Alex

Jul 242014
 
ken and chuck

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis (right) pictured with the late Chuck Smith.

OC Weekly reports that Atheist groups will converge today to protest Calvary Chapel’s Creation Conference at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa…which, ironically, is located in Santa Ana, not Costa Mesa.

“Orange County’s most famous atheist” Bruce Gleason, according to the report, will lead a group of like-minded pro-Science, anti-6-Day-Creation atheists who will be calling on the public and government to be leery of embracing Ken Ham’s Creationism ideology because they say, “The teachings of creationism harm the U.S. educational system by promoting and teaching anti-science and religious dogma. They consistently try to change laws which will allow them to teach anti-science creationism in public schools.”

The atheists claim that religious dogma and ideology can lead to the dumbing down of students in American schools and point to the United States’ continuing decline in test scores for math and science, compared to other nations.

Creationists say they have the right to religious freedom and free speech and call atheists “intolerant” of their religious views.

Link to OC Weekly article here: http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/2014/07/calvary_chapel_creation_conference_protest.php

Headlining the Calvary Chapel Creation Conference is 6 Day Creationist guru Ken Ham.

Ham has come under fire in the past for allegations that he was “unbiblical, unethical” and engaged in “unlawful behaviour” (spelling due to Australian dialect) according to a lawsuit brought against Ham in Australia in 2007. Included in the allegations were claims that Ham was “autocratic” and “authoritarian” in his management style…a charge very similar that has been leveled against many Calvary Chapel pastors and the Moses Model style of pastor-centric, lead pastor has all the power leadership.

Ham’s camp fired back against the plaintiffs, accusing them of “spiritual problems” and “immorality” according to reports by the National Center for Science Education.

The two parties duked it out in court for many years and finally settled their nasty divorce in 2009.

It may have taken God a mere six days to create the earth and the entire Universe….but apparently it took several years, many lawyers and many thousands of dollars of money donated “to Jesus!” to sort out all the money, copyrights, trademarks, assets etc. in the split.

Calvary Chapel Abuse Commentary and Opinion:

I am not a Young Earth Creationist (YEC). There is overwhelming tangible evidence to the contrary…and if “truth” is a Godly virtue…then we must deal with reality and attempt to be as intellectually honest as possible.

I am not an atheist. I have explored the atheist world and continue to read many atheists…but I find their conclusion of “no God” to be equally unconvincing.

The truth appears to be that we have very little understanding of how the Universe and Multi-verse works…and even less understanding of “how” it came to be. Creationists tend to overplay their certainty in their position and are forced into intellectual dishonesty to make the pieces of their Philosophical Puzzle and Conclusion fit together. Likewise, atheists have a tendency to do similar…connecting dots that do not necessarily lead to a certain conclusion of “no God” or “no Creator”.

With regards to the public protests and Creation Conferences and with respect to both Agendas: Both sides have the right to freedom of speech and the right to push their agendas…as long as it is peaceful. Atheists make a valid point, IMO, when they present mountains of evidence that dispute a literal six day creation narrative. Atheists also have the right and probably the responsibility to respond to their conscience and push for pro-Science and pro-Reason…as both of those ideologies tend to reduce archaic religious dogmatism that can lead to abuse, corruption, mistreatment of women, children, etc.  Christians continue to evolve (pardon the double entendre)…and the push-back and criticism from outside groups is healthy. Fellow Christians…we do NOT want to be Islam and the Taliban…and we are not.

Atheists are not the enemies of Jesus…they simply don’t know, don’t understand, don’t see the evidence that the Apostle Thomas was given. I don’t know why God doesn’t provide much tangible evidence today…like walking on water or turning water into wine or allowing Doubting Thomas to get the tangible physical evidence he required to believe…but to fabricate the evidence and engage in intellectual dishonesty only hurts the Christian cause…it doesn’t help.

If Calvary Chapel wants to be like the Calvary Chapel of old that reached out to the outsiders…they should scrap the dishonest 6 Day Creationist stuff and sit down with Atheists as well as dialoging with Christians like a professor Jeff Chalmers and many others who are scientists and Christians who embrace facts and data and truth…and drop the cartoon characters like Ken Ham who seem to make a career out of preying on gullible conservative literalists (theologically speaking).

Personally, I think public education is a government construct and as such, Separation of Church and State is necessary and important. If Islam took over, Christians would be the first in line to shout “Separation of Church and State! No Islam in our schools!” etc.

If you want to ignore mountains of evidence and continue to force yourself to believe a 6 Day Creation fairy-tale, no problem…just do it at church and at a church funded school. If you want to present a 6 Day Creation philosophy/religion/theology…do it in religion classes or philosophy classes…but don’t teach it as science.

I hope the atheists who protest today conduct themselves properly, while exercising their right to free speech….and I hope that our fellow Calvary Chapel Christians conduct themselves properly and I hope they will reconsider embracing and promoting and spending resources on a really bad caricature that gives Christianity a black eye and makes us look intellectually dishonest.

I report the Ken Ham controversy because it demonstrates he is human and not “specially anointed by God!” as some sort of infallible prophet or king or apostle or Jesus. Ham is a man. He’s capable of good and evil, capable of being wrong….like all of us. Don’t be blinded by unhealthy religious worship of men gurus. Examine the facts. Be like the Bereans in everything. View the facts and data we have and compare it to Ham’s version of “the truth!” I have. I changed my opinion about YEC many years ago.

Don’t fear the truth. Don’t fear facts and data contradicting a man-made imposition and interpretation onto ancient text that is very likely to be extremely metaphorical. None are truly bible literalists…or Christians in the U.S. would resemble the Taliban. Don’t fear progressive revelation, don’t fear the Enlightenment, don’t fear the limited facts we can affirm. God is not a book. God is not a verse in the bible. God is not a belief in 6 Day Creation.

Jul 242014
 
Calvary Chapel Flagler Beach assistant pastor, Wesley Alan Brown, was arrested recently for a "financial scheme" according to news reports.

Calvary Chapel Flagler Beach assistant pastor, Wesley Alan Brown, was arrested recently for a “financial scheme” according to news reports.

Another Calvary Chapel pastor made headlines today….for the wrong reasons.

According to news reports, authorities in Florida said Wesley Alan Brown, an assistant pastor at Calvary Chapel Flagler Beach, was arrested and charged with multiple counts including “seven counts of the sale of unregistered securities, five counts of securities fraud, four counts of grand theft and one count of the sale of securities by an unregistered dealer.”

The arrest details state that Brown solicited money from unsuspecting Calvary Chapel church non-member members and got them to invest in a scheme that took nearly $400,000 from six people.

[Update #1] Senior pastor Mark Convoy says Brown had no prior record and that the church board met immediately when they were made aware of the problem and they contacted the authorities right away and have fully cooperated with the investigation. Pastor Convoy added a good warning in the comments section for those who do wrong in the church, “Your sin will find you out.”

Full article here: http://www.news-journalonline.com/article/20140723/NEWS/140729760/1040?Title=Former-Flagler-Beach-pastor-charged-in-400-000-fraud-scheme&tc=ar

Calvary Chapel Abuse Commentary and Opinion:

Yet another example that dispels the myth that Calvary Chapel pastors are “specially anointed” and not capable of the worst evils you can imagine. CC pastors are capable of doing good…and evil, which is why the Calvary Chapel Association needs to vet their pastors more carefully, needs to mandate Child Protection Policies system-wide and needs to mandate Financial Transparency system-wide as well.

Many times Calvary Chapel pastors are ex-cons, ex-drug dealers, ex-felons, you name it. They’ll tell you their gory testimonies when they are trying to get you to join up…but what they often don’t tell you is that the Calvary Chapel Association and system lacks any checks and balances and accountability measures…and often times CC pastors do very bad things under the cover of “we’re specially anointed! Don’t question us! Don’t ask for accountability measures! Trust us!”

[Update #1]: I appreciate Mark Convoy, senior pastor of CC Flagler Beach, as well as board president Scott Adie coming on the blog and being transparent and addressing the situation. It is good to see and it is good to hear that CC Flagler Beach is an Elder-led church government construct with an active Board…and that the church reported the issue and cooperated with authorities…and that they are also helping the victims of this crime.

A bad situation indeed…and you can’t stop everything…all you can do is make accountability and transparency a priority, have a responsible church government structure in place…and then deal with bad issues in a responsible and right manner when they occur.

In this case, it sounds like CC Flagler Beach did all it could in dealing with a very bad set of circumstances. We wish them the best as they seek to recover from this.

Jul 212014
 
Bob Caldwell, senior Pastor of the Calvary Chapel Boise franchise, was one of the major voices giving input at this year's Calvary Chapel Senior Pastor's Conference.

Bob Caldwell, senior Pastor of the Calvary Chapel Boise franchise, was one of the major voices giving input at this year’s Calvary Chapel Senior Pastor’s Conference.

We hadn’t been to Calvary Chapel Boise in probably 7 or 8 years…except for a meeting I had with Bob Caldwell and a former CC Boise attendee who was compelled to picket the church for unresolved beefs.

I don’t know if it’s delusion…or “God”…but I feel compelled to re-attend and to try to make a difference from inside the Calvary Chapel walls…vs. lobbing blog grenades from the sidelines with regards to effecting change for System-wide Child Protection Policies and Financial Transparency…as well as a general attitude that promotes the Jesus Model instead of the Moses Model.

For a “mega-church”…CC Boise doesn’t really feel like it. It’s a nice facility, but certainly not overdone. The size of the church is about the size of Eagle Christian Church where my wife and I are formal members.

We were warmly greeted at least twice on our way into the main sanctuary after passing through a large open foyer…more an indoor casual dining/coffee shop area with simple modern tables and chairs, a big screen monitor to watch services and a coffee/espresso bar.

The main sanctuary is fairly typical of many CC’s I’ve been to. I think they get a special deal on the chairs and carpet or something…because they seemed identical to those at Calvary Chapel Visalia and some of the other CC’s I’ve been to. Again…nice, comfortable, clean…but subtle. Not nearly overdone or underdone, just comfy and pleasant and laid back…kind of like CC in general.

The crowd was typical of Calvary Chapel…mostly 20-somethings through middle aged with a sprinkling of older folks. The worship music was very contemporary Christian. The young woman leading the 2-person female-male duo reminded me of several Christian performing artists rolled into one. Not really stuff you could sing along to…more a really good performance….though there were a couple of sing-alongs mixed in.

You had the typical video montages and announcements…though Caldwell struggled through those (he pinned it on little sleep after a wedding he presided over in Sun Valley the prior evening…the same Sun Valley where the uber-Elites of the entire world meet up each year to move the financial-political chess pieces around the Global System board.

Caldwell is an interesting cat. His style is very very very casual…very low key. I’m not sure if that’s who he really is…but he was pretty laid back in my private meeting with him and the gentleman who was picketing him…so I am inclined to believe that’s the way he is.

The message was about love and breaking the cycle of bitterness, hurt, pain, being mistreated etc…what appears to be an emphasis and regular theme of Caldwell’s as I’ve heard similar messages from him before (and haven’t listened to a ton of his stuff, so it must be a regular theme).

He kept it simple…put the cookies on the low shelf. Love God, love your neighbor. We’ve all been hurt and wronged or not loved or whatever else…and bitterness is not the answer etc, you need to break the cycle and love folks who you can’t expect to give you anything back.

Another thing he repeated often (which is telling of emphasis) is that we (he included himself) are all “babies” in the context of being baby Christians and we need to grow up and not be victims etc.  The point he was making seemed to be that bitterness and judgment come from being self-centered…like a baby. He encouraged the audience to be others-centered and to get over stuff and move forward etc. Couldn’t help but thinking that some of that was directed at yours truly, but I won’t presume that…I think, ironically, the message is much more applicable to Calvary Chapel Leadership and CC pastors than it is to the “sheep”.

Think about it…all the problems reported on CC Abuse are generally with regards to Calvary Chapel Senior Pastors who don’t love and don’t extend grace and don’t forgive and don’t get over it and don’t move on and are bitter and judgmental toward a “sheep” who has a beef or a disagreement or some sort of dissenting factor that comes into conflict with the Moses Model pastor of that particular Calvary Chapel franchise. I’ve seen it over and over…and over….the opposite of “love” and the message Bob Caldwell was preaching.

Does the shoe fit? It certainly may in some instances, for all of us…and the shoe certainly fits CC and many of Caldwell’s “Affiliated/Associated” CC pastors. My problem with messages like this is that the finger is generally pointed in your direction…but not toward the Leaders of the Movement that this CC pastor promotes and supports and endorses…speaks at their Pastor’s Conferences etc.

Ya, don’t be bitter, don’t judge…just love. OK, show me how that’s done…in our (I’m a non-member member now) Calvary Chapel Leadership and construct. Show me, don’t tell me. Right now I’m being so “loved” at the other end of a lawsuit meant to silence me from telling the truth about abuse in our home growing up so others will take warning and so that child abuse will be addressed as a serious problem in the church. I felt really “loved” when Chuck Smith blasted me from the Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa pulpit publicly. He certainly didn’t take Bob Caldwell’s medicine.

But, hey, it was a good message and there was a lot of truth in it whether or not Calvary Chapel practices what it preaches and whether or not a Bob Caldwell points the finger inward at his own Leadership within his Movement. We should all be more loving and forgiving and give love to those who hurt us without expecting anything in return.

The service went a little long for our kids….we had them sit with us because we weren’t sure if CC Boise had good Child Protections in place…since it is not a requirement to be an official Calvary Chapel.

Things ended as casually as they began…and we were soon in the foyer/restaurant/open sitting area ordering a cappuccino and espresso. We stuck around for lunch, ordering some really authentic Mexican food outside…and a nice man made a custom fruit salad for my daughter…which she greatly enjoyed and appreciated. We re-entered the foyer and ate in the cool of the building. Pleasant vibe, several families still hanging out and eating and talking. A couple who are missionaries in Rome, Italy, talked with congregants at a table set up to promote their ministry. These folks had been brought up to the front after a video vignette prior to the sermon.

During the post-service calm, I approached Caldwell in the main sanctuary as he was talking to a big young man. It was great to see him so approachable…very un-mega-pastor-like. Good practice, IMO. I waited my turn and then when he finished with the young man, “Pastor Bob” turned to me and we talked.

I introduced myself with some specificity and reminded him of our previous meeting. He didn’t recognize me at first due to the beard…but he quickly caught on. I did most of the talking and nicely let him know I hoped he follows his message and hoped that what he said was real for him. I let him know we planned to attend and to get involved and that I was tired of hammering CC from the outside and wanted to work from inside to effect some positive changes….especially with regards to Child Protections and other issues I’m passionate about. I asked about Child Protections at CC Boise and Caldwell told me that protecting kids was a priority at his franchise and that they vet those who work with the kids including background checks…and that they screen parents as well as personnel…and he alluded to other things they do over-and-above background checks to help guarantee the kids are safe…info he said I could get from a gentleman at CC Boise who is charged with overseeing and implementing these policies. I thought that was great and I will follow up with that guy to get my head around the specifics of what they’re doing.

I told him I wasn’t there to tell him what to do…though, I guess, I kind of am in a sense…and that I knew it would take time and I’d have to earn trust etc to be able to effect some things. He seemed to have a “we’ll see” attitude, which is understandable. I told him I thought it was great that they have a food bank and a thrift store and mentioned that I own pawn shops…to which he engaged, “well you could teach us a few things” in the context of the thrift store. I hope to try and help with that, if needed.

The convo concluded a little abruptly as there were more folks waiting to talk to “Pastor Bob” and I understood…I don’t expect (nor do I want) to be treated any different than anyone else…and I think it’s good stewardship for Caldwell to engage as many folks as he can in the time he’s got post-service. I appreciated being able to have that sort of access…as I’m sure the others were.

My wife and kids didn’t really like it that much as they love Eagle Christian Church…but they didn’t hate it either. I think it’s just a function of comfort zone and familiarity than it was that CC Boise is a bad church. Personally, I found some similarities and some differences…most were neither good nor bad…just different approaches, different styles.

The differences that are important, IMO, are the ones you don’t tend to notice right away…like Open/Transparent Finances and how the leadership handles problems/conflict and whether or not those donating the Jesus Money have any real say in things. The CC Boise Child Protections are a real plus…we’ll see how the other issues are.

Another thing Caldwell stated from the pulpit was that (I’m paraphrasing and giving the gist) it’s all God’s stuff and all God’s money at CC Boise. OK, we’ll see. If that’s true, then there shouldn’t be a problem knowing how much God is paying the senior pastor and where the rest of the money goes.

Caldwell also downplayed his recent attendance at Calvary Chapel Senior Pastor’s Conference 2014 emphasizing his focus is on his church and community and that he really didn’t have a lot to do with what happens outside of his CC franchise…something I hear many CC pastors emphasize…but it’s not really true…it’s just part of the CC Culture that tries to walk the line of a quasi-denomination…denomination when it’s beneficial…”we’re all 100% independent” when it isn’t. Well, Caldwell is a Leader in the Movement/Denomination and is listed as such on the website…and he has a pretty prominent role at the most recent iteration of #CCSPC14…so I don’t buy that one. I let him know I hoped he would help get the CC Association to mandate Child Protection Policies in all by-laws to get a Dove and be an official CC.

I guess, as Caldwell said earlier in the discussion…”we’ll see”.

Jul 132014
 
Kay Smith and her late husband Chuck. A Smith family battle is waging behind the scenes for control of Calvary Chapel monies and properties.

Kay Smith and her late husband Chuck. A Smith family battle is waging behind the scenes for control of Calvary Chapel monies and properties.

Most in Calvary Chapel Land are unaware of the intense Smith family battle waging behind the scenes after Chuck Smith’s passing.

In a recent article about the Calvary Chapel Senior Pastor’s Conference 2014, I broached one aspect of the controversy.

Here’s the gist:

Not everyone was on board with Brian and Cheryl Brodersen taking over at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. Sources with direct knowledge of the situation state that there was an attempt by Paul Smith and that Camp to get the Brodersens to forgo the throne for $2 million (the initial report I had and that was reported elsewhere was $1 million). [The initial report stated that Jeff Smith was part of that effort, a source sympathetic to Camp Brodersen says Jeff was part of that effort, a source sympathetic to the Camp that opposes Brodersen denies that Jeff Smith had anything to do with that effort].

The Brodersens didn’t take the deal.

An emergency CCCM board meeting was called by Brian Brodersen, according to multiple sources, literally the day after Chuck Smith passed. It was initially reported by Calvary Chapel that the decision to name Brodersen as Chuck Smith’s successor at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa was “unanimous” and the impression given was that things were much more kumbaya than they really were.

The truth, according to multiple sources, was that long-time CCCM board member Rob Yardley was not on board and neither was a big chunk of the Smith family including Paul Smith, Jeff Smith and Janette Smith-Manderson.

[Rob Yardley was the lone "nay" vote and resigned after the CCCM membership ratified Brodersen as the new Senior Pastor]. The Smith Camp in opposition to the “take-over” points out that many of the remaining board members had a vested interest in voting for the Brodersens and claim it really wasn’t a fair and transparent process.

Brian Brodersen has not returned past phone calls to get his side of the story…however, sources more sympathetic to Brodersen’s Camp have the same story regarding how the emergency board meeting went down…but claim that a majority at CCCM wanted the Brodersens for the right reasons.

Another big issue of conflict is over The Word For Today and Chuck Smith’s intellectual property (i.e. his teachings, sermons etc.)

A source with intimate knowledge of the inner-workings of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa says there are two The Word For Today corporate entities. One is controlled by Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, the other is controlled by a Board that has Jeff Smith and Janette Smith-Manderson as members.

A bit confusing, but here’s the nuance and what appears to be Chuck Smith’s doing (and rationale): Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa’s “The Word For Today” entity has the current contracts for distribution…while Jeff Smith and Janette Smith-Manderson’s “The Word For Today” has the rights to Chuck Smith’s intellectual property. Quite an interesting conundrum.

I’ve spoken with attorneys who are of the opinion that it would be very difficult for Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa to get the intellectual property rights away from Jeff and Janette’s TWFT…but that until the current distribution contract held by CCCM’s TWFT expires, the two Groups are kind of stuck in a relationship.

Sources in one Camp claim that CCCM is blocking payments to Kay Smith from some sort of “retirement annuity” with the claim that it’s really so the money won’t be used to fight legal battles to challenge CCCM and the Brodersens.

Also at issue is the claim that the CCCM board pressured Chuck Smith to make the church the beneficiary of a life insurance policy instead of Kay Smith and The Word For Today that the other Camp controls. Chuck Smith did not pay into social security and sources say that Kay Smith has very little income as a result.

Sources more sympathetic to Camp Brodersen with inside knowledge of CCCM inner-workings question the claim that Kay Smith has been blocked from receiving money from what they said was a “Rabbi trust” vs. a retirement annuity. “It would be impossible to do what they are claiming,” said the source.

The same source also stated that Chuck Smith had many assets privately and had been a good steward with his money and that the notion that Kay Smith was broke was “ridiculous.”

“They are spreading misinformation,” said the source, adding, “I don’t like them using Kay.”

Whatever the case, there is a Smith family battle waging behind the scenes…and the fireworks are just beginning.

[I received an update that Kay Smith was finally able to get a partial payment from the "annuity" which the source says has helped because attorney's fees in administering the "Living Trust" have exceeded $50,000...probably due to the intellectual property issues. It is also reported that Kay Smith just recently received the proceeds of a church life insurance policy in the amount of $12,000. However, the source says that any rumor that Chuck Smith left a "fortune" behind is a myth...there is not a lot of money and lawyer fees and accountant fees are significant].

Jul 132014
 

 

Bob Coy is still in an extensive rehab program according to a Calvary Chapel source.

Bob Coy is still in an extensive rehab program according to a Calvary Chapel source.

According to a solid Calvary Chapel source, Bob Coy, former pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, is still in an “extensive rehab program” and trying to deal with the underlying issues of sexual addiction and promiscuity etc.

The source went on to say that in their opinion, it appeared as if Coy was more concerned about “getting healthy” and then “working on his family” than he was about getting back in the pulpit…which, if true, is an encouraging sign.

“These things are usually not about sex or God. There are always deeper issues and hopefully he is making personal progress,” said the source.

Agreed. Sexual addiction is sin and is a symptom of an underlying problem of selfishness. It is a habit that develops, akin to becoming addicted to drugs (in my opinion) and the more you feed it, the worse it gets…you need more and more to get that intense high you enjoy.

“The pulpit is an easy, and dangerous place to conceal pathology. Being publicly shamed, like Bob has, will generally humble a guy sufficiently to get him to see himself more accurately. Bob isn’t like Bakker or Swaggart or Haggard. He is a genuinely humble guy, in my estimation, who was a victim of his own success, combined with a crap-load of unresolved personal issues,” said the source.

Let’s hope that Coy is truly owning his sin and bad choices and truly repents and truly seeks to make amends with his family. The pulpit is not the prize, salvaging his family and his personal integrity and health…is.

Bob Coy, if you read here, email me at agrenier7 at gmail dot com. I would like to talk to you about your situation. There is hope for you and your marriage, but you have to be real and you have to truly own it and not fake your way through. If you are truly ready to give that addiction up, I’d like to try and help you from a perspective that you may not hear from your pastor buddies. I think you’ll have more to offer as a truly repentant sinner than as a mega-church rock star.

Jul 132014
 
OK, in keeping with the comparison theme: Alistair Begg is the Paul McCartney of the #CCSPC14. On a serious note, he spoke the Truth and God moved.

OK, in keeping with the comparison theme: Alistair Begg is the Paul McCartney of the #CCSPC14. On a serious note, he spoke the Truth and God moved.

If you watch/listen to one Christian message this year…watch Alistair Begg’s address to #CCSPC14.

The Holy Spirit moved…and you wouldn’t know it because it lacked the drama, all the emotionalism and over-acting of typical Charismania. The message brought me to tears and reminded me that God is real despite my incredible cynicism and disgust of organized religion and pastors etc. As much as I try to challenge the bible and Christianity etc, there is an ember of faith and a yearning for holiness and real revival…in me and in Calvary Chapel. There is a deep and powerful compulsion and drive in me and I can’t deny it. I have many reasons not to believe, but I can’t help but believing and hoping in something real despite all the phonies and all the scoundrels and all the scandal and all the hypocrisy and all the difficult passages in the bible etc.

Begg’s message addressed the Bob Coy elephant in the room without directly naming him. He spoke about the David and Bathsheba story, the fact that great leaders of God are just as human and sinful as anyone and the need for accountability and Nathan’s…and self-reflection and honesty and true repentance. His words were sober, restrained, true…and powerful. He challenged the audience of pastors in a manner rarely seen in Calvary Chapel conferences.

Among some of the big mistakes of the macro-Calvary-Chapel-narrative and apologetic is the “Specially Anointed!™” canard along with “The Devil Took Him Out™” refrain.

CCSP’s, you are TALENTED and you have a COMPULSION to be a pastor and share the gospel. You are NOT “specially anointed.” Calvary Chapel has given a false impression to its “sheep” and its CCSP’s and Assistant Pastors that the CCSP is “specially anointed by God!” and somehow less capable of doing great evil, less capable of committing big sin and more spiritual than the lowliest person sitting in the pew. That is entirely false. The Calvary Chapel Pastor is just as sinful and capable of evil as you or me.

The devil didn’t make you do it (one of Begg’s themes), sin is “an inside job” (completely agree) and the devil doesn’t “take you out”…YOU choose to do what you want, when you want and you are responsible for your sin and the bad choices you make. Skip Heitzig’s b.s. is just that, and many CCSP’s buy into the “devil is attacking me!” garbage. The devil doesn’t need to attack most of you because you are doing just fine for the devil without him caring about you and making you a priority.

I’ve sinned big in my life and it was completely my fault. I made the choices I made because I wanted to for whatever selfish reasons I had, even though I knew it was wrong. Calvary Chapel Pastors and Leaders are no different and don’t believe their lies when they minimize their sinfulness and then lie about it and then go on offense and blame it all on the “devil!” and “attackers from the devil!” etc. That’s just a ploy to protect their lying and sinfulness and to keep up their phony appearances vs. actually practicing what they preach and sell…often for big money and fame.

Begg called out two huge issues that Calvary Chapel needs to continue to address, and needs to make a priority: He called attention to “financial misappropriation” and “moral” unfaithfulness (which can be child abuse, adultery, porn addiction, pill addiction, you name it).

The fact that Begg was given the platform to speak…and given the permission to speak that message to CCSP’s…is a very good sign on many levels.

1. It demonstrates that pastoral holiness and speaking the raw honest truth might be a priority of the new Regime in CC.

2. It demonstrates that George Bryson’s witch hunt is dead in today’s Calvary Chapel Association.

3. It gives hope that pastoral conduct might become a priority in Calvary Chapel…and bad pastoral conduct hurts and disillusions and causes serious doubts about faith and religion MUCH MORE than Calvary Chapel acknowledges or admits or understands.

Brodersen, Calvary Chapel Association, Alistair Begg…thank you for that message. If you want to see real Revival…do more of that. Be honest, be real, acknowledge sin in the pulpit first (most of the pew sitters know we’re dirty ugly sinners in need of Jesus, quit acting like you guys don’t and quit lying about your sin but rather be honest and then point to it as a mistake to avoid instead of always lying and then shooting the messengers).

The devil is NOT for Financial Transparency, Accountability and Child Protection Policies in the church, I guarantee you that. So, don’t blame criticism as “attacks from the devil!” That’s a lie. Practice what you preach and don’t be “blink, blink” phonies (thanks Pancho, love that example you gave from the very real folks in East L.A. who know b.s. when they see it).

To Brodersen’s credit, he called out the dangers of the Moses Model in his talk on the evening of Day 3. He seemed to reinforce what was a major theme of this year’s conference: Pastoral holiness and to practice what you preach.

There is a lot going on behind the scenes. I am not for or against Brian Brodersen. I am for the truth, for the church and pastors trying to do the right thing and I am against lying about scandals and sins and mistakes and against Financial Abuses, Child Abuses, etc in the church that is part of who I am whether Calvary Chapel likes it or not.

I understand that past mistakes have been made. I understand when there is true repentance and when amends are made and families move on and whatever happened is no longer an issue. I understand that some of the old situations were not nearly as bad as what happened in Bob Grenier’s home. I still don’t appreciate being made the bad guy when others broach those legitimate issues and then when I report on it, I’m somehow the bad guy. Talk to me, give me your side, but be honest and let’s discuss how it can be a good thing by showing that you made amends and truly repented and then warn the younger pastors to avoid some of the mistakes you made and give them good advice about how to parent and where the lines are.

What I will never be OK with is simply ignoring, denying, lying about it…and then attacking the messenger instead of attacking the sin that was committed.

Net-net, I think the #CCSPC14 was a transformative conference and pretty clear launching of a new direction “Forward” for the Calvary Chapel Association.

There were very clear messages presented…and those who were chosen to speak at the pulpit and on panels was a crystal clear message as well. With the exception of Skip Heitzig and Don Stewart, the speakers chosen have good reputations (or I would have heard about it by now, believe me, I get inundated with Calvary Chapel’s dirty laundry and skeletons). The topics discussed: Some were typical CC, many were different (in a good way)…especially Begg’s message and couple of others.

Calvary Chapel clearly wants to be an “Association” and form of Denomination…which is good. Having structure and organization can be very good. The lawyers will tell you by doing that you are taking on liability…yes, true…but don’t let that scare you like it did Chuck Smith. What you can do to protect yourself is IMPLEMENT CHILD PROTECTION POLICIES and show you actually care about protecting kids to the best of your ability…then if a lawsuit comes, you can demonstrate that the child was not hurt because you didn’t try your best. In sitting and dialoguing with leading child abuse attorney Kelly Clark (while he was alive)…one recurring theme was how juries dropped the hammer on religious organizations for being in such denial about the issue of Child Abuse and how they willingly and stubbornly refused to address the Problem in their ranks. Well, guess what…those juries hammered those organizations…and now those organizations have Policies. Do it willingly and not with a gun to your head. Listen. Don’t keep putting it off simply because I am pushing the issue…that’s your pride keeping you from doing the right thing.

Watching #CCSPC14 did something that actually surprised me. It rekindled a spark of faith in me and actually encouraged me in the work I’m doing on this blog. I don’t know if I’m “called” or if it’s God who motivates me…but maybe. I do know I’m compelled and have a deep burning passion for these things. I know I’m not “specially anointed”…but I know I’ve got talent and desire. “Don’t grow weary in doing [the work of the Lord]” (assuming it is such and assuming God is real). “Be yourself.” “Be real, don’t be a phony.” “Look inward and deal with sin.” “Take risks.” “Make choices not to sin.” etc.

I’m so fired up and inspired that I’ve made the choice/decision to start attending Calvary Chapel Boise and work from the inside. Bob Caldwell, I’m heading your way. You have a big CC, you are one of the new rising leaders in the CC Association and a potential change-agent…and I’m compelled and motivated to take a risk and work from the inside and out. Buckle up.

Jul 122014
 
Calvary Chapel Theology panel: Noticeably absent: George Bryson. Pictured from left to right: Don (Divorced for non-biblical reasons) Stewart, Brian Brodersen, Dave Rolph, Joe Focht and David Guzik.

Calvary Chapel Theology panel: Noticeably absent: George Bryson. Pictured from left to right: Don (Divorced for non-biblical reasons) Stewart, Brian Brodersen, Dave Rolph, Joe Focht and David Guzik.

What do you get when you cross Peter Pan, an aging hipster surfer and Chuck Smith? The Skipster of course!

Skip Heitzig kicked off #CCSPC14 Day 3 in usual Skipster fashion…retro converse shoes, blue jeans and his Skipster Wave™ hairdo. His presentation was typical Heitzig as well…a mix of very practical Mega-Church marketing and sales advice about incorporating young worship leaders to attract both young and 50-somethings, along with advice on how to ignore critics. Someone has a beef with how you cheated your former congregation and then screwed over the replacement CC ABQ pastor when the folks at Ocean Hills didn’t find you special? Hey, it’s the devil! According to the Skipster, the bigger you are the bigger enemies you’ll have and the more the devil will attack you…because the devil is all about financial accountability and you not screwing people over.

But, hey, the Skipster walked between the raindrops, beat back “the devil!” and regained his Mega-Church status post-scandal…and that’s all that matters young CCSP’s.

Articles about the Heitzig scandal here: http://www.abqjournal.com/news/metro/471623metro06-27-06.html

Here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/october/14.128.html?paging=off

And the “Tom Stipe Report” for CCOF (the accountability arm of Calvary Chapel that Chuck Smith denied existed in that capacity when he was being sued in Idaho and claimed Calvary Chapels were all “independent”…and Chuck Smith stated on air that he had “no responsibility” for other CC’s..even though he was listed as the CEO of CCOF IRS docs (linked on this blog…oops! Liar-liar pants on fire!): http://calvarychapel.pbworks.com/f/Tom%20Stipe%20CCOF%20Audit%20Report.pdf

So, basically, the Skipster is a “blink, blink” phony (thanks Pancho!) and should STFU and drop the act. He’s not much more than a rich man making well into the 6 figures off of selling Jesus through good marketing and klitchy sermons….and is not someone CCSP’s should emulate (and he’ll be featured in some upcoming articles on Calvary Chapel Pastor compensation).

But, hey, at least he didn’t hump his make-up artist (Bob Coy), beat his kids (too many CCSP’s to name) or molest little boys like some of his fellow CC Pastor Associates/Affiliates.

Next up youse guys was Calvary Chapel Soprano’s pastor Joe Focht! Foggettaboutit!

If you’ve never seen and heard Joe Focht speak, picture the love-child of Bill Maher and an aging Italian Mafioso…with a Chuck Smith Systematic Theology™ (that was for Dave Rolph).

I couldn’t decide if I wanted to order a Philly Cheese Steak or go do some devotionals.

Focht’s a decent guy from all accounts. Definitely old-school CC, definitely east-coast, definitely one of the Calvary Chapel Godfathers. If youse guys gonna move on any turf on the east coast, youse better get Focht’s blessing.

The message was pretty much a defense of old-school CC but not an offense. Focht was reasonable, likable, mature. He reinforced some of the main themes regarding old guys embracing tech through the young guys, being personally holy as a pastor…and, like Don McClure, he made reference to some pastor’s kids as “scoundrels”….a recurring knock against Janette Smith-Manderson and Jeff Smith, I’m sure (for those who miss the nuance and aren’t aware of the very ugly Smith Family battle brewing behind-the-scenes…a story we will cover soon on CC Abuse).

Focht also delivered one of the best lines of the conference: “We need to be careful sometimes, how we define success…we know from Laodicea…and the world we live…that you can build a Mega-Church…without the Holy Spirit.” Cough, cough…Bob Coy reference…cough, cough. Ouch.

Asking for revival, another familiar refrain of Calvary Chapel (remember Heitzig’s ‘Riptide!’ that turned out to be a ripple?) Focht implored God to move. CC guys, if you want true REVIVAL, it starts with being honest…and Calvary Chapel Pastors and Honesty are about as compatible as Bob Coy and Celibacy. Don McClure finally has a moment of candidness and honesty when he stated, “I would have gone to jail for what I did to my kids”…and quickly it’s walked back, threats are made and the messenger reporting on the issue is shot.

Mark my words Calvary Chapel: You will get nothing but fake little tiny man-made revivals until the Pastorate finds Jesus and gets honest and candid about their sin. Since that will never happen in my life-time, you will never have a real revival.

Next on the docket was, of all things, a Calvary Chapel “Theology!” panel discussion…and no George Bryson?!?!? But, I went to CalvaryChapelTheology.com and George Bryson says he’s got the correct Calvary Chapel Theology…I’m so confused.

Well, turns out that despite all his letters to CCSP’s, his website claiming to be the keeper of the CC Theology flame…Bryson wasn’t on the panel. The panel consisted of Brian Brodersen, Dave Rolph, Joe Focht and David Guzik and was moderated by the divorced pastor Don Stewart (for non-biblical reasons according to sources…doesn’t the bible “simply” say that Don’s living in adultery for that? Hmm, guess the bible isn’t to be read “simply” after all…I guess adultery as a pastoral disqualification isn’t part of Calvary Chapel’s Systematic Theology™).

Calvary Chapel put its best foot forward choosing this panel to represent the current Regime’s views: Dave Rolph, David Guzik, Joe Focht…good guys (by all reports) and with exception of Focht (not a knock on him, just is)…we heard from three of CC’s brightest minds…especially Rolph and Guzik (though Brodersen’s no dummy). Focht isn’t a dummy either, he’s just not known for his theological/philosophical chops and nothing he added on the panel made me think any differently…though he did add some value on occasions.

Some observations:

1. The Brodersen Regime is much more ecumenical…in a good way. The panel presented the balance well. Basically, on essentials…unity. On non-essentials…we’re not going to go to war with you. I think that’s a mature attitude and the Anti-Bryson. The panel did well in articulating that position.

2. “Calvary Chapel doesn’t have a Systematic Theology,” said Dave Rolph without being struck by lightening. It isn’t true, but it passes as a statement that satisfies CC’s weird need to be viewed as anti-intellectual…even though in the next breaths the panel presents the core of the Chuck Smith Calvary Chapel Theological System™ and then walks back their anti-intellectualism rhetoric in favor of encouraging pastors to have a theological system etc.

Dave, like the Theo-Logos discussion we had…you’re off on this one, but I won’t argue it with you…I’ve heard your angles before and am just shaking my head and smiling :-) News flash: Calvary Chapel has a Theological System by a different name…it’s called Chuck Tapes, Chuck Books, the Calvary Chapel Bible College, Veritas Seminary, the Distinctives and the #CCSPC14 Theology Panel, etc.

Calvary Chapel doesn’t have a Theological System just like Calvary Chapel is “not a denomination!” and just like all CC’s are “100% independent!”….saying it doesn’t make it so.

3. The current iteration of CC is a bit rebellious…and I like it. There seems to be some room to move about the cabin, the “fasten seatbelt” sign has been turned off now that Chuck’s in the ground. Good. That’s a healthier dynamic than monolithic Group Think and everyone posturing and walking on egg-shells around Chuck.

4. Brodersen is clearly the Leader of the new Coalition. He’s not Chuck Smith, not nearly…his style is different, he doesn’t command the level of fear and respect Chuck did…but clearly, Team Cheryl/Brian are in charge. We’ll see how it goes. There is an ugly Smith family battle going on and some very serious allegations coming down and supposedly a lawsuit. We’ll see if Brian survives it…but early indications are he’s the new Leader and has been successful in taking the Crown…though he is wearing it much more lightly than Chuck did….so far.

5. Hearing Dave Rolph and the panel claim they aren’t like other Christian Sects….that they just let the bible teach…is either extremely ignorant or intellectually dishonest. Rolph is too smart to believe that b.s. so he must be compromising his integrity to pitch the Company Line.

No one can “simply teach the bible simply” and no one can simply “let the bible teach”…or you’d just read straight from the bible…offering no interpretation, no context, no opinion, no doctrinal/theological position and explanation. You’d just read it out loud with no commentary.

The raw honest fact is that Calvary Chapel pastors have their own particular Sect’s take…and they present the bible in a very non-simple manner…they impose their interpretations onto the text based off of the opinions of Gurus and Theologians who they trust and agree with…they apply their reason and conscience to that particular angle and present the passage through those interpretive lenses as “Thus sayeth the Lord!”

A friend of mine, Alan Hawkins (a Charismatic pastor in Albuquerque), commented on another blog about a particular issue in the bible…and he articulates the dynamic that ALL do…none are exempt, even and especially Calvary Chapel (not the issue, the dynamic of interpreting the bible and telling others…”this is what it really says!”:

“Your views of women in pastoral ministry and baptism are plainly tribal.

My views are equally narrowed by my field of vision. I deny it NOT.

Our use of scripture is mutually instructive. What is derived from what is stated and what we derive by reason are revealed in how we use the texts. From baptism text you derive the liberty to submit to Luther’s biblical interpretation. I would go against it. But that is not scripture it is reason informing the text and making inferences that allow your position.

I admit that Paul was probably narrowly focused as to women in speaking ministry leadership but I deny that his parameters are definitive to limit what we can say now. I offer the matter of slave obedience as something we would agree falls short of the liberating power of the Gospel to eradicate slavery. I glean the right to think through the matter of women’s roles in the church and come to a conclusion that the Holy Spirit has anointed women to preach and teach and serve as ordained clergy.

We should likely just disagree and thank God that neither of us has the power of coercion.”–Pastor Alan Hawkins.

It is intellectually dishonest or ignorant for Calvary Chapel to claim they “just let the bible teach.” Not nearly…and amen to what Alan honestly and intelligently articulated about the dynamic of scripture interpretation (above).

Jul 092014
 
Pancho Juarez of Calvary Chapel Montebello addresses the crowd at CCSPC 14 at CC Costa Mesa.

Pancho Juarez of Calvary Chapel Montebello addresses the crowd at CCSPC 14 at CC Costa Mesa.

Chuck’s dead, Bob Coy is busted, Brian Brodersen’s in charge, Greg Laurie’s trying to keep the peace, Josh Turansky’s pulled back the curtain for all (well done), Levi Lusko’s trying to make a balding Calvary Chapel look relevant…and Pancho Juarez was comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable…and sweatin’ like a boyscout at a catholic priest convention.

Days 1 and 2 of the Calvary Chapel Senior Pastor’s Conference 2014 are in the books…err, in the online archives!

Thanks to unprecedented access via online streaming and social media, all of us can get a front row seat to this year’s CCSPC 14 like never before. This is healthy and is kind of a form of accountability. Glad to see the young techie guys making this transparency happen…glad the old guys are allowing it to happen.

You can view the #CCSPC14 live feed here (and archives are available if you can’t watch live or missed the first two days): http://calvarychapel.com/resources/article/view/senior-pastor-conference/

What’s New or Different this year? What’s big news?

Well, the CCSPC is usually held at the Calvary Chapel Conference Center in Murrieta, Commiefornia…and this year it’s at the Brodersen’s Costa Mesa franchise…probably blind luck that they dodged a hot-spot for the current border/immigration crisis. The reason for the move to the Brodersen’s turf? Brian and Cheryl are in charge now and there’s a big Smith family battle waging behind the scenes…as well as a couple of old-guard CC splinter groups that are persona non grata.

Nothing says “We’re in charge now”…like changing the venue for the first CCSPC post-Chuck and having it at your place.

One quick side-note: Multiple sources confirm (including Smith family) how the CC Costa Mesa non-unanimous decision to crown the Brodersen duo went down…while Chuck’s body was still warm. I’ll report those accounts later and leave others to decide if that’s just business or if things were a bit strong-armed. I can tell you this, it wasn’t all kumbaya and wasn’t nearly unanimous despite the PR veneer. There is also, reportedly, a lawsuit coming in Kay Smith’s name to try and sort things out with regards to a life insurance policy that originally named Kay Smith as beneficiary, but reportedly got changed to CCCM so Kay Smith “would not have a ‘war chest’ to hire lawyers to get The Word for Today.” Sources also report that Kay Smith has very little income as Chuck didn’t pay into Social Security as a pastor. 

I hear the words of the New Regime, I see the “Forward!” (ironically Obamaesque)…I don’t see how you treat Kay Smith this way regardless of the family feud.

Once again, if you want to know what’s really going on, read the blogs…and don’t buy into the “it’s gossip, it’s the devil!” canard…who would be for truth and transparency in all matters and who would be for covering stuff up, keeping it hush hush and secret and in the dark? Jesus or satan? I’m not “specially anointed!” like our CCSP friends…and even I can answer that one.

Other stuff that struck me as different included Pancho Juarez’s address to the overwhelmingly white CC pastorate. Everything up to that point was completely predictable…so predictable I could pre-write the sermons of each and every speaker to that point. Not Pancho, LOL.

It was an uncomfortable message…which is a good thing…it’s needed. Jesus comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. Pancho was uncomfortable…he was sweating so profusely he gave a new meaning to the slur “wet-back” (bada bing!)…that was a joke, let’s not get all PC (not “Pastor Chuck” for you CC guys, rather “Politically Correct”).

Hey, the fact is Pancho made some great points and challenged some Sacred Cows in the CC largely-white-yuppy Movement. Pancho called out “racism” and “bigotry” and challenged Calvary Chapel to reach out to the outsider, the untouchables, the homeboys etc…even seeming to include homosexuals in that list (while being careful to refer to the moral issue as sin). His message of “Love” was in stark contrast to some of his homies like Raul Ries and David Rosales…who he seemed to be speaking against when he challenged CC pastors to stop beating the sheep with law and religiousity (my words, the gist of his message) and to love folks. His other big theme was “transformation” and a pretty typical Transformation Gospel narrative…which I disagree with…all…whether Christian, Buddhist, Atheist or Pagan are capable of great good…and great evil (proven many times over and over…the Christian “anointed” are no different than the other Groups of fellow human sinners when push comes to shove). I thought it was refreshing that he gave a sort of altar call to the pastors there…challenged them to reflect on areas of sin they struggle with…and to ask God to take it from them. Well done. It was also great to hear him challenge his fellow CCSP’s that they didn’t have to travel the world to reach minorities and the poor etc, they could simply meet these fellow human beings with help and the message of Jesus in their own backyard. Well done.

The other messages the first two days were pretty run-of-the-mill and typical CC fare, nothing really noteworthy. Greg Laurie filled the role of Big Guru lending his name to the event and trying to broker some sort of peace in the transition post-Chuck. Bob Coy was noticeably absent…and noticeably an elephant in the room that was not addressed. The biggest national and international news story regarding Calvary Chapel since Chuck Smith’s death…and not a peep from Calvary Chapel. Typical. Well guys, we’ll stand in the gap and discuss the Coy situation in a very detailed upcoming series. Ignoring the truth won’t make it go away. There are a lot of valuable lessons to be learned from the Bob Coy rise and fall…and you won’t be teaching them…but hopefully some of the more independent minded non-CCool-aid drinkers will read and consider.

Damian Kyle looked ill, but played his role adequately. Basically, “pastors have your personal devotions…and don’t talk about each other…and Chuck Smith was awesome”…that’s his speech in a nutshell.

Landing the “CC is also young and relevant!” role was the funny-looking Levi Lusko. Envision a bow-legged Sid the Sloth with tattoos on his arms. Lusko did fine, he was actually less cheesy than I expected. Seems a sincere guy. I don’t remember much from is message other than he made it a big point to pay respect to the older generation before him who blazed the trails and paved the way for young CC guns like him. I thought it was a good thing to honor the old guard for the good they’ve done…unfortunately all you ever get from CC is one side of that story and no real honesty and transparency about all the mistakes to avoid. Again, you’ll have to read the blogs to find out the truth about those issues and you’ll have to be taught by someone other than CC about the pitfalls to avoid in ministry besides the white-washed version you get year-after-year….after year.

Don McClure got up there as the new Gate-Keeper of the “Calvary Chapel Association”…err, but Chuck Smith told me in the presence of Dave Rolph and his attorney Janet Carter that “all the Calvary Chapels are independent!” “We’re a denomination!” “We are not a denomination!” I guess it depends on whether you’re being sued or whether you’re building your Brand that you benefit from.

McClure’s message…yawn. His stuff about Facebook and Twitter was pretty funny, though. Leveraging social media and tech has been a big push at this year’s CCSPC…and McClure delivered some pretty solid humor…mocking both himself…and the tech-heads. “I’ve got 5,000 friends on facebook…and I know of about 10 of them…and five of them don’t even like me so I don’t know why they’re there”…hilarious stuff…and true, I’m one of the five, LOL. Don, I’m there to be a pain in your arse. Just kidding. I’m there to keep tabs on what’s happening and to encourage you and CC to do the right thing.

One disturbing, yet candid moment: McClure seemed to deviate from the crafted portion of his message when he made a comment about spiritual whaps (context being some sort of physical blow) and he quickly corrected himself…”I’m not advocating that” or some sort of retraction. He went on to discuss how you shouldn’t try to “fix” your kids in the flesh…and in a very candid moment said, “I would have gone to jail”…for stuff he did to his kids back in the day. Wow. Well, I’ve heard the reports from more than one source that Don abused his kids and that his son went on to abuse a spouse or significant other. Violence begets violence. The unfortunate part is that the CC pastor audience actually laughed pretty significantly at his “I would have gone to jail” comment. Not funny. Let me beat you for years and years and years…and then we’ll see if you find it funny. Good that he was honest and candid about abusing his kids, bad that it’s somehow funny. Good that he seems to get the message to a degree that you don’t advocating whapping or hitting or striking etc as a godly means of discipline. I’m not saying responsible state-defined corporal punishment is out of bounds (don’t leave marks, bruises, don’t draw blood etc.)…but from what I’ve been told, McClure was pretty rough with his kids…enough that, like he stated, he’d have gone to jail…and probably should have. Pastors, don’t hurt your kids in the name of Jesus. You aren’t required to “fix” them to your version of “good”…that’s God’s job. Love your kids, have responsible boundaries, but love your kids. Don’t hurt your kids.

Rob McCoy was brought to the front and prayed for. CC Abuse participants will remember that McCoy was featured on here as a CC pastor running for a Commiefornia State Assembly seat for the Republican Party. There were allegations made regarding some situations at McCoy’s CC franchise. We looked into the issues, there was some truth there and some things that in context were mistakes, but not actionable. Initially, McCoy and I went to the verbal phone equivalent of UFC ultimate fighter, but in the end I found McCoy to be transparent and a man who has learned from some past mistakes, made great strides in implementing very solid accountability measures at his Calvary Chapel franchise…and someone who can be a change-agent and good example in that area. Rob, keep doing the right thing and please encourage your fellow CC pastors to have the sorts of Child Protection Policies and Financial Transparency and shared-power accountability you have self-implemented at your CC over the years. None of us are perfect, we all have situations in the past we either learn from or repeat the same mistakes. Honesty and learning from those mistakes is all most of us are asking. McCoy is a good example of that, IMO.

Some Suggestions from outside the CC Bubble:

1. Why no Saeed Abedini? You have a 1500 plus “Affiliation” and Movement…and you can organize and rally around a pastors’ conference and livestream and move heaven and earth to make this sort of cohesive and coordinated event happen pretty much Movement-wide now…but you can’t come together in an organized and powerful way to speak loudly about Saeed Abedini, a fellow CC pastor unjustly in Iranian prison for helping orphans there? C’mon Calvary Chapel. So far, not even a mention to my knowledge.

2. Calvary Chapel Association, you still have Affiliation Agreements to be an official Calvary Chapel, you issue invites to “your” conference. I can’t just show up. I can’t just call myself Calvary Chapel (or can I?) Institute mandatory Child Protection Policies and Financial Transparency as requisite by-laws in the “individual” CC’s incorporation to get an official Dove. Do it. Is the devil for or against Child Protection Policies and being honest and transparent with how you all spend the Jesus Money? This is not an “attack from the devil!”…ya, the devil is all about honesty, transparency with the finances and trying to protect kids from abuse.

3. Financial Transparency is needed because I am inundated with more and more info about Bob Coy and others in Calvary Chapel and the large amounts of Jesus Money they take home and fund their lavish lifestyles with. Hey, if you’re going to take over $500,000 per year of the Jesus Money…then at least be honest about it and let your congregation know it so they can decide whether or not to give the next time you are begging for more Jesus Money from folks who are struggling to pay their bills every month.

That’s all I got for the first two days. OK, not all I got, but it’s already long. What say you?

Jul 022014
 

CCFTL logoMultiple sources confirm the identity of one of the women in the Bob Coy Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale scandal.

Reportedly, the woman was a make-up artist for Coy who helped with his “Active Word” ministry and may have been on staff as a paid employee of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale in that capacity.

We have the name, but have made the decision not to publish it.

What is more important is the transition CCFTL is going through post-Coy. The celebrity-driven mega-church model is being questioned…and rightly so. Things are in transition. While Coy’s recent departure has been seen by some as a negative blow to the church, we see it as an opportunity for a lot of good to come from it…and fortunately, so do leaders at CCFTL who seem to be on a good path toward more accountability, less celebrity-driven mega-church focus and on to the real work of true ministry.

If there is any truth to the bible and to the Gospel and to God and Jesus…then a celebrity pastor making over $500,000 per year “serving Jesus!”…and a church that is built on his personality and his charisma…and a Board and elders that enable and promote this dynamic…only affirms a skeptical and jaded view of the church and opens the door to distrust in the macro-Christian narrative. The other thing it leads to is power-driven egomaniacs who start thinking they are “specially anointed by God!” and soon believe their own hype and forget they are no different than the rest of us dirty lowly non-anointed “sheep”.

CCFTL, if you really believe what you are selling…then be more like the example of Jesus in the bible you say is to be our personal By-Laws and our personal Corporate Charter. The Jesus narrative of the Gospels and his example is very simple. Jesus’s example stands in contrast to the doctrinal/philosophical nuances of the Pauline Epistles…his example is far afield of the doctrinal/theological tall weeds. The Jesus Model of doing church and being a servant-leader and actually helping folks in a real and tangible way…is very very simple…and extremely easy to observe from the text and the human-personality-deity you claim is “the truth!” and the backbone of your entire reason for being a church and pastors and Christians.

In a coming series of articles we will be documenting some of the financial specifics of Coy’s salary and benefits, how the celebrity-driven dynamic emerged at CCFTL, the power struggle between Coy and others who pushed back and we’ll report the current direction of CCFTL as they transition.

Bob Coy’s rise and fall is an important story. Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, at its core, is not Bob Coy. The situation at CCFTL is a microcosm of today’s evangelical church…and can be a lesson for all of us.

Jun 242014
 

Every Group…whether it’s a denomination, a non-denomination, a local church or a blog…requires rules. This has been hard for me to accept as a Libertarian and non-conformist leaning person. The pragmatist in me realizes, however, that I must deal with things as they are…not as they should be.

I’ve learned a ton at the popular PhoenixPreacher.com blog. One of the biggest lessons that has been cemented regarding “things as they are”…is that the leader and Core Group there are really no different than the leaders and churches and denominations etc. that they rail against and critique ad nauseam. I guess, to a degree, I am not much different either.

We all have our biases, our Sacred Cows, our “orthodox opinions”…and we all have our villains and our doctrinal/philosophical peccadilloes and our hierarchy of sins and our hierarchy of virtues…we all play favorites and we all have gurus and personalities we hold in high regard while vilifying others.

Conduct is important…when you have an opposing and dissenting opinion. Conduct is less important when it is an opinion expressed that you agree with. This is demonstrated in spades at PhxP. “Proper conduct!” is used as a cudgel to force conformity…yet the same standard of conduct is not required of those with an opinion that aligns with the Group and the leader…much like we see in Calvary Chapels and other churches the Phoenix Preacher criticizes and calls to task.

In my experience there, the Group Dynamic is very visible…very much quantifiable…the hierarchy of personalities is easy to define. Spend as little as a few weeks there and it will become apparent to anyone who has even a basic understanding of Group Dynamics and control techniques etc.

I accepted the fact that “rules” of conduct are necessary and important as defined by a particular Group’s consensus. It’s simply how we create order and make sense of the world as humans. It isn’t “wrong” for a Group…whether it be Calvary Chapel or the PhxP to have rules…even if a dissenter disagrees with those rules. The Group has the right to its rules…and the leader or pastor is responsible to the Group in a symbiotic relationship…despite the “leave the 99 to save the one” etc.

The problem is when those rules are not applied equally to all within that Group…and it takes on an especially negative spiritual implication when an “outsider” or what the bible calls a “foreigner” or “alien” is actually targeted and treated with more scrutiny and less grace than someone who is in the fold as part of the Group. It is even more sinister and wrong when leaders of the Group are treated with kit gloves and the rules are not applied to them…we’ve seen this double-standard in Calvary Chapel…and I’m sad to report I have experienced it at the PhoenixPreacher.com blog led by Michael Newnham.

One major bible narrative is how you treat the outsider, the foreigner etc…and the Pharisees were often chastised by Jesus for not applying their heavy burdens and laws and rules to themselves.

The issue goes further off the rails when the rules of conduct are followed…and then “opinions” become “offense” and actionable for punishment. This is ironically what the church fears with regards to its opinions that are contrary to the consensus of the United States culture with regards to homosexuality etc.

Often in “church” and certainly within the PhoenixPreacher.com blog…contrary opinions become an actionable “offense” akin to inappropriate or offensive conduct. This is what happened to me. I tested the boundaries of “proper conduct” and came in line and in agreement. The goal posts moved and the issue became my “opinions” as offense…even expressed in a civil and polite manner without hyperbole and without insult etc. This is the nature of all the things the PhoenixPreacher.com Group has railed against with regards to other churches and leaders (with regards to what they call “spiritual abuse”…I am not considering clear cut sexual or physical abuse or financial corruption as such…those issues are more cut and dry).

Once a difference of opinion, expressed responsibly and diplomatically, becomes an “offense” that is actionable…you are now off the rails and no different than any of the churches and leaders you have built a career and reputation critiquing.

That is the PhoenixPreacher.com and I can no longer endorse it or condone it or be a part of it. There is a bad dynamic there and the Group and leadership is blind to it…similar to the Groups and leaders I’ve watched them call out for years.

Doctrines, philosophical opinions, theology…it’s all extremely subjective…and to mark a particular person’s opinion as “not Christian” or worshipping a “false god” or calling them an “idol worshipper” etc. is as much spiritual abuse as any spiritual abuse that Group has judged in other churches….or as much acting like an “ODM” as they call it as any ODM they’ve called to task. Yet, that behavior is the same behavior of the blog there.

I have liberal theological opinions and most of the arguments I dissect that appeal to “the bible” have major consistency problems. I don’t believe this invalidates the bible as containing truth and I don’t believe it invalidates “God” or Jesus…but it certainly invalidates a particular man’s interpretation as absolute and concrete and “thus sayeth the Lord!” and chiseled in stone. If it was so absolute and non-subjective, you would not have 9,000 to 30,000 different denominations and main lines and all the many differences of opinion under the umbrellas of Christianity*…you’d have one church, one doctrine, one theology. It isn’t math, it isn’t physics. It’s all very subjective.

As such, I am going to lay down some rules at this blog to avoid the mistakes I see at blogs like the PhoenixPreacher: 

1. We will tolerate differences of opinion expressed responsibly.

2. We will apply the rules of moderation and banning equally to all.

3. We will refrain from name-calling, even Calvary Chapel…I will have to change in this regard.

4. Conduct is important, I concede that point…but difference of opinion expressed responsibly and how those individuals are dealt with is something that both the church and the PhoenixPreacher blog needs to change. We will do our best to not repeat those mistakes and poor treatment.

5. I will moderate comments that I view as stirring up conflict within the Group, unless it is merely a difference of opinion expressed responsibly.

6. The focus of this blog is on Church Abuse and Church Corruption…but we will discuss other philosophical opinions as they are often closely related to church issues. Be kind, be tolerant, don’t be the thing you say you hate.

I am committed to being better than how I was raised in Calvary Chapel…and I’m committed to being better than the five or so years I wasted on the PhoenixPreacher blog. That starts today.

UPDATE: Michael emailed me and did bring up a pertinent fact that was not included until now, I did post a lot of comments which was one source of irritation to his Group and I agree the volume was excessive sometimes…however, many times it was simply due to the fact I was often ganged up on and was responding to many personalities there and their many challenges to my opinions…and then would often get accused of dodging their questions or challenges if I didn’t respond…then when I responded thoroughly I would often be accused of “dominating” the thread…so, often times I was damned if I did, damned if I didn’t. Oh well, I am now a “blessed subtraction” as they often criticize guys like Mark Driscoll of promoting.