"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Grace on our knees: 39 days to go

Countdown to the resurrection:


"Upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it." Matthew 16:18b

In the name of Jesus Christ and by His authority, we sever all the lines of the enemy and scramble their communications. 

(more below)

Grace Grieving 19: Released! (but not by God)

Pastor/elder Jerry Giles hand-delivered this to our door an hour ago:

Grace Grieving 18: Chuck and Bonnie Horton

     More victims of Grace for our Wall of Remembrance. Chuck is the second of three current elders who has just quit because of the abuses of the leadership:

Charles K. Horton
Family attended Grace 35 years. Elder 16 years, served 12 years as 4th Grade Boys Sunday School Teacher, led a Men's Bible Study in my home for 3 years, served 30 years visitation at several different venues, served 10 years Nominating  Committee, last 5years as Chairman, served 5 years as Chairman of the Deacon Board, served several times as Life Group Leader, served on Senior Care Committee through "Hope for Long Beach", Agencies and Programs on Aging (APA), Elder Abuse Prevention Team (EAPT) and Long Beach Senior Care Commission (of which I'm a Commissioner).

Bonnie Horton
Family attended GBC for 23 years. Mops (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) Mentor Mom. Hope for Long Beach GBC Senior Care Team. Bible Study


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Grace Grieving 17: Bittersweet

     Translation: "We have moved in and dispossessed your family. Please feel free to pick another family--ELDER BOARD AUTHORIZED AND APPROVED, OF COURSE--at our WELCOME Center!"

     Actually, of course, it has not been discontinued at all, just relocated. Agape-in-exile now meets at 7PM Tuesdays at a home in Long Beach. Hosts: Cliff and Lisa Norman. All comers genuinely welcome!
     We had our first meeting there tonight and 36 people showed up. It was good to be together again. As previously, Dan Kanouse and his guitar led music, we shared refreshments and prayer, Rick Byrd continued his series on Revelation.
     But it was bittersweet. We were doing what the church has always done--but now we are not allowed to do it in church. I felt we were being incorporated into the universal persecuted church. That was sobering.
     Many of those we gather with on Tuesdays now have found other churches in the area to worship in on Sundays. Cornerstone is one of those which is receiving with open arms many of our shell-shocked, undernourished members. Our friends Bob and Margie Goble wrote us: We have been used to GBC for so long and in just two Sundays at Cornerstone it seems like the promised land has been found, gospel that makes sense, friendly united people and everything that goes with it.
     Another friend wrote, There are more people from Grace there every week. Executive Elder Pete Deeble's in-laws are now regular attenders at Cornerstone. Lahoma Sundstrom told mom she cried through the first sermon she heard Pastor Rueb preach (he has that effect on the weary from Grace. He's aware of the situation). Chuck and Bonnie Horton are now attending. The Bensons were there today as well as the Hagans and Jon Phelps. it's a place of healing and hearing the Word of God preached with clairty and authority once again. It is such a relief.
     From Ray and Ann Rittenhouse, who headed our Confetti Kids: Thanks again for shining the light of truth and exposing the apostasy and hypocrisy of Grace.  We have found a "home" at The First Baptist Church of Lakewood where the gospel of the saving grace of Jesus Christ is preached, taught and lived.  Where Missions and Evangelism are promoted and supported.  You have seen the doctrinal statement published by the pastor, Brent Eldridge.  How refreshing and unashamed he is to believe and present the Bible in its total inerrancy.  I grieve and pray for those who remain “in darkness” believing they are being properly led and shepherded.  Stay strong my friends as God shows you what to do even if you must "shake the dust from your sandals" as you leave that place.
We will always remain your loving friends in Jesus.
     At least one new church (in Downey) is coming out of this--maybe more than one. Maybe even a Bible Institute.
     God brings good out of everything and as He often has historically, He uses the scattering of His sheep--the diaspora--to spread the good news even further than it would have gone otherwise.
     Soli Deo Gloria.

Grace on our knees: Call to 40 days of prayer

Dear Friends of Grace,

As I was praying I realized that as of today there are exactly 40 days until Easter, the day we are scheduled to move back into the remodeled sanctuary. Throughout history God has often done amazing things over periods of 40 days/years--sanctifying, preparing, liberating--and we believe He is calling out people to commit themselves to praying (perhaps with fasting) for Grace for at least certain parts of these 40 days.

Ever since God first told us to stand for this--HIS--church tells us it has been taken off His foundation and He wants it back! We believe that the leadership of Grace is "Transforming Grace" on two levels, one of them spiritual. When the remodeling is completed and we move back into the sanctuary we believe there will be a celebration, a "re-dedication" of the church to a new foundation--


--a foundation which, whether it is admitted publicly or not, will NOT be the foundation of the Most High God.


We know many of you have left Grace but still have the church and its future on your heart. Many of you may never have been personally involved with this church. But we beg you to ask the Lord if He wants you to have some part in standing for this church to be brought back solidly to the only true and sure foundation, Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 3:11). We would like to have every hour of these 40 days covered by prayer but we will leave it up to God to draw you to participate in whatever way He wishes.

It would really encourage us to know you are standing with us and to know what part He is calling you to have in this resistance movement. ("Resist the devil and he will flee from you." James 4:7)


May God richly bless you all.


Love,

Jerry and Jessica
jlrenshaw@juno.com

Monday, February 27, 2012

Grace Grieving 16: Bill and Judy Coon

CURRENT AND FORMER ELDERS who signed the Watchmen list: John Anderson, Wade Andrews, Keith Benson, Sid Bowen, Richard Byrd, Bill Coon, Bud Davis, Gil Denham, Robert Goble, Gary Guacci, Chic Hagen, Paul Hoffman, Alan Holdich, Chuck Horton, David Karber, L. Kent Lueb, Pete Meader, Ron Phelps, Terry Polley, David Sundstrom and Tris Swan  

FORMER CHAIRMEN OF THE EXECUTIVE BOARD OF ELDERS (EBOE) who signed the Watchmen list: John Anderson, Bill Coon, Gary Guacci, David Karber.

More victims of Grace for our Wall of Remembrance:
     Bill Coon was the first of three current elders to resign and leave Grace because of its false gospel and/or mistreatment of members. Bill resigned before the February 5th meeting. Chuck Horton and Keith Benson resigned immediately afterward. (A fourth elder who stepped down--just before February 5--told us he did not intend by doing so to "make a statement.")

William (Bill) Coon
Member Elder Board about 25 years (Chairman Twice), High School Sunday School teacher, College Sunday School sponsor/part time teacher, Church choir member.  Member Paramount Brethren High Gymnasium Building Committee. Adult Sunday School leader.  Member 36th and Linden Building Committee after 5th and Cherry church burned down.  Youth Commission leader. Chairman Transforming Grace Phase 1 Construction Management Advisory Committee (CMAC).

Judy Coon
Member over 51 years. Served in the following areas: Taught and helped in 2yr olds SS, Vacation Bible School, High School and College sponsor Brethren District Youth Commission, Women's Ministries Committee, Chair Deaconesses, MOPS Mentor Mom 2 different times, Choir member,  Helped Bill with Gospel Transformation and Life Group.

     Bill writes, "My grandparents and parents started attending First Brethren Church (5th and Cherry) in the late 1920's. My mother brought me to this church when I was still in the womb. This has been my home church for 75 years. I came to know the Lord in my 3rd grade Sunday School Class and was later baptized by Dr Bauman. Judy joined 1st Brethren right after we were married in her church in 1959.
     "I am leaving because of the teaching--really the lack of teaching the whole Word of God. We are getting a teaching that will not turn anyone away--no teaching about end times, no place for Israel in end times and a watered-down gospel. I long for teaching that gives a literal interpretation of Scripture which I believe leads to a dispensational view of the whole Bible. Paul's challenge to the Ephesian believers in Acts 20:27-30 and Jude's concern in verse 3 of his letter are challenges that our pastors are missing. We believe our church is going the wrong way."

Sunday, February 26, 2012

100 Verse Challenge - Week 24

From dianalovestowrite.blogspot.com:

Therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is good, pleasing, and the perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2

"Present your bodies as a living sacrifice." How like God's tender timing!

Grace Grieving 15: Our turn

     Executive elder Brian Chung approached us before the second service. He asked courteously, "May I speak with you two?" 
     As we followed him out of the main thoroughfare we noticed executive elder Kurt Victor tailing us. When Brian stopped, Kurt joined him. We pointed out that we had agreed to talk with Brian, not both of them. Brian shrugged and said something about both of them needing to talk to us. (We had declined earlier offers to have them both come to our house. We knew what two elders at once mean--in any cult. He knew that so he deceived us.) 
     Our two designated spokesmen from the Executive Board of Elders. Kurt had tears in his eyes.
   "We love you two. We hate to do this. . ." Brian seemed to be in anguish. He was wringing his hands. "Please--you need to stop writing the blog. You are hurting people. You need to repent so we can all have reconciliation. Or find a church where you would be happier."
     He talked for a long time. We said God has not released us to leave the church, that He has not released us to stop bringing the deeds of darkness into the light for His judgment. "Do you think we would stay, being shunned and hated, if God had not told us to stay?" We said we had to do what we believe God is telling us to do and they have to do what they believe God is telling them to do. The ball is in their court. "If He wants us to go through church discipline for His glory, it will be an honor."
     "Christians can't choose their lions," Jerry said. "Until He releases us we will stay, even if it means being devoured."
     "Then I will pray," said Brian, "that God will release you soon!"
     I put a hand on Kurt's shoulder, Jerry put a hand on Brian's shoulder and I prayed aloud. I prayed that God would give them courage and strength to do what He has called them to do and that He would give us courage and strength to do what He has called us to do. I prayed that if we are the ones causing the problems, God would show us, that He would discipline us, that we would not have to fall into the hands of angry men.
     When I finished, both elders said "Amen!"
     When we came back into the service, which had already started, the couple from another church who had come to Grace that morning just for the purpose of upholding us in prayer whispered, "You look like you were just scolded. We saw the two men approach you and we could see power and control on their faces. We prayed for you the whole time."
     Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your angels Dave and Lorian.

Grace Grieving 14: Kent and Willina Lueb

     Missionaries, current and former, and former pastors who signed the Watchmen list include Janet Barnes, Richard Byrd, Don Hocking, Paul Hoffman, Dave Riggs, Sylvia Riggs, Kathy Rowell Zorn, and the couple featured below, Kent and Willina Lueb. On this blog, in WOW and the Uprights (Nov. 22, 2011), the Luebs are called "The Uprights."

More victims of Grace for our Wall of Remembrance:













L. Kent Lueb
Attended GBC for 55 years, served as elder for 2 years, Jr Hi Teacher, Minister of Christian Education, 30-year missionary to Holland from GBC.

Willina Coon Lueb
Attended GBC 78 years, Accompanist Jr Choir, Team teach High School, 30-year missionary to Holland from GBC.

The Luebs tried for months to appeal to the leadership to stay true to the Scriptures. They sent out to many of us essays documenting the aberrant teaching based on sources quoted from the pulpit. Finally they were told they are not welcome in this church and they quieted slipped away.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grace Grieving 13: John and Adrienne Anderson

     Another couple driven out of our church by its warm welcome, more victims of Grace for our Wall of Remembrance. In posts about John, like Kangaroo court  (Dec. 18, 2011) and "Bear" (Dec. 19, 2011),  I called him "Bear."

John Anderson
Attended GBC 40 years
Elder 10-12 years, Chair of Elder Board 2 years. Quit elder board, telling Chair: "I won't lie for you." Chairman: Business/Finance, Chairman: School Board/Brethren Christian Schools, Chairman: LB Rescue Mission, Parliamentarian: LB Brethren Elementary School PTF, President: LB Brethren Elementary School PTF, Taught 5th-6th grade Sunday School, Taught 4 year old Sunday School, member of Agape class since the beginning.

Adrienne Anderson
Attended GBC 40 years, Taught 1st grade: LB Brethren Elementary School, Taught 5th-6th grade Sunday School, Taught 4 year old Sunday School, and Co-hosted 5-day Club, member of Agape class since the beginning.

1988



















Anderson family, Christmas, 2011

Friday, February 24, 2012

Grace Grieving 12: Alan and Rita Wignall


More victims of Grace for our Wall of Remembrance:

See WOW and the Uprights (Nov. 22, 2011), my first post about the troubles at Grace. In that post, "Woman of the Word (WOW)" is Rita Wignall.

Alan and Rita Wignall 
Attended GBC since 1974.
Rita led Women’s Bible study for 25 years.  Taught 2 years of kindergarten, 3 years of 5th grade in Sunday School.   Served as a deacon for 30 years, belonged to the Women Action team for 6 years, served as a coordinator for the women’s Bible study for 5 years.  Attended Agape Sunday School class for 36 years.

For Rita and Alan's story, read WOW and the Gestapo (Dec. 6, 2011) and Glimpsing Grace (Dec. 7, 2011). Rita was offered a choice: leave the church or face "severe church discipline." She and Alan chose to leave.
1988

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Grace Grieving 11: "Strike the shepherd" - Rick and Shelley Byrd

     "You will all fall away, because it is written, 'I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.'" I think the Executive Board of Elders hopes to re-fulfill Jesus' prophecy in Mark:14:27.
    Last Friday they struck down Rick Byrd. (I nicknamd him "Faithful" in posts about his being hauled up before the EBOE. See "Ne-e-ex-t!"

     Chairman Carl called Rick, told him he was being removed from teaching the Agape adult Bible class which has been in existence since the early seventies and which he has taught for 15 years or so, and asked him to resign his church membership.
1992
     Rick and Shelley have been members of Grace for 40 years. Rick served as Elder for 17 years, Member Executive Elder Board, Member Board of Pastors, Member Grace Seminary and Grace Bible School Boards, Taught Grace Bible Institute, Taught Agape Sunday School Class, Taught Married Again Sunday School Class, Taught High School Sunday School, Taught 4-year old Sunday School.
     Rick writes, "In spite of [Lou's] teaching of the four-week series entitled 'Living with Disagreements' it seems that people are allowed to have differences only if they do not express them and only if they do not disagree with Pastor Lou. I began that day to pray and ask my Lord Jesus what He would have me to do—this letter is the result. . ." [Jessica's note: I wish I could quote this letter in full.]
     "[T]his church under the leadership of the current EBOE has departed from its historical foundations.  The belief system as currently taught has, according to the chairman of the EBOE, made this church a different place from the church that I joined forty years ago. I concur with his assessment.  The question is why? And also, the question is how?  These are precisely the concerns that I raised with the Elder board months before.  The simple answer as to “why” is that the church, through its current leadership, has departed from the reliance on and the adherence to the Word of God.  As to “how,” they have adopted a man centered, culturally themed, and mystic synthesis which serves as their foundational truth. I, along with others, have at first privately and then publically called them to account—asking first for personal and then public repentance. They have refused. . .
     "Now as to my resignation from this church’s membership, I have sought to turn our church around from its current path that many, many other churches are also on and that our elders are thus committed, and return our church to its historical roots that puts Jesus the Redeemer at the head of His church and His Word at the forefront of the congregation’s heart. I must remind us all that the Bible encourages each of us to continually examine our hearts to verify that we are in the Faith.  “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2Cor 13:5). I am praying for our church and for many of you individually.  I will continue to do this as the Holy Spirit brings you to my remembrance.
     "I, hereby with a sad and heavy heart, will acquiesce to the desires of the EBOE and leave this local body that I have called home. I will never leave Him because no man is able to take me out of the Father’s Hand (John 10.29).

"In my Lord and Savior’s Service for all eternity,

"Richard Byrd
"(Dated: 2-19-12)"

     The Agape class will no longer meet at Grace at 11 AM on Sunday mornings. Instead, we will reconvene on Tuesday nights at a nearby home. Rick and Shelley, plus many of the 50-60 people who attended his class for the last (teary) time on Sunday, will be scattering, leaving Grace to attend other churches. 
     Over the next few weeks or months, I would like to honor other victims of Grace over the past two decades in a Wall of Rememberance.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Grace Grieving 10: "Difficult decisions"

     You all received the "Letter from Grace Leadership" last Thursday. Chairman Carl called us "to refocus our attention on the mission God has called us to fulfill. . . to strengthen our community and covenant together to serve God's Kingdom. As leaders, our role is to direct that passion to pursue a greater purpose. But, as a body, we cannot fully embrace our calling without personal and missional alignment among church-wide leadership---including staff, elders, teachers, and volunteers. Achieving such alignment will involve wisdom and possibly some difficult decisions to get us all moving in the same direction. . . For this reason, we ask for your prayers that this can be accomplished wisely and lovingly in the best interests of all concerned."
     Carl's "wise and loving" guillotine, wielded "in the best interests of all concerned" to accomplish "personal and missional alignment" and get us all "moving in the same direction" fell on Bible teacher Rick Byrd the very next day. We expect more such blows.
     "Difficult decisions"? These decisions aren't hard for the EBOE. Just hard-hearted.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Grace Grieving 9: THE MANUAL

     The "Manual," variously called Manual of Policies and Procedures or The Board Policy Manual, is an extraordinary document--worthy of an extremist political party or a Jim Jones-type cult
     Dated April 22, 2010 when it was approved by the Executive Board of Elders (EBOE), and updated June 16, 2012, it appropriates for itself all power and authority over every minutiae of our church leadership, including the senior pastor. 
     It is a masterpiece of absolute, chilling control. The Manual is mentioned in the bylaws but it was approved by the EBOE without the knowledge or consent of the members. Until the Watchmen of Grace posted it on their website, we didn't know of its existence. And I hadn't read it until last week.
     Although you and I had no say in yielding all power to the EBOE through the Manual, its authority apparently supersedes the church bylaws we did have a say in. It governs every aspect of the Executive Board of Elders, that group which often meets in secret to determine all our destinies and which demands our total allegiance.
     God is given a token, flowery nod at the beginning of the Manual but it is really all about THE BOARD. Loyalty must be to THE BOARD. No elder can do anything without the permission or imprimatur of THE BOARD. Despite lots of good-sounding verbiage throughout, certain passages assure that the Board--particularly the Chairman of the Board--retains a tight fist around the church.
     "Board members will support the legitimacy and authority of the Board on any matter, irrespective of the individual elder's personal position on the issue." I guess this is where the Board can declare a decision unanimous even when it isn't--and require all elders to concur. 
     The Board "will direct, control and inspire" the church--don't miss that word "control". You'll read lots of examples in the Manual of how this control is applied. It will also "enforce upon itself whatever discipline is needed. . ." (They are big on conformity and discipline.) They will "allow no officer, individual, or committee of the Board to hinder or be an excuse for not fulfilling group obligations." I can hear boot heels clicking together.
     The EBOE looks over the shoulder of every elder as he speaks to the Senior Pastor or the staff: "Board Members' interactions with the Senior Pastor or with staff must recognize the lack of authority vested in individuals except where explicitly Board authorized."
     Board members are to report on each other if one "may be falling significantly short of adherence to one or more of the qualifications," at which point "communication and potential discipline shall be followed." We know what happened to Jesus Eyes when he tried to take exception to some of the board policies early on. They "communicated" with him and threatened "discipline" so effectively that he not only came back into lockstep with the leadership but became one of their most effective enforcers.   
    Much of its interpretation rests on the meanings of words whose definitions are not given. "The purpose of the Board is to. . . ensure that GBC achieves appropriate results for appropriate persons. . . and avoids unacceptable actions and situations. . ."  What results and persons are "appropriate"? What actions and situations are "unacceptable"? I guess we'll find out when we cross their invisible lines.  
     There are some odd additions in the Manual. Why is there a section on how to conduct "interfund shifting"? Is there a legitimate purpose for "interfund shifting" of church monies?
     Why is the Senior Pastor instructed to keep the Board informed of "anticipated media coverage" and "threatened or pending lawsuits"? Why would a church need to have rules covering potential confrontation with the community? 
     And why would our leaders need a document regulating their private conversations, personal opinions and thought life--and by extension ours, when we talk with them. 
     "The Chairperson" of this powerful Nine is "a specially empowered member of the Board." (emphasis added) He seems to hold himself above all the rules. For instance, when we reminded Chairman Carl that the elders are required by the bylaws and Robert's Rules of Orders to publish in the minutes of the February 5 business meeting the number of votes--not just percentages--received by each elder, he could blow off those requirements with, "We decided not to because it would just look like a popularity contest." And then "Maybe we will before our next business meeting in June. We'll think about it."    
     The existence of the Manual explains so much! It explains Board directives like the one we've been told about whereby a single elder is designated to speak to each of us dissenters. All others are apparently forbidden to approach or respond to us--even with a greeting or a smile.  
     It explains why the elders--men we've known, respected, and considered friends for decades--have turned into automatons, like someone stole their souls and consciences, why you can't sit down with them and discuss concerns, human being to human being, without their reporting to the Board that we are deviating from their script. It explains why they are all so intimidated by their own Board--and why they turn around and pass that intimidation on to us with a vengeance.       
     The EBOE (hereinafter called "THE FIST") is a pocket of power, submitting to no authority but their own, as determined and defined by their chairman. 
     Call it power grab, coup, or hostile takeover, now I finally know where all this bizarre cult-like Big Brother stuff is coming from.You might want to refresh your memory on cult characteristics in our post of January 5, 2012. You may be seeing more examples of them in the very near future.
     Now everything makes sense. This is where all the fear is generated. This is where all the threats come from. This is where mindless conformity is turning good men into cold-blooded agents of a dictator.
     This is where God is stepping in and saying, "NOT IN MY CHURCH!"

 

Monday, February 20, 2012

100 Verse Challenge - Week 23

From dianalovestowrite.blogspot.com:
     On Valentine's Day, I. . .  felt strongly that He was observing me to explore new ground by observing Lent. As I prayed I felt more and more certain that He was asking me to give up Facebook for that season. I'm going to be honest, it will be a HUGE challenge for me. But I know it is what God is asking of me. I need a personal revival, to get connected with the Lord, and get my focus righted. It's not that I am in sin or have wandered from the Lord, but there is an impression about going deeper, growing. Like in labor, it feels like it's time to push. And removing Facebook is going to help me push.

This morning the Lord gave me confirmation to exchange Facebook for what my pastor called "Face time," time seeking the Face of God. I am excited and hopeful about what might lie ahead.

Then today I opened 100 Verses Everyone Should Know By Heart by Robert J. Morgan, and interestingly enough, even our scripture fr this week feels like another confirmation, because it is in essence, a scripture about revival.

Typically the verse is referenced to be talking about "national revival," but I believe the promise could be held to on a personal level as well, and as I am meditating on the verse this week and memorizing it as Lent begins this Wednesday, I am even more excited about what God may do since I am confident this fast is one He has called me to.



(If) My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

Morgan points out in his book that there are 4 requirements of revival, and three promises to it in this passage.

Four Requirements:1. Humble yourselves. Pride (me-centered-ness) has got to go.
2. Pray.
3. Seek His face. (Face-time)
4. Turn from your wicked ways. Sometimes we get blinded to our own sin (remember, sin is just missing the mark) and we need to remove the distractions around us to really hear what the Lord is speaking.

Three Promises:
1. I (God) will hear from heaven. It's nice to know that Face-time is something God will show up for.
2. I (God) will forgive their sin.
3. I (God) will heal their land. I know this is a promise for a nation, but I am believing God will do healing in me and in my life as well. But even if that's not what this upcoming season is about, I know God has some good purpose in it. He is faithful!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Transforming Grace: Filters

     Often, before Lou preaches, whoever leads in prayer will ask us to set aside distractions and any filters through which we pre-judge or criticize message or messenger. This is reasonable--to a point.  
     When I watch movies, I watch them on several levels. As an author, I evaluate dialogue and plot. I watch for things like plausibility. I watch through filters that critique acting and lighting and photography. I have a filter through which I make moral judgments about the message.
     I try not to use any of these filters when I attend church or listen to sermons. I am not there to judge.
     But there is a filter God says we each must use when we listen to any teaching or claims made in His name. Acts 17:10-12 commends the believers in Berea: "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (italics mine.)
     This filter is not optional and to set it aside is to make ourselves vulnerable to error. We are to be like the Bereans, examining the Scriptures every day to see if what Lou and other pastors teach is true.
     This morning Lou preached a sermon on I Peter 1:1-12.  My "Biblical" filter was in place. I listened carefully to every word and I made notes of everything Lou said. And everything he said was right on.
     It was wonderful. The message was true, it was honest, it was life-giving. He actually taught the text. He said, "In this passage Peter asks what God has done, what is He doing, and what difference does it make?
     "What has God done? Being a Christian is not a choice you make. It means God chose you. It means knowing Him in a relational way. He has set you apart through His spirit to belong to Him. If you're a Christian, you need to see yourself this way.
     "It's not because of something you are or do. It's simply beause of His love and His grace. Your primary identity is your having been chosen by God simply because He loves you.
     "Has that happened to you? Have you been chosen by God? Philippians 1:6 says the One who began a good work in you will perfect it. He has called you to live as an obedient person, as a forgiven person.
     "There are two births. You had no control over your first birth. Peter talks about being born again, of having a new birth, a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. God has raised Jesus from the dead for us. It actually happened. This is His guarantee that He will raise us from death, too. Jesus' resurrection is the guarantee that it can and will happen. God's hope can never perish, spoil, or fade."
     There was a spiritual battle in the room but God was using His words from Lou's mouth to win it, driving out darkness, bringing peace and true unity. Jerry and I stood against the back wall and I marveled, seeing this church as God wants it to become--keeping all the earnestness and energy and creativity of our youth, all the powerful passages of Scripture, all the worship and substance of the songs with the added dimension of messages proclaiming the real Jesus.   
     "What is God doing now? He is guarding you by His power--because there is no use guarding an inheritance if there are no heirs. This is the great anticipation of what we'll enjoy fully in the future. Like someone shopping for a new car, we are already enjoying a test drive in anticipation of the actual release of that car.
     "Right now, in all this, we should have joy. Our faith is tested by fire so it will result in praise and glory. Can you trust God in your present trials so that your trust will grow stronger? It is the embrace of faith that produces joy. Peter says 'obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.'
     He said the Lord came into this world to give us life. He told us, "If you have never entered into that life, never experienced that living hope, you can now." He called us to sit silently for a few minutes. "If you already have that life, thank Him for it."
     He closed with the words, "Thank You that we can trust You with our life. Thank you that You have called us to Yourself."
     Standing with Jerry against the back wall I thought, If Lou preaches the truth, the whole gospel, without a private agenda or ulterior motives, there is no pastor I would rather sit under and no church I would rather be part of.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Grace Grieving 8: An apology to Lou

     I owe Pastor Lou Huesmann an apology. 
     Lou, I really thought you were responsible for all the grief the leadership has given so many of us. I thought you made the decisions and had the ultimate say about what happens in this church. 
     But I have just read a document written and adopted by the Executive Board of Elders (EBOE) that opened my eyes. It says the Chairman of the EBOE is a "specially empowered member of the Board" while the Senior Pastor is only a member of the Board at all "at the pleasure of the Board." 
     The Chairman leads the Board in their decision-making. He monitors and evaluates your performance. He conducts the Board's "systematic and rigorous monitoring of Senior Pastor job performance" based on their "Board-stated ends" and contingent on your staying within their "boundaries" and accomplishing their "ends." They can assess your "compliance with the appropriate policy criteria" by "direct Board inspection" of "any policy at any time by any method," reserving the right to be the "final arbiter" of your performance. That's a lot of hoops to jump through if you want a boss to "view (you) as successful."
     In your attempts to accomplish their ends, the Board "will [not may] develop policies to limit the latitude (you) may exercise in choosing organizational means." They will limit your choices if they are unacceptable to them "even if they are effective." 
     They reserve the right to change the rules of this curious but sinister game: "The Board may change its Ends and Executive Limitations Policies, thereby shifting the boundary between Board and Senior Pastor domains. By doing so, the Board changes the latitude of choice given to the Senior Pastor. But as long as any particular boundary is in place, the Board will respect and support the Senior Pastor's choices."
     Sounds to me like a potential bait and switch. They set the boundaries, give you choices, change the boundaries, limit your choices--pulling your chain at will.    
     The chairman even has in place, in this document, a provision to "protect the Board from sudden loss of Senior Pastor services." Almost as if he anticipates that circumstances will require him to put them into effect. 
     Why would such provisions be necessary in a document regulating the running of a church? Doesn't something about this seem fishy to you, Lou? Sounds like you work for them, not for us. We'd be a lot more lenient on you than they are. Feed His sheep, tend His lambs. That would do for us, Lou.
      The Board did grant you the $25,000 you asked them for, as a kind of petty cash fund--so you wouldn't have to keep nickel-and-diming them for small purchases. They granted you $25,000 of our money (annually, we've been told) for whatever these petty items are--but they put in writing that you are not to have a penny more! 
     They really keep you on a tight leash.
     Of course in return you get to manage the staff. If you're happy with that and if you trust the Chairman of the EBOE to have your best interest at heart, then I guess you don't mind being his lackey.
     Anyway, my point is not to say you seem to be a pawn just like we are but to say I apologize for having thought you run the whole show.   
     For anyone reading this who is unfamiliar with that particular document--it's called "the Manual."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Grace Grieving 7: Who "won"?

     One (hopefully) last post on the debacle of February 5: 
     Someone who supported the proposed changes to the Statement of Faith said we (Watchmen) won because we were able to block those changes.
     It's hard for us to see it that way. First, the Bylaws require members not only to support but to "advocate and propagate" the existing Statement of Faith. Not to do so is grounds for dismissal. Yet the Executive Board of Elders has been ignoring the Statement for years. They haven't taught it to new members since 2006 and they do not require church leaders to believe it. Instead, they've advocated and propagated their proposed version, the one that officially lost the election. It has been posted on the church website for a long time as "Our Core Commitments."
     Second, the Statement of Faith is part of the proposed Bylaws, which will be voted on in June. (In keeping with the trend of this church, the proposed Bylaws continue to remove substantial rights from members. You will lose the right to have any say about the budget, choice of senior pastor, missionaries, staff appointees allowed to become elders without requiring membership approval, women given all the rights of pastors, etc.)  Since every elder was re-affirmed, those who want those changes are still in power--and their agenda has not changed. Regardless of the wishes of the congregation, legal or not, they are determined to ram their agenda through.
     Third, even though the Statement of Faith was in effect when the names of those who supported it were made public, and even though the Statement of Faith is still in effect the leadership has used that list to punish and discriminate against those who signed it.
     So in what sense can we be said to have "won"?

Grace Grieving 6: Update on election results

     According to an e-mail sent by "the leadership" (Carl LaBarbera) to the entire church on February 15, the elders received votes varying from 76-89%. This means not one elder received even the minimum number of votes required for elders to be approved before Lou came.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

P.S. by John Anderson

     "The current Bylaws, Article V Section D 10 provides that any matter which comes up at a meeting and which is not specifically covered by our Bylaws shall be governed by the most current edition of Robert's Rules of Order.  That is the 11th edition.  WELL, I requested the tabulations from the vote at the meeting and it was refused.  Our Bylaws set forth that these records (the minutes of the meeting) shall be kept at our business office and be available to any member.  Robert's Rules Section 4, page 48, lines 18-23 and page 50 lines 21-27 require that the tabulated numerical vote be given to the members and then the percentage.  The Robert's Rules, newly revised In Brief, 2d edition, which is correlated with the official Rules, on page 74, discusses the handling of a ballot vote and on page 75 discusses the "required" Teller's written report which is to be entered into the minutes.  In other words. . . the actual vote must be entered into the minutes of the meeting and be available to the members. . . 
     "This, together with the fact that every vote at the meeting was invalid because of the Point of Order I made, in timely fashion, that they had improperly denied the vote to numerous people (the number or affect on the outcome is not relevant), really shows what the wolves in leadership at Grace is composed of."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Grace Grieving 5: Two lists

     The Executive Board of Elders (EBOE) has a list of the members of our church. It's the list they used to determine who could vote on February 5. We didn't know there was a list. We have never laid eyes on it and do not know anyone else who has, other than the executive elders. 
     We are baffled by the criteria used to create this list. It doesn't follow the rules of  Membership and Dismissal in the bylaws. It eliminates an unknown number of people who, according to the bylaws, qualify as members. (People once accepted into membership who have neither requested to be removed from membership nor been removed after a specific disciplinary process, are still members.)* 
     It is not derived from the current church directory, which lists any members and attenders who want to be included in it without distinguishing between them. 
      According to what seemingly arbitrary criteria were some members included and others excluded? Is it age? Some older members who attend and give regularly were excluded. Is it race? Sam and Ruth Sebabi, point persons for our ministry to The Ugandan Lambs, AIDS orphans in Africa, did not make the cut. If they excluded those they consider their enemies, those who have openly questioned their motives and actions, why were one couple who have been openly critical of the EBOE excluded but not John Anderson and his wife--or us?    
     Shirley Haralson (see last post) was told members can be dismissed for "not attending for a period of time," which is true. But the only ways they can be dismissed are by their requesting it or being taken through church discipline and notified of their dismissal--NOT, as Shirley was told, "be mentioned at a board of Elders meeting" at which elders "vote to remove the name."
     If the EBOE has been dismissing members in this unauthorized way, they have not been notifying members of their changed status. To our knowledge no person thus "dis-membered" ever knew about it until they were denied the right to vote on February 5.

     The other list is the list signed by those, like Shirley, who were told they were not members and were denied the right to vote.  Actually it is just a partial list because it does not include those who, though denied the right to vote, were not told about the list and therefore could not sign it.
    This (second) list disappeared sometime during or following the business meeting on February 5. To date, the EBOE has not released either the number or the names of those people. I imagine if they did anything with those names, they just compared them to their first list and confirmed, "Yup, their names aren't on it." As far as we know, the EBOE has made no attempt to address these people's grievances, nor to give any legitimate members on the list a chance to vote after the fact, nor have they declared the vote invalid because those members were wrongfully excluded. 
     Yet according to Robert's Rules of Orders, because members were kept from voting, the vote was invalid.  
     John Anderson, the church member and attorney who kept the meeting honest by insisting on adherence to the church bylaws and to Robert's Rules of Order, points out, "Robert's Rules governs our meetings in any area not covered by the bylaws.  Section 23 of Roberts Rules covers Points of Order and the effect of not allowing a person who is qualified the right to vote.  At any time this can be brought up but it only affects the outcome if the vote would change the total vote.  However, if the Point of Order is timely made (I made it timely) the entire vote is void.  Therefore, if anyone wants to raise this point, the meeting is a nullity."
     Jerry and I hereby raise this point and call the EBOE's attention to the fact that the entire vote is nullified by the fact that some qualified persons were denied the right to vote.
 


*Our church bylaws list five reasons a member can be dismissed from membership:
     --Persistent engagement in sinful practices without repentance.
     --Denial of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ either as the Son of God or as personal Savior.
     --Failure to agree with the Statement of Faith as set forth in Article II. [Ironically, this applies to many of the members of the EBOE.]
     --Advocation or propagation of any belief contrary to the Statement of Faith as set forth in Article II or the additional theological positions as set forth in the Article III.
     --Prolonged lack of interest or inexcusable failure to attend the services of this church.

     For each of these five reasons the bylaws allow only three methods by which membership can be revoked: 
     --A Member may withdraw his/her membership by submitting a written request to the Executive Board of Elders. 
     --A member may request a transfer of his/her membership to another church by submitting a written request to the Executive Board of Elders.
     --In a manner consistent with Matthew 18:15-17, Galatians 6:1, and Hebrews 10:24-25, a Member may be dismissed and his/her name removed from the membership roll of this church. The procedure will be consistent with Matthew 18:15-20 and as explained in the Manual of Guidelines and Procedures [hereafter referred to as the "Manual"]." (Note: We could not find anything in the Manual explaining or even referring to dismissing a church member.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Grace Grieving 4: Members denied the right to vote

Letter to John Anderson, GBC member, att'y:
     Hello John,  I wanted to let you know what I experienced when I went to the church vote last Sun. [Feb. 5] I met Nelline and Betty Frank when I arrived and b/f heading over to the gym, Nelline mentioned that I needed a packet to be allowed in the meeting.  She said members could pick theirs up at one of the tables in the patio, so I headed over to the one that listed Ha and asked for my member packet, which. . . wasn't there.
     When I said I was a member and should have a packet, he sent me over to another table where 2 women had a tablet to sign if you didn't get a packet and felt you should have had one there.  One of them asked me if I was a current member at the church, which I replied that I'd been a member since 1947 and had not sent the church a letter of intent to remove my membership.  Also, I had not received a letter telling me that my membership at this church had been removed.  I mentioned that I had been attending Los Altos Grace Brethren Church but had not changed my membership.
     The other lady told me that there were criteria for removing members from the church membership, one of which was not attending for a period of time.  The member would then be mentioned at a board of Elders meeting and they would vote to remove the name.  I was so taken back that I didn't think to reply with, "How would they know I wasn't attending here unless they have members sign in as proof"?
     Anyway, standing next to me was a member, Mrs. Schilling, whom I remembered from our days together at the church at 5th and Cherry, many years ago.  She spoke up and said, "I'm a member of this church and also send in money and also attend, so why don't I have a packet?" They said they would look into the names on the tablet we were to sign.
     I was told non-members could observe the meeting  from the chapel on closed circut TV.  I went into the Chapel and saw Betty Frank sitting in the back and sat down by her.  She told me that she was a member who has been attending and sending in contributions, but was told she didn't have a packet.  She wasn't told of the table with the sign-in tablet for those who felt they should have a packet.  I would like to know if removing my membership without proof of my non-attendence and not notifying me of the removal is contestable?  Do you have any suggestions for me?

Thank you,
Shirley Ketchum Haralson


Response from John Anderson:
     Love you Shirley! Be advised that not allowing you to vote was illegal. I corrected the Chairman during the meeting when he tried to say that was the rule. To apply the section they "cited" incorrectly to you, you would have had to have been taken through a Mt 18 discipline process. . . someone has to approach you about your "sin" (which in this case would be the man-made sin of failure to regularly come to Grace).
     If you heard me during the first part of the meeting you heard me raise the issue of denial of the right to vote. By being timely raised it does not matter whether or not your vote would have changed the outcome. It automatically voids the entire vote. They will not respond or accept this but it is correct. . . I am so sorry that you and others were abused like this and I hope that someone will raise this issue to Chairman LaBa[r]bera, the elders . . . at the EBOE meeting, and anywhere else they can. They will not provide us the exact vote or the list of people (all.  Not just those that went the extra mile they were not legally required to by signing their list) who were denied the right to vote.  John

Monday, February 13, 2012

Grace Grieving 3: "76%" of one mind

     After the vote on February 5, John Anderson wrote the Watchmen, "In the days since the meeting I have reached out to Mr. LaBarbera, the chairman of the Executive Board of Elders.  I gave him my view of the vote as indicating a church that is sick.  Here is his response:
     “Contrary to your view regarding the reaffirmation of Elders and the ordination of Kurt, I see the results as a very strong endorsement of the current leadership and direction of our church. The lowest percentage received by the Elders was 76% approval, which in legal terms is a “super majority”. This endorsement is significant, due to the fact that we have a known group of members who are opposed to leadership and have tried everything they could to discredit them.”
     Back to John (an attorney): "Of course there is no such thing in legal terms as a 'super majority'.  That seems to be the only thing about the law he appears to know and it is wrong.  But you see, they believe they received a significant endorsement, like this was politics and not the church, and we are 'a known group of members who are opposed to leadership and have tried everything they could to discredit them.'  That is how your elders view you."
     Maybe in the corporate world "76%" is a "supermajority." But under the bylaws in effect when Lou became senior pastor, elders had to be approved by 90% of the vote. In 1992, the year after he came, it was changed to a two-thirds majority.
     In the body of Christ only "76%" agreement is a cause for grief. Acts 2:37-47 speaks of the early church being "of one mind." That unity was based on each member having been "pierced to the heart" by personal sin to the point of repentance and having been added to the church by the Lord on the basis of being saved. That church "continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine" (NKJV).
     We haven't heard sermons in this church for a long, long time that pierced any listener's heart with a sense of personal sin and the need for repentance. We haven't been continuing steadfastly or any other way in the "apostles' doctrine" regarding salvation. 
     The other night some of us heard, second-hand, the salvation testimony of a man over at Cal Heights Baptist Church. He was an ex-drunk, ex-addict, ex-atheist, tatooed-all-over biker and he got saved. I mean, he got genuinely, marvelously, once-for-all forgiven, set free, glory, hallelujah, dancing in the aisles, praise God, passed from death to life, delivered out of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear son SAVED! 
     Made me nostalgic, even wistful. God used to do things like that at our church.   

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Clarifications made on Grace under Siege #52

I talked with the woman who had the vision recorded on January 15 and she clarified a few points: GuS 52: We are not alone

P.S.

     Immediately after Jerry approved my posting about the choir, I heard a chorus of chirping in the winter-bare tree off our bedroom balcony. Three finches were in the dead branches singing their little feathery hearts out! I called Jerry over to listen. We both thought of the words of Jesus in Luke 19:37-40: "When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
   “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
   Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
   “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
     It felt like one of the Lord's sweet, personal reminders of His love for us (of which there have been many over the last few months), assuring us that if we can't celebrate His resurrection in public song, He will appoint birds to praise Him for us!

Grace Grieving 2: Not welcome in choir

     Rehearsals for the Easter service begin tomorrow night. For the first time in Jerry's 36 years here at Grace and my 8 years married to him, we won't be participating in them.
     We've been told we are no longer welcome to sing in the choir.
     Yesterday, we received a letter from one of the basses, stating that since we stand against our church leadership, we would be hypocrites to sing at Easter. (As my gatekeeper, Jerry suggested I not read the actual letter.) I wanted to tell this man that we have no problem with our real church Leadership (capital L). He's the One we sing to and sing about. Where the leadership fails to submit to His authority, we cannot in good conscience submit to their authority. Acts 5:29.
     It hurt but this was just one member's opinion. Jerry emailed the gist of his letter to Jessie, our choir director, adding, "Please let us know as soon as possible if this is also your view. We do not want to cause dissension in the choir and would appreciate your opinion."
      I was confident the choir director would overrule him. She is a young woman with such an exuberant love for God and music, such a profound mastery of the craft and of communicating it that it has always been a privilege to sit under her direction. I've told her often that it is like--no, it is--studying under a godly, musically gifted professional--for free. Painful experiences in a very shy childhood convinced me I could not sing. But Jerry encouraged me to take choir with him and for a couple of years I glued myself to Donna, who reads music and has a clear accurate alto. I'd copy her notes and expression, singing "solo" I couldn't hear myself. Gradually Jerry, Jessie and Donna brought out the confidence in me that even my joyful noise honors the Lord. To my own surprise, I had actually begun to like singing.
     Jessie has never indicated that she is on either "side" of this tragedy. She always stresses that in choir we are united in our praise and worship of Jesus Christ.
     But she sought us out after this morning's service and said that although it is hard for her because she loves us, she agrees with the choir member. We have hurt people in the choir through this blog. Unless we repent, we are not welcome back.   
     I hurt for Jerry, because the choir was always a big part of why he was here. Between marriages, when other groups in Grace started taking turns leading worship (good as they are), and choir shrank down to rehearsals for two occasions, Christmas and Easter, he made the rounds of other churches. Actually I was doing the same thing between my marriages--looking for another church.
     On February 1, 2004, we both "happened" to be back at Grace and that's the day God brought us together. We got engaged two weeks later on Valentine's Day and were married before the entire congregation on May 2. We have attended Grace (again) ever since. We're certain God drew us back to this church.
     We love Jessie. She has to do what she believes God is calling her to do and we have to keep doing what we believe God is calling us to do. We ask God daily to speak truth to any lies we believe and we stand ready, moment by moment, to repent to anyone anywhere for anything if God convicts us of sin. I hope those who stand against us are doing the same. 

*Jessie Flasschoen has a BA and a credential in music from Cal State Long Beach. She needs a job and I hope someone reading this can offer her one worthy of her briliance. I'm serious!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

100 Verse Challenge - Week 22

From dianalovestowrite:

Cast your burden on the LORD, and He will support you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.  Psalm 55:22

Casting all your care upon Him, because He cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7

From Jessica: I'm glad these are the verses for this week. I need them!