"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

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Grace Grieving 30: Interesting facts about church money

      We have already told you one interesting fact, namely, that the senior pastor requested and was granted $25,000 for unspecified "small" purchases, a $25,000 petty cash fund, if you will. In the Board Policy Manual, created in 2010, under "Global Executive Constraint," p. 17, the senior pastor is not allowed to "make a single purchase or commitment of greater than $25,000. Splitting orders to avoid this limit is not acceptable." 
     We also told you we have it on excellent authority that this amount is granted to him annually. (From the wording in the Manual, it could be even more often than that.) We find nothing in writing to indicate the senior pastor has to justify or even notify the Board of what he will purchase, provide receipts for what he has purchased or in any other way be held accountable for his use of this money. 

     Here's another interesting fact for you who give money to Grace: Pastor Lou Huesmann has access to the church financial records.
     In our church's 99-year existence, we have had five senior pastors.
     Every senior pastor has had the right to access the church financial records.
     It has been the policy in the past for every senior pastor--in order to avoid even the "appearance of evil" (I Thessalonians 5:22)--not to access those records, to stay completely away from anything to do with church finances. 
     Until now.
     Lou is the first pastor in our church's history to actually use that right to access those records. He knows who gives, how much you give, and who has stopped giving. 
     One other interesting fact about Grace finances. The two of us are no longer allowed to have anything to do with them. Jerry has been a steward for about 15 years. When we married eight years ago, I joined his group of four churchmembers who count the offering every Sunday for four months of the year and take it to the bank Monday morning.   
     On January 30, we urged Church Administrator Ralph Hampton privately to report to the proper authorities any irregularities he may be aware of in the management of church money (based on information that has come to our attention from several sources). 
    He seemed very nervous and asked quickly, "What have you heard?" He said there had been a cash audit "a month ago" and "they said everything looked fine." (Note: Later, a member of the Business and Finance Committee checked and told us the last audit of church finances was June 30, 2011.)
     On February 20 we had our annual appointment with Ralph's wife Sue, a CPA who did our taxes. We urged her in person and in a letter we handed her for both of them to report any financial mismanagement they might be aware of so that Ralph would not be implicated.
     On February 23 EBOE Chairman Carl LaBarbera wrote us a letter claiming that we had "falsely implicated and falsely accused" a Church employee of "unstated and alleged crimes and fradulent acts." He threatened that if we did not "cease and desist," the EBOE "will contact the authorities and avail ourselves of any remedies available under the law."
     Since we believe they may have a great deal more to lose by contacting the authorities and the law than we do, we shrugged the threat off. We had not committed the "sins" he accused us of and have no intention of committing them. So Carl's concerns were moot.
     On February 24 we received all our tax information back in the mail from Sue with a cover letter saying "the letter that you handed me . . . has made me realize that here is now a conflict of interest between us and the professional relationship has to be severed."
     On Sunday, February 26, executive elders Brian Chung and Kurt Victor approached us before the second service. Brian urged us to "stop stirring up dissension" through our blog His Scribbler and repent,"or "find a church where you will be happier." 
     On February 27, elder Jerry Giles, on behalf of Grace Brethren Church, wrote us a letter stating, "We are releasing you from representing the church in any leadership capacity. . ."
     Among the responsibilities we were "released" from was Jerry's position as steward. Ralph had Jerry surrender his keys to the church.
     On March 16, erroneously citing March 4 as the day he and Brian Chung spoke to us at church, "Kurt Victor, Vice Chairman, Executive Board of Elders, Grace Brethren Church of Long Beach," wrote us a letter claiming that their "attempts to initiate a process of restoration" with us had "failed." They referred to our "efforts to stir up strife, which constitutes sin," claimed "you acknowledged your efforts to promote dissent"--which is not true--and that "you have also continued to post articles on your blog that are divisive."
     This last is also untrue because we don't agree that we are the ones being divisive. Who is committing sin and causing division in our church: those who preach a gospel which requires repentance only for "sin" against the leadership, those who mistreat members, and those who are possibly involved in mismanagement involving church finances--or those who expose such things?  
     In this letter they informed us that "on or after April 29, 2012," an announcement will be made at a church-wide service that we are sinners and need to repent or "the EBOE (Executive Board of Elders) will proceed to dismissal" of our membership.
     "If you acknowledge your sin and show both the desire and effort to no longer practice the sin, the EBOE will restore you, and a public announcement and celebration shall be held. If no restoration takes place, the EBOE will proceed to dismissal of your" (39-year!) "membership." 
Summary: Obviously the Hamptons passed our letter of concern for their welfare to Ralph's superiors--who deliberately misread our letter as a threat to Ralph and threatened us. So within less than four weeks of their becoming aware that we have reason to suspect ongoing misuse of the church finances, the leadership blocked our access to knowledge of what is going on and are proceeding to kick us out of the church. 
     These facts and their timing are certainly interesting to us.  


  1. Mat 10:24 A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his lord.
    Mat 10:25 It is enough for the disciple that he be as his teacher, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household!
    Mat 10:26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.
    Mat 10:27 What I tell you in the darkness, speak ye in the light; and what ye hear in the ear, proclaim upon the house-tops.
    Mat 10:28 And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

  2. Thank you, precious woman. God spoke encouragement to us through these reminders. I look forward to meeting you "here, there, or in the air."