about a situation but when it comes to truth seeking and telling and to a real defense of their behavior and actions, they use ‘the silent treatment’….stone-walling. It is as if the person they treat this way is beneath any response and the disdain for that ‘other’ makes the abuser feel powerful and right, when in reality they, and the treatment they mete out, are exceptionally cruel.
I remain certain of 42 and my course of action in leaving Aa and its fellowship as the right thing to do. To remain there would have been an accommodation of many wrong actions and even worse, complicity in something I know, without a doubt, to be deeply evil.
However, evil doesn’t have to have the last word in the case of Pastor Templar and the harsh and undeserved end of his shepherding of Aa and of all the wrong that was done there and after.
For those who have heard Pastor Templar’s sermons, they know it isn’t too late to do the right thing. They can repent of their accusations and actions. They know about repentance. They have read and they heard in those sermons the first words preached by John the Baptist as recorded in Matthew 3:1-2:
“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea
2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
They have read the first words, of the first sermon, Jesus preached as recorded in Matthew 4:17: “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
From my copy of the Aa bulletin on: September 20, 2015: