Tess: The Pastor's Secretary

by William R. Fields
Copyright 1993, PeaceMakers.net, Inc.
[note 2003: when I first wrote this brief story in 1993, I had no specific conflict in mind.
I was presenting how I've witnessed some "churches" operate in the midst of conflict-
here's one possible example I found on the internet:
Osterville Baptist Church and Rev. Michael Rowe

Chapter One The End is Beginning

"No Pastor," toiled Barb, "I'm so ashamed of Tess. I thought she was a good friend and the kind of Christian you could trust. She's not! I feel rage and hate because of what she's doing to you and our church. I refuse to worship when she's there. You know I love you and believe God has sent you to be our Shepard, but there's a time to put a stop to this! Sometimes healing means cutting out the source of rebellion. The Bible says so, it's in Matthew 18.

Dazed by Barb's demand for Church Discipline of Tess, Rev. Charles David knew he could not risk losing the love and trust he'd built in this troubled church. Chuck made his members feel loved and valued with Grand fatherly smiles, "he-man" handshakes and hugs. He really cares for his people. Some are just more difficult to love, everyone knows that.

Not that any would want to tear down the last Pastor, but Pastor Chuck is a real blessing and a healing to Poplar Hills Church, which had been troubled by far too many conflicts and splits. Now a real fight between two key women in the church, and it's spreading. This is not the first he'd heard of how bad it is.

"Barb." Pastor Chuck began anointing her with Baritone resonance dripping warmth. "You must listen closely. God calls for love to cover a multitude of sins. Tess is hurting. In her hurt she struck out at me. I love her and I understand her. I mourn your loss of Tess as a friend. But you must learn to exercise patience. Each one of us grows differently and though I've loved your phenomenal spiritual growth over the last five years, God is calling you to even greater righteousness.

"Let's read God's Word together.

"Proverbs 10:12, 'Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.' see what I mean? You've got to love Tess inspite of her hate. And here's another verse, one of my favorites Proverbs 17:9, 'He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.' And, as if these were not enough, God gave us direction in His New Testament in 1 Peter 4:8, 'Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.' Barb, God knows best. We must love Tess enough to let her sins be covered by God's Blood.

"Let's pray. [pastor chuch puts his arm around Barb's shoulders] Our most precious heavenly Father be with Barb right now and give her a deep drink of your Grace and Mercy. May her heart be filled with your love toward Tess. May there be a healing in Tess. May both of these dear sisters be reunited in Christian fellowship. In Jesus Name, Amen.

"Barb, this has been a wonderful time sharing God's Word. I know God will honor your prayers and His Word will not return unto Him void. Thank you for coming. God bless you."

"Thank you Pastor! You are a sweet blessing. I know I've lacked faith. Lord, how many times have I had to come to you for counseling. I thank God for you. I really do. Thank you so much." "You're welcome Barb. We love you, see you Sunday. Goodbye now."

Barb leaves Pastor Chuck's office feeling better and passes on the glow of unity to the new Church Secretary, Loretta, who was hired after the ugly firing of Tess.

As Pastor Chuck closed the door of his study there was a sense of accomplishment. Somehow a threatening situation was diverted and peace prevailed. A quick nod of Thanksgiving and back to his covered desk. Sitting he felt a slight tug of warm emotion toward Barb. She had come a long way. They were close in the Lord. Barb is a good member, he reflected. Looking with love at his family portrait Chuck knew that once again his gifts of Pastoring and a wonderful family meant God loved him and was blessing him in ways only God knew.

"Loretta," he called, "please bring me the last letter from Head Quarters concerning the Annual Convention."

Loretta hurriedly searched the files for the letters. This was her second job as a Church Secretary and her first as the Senior Pastor's personal assistant. Rev. Charles Davids is a great pastor, but sometimes he could get a little testy if he were delayed in getting his communications out on time.

"Here they are Pastor. Would you like some more coffee or something cold to drink?"

"No thanks. I noticed you failed to correct these two typing mistakes. You can't let this kind of seemingly small matter go unattended. I have a very responsible position in the denomination and the community for that matter. God's work should not look slack. I know you've been here only two months, but please let's be a little more careful.

By the way, I would like to ask your opinion on a couple of matters. It's about Barb and Tess. I could use your help."

"Sure Pastor, how?"

"Well it's a very sad thing to see these two fighting. You know I love them both a lot, but it does get under a man's skin. You're a woman. Doesn't it seem to you that when two women get going at each other they can get so bitter and petty? Even Paul rebuked Euodia and Syntyche. I tell you a Pastor's whole ministry can be ruined by two jealous women.

"I want you to know how much I appreciate your maturity and broad shoulders. I can see already, God has given me a real helper in you. Thanks! Well back to this convention. As a keynote speaker, I'm just not sure whether I should deliver my sermon on 'stewardhip: God's provisions for His ministry, ' or if I should share how God has blessed our Church through my new evangelism program tied with small groups. Have you heard either of them?"

Loretta couldn't keep up. She asked to hear the two sermons so she could give her input. "Pastor, I know the Holy Spirit will lead you in the right choice. Could I hear them both?"

"Maybe later, I've got a lot of work for you to do that needs your immediate attention. Maybe later. That's all. Thank you. Wait, tomorrow is Thursday. Please call Sister Gertrude and ask her what kind of food she's got a taste for tomorrow's lunch. I love that old woman. Did you know Loretta, that Sister Gertrude and I go a long way back? Back to when I was in college. I loved to sit in her living room and talk about the Bible and glean her insights. That woman used to be a Preacher. She does have the stories to tell. She was a part of the Prohibition era. I saw news articles with her pictured chopping a Bar to pieces wielding a big axe. Sister Gertrude could look very intimidating. I really love that Ol' lady. God's Word is clear that Sister Gertrude is the kind of widow that Church is to take care of. And I plan on doing just that. Thanks for listening Loretta. Please call her and see what she wants for Lunch."

Barb's been home now for about fifteen minutes. Perky, her shadow grey cat with white boots on both front paws demanded dinner. And now! Barb playfully opens a can of cat food and serves Perky's dinner.

"Now that's done you cute little thing, I've got to do my devotions. I am so far behind I'm never going to catchup on my read through the Bible in One Year. Oh Lord, I'm sorry for letting other things get in the way of our time together. I know you understand. Thank you for your grace and mercy. Let's see, hum. Oh yes, I'm in 1 Corinthians. Which chapter? Five, that's it, chapter five. Ok, I've read verse one through, yes here it is. Verse six, 'Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works...

The phone rings and Perky jumps about a foot off the floor and runs under the couch. Barb laughs.

"Hello."

"Hi Barbara, it's Sally. How are you?

"Oh Sally, I'm so glad you called. I was feeling so lonely, sitting here reading the Bible and thinking about Tess." As much as I miss her, I think God is leading the Church to do Church discipline on her."

"That is so sad. How did your meeting with Pastor Chuck go?"

"He's such a Godly man. I really believe God is using him mightily to preach God's Word. It's good that some people get their toes stepped on. Maybe if my Dad would have treated Tess with a little more discipline she wouldn't be in this mess. You know, God uses adverse situations to get our attention. I think Tess being fired as the Pastor's secretary was God's way of calling Tess to repentance for the sin in her life. When she was my Dad's secretary, he'd tell me Tess was always bringing up verses to confront him. Pastors' need to be protected from grumbling members.

Besides, can you imagine a woman with Tess' background saying the Pastor's off base in firing her? What hypocrisy. If she couldn't do the work then she needed to get a job where she could use God's gifts better. Tess can be so childish."

"What background? I didn't know Tess very well. She was a great Sunday School teacher. We all loved her. She could really make God's Word come alive. And could she have fun at our parties. All the guys would hang around her all night. What kind of things are you talking about?

"Tess lived pretty..," Sally interrupts,

"Barb, I'm not sure I need to know. Could this be gossip?"

"Oh no. I'm a good friend of Tess, so I'm just telling you so you can help pray with me more intelligently for her. You did know that she lived pretty loose as a teenager. She never admitted to taking drugs but there were a lot of boys. Even though she became a Christian in college, you know it's really hard to 'do the things we should,' to paraphrase Paul in Romans. I believe Tess is struggling with not having a father who loved her and she took out her anger on Pastor Chuck. What do you think?"

"You could be right Barb about taking out her anger on the Pastor because she didn't have a dad who showed her love. I was watching a talk show and a Psychologist was saying the exact same thing. It was kind of scary to think somebody could be that damaged by an alcoholic father and then carry out their anger on others. And they don't even know it."

"Sally, I didn't know Tess' dad was an alcoholic."

"Well I don't know for sure, but with all this hidden memory stuff, and Tess' behavior, who knows just what the problem is? Besides, you know Tess and her dad still don't get along very well. I wouldn't be surprised by anything. We'll just pray for them both. Don't you agree, Barb?"

"Yes I do. In fact just when you called I was reading the Bible and God showed me in 1 Corinthians 5:6 that we need to get the Tess' out of our church before it's all ruined. Well I got to get going."

"Me too."

Thanks for calling and joining me in prayer for Tess and her family. And don't forget to pray for Pastor Chuck, he needs our support too. Bye Sally."

"Bye Barb. God bless you loving Tess like this." Barb sits down on the couch. Perky scratches the ruffles. She raps him hard enough to make him roll across the floor. "What a little clown you are Perky. Lets see... 'through a whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast -- as you really are.' Wow! That's awesome Lord. Here I am seeking your help with Tess and today's bible reading is right on. Sally was a real blessing too.

I remembered how faithful you were Lord when I was a kid. Nothing's better than using God's Word to battle the devil. Nothing can break a three braided cord, my Dad, you, and me.. I wish I could feel that alive all the time.

That's strange, I wonder why I just thought of Dad? Dad is a great guy. A real man I can trust. I loved honoring him as the Pastor in our church. Everybody looked up to him until some small thinking judgmental types, like Tess, went after him. When he resigned, I wanted to leave the Church out of loyalty to him. We all loved hearing his stories about his mission trips all around the world. It was wonderful how Dad encouraged me to stay here and bring change from the inside. You know Pastor Chuck is a little like my Dad. Lord, maybe, if it's your will, if I ever get married you will give me a husband with the spiritual maturity of my Dad. I should give dad a call."

Chapter Two A Friend for Tess?

Two days later while Sally was picking up her husband Bob's dry cleaning at his office building she spotted Tess photo copying some papers, and quickly looks away. "Boy that was close. I wouldn't know what to say to Tess. I'm sure God is caring for her. It's not my gifts to get involved, besides no one has asked me too. I trust God to work it all for His glor"... "Sally!"

"Tess! What a surprise? I've been praying for you. How are you? What are you up to?"

"Sally, it's nice to see you. I'm copying some personal files. I really miss not seeing you on Sunday's. How have you been?"

"Not too good. I just feel so terrible about all the mess at the Church. Bob and I decided we couldn't go through this again so we're going to Our Savor Bible Church. The Pastor there is a great preacher. You know, I can't understand what all the fuss is about. Frankly, I don't want to know. We've found that when you get to the bottom of all this it's like James 4, something says, 'What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?'"

"I agree, Sally. I've wanted to..."

"Tess, I may be out of line here, but have you really searched your heart? I mean have you looked at the mote in your own eye? I'm not saying you're at fault or anything. I don't really know what's been happening. And don't forget that God can use your being fired for good. You outta read that Romans 8:28 passage. `All things work for good.' It gives me a lot of comfort in times like these."

"Yes Sally I..."

"Before you go on, I'm sorry to interrupt but I gotta say one more thing. It's not like I'm a preacher but I believe the Lord has laid this on my heart. Please don't get angry."

"Ok."

"Remember I don't know what really happened between you and Pastor, but God's Word does say 'Touch not mine anointed.'"

"That's not really the issue here Sally. I have prayed and sought help..." Sally interrupts a third time.

"I know Tess, Pastor can be a real task oriented, A plus personality type. I've worked with him on several committees and so has Bob. But we've got to over look some of his weakness in order to do more for Christ and His kingdom. Give me a call sometime. You know the phone lines go both ways." Sally chuckles as she leaves waving.

Tess is barely able to control her anger. Blinking away the tears, Tess is deeply wounded. Another "friend" has misunderstood. Once again someone who says they care gives her Bible verses and runs away. "Won't anybody listen. Nobody is listening. Everybody thinks they know what this is all about. They haven't heard a thing I've said." Tess leaves, forgetting her photo copying, and despondently walks to the Ladies room.

Tess sobs echo from the bathroom stall announcing her shame. Confused and feeling guilty of her sins wondering if her view of Pastor Chuck and others is flawed by her pain and desperation. "Oh Lord, my God, what am I to think? I know I've got sin in my life. I know I could have done some things better. I've confessed all that. I'm truly sorry. But this hurts. This hurts real bad. Won't anybody help me?" Going back to get her materials and returning to her office, Tess hopes she doesn't run into anybody she knows. She rushes along, with her eyes piercing the carpet, just trying to survive and get through the work day."

"Mrs. Bond, you have a call on line seven."

"Hello, Tess Bond, may I help you?"

"Tess, it's me Sally. Wow, I'm impressed. You've got your own secretary and everything. I guess when you were a secretary at the church, you really were giving yourself to the Lord's work. Anyway, why I called. I got to thinking about what I said and I think I may have come off very strong. I hope I didn't hurt or offend you. And I wanted you to know what a terrific friend Barb is to you. Barb and many others really love you and are praying for you. Well that's all I've called to say. It was nice seeing you again. Bye." Sally hung up. Again, Tess couldn't get a word in.

"Why is everybody so afraid of me. They act like I've got an infectious disease."

Over and over, Tess is tormented by Sally's comments. Could Sally be right? Is it possible I'm all wrong? When the Pastor hugged and kissed me on the lips, saying my husband Paul didn't love me as Christ loves the Church, was that God loving me? Have I wrongly accused Pastor?"

Tess has the coffee table strewn with Theological commentaries, dictionaries, concordances and Old and New Testament language studies. Her eyes swollen and her lips dry, Paul comes home from work. Seeing Tess' condition begins by saying...

"Hi sweets. How was your day?"

"Hi honey, it was really hard. I ran in to Sally Schroeder today at work. it really hurt to talk with her. You know Paul, these people keep saying I'm the problem. That it's all my fault. That I should turn and look the other way for the cause of Christ. What do you think?"

"Those hypocrites! I wish I could just smack them around a little. What jerks. Look at yourself. You got 14 million Bibles opened. Fifty million commentaries and Lexicons and still you think it's your fault. Dear I love you, but I think they're right. I think this is hopeless and all that's going to happen is you getting hurt more and a lot of people getting mad at you. Just let it go. We have never seen reconciliation work. It's easier for rival countries to make peace with their enemies than for Christians to do the right thing. You're obsessing over this. I bet you haven't even started dinner."

"No, I haven't. I was so caught off balance and hurt by what Sally said that I had to get home and do some more studying. Did you know that in order to bring an accusation against an Elder you should have two or more witnesses. I didn't. I was wrong. When Pastor did those things we were always alone. Somehow Pastor Chuck would find a time when we were alone and say those things to me. I really wonder if he was just trying to love me like the dad I never had? I'm sorry about dinner. What would you like?

"Sweetheart I'm sorry I was so rough on you just now. It's just that since this has all happened, you spend so many hours, often all night, trying to find God's answers. We aren't a family anymore. It really hurts me. It hurts the kids and it hurts our intimacy. Let's go out tonight."

"Thanks, but I'll be ok. Maybe some take out, so I could study a little more. Thanks sweets."

"Hey Mike you or Becky want to go with me to get dinner?"

"Yeah, let's go. I'll get my jacket." yelled Mike back. Becky didn't hear Paul, because her music is so loud.

Paul and Mike ride quietly for a few minutes then Mike asks his Dad...

"Dad is mom going off the deep end?"

"Well Mike, I'm not sure. She's really hurting. We need to be patient with her. I just wish the people at the Church would do this right."

"Do what right, dad?"

"Let's not go into to it. I'm too tired."

"But Dad, all the kids in the youth group keep looking at me like there's something wrong with me. And Pastor Frank keeps saying he's praying for us and hopes mom come to her senses and accepts God's will. What's he talking about?"

"Look Mike, Frank is a young Youth Pastor. He thinks he understands, and is doing his best based on what he knows. The problem is he lacks the maturity to use the scriptures correctly. So he winds up hurting you and Becky with his immaturity. Just try to enjoy yourself. Hopefully soon this will all be over, like it never happened."

"I hope you're right, Dad. I really love our church and wouldn't want to leave all my friends."

Later, everyone's asleep, and the house is finally quiet. Tess is studying The Expositors Bible Commentary. "

Chapter Three Elders Being elders

"Is there any other Old Business? I hope not. Plus, we don't have time for any new business. I'm tired. If we have to keep fighting the city over these building codes another month, I think I'll die." questioned Pete Bogg, Elder Chairman.

"Maybe with your iron fisted ways of ram roding this building program through, you should resign!" shot back Kevin Carr.

"Come on guys, let it die. Besides, I think we spent more time trying to figure out how to get the stubborn people to join a small group. You'd think they would know it was for their best interest. That where the real caring for one another happens. The Pastor has worked hard on his Doctor of Ministry degree and it will look very bad on us if he can't get his own people to get on board. I'm getting sick of the whole mess," added Maury Himes, also known as "forked tongue Maury."

"The question was, is there any more Old business? Repeated Pete. Yes Alfred."

Alfred lowed his hand to reach for a letter. "I have another letter from Tess Bond and her husband Paul.

"Yeah, like Paul has the manhood to keep her in line." All the men laugh. All the men accept Alfred, he's known as the real spiritual leader of the Church. With a little disdain Alfred continues...

"Men this has gone on too long. Tess is gossiping all over the city about Pastor Chuck. We can't have it! Even in this last letter she admits she has sinned by being angry, contentious, disrespectful and the like. What more needs to be said. Ok, so Chuck should not have kissed her on the lips." Turning toward Pastor Chuck Alfred points, "You know Chuck I told you all that hugging and kissing would get you in trouble someday. Now, this inept secretary is going to use it to kill you and the church. We've got to get a handle on this. So far no one knows about the kiss. Let's keep it that way. Lord, Lord Chuck, you've had a decent ministry here and you risk it all by being so indiscreet. And I'll tell you one more thing. If I have to go to any more meetings where Tess starts crying again, I think I'll shoot her and you, both. Now what are we going to do?"

"Chuck, can't you and Tess just sit down and talk?", drawled Burt. "I've found over coffee and donuts a lot can be worked out. When I was about your age two Christians wouldn't act like this. Tess is a little sweetheart, Fiery, but as real looker. I know you can talk her into seeing things our way. Alfred, why don't you go with the Pastor?"

Before Pastor Chuck or Alfred could respond Pete broke in, "Look, I'm too tired now. It's almost 11:30 P.M. I told my wife I'd be home before breakfast this time. Any more all nighters and I'm back on the couch." They all moan in acknowledgement.

"I move we table reading the letter until next month's meeting. And for Pete's sake, for all our sakes, take her out to lunch or something. We got more important things to get done." moved Kevin.

"All voting yea, stand for adjourning prayer. Pastor would you close please?" All stood.

"Heavenly Father we come before you as sinners saved by your love and grace. Have mercy on our souls. We ask for your leading and direction in the city counsel's deliberation for our variances for the new sanctuary. Lord we believe you have led us to build so that we may reach further into our community, seeking the lost. Thank you for these men who have worked so hard and diligently for your Kingdom. May you shower Tess with love and forgiveness. Lord she is hurting so bad. She's confused and distraught. Lord teach us to love her more patiently. In Jesus name, amen." Amen.

"Pastor, may I talk with you a minute about the parking lot plan?" "Sure Kent. What do you have in mind?"

"Pastor, I really feel that we're forcing widow Gertrude out of her home and into a nursing home. It's really not necessary. I think we could get by wit...

"Stop right there Kent! I've tried to be patient with you. We all love Sister Gertrude. Do you think you lover her more than the rest of us? We need all the parking we can get and I believe it's better for her to live in a nursing home where she'll get good medical attention. We're even going to pay for it. But more importantly Kent, I've been worried about you. These are hard times for the Church and it's going to get even harder. Did you know that with almost certainty when a Church goes through a building program there's a church split or the Pastor is forced out? In order to get a building program of this magnitude accomplished, you've got to expect loosing upwards of ten percent of the congregation. Sister Gertrude is just one of that ten percent. That's reality Kent. I hope you're not in that ten percent. I need you Kent. You've been a real helper, but lately I've wondered if you're up to the job of being an Elder through this building program."

Seeing the other Elder's had stopped and were listening, Pastor Chuck grew loud enough for everyone to hear. "All of you, this is a critical time for us here at Poplar Hills Church. We're attacking the gates of Hell and Satan is mad and he's going to get madder. We must stand together. Now I know it takes time for all of us to catch the vision God has given me as your Pastor. Frankly, I didn't want this either. But when God speaks I'm going to do what He says. Now Kent, if you or anyone else still has reservations, maybe it's time to consider serving the Church in another capacity than Elder. God wants us in unity! As I was preparing Sunday's sermon I was impressed by the passage in Hebrews 13:17 & 18. You all know I shun away from being in charge, but guys there's a time when a man of God has to stand up and take responsibility as a Spiritual Leader. That's God's call to you right now! Right now! Are you going to serve God and accept His Authority for this church? I pray you will. I'd like all of you on my team. Well, you'd better get home. God Bless you all."

Pastor Chuck turned and went back into his office. The Elder's stood in silence. Kent was devastated. With a few good byes, everyone went home. Pastor Chuck went home to his study.

Too uptight to sleep, Pastor Chuck looks over his notes for Sunday's sermon. "Humm my Objective is to Biblically persuade the congregation that "Body Fellowship" is Biblical and God's call for Poplar Hills Church. Four main points are: 1. We are one body, when one hurts we all hurt, 1 Corinthians 12. 2. We all must exercise our different gifts, 1 Corinthians 14. 3. The qualifications and role of Elders, I'd better use Titus this time. 4. Submission to Spiritual authority, Hebrews 13:17-18. I need an Old Testament story here. Maybe David with his ten thousands slain. I'll leave this to tomorrow." Rev. Davids turns off the light and falls asleep on the study couch, where he's spent many a night. The rest of the church is asleep or watching the Late Show. All, that is except Kent Armand.

Chapter Four Our Best Man for the Job

Just watching them could make you sea sick. Wavering like grain in a moderate breeze were fifty four men, three women, and nine minorities in the conference room. It's five thirty in the morning. Alfred Banks owner and CEO of Banks World Wide was beginning to address his top U.S. executives.

Mr. Banks is very efficient and professional. He's widely sought as a consultant and conference speaker, as well as being a Board Trustee of several of the largest companies in the United States. Alfred learned several years ago, if you wanted to keep your staff's attention don't let them sit. Besides he's never had a regular office desk or chair in his office. It makes him tired and slows him down. Standing at a wall length shelf is great. Plus if you don't have chairs in the office, people don't stay very long. They get in and get out. That's the way to run an efficient business. It's that kind of thinking that made Alfred Banks successful and blessed by God financially. Alfred also learned, holding meetings early in the morning set the day in the right direction. Banks World Wide is world wide and needs to quickly respond to the changes and shifts in the world market place. Be bright. Be early. Be ready. These are the keys to winning.

"Randy Nelson, lead us in the Banks World Wide motto." boomed Alfred.

(Note: As we wait for Randy to step to the front, it's important to note the being chosen to lead the motto recitation is paramount to being blood brothers with the boss.)

"It looks like 'Fredy' has a new boy," whispered several exec's.

"The Banks World Wide Motto is:" All joining in, "1. Honor God. 2. Excellence in Service. 3. Quality in Investments. 4. To Make Money!"

"Thank you Randy. Let's give Randy a round of applause." Efforts were made to clap but the body was weak, the eyes were shut and the will on vacation. "Come on now! Put your hearts into it. Let's try again. Let's give Randy a big hand." by now Randy was embarrassed and moving closer to the back of the compliant herd. The noise was louder and more reflective of cheers at a meaningless ball game than the executive offices of a world class brokerage. The latest attempt at corporate unity and enthusiasm wasn't working and Mr. Banks did not let it go unnoticed. Alfred has a commanding memory. He keeps record of everyone's attitude and contribution. That's why Banks World Wide adopted the Single Level of Management concept being touted at the prestige school of management. With one eye of management, Alfred could keep an eye on everyone, himself. He felt more in control about how the company was making money.

"As you know the Financial Associates has completed their audit and review of our company's practices and employee compensation packages. It was a lot of extra work for you all and I'm very proud of your going the second mile on this. I also know the Financial Associates have done an outstanding audit and review. As a Trustee of their parent company I've been impressed with their thoroughness and savvy.

The world is facing hard times! Markets in developing countries look to be the place for ten to fifteen year investments. With the collapse of a major world power and all the fall out from world loans, it's caused a lot of us to worry how well we'll be in the next five years. That's exactly why I asked Financial Associates to give our company the complete financial physical. The Good news is we're the best in the world. That's right. It makes me smile and thank God! Our staff, our executives (that's you guys), produce the best instruments with the most favorable risk, than anyone else. No body beats us! Isn't that great?" Mild applause.

"Now with every good news comes some bad news." The Executives have learned that when Ol' Fredy got excited they were in for another, "I'm going to do this great thing for you," that picks their pockets, and make them work more.

"The bad news is that in order to remain the best in the world we've got to make a few changes. Now, like a finely tuned athlete, we all have got to strengthen our best to beat the rest. That means instead of a two percent bonus package divided among the executive level, we must cut it to half a percentage and reinvest the other one and a half percent back into the company's cash position. Healthy expansion will mean more money for you in the long run by making the half percent based on a larger base. Now for you wizards at math, you're right. It will take three years to get back to the amount your bonus would be under the old plan, but as the Financial Associates have persuaded me, this will reward those employees who are loyal and stay on the team. Everyone knows that in our business, loyalty is paramount. loyalty is the key to success! Are there any questions or comments? " Silence. More Silence.

"Come on. You know you can speak up here. We're all one big happy family. Who's got a question? Randy? Where are you Randy? Oh yes, I see you. Got a question or comment?"

"Uh, yes Boss. A part of the Financial Associates' study demonstrated that our photo copying is far out of line with major players like Banks World Wide. After studying the numbers, I believe a lot of personal photo copying is dragging our cash position. Do you think we should up to twenty-five cents the cost of personal copying?" A slightly audible hiss alerted Alfred of the exec's displeasure.

Alfred Banks didn't get where he is today by bending to the fickle wishes of the staff. He knew he'd be smart to stay on top of good ideas like this or before you know it, anarchy would take over. "Yes, Randy, I think we should consider those kinds of suggestions. Does anyone have something to add to Randy's astute observations?" More silence. "Well ok, let me get back to you on this. It's six, let's go get them boys!"

Everyone leaves the room mumbling barely above a whisper. Alfred had turned his back to the exiting executives and was studying some files on his shelf. He pushes the intercom for his secretary. "Johnny!" "Yes Mr. Banks," "Johnny put out a memo for immediate action to raise the cost of personal photo copying to twenty-five cents. And, I think a nice scripture verse about hope in God would be a nice way to encourage the troops. You pick it out, your real good at finding those verses." "Yes Mr. Banks. Anything else?' "No Johnny. Not at this time."

Some might be startled to know that Alfred's secretary is a man. but those who really know Mr. Banks, knows he a stickler for equal opportunity employment.

"Mr. Banks?" "Yes Johnny, what is it?"

"Barney from the Business Bible Class want's to confirm your topic at next weeks meeting."

"Tell him Johnny, I'll have to get back to him. I'm too busy now. And tell him I said I'd call him when I had the topic, it's a interruption when he can't keep agreements. Wait, don't say that. Which line is he on?" "Number three, Mr. Banks."

"Hi Fred, so nice of you to call. You were on our families mission pray card for recently. I'm real sorry I haven't gotten back, but I've been too busy to write a speech yet. I'll call you as soon as I can. Thanks Buddy." Click.

Alfred buzzes Johnny. "I wish these mission types would get a handle on what it's like in the real world. Maybe if they could get a real job, they could understand how difficult it is balancing being a Christian in a cut throat world. Make a note for me to call Fred next week." "Yes, Mr. Banks, you mean Barney?" "Yes Barney, I can't keep all these names straight." "Is there anything else, Mr Banks?" "No."

"Johnny, call maintenance and get them up here to fix that leaking faucet in the washroom. And tell them to be careful. I sent them over to fix the President's faucet at the Bible Institute and they scratched to gold finish. Gold is soft. Tell them to be careful." "Yes Mr. Banks. Mr. Banks are you aware it's only seven fifteen and the union men don't come on shift until seven thirty?" "Yes, yes I know, Dog-gone unions they'll suck you dry and sit on their butts all day."

"Johnny, get Pastor Davids on the line, Please. You may have to call his home, he usually isn't up yet."

"Mr. Banks, Rev. Davids is on the line."

"Good morning Chuck, catch any worms yet? Ha ha. You got to get up pretty early to beat me guy. Want to come over for lunch? We got a lot of work ahead of us."

"Sure, what time?"

"How about eleven-fifteen so we can get a jump on our work. I'll have my secretary reserve us a place at the club. You sure can't eat like the club on a Pastor's salary can you? I figured you'd like a treat. Let's meet there. Broad ties are in now. Ha ha. See you soon." Click.

"Sometimes Alfred can get on my nerves. He's been in this church since they founded it, but sometimes I think I'd like it if he'd help someone else," thought Pastor Chuck. "Sarah, I'm going to take my shower then I'll eat breakfast." "Sorry dear, I've got an appointment to show a house at eight. Will cereal be ok?" "No, but go ahead."

Chuck get into the shower and starts thinking about Tess and how much he really liked her. "I treated her like my own daughter. I cared for her. I listened to all her stories and ups and downs. I even gave her advice on how to be a good wife to Paul. Paul's so caught up with himself and his job that he doesn't spend enough quality time with Tess. It meant a lot to me that Tess seemed to be so interested in the Spiritual things I would teach her. Then one day we're so close that out of instinct, I wasn't even thinking, I patted her on the bottom like I do Sarah, and she got so red faced. It was kind of cute at first, but she didn't take it that way. It was just a mistake. I was thinking of Sarah and acted without thinking. I asked her forgiveness but her work just deteriorated. I had to let her go, everyone agreed. Besides, I have so much on my mind that a slip like that is nothing compared to other mistakes I could have made with the blue prints or such. I got to get off this...

"Kent, now here's a problem just waiting to happen. I think I made a mistake of supporting him to be an elder. I can see, while I was studying for Sunday's sermon, that to place a young convert into leadership will cause them pride. I think that's what happened with Kent. Plus, with so little experience, he's missing the bigger picture of evangelism by focusing on just one person, i.e., Sister Gertrude. There is a time for one to sacrifice for the whole. Sister Gertrude is a Saint. She won't mind. Ouch!" With soap in his eyes, Chuck hurries and finishes his shower, dresses and slurps down a bowl of cold cereal.

Sister Gertrude shifts her weight from one bed sore to one that

doesn't hurt so much. She skips breakfast because she too weak to fix it. She sighs and drifts into numbness, she heartened knowing on Thursdays someone will bring her lunch. That's such a blessing.

Chapter Five The Lunch

"Loretta, please call Barb Fromiley and tell her I can't see her a lunch today. I'll have to reschedule. Thanks. I'll be back by one or one-thirty." Pastor Chuck rushed out the church back door. Being late for a meeting with Alfred was not good. For all of Alfred's faults, he was a big supporter of the new building expansion and missions. Alfred's big on missions and he gives a lot of time and money so that whoever is Pastor can visit other countries. Alfred has taken about six Pastors with him on his trips since Poplar Hills Church was founded about twenty four years ago. Barb's dad was one of them. It's a good tax right off, since Alfred goes with the Pastors and visits his foreign offices and asks the Pastor's to review and give impressions. Everybody wins! Winning is important to Alfred. "Winning is the key to success." Alfred always says.

"Rev. Davids, guest of Mr. Alfred Banks." announced Chuck to the MaŒtre d', "Mr. Banks is expecting me for lunch." "Yes, Rev. Davids, we are expecting you. Walk this way please." Chuck follows the MaŒtre d', while musing to himself a comedic way of mimicking the MaŒtre d's walk, behind his back. Chuck was a real comedian and loved to laugh and uses laughter to liven other's spirits. Comedy can be a real equalizer, except for people like Alfred, so he'd better get serious, and real quick.

"Oh Chuck, glad you could make it on time, I'm pretty busy today. I've taken the liberty to order for you, so we could save sometime. The club serves the greatest steak and vegetables around. Today's vegetable is Brussels Sprouts. That's good eating.

"Thank you. I think I'd prefer a different veg...

"Oh come on now, try it you'll like it. Besides we got to get down to work. Did you bring the blue prints updates for the sanctuary?"

"Actually no, I was hoping to discuss some other matters that right now seem more critical. We've got some personnel problems that need immediate attention."

"Well, alright, but I'm very disappointed you didn't check with me first. I only have so much time available to this project. What's so important?"

"Alfred, I feel like Kent Carr is having a very difficult time being an Elder.

"What do you mean?"

"Kent has been a Christian only a few years now. He has served well as Christian Outreach Chairman, and in some ways, he's done a pretty good job filling the Elder vacancy for the last year. All that considered, Kent is unable to see the big picture. Just when we're ready to move Sister Gertrude into a nursing home, Kent is hanging on to the crazy idea that Sister Gertrude can keep her home and we don't need the extra twenty parking spaces tearing her house down would provide."

"Look Chuck, Kent is doing what he thinks is honoring to Widow Gertrude. You can't fault him for that. It is misguided in this application, but at least he's trying to be Biblical."

"Yes, I agree Alfred, but he's on my case every time we meet. You've got to do something about this. If you want me spending so much time listening to the Kent's of the church, I'll never get the blue prints updated and over to city hall. You just can't tell the architect, you've got to be there with them as they make the changes, or we get another closet instead of a baptistery."

"Ok! If you're that convinced, I'll give Murray Himes a call. He is the Chairman of the Nomination Committee, Isn't he? We've got to give Kent another job or he'll know that it was a personality thing with you. What could he do?"

"No, not another job. He's not qualified at all! Kent's demonstrated he is full of pride and according to 1 Timothy 2:6 he will fall victim of the Devil. I'm really concerned about his soul."

"Look Chuck, I care about Kent Carr as much as any one. But don't quote me the Bible. If we were disqualifying people because of pride, we'd have to sit you down from being the Pastor. Frankly, I wrestle with pride in my own life, but I've come to recognize God uses our weaknesses to get things done. It's your pride and my drive to be the best that God is using to build his Church. I don't like my sins, but that's the way it is. If you want Kent off the board, be a man and we'll just put him someplace else. If you don't give him another job that looks important, he's going to get even madder and come after you. I've been in the people motivation business for thirty some years. If you want to attract flies, you got to use honey. Find a job for Kent, that uses his gifts and find a replacement that looks better for the Elder job. Somehow this has become a personal thing with you and it's getting in the way of your judgement. We all have gifts and almost always in a larger organization you can find a place for everyone to serve. What else did you have on your agenda?"

"Here is your steak, Mr. Banks. Is it done to your liking?"

Alfred cuts into his steak while the waiter serves Chuck. "Yes, medium rare, just like I like it. How's your Chuck?"

"Mine's ok, thank you." Actually Chuck likes his rare but it's not an issue.

"Is there anything else, Mr. Banks?" Alfred nodes no and returns thanks.

"Our heavenly Father we thank you for this food. May you use it and all we say and do, to your glory. Amen. Ok now what else do you have that's so important."

"Alfred, I need some perspective on where we are with Tess Bond. It's been nine months since she was fired and she keeps saying it was wrong and want an apology from me. I think..."

"Tess is exactly the point I'm trying to teach you Chuck. You fired her. You should have somehow found a way to build her up and give her a new assignment. Even if that new assignment was really a lower position. You've got to learn how to develop people. And, I'm still saying I told you to stop all that public display of hugging and kissing. I never liked it. Now instead of Tess having a better job, or giving her the chance to become disenchanted and feel God's call to another opportunity that she might like better than what we have to offer her, she's seeking to save face. They're the worst kind to deal with. What do you want me to do now, to clean up your mess?"

"Maybe you're right Alfred, but I really believe I gave Tess every opportunity to do her job, and even so, I had to let her go. Being secretary to the Pastor is a very sensitive job. And if I let her stay in a position at the church office, she would have continued making waves. With her attitude, it was better to start over with a new secretary. Loretta is doing fine. Tess would have leavened Loretta's mind with doubts. I think we need to compromise and offer her a severance package, admit we were wrong to have placed her gifts, so wrongly, and seek her forgiveness. I think it would be better coming from you and the Elders than from me. I would want to be a part of those offering her this package. I think $3,500 would be a good amount. Her annual salary was $18,000 and she was only out of work about two months before she got a job. How's that sound to you?"

"I think asking for forgiveness is a good move. Based on what's happened I could with a clear conscience say it was a mistake, based on her gifts, to make her a church secretary. $3,500 is a nice amount. I think I can sell it to the Elders. Tess is very sharp and this would help her save face and get a little satisfaction. If you need the $3,500, let me know, I can write the check. Let's go with it. It could be a winning idea. Good job Chuck."

"Thanks Alfred, I appreciate your support. I'll write up a letter and send the idea to Tess to see..."

"Hey, it's Tess now. Tess, Tess! Alfred jumps to his feet and catches Tess by the arm. "Tess, how are you. We were just praying for you and discussing how we've sinned against you and need to make it right. Can you come over to my table for desert?"

Tess was shocked and stunned. Occasionally she would see Alfred having a business lunch, but they never really did more than wave from a distance. Plus, glancing toward Mr. Banks table she see his guest is Pastor Chuck, she becomes dizzy and faint. Confused she agrees to join them. Maybe this was God's way of bring them all together.

Pastor Chuck was just as shocked. He hadn't prepared for this and Tess and Alfred were coming his way. Chuck Panicked.

"Hello, Tess. How good to see you." The words were empty with fright. "Hi Pastor, how are you?" replied Tess without hoping for a reply. Silence.

"Well Tess, Pastor Chuck was just discussing with me a proposal for you. Chuck go ahead and tell her." Alfred startled both Chuck and Tess by being unusually direct.

"Yes Tess, we were seeking an answer to how we could ask your forgiveness and make things right. Tess, I've sinned against you. It is my responsibility to know and care for my people and I failed you." Tess interrupts not wanting to embarrass Pastor Chuck.

'Oh Pastor, I know you felt bad when you kissed me, but I want you to know I forg...

"Wait a dog-gone minute, Tess! I'm not talking about that sin again. Why don't you forgive me? How many times do I have to say I'm sorry?"

"Calm down Chuck. Let's be civil here. After all, we're in my club for jeepers sake. Now Chuck finish saying what you propose."

"Mr. Banks, what's going on here?" asked Tess.

"Tess, give Pastor Chuck a chance to say his piece, then we'll let you respond. OK? Good. Chuck continue."

"Tess we would like to offer, no make that give. We'd like to give you $3,500 as a way of saying we're sorry for how we've treated you. We were wrong in hiring someone with such obvious big-time gifts like you. It lead to a demoralizing situation. It made it hard for you and hard for me. Will you be so kind as to accept our gift as an apology?"

"Pastor, Mr. Banks, I'm really confused. I've said all along it's not money. Pastor, your treatment of me is just one example of how you mistreat so many others. You fired me because I kept confronting you with how you treated me, and how you treated others. You gossiped and slandered people. You were taking money from one account and spending it on other things. You were taking advantage of Sister Gertrude's love for you and the church. I could go on and on. I'm mad about the lies you tell about me. I'm mad that my family has to go through all this mess. I've tried to set it right but just like this offer it misses the real issues."

"I don't have to sit here and listen to this bull," gritted Pastor Chuck. "Tess, you are a traitor and have a very rebellious spirit. If you're not careful you'll turn white with leprosy like Miriam, when God judged her for questioning Moses. Alfred, you can't believe her, she's lost her mind." Alfred sits silently.

Pastor Chuck gets no support from Alfred so he stands up, looks at Tess and walks out. Tess and Alfred look at each other, in dismay.

For a few awkward moments Tess and Alfred sit quietly. Tess' eyes become red with pain and anger. Alfred interrupts Tess's anger with, "Oh Tess, I'm so sorry. If I could have known it would hurt you like this or turn out this way, I wouldn't have asked you to go through this. Pastor Chuck has been going through a lot lately and for reasons I can't share with you, I'm asking you to take the higher road and accept his apology and our gift. I'm sure you are aware of the recent survey that identifies that most pastors come from troubled families and they are trying to work out their problems by being a people helper. I think it's as good an offer as there will be. Let's face it. The Elders know of Pastor Chuck's weaknesses. I know you know to. I love you very much. I was glad to help you get your new job. You even surprised me when they offered you such a significant position and boy did they give you great money. You MBA was a real factor. At the church you were a big help. You really kept the place organized and got things done. I don't know anyone, except myself, who could do a better job. But Tess, that job wasn't for you. Now you can really use your gifts the way God intended."

"Alfred, you've been a good friend to me. I've often felt like you were a good Dad for me. But this is not right. Pastor chuck is mistreating people. I haven't said a thing to anyone but my husband Paul and to you. I haven't even given any details until there's the right time.

Did you know that Paul and I went to Pastor Chuck to try and confront him like it says in Matthew 18:16, as two witnesses, but he just said the Bible considers us as one body, so he wouldn't even talk to us. That's not Biblical. Pastor has accused me of trying to get him fired as a way of revenge. Alfred that's not true! I'm just asking for you and the Elders to hear the witnesses of how Pastor Chuck has so many broken relationship in the church. His heavy handed way of getting things done had really hurt and isolated a lot of folks."

"Tess, what do you want me to do? Why if we tried to fix every broken relationship in the church it would take five years of nothing else. What would happen to worship? What about our evangelism? Do you really think God wants us to put everything on hold to fix a few overly sensitive people's ego? No! I don't agree. Tess, you've got to trust me. I've been in the church business a longtime. People are fickle. You can't keep them happy. You'll go crazing trying. It would be better Tess if you would just keep to teaching sunday school and trying to change the spirit of the church by demonstrating your own faithfulness. Give me some time to deal with Pastor. Do we have a deal?" Alfred smiled and offered a warm handshake, inviting Tess to accept his plan.

"But Alfred you are ignoring the Biblical principles of resolving conflicts in the church. Even Christ said in Matthew 5:24 that we should take care of these matters right away, before the next worship service."

"Tess, I've got to go. Please consider what I've said. Trust me. I've had a lot of experience. I know Pastor has hurt some people. What you've said about him is accurate. Nobody's arguing that you're wrong about him. It's just that you are going about this the wrong way. Give it time. You'll see, God will make it work for good. Now is the time to stand by him. The bottom line Tess is, he's our Pastor! Bye Tess, have a nice day!"

Tess sat alone at the table seeing everyone's dessert is untouched while a spiritual war was fought and this battle lost. Tess was feeling bad about loosing her cool and blurting out sin after sin of Pastor Chuck. It looked, it felt like Tess was accusing and irate, rather than loving and caring. This was not the first time she became animated. "Maybe when I loose my emotions they can't hear. I need help."

Back at work Tess tried hard to focus on the financial reports due later this week. Her mind drifted but she work valiantly. Finally, Tess calls Paul at work. "Paul, hi sweetheart! It's been a tough day. How are you?" "Pretty good dear. What's happening?"

"I was having lunch at the club today and as I was leaving, I ran into Alfred Banks. He grabbed my arm and invited me for dessert with him and Pastor Chuck. I couldn't seem to refuse, so I joined them. It was really bad. Paul, I think I need some help with all this, maybe even counseling. What is the name of that guy who spoke to your Sunday School last year. The one who talk about how the church should be a community of believers and how to build unity by resolving conflicts. What was that guy's name"

"Yeah, I know who you mean. I think he was with an organization called Biblical Counseling Associates. He been attending the church for a while. Let me see, yes here it is. Jim Bates 668-1205. Do you think you really need to talk to this guy?"

"Yes I need somebody who can help me make sense of this. I'll try to reach Jim today or later tonight. Thanks Honey. I'll see you at home. Be safe. Love. Bye." "Bye Tess."

Tess begins dialing Jim.

"Hello, Jim Bates. May I help you?"

"Mr. Bates this is Tess Bonds. I'm a member at Poplar Hills Church. I believe you've been attending there recently. Is that correct?"

"Yes Tess I was while I was teaching a class there. It's good to meet you. What prompts your call?"

"Jim, I need complete confidentiality. Can I trust you?"

"I believe so, let me share with you Biblical Counseling Associates understanding of Biblical confidentiality. BCA is part of the Body of Christ, the Church. Therefore there are times to be silent and times to speak up. There are times to listen and times to not listen. There are times to keep quiet and times to tell others. I can go into more detail if you like.?"

"Jim I'm having all kinds of problems at the church and I need someone to talk too. Can you help me?"

"Let's begin by my asking a few question. Have you talked with your Pastor? That's the first place to go. Your Pastor is spiritually responsible for you. Did he refer you to me?

"No Jim he didn't refer me to you, in fact it's with the Pastor I'm having all the problems with. I've even tried talking with the Elders, but the one Elder I've talked and written to just keeps telling me to give it time. It's been almost a year since it began. I'm calling you because I feel like I'm going crazy one minute and I'm right on target the next. I can't keep this up."

"Have you been very clear communicating with your Pastor what you feel has broken your relationship with him?"

"Yes I have. I've even gone with my husband as a witness."

"OK. Am I right in assuming then the Pastor was not convinced of any sin?"

"Correct, the Pastor felt it was all my fault.

"Tess, have you searched your heart with God's Word and Holy Spirit to deal with the plank in your own eye?"

"I think so Jim, but that is part of the reason why I wanted to talk with you. Could you help me?"

"Let me give you some immediate observations. It doesn't mean I'm right, so let me know how close I am to understanding you. You are very educated, maybe post graduate work, a Masters in something. You like to take charge and make things happen. You do your home work, meaning you research your interests and become an expert. You are persevering, almost never giving up until you win, reach your goal. You fight with having a mind full of thoughts and emotions. You occasionally feel weak and vulnerable but these episodes are empowerment to achieve greater levels of accomplishments. You enjoy relationships but find you have little time for small talk and mundane things of the world. You live intense while questioning other's commitments. You take pride in living outwardly as you are inwardly. Honesty is very important to you and you see flattery as lies and deceitful. It's difficult for you to tolerate short comings in yourself, but you seem patient with others, but inwardly you are "merciful" toward others because they are not as competent as you. You are quick to size other's personalities and are seldom wrong. You are quick to act but find it difficult to make definitive choices because you fear being wrong. In this conflict, you are convinced you are right, but regret how you have acted or what you've said on more than one occasion. When you feel you are questioning yourself and unsure of your conclusions, you seek out an expert to test your theories and reestablish your footing. You find you are willing to trust the experts you choose until they fail and then you file them away as alternative ways of approaching situations and you seek out new experts for new occasions. How accurate do you feel these observations are, on a scale of 10 being perfect?"

"Eight and a Half. All in all, I'd say it's frightening how well you've understood me."

"Oh yes I should have mentioned, you never give anyone a ten, because you've found as good as you are no one is ever completely right. Ha ha, just joking, but it does fit, doesn't it?"

"Yes Jim it does. OK, if I did give tens, you'd be one of the first. How did you do that? It feels to me you're more than a little prideful about this."

"It's possible I take pride, but that would be wrong of me. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed when it's so right on. But I believe God gives some the gifts to intuitively sense another person. Scripture says if we wrestle with God's Word, we'll be able to discern the spirits of another and tell the difference between good and evil. I'd like to think, as God has searched my heart and I've agreed with HIM, I can see the same dynamics in others, as well."

"Well Karnack, mystic seer, what do I do now?"

"If I'm reading you correctly, you've missed my point, I'm not condemning you or saying your wrong. I've found when I give a person their reflection, as I see it, they can choose to be offended or feel a sense of peace that someone knows them and wants to care for them. Since, your first response is one of feeling condemned, I'd say you've been condemning yourself probably all your life. It's important to tell you one more thing. By knowing God's Word we already know a great deal about anyone, even before we meet them."

"What?"

"Yes. God's Word tells us about the human heart. We are all sinners. It's that simple. Christians are sinners saved by Grace. Christians continue to sin, but have been given the power, by God's regeneration, to grow spiritually. Therefore, before I meet anyone, I know a lot about their heart, because my heart is like their's."

"That's not exactly correct. I'm not at all like Pastor Chuck."

"I have two responses. One, we all have the same heart against God and in favor of ourselves, we just express our heart differently than most. Two, I sense in your tones and emphasis, that you and Pastor Chuck are very similar in some key areas. otherwise you could keep perspective. I'll bet he gets things done. He's a doer, just like you. Isn't he?"

"Yes, but that..."

"Tess, slow down. You are so quick to jump in with a response. If there were a fire, you'd be the one to save all the people. Let these thoughts and words soak a little. Think about them. See if there is any validity to what I'm saying. If there is any truth, consider the consequences and interplay the truth may contribute to the relationship. This reflection is important. What we're trying to do is correctly set the environment so that we can accurately apply God's Word to the conflict as well as to all hearts involved. Otherwise we just compound the mess.

"Listen to the subtleties and whispers of God's Word. Spiritual growth comes from the fine tuning done by the Holy Spirit, not by our reasoning powers or any other work of the flesh. This has been very intense. How are you doing? How do you respond to what I'm saying? Do you want to continue?"

"This has been overwhelming. In my gut I feel you can help me. In my mind, I feel you are dangerous. I've never been under any mind control program, but this feels like I've lost my ability to know what's right and what's wrong. Do you expect me to turn over my life to you? Can't I think for myself?"

"Tess your response is honest and right on. Let me say a couple of things. First, most people never experience the gifts of discernment. These gifts are some of the first to be forced out of the church. Second, by applying God's Word to your thinking you are right in feeling like some of the foundations of your thinking have been unstablized. Often, this feeling, this fear, cause many to return to their vomit and avoid trusting God. This is not about my ideas. This is about God's Word and your spiritual growth. Thirdly, I expect nothing from you. That's not my responsibility. My responsibility is to teach God's Word. Your responsibility is to choose God or yourself. You must turn your life over to God."

"Yes, but the Bible is interpreted by so many, in so many different ways. How do I know you're right?"

"First, the beliefs I will share with you are central to God's Word. They are not in dispute. The applications of some of these truths are often the subject of a local body's choice how to practice them. In those cases, I refer to the Historical Church's applications for common understanding. Also, I consult your Church's constitution and doctrinal statements, as well as any denominational rules of order. It's rare a Church or Pastor has an unbiblical understanding, though it's possible. What I've found is most often it's unbiblical practices that compound the conflict.

Secondly, you are the one who will be standing before God. for your choices. I'll be standing before Him based on my faithfulness to His Word and how and what I teach you. You must search the Scriptures for yourself. You're very competent in research, but what's possibly in question is if you can hear/listen correctly to what God is saying to you through His Word."

"Now that's hocus pocus. You're telling me only you can hear God correctly?"

"Tess, you crack me up. Put down the sword. It's OK. You don't have to talk with me. You don't have to listen to me. I'm hear to help. I've found that people find the verses that support them. Even God says in many stories, that people will hear His voice and then do what they want. That's not hearing or listening as God counts it. Being changed into His likeness, now that's hearing and listening. Take yourself for example. In order to find the verses to hold Pastor Chuck accountable, you've also had to read many verses about cleaning out your own eye and searching your own heart. Yet you are an expert on his accountability, and a novice on yours. How did that happen? We all have blind spots, or weaknesses. My job is to give you God's Word as best I've studied, applied, and understand it. Together Tess, as a team, as one Body of Christ. Are you so arrogant to think you have all the gifts and all the insight?"

"You don't have to get angry about it. I was just asking a question."

"No Tess, you were using a question format to make a statement. Are you aware you do that a lot?"

"I guess this is going to take some time, isn't it?"

"Yes, it often takes time to grow. So far I sense you are willing to learn, but you're frightened. I understand. That's why I ask new people to think several days, before they make a commitment to talk further. This is the way a Christian should live all the time. Studying God's Word and letting the Holy Spirit wash us with it's meaning and cleanse our evil habits and ways of thinking. God is calling you to a closer relationship with Him and this conflict is just the messenger. Do you have any further questions?"

"No, thank you. I'll give you a call later this week. Thanks again Jim."

"You're welcome." Tess couldn't sleep very well. Talking with Jim Bates opened a lot of feelings. Dreams of conversations, shouting matches, role plays and Pastor Chuck firing her kept her in a constant state of anxiety. Oh yes, and the dream of Pastor Chuck being her dad. Tess had that dream again, to.

Chapter Six Barbara Fromiley


"We Make You More Beautiful. May I help you?"

"Thank you, Yes. Rev. Davids returning Miss Barbara Fromiley's call. Is she available?"

"I'll transfer you to her secretary. Just a moment Please."

"Miss Fromiley's office. May I help you?"

"Hi Betsy, it's Loretta, how are you?"

"How nice of you to ask. I'm very well, and you. How's your new job going?"

"Good, the job is all I hoped it would be. Pastor Chuck is no more difficult than any other executive I've worked for, and it's a nice setting, being with people who share the same faith. In some ways it's really not any different than being at the law firm. Is Barb available, Pastor Chuck is returning her call?"

"Sure, let me get her on the line." Betsy pages Barb in the warehouse where she is showing several foreign company executives the state of the art order filling/shipping robots, that she just leased and had installed last month. "Miss Fromiley, you have a call on line two. Paging Miss Fromiley, you have a call on line two." Barb hears the page and ask the Vice-President of operations to continue the tour, and she excuses herself, and walks to a nearby phone.

"Betsy, I thought I asked not to be disturbed. What's up?"

"I'm sorry Miss Fromiley, but it's Rev. Davids returning your call. He's on line two."

"Thank you Betsy, you were right to interrupt me, these are important calls. Please tell him to hold. I'll come to the office and take it there." "Yes Miss Fromiley. Thank you."

"Jeff," signaling to the Vice-President to come to her. "Yes Miss Fromiley?" "Jeff after the tour be sure to give them lunch in my private dinning room. You've got to feed them little beggars well. They'll remember us best by the food we serve more than the organization we run." Barb smiles. Jeff acknowledges her request and returns to continue the tour of We Make You More Beautiful's US Headquarters. Barb walks briskly to her office.

"Betsy, call the chef and make sure we've have enough good wine and fresh baked goods, for thirty. Also tell him to be sure the gold ware is cleaned. I'll be a while on this call. Please hold all other calls. Thank you." "Yes Miss Fromiley."

"Pastor Chuck, how good of you to return my call. I'm sorry we missed lunch yesterday. How are you doing?"

"Hi Barb, fine how are you? I've been praying for you since our last visit."

"Very well, thank you. Those verse you gave me were a lot of help in putting this whole mess with Tess in perspective. I do love her and want God's will for her and my friendship. I think I can be more patient and wait for God to work in Tess' life. Thank you so much for your caring."

"Barb I knew you would do well. These can be very hard times on all of us. We must learn patience. In fact the reason I couldn't meet with you for lunch yesterday was I was meeting with Alfred to discuss Tess' case, and what the Elders plan to do."

"What did Alfred say. Could you get him off his `make peace at any cost fence?' For a man with all that power and money in Banks World Wide, you would think he would have learned how to have some back bone."

"Well Barb, it didn't go very good. In some ways we were discussing the proposal for reconciliation with Tess and reaching agreement when Alfred saw Tess in the club's dinning room and grabbed her arm and brought her over to our table. I was really caught off guard. Then he tells me to tell Tess the proposal right ther...

"Yeah, that's Alfred. Sometimes he reminds me of a kid in my elementary school days. You know the kind that would bring two kids together and then say something that would get them fighting each other, then stand back and watch."

"It was kind of like that. I was asking Tess for forgiveness and telling her about the $3,500 gift as a sign of our love when Tess jumps all over me.

"A $3,500 gift. Don't you think that's wrong. If Tess really wasn't able to do her work, then why the money. I'll never understand how someone with her education could be so inept. You figure it out. How did she get that great position with what's their names? That was the biggest shock to me. The higher you get the bigger the fall. Tess is in over her head."

"That's not the worst. Tess starts accusing me of lying, stealing, gossiping and slander, and Alfred doesn't say a thing. Right there in the club. She was so out of control and practically shouting that I just had to leave. I was so embarrassed and shamed."

"Oh Pastor, I'm so sorry you had to go through that. Tess can be a real back stabbing, witch, sometimes. In our last conversation, if you can call it a conversation, I thought she was going mad. It's not like I'm dense or uneducated, but she kept telling me stories that didn't have any application to her situation. She would move around the room trying to get me to see different perspectives. She was really weird."

"That must have been difficult Barb. How did it end?"

"Mostly, I just let her say her piece and burn herself out. I didn't know what else to do. I really wondered if she was going to hurt herself or me for that matter. For the life of me, she just seems like she wants everybody to see it her way. I think she's trying so hard to save face that she's even making up stories or making them sound worse than they really are. I'll tell something else, Tess' language could get pretty coarse during those times. I think she thought it would shock me into seeing things her way. She's pretty desperate right now. I'd be careful if I were you. She could do almost anything. What kinds of things did you say she accused you of?"

"What she said didn't hurt the most. It's just that I've tried everything I know to say I'm sorry. I mean what else can a man do? I've offered her a confession and a $3,500 gift to appease her face saving. The money should let her know I'm really sorry for that kiss. Can't Tess learn to forg...

"What kiss, Pastor?" Barb's adrenalin was pumping her pulse.

"Huh, err... Didn't you know?" Chuck knew he'd misspoken and he'd better do some damage control. "Tess is claiming some kind of clergy wrong doing to cover her lack of competency in the office."

"What? You've got to be kidding. She's claiming sexual harassment?" What happened between you two?"

"Now, let's be careful here. I've kept this under control so that the church wouldn't be harmed by Tess' accusations."

"This has gone too far. She really need to be put in her place. Just tell me the facts. OK?"

"Barb you know I've been under a lot of pressure for the last two years trying to finish my Doctor of Ministries degree, to implement the "Body Fellowship" plan, and get the building program on track. It's no wonder your dad got so exhausted. You know, when I first accepted God's call to Poplar Hills Church, I was led to believe your dad had lost touch with how to care for his people. Boy were they all wrong. If Tess and the rest of the congregation treated him like I'm being treated, they killed his spirit. Today, I think he is a better man than me. Anyway, there were a couple of times when I was real tired and over worked and behind in everything, that I just sat down in my office and cried. Tess would come in to comfort me. She would listen to my anger and frustration. I'm telling you Barb, it really helped me keep my sanity. From our talks, it sounds like Tess and you were a blessing to your dad, in the same way. Well a couple of times in my weakened state I would be wishing Sarah could understand my feelings and share them with me like you and Tess do. And then all of a sudden, forgetting where I was I would pat Tess on the bottom just like I do Sarah. I didn't mean anything by it. Lord knows I would never want to hurt her or do something to ruin my ministry. But it happened. On one of occasions, I was giving Tess a hug of appreciation and just as naturally as can be, I kissed Tess on the lips. I was so sorry. I just stood there in shock. Tess looked at me and began to cry and left the study. I swear Barb there was nothing else. I didn't do anymore than that. I didn't even intend to do that. I was just so tired and forgot it wasn't Sarah. I'm so sorry! Can you ever forgive me Barb?"

Silence. Only the labored breathing of a fearful man and a confused woman could be heard. Each attempted to speak, but the words would not escape their lips. Silence.

"Pastor, I'm so speechless, I can't seem to say anything. Please don't take this as condemnation. I'm just stunned. I feel so empty and confused. I have so many questions but they sound like... I can't talk now. May I call you tomorrow?"

"Yes, but do you see what I mean about Tess? Can you see that she's holding a grudge?"

"Pastor, I don't know what to think. I love you and you can count on me. but I've got to do some thinking. Wow, this is a lot bigger than I knew." beginning to regain her composure, Barb affirms her protection of the Pastor. "I've been a member of Poplar Hills church for eight years. I love everyone there. I won't let anything happen to destroy what God has done. When I gave the education wing two years ago in dedication to my dad, I knew then this is where God wanted me to be. It looks like this just might be the reason I'm here. I'll call you tomorrow, Chuck. God's Blessings on you. Bye bye."

"Bye Barb, thank you for caring and understanding. Bye for n..." Dial tone. Pastor Chuck's mind filled with so much fear, he sits starring at the phone receiver. Barb pushes the intercom for Betsy.

"Betsy, I'm not feeling well. I'm going home. Please tell Jeff he'll have to take over the tour and operations for today. Thank you."

Betsy knew right away Barb was ill. Barb's tone and courteousness showed a profound change in Barb's mood.

Wide eyed, sprawled in her pj's, Barb could not sleep. After twenty minutes of trying to sleep away her disgust, she rampages out of bed into the living room.

"I can't believe it. How stupid. No wonder my mom had to run the family. Men are such dumb animals. I'm so mad I could just smack them all over the place. How stupid can you be? Chuck, you idiot. You gave Tess all the fire power she needs to destroy you. You fool. How in the world do you expect me to save you this time. Men. They always think with their glands. They fall for the world's oldest ploy by women. A listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, and bang, next thing you know, you're in deep deep trouble. What a fool. I thought you knew better than that. I knew Tess could be like that. Dad told me how many times Tess was there for him. It's not like dad didn't have a wife at home. What are men thinking about? Can't they see a woman coming on to them? I guess not. What pathetic examples of leadership."

The more Barb thought, the madder she got. In her rage she began to see flashes of her childhood. Barb was becoming angrier and angrier. Perky shudders under the bed. He's seen this more than a few times.

"Perky, get your sorry carcass in here." Perky is glad she's a cat. Cats don't have to obey. Stupid dogs come when they're called. Perky isn't going to move. "Perky were are you? Are you under the bed again? There you are you little devil." Barb snatches Perky and begins to pat her so hard that Perky bites her and jumps down, retreating under the bed a second time.

"Come here I said. When I tell you to come here I mean come here." Barb gets the broom and swats at Perky behind the boxes of old company records. "I'll get you if it's th... What am I doing?" Barb abruptly stops and begins to cry.

"Oh Perky, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, will you forgive me?" Perky isn't about to move. "Perky, I said I'm sorry. Now come one and be a good little friend, and come here." Barbs tones were clear signals to Perky this wasn't over yet. "Perky you get in here this minute." shouted Barb in a rage that sent her mind back to pictures of mom trying to drag her out of the closet.

Chills shivered Barb, then more tears. Now almost running through the whole house, Barb's mind and body became the little girl that mom abused so much. "Barb you get in your room and I mean now!" Barb panicked and ran right into her mother who was waiting for her at the stairs. Grabbing Barb by the hair while slapping her face and kicking her legs, Mrs. Fromiley beats and drags Barb screaming to Barbara's bedroom. Barb's thrown to the floor. "How many times have I told you to keep your clothes off the floor? We can't afford new clothes like other people. We're in the ministry. Look you little devil if you can't pick up your own clothes, then pick up these." While shouting at Barb, Mrs. Fromiley is ripping the drawers from the clothes chest and throwing them on the floor. Barb is in shock. Totally numb, she sits sobbing and trying not to cry or she'll get even a worse beating. Mrs. Fromiley having emptied all the drawers and knocked over the lamp on her way to the closet, begins tearing off the clothes in the closet and throwing them on the floor. "And here's your favorite dolls, too." Yells Barb's mom. "You love them don't you? Well here." Mrs. Fromiley tears off one of the legs and flings it at Barb. Barb instincts make her duck. "Oh you think you can duck do you?" Barb's mom races across the room and begins beating Barb in the face and back. "I'll show you who's boss you little tramp." Mrs. Fromiley takes off her belt and flails at Barb. Each strike burns deeply. The belt is actually a knitted rope with many strands knotted on the ends. It's like a flogging and Barb can only writhe in pain until her mother stops. Finally Mrs. Fromiley tires and begins to see the blind rage and attack on Barb. "You deserved that you little whore. I'm sorry I had to do that, but you deserved it. Now get your room picked up before I have to spank you again." Mom leaves the room. Oh Jesus, please help me. Please help me. Please help me. Please help me. Please help m... Barb laying in her living room in a stupor pleads, "Oh Jesus, please help me. Please help me. Please help me.

Chapter Seven Tess Gets Help

"Good morning Tess, It's nice to meet you in person. Please have a seat. Any where is fine." said Jim, gesturing around the office.

"Thank you Jim. I'm glad you could see me on such short notice. After our talk do you think you can fix me?" Tess asked laughingly.

"Yeah, I think Jesus Christ's has the power to fix you." Jim responded in like humor.

"That's good news you made me think I was a goner."

"What I offer Tess is to work with you in studying God's Word and it's application to you and how the Body of Christ should interact. Christ is your teacher. If you have an honest heart turned toward Christ, a clear conscience, then God promises to lead you and cleanse you.

"I've got a clear conscience."

"I see. Well Tess, I can only share the Faith in God's Word and what God has given me and how that faith was learned and practiced. I've sinned and continue to wrestle with the flesh. This is not about being perfect. It's about being a sinner saved by Grace who calls an erring brother or Sister to return to God and His ways."

"I don't know if I'm unusual but how you talk and what you say tends to make me reconsider talking with you. I am being as honest as I can be."

"I understand. I've found most people take about three to five years, some more, to see themselves, as I believe Christ sees them. I've discovered that not many know or practice God's ways of building the Body of Christ. In my arrogance I used to be known as the guy to get things done. In sin, I got things done in my fleshly ways and asked God to bless my flesh. God doesn't work that way.

"What do you mean?"

"Tess, you are very accomplished and highly gifted, no doubt, but exercising your gifts should always be in the Spirit, never the flesh.

"Our flesh won't stand in God's way, but it's still sin. Exercising the flesh is wood, hay and stubble built upon the foundation of Christ, as far as eternity is concerned. Many I minister to, upon see how little they know and far back slidden they are, begin wondering if they are a Christian at all.

"I know I'm a Christian, Jim!"

"Good. We'll explore that soon. However, it's not unusual for those who were Pastors, Missionaries, etc., to reach the conclusion that they had never accepted Christ as their Savior and Lord. Many had tried, (in their flesh), to act Christian and be good, in an attempt to win God's favor and look Christian. Almost all had a pride that their sins weren't bad enough for Christ to have to die for their sins."

"What? That's doctrinally wrong. What kind of people come to you for help?"

"Tess, Did you realize in Luke 8 that of the different soils two experienced God yet turned from Him and never became Christian? It can be very frightening to realize a life of wrong headed selfishness is all we've accomplished, when we believed we were being a faithful Christian. For many it is scary considering walking a deeper relationship with Christ, because they've not exercised, or deepened, their trust in God.

"No, I didn't know that. I wonder how many wrongly believe they are Christians because they had an experience with God?"

"My hope is we will search for God's Truth, not defending any part of our houses built on sand. I'm sorry to go on and on. I do get a little windy when I hear your pain and want to help you know God Better. Do you want to talk further?"

"Where would we begin?"

"I think it would be best to first relate the issues I've heard in your brief phone call. Would you like to hear?"

"Yes, of course, Jim."

"First remember I'm not infallible. What I say may be God's way of saying we need to take a look at some things. It is an opportunity to ask God for His answers for your growth."

"Don't you need to know what the problem is and who's involved, first?" Tess asked.

"No. In fact, your idea of what to do and how to begin alerts me to how normal you are and yet how far from God's Word you seem to be at this moment. I won't judge you in the sense of condemning you or thinking bad of you, but I will try to assess what you look like and sound like to me. That way we can try your spirits according to God's Word. You are a very strong woman. There's no lack of intensity in you. In fact...

"Is that necessarily bad?" blurted Tess.

"Wow, there it is. You could barely let me explore who you are and you jumped right in, to correct or challenge, what I was saying. Can you tell me what you were desiring, feeling or thinking?"

"That sounds like psychology. Even I know psychology is no source of spiritual truth. Are you a psychologist?"

Smiling warmly, Jim tries to listen and reassure Tess this is Biblical. "Tess, Tess. I'm just trying to demonstrate that even though a Christian's heart has been changed by God's Grace and we are no longer in bondage to sin, we still have old fleshly ways of thinking, perceiving and behaving that need to be left behind. That's why we are called to renew or minds. To leave our old nature behind and press on. Only Jesus Christ can know your heart with finite certainty.

""What makes you think you can help me?"

"There are gifts in the Body of Christ that can discern the difference between good and evil, between God's spirits and evil spirits. Plus all Christians are called to discern when questions arise as to the maturity and faithfulness of another believer caught in a sin. Am I making sense to you?"

"I can hear the words but I don't feel comfortable going any further. Your scary. Your asking me to trust you."

"No Tess, I'm not. I'm asking you to search the Bible and hide God's Word in your heart. You will need to decide if I'm faithful to God's Word and practice it in my own life. You will have to decide what my gifts are and if, as a brother in Christ, I can help you build your faith in God. You see Tess you're asking me for another opinion and help, yet when I begin to share God's Word with you your fears draw you away and identify you have walls between you and others.

"Trust you, don't trust you, trust you. Which is it?

"It's not my job to convince you to believe me. I sinned many times before I learned that lesson. Lord have Mercy on me and those I wronged. Hebrews 13:7-8 says, `Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.'"

"Yeah, well Pastor Chuck so called faith isn't worth imitating."

"Tess you might see Rev. Davids differently after searching your eyes. You might be right about Rev. Davids, either way. After searching your heart and eyes it will be time to go with you, or help you find two or three others to go with you, to the Pastor and present him with your findings, your sins and all.

"Look, I told you I've done all that. Aren't you listening?"

"I recognize you have completed step one of Matthew 18. Yet, I am saying you should, at each step of the way, consider your own issues as well as other's sins. We can always grow closer to our Lord. In step two the witnesses will affirm every word spoken. If there is reconciliation, praise God. If there isn't reconciliation, the witnesses are to tell it to the church for the churches help in bring reconciliation. How does that sound to you?"

"Yes, yes I know all about Matthew 18. But I'm still not sure about you or being here."

"I understand. I would expect lots of emotions and thoughts. How may I help you?"

"Well let's talk a little further. When we spoke on the phone you indicated I should begin with checking out the plank in my own eye. Could you be more specific?"

"Yes, I'll try. You see, Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:1 and following, addresses the vulgar human trait of hypocrisy and the resultant skewed perceptions of individual sin.

"What? Can you put that in plain English?"

"Sorry. What I'm trying to communicate is Christ is pointing out that we are all sinners. Sinners like the one we see sinning. Therefore, Christ calls us to use God's Word to search our heart and mind for our sins, and allow His Holy Spirit to correct them."

"I thought I had done that until we talk on the phone. The way you were able to pinpoint so much of how I think and act was scary. Even more scary was to recognize how much I wasn't aware of myself and consider what part my sins play in this situation. That's kind of why I wanted to see you. You seemed able to get in touch with these issues in my heart."

"Yes Tess, my experience has demonstrated that the sins we condemn in others are quite possibly the same sins we condemn in ourself, albeit, often covertly. I've also found that sins that we can't see in others, are our sins of choice. These sins are our favorite sins. Both errors make us blind to God's will of disciplining ourselves and others."

"What do you see in me? How does this Truth work for me?"

"How that translates to you is like this. Tess, you are quite angry. If you're like most, me included, we think our anger is righteous indignation. However, I've discovered that much of what I thought was justifiable anger was nothing more than my fleshly desires cloaked in spiritual language. Let me give you an example.

"This is exciting, NOT!"

"Tess you are very intense. Intensity usually means we have a goal and are worried that that goal may not be met. God is not worried. Tess much of your intensity is worrying about things that are most likely not within your responsibilities. Therefore, much of your anxiety is based on trying to control, rather than let God be God. At least that would be my confession in many conflicts I've been a part of."

"I see. I am very task orientated. Doesn't God give us our gifts, i.e., intensity, to do His will?"

"In my case, I've got to battle allowing God to be God and get Jim Bates out of the way, almost all the time. When I get intense, I've returned to my ways and left God's ways. Do you see how Matthew 7 is so important to be sure we're not hypocrites, somehow using God's Word to attack others rather than first apply it to ourselves?

"To some extent, yes but I've been told I not to judge others. Which is it?"

"Some have taken a portion of this command by Christ, `Thou shalt not judge,' and misapplied it. It's true, Christians are not to condemn or be critical. We are not to pass judgement on others motives and/or intentions. These forms of the word judge are God's responsibilities. Another form of the word judge, in the Greek, means it's a Christian's responsibility is to first address the sin in their life and then go and address the sin in their erring brother 's or Sister's life. We must not forget both are Christ's own Words.

"So I'm right!"

"With all your anger and intensity, I'm pretty sure you've got a lot of flesh mixed with God's Word. Let's try to get the planks out of your eye first. Does that help?"

"Yes, I agree. I sense in myself a war and when I react the way I do, I feel dirty and guilty, yet I know I'm quoting the right verses. I'm positive that others are not following God's Word. Do you think my sins have made it impossible for others to hear God's Word in this situation?"

"I must always answer as a sinner saved by God's Grace. You see, before I can be discerning of God's Word in your life, I must be practiced in using it in mine. Hebrews 5:14, says by practice in using God's Word we can discern good from evil. That's what I must do to be prepared to help others. At the same time, others can also, through constant use of God's Word, hear what is of your flesh and what is of God's Word. So there is no excuse for any of us to stubbornly sin. I'm sorry to be giving you such long answers, but I find so many do not have this foundational understanding. To answer your question directly, yes, your flesh gets in the way of those who are not mature in God's Word to spiritually discern good from evil."

"Jim, I've got to confess, I've spent more time studying the Bible to point to other's sin and defend mine than I have to clean out my eyes. I've done some of it but this is much deeper than I've ever experienced before. Why is that?"

"Unfortunately Tess, many churches have surrendered their role as Holy men and women of God, in exchange for being more culturally relevant. Isaiah 29:13 says it best, `These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.'"

"That's amazing, Jim. So it's possible to be fully convinced we are worshiping God, but if our hearts are not right with God, it's worthless. What rules is God talking about that are taught by men?"

I found Matthew 23 an important beginning place for me to check my heart and eyes for those rules. I could see myself in each message Christ gave to the Pharisees. I was very involved in evangelism at the expense of Biblical community. Our cultural relevant churches are becoming modernized through marketing strategies, therapeutic centers of 12 Step programs, and image/worship rituals, which bring more people into the sanctuary, but not necessarily more into God's Kingdom. Our leaders are more managers of finance and production engineers than Elders equipped to discern good from evil in their lives and the Body of Christ's Bride, the Church. With increased building programs to interlope God's blessings, came fund raising evangelism to put more people in the seats and more money in the Church's bank account. One church, that I spoke at, came right out and said that was exactly their goal in a new outreach program. They were brining new "blood" into the church to pay for the building program. Spiritual maturity has waned and business practices fills the void. Now we have invited all manner of spiritual weakness into our body leadership and do not have the spiritual training or competency to help them mature into healthy adult Christians. I'm sorry, I'm preaching again. Does that answer your question?"

"It's OK, I was just wondering?"

"Well Tess, it's time to decide if you're ready for step one."

"Wait a minute, I'm not convinced yet you're right. For curiosity sake what's the first step Jim?"

"I want you to write down each Bible verse you have researched. I want you to apply it to yourself. You must use God's Word to first cleanse your own heart. No one escapes wrong attitudes and actions toward others during conflicts - no one! It's important to confess your wrongs, in order for God to bring reconciliation to you and His Body. Sins are both thoughts and behavior. You must confess to God, to those you've wronged, the sinful attitudes, words, tones, and behaviors that you communicated from your heart.

"Oh no you don't. If I do that, they'll eat me alive. Besides I've been very careful not to act wrongly."

"Tess, it's certain that your inappropriate thoughts and behavior as well as wrong motives, were communicated. Matthew 15:18 shows clearly that what is spoken, comes from the heart. Here is a list of Bible verses that helped me get in touch with my sins: Romans 1, 2 Timothy 3, Colossians 3, and Galatians 5. When you have completed this assignment read 2 Corinthians 7:9-11, and call and we'll get together right a way.

"Also, It's important for you or me to contact your Pastor. Because he is you...

"No, not now. Don't call him. It's bad enough. Please."

"Tess I understand your concerns and fears. If you want me to call I will introduce myself and ask for his permission to be your Pastoral counselor. I also will ask him to join us. It's possible he might need to learn and/or practice these same principles. If he's not contacted, then this will become divisive and usurping your Pastor's God directed authority. The basis for working with you is to add my gifts, under Christ's authority through your local Church, and help you in your spiritual growth."

"Yes, but he's already branded me a trouble maker. I doubt he will want to join me."

"You could be right Tess. The invitation is my responsibility. The accepting or rejecting is his. I've found most Pastors are more than willing to send 'troubled members,' to Psychologist and Therapists. It would be strange for him to deny you seeking help under his own guidelines. At a minimum, he would have to receive you and me as witnesses in Step Two of Matthew 18."

"How is that possible, if you're not a member of our church?"

"You see Tess, the role of 'witness,' in the Bible, i.e., Matthew 18, includes the responsibilities of Christian Brotherhood and Sisterhood. Christ taught this responsibility to all followers, not just those within a local congregation, as some wrongly practice.. This responsibility is not voided because you attend one local fellowship and I attend another.

"Witness' are called to correctly apply scripture, to convince, correct, rebuke and instruct, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, as well as being observers of all conduct, attitudes, words, and spiritual dynamics. In fact, the witnesses must decide if there are grounds for the complaint. If the Christian confesses error and repents, a brother or Sister is returned to God's ways. If there is confirmed error and the erring Christian is unrepentant, the witnesses must be the bearers of the unrepentant to the whole church. If there are no grounds for the complaint, the witnesses are to instruct the complainant to stop perusing the matter. So I could be one of the witnesses with you and your Pastor."

"Look Jim, I'm not sure this is such a good idea. I don't think you know what you're in for. We haven't even discussed what the problems are. You don't have a clue what's going on here. In fact, I'm a little angry you've not listened to my story.

"Well Tess, this is an example of trying to lay the correct foundation, Jesus Christ, and build upon Him, with gold. It's our responsibility to follow God's instructions. The outcome is God's responsibility."

"You mean we could go all through this mess and still not be resolved? That makes me mad!"

"Tess you're right on schedule. You are angry how God may choose to work this out. Let me assure you there will be a resolution. I'm not God, and only He knows who, when, where, or if reconciliation will happen, on this side of the Jordan. But more importantly, you are angry with God's ways. What does that say about your heart? What plank is blocking your vision?"

"You keep turning this on me. I'm the innocent one here. I'm the one who was wronged, abused and fired. And it's just not me. There are others. Why don't you just listen and let me tell you what's wrong? Huh?"

"Nice try Tess, but your level of frustration alerts me that until you can see your sins with Christ's eyes, you will help keep the conflict going by continuing in the dark, rather than being a part of the healing.

"Stop for a moment Tess, and see how mad you really are. Consider, I'm here to teach you God's way, as best I know it, and you attack. What sin are you exhibiting?"

"OK. You made your point. Before I let loose my raging tongue, I'd better do my homework."

"Remember, I don't condemn you or pass judgement on you for who you are and how you are acting. God offers us Grace and Mercy. If we refuse, God's gives us Justice. If we surrender our will to Him His faithfulness will bring us into a right relationship with Him and others.

Let me add one more thing, before you leave today. I'm sure others have sinned against you. Like I said earlier, we're all sinners. There will be a time to address their sins. But we must first address our sins. It's also Biblical to point out that scripture tells us that some people's sins will not be known until the other side, in heaven. Be cautious, your searching for Biblical Truth for your life, should not turn into a 'tear' hunt in the Church. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"I think so, but what do you mean by a Tear hunt?"

"In Matthew 13:25 ff., Christ gives us a parable of Tares, false wheat, sown by Satan, among the faithful. Often this verse is wrongly used to give permission not to practice Church Discipline because attempting to incorrectly remove the Tares may bring harm to some of the Wheat. Christ is teaching that we are not to go on some kind of hunt, indiscriminately applying God's Word as an unwelcome magnifying glass in other's lives, in an attempt to rid the church of false wheat. But when the false wheat, (tares) shows its self, through behavior or words, then we are to practice spiritual discipline. We are not to worry about those not detected. The false wheat will be dealt with by the harvesters at the harvest, who will discern the difference.

"Are you accusing me of attacking them too?"

"Tess, it is human nature to want to apply scripture to ourselves, then go out and find others to impose these verses on. This is not God's way. The Holy Spirit's job is to convict others of sin. Ours is to share the Gospel. The Gospel is all that Christ commanded. If in that process someone comes under the weight of being shown and convicted of their sin, we can gladly go and tell them, through Christ's blood, they can be forgiven. Well I keep preaching, and I think you've heard enough for today. I'm sure your head is spinning."

"Yes it is. But to be honest, I'm not buying all you've said."

"Good Tess."

"Good. You mean you're not angry if I doubt you?"

"In times past, I have gotten angry. I took it personal. I wanted to save people from the consequences of their sin. I wanted to be right. I wanted to be appreciated for being right. But that's not God's way. That's me taking Glory that belongs only to God. If I start getting angry with you, call me on it. It's probably my evil flesh taking charge. There could be times, when you might sin in a way that requires a stern rebuke, maybe even a very loud warning shout. If we find we disagree when I act in that manner then let's take time to search the Bible and pray, asking for God to direct our paths, so that we may keep our unity in Christ. Agreed? Don't forget in Acts 17:11, Luke praises the Bereans for searching the Scriptures to see if Paul and Silas were accurate in their teachings."

"Yeah, like I would know. But I will try. Thank you for your time Jim."

"You're welcome. And I'll let you know how my call to your Pastor goes."

"Oh, yes, I forgot. Do you really have to call him now Jim? I haven't decided to continue with you."

"Yes."

"Why? I'm afraid."

"Yes, Tess I know. God will comfort you if you allow Him. Give me a call when/if you finish your homework. Don't try to be perfect about it, just let God's Word wash over you and tell me what God is teaching you. Bye for now."

"Bye Jim, I'll call you soon."

"Pastor Davids please, ¡t's Jim Bates calling."

"Yes Mr. Bates, I'll see if he's available. May I inquire as to the nature of your call?"

"Thank you, no. It's a personal matter. Thank you."

"Mr. Bates, Pastor Davids does not do personal counseling. May I suggest our Pastor of Education, he sees people for counseling or refers them to therapists in the congregation?"

"Actually, this concerns a member of your church. It's my responsibility to discuss this matter with Rev. Davids. Is Rev. Davids available?"

"Normally Pastor does not take unscheduled calls or appointments, but I will check. May I ask your name again, Please?"

"Yes, thank you, it's Jim Bates."

"What organization are you with, Mr. Bates?"

"I'm calling Rev. Davids concerning a member from your church who has sought my help. I'm with Biblical Counseling Associates."

"I've never heard of you. Are you local? What denomination are you?"

"I work with local churches and para-church organizations, and individuals, teaching them Biblical principles to bring them into right relationship with God, and others. Is Rev. Davids available?"

"I'm sorry Mr. Bates, I don't think Pastor Davids would be interested in your services, at this time. I'm sure God uses you in many situations, but we don't need your services at this time. Thank you. Good Bye. and God Bless."

"Wai..." Click.

Biblical Counseling Associates

Jim Bates Rev. Charles Davids Poplar Hills Church Dear Rev. Davids,

I'm sorry I didn't reach you by phone the other day. I wanted to let you know a member of your church has asked for our help in their Spiritual growth. It is Biblical Counseling Associates's desire to care for this person, at the invitation and/or the participation of those in direct spiritual leadership over that individual. That's why I'm writing, to talk to you about what is best for your member.

I hope in the next few days, we'll be able to meet to discuss how we can work together for the glory of God in this person's life. The next few paragraphs might help you understand, if you are unfamiliar with BCA, and our ministry. For example,

BCA does not represent an individual or a position, other than the Biblical principles, practices and brotherhood of biblical teaching and reconciliation.

You might find this important: BCA believes, practices and promotes the creation by Jesus Christ of the Body of Believers called the Church. Each staff and trustee are members of Christ's Body, and must be in submission to spiritual leadership. All Christians are called to participate in the ministry of reconciliation of individuals to God, to themselves, and to others. Here's how we interact:

As a part of Christ's Body - the Church, BCA's board, staff, and volunteers are committed to using their gifts and their spiritual maturity to build His Church. Therefore, we see our gifts as ADDING and SERVING - NOT REPLACING the gifts in your local Church fellowship at Poplar Hills Church. Also,

BCA believes that all responsibilities within the universal Body of Christ by an individual believer, an organized church, or para-church organization, are not divided, diminished or void by organizational lines (e.g., Federal laws, State laws, local governments, geography, or church/para-church organizational ties).

As brothers in Christ, it has come to the attention of BCA, confirmed by two or more witnesses, that there are believers who ARE NOT reconciled within your church who continue to offend Jesus Christ and HIS body.

BCA acts as an advocate for the expression of Christian love through: Instruction, rebuking, correction, faithfulness, confession, forgiveness, repentance, restitution, restoration, reconciliation, mercy and grace, or justice, within the context of Christian Brotherhood and community. THIS DOES NOT in any form or manner represent an opinion, or judgement of right or wrong towards anyone, nor does it mean BCA has taken a side.

BCA is responsible to assure that the Biblical principles and processes of reconciliation are followed. Our role is considered that of brothers and/or sisters as witnesses.

BCA is dedicated to creating a dynamic witness for Jesus Christ that builds the Body of Christ and attracts the attention of a lost world, through Biblical Counseling, Biblical Instruction and Conflict Resolution, that reconciles mankind to God, mankind to themselves and mankind to others.

The principles and policies presented have proven successful in caring for the needs of hurting people, and organizations.

We do not expect everyone who seeks our help to fully understand or to currently practice these principles. Yet, we do ask that since these principles are Biblical and have proven successful, that those who do not fully understand these principles, at least recognize their value and seek to learn and practice them.

Over the years of peacemaking, we have learned that many people believe that they know and practice these principles, yet to their own amazement, they discover that along they way they have either learned an incorrect understanding of the principles, have failed to learn some of the key elements of the principles, or somehow have misapplied or failed to apply these principles -- NO JUDGEMENT, just love and gentle instruction and correction from God's Word.

We've also noted that as those who participate in the BCA ministry often share of the tremendous opportunity for insights, wisdom, healing and Spiritual growth that takes place as the Holy Spirit directs -- as well as the struggle of overcoming our old and destructive ways of thinking, acting and believing.

Thank Rev. Davids for your time. I look forward to meeting with you. Serving Christ Together, James R. Bates.

Chapter Eight Worship

Organ/Piano Duet: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, by Martin Luther.

A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing; Our helper He, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing: For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe' His craft and power are great, And armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.

(Whisper: What a beautiful Sunday morning thought one neighbor as
he picked up his morning newspaper. The music from Poplar Hills
Church was nice. That's amazing, noted another neighbor, that
little church down the block was playing the same music, not quite
as good though. What a coincidence. They both walked back into

their house wondering if all churches are the same.)

Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing, Were not the right Man on our side, The man of God's own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabbath His Name, From age to age the same, And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us: The Prince of Darkness grim, We tremble not for him; His rage we can en- dure, For lo, his doom is sure; One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, No thanks to them abideth; The Spirit and the gifts are ours Through him who with us sideth: Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill: God's truth abideth still; His kingdom is forever. Amen.
 
 

Dr. Fred Simons, Pastor of Worship Steps briskly to the podium, center stage. "What a beautiful prelude. It really touched my heart. Thank you Dr. Joe Baker, organist and Mrs. Becky Ventura-Griffens, on Piano. "Please stand for our Call to Worship: Isaiah 30:15, "This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says; `In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.'"

"Let us praise God by sing the Doxology.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

"Please remain standing as we join together in reciting the Apostle's Creed:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy
Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified,
dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the
dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father
Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of
saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life
everlasting. Amen.

You may be seated. Announcements:

Our Annual Missions Conference begins in two weeks. Remember
your Faith Promise Pledges. We've learned that God blesses His
people when we give to those who serve Him. Poplar Hills Church
has a long history of giving as much as twenty five percent of our
total budget to missions. I know each one of you has a favorite
family you want to support, I know I do. You must be faithful in
your giving to missions or we will be forced to eliminate some
missionaries from our budget. This was an extremely difficult task
last year. I hope we do not have to do it again. Thank you.

The Women's Missionary Society is collecting used clothes and
household articles to give to those missionaries who attend our
conference. Please be sure to contact Sister Sally Schroeder.

Classes for Operation Outreach still have room for those who want
to be a part of this year's fall evangelism effort. God has blessed
us with many new homes in our area. It just proves the wisdom and
foresight of our Elders choosing to build here.

Speaking of building, just a personal word. God is majestic and
wonderful to behold. Christians must reflect His Glory. The homes
in our neighborhood reflect a high level of quality. In order to
attract these professionals we must look and act even more
professional. We must be all things to all people. God has called
us to minister to these families. Let's be strong in presenting Jesus
Christ as Savior for these people as well.

Please read the remainder
of your bulletin for other important matters.

"Please stand for the reading of God's Holy Word. Old Testament: Isaiah, 40:1-2 "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins."

New Testament: 1 Corinthians 14:3

"But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort."

May God bless His Word to our understanding, that we may hide it in our hearts and not sin against Him. You may be seated. "Our Special Music guest is Dr. TaMas Eberr. God bless you TaMass as you sing to His glory.

(Whisper: Dr. Eberr is a renowned First Tenor who is sought world
wide for his services. Eberr's vibrant tones and dramatic expressions
bring to life each musical feast, glorifying our Lord.
As such, he is highly praised and very highly paid. Much effort is
placed upon advertising his presence. When Dr. Eberr sings you
can count on a crowd.)

Pastor Chuck steps lively to the Pulpit. "Thank you Dr. Eberr, God has blessed us through your ministry." Sermon: God Wants YOU Happy, by Dr. Charles Davids

"Praise God!" Pastor Chuck's voice beacons across the large 3,000 seat sanctuary. (Whisper: only 105 churches are larger.) "Praise God! Say it with me. Come on now, altogether, Praise God! Amen.

"God wants YOU happy. Our Heavenly Father knows your every fear and trial, and He wants YOU happy. Divorced? God wants you happy. In debt? God wants you happy. Afraid of losing a promotion or your job? God wants you happy. Friends gossiping behind your back? God wants you happy. How about being old and alone? God wants you happy. Got problems with your spouse or kids? God wants you happy. Are you hearing me? Huh? Say it with me, GOD WANTS YOU HAPPY. Say it louder, GOD WANTS YOU HAPPY. Amen.

"Brothers and Sisters, as your spiritual authority, your Shepherd, God commands me to comfort you. Isn't that great? Isn't that wonderful? God commands me to comfort you!

"`Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.' I don't have a choice. God tells me to comfort YOU, His people. I want to comfort you. I love to comfort you. Why when you're happy I love it. That's why I'm here, to love you. Do you need comforting this morning? I bet you do. This morning, God is here to comfort YOU. GOD WANTS YOU HAPPY.

"Isn't that just like God? He tells me to do something I want to do. Fantastic. What a God? People, I'm here today to tell you God wants to give you the desires of your heart so you can be happy. Why? I'll tell you why. So you can praise Him. A happy Christian can praise God. Look at David dancing with joy. That's what God wants for you. God wants you happy enough so you will dance to His glory. Not right now though, (laughing), we don't want to get too Pentecostal. But just think of it. The God who created the heaven and the earth, the planets and the stars, the water and the air, wants to make you happy. That's great. I can hardly control my excitement. God wants to meet you here. Right now, to comfort you. (Whisper: Pastor Chuck is on a roll now. When he gets to praising God and worshiping, you'd better wake up, because Pastor Chuck is alive.)

"Right here at Poplar Hills Church. God is waiting to bless you and comfort you. Now you brothers and sisters watching on TV or listening on the radio, God is with you right now too. Yes, Praise God, He wants you happy.

"Now if you're one of those Christians who wants to be sad. That's your business. But you're in the wrong church. We want to be happy. If you are a sour puss or a grumbler, you're in for a sad time because here at Poplar Hills Church, we want to be happy. If you want to sit around gazing at your navel, in some kind of victimization, that's your business. We offer 12 Step programs to help you. But not me, not these people. We want to be happy. God says he wants His people to be happy.

"We know there are unhappy people. They can't help themselves when they whine and when they can't get their way. They attack when something doesn't go their way. They gossip and back stab when we don't hold their hand, just the right way. They've go to learn how to Grow Up. God doesn't want a bunch of losers representing Him. He wants His people to be happy. When God's people are happy they are in unity and rejoice. When happy children praise God it tickles Him. Just being a earthly Dad, I love for my kids to tickle me. I'm sure God loves to be delighted by His children.

"If you've got a problem you love more than God, you got real problems. If you want to hold on to that problem, more than God, you're in the wrong church.

"Before I go on, let me say, we want everyone here to be with us and join in being happy. But honestly, I've seen people you just couldn't make happy. They pick at your words. They pick at your weaknesses. They pick pick pick pick you to death. That's not God's way. God can't love a person like that, because they won't accept His love. We've got people like that in Poplar Hills Church. You know who I am addressing. Check your own hearts and see if I am not right. I won't point you out yet, but you know who I mean. You are the most miserable people I've ever seen.

"I'll tell you people something else. Satan would have happy Christians become burdened down and distracted by unhappy people. It's true. In fact, when I was at the Church Growth Initiative, they made a big point of not spending much time with counseling unhappy people. Yes, the experts know that to spend more than six sessions with unhappy people, will kill the spirit of a minister. They strongly recommend these kind of people need to be referred to therapist. A Pastor who tries to build a church must not be distracted by unhappy people.

"Nehemiah, while rebuilding the wall, God's wall, could not be distracted by malcontents. Nehemiah knew that building the wall was of greater importance than giving time to his detractors. How do I know these things? I know them because I get up early to pray for you all. I study the Bible for Two hours a day. I spend time with people all day long, caring and leading. You have to give yourself to God's work. You have to overcome selfishness to get to the real meat of God's calling. I'm inviting you to join me.

"Let me be perfectly clear, here. I'm not putting down these kind of people. They have deep deep hurts. These deep hurts cause all kinds of dysfunctional behavior and ways of thinking. In fact, Poplar Hills Church was designed to care for hurting and exhausted people. We want to give and give because so many have been abused and mistreated in other churches. At Poplar Hills Church, we want you to know we love you. It's just that we know by God's grace, you are a Christian. And it will be by God's continuing Grace you will be healed. What we are trying to do is reach the lost. Reaching those who have not had the opportunity of accepting Christ as Lord and Savior.

"We've designed our seeker service just for the purpose of caring and inviting you the hurting and disenfranchised. God wants you happy the most. We pray for you. We want to know how your counseling is progressing. But we must not be distracted from a greater goal of reaching more lost.

"You know? Many Pastor's would not be so honest with you. That's right! They're afraid to step on your toes. They whine that their people don't love them. They're afraid to tell you the truth. Well my Bible tells me the Truth shall set you free. You can be free. That's the Gospel message. I'm told to expect challenges. I'm told to expect and fight persecutions and attacks. God's Word says you should to.

"Sorry for the digression, but I love hurting people and I know from personal experience, you've just got to turn to Jesus, He will satisfy your every need. Taking responsibility for yourself was the key to my overcoming my personal problems. So I've been there. I know. Let me give you a personal example.

"I accepted the Pastorate of Poplar Hills Church because I felt God led me here to take you to the next level. Pastor Fromiley brought you so far. He did a wonderful job. I know you love him. But I could see a potential in you that would make this community so proud. I could see that by building a major small group effort and doubling our sanctuary, Poplar Hills Church would be a beautiful example of God's blessings for a lost world to see.

"John 17: 20-21 says that the lost world will know Jesus Christ is the Son of God by our love for one another. That's right, our love for one another. Then God will be glorified. Brothers and Sisters, we must learn to put off our unhappy ways and allow God to bless us with His love.

"God has shown me, he wants all the glory. He wants Poplar Hills Church to glorify His name by being the example of caring for one another. This is a message for those who are ready to get off the milk and get on with the fight. You who are no longer wounded. You who graduated from remedial Bible 101. You who have left the old flesh behind and are up to the challenge. God is calling you to glorify Him.

"Now don't be deceived. Yes we are building a bigger sanctuary but the building is not what will bring glory to God. Well in some ways the building will. You know, like our Pastor of Worship said, Poplar Hills Church is surrounded with professionals. In fact, our research shows that many are earning so much money that they've become bored with life. You can spend only so much. As professionals, our neighbors are sitting on a bomb of despair, and we must be ready to take the life saving message of Jesus Christ to them in their crisis. The building is a minor part of our plan to demonstrate God's wonderfulness and majesty. Our new building will be a wonder and a jewel reflecting God's and Poplar Hills Church's commitment to excellence. So don't be distracted by our building program or it's cost. Seven and a half million is nothing to God.

"The real effort is toward small group evangelism. Small groups, with about eight to twelve people, provide a sense of community caring that a large Church can't duplicate. I can't counsel everyone. I can't visit all the sick. I can't administrate a multimillion dollar budget and supervise a staff or twenty by myself. I can't travel and speak all around the world, and still evangelize our community. I have only a few gifts. I must use my God given gifts to the maximum. That's what the Christ was trying to say in the story of the talents. I know my being gone so much is hard on you. but as God blesses me with success you are blessed too. As God gives me credit, you receive credit too. Therefore, I've been persuaded that we must return to the New Testament concepts of small gatherings of believers as the way of caring for others. You've heard this before. But today I want you to focus on God wants you happy.

"God wants you happy because no one is going to come to our church if a bunch of sour pusses are out there visiting them. If only moaners and groaners are out there, no one will want to hear the Gospel message. My job is to comfort you with God's Word. In 2 Corinthians 1, we are to comfort people with the comfort we have received.

"As I was saying earlier, these people will become disenchanted with their lives. There will be divorces. There will be abuses. There will be drugs, alcohol, and fat people. There is wife swapping, adultery and homosexuality. There will be kids and gangs. It's all going to happen, and we need to be ready to minister to their needs. You need to be ready. You need to get your life right, so you can be comforted and can comfort others.

"Yes, God wants you happy. God wants your joy to praise and worship Him. God will make it possible.

"Right now as you listen and consider God's Word, don't give up. Your eyes need awakened by the truth that God's work, done God's way, will never lack for money. When you signed your faith promise pledge cards you had the faith God would provide the money so you could give sacrificially to our new evangelistic outreach and building program. That same God, our wonderful Heavenly Father will supply your needs. Turn your heart toward Him and He will guide you every step of the way.

"In Isaiah 30:21 God promises to lead you. Show your trust in God by giving now, even before you know how God will be faithful to you.

Remember these four points:

1. God loves to see His people happy.

2. Unhappy Christians dishonor God

3. Unhappy Christians can not work for God.

4. When given a duty God gives the means to do it.

"Next week's sermon will be about how God wants to heal broken relationships. In a few weeks, I'll also share with you God's vision for planting new churches all over our county. You'll want to hear how God is Blessing." Pastor Chuck returns to his chair. Worship Pastor Simons steps to Center Stage.

"Thank you Pastor Chuck for sharing with us your personal struggles and God's desire to make us Happy. Now we would like to welcome new visitors. We wish we could meet you personally, so we ask for you to fill out a visitor's card in the holder on the seat in front of you. We also have a reception with punch and cookies for you in the sitting room, on your right, through the double doors. I hope to see you there. Now...

"We call this part of our Worship, Unity and Love. Let's all stand and give our neighbor a heartfelt handshake, and hug if you're of the mind, to say hello and we care.

(Whisper: The noise level jumps and wakens most of the sleeping.)

"Now a Moment of Meditation: With bowed heads, no one looking around, ask God to lead you and bless you. Consider your areas of need. How can God make you happy. Consider how you can make God happy through praise and obedience.

At Poplar Hills Church, we don't want to make pleas for money. They turn us off and we know they turn you off. We leave offering baskets at the doors for those who feel led of God to give. Thank you for coming today. Shall we stand for the Hymn of Benediction hymn. Hymn of Benediction: Blest Be The Tie That Binds

Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love; The fellowship of kindred minds I like to that above.

Before our Father's throne We pour our ardent prayers; Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, Our comforts and our cares.

We share our mutual woes, Our mutual burdens bear; And often for each other flows The sympathizing tear.

When we asunder part, It gives us inward pain; But we shall still be joined in heart, And hope to meet again. Amen. (Whisper: It's a little hard to hear the words since practically everyone is getting their things together to leave. They're so glad Pastor Chuck is done before Twelve Thirty. Now they can get home or what ever, and rest the remainder of the day. Hallelujah.) "Thank you for coming toda..."

"Wait! Wait, Dr. Simon, I feel led of God to give a special thank you to Sister Gertrude." shouted Pastor Chuck. "Please, everybody take your seats for just a moment. I want you to give your attention to a special Saint in our congregation. Sister Gertrude, was not feeling well today and is listening on the radio. She needs our prayers. As I was meditating about how God could make me happy, I remembered the generous love and gifts Sister Gertrude has given to me and to you.

"Sister Gertrude is not rich. She is a widow, whom God commanded us to love and care for. Yet, out of her deep sense of love for God and Poplar Hills Church, Sister Gertrude has donated her home and land to our new evangelism and building program. Such a wonderful act of unselfish love should not go unnoticed. Would you please join me in giving a thanks offering to God for Sister Gertrude's gift by applause? Let's hear your applause loud and clear." The applause thunders, and Sister Gertrude smiles warmly from her bed. "Thank you. Thank you Sister Gertrude for giving so we can thank for God for making us happy. I'll be welcoming you at the front foyer and the other Pastors will be at the other doors. See you next Sunday." Pastor Chuck waves. Welcoming by Dr. Charles Davids, at front foyer:

"Oh Pastor Chuck that was so wonderful, what you did for Sister Gertrude. I could just see your love for her in your eyes."

"Your Welcome Sister."

"Henry, how nice to see you again." Pastor Chuck said reaching for Henry Wray's hand. "Sure would like to see you get involved with our Outreach efforts. God could use your talents." Henry, smiles and keeps walking.

"Thank you Pastor for a wonderful sermon. You stepped right on my toes. Sometimes I'm so ashamed when I get depressed. Thanks for telling me God wants me happy." Pastor Chuck smiles and looks for the next hand to shake.

Tess Bond is on her way out the side door, worrying over which Pastor is there to ambush her. Elder Kevin Carr is still in shock after Pastor Chuck read him the riot act, and now even angrier, that Sister Gertrude has donated her home and land. Kevin just glares past Pastor Chuck. Pastor Chuck notices him and looks interested in another hand shake with another face and another name.

"Barb and Jim Fromiley, it's good to see you. You know Jim, your wife is a dynamite gal. We really appreciate all she does for us and for the Lord. What did you think of today's sermon?"

"Actually Pastor, I was very touched by your words today. I can get pretty down thinking about the past and all my troubles. Your sermon was a real shot in the arm. I really needed that." said Jim. Barb was kind of quiet and pensive. "Pastor, I've had some difficult thoughts and memories that have brought up a lot of pain. Could I see you some time this week, I need your help again?"

"Sure, Barb, I'd be glad to see you anytime. How about Tuesday? Just call Loretta and have her clear my schedule for when you can stop by. See you then. Bye."

Barb and Jim keep moving through the door.

Pastor Chuck starts day dreaming, while reaching for another hand...
 
 
 

Chapter Nine Tess Returns

"Welcome back Tess," said Jim Bates. "It takes a lot of courage to face God and ask His Holy Spirit to cleanse your heart."

"The truth is Jim I have no where else to turn. I feel like I'm crazy. You seem to know what I'm going through but I'm still not convinced you have the answers."

"Yes Tess, I understand. It's a place to begin. Did you happen to do your homework?"

"No, not really. I wasn't sure I was coming back. But when I sat through Pastor Chuck's last sermon, I almost lost it. I started getting nauseated. I had such a headache, I took three aspirins, before I could even get my family's Sunday dinner."

"Hum, that sounds like you were really mad. What made you so angry?"

"Pastor Chuck's sermon was not very subtle about whom or what is wanted in a good member and what's not wanted. Pastor Chu.. no make that Chuck, was telling me to change or get out. It was that clear."

"Did he call you by name Tess?"

"Look, are you that dense? No he didn't call me by name. That would be too obvious. The only way you can catch him is when he's under a lot of stress. That's why most people don't see him like I do. I've talked to a Psychiatrist and she told me that there are those whose facade will only crack when they feel more threatened than their perceived strength. Then and only then, when their mind is so preoccupied with trying to regain control will their actions and values become conflicted, resulting in exposure. The rest of the time, they are able to maintain an image that presents itself as most competent and worthy of respect. What do you think Jim?"

"Well, I have a couple of responses. First, you are really angry. You're hurt. We've got to see where you're hurt before we can correctly apply God Truth to your situation. Being hurt often means we feel someone has violated something important to us. Secondly, Rev. Davids may have sinned against you, but my primary responsibility, based upon the fact you're the one asking for my help, is you and your spiritual growth. At this point my concern is not so much what Rev. Davids said as it is to hear what you believe you heard, and then apply God's Truth."

"Are you calling me a liar? I bet you think it's all in my head. I knew I shouldn't have come back. My Psychiatrist was more caring and listening. She listened to me. Forget you." Tess tersely responded as she picked up her purse, "I'm sorry, I can't trust you. It's a style thing. I just can't do this." Tess stood up and started for the door.

"Tess, please sit and listen to me for a moment."

"Look Jim maybe you mean well, but you're not understanding just how bad Chuck really is. You can't even feel my pain. I think you need to ask yourself if you have some unresolved personal issues with women? You aren't the only one who can help me you know. Men!"

"Tess, Pastor Chuck is no worse than you or me."

"Oh, great bedside manners Jim. Now you're saying I'm as bad as Chuck. Oh Please."

"Tess, I'm not going to argue with you. You're not listening to God's Word. You're so caught up in getting Chuck that you're missing the basics of a walk with Christ. I know you're hurting and angry but that doesn't mean you're accurate. It doesn't mean you are going about this Biblically. Please slow down, and be seated, and give me a few minutes more to explain."

"I'll stand, thank you!"

Jim stands and takes a few steps toward Tess while saying, "Tess, maybe you're right. Maybe now's not a good time to talk, but let me say this. Tess you're heart, my heart and Rev. Davids' heart are basically the same. Jesus Christ died and rose again to save all who would believe on Him as Savior and Lord. You're in as much sin and denial of Christ as you relate Rev. Davids is. If you persist in blaming him, like you say he's blaming you, your heart will only harden more against God. Is that your goal? Are you willing to destroy your life to be right about someone else's sin? I don't think so. Please sit down and let's talk this out."

"No." Tess turns and walks out.

Jim gets angry and shuts the door harshly and returns to his desk. Before he can sit down...

Tess bursts through the door demanding through clenched teeth, "Don't you ever shut the door like that to me. Do you hear me? Absolutely never shut the door like that again. I'm not some child you can push around."

"Yes, Tess. I am sorry. I got angry when you would not listen. I sinned against you. That was wrong. Will you forgive me?" Jim noticed a tear in Tess's eye, "Tess, what do your tears mean?" asked Jim in a quiet voice. Tess sat down weeping. For many minutes both Tess and Jim sat in silence.

"I don't know."

"You don't know what Tess?

"I don't know why I am crying or what my tears mean."

"Tess you are frustrated. Your words said you wanted a peacemaker, but your heart wants an ally. This is not going as you planned. Is it?"

"No, Jim, it's not. I just want it to be over. I want Chuck to leave me alone and stop hurting people. Is that too much to ask?"

"Tess you are at a critical point is your process. With all your talent and education, you can't figure this out. This is a spiritual war not a logic, reasoning one. You have got to put down the weapons you've used all your life and learn God's ways."

"I can read the Bible for myself. You're suppose to be the peacemaker."

"Two things. First, you are expecting some kind of togetherness based upon your pain and your sense of injustice. Often counselors try to build trust by agreeing with you, the client. As a Biblical Counselor, I'm to find our unity only in faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Wrong headed counseling becomes a barrier to your healing, because Biblical counseling doesn't feel right, it's not how you want to be treated. Do you see yourself controlling how God is to help you rather than you submitting to God?" "Secondly Tess, if you remember the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, begins with the Beatitudes. There are six beatitudes before peacemaking. They are there because it takes increasing in those six before you have a mature enough heart to attempt reconciliation. These are evidences of a heart condition, not guidelines to which we are to twist our behavior into appearing Godly. And, don't forget, the two beatitudes after peacemaking are about persecution. Persecution and being falsely accused are there for a reason."

"What? I'd be in counseling for years before I could be ready. You're asking too much."

"Tess, this is the highest level of spiritual warfare Christians are asked to fight. A peacemakers' heart must be right, not perfect. We are all called to be Humble with an insatiable desire to learn from the God; heartbroken by man's estrangement from God while awed by God's love for man; surrendering our will, resources, and reputation; giving undeserved mercy toward all; based upon pure motives and intent; this leads to peacemaking."

"Look Jim, I'm no saint and neither are you after you shut the door on me the way you did."

"I was wrong being angry and shutting the door the way I did. I'm sorry for that and I've asked for your forgiveness. However, a right heart is not a sinless heart."

"Well that's the way you make it sound Jim."

"What I'm trying to communicate is what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4: A. servant of God are entrusted with the secret things of God; B. Those given a trust must prove faithful; C. Being judge by others or self has little value; D. A clear conscience doesn't mean innocent; E. Christ upon His return will judge correctly what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. It's imperative that all involved in a conflict must invite God's Holy Spirit to search their hearts with God's Word and confess any uncovered sin. That means me, that means you. It also means Pastor Chuck and the Elders and any other person involved. Even then, as finite, blind beings will can not know for sure our heart nor another's."

"Let me get this straight. I've got to trust you that there are spiritual dynamics that I don't know or can't see? Is that about right? Wait, wait, before you answer. You also expect me to accept that I can't know my own heart or that I can't know what's going on in Chucks?"

"That's essentially correct Tess, but that does not leave Christians without spiritual tools."

"What tools?"

"When we call ourselves Christian, that implies we will live and act as Christian. Anything less is blaspheming the name of God. We no longer have a right to an opinion about this or that person. God tells us exactly the whats, hows, the where, and when of Christian relationships. For example, I've not let you tell me your story because I can only hear it, according to God's Word, when we are with Pastor Davids, and you are telling him in obedience to step two of Matthew 18:16, in front of two or more witnesses. Otherwise it's gossip and slander. It's that simple. That clear."

"That may be true, but that's not how they're doing it."

"You see Tess, each time I tell you one of God's truths you immediately apply it to others. Take a moment and think if you slandered and gossiped to anyone."

"No I haven't. The only person I've said anything to was Elder Banks. He's an Elder that can't be wrong. Oh yes and to Paul my husband. Wait a minute, are you saying I can't share my feelings and thoughts with my own husband? Surely you're not that legalistic."

"Tess, the Bible tells us what we are to do. Your talks with Elder Banks does not fit God's definition. Your talks with your husband is a little more difficult to discern, but we could discuss it further, if you want. But I'm also thinking of your talk with your Psychiatrist. That doesn't fit the Biblical definition either."

"Are you telling me going to a Psychiatrist to get help is wrong?"

"You are acting in conflicting ways, Tess. First you ask if I'm a Psychologist because psychology doesn't have spiritual answers and then you go see someone in the field. But more importantly, you told your story. Tess, it's your story, it doesn't mean you're right. Luke 17:3's the "`If' your brother sins, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him.' requires we be tentative in believing a sin was committed until it's been established. That's part of God's purposes of having witnesses, to determine which part of whose story appears accurate and then how to respond in Christian love and fidelity. And remember, we have limited spiritual insight into our hearts, so we must treat others as still a part of our own bodies until/if they stubbornly refuse to adhere to Christ's teachings. Then and only then are they to be treated as non-believers. Only God knows if they are His children.

"Stop stop stop. I'm overwhelmed. This is too much information at one time. I can't hold it all."

"Yes, I thought it might be, but I had to continue to prove it to you. You see Tess, because you don't trust me or any other "spiritual leader," I had a choice to risk overwhelming you or let you leave, continuing to do damage to yourself and others, and above all, bringing shame on Christ."

"I guess I haven't made it easy on you, have I?"

"No Tess you haven't, but I expected it. After thirty years of learning these lessons I know how different our ways and thoughts are to God's. I remember when I didn't want to give up my so called tried and trusted ways of handling people. Humility doesn't come natural to me or you."

"Not to me, that's for sure. What you say feels so foreign. It even hurts and makes me mad. Are you saying these are my issues and not your? Are you saying there are times when I'm hurting, and you're not hurting me, but it's me rejecting God's Truth?"

"Exactly, Tess. That's a very true statement."

"That's wild."

"Tess if you can hold on to that truth you will have learned a fundamental truth of being poor in spirit. You see, when I see something in your ways of thinking or behaving, it doesn't mean I'm right, it just means based on who I am, what my experiences are, and what work God has accomplished in my life, sees it that way. That's my responsibility, to tell you what I see. You're responsibility is to seriously consider, applying God's Word, to see if there is any accuracy to what I'm saying."

"What if we disagree, Jim?"

"We can do a couple of things. First, we could ask others who have demonstrated spiritual maturity to check us both out, or second we can wait for God's Holy Spirit to confirm within you, or me, whether what's been said is on target."

"What if we still disagree?"

"That does happen a lot. I believe we can some times go on to other important areas and the Lord will bring us back to that item if it's that important. There are times when the issue is so foundational that we can't go on until it's resolved in your heart. This can be very frustrating to you."

"Why can't we go on?"

"Tess, there are spiritual dynamics that must be in position before the next step of spiritual growth can take place. God in His infinite wisdom decides what's best and necessary for you before we can go on. Let me give you a couple of examples."

"Please use somebody else for awhile. I feel really beat up and unloved."

"Sure, I know it's to practice these truths. In fact, most people find a way to drop out, right here, at this point. They can't allow themselves to trust God or His ministers to instruct, correct or rebuke them. Granted, it's rare for someone to come right out and say that. What's generally the case, is they find a way or reason, to break off our relationship. Let me ask you a question. Do you realize I'm not therapist?"

"Yes, that's why I came to you."

"That's one answer, but what I'm trying to say is, by Christ's grace, I'm your brother, not some person you can pick and choose like an apple. You're not a spiritual butterfly or bee hopping from one flower to the next, that looks more pleasing to your eye."

"What?'

"Tess, I am a person, not a resource. I am a Christian brother, not a consultant who you hire and fire, based on your subjective judgements. God is calling you and me to practice a Godly relationship."

"Boy does that sound like you got some kind of personal problem. How are you and your wife doing? It sounds like you're desperate for a friend. Were you sexually abuse? I don't think all your lights are on. This feels freaky. Some of the people I called asking about you warned me you were like this. I can't handle this, Jim. Do you really think you are the only one who can help me. That's pretty arrogant isn't it?"

"Wow, Tess, listen to your self. Your are going at rocket speed. What are you feeling? What are you saying? Can you hear your isolation. Can you hear how you've practiced gossip and slander? Do you see how you substituted your definitions to my words? Can you hear the false testimony of others in your words to me?

"Oh boy, now you sound just like Chucky baby. What's with you guys? Is it men or is it my luck to find all the messiah complexes?

Jim sits silent. In an instant, what feels like unending violence was heaped upon Tess and him. There it is again. Jim's own sins being used by others against God. Jim is guilty of any sin which he could be accused. There have been legitimate complaints against him but most people, not all, but most of his accusers are people who are so bound to their sins they blame him for their failed counseling or relationships. People who did not want God's word in their life but masterfully manipulated the facts and images maintaining a respectable form of godliness. Jim was down for the ten count, like he'd been hit by the world's greatest heavy weight boxer. Tess had just created a box that Jim did not have permission to destroy. He could not come to his own defense. Any attempt to answer each accusation or confess his past sins, would be more ammunition for Tess to turn away. Jim could only pray for God's will and God's touch in Tess's heart.

Jim had been here before. In times past he would fight and argue, hoping to break through the denial, hoping to be all that Christ invited him to be. But these are tools were of his flesh.

"Tess you have disqualified me from speaking any further. The ball is in your hands. I can't respond until you choose to give back what you've taken."

"I'm sorry Jim, but what I said is what I was feeling and what others have told me about you."

"I understand. I am guilty as charged. Yet, I must remain silent, until you decide whether I'm correctly using God's Word in my life and in yours. Other wise, you have rejected me as one who can bring God's authority to bear in your life."

"I don't know what to say Jim. I mean, I think you're a good guy. No one perfect. It's just that you have to admit, you're a little weird. I mean, you are on the edge of what everybody says. Just what makes you think you've got a corner on God's Truth? Do you think you're the only one God talks to? I know plenty of Godly men who disagree with you."

"It' clear, I can't help you Tess. I am sorry."

"But you said you had all this experience. You said you've been over this road a million times. Why did you lie to me?"

"Tess, I am trying to say that you have placed me in a box that I can't get out of. I can't help you until you get us out of the box. If I try, as I did just a second a go, you have more attacks, questions and editorials than I have answers. Your heart is so closed and so angry that for this moment, I can't respond."

"Yep, just as I thought, you'd put this on me. Thanks!"

Jim remains quiet and praying. God has not given any further words which Jim can use. When Jim's mind is blank, it's time for quiet, until he feels God has given him a new direction.

Years have passed. They just keep bitting and devouring each other.

Osterville Baptist Church
840 Main Street
Osterville, MA. 02655
By Telephone: (508) 428-2787
By Fax: (508) 428-2789
By E-mail: info@ostervillebaptist.org
http://www.ostervillebaptist.org
Rev. Michael Rowe
First Baptist Church Of Wheaton 
(Has a history of failing to use Biblical principles of Church Discipline)
1310 N Main St,
Wheaton, IL 60187
(630) 665-0330
fbc.info@fbcwheatonil.org
michael.rowe@fbcwheatonil.org
http://www.fbcwheatonil.org/
Ward Rau-Church Official-rau819@aol.com

"As a member of First Baptist Church of Wheaton, two years now, what is implied when noted "( Has a history of failing to use Biblical principles of Church Discipline)". "... PeaceMakers response to emails and inquires from those concerned, "Are you part of a Biblical process of addressing "church discipline" issues at Wheaton First Baptist Church/Osterville Baptist Church/ or other Church?  Having read the material concerning Rev. Michael Rowe his Wife Marjorie [Maggie] Rowe, Cynthia [Cindy] Hinckely, Rona Heart or Tori Packer, are you a part of a "Church Discipline" Matthew 18 process, or 1 Timothy 5:19-21?  If yes, then I'm required by God's word to "tell it to the church". In the case of First Baptist Church of Wheaton, which I believe is congregational, I repeat my Biblical witness [Matthew 18] in four cases spanning approximately ten years WFBC's failure to use Biblical principles of Church Discipline. In Christ, bill fields
 

Church infighting leads to lawsuit
Cape Cod Times
By JACK COLEMAN
Published: December 2, 2001

OSTERVILLE - The stately exterior of Osterville Baptist Church belies an unusual dispute that has festered for four years.
A former Sunday school teacher has filed a lawsuit accusing the Rev. Michael Rowe of making passes at her, then lying to others to cover his tracks.

Rowe, his wife, Maggie, and a church deacon, Paul Gage, have responded with a countersuit. They claim Cindy Hinckley of Centerville and two of her friends have libeled them with hundreds of letters sent to churches across Cape Cod and the state, and have made repeated slanderous remarks.

The Bible says "you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." The situation in this Osterville church may be an example of what happens when that truth is hard to discern.

"The only ones who know who are really telling the truth are Mike, Cindy and the Lord," said former church member Devonia Keller. "This is a very, very sad situation. It was not handled properly from the beginning."

And while what happened between Hinckley and Rowe may never truly be known, the fact that their falling out has affected each of them, their families and the church congregation emotionally, psychologically and spiritually is indisputable.

According to court documents and interviews, Hinckley and Rowe tried to work things out themselves and later tried arbitration by other church members, both to no avail.

In April 1998, members of Osterville Baptist Church voted 59-2 to expel Hinckley, a rarely seen action.

While the alleged incidents that gave rise to Hinckley's lawsuit occurred four years ago, she said she agonized for two years over a decision to file suit. During that time, she wrote scores of letters to ministers and religious groups across Cape Cod, Massachusetts, even out of state, describing her version of events.

She also worried about the effects of the dispute on her livelihood, a home day care center on Old Stage Road.

"I'm not vindictive, I'm not angry," said Hinckley, 49. "All I want to do is redeem my reputation, which has been ruined by these people, for the sake of my children."

The situation escalated to an unlikely place when Hinckley filed her lawsuit in August 2000, and the Rowes and Gage countered with their own in February.

Churches are hardly hotbeds of litigation, according to Scott Nickerson, clerk magistrate at Barnstable Superior Court. "It is unusual for members of a church to be suing one another," Nickerson said.

As for the congregation, the incident's fallout has had an effect, but it's unclear just how much.

Some, like Devonia Keller, who left the church with her husband last year after 15 years as members, said the Rowe-Hinckley rift shook the congregation, with several families leaving the church. "They certainly lost a percentage of people," Keller said.

Her husband, Joseph Keller, said he warned church members of the potential for litigation before Hinckley filed suit. "But I was a lone voice in the congregation," he said.

Michael Rowe, 48, who came to Osterville Baptist Church in 1989 from a youth pastor's post in Nashua, N.H., says Devonia Keller's claim is wrong. He asserts that church membership of about 220 in May 1998 has risen by 100 since then.

"The church took every necessary, available and required step to resolve this," Rowe said. He labeled Hinckley's allegations "categorically false."

Born and raised in Stoughton, Hinckley received a degree in elementary education from Framingham State College. She taught elementary school for seven years in Stoughton before her children were born.

The Hinckleys moved to Cape Cod in April 1982 and are the parents of five children ranging in age from 9 to 21. Robert Hinckley is a foreman in the Waltham Water and Sewer Department.

The dispute between Hinckley and Rowe began in June 1997 when one of Hinckley's five children was baptized by Roweat an Osterville beach.

After the ceremony, as more than 100 church members were leaving, Rowe pulled Hinckley close to him and kissed her hard on the mouth, she said.

Hinckley's friends Rona Hart and Tori Packer said they were at Dowses Beach that day. Neither witnessed what occurred, they said.

But after the ceremony, Hinckley walked over to Rowe to thank him, Hart said. "Within a few minutes, she came back to the blanket and she was white as a ghost," Hart said. "I said, 'What's wrong?' and she said, 'I can't talk about it, I just can't talk about it.'"

"It was months later before she told me," Hart said. "I had to pull it out of her over the phone."

Hinckley said Rowe kissed her three more times in following weeks and admitted to her that he had "a problem" with her.

Hinckley said she was willing to forgive Rowe and put the matter behind them. But in the months to follow, she said, she was ostracized at church due to falsehoods spread by the Rowes and Paul Gage, one of the church's deacons.

Before then, Hinckley said, she and her family were active church members and friends with the Rowe family, their children often playing together.

But Hinckley also acknowledges that a week following the alleged first incident, after a prayer meeting at the church while the two were alone, she kissed Rowe on the mouth.

"I felt sorry for him," Hinckley said. "I thought he was all upset with what he did. I'm too embarrassed to bring it up. It was a stupid thing to do."

Hinckley said she wants to salvage her reputation, and her legal fees will exceed the $25,000 she is seeking in damages.

Hinckley claims Rowe repeatedly told her that he was at fault and that he wanted to put what had happened behind them. She was willing to do this, she said, in keeping with her faith.

But after the summer of 1997, Hinckley said she became the target of a campaign of false rumors spread by the Rowes and Gage. Hinckley said church members whispered and snickered behind her back, and sneered as she walked to a seat in a pew.

Hinckley said she requested a meeting with the church's deacons in December 1997, as allowed by the church's bylaws. Instead, youth minister Brad Peterson told her in January 1998 that she could not teach Sunday school and no meeting would be held with the deacons.

Hinckley said she was told by Peterson that a meeting would be held with two arbitrators that Hinckley claims were acquaintances of the Rowes.

Peterson declined to comment, citing "impending litigation." But Michael Rowe disputes Hinckley's claim that the church deacons did not meet with her, citing a four-hour meeting Dec. 11, 1998.

Rowe acknowledges that one of the two men, the Rev. Leonard Spitale, "is a friend.

"But the reason he was brought to the church is because of his long-time relationship with the church," Rowe said. "He had preached here many times."

The second man asked to arbitrate, the Rev. Robert Chapman, is the New England Director of the Conservative Baptist Association of America, of which Osterville Baptist is a member.

"He was kind of like my supervisor," Rowe said, and a natural choice for an arbitrator. "He was fairly new to that position."

In March 1998, the deacons issued a "directive" deciding that Rowe had not been at fault. Members of the church were to cease discussing the matter or face expulsion.

Hinckley, Packer and Hart "each signed a leadership directive stipulating that they would submit to church authority and cease any further accusations of Pastor Rowe or other church members," according to the countersuit filed by the Rowes and Gage.

But all three women adamantly claim that Gage read the directive to them and that none of them signed it because they did not agree with its contents.

Rowe said, contrary to the assertion in the countersuit that all three women had signed the directive, "we've not found a copy signed" by them.

"That's an apparent misunderstanding," he said. "But it is very, very clear that they agreed to it."

Exasperated by Hinckley's refusal to accept the directive, and for continuing to complain about Rowe, church members voted 59 to 2 in April 1998 to banish her from the church.

One member said that in 35 years he had never seen another person voted out, according to Hinckley.

Two months earlier, two of Hinckley's friends, Packer and Hart, confronted the Rowes at the Vision New England conference of ministers in Boston.

Packer spoke loudly to the Rowes, denouncing them for their alleged mistreatment of the Hinckley family. The confrontation did not become physical and the two women were not arrested. Security officers were called and Packer and Hart were escorted out of the building.

It wasn't until February 2001 that the Rowes and Gage filed a countersuit against Hinckley, Packer and Hart.

The countersuit alleges defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress by the three women.

The plaintiffs in the countersuit are seeking unspecified damages, to be decided by a jury.

Gage deferred to his attorney, Robert Cooley of Boston. A former resident of Marstons Mills, Gage is a salesman for Merck-Medco pharmaceutical company who recently moved to Barnstable Village.

The hundreds of letters written by Hinckley, and others from Hart and Packer, form the main part of the basis for the countersuit.

In an April 1998 letter, Hinckley wrote: "The Apostle Paul feared that when he returned to Corinth (2 Corinthians 12:20) he may find the people exhibiting carnal behaviors: 'strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances ... ' What a heartbreaking picture of OBC (Osterville Baptist Church) right now! Where is the Christlikeness in all of this? I have never been hated so much, or treated so reprehensibly in all my life ... by 'Christians!'"

On July 3, after the Rowes and Gage alleged that Hinckley, Hart and Packard had harassed them, a Barnstable Superior Court judge ordered them to stay 200 feet away from the church and to refrain from contact with the Rowes and Gage.

In an action separate from the two lawsuits, the three former church members were also ordered by Judge Richard F. Connon to not correspond with anyone about the dispute.

On Aug. 16, Barnstable Superior Court Judge Mel Graham cited Hinckley for contempt for violating Connon's order and warned that she would be fined if she violated the order again.

Packer said she left Osterville Baptist Church in January 1998 out of disgust at the way Hinckley was being treated. The decision caused divisions in her family that still simmer.

"There's been a huge rift," said Packer, who also runs a home day-care center. "We've been alienated from our families as a result of this and it's a shame, but that's the choice they made."

"I was a witness to a great many things and I'm not going to be quiet," Packer said, referring to alleged lies and abusive treatment by church members. "I don't care what it costs, this is about accountability. People need to be accountable for their actions."

 
Osterville minister will leave Cape post
Cape Cod Times
By JACK COLEMAN
Published: March 30, 2002

OSTERVILLE - A Baptist minister embroiled in a lawsuit with a former Sunday school teacher who claimed he made unwanted advances is leaving the church.
The Rev. Michael A. Rowe of Osterville Baptist Church made the announcement at the end of a worship service Sunday.

Rowe, 48, said he will deliver his last sermon on Mother's Day and leave to work at the First Baptist Church in Wheaton, Ill.

"I cannot call this so much a resignation from this ministry as rather a God-ordained transfer to a new place of service," Rowe announced and wrote in a letter. "We love those of you in our congregation here with all our hearts, and it is acutely painful to contemplate leaving you."

Copies of his letter were distributed to church members Sunday.

Rowe, his wife Marjorie and church deacon Paul R. Gage were sued in August 2000 by former Sunday school teacher Cynthia Hinckley of Centerville, who claimed Rowe made passes at her in 1997 and later impugned her reputation by telling lies to other church members.

In February 2001, the Rowes and Gage filed a countersuit against Hinckley and two of her friends, Rona Hart and Tori Packer, alleging the three women libeled and slandered them with the allegations. The resulting furor in the church led to a 59-2 vote by its members to oust Hinckley in April 1998.

Hart and Packer left the church of their own accord. Rowe did not return phone calls seeking comment.

A Barnstable Superior Court judge imposed a gag order on Hinckley, Hart and Packer last summer, forbidding them from corresponding with others about the lawsuit.

The three women were also ordered to stay 200 feet away from the Rowes, Gage and the church.

In August, Hinckley was cited for contempt for violating the order on correspondence and was told by Barnstable Superior Court Judge Richard Connon that she would be fined if the order were violated again.

"I'm puzzled that the Rowes have chosen to leave in the midst of litigation," Hinckley said. "But I'm confident that given the evidence, justice will prevail and these terrible wrongs will be made right."

Hart said she was "stunned" by the news. "I wish that he would tell the truth," she said.

"It's a surprise," Packer said. "I hope that he would do right."

The Rowes attended Wheaton College and were wed there, and two of their five children are planning to attend Wheaton College.

Rowe made no mention of the lawsuits in his letter Sunday.

He came to Osterville Baptist in 1989 from a youth pastor's post in Nashua, N.H.

Lawyers on both sides are still collecting documents and deposing witnesses. The cases are not expected to go to trial until next year.

Rowe's final day in the pulpit will be on May 12, Mother's Day, and May 15 will be his last day in the office.

He plans to hold a joint baptism service on June 16 at Dowses Beach with Brad Peterson, Osterville Baptist's youth minister.
Copyright, 2002, Cape Cod Times. All Rights Reserved.

 
Judge weighs suits over church dispute
Cape Cod Times
By EMILY C. DOOLEY
Published: March 1, 2003

BARNSTABLE - Barnstable Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson heard arguments Thursday to dismiss a case filed by an assistant Sunday school superintendent who claimed former Osterville Baptist Church pastor Michael Rowe harassed her and then disparaged her character to other members of the church.

In response to Cynthia Hinckley's lawsuit, Rowe, his wife Marjorie and deacon Paul Gage filed a countersuit claiming defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He included Hinckley's friends, Tori Packer and Rona Hart as defendants.

Boston attorney Harold Jacobi III argued Hinckley's case should be dismissed because it was based on belief and not fact. "She imagined or perceived that people were talking about her to the church," Jacobi said.

He also claimed disciplinary actions within the church were not subject to civil proceedings and that her claims of slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress were not matters for the courts. "Civil courts can not intervene in matters of religious discipline," Jacobi said.

But Hinckley's attorney, Gerald F. Williamson, disagreed and pointed to recent court cases in Boston surrounding the Catholic Church clergy sex abuse cases. "There is something wrong that says priests can't be held accountable in courts," Williamson said. "If that's the case, there are Catholic priests who were tried in violation."

Rowe, who was transferred to an Illinois church last March, was not present at the hearing. Nickerson took the case under advisement.

The controversy began in June 1997 after one of Hinckley's five children was baptized by Rowe at Dowses Beach in Osterville. After the baptism, Hinckley said she went to Rowe to shake hands but he grabbed her and kissed her.

A week later, Hinckley said she went to see Rowe about the incident. She gave him a kiss as a sign that all was behind them, Hinckley said.

But then Hinckley, a day care provider, began to feel ostracized by fellow church members. Meetings were reportedly held with church officials and soon the church membership was involved.

"It appears the pastor made some attempts to turn the church against her," Williamson said.

Hinckley was expelled from the church in 1998. That is when, Jacobi said, she began harassing the church officials.

"From that date, Mrs. Hinckley went on the warpath and wrote letters to 200 people," Jacobi said.

In response to the letters, the combined deacon and trustee board of Osterville Baptist Church wrote to the three women warning them of litigation if their actions did not stop.

Hinckley then decided to file suit.

Pastor will face defamation trial
A judge refuses to dismiss charges against Osterville Baptist’s former minister.
Cape Cod Times
By EMILY C. DOOLEY
STAFF WRITER
Tuesday, May 6, 2003

OSTERVILLE – A defamation case brought by a parishioner against a former Osterville Baptist Church minister and his wife will  go to trial.

In a ruling dated April 29, Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson denied a motion to dismiss charges of slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress against pastor Michael Rowe and his wife, Marjorie.

“The judge has made his ruling and we’ll proceed to trial,” said Harold Jacobi III, the attorney representing the Rowe family.

The family moved to Illinois last year after Michael Rowe accepted a position at a larger church in his home state.

The case was brought forward in 2000 by Cynthia Hinckley, a former assistant Sunday school teacher, who claims Rowe and others forced her out of the church after she spoke about instances when the pastor allegedly kissed her.

The first alleged incident occurred in 1997 after the baptism of Hinckley’s son at Dowses Beach in Osterville.  As he walked out of the water, Hinckley claims Rowe grabbed and kissed her.  “She interpreted the kiss not as one of religious fervor but of carnal passion.” According to court documents.

The religious teacher claimed she met with Rowe to talk about the incidents.  After their meeting, Hinckley claims, Rowe told church members she was pursuing him.

Both side claim what happened afterward was a series of letter campaigns and slanderous attacks.  Hinckley twice removed herself from the church and then rejoined but was voted out of the church after a disciplinary hearing.

Hinckley then filed suit, which prompted the Rowes to file a counterclaim against Hinckley and two of her friends, Tori Packer and Rona Hart.

Nickerson ruled there was enough question of fact to warrant a trial.

“What this means is my complaint is valid,” Hinckley said yesterday.  “Eventually they will be exposed.”

A pretrial conference is scheduled for May 14.  A trial could run tow weeks, Jacobi estimated.

A settlement agreement is unlikely, according to Gerald F. Williamson, the attorney representing Hinckley. “She wants to be vindicated.  She wants her trial.”

I don’t think this case is about money,” Williamson said.  “ Its about a married woman’s reputation.”

Nickerson dismissed similar charges against deacon Paul R. Gage, saying the comments he made about Hinckley were mostly confined to a church disciplinary hearing, which is not subject to civil actions.  The judge also ruled that a comment made outside the hearing by Gage was his opinion and not subject to defamation claims.

Jacobi said he will ask the judge to clarify his decision because many of Hinckley’s defamation claims against Rowe stem from internal church hearings.

“ I think it’s going to be a very interesting to see what facts come out,” Jacobi said.  “eventually we will prevail”

SCANDAL IN THE PEWS
Author(s):  Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff Date: June 9, 2003 Page: B1 Section: Metro/Region 

BARNSTABLE - The trouble at Osterville Baptist Church began with a single disputed kiss between a Sunday School leader and the pastor. But the turmoil ended up churning the congregation of the white-clapboard church, disrupting Bible studies, and dividing prayer partners.

At the height of the controversy, a former Bible teacher planted herself outside the church that overlooks the village's pricey and picturesque center, wearing a custom-designed pink sweatshirt that read, "Tell the truth." A deacon hid inside a closet to eavesdrop on a meeting between the woman and the pastor. Church leaders took out restraining orders against the woman and two former church members. Along the way, the church expelled Cynthia Hinckley, the woman who said the pastor kissed her. She sued, alleging church leaders defamed her by suggesting she was an emotionally needy woman who pursued the minister against his will and tried to seduce him with miniskirts.

"A lot of people got into a feverish pitch over this thing," Hinckley said in a recent interview. "They just went into a frenzy of, `Shut her up, get her out of here, save the church.' "

After Hinckley sued, the pastor and his wife countersued. The case could go to trial this summer.

Such public scandals are rare in Osterville, a village of Barnstable, where a 20-room mansion complete with three-hole golf course set a record this spring when it went on sale for $26 million. But church disputes spilling into public view are increasingly common.

Last year, the state Supreme Judicial Court considered a lawsuit brought by an Episcopal priest who sued after he was disciplined for "immoral" conduct with a female parishioner. And the clergy abuse scandal in the Catholic church has resulted in hundreds of public lawsuits.

Hinckley said church leaders ruined her reputation by saying she flirted with Pastor Michael A. Rowe, wore seductive clothing, and pursued him even as he stood beside his wife, Marjorie, after services.

Church leaders filed a countersuit, contending that Hinckley, 51, had defamed them by spreading lies about Rowe's attraction to her across the Cape and beyond. She and her friends wrote hundreds of libelous letters, they charge, to other pastors and religious groups about the dispute.

In Osterville, whose population is about 3,600, Hinckley could not avoid the people she once worshipped beside. She said she was hounded by church members at the annual Osterville Christmas Stroll. Her husband hired a private investigator to document the harassment, she said.

One year, Hinckley alleges, the pastor's wife shouted at her, "Satan, we rebuke you in the name of Jesus."

Michael and Marjorie Rowe have since moved to a larger church in Wheaton, Ill. They could not be reached for comment.

But their lawyer, Harold Jacobi, said that Hinckley rejected chances to resolve the dispute more amicably outside the courtroom. "I think it's been devastating to the Rowes because they've been emotionally abused by this woman," he said.

Hinckley, a day-care provider in Centerville, another village of Barnstable, was looking for a new church when she settled into Osterville Baptist in 1994. At first she went alone to the Sunday morning service. Then she began taking the older of her five children to Sunday school. Gradually, they began to spend more and more time at the church.

Hinckley was named assistant Sunday school superintendent in 1997. Her sons joined the youth group and attended Teen Discipleship meetings. Wednesday night was the mid-week prayer meeting.

The trouble started, Hinckley said, on a June day in 1997. Rowe was baptizing several members of the church, including one of Hinckley's sons, at Dowses Beach in Osterville. As Hinckley and Rowe were talking after the baptism, Hinckley said Rowe kissed her passionately.

She was deeply upset by the kiss, she said, and by two other kisses that followed over the next few weeks. Even so, Hinckley acknowledges initiating another kiss herself to cheer Rowe up.

Hinckley met with Rowe several times, she said, and he apologized, admitting that he had "a problem in that area." Hinckley said he promised to limit physical contact with her to a handshake.

But that fall, she said, some members of the church began ostracizing her. They would give her dirty looks. Eventually, she sat alone in her pew.

Rowe denied that he had kissed Hinckley inappropriately.

When Rowe and the church's assistant pastor met with Hinckley at her house in late 1997, a deacon hid in a closet in Hinckley's house and listened to their conversation, according to court papers filed by both sides.

Hinckley said the deacon, who has since moved out of state, wanted to hear Rowe's explanation; she said Rowe admitted at that meeting that she was blameless. The former deacon, John Marino, will testify for Hinckley at the trial.

After the church's board of deacons determined that neither Rowe nor Hinckley had committed any sin, the deacons announced they would "not tolerate any further discussion, letter writing, phone calling, or gossip" about the issue, according to the Rowes' counterclaim.

But Hinckley continued to make accusations, both in letters and in speech, the Rowes' suit contends. In late April 1998, church members voted 61 to 2 to rescind Hinckley's membership in the church.

"It's like I'm hanging out there to dry all alone," Hinckley said.

Church officials also went to court and got a restraining order against Hinckley, her friend, Tori Packer, and another friend, prohibiting them from writing letters about the dispute or setting foot on church property. All three women were later found in contempt of the order.

When Hinckley joined a new church, Living Hope Family Church in Hyannis, she said the Rowes called her new pastor. In an affidavit, Pastor Michael Petzer, who now works in Arizona, said Osterville Baptist Church leaders told him Hinckley was deranged and urged him to discipline her or throw her out of the church.

In their countersuit, the Rowes say Hinckley was the aggressor, with an unrequited crush on her pastor. Once she was appointed to the Sunday school post, the suit contends, Hinckley began to call or write Rowe five or six times a week.

Their lawsuit calls the exchange that transpired after the baptism a "brief hug and kiss" viewed by others nearby. In the ensuing months, they say, Hinckley tried to kiss Rowe again, including after church when he stood beside his wife and greeted members of the congregation.

In July 1997, Rowe met with Hinckley to discuss her unwanted attention, asking her to stop all attempts at physical contact with him, according to court documents filed in the Rowes' case.

Jacobi said that Hinckley and her friends wrote letters disparaging the Rowes to other pastors on the Cape and to the Rev. Jerry Falwell in Virginia.

"We're talking about very close to 600 letters that were written by Mrs. Hinckley [and her friends] in which they castigate Pastor Rowe and his wife and hold them up to contempt and ridicule in the larger community," he said.

Superior Court to hear claims against former Osterville pastor 

CAPE COD TIMES 6/14/2003

BARNSTABLE - Claims of slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress filed against a former Osterville Baptist Church pastor will be aired in a trial this fall. 

The trial, set yesterday for Oct. 6 by Superior Court Judge Elizabeth B. Donovan, comes three years after a former assistant Sunday school superintendent cried fowl against the Rev. Michael Rowe and his wife Marjorie.

Rowe has since moved to serve at a larger church in Illinois.

Cynthia Hinckley brought the case forward in 2000 after the pastor allegedly kissed her in the moments following a beach-side baptism. Hinckley claims when she tried to speak to the pastor and others in the church about that incident and subsequent events, they set out to ruin her reputation.

Attorneys for both parties could not be reached for comment. 

On April 29, Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson denied a motion filed by Rowe attorney Harold Jacobi III to dismiss the charges. 

The trial is set to run between three and four weeks.

 

Claims against pastor are bound for fall trial
http://townonline.com/barnstable/news/local_regional/newtrbarnaround06192003.htm

The case brought by Cynthia Hinckley against the Rev. Michael Rowe, former pastor of the Osterville Baptist Church, will go to trial in the fall. The charges include claims of slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Rowe has moved on to a church in Illinois. Hinckley is a former assistant Sunday school superintendent. Her complaint was made three years ago.

Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson ruled in April that the charges against Rowe should not be dismissed.

http://www.poynter.org/dg.lts/id.46/aid.22559/column.htm

Saturday, March 1, 2003

Judge weighs suits over church dispute
BARNSTABLE (MA)
Cape Cod Times

By EMILY C. DOOLEY
STAFF WRITER
BARNSTABLE - Barnstable Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson heard arguments Thursday to dismiss a case filed by an assistant Sunday school superintendent who claimed former Osterville Baptist Church pastor Michael Rowe harassed her and then disparaged her character to other members of the church. 

In response to Cynthia Hinckley's lawsuit, Rowe, his wife Marjorie and deacon Paul Gage filed a countersuit claiming defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He included Hinckley's friends, Tori Packer and Rona Hart as defendants. 

Boston attorney Harold Jacobi III argued Hinckley's case should be dismissed because it was based on belief and not fact. "She imagined or perceived that people were talking about her to the church," Jacobi said. 

He also claimed disciplinary actions within the church were not subject to civil proceedings and that her claims of slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress were not matters for the courts. "Civil courts can not intervene in matters of religious discipline," Jacobi said. 

But Hinckley's attorney, Gerald F. Williamson, disagreed and pointed to recent court cases in Boston surrounding the Catholic Church clergy sex abuse cases. "There is something wrong that says priests can't be held accountable in courts," Williamson said. "If that's the case, there are Catholic priests who were tried in violation."

Posted by Kathy Shaw 7:59:55 AM

Church dispute heads to court tomorrow 
Lawsuits stemming from alleged kisses pits pastor vs. parishioner.

By EMILY C. DOOLEY
STAFF WRITER
HYANNIS - A defamation dispute involving a former Osterville Baptist Church parishioner and her pastor begins tomorrow in Barnstable Superior Court, six years after alleged kisses between the two led to charges of slander and libel on both sides. 

Former assistant Sunday school superintendent Cynthia Hinckley filed a lawsuit against the Rev. Michael Rowe, his wife, Marjorie Rowe, and deacon Paul Gage in August 2000 claiming slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

Hinckley claims Michael Rowe kissed her after a group baptism at Dowses Beach and on one other occasion. After she tried to talk about what happened and move forward, Hinckley said, the congregation began to turn on her. She claims it was because of comments coming from within the church and, specifically, from Gage and the Rowes. 

During the ordeal, she left the church twice and then rejoined, but was voted out by the membership after a disciplinary hearing. That's when she filed the suit, which seeks unspecified damages. 

Four months after Hinckley filed her lawsuit, the Rowes and Gage filed a countersuit alleging defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They also named Hinckley's friends Tori Packer and Rona Hart in the suit. 

In May of this year, Judge Gary Nickerson dismissed the case against Gage but ruled there was enough evidence to go to trial regarding the rest of the suit and countersuit. 

The jury trial, which could last up to four weeks, begins at 9 a.m. in front of Nickerson and could likely become one of the most unusual local cases to come out of the courthouse. 

Hinckley, Hart and Packer are all representing themselves. Hinckley is also waiting for Nickerson to rule on a request she submitted to place the Rowes' attorney, Harold Jacobi III, on the stand for questioning. She claims comments Jacobi made during a request to dismiss the case were slanderous. 

"Line after line after line was absolutely untrue," Hinckley said. "Untrue to the degree that he lied knowingly and willingly." 

Jacobi's office declined to comment. 

Rowe, who moved to become senior pastor at the First Baptist Church of Wheaten in Illinois last year, was en route to Cape Cod last week and not available for comment. 

There is a large cast of witnesses that will be called, including Barnstable School Supt. Andre Ravenelle; a former Osterville Baptist Church deacon who hid in a closet to eavesdrop on a conversation between Hinckley and Rowe; and a pastor from a Baptist church in Hyannis where Hinckley joined after being voted out of the Osterville church. Hinckley alone has a list of 22 witnesses. 

"I'm actually not sure why I am subpoenaed," Ravenelle said. "I don't know these people personally. I've never interacted with them." 

A letter to the editor of the Cape Cod Times written by Ravenelle is what brought him to the witness list. Hinckley claims it libels her and she wants to know if the Rowes provided information to Ravenelle. "What did the Rowes tell him," Hinckley said. 

Nickerson expects to make it through jury selection and on to opening remarks during the first day. 

"I'm so glad the truth is finally going to be exposed," Hart said. "It shouldn't have gone on all this long."

(Published: October 13, 2003) 
source http://www.capecodonline.com/cctimes/churchdispute13.htm

Wheaton pastor's defamation lawsuit goes to trial today 
By Diana Wallace Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted October 14, 2003 

The head deacon at First Baptist Church in Wheaton said the congregation is "fully supportive" of its pastor, who faces a defamation lawsuit that goes to trial in Massachusetts today.

First Baptist's senior pastor, the Rev. Michael Rowe, and a parishioner at Rowe's former church in Osterville, Mass., have sued each other, accusing the other of libel and slander.

Three years ago, Cynthia Hinckley, a former assistant Sunday school superintendent at Osterville Baptist Church, sued Rowe and his wife, Marjorie, claiming slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Four months later, the Rowes counter-sued, alleging Hinckley and two of her supporters, Rona Hart and Tori Packer, defamed the Rowes and caused intentional emotional distress.

The dueling suits stem from claims by Hinckley that in 1997, Rowe grabbed and kissed her after a group baptism and on one other occasion.

Reached Monday at her Cape Cod home, Hinckley said she was prepared at first to forgive the whole incident, and admitted she later gave Rowe a "quick kiss" to show she was not mad at him.

But Hinckley, who is representing herself in Barnstable Superior Court, said she then became the subject of glares and whispers by fellow parishioners led to believe she instigated the original kiss.

Hinckley said she lost her Sunday school job and claims Rowe and other church officials humiliated her, smeared her name and eventually forced her out of the church after she spoke out about the alleged kiss.

About two years after leaving the church, Hinckley said, she decided to file suit after she learned that Rowe had disparaged her to her new pastor.

Rowe is in Massachusetts for the trial and could not be reached for comment Monday.

But First Baptist deacon board chairman Jim Stamoolis (pmi: more on Stamoolis at email  women&abuse) said Hinckley's charges were fully investigated by the church's search committee, and shared with the local congregation, before Rowe was invited to be pastor in Wheaton last year.

"We are fully supportive of and have complete confidence in the Rowes, and don't believe there is any substance to (Hinckley's) account," he said.

Stamoolis said Rowe even took pains to protect Hinckley's identity when discussing her allegations with Wheaton church officials.

The Rowes have "acted in an exemplary manner," Stamoolis said.

The civil trial is expected to last a few weeks.

• Cape Cod (Mass.) Times Staff Writer Emily C. Dooley contributed to this report.

source:http://www.dailyherald.com/dupage/main_story.asp?intID=3790817


10/23/03 Mrs. Tori Packer witnessed [step three Matthew 18] that as far as she and her former attorney's know and Mrs. Cynthia Hinckley and Mrs. Rona Hart and their attorney's know, they were NEVER contacted by anyone from the First Baptist Church of Wheaton for their witness.

These Emails were sent 10/20/03 from whom we're still waiting their replys...

info@ostervillebaptist.org
Hello...Please direct this to your Head Deacon/Elder for his review and response...

Dear Elder/Deacon, can you please confirm or clarify Rev. Jim Stamoolis-Head Deacon Wheaton First baptist Church quote...thank you, Bill Fields

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <steward@peacemakers.net>
To: <fbc.info@fbcwheatonil.org>
Sent: Monday, October 20, 2003 9:00 AM
Subject: Rev. Jim Stamoolis-Head Deacon Wheaton First baptist Church

> Hello Rev. Stamoolis, if I may ask a few questions for clarification based  on your quote...
>
> "But First Baptist deacon board chairman Jim Stamoolis said Hinckley's charges were fully investigated by the church's search committee, and shared with the local congregation, before Rowe was invited to be pastor in Wheaton last year."
>
> Wheaton pastor's defamation lawsuit goes to trial today
> By Diana Wallace Daily Herald Staff Writer
> Posted October 14, 2003
>
> 1. Is this quote accurate?  If yes, did you use a Matthew 18 "church discipline" process to investigate?
> 2. Did you "establish every word" with Biblical witnesses by all parties/sides in these disputes?
> 3. Did you "tell it to the church" all findings from all sides of these disputes?
>
> Thank You, and you all are in our prayers for God's justice, mercy and grace...
>
> bill fields
> steward@peacemakers.net
 

Charges fly in lawsuit involving Wheaton pastor
By Emily C. Dooley Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted October 15, 2003 
BARNSTABLE, Mass. - Jurors heard about truth and faith, vengeance and curses during the first day of a defamation trial Tuesday involving a Wheaton pastor and his former parishioner.

Opening remarks in a Cape Cod courtroom centered around an alleged kiss in 1997 between the Rev. Michael Rowe, then pastor at Osterville Baptist Church in Osterville, Mass., and former Assistant Sunday School Superintendent Cynthia Hinckley.

The aftermath led to dueling civil suits between Hinckley and Rowe, who left Massachusetts last year to become senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Wheaton.

Hinckley, who eventually lost her job and was expelled from the church, claims her efforts to get past the kiss led to an orchestrated effort by church leaders to discredit her.

In 2000, she filed a lawsuit against Rowe and his wife, Marjorie, as well as Osterville deacon Paul Gage, claiming slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

"They have done so with a vengeance, with heartless malice," Hinckley told the jury in her opening remarks, "all to cover up the indiscretions of a married pastor."

The Rowes and Gage counter-sued four months later, adding Hinckley's friends Rona Hart and Tori Packer to the case. The Rowes and Gage alleged defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Judge Gary Nickerson dismissed the claims against Gage earlier this year.

"This case is really one of contrasts, between fiction and truth, between what is misconstrued by Mrs. Hinckley and what is reality," the Rowes' attorney, Harold Jacobi III, said in court Tuesday.

Jacobi questioned the libel claim, saying he knew of one letter that his client sent out about Hinckley. This, he said, was in contrast to an estimated 118 letters Hinckley wrote about the church and the Rowes.

"This is much ado about nothing," Jacobi said.

Hinckley, Hart and Packer are all representing themselves.

The bitter relationship between both sides came out almost immediately. At one point, Nickerson had to change the seating arrangements for the plaintiffs and defendants so as to "minimize the risk of confrontation."

He also stopped the trial, sent the jury out of the room and explained court rules to Hart while she gave her opening remarks. Emotional fervor and personal attacks were not allowed, he said.

Once the jury returned, Hart continued with her opening, saying the church leaders committed an ecumenical cover-up. She spoke about a time when Michael Rowe needed to stop a deposition to talk with his attorneys.

Nickerson threatened her with contempt of court for attacking the Rowes. He later refused to let her continue opening remarks.

"It is obvious you don't have any notion as to what an appropriate opening argument is," Nickerson told Hart.

Before moving to the Wheaton church, Rowe spent 13 years as senior pastor in Osterville.

Only two people testified Tuesday. One was Patricia Greene, a former church member who led prayer groups and sat on the church's board of Christian education. She spoke about conversations with Marjorie Rowe. Greene said that during a prayer meeting, the pastor's wife once said, "Whoever hurts my family, let there be a curse upon them."

• Emily C. Dooley is a staff writer for the Cape Cod (Mass.) Times.

source:http://www.dailyherald.com/dupage/main_story.asp?intID=3790929

Nurse testifies in church defamation suit
By    EMILY C. DOOLEY
Published: October 17, 2003

BARNSTABLE - A registered nurse being sued for allegedly defaming a former Cape pastor and his wife admitted in court yesterday to providing false information to a reporter, sending letters to people about the couple and speaking with patients about the leadership at her former church.

Rona Hart took the stand yesterday as a witness for Cynthia Hinckley, who in 2000 sued former Osterville Baptist Church Rev. Michael Rowe, his wife and a deacon claiming they slandered and libeled her. Hinckley's lawsuit claimed the trio were part of a concerted effort to ruin her reputation after she tried to talk with Michael Rowe and other church members about a kiss that allegedly happened between the two after a beachside baptism in 1997.

In response, the Rowes and Deacon Paul Gage countersued claiming defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They named Hinckley, Hart and Tori Packer in the lawsuit.

Hart testified that during the 1999 Christmas Stroll in Osterville she heard Marjorie Rowe loudly say "Satan, in the name of Jesus, we rebuke you" in the direction where Hinckley standing.

"It was almost like an incantation, over and over and over," Hart testified.

But on cross-examination, Hart came under fire for a comment she made to a Cape Cod Times reporter in which she claimed to have seen a "white-faced" Hinckley after the kiss.

"It was incorrect," Hart testified, saying she had confused dates. A groundbreaking event the following month was when she saw a disturbed Hinckley, she said.

Attorney Harold Jacobi III said Hart wrote more than 100 letters to people about the situation between Hinckley and the Rowes. One was to Gail McDonald, who is affiliated with the evangelical organization Vision New England.

Jacobi questioned her motives for writing the letter.

"It was my purpose that Mrs. McDonald would encourage the Rowes to tell the truth by letting her know what was going on," Hart testified.

She also admitted that as a nurse working in Sandwich she talked with people about the problems at the church if they had ties to Osterville. On one occasion she spoke with a woman who was a student at the same college as one of the Rowes' children. When the woman did not know what was happening at the church, Hart briefly filled her in on the matter, she testified.

Hinckley, Hart and Packer are representing themselves in the Barnstable Superior Court jury trial. They did not see the testimony as damaging.

"I'm confident we're in very good shape," Hinckley said.

Neither Rowe nor Jacobi would comment.

Also yesterday, Pastor Michael Petzer testified about conversations he had with Rowe when Hinckley joined his Baptists church in Hyannis. In an affidavit, Petzer* said Rowe told him Hinckley was "delusional" and "not all there."

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Monday. 
source:capecodonline.com 10/17
* this portion of the article is to be corrected similar to this phrase
 

Wife of pastor takes the stand
Marjorie Rowe claims her husband and a parishioner embraced, but she didn't see a kiss.

By EMILY C. DOOLEY
STAFF WRITER

BARNSTABLE - The wife of a pastor accused of kissing a parishioner and then spreading lies to discredit her took the stand yesterday and said the exchange was no big deal. 

Marjorie Rowe, wife of former Osterville Baptist Church Rev. Michael Rowe, testified in Barnstable Superior Court that she was standing 5 feet from her husband when she saw former assistant Sunday school worker Cynthia Hinckley approach him after a 1997 beachside baptism.

She testified that the two embraced but she did not see a kiss. "It was a totally insignificant greeting," Marjorie Rowe said. 

The fallout from the alleged kiss brought on a battle within the church between Hinckley, two of her friends, the Rowes and a church deacon. 

Hinckley claims she tried to settle issues with the pastor but then heard rumors being spread and endured nasty looks. Three years ago she filed a lawsuit against the Rowes and deacon Paul Gage for slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

They filed a countersuit claiming defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Their lawsuit listed Hinckley and two of her friends, Rona Hart and Tori Packer. A judge earlier this year dismissed Gage from the suit. 

Much of yesterday's testimony centered around two Christmas celebrations during 1998 and 1999 in Osterville. 

Marjorie Rowe said during the 1998 event, Hinckley and Packer approached her and said "You can't hide from us" and "Maggie, why don't you tell the truth" while people were singing. 

A year later, Marjorie Rowe said she saw all three women approach during the same event and begin to call out accusations about her husband. 

"I do remember feeling sick to my stomach that it was happening again," Marjorie Rowe said. "It was like being invited to a fight we did not want to go to." 

A key part of Hinckley's slander suit involves an instance at that second Christmas event where Hinckley claims Marjorie Rowe referred to her as Satan. 

Hart had earlier testified that she heard Marjorie Rowe say "Satan, in the name of Jesus, we rebuke you" in the direction of Hinckley. 

But the pastor's wife did not confirm that. "I may or may not have said 'Satan,' " she said. "I do not recall."

Private investigator Garrett Linnehan also testified yesterday. He had been hired by Hinckley's husband to watch over his wife during the 1999 stroll. He said that he heard Marjorie Rowe say Satan and rebuke Hinckley. 

He also said he videotaped the event. 

But on cross-examination, attorney Anthony Campo, who represents Marjorie Rowe in the countersuit, questioned him about his memory, notes and videotape. 

Linnehan admitted that notes about the Christmas event were not written until a year after the incident and that they were aided by the video, which he had edited. 

Also, he admitted his original notes said that it was someone else, not Marjorie Rowe, who offered up the Satan rebuke.

source:http://www.capecodonline.com/cctimes/wifeof22.htm

Osterville minister testifies in slander case 
Pastor relates his version of hugs and kisses shared with a congregation member.

By EMILY C. DOOLEY
STAFF WRITER
BARNSTABLE - When a church-based ministry asked the Rev. Michael Rowe if he wanted to bar a former parishioner from a religious conference, he said extreme measures weren't in order.

"We don't want to aggravate things," Rowe recalled saying.

But that's what happened. 

Rowe is embroiled in a slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress lawsuit that came about after he shared hugs and kisses with former assistant Sunday school superintendent Cynthia Hinckley.

She claims her efforts to resolve feelings about the encounters led to a church-orchestrated backlash. She was fired from her job and, after twice quitting the church and then rejoining, the membership at Osterville Baptist Church voted to expel her. 

Three years after the events, she sued Rowe, his wife Marjorie Rowe and deacon Paul Gage in 2000. They responded with another lawsuit, claiming defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Tori Packer and Rona Hart, two friends of Hinckley, were also named in the countersuit. 

Rowe testified Thursday and yesterday about his relationship with Hinckley. He said they shared a hug and kiss after he baptized Hinckley's son at Dowses Beach in 1997. 

It happened while the two were talking about the baptism. "She was bubbling, kind of bouncing, tears running down her cheeks," Rowe said "At the end, all of a sudden this kiss took place and that was a surprise." 

In a two-week period, three more instances of hugs and kisses took place, all at or after church events. 

After the kisses, Rowe said Hinckley would send him notes, bring him orange juice and talk about how she was having marital problems. 

He said he began to feel uneasy and once rushed out of a prayer meeting to avoid Hinckley. "I was not comfortable with the hugs and kisses," Rowe said. "I had been uncertain about how to talk to her." 

When the two met one night to talk about problems in her marriage, the conversation switched to their interactions. Rowe said he thought it best that they maintain an "arms-length" relationship, meaning handshakes instead of hugs and kisses. 

Hinckley asked if she were to blame, Rowe testified. He said there was no blame, just a situation that had to stop. "So hugs and kisses took place, that's not immoral," Rowe testified. 

But a few days later, another note came to Rowe. It made allusions to an attraction shared between the two and that Rowe had confessed feelings to her. "To me, it became obvious she didn't get what I was trying to communicate," Rowe said. 

That's when Rowe, who is now senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Wheaton, Ill. , went to others in the church. He said he and another pastor decided to throw the note away. 

But then other church members began asking questions and Rowe testified that he soon told the board of deacons he thought a parishioner was attracted to him. 

He said he did not reveal her name at first. 

source: http://www.capecodonline.com/cctimes/ostervilleminister25.htm

Defamation suit yields zero awards 

By EMILY C. DOOLEY
STAFF WRITER
BARNSTABLE - The five people at the center of a defamation trial involving a pastor, his wife and three former parishioners were found to be both perpetrator and victim, a jury ruled yesterday in Barnstable Superior Court. 

They were all awarded damages of $0.

The jury found that former Osterville Baptist Church pastor Michael Rowe libeled Cynthia Hinckley, a former assistant Sunday school superintendent who claimed kisses between the two led to a campaign to hurt her reputation. 

She had estimated her damages to be $25,000, according to court documents. 

The kisses happened over the course of a few weeks in 1997. 

Hinckley sued Rowe and his wife Marjorie Rowe three years later claiming slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

The jury found that Marjorie Rowe intended to inflict emotional distress upon Hinckley. But the panel also found fault with Hinckley and two of her friends, Tori Packer and Rona Hart. 

All three were named in a countersuit filed by the Rowes, who made claims of slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

The jury ruled that all three women - they represented themselves in the litigation - libeled the Rowes. Packer and Hart also were found to have intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon the couple, who now live in Wheaton, Ill. where Michael Rowe is senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Wheaton. 

The Rowes and Hinckley could not be reached for comment yesterday. 

After the verdict, Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson permanently prohibited Hinckley, Hart and Packer from physical contact or being within 100 miles of the Rowes, and vice versa. 

Both sides also were enjoined from any conduct that would cause emotional distress upon the other. They also are barred from defaming each other by use of slander or libel, Superior Court assistant clerk Scott Colgan said. 

During the trial, no one disputed that hugs and kisses has occurred. But they diverged on the events that followed. 

Hinckley claimed that when she tried to talk about the encounters, Michael Rowe and other church members began to spread rumors about her. 

Rowe testified that he tried to politely request that their relationship consist of handshakes and talks, but that Hinckley did not listen. 

Marjorie Rowe testified she was afraid of Hart, Packer and Hinckley when they appeared at a holiday event and began yelling out at her. 

"It was like being invited to a fight we did not want to go to," Marjorie Rowe said. 

But, other witnesses testified they heard the pastor's wife say to Hinckley, "Satan, in the name of Jesus, we rebuke you."

The trial lasted for 13 days before the jury took up deliberations.

source: http://www.capecodonline.com/cctimes/defamationsuit1.htm

Pastor, ex-parishioners guilty of libel; no damages awarded
By Diana Wallace Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Tuesday, November 04, 2003 

In a verdict as complicated as the church scandal that led to it, a Wheaton pastor and three of his former parishioners were found by a jury to be both perpetrators and victims of libel.

But the court in Barnstable, Mass., also determined that no one in the case should pay or be paid monetary damages.

A unanimous jury found the three former parishioners guilty of libel against the Rev. Michael Rowe, now senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Wheaton.

Two of the women, Rona Hart and Tori Packer, were also found guilty of inflicting intentional emotional distress.

But a divided jury also found Rowe guilty of libel against his three former parishioners at Osterville Baptist Church in Cape Cod.

**And Rowe's wife, Marjorie, was found guilty of inflicting intentional emotional distress, even though, in an unusual outcome, she was cleared of libel and slander in the dueling defamation lawsuits brought between the Rowes and former parishioner Cynthia Hinckley.

The mixed verdict stemmed from a defamation suit Hinckley, a former Sunday school teacher, filed three years ago. She accused the Rowes of attempting to discredit her after she came forward with claims that the pastor had made a romantic overture to her.

But the Rowes then filed their own suit against Hinckley, Hart and Packer to stop what they said was the women's own campaign of defamation against the Rowes.

During the three-week civil trial, the Rowes' attorney presented more than 100 letters written by the women he said defamed his clients. Some had been written to people in the larger church community on the East Coast who did not know the Rowes or the women.

By contrast, the women, representing themselves, showed evidence of only one letter written by Michael Rowe that addressed the situation. Rowe's attorney, Harold Jacobi, said the letter was written "in self-defense."

Hinckley had estimated her damages at $25,000, according to court documents, but said she wasn't after money, only the truth.

Jim Stamoolis, the head deacon at Wheaton's First Baptist Church, where Rowe became pastor last year, said the congregation remains fully supportive of the Rowes.

He said Hinckley's allegations were fully investigated by the church before Michael Rowe was invited into the congregation.*

"Our complete faith in the Rowes was vindicated," Stamoolis said.

He also said the church community doesn't "hold any malice or hatred against" the Rowes' accusers.

"We want to pray for them," Stamoolis said.

Reached at her Cape Cod home, Hinckley said she was surprised by the verdict.

"I found the case (against the Rowes) really strong for libel," she said. "I'm accepting of it and saying, OK, we did everything we needed to do. I'm not at odds with anything."

However, Hinckley said she was "bothered" by the injunction the judge enforced after the jury was dismissed that forbids all parties to talk or write about the case, or be within 100 feet of each other.

Hinckley said the judge "took away my freedom of speech."

• Emily C. Dooley of the Cape Cod Times contributed to this report.

http://www.dailyherald.com/dupage/main_story.asp?intID=3792925

and life goes on...
 

Theologian's wife subject of new play 
By Robert Sanchez Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted 11/12/03 

A Wheaton woman is using the marriage of one of American history's most significant religious figures to inspire others to maintain faith amid the challenges of life.

Marjorie Wallem Rowe has penned a one-woman play about the life of Sarah Pierpont Edwards, the wife of author and theologian Jonathan Edwards.

Now Rowe is scheduled to perform "Dear Companion: Sarah Pierpont Edwards" this weekend at First Baptist Church in Wheaton, where her husband is the pastor.

Sunday night's event will be the first time Rowe performs the drama since presenting it at last month's Jonathan Edwards Tercentennial Conference. The dramatist was commissioned to write the play especially for the October conference.

"I am excited about doing it in Wheaton because so many people here are interested in history," Rowe said. "And this, to me, is a way to make history come alive. I want it to encourage the lives of people today. I don't want to just do it as a historical reenactment."

Rowe became acquainted with Sarah Edwards two decades ago after reading about her in Gail MacDonald's 1981 book titled "High Call, High Privilege."

That book talked about the marriage that Sarah Edwards had with her famous husband, who is best known for his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."

Rowe said the union was exemplary. Sarah and Jonathan Edwards were very close and shared a mutual love and respect. They also shared an extraordinary partnership in ministry, where they balanced each other, Rowe said.

"He was the brilliant academic, but he had no social graces at all," she said. "Sarah was more of the hostess - the social lubricant of things."

They did not have it easy, though.

"Most people in colonial New England did not have an easy life," Rowe said. "They survived the loss of children and grandchildren. They lived in a time of war - the French and Indian War. So they had soldiers in their home, which was a lot of stress. Their home was constantly full of visitors."

Sarah Edwards also had to cope with her own depression and ill health. But despite these difficulties, she never lost her strong faith in God.

"I was impressed by the Edwards' partnership," Rowe said. "But I also was impressed that, even in an era where life is much harder than it is now, there were two things that no one could take away from them: their love for each other and their love for God."

So, when Rowe was asked three years ago to write a play about Sarah Edwards, it was a project she was excited to tackle.

Rowe has written similar dramas. A decade ago she wrote a one-woman play about the life of Mary, Jesus' mother. She since has performed it more than 100 times around the country.

But while there is a wealth of information available about Jonathan Edwards, there isn't much about his wife.

Despite the lack of source material, Rowe was committed to making sure the script was historically accurate.

"This is not going to be one of those TV docudrama things," she said. "Because, to me, truth is much more interesting than fiction.

"I want people moved by the reality of her life," Rowe said. "When people go away after watching this, I want them to say, 'That really happened. That woman survived those things.'æ"

Rowe spent a year researching and writing. In addition to using the books that are available, she contacted some of Edwards' descendants for assistance.

One challenge in writing the play was that Sarah Edwards spoke a form of English that was used 300 years ago. So Rowe sent copies of her manuscript to professors at Yale and Wheaton College to make sure its historical details are accurate.

The hour-long play starts at the end of Sarah's life, where she is writing to her children after the death of their father. Sarah Edwards died in 1758 - less than seven months after her husband.

While the circumstances of our lives may be different than what the Edwards went through, Rowe said she hopes the story inspires others.

"How do you survive tough times with your faith in God and marriage intact?" Rowe said. "I hope to give a renewed faith in the powerful God who sustained the Edwards throughout everything they went through."

source: http://www.dailyherald.com/search/main_story.asp?intID=3793759

Is Wheaton College changing? 
By Robert Sanchez Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted 11/15/03 

Wheaton College students danced Friday night. And a national news audience took notice.

Amid television cameras, photographers, and interview seekers, hundreds of Wheaton College students streamed into the gym for the first real dance in their conservative Christian college's 143-year history.

Some, like Nathan Chapman, wondered what all the fuss was about. "It seems to me like it's not that big of deal that we are having our first dance," the 18-year-old freshman said.

Bethany Jones just needed to look at the flood of messages on her telephone answering machine and e-mail to be reminded of the event's significance.

"I don't even know what normal life is like anymore," said Jones, a student leader and organizer of Friday's dance. "I am kind of hoping the press dies off gradually so that I have a chance to slide back into normalcy."

The school-sanctioned swing dance came 10 months after Wheaton College lifted its longtime ban on dancing.

Until last February, the college prohibited alcohol and dancing for the entire campus community, including students, staff and faculty.

But earlier this year, college President Duane Litfin announced a new "Community Covenant" that lifted the dancing ban and also ended the prohibition on drinking by graduate students, faculty and staff members.

"The reception to the new Community Covenant has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic," said Sam Shellhamer, the college's vice president of student development. "And that's not just because now that we have expanded the dance policy. It's because the statement is really more positive in its presentation and embodies what we aspire to be as a community."

The new covenant came after campus officials spent two years mulling whether dancing clashes with Christian virtues. College officials said the resulting document is more biblical than the previous "Statement of Responsibilities."

"There is clear use of scripture in the Community Covenant," Shellhamer said. "There's also a desire to have the conduct based more clearly on biblical guidelines, rather than just cultural norms."

There was a time, for example, when Wheaton College prohibited students from going to movies and owning playing cards.

"There have been a variety of changes over time," Shellhamer said.

While dancing and drinking might have been frowned upon years ago, many students now come from Christian backgrounds where neither are seen as inherently sinful.

"One thing that impresses me with the new Community Covenant is that it is rigorously biblical in the sense that the college cannot prohibit anything the Bible does not," said Maggie Rowe, a 1975 graduate who now has a daughter and niece attending the school.

Therefore, vices specifically condemned in the Bible - like adultery, premarital sex, gambling and drunkenness - remain banned on campus.

That's why many Wheaton College students and faculty said they find it humorous when others question whether the changes mean the college is becoming more liberal.

So what if the school lifted its ban on drinking? That's just for faculty members and graduate students. And so what if the school lifted its ban on dancing? That's for school-sponsored dances only. And so what if the college hosted Bono, a rock star, last year? It was to promote an effort to end the AIDS pandemic.

"I don't think we are more liberal at all," senior Aaron Costerisan said. "I think that maybe even the opposite is true. Because the wording of the new covenant puts even more responsibility on us.

"We can do a few more things now. But we also are expected to live by a higher standard. It's not about the rules."

If anything, senior Peter Cairns said, the covenant better prepares Wheaton College graduates to be Christians in the real world.

"Once we graduate, we are going to be in situations were there is alcohol, dancing and all kinds of things the school didn't allow us to interact with before," the 21-year-old Cairns said. "Having that sort of interaction now will better prepare the students to deal with it properly."

Some students admit there was some apprehension about the college holding a dance because of students' experiences with similar events at high schools and other colleges.

That's why Cairns says he applauds the decision to have Wheaton College's first dance be a swing dance.

"I think it was a wise choice just because of the nature of dances in general," he said. "The way they go, they tend to be downhill. Having something that is a little more structured will be better for having a constructive community event."

Rowe said she has faith in how the college will handle future dances.

"There are forms of dancing I never want my daughter to do," said the Wheaton resident, whose husband, Michael, is senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Wheaton. "I have confidence they will never, ever encourage or permit dances that are erotic."

Wheaton College officials know that alumni and other Christian schools will be paying attention to how the college deals with change.

Shellhamer says he's already been contacted by a handful of administrators from other Christian colleges interested in reviewing their own community life statements.

"I think the fact that Wheaton has made a change has prompted a few of the institutions to take a look at their own community guidelines," he said. "Wheaton has been characterized by other institutions as being a flagship of Christian colleges."

Wheaton College already is preparing rules and guidelines that will be used for the planning of future events.

"How we implement any new changes is really important to us," Shellhamer said. "That's why we are want to be deliberate, and approach this in a way that's very thoughtfully and tastefully done."

Dance: Other schools watch Wheaton College closely

source: http://www.dailyherald.com/search/main_story.asp?intID=3794049

[thumb down graphic omited] The Church Lady sings

When the torturous facts looped around to a perplexing conclusion, Saturday Night Live's "Church Lady"
character (Dana Carvey) would purse her lips and chide,"Well, isn't that special."

That's how we feel about the longrunning defamation feud that arose in the Osterville Baptist Church six years ago and finally concluded last week with a jury verdict that found everybody guilty. The jury showed just how special they thought the issue was by awarding both the ex-pastor's side and the disbarred church member's side zero bucks.

From the start (a couple of hugs and kisses), this was a personal misunderstanding fueled by high emotion, misread motives, paranoia and revenge. While the Barnstable Superior Court jury proved that common sense isn't dead, the case should never have taken up the public's time.

source: Opinion Cape Cod Times November 7, 2003

Court case coverage unfair to plaintiff

 My husband and I wish to express our grave concern about your Nov. 7 "thumbs down" editorial about Hinckley v Rowe et al. in which I was a plaintiff. The piece unjustly held me up to extreme ridicule.

This case was not about a "personal misunderstanding; neither am I highly emotional nor foolish, nor have I ever operated with "paranoia and revenge. Additionally I was on the stand for longer than a full day, and not one word of my testimony was ever reported in the Times. Yet nearly two complete articles were devoted to the testimony of the defendants. Why?

The Times knew in advance when Andre Ravenelle would be on the stand, yet no reporter was there. Barnstable's school Superintendent being questoned in Superior Court was news about which the public had a right to know. What happened?

I'm grateful to have had my case heard in court. Unfortunately, the trial was not covered fairly in the Times. Even a minimal effort to appear equitable in your coverage would have been nice.Your readers deserved a whole story and a true story.

CYNTHIA HINCKLEY
Centerville
source: Opinion Cape Cod Times February 8, 2004
[note]"They did omit one line about the articles which contained huge reporting errors regarding the testimonies of Rev. Petzer and Garrett Linnehan, but otherwise, it's pretty much what I wrote." Ms. Hinckley
Here's PeaceMakers.net email to Mr. Ward Rau...July 19th 2004  follow-up email July 22nd-no response to date
wrau@d94.org; rau819@aol.com

Dear Ward,...I found your email addresses on http://www.district94.dupage.k12.il.us/guidance/Counselors.htm this is Bill Fields (Ward and I know each other from our college days) from PeaceMakers.net-PeaceMakers.net has a page documenting somewhat, the public dispute involving Rev. Michael & Maggie Rowe v. Hinckley, Hart and Packer...as an example of a church dispute unresolved Biblically and in the secular courts and in the public eye.

Is it accurate that Rev. Michael and Maggie Rowe are flying to Massachusetts, under subpoena (delivered by the DuPage County Sheriff's office), to answer to a Complaint for Civil Contempt, alleging they violated the Permanent Injunction ordered by Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson, at the close of the trial? 

Is it accurate that on On May 9, 2004, you, Ward, a church official spoke in a public meeting to those present concerning this dispute-which if true would appear a violation of the injunction by Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson, enforced, that forbids all parties to talk or write about the case?

As I gave Rev. James Stamoolis the opportunity to give his witness and he responded with silence-I now extend you the opportunity to give your witness of the biblical process you've followed...

1. Are these allegations accurate? 
2. Did you speak with Rev. Rowe and/or his wife Mrs. Rowe about the dispute?
3. Did you speak with any other person about this dispute? If so who and what is their capacity?
4. If yes, did you use a Matthew 18 "church discipline" process to investigate?
5. Did you "establish every word" with Biblical witnesses, by all parties/sides present, in this disputes?
6. Did you "tell it to the church" all findings from all sides of these disputes?
7. What steps did you take to settle matter quickly per Matthew 5:23-26?

Thank You, and you all are in our prayers for God's justice, mercy and grace...

bill fields
steward@peacemakers.net
 

UPDATE...HEARING IS RE-SCHEDULED FOR OCTOBER 12, 2004
 

Oct.22, 2004 The conflict appears to have gone silent as a hearing was scheduled for 10/12 and there have been no public reports:  PeaceMakers has come to believe if there had been Biblical reconciliation/God's Peace we would have heard of God's glory in the hearts of those involved...we have heard nothing...this continues then as an open wound...We pray no more shame on Christ's name to come...
WORLD'S EVANGELICALS CALL ON CHURCHES TO DENOUNCE ABUSE OF WOMEN

Kuala Lumpur, 9 May 2001 - The World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF) - the official body representing 160 million Christians in 110 countries - has publicly opposed all forms of abuse and violence against women and girls, at its 11th General Assembly in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In a strongly worded statement, WEF calls upon the Church to denounce abuse from the pulpit, to protect and provide for those in need of safety, to offer healing for victims, and to admonish offenders.

The statement was drafted by WEF's Commission on Women's Concerns and endorsed wholeheartedly by WEF's Theological and Religious Liberty Commissions. It was passed unanimously when it went before WEF delegates during their quadrennial gathering.

Winnie Bartel, chair of the women's commission, said: "I am thrilled that WEF is taking the issue of abuse seriously. Henceforth, we'll make a difference. And it should be a radical difference."

The statement comes on the back of a new report published by the women's commission, which has revealed that incidents of violence against women are nearly as bad in church circles as in wider society.

"We are very aware that our Christian leaders are abusing their wives and abusing women," Bartel said during a press conference to launch the book, No Place for Abuse.

The preface to the book states, "Christian believers worldwide tend to ignore, minimize and deny the abuse that is rampant in families of faith. Churches provide few resources for victims of abuse. Moreover, believers are discouraged from using available community services. The potential of emotional and spiritual healing is sacrificed to silence."

One of the book's authors, Nancy Nason-Clark, said the report was "a wake-up call to the evangelical Church to realize that violence is a problem in our communities."

James Stamoolis, executive director of the theological commission, added that the Bible was sometimes used to justify violence against women. He stressed, "There are no grounds for the often held view that the Bible supports the idea of women as mere property of their husbands or families."

This problem was identified at the last WEF General Assembly in 1997, resulting in the setting up of a 19-member task force on violence against women, to consider how the evangelical Church worldwide deals with this issue. In the process of carrying out their research, the women involved began to recount their own experiences of abuse.

Bartel herself was sexually abused as a child by a deacon in her church, which was covered up. Far from turning against the Church, Bartel says she found healing through true Christian love and grace - particularly when male members of WEF acknowledged her and many other women's pain and suffering at the last General Assembly.

"If more male leaders took a stand and went to bat on this issue, it might have a great influence on their peers and create a sense of accountability that's missing."

Already, the Washington D.C.-based Helsinki Commission has expressed interest in the WEF report, especially as world governments are increasingly looking to faith-based communities to provide answers to social problems that secular programs have not been able to remedy.

In addition to sermon outlines and Bible studies, No Place for Abuse contains counseling techniques and practical pastoral tips.

"We need to take the initiative on this issue, and show the world that the Church has the mechanisms to offer hope and transformation," says Bartel.
 

source:  http://worldevangelical.org/ga_news.html

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Romans 16:16  Salute one another with an holy kiss. Meaning:  1) a kiss 2) the kiss with which, as a sign of fraternal affection, Christians were accustomed to welcome or dismiss their companions in the faith. Geneva Bible Notes: (1) He calls that a holy kiss which proceeds from a heart that is full of that holy love: now this is to be understood as referring to the manner used in those days.
vs.
an Unholy kiss, a kiss that is an expression of fleshly desires.
http://www.peacemakers.net/clergysexualabuse/clergysexualabuse.htm

Recommended Church Discipline process
http://www.peacemakers.net/peace/apra.htm

The Cure of Evil Speaking by John Calvin, and others about slander, gossip, back biting, evil report, false witness, tale bearing, etc.
http://peacemakers.net/answers.htm

When you Are Falsely Accused
http://www.peacemakers.net/unity/rswhenfalselyaccused.htm
 



 
steward@peacemakers.net