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].