Wednesday, March 28, 2007

When Job Becomes Our Hero

After a few years of dramatically difficult events one can only wonder if a Jobian season is occuring. I do not want to live Job's life out, but he is nonetheless a hero of the faith beyond which I can comprehend modeling. Yet it is my hope in all our struggles to do so.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Phil's Confessio (Part 2)

The Threat of Removal, and Counsel from the Counsellors and a VP

After our District Supervisor exploded in anger, and feigned spiritual insight by declaring that "something deeper was going on here," I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and took it at face value when he said that he was only a phone call or e-mail away. Perhaps he was just a hothead (okay even his closest confidants said he was a hothead, so I knew that was true) but perhaps he would cool down, and he meant it when he said that we could talk. I sent an e-mail requesting to get together to be able to discuss how we had been offended by being accused of being aberrant in theology and practices, having that information e-mailed around the denomination, never a retraction given when we proved our case, and this on top of the fact that we were never even approached with a discussion of the issues with which we falsely charged. It all had come out of the blue, and we were seeking reconciliation with our detractors.

I asked for a meeting, but stated that I would be talking about how the manner in which we were treated was in error, and that there was a need to begin to work toward solving the problems it had caused us. I even went so far as to say that I was open to hearing how the District Supervisor's position might have been the only option he had, and if so, I was willing to accept that.

I hit send. As the e-mail made its way across the optic fibres, and telephone lines to the District office, I stood up, walked away from the computer into the kitchen, and a voice in my head said, "I'm gonna take him out." The words felt like the words of my District Supervisor. They did not have a New England accent. They did not carry tone and volume, but appeared to carry a meter, and an emotional intent which I identified with the person who would be receiving my letter. I shook off the words as feelings of trepidation in pursuing this sensitive subject once again.

Had I made a mistake in pursuing to rectify this injustice against us? Was God actually calling me to suck it up, and allow lies to continue unabated? or was I called to walk this two-fold path of defending our ministry, and simultaneously pursue reconciliation. Along the way Jeff and I had felt that each step of the way our hand was being forced to speak up, but we never were comfortable with doing so.

The next day, I received a terse reply saying that I was unrepentant. Unrepentant concerning false allegations?! Yikes! How does one defend themselves against such a silly accusation? The reply stated that there would be no meeting with my District Supervisor. I was informed that two leaders would be sent to speak to me about my "future with the Salem Foursquare Church." To me this read like a threat, and seemed to mirror the voice in my head which stated "I'm gonna take him out."

I forwarded the e-mail to a denominational counselor with whom I had asked for advice every step of the way. The moment he read the e-mail, he called me - off hours, from home, and with urgency in his voice. He had never contacted me in this manner previously. His short almost immediate response was, "Phil, whatever you are going to do - do it now." He read the letter in the same manner which I had understood it. The District Supervisor was going to attempt to remove me from the church, because I wanted to talk to him about how we had been offended. As much as we had previously been through, I was still surprised at this response. I could not believe the depth of insecurity, and abuse to which this leader had sunk.

Shortly after I spoke with the denominational counsellor, I also communicated with a denominational Vice President whom I had known for over twenty years, albeit more like an close aquaintance than a friend. I was sure that he was a man of integrity, and someone I could trust. He advised me to appeal our situation to a Senior Supervisor.

And so a new stage of our trials had begun. We were now in need of appealing to higher authorities, and we would discover who up there, like God, had an ear for those without an advocate.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Whose Fault Is It?

“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”"

When we are surrounded by difficulties, we often struggle with placing blame for our calamities at the feet of some karmic consequence, or the negative response of sowing the bad seeds of bad intentions. Often we blame our sinful condition, or our heritage for our bad luck in life. Jesus appears to negate the belief that everything negative we experience is somehow tied to something wrong within us.

Over a milennia after the Book of Job was written, and the disciples still hadn’t learned it’s lessons of not automatically placing blame upon the victims of calamity.

I spoke with an old friend. Well, we actually came to the conclusion that I considered him in more friendly terms that he thought of me during this conversation. Although we had not spoken in a long, long time, and he was speaking with me for the first time since hearing of the death of Bev's mom, and an impending kidney transplant for our only son, and our excommuncation, he preceded to speak mostly about the troubles we had with the denomination, and tell stories of how God uses the people who abuse us to show us lessons about how we are just like the abusers we face. God brings these things upon us to teach us these lessons and bring us to repentance.

I could not help but think that this was so much like the false assumptions of Job's friends, and Jesus' disciples. The teaching that says we bring all our own calamities upon ourselves, or that we God uses people who are dishonest to show us that we are dishonest, and those who are abusive to show us that we are abusive seems to be a popular variation of an old heresy - so methinks.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Dw i'n Casau Coffi! and now I have proof it's a bogus drink!

I have always hated coffee. One of the first phrases one learns in Welsh is unfortunately connected to this evil tasting brew. "Dw i'n hoffi coffi," is a phrase found on the lips of every Welsh learner, but I learned to say "Dw i'n casau coffi," instead.

Well here's further evidence from a study in the UK by the British Nutrition Association, which tells us that coffee does not provide the morning pick-me-up you though it did. Instead you might be simply experiencing relief from your addiction's withdrawals. Isn't that encouraging? - all ye who have been seduced by the great Seattle deception. Of course, the British Coffee Association intelligently replied, ""There are two sides to the debate and a wealth of scientific evidence suggests that moderate coffee consumption of four to five cups per day is perfectly safe...." Yep, you could see that one coming a hundred hectares of coffee plants away.

Coffee Haters unite against the insidious brown bean water, and learn the mantra -"Dw i'n casau coffi!" Pronounced - "dween casai coffee."

Phil's Confessio (Part 1)

There has been enough press, and blogging covering my story since October, and it is not finished yet. Coming out soon will be a story in the Christian Research Journal, and that will most likely draw a few readers, and interested parties not previously reached by the Wall Street Journal, numerous local papers, blog interviews, and articles I've written. In the next few days I will unleashing numerous press releases, and information about our rather fun, and edgy Conference entitled God for People Who Hate Church. This too may attract some attention. So, a bit of defense against the party line which has been spread, and the not so subtle lies which have pervaded certain ear waves is in order. If nothing is written in response to the press which has been coming our way, then this will at least suffice to answer rumors falsely charged to myself, and our church.

A defense of faith, and of one's ministry is not a new thing. Some of Christianity's more famous writings have held this same theme. Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, and sections of his letter to the Galatians carry this theme. One of the few writings we have from Saint Patrick addresses this same issue, as he defends his faith in his "Confession." In the spirit of desiring better for the Church of the Jesus Whom I love and serve, and in the love for those who follow us toward a simple, and free model of our Christian faith I offer this defense.

Much has already been written about our story, and we have been beneficently portrayed by Suzanne Sataline of the Wall Street, and Tom Dalton of the Salem News, John Smulo, and most recently Pam Hogeweide at Jim Henderson's Doable Evangelism.

This defense goes beyond the story of silly and superstitious accusations of being corrupted by the friendships we have developed with Witches and assorted Neo-Pagans, and looks at the corporate statements made by our former denomination about being rebellious, refusing to submit to correction, or causing trouble. The denomination will remain unnamed unless they should choose to make public statements in response to our growing press. The possibility of response from them is still out there. I have been told that a spokesman for their headquarters has said as much to reporters who have covered our story. If such should occur both the denomination will be named (which is not difficult to find anyway, since the press has already pursued this story), and individual leaders will be named as well.

Because we know that we have been, and will continue to be portrayed as unsubmissive rebels, I will rehearse the story which has to do with these particular false assertions, beyond the accusations of aberrance, and show that we were fully cooperative with all expectations by our leadership, and simply desired to see our good name cleared of false accusations, as well as hoping for relational integrity by our Christian leaders, and the restoration which comes with that integrity. What we got instead was stonewalling, deaf ears in our appeals up the denominational ladder, and evidence of a poorly run non-profit corporate structure which was as self-serving as any for-profit corporation.

So the defense begins here...and will be told in a number of posts.


Our story of being falsely accused by a superstitious leadership has been told already, and can be found at the following locations: Next Wave, The Wall Street Journal Article, and The Salem News. It is a story of being suddenly, and without warning falsely accused of aberrant teachings and practices from leadership who only weeks earlier praised us for our creativity in outreach, and had never visited us, nor spoken to us about their accusations.

We defended our ministry, our doctrine, and our practices proving that there was no evidence of aberrance. From stories of kissing a ring, to accusations about our website we proved ourselves to have been above reproach, yet the leadership maintained that we deserved discipline and strict oversight. On October 18, 2005 we left a Diistrict Council meeting having been questioned, accused, and at times derided for 3 hours. We were given a few empty corrections, which were things we already had done, or regularly practiced. Our accusers made no attempt to correct the falsehoods which they freely spread around our denominational leadership, and we remained under this condition for three months.


In early February 2006 Jeff Menasco and I were at a District Missions Conference presenting our outreach concepts in the exhibit hall. During the evening, we came face to face with the District Supervisor who had been our accuser. He greeted me, and asked how I was doing. I stated that we were not doing well. Not being a good liar, I do not present a false face easily as some men might, and so I simply tell how I really feel.

"What's going on?" he asked.

"Well, we are still hurting over that meeting a couple months ago, and the way we were treated." I responded.

"What meeting?" His wife asked with surprise.

At this point I was incredulous, and looked at her in wonder, "The meeting back in October." Pausing in disbelief I breathed a little deeper than usual and said, "We do not treat people like that in our church, and I can not ask my wife to come to gatherings such as this one after all we have been through."

At this point the District Supervisor told me that he had a phone, and e-mail, and was available any time. I thought to myself, "Yeah right, aren't you the same guy who said a couple months ago that the issue was not up for discussion?"

At this point Jeff entered the conversation. The District Supervisor, and his wife said that this was not the place for the discussion, and we fully agreed, yet they preceded to pontificate telling me that I was stuck in the past, that I was allowing this to define me, along with numerous other psuedo-psychological observations. I calmly asked a few questions, because their communication was unclear, and the District Supervisor became upset, "I think that I'm making perfect sense!"

After they continued for a few more minutes, Jeff said, "Can I ask a question?"

"Sure. Go ahead."

"You said that this was not the place to discuss this, and we certainly agree, but you have gone ahead, and mentioned a number of things to which we would like to respond. We can discuss this here if you like, but I don't think this is something either of us wants."

At this point the District Supervisor leaned very close to Jeff's face, "I did not invite you into this discussion!"

I responded quickly, having seen Jeff treated poorly during our previous inquisition, "Do not speak to him like that! He has been a part of this since the beginning."

The District Supervisor grew visibly upset, clenched his fists, and started pacing like a prize fighter. His wife held his arm to try and keep his anger down, he said, "There's something deeper going on here!" They stormed off with those last sickly threatening words.

Is it possible that the phrase "touch not the Lord's anointed" so often quoted in Pentecostal circles is really just an excuse for control freaks to get their way without question? We think so.

We also are convinced that a corporate model for denominational, and local church life is destructive to the kingdom of God if it refuses to bow first to the relational/familial patterns found in God's Kingdom. I believe that anytime a leader becomes untouchable he ought to be considered a cult leader, and unfit for serving Jesus.