Wednesday, March 07, 2007

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.

THE WITCH HUNT HAS BEEN TOLD ALREADY



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.

THE UNTOUCHABLES



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.

17 comments:

Agent B said...

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?

This is true in my limited experience...

Lily said...

Hi Phil - I didn't realize you were not wanting to directly share the denomination. I removed the one somewhat shaded reference to it from my blog.

It's sad to me what you've been through. Although the subject matter was different, the attitudes you share about the leadership is surprisingly similar to my experiences with the same denomination.

I echo what AgentB said...

Pastor Phil said...

Hey B,

Isn't it too bad that this is a common experience?

Pastor Phil said...

Hi Lily,

Actually I don't mind others naming the denomination, because that has already occurred nationally, and finding out the who, what, when, where is not difficult anyway. I am just keeping myself from doing so. You can reference directly, or indirectly all you want. ;-)

Adam Gonnerman said...

Looking forward to see what happens.

BTW, the "touch not the Lord's anointed" is quoted A LOT in Brazil, and the corruption of Pentecostal churches there will soon become the stuff of legends.

Webb Kline said...

SO glad that I have rebelled against such leadership many years ago. It was so unbelievably stressful and painful at the time, that I still feel anxiety when I read your recollections of your own struggles against similar heretical leadership. It makes me want to scream.

Pastor Phil said...

Adam,

I love to hear your stories of the soon to be infamous Brazilian leadership. "Unmask the devil!" I say.

Pastor Phil said...

Webb,

I think that it is time for screaming!

carl said...

I think my blood pressure rose a tad after reading this post. I could not imagine being in your position.
I then cheered myself up by singing with Melissa "why can't we be friends?"

Pastor Phil said...

Carl,

You crack me up! Maybe we should sing that at church.

Today's Thought said...

Hey Phil,

Just reading your blog brought back memories of the same attitude, different times, faces and circumstances. I am more convinced now than ever that God is stripping out of 'church' those that truly want to genuinely serve him.

Since being shafted 6 months ago, God has opened many new doors, showed me new ways of doing church that I never thought possible before. If I never graced another church in my life, I wouldn't be too upset, because I am finding His body in such interesting places and ways.

Bless U mate as you travel the journey! He walks with us!

Bruce

Pastor Phil said...

Bruce,

Perhaps we should all write our confessions, and defenses, and compile a series the size of the Apostolic Fathers.

Grace on you bro.

mikeofearthsea said...

Thus saith the Lord, Hatcher and Hayford: Repent, or in 50 years Foursquare will be... irrelevant...

It'll be interesting to see if I'm a false prophet...

Hard to smile going through stuff like this but still "counting it joy to suffer for the Name..."

-moes =)
><>

Pastor Phil said...

Far more evil things have occurred in far larger denominations over the centuries, and God has had mercy on them. I am not sure that God has high regard to give either mercy, or judgment upon denominations, if I compare His interest in corporations to His interest in people, but then again nations have been called into judgment in the Old Testament, and a denomination is no differnt than a business, or a country - it is simply a group of people walking together for a common purpose. Sometimes that common purpose will look like Christ, and sometimes not. Too bad that businesses gathered together for the purpose of church planting, and Gospel preaching don't always look like God.

Thanks for your post Mike.

mikeofearthsea said...

It was a pretty "safe" "prophecy" anyway. Are any of us really relevant when it comes to the eternal movement of the worldwide church of Jesus Christ?... But then I like to remind myself: yes! Each one is relevant. Thank God we have a God who related to us individually as well as collectively.

=)

Marieke said...

In defense of the denomination, any human organization, whether it's "christian" or not, is going to have sin issues with members and leaders. But that doesn't mean that the group as a whole is a bad thing.

The church I attend associates itself with the denomination, but we're very different from the denominational mainstream in a lot of ways.

I personally have *not* experienced anything along these lines (then again, I'm not a leader either). I've seen God do a lot in and through my local church, as well as others I've crossed paths with in some way or another. I have hope that God is doing a lot through the people that make up the denomination, no matter what "family issues" it may have.

It does however make me VERY sad, angry, and frustrated to see that this has happened within my current family.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Marieke,

I agree wholeheartedly. I know that people will think that I am anti-denominational as a result of my experience, but I am not. I think of the kingdom of God as transcending the issues of denominationism, and anti-denominationalism. God has His way in human hearts when they are submitted to Him. Submitted hearts can be outside denominations, or inside.

I am merely retelling the story, because there is a need for me to do so right now. I've got a book proposal floating around out there, and foreseeing that there are some places in which my name might be popping up soon, I thought it might be wise to write my "Confessio."

Because a few people in a otherwise good denomination were unjust, it does not mean that whole is sick. We have many friends in our old family still.