From Redeemer Arlington to Fairfax Community Church Eagle wants to know….why are evangelical churches horrific about conflict resolution? After all in the Sermon of the Mount didn’t Jesus say ‘blessed are the peacemakers?’ Why are the peacemakers absent in evangelical Christianity? Why do churches refuse to solve problems and let them linger and fester? The bulk of today’s post is aimed at Fairfax Community Church.
“Peace is not he absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”
“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
***I want it to be known that the questions I have about Redeemer Arlington are based upon what happened before I finally reached out to them. I want it to go on the record that I met Eric Simmons once, and talked a number of times with Jordan Kauflin both in person where I took him out to lunch once and also through email. There was a conference call between Jordan, Andrew and myself on May 18, 2015. The bulk of this post is about Fairfax Community Church, but I want it to be known that I do appreciate the efforts by Jordan Kauflin***
As I was managing a false accusation that originated from a Care Group Leader at Redeemer Arlington, I spent a great amount of time approaching 140 people. My goal was to seek forgiveness, mend wounded bridges and soothe over difficult situations. During this time Dee Parsons took special interest in me doing this and told me she never heard of another person doing anything like this before. She kept inquiring and I kept her in the loop. When her husband, Dr. Bill Parsons came home from work he would ask, “What is the number Eagle is up to?” And with that Bill Parsons also regularly heard of my journey of forgiveness.
As I proceeded to work through all these people and resolve a lot of conflict that grew from a faith crisis, Dee would email me regularly and say, “You’ve got to tell your story!” She wanted me to tell my story at her blog for a multitude of reasons. Some of the reasons include the following:
- My story helps illustrate why people reject and walk away from Christianity.
- My story illustrates how doubt is an issue and how many evangelicals don’t know how to engage a doubter.
- The issues, and problems within Neo-Calvinism are clearly illustrated.
- Dee was deeply aware of the problems inside Sovereign Grace and my story was important and needed to be told. The Sovereign Grace issue became a barrier to a person investigating Christianity. The Sovereign Grace issue alone she said was quite important.
After some time I finally consented to telling my story of a prolonged faith crisis, and being unsuccessfully recruited to Sovereign Grace while I searched atheism at The Wartburg Watch. I agreed and wrote three posts which you can read here, here and here. But Dee wanted to hold off from publishing it and wanted to give Andrew every opportunity to work things out. She was afraid that after I told my story that he would be unlikely to work things out. Likewise she also prayed for Andrew a lot during this time and that he would reconcile. That was why I didn’t tell my story after being baptized. In July 2014 I gave Andrew another chance, and an opportunity to review or strike out what I had written, or even ask me not to publish anything at all. Finally my story was first published on July 28, 2014. It was followed by two additional posts and with that many people learned of the conflict and situation between Andrew White and Eagle. A member of Redeemer Arlington figured out who Andrew was because he remembered me giving Andrew a spoon saying, “Since its ‘The Gospel’ to spank an adult female this is for your ministry….” (I was referencing the amended lawsuit where a SGM pastor had allegedly spanked an adult female with either a wooden or plastic rod/spoon or by other means…). After I published my story Andrew responded to a text I sent him letting him known it was published and he could still revise it or review future posts. This is what Andrew said in return, “Funny/ironic: a few hours before you texted me today a friend from Redeemer wrote me asking “Are you Andrew?” because he remembered you coming in to church with the spoon. Anyways, since I hadn’t read your emails yet I didn’t realize your story was out there. Quite a captivating read. I really appreciate you willing to have me read over it. That’s very thoughtful of you. Nevertheless, I feel no strong need or desire to. I’ll let you know if this changes.”
Now here’s my question that I would like to pose…when the situation and the conflict between Andrew White and Eagle spilled out on the internet at The Wartburg Watch why didn’t the leadership at Redeemer Arlington respond? When they learned about the false accusation given birth to by a Care Group Leader why didn’t they intervene then and there? Did they honestly think I was going to go away? Or that I would walk away saying, “I’m fine with being accused of a crime I did not commit.” Why did Redeemer Arlington respond with silence? I say this not to be difficult but to ask some needed and necessary questions. In the course of time I did approach Redeemer Arlington and met with Eric Simmons and interacted multiple times with Jordan Kauflin. But why did they wait for me to approach them? Why didn’t the leadership of Redeemer Arlington contact Dee Parsons and The Wartburg Watch and say, “let’s resolve this…”
Conflict with Fairfax Community Church
While I was managing the mess from Andrew White I got involved in Fairfax Community Church. In the course of time a number of things happened that bothered me deeply, were authoritarian, or I stumbled across information that was troubling. Here’s a brief synopsis of the issues I personally encountered:
- One night while researching FCC I discovered that its Care Director who I interacted with a number of times was on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Sex Offender Registry. Knowing his position and the access he had troubled me. I had already been involved with one church in the past in Wisconsin that reeled from a child sex abuse situation. I didn’t want that to happen here.
- I interacted a number of times with Andy Gingrich the small group pastor. I dealt with a couple of situations that were alarming. First was an overwhelming effort to control the small group in a very authoritarian manner. Next was a mental health situation that developed with a former attender that our small group was told to ignore. I still wonder if that is how Jesus would act. Finally was a reach out by the leader of another small group that originally wanted to take me in and Andy came down so hard that the other small group leader was shaken, afraid and frightened. That bothered me deeply. So as Andy Gingrich drinks more of the authority laced Kool Aid I have this possible solution for someone intoxicated with control. One of these days Kim Jung Un in North Korea or Raul Castro in Cuba is going to need a successor. The qualifications for the job are an unqualified thirst for power, intoxication with authority, and viewing people as a means to an end. Maybe Andy can carry on the authoritarian dynasty in either Cuba or North Korea, he certainly has the resume for it.
- Another issue that was troubling is how bureaucratic FCC is when it came to getting help or trying to meet with someone. You would get bounced around and get stuck in the system. It could be worse than the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Lack of empathy or concern for the community of Washington, D.C. following the Navy Yard shootings. I asked the question in this post here, and I’ll phrase it again….what good is a church that ignores the pain in its own backyard? Why does it even exist? Is that how Jesus would operate in the world? Jesus wept for Jerusalem, why didn’t Fairfax Community Church weep for what a gunman did in the Naval Sea Systems Command and act like its business as normal afterward? FCC the weekend after the shootings acted more like a circus…with the show going on regardless.
Due to all those situations I eventually left, the first Christian church I got involved with after my faith crisis and the one I chose to get baptized in; would be short lived. I still had the information on Eric Nickle but I didn’t know what to do as I dealt with the bureaucracy of Fairfax Community Church. Plus if they had issues over smaller stuff how could they deal with this? Especially since it was being concealed from the congregation. After I left I heard about another situation that deeply bothered me and that is “A Better $tory” campaign. Being familiar with the Book of Nehemiah I watched Rod Stafford butcher and bastardize it to justify a $16 million church campaign. I cringed when I watched the video and saw Aleathea Hensley talk about cleaning out her savings account and give to FCC. Why is a person in her 20’s out of school a few years who probably has a lot of college debt and struggling to get on her feet cleaning out her savings? Is that good stewardship? Is it good discipleship? You can read what I wrote about FCC’s obsession with church growth here. The manipulation FCC engaged in during “A Better $tory” is inappropriate and uncalled for. The sheep at FCC need to be taken care of, nor are they Rod Stafford’s personal ATM.
Didn’t Jesus Say ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers?’
Before preceding I stumbled across and read this post by Mark Roberts and it captured some of the thoughts and feelings I have about peace and Christianity. Peace in many ways is core to Christianity, however I also don’t think peace means the absence of conflict. Just in history as I reflect back there have been many a time where people proclaimed peace, and yet there was no peace. Whether it be British Prime Minister Chamberlin proclaiming peace when Czechoslovakia was divided in 1938 or more recently how people proclaimed the 1990’s to be a peaceful era when events like the Rwandan genocide took place. I don’t consider the 90’s to be an especially peaceful era. After all when Jesus was born didn’t the angels trumpet the fact that there be peace and good will to men? (Luke 2:14) Or what about when Jesus proclaims how he is going to leave a person with peace? (John 14:27)
The peace that was lost in the Garden of Eden is what God promised would be restored one day. For example Ezekiel 37:26-27 states that “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. ” Part of the peace God desires is mended relationships between God and people. I think further that peace amongst each other also reveals the peace that is desired. That is why conflict in Christianity is so tragic and why its sad that so many people are being wounded and taken out. One of the highest commands Jesus has is how the “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall see the Kingdom of God.” The beatitudes are in Matthew 5. But if a church is going to follow Jesus then why not adhere to what was taught in the Sermon of the Mount? Wouldn’t a church, person or organization be more blessed to resolve conflict then to leave it open and unresolved? The problem is that conflict does simmer or go away…unresolved conflict grows…it gets worse. I privately wonder if that is in part why Jesus commands that conflict be dealt with, and why peacemakers are so blessed. They nip conflict in the bud and prevent it from getting worse.
Why Hasn’t Fairfax Community Church Made any Effort at Conflict Resolution?
So here’s the question I have. In light of what Jesus taught which I got into in the previous section, why hasn’t Fairfax Community Church made a good faith effort to resolve the situation? Is it because they are in a massive church campaign and they are a slave to the dollar and are worshipping that instead? After all Fairfax Community Church knows who I am…they removed my email address from the mass emailings. Since they know who I am why have they not tried to reach out and work through the issues at hand? Wouldn’t that be Biblical? Wouldn’t that be beautiful? Isn’t that the Gospel?
Can you imagine if the issues touched on above were resolved or repentance, apologizing, and remorse took place? Could you imagine if the situation were resolved? I recall Rod Stafford saying in a Bible study after I first got here years ago that northern Virginia is like a modern day Corinth. In an area that is all about image, power, influence and prestige can you imagine what would happen if FCC and Eagle worked things out? Can you imagine what kind of message that could be sent to the Washington, D.C. area? In this area people don’t admit mistakes…its part of the culture of living here. People here in the Washington D.C. area are consumed with power and influence, and are image conscious. In the DC area a church that doesn’t admit their mistakes or repents of their errors shows, I would suggest, how far they have drifted from the Gospel. However if FCC repented and owned their sin it would speak volumes in regard to faith. If that occurred it would speak greatly about the Gospel…more than a $16 million dollar building campaign. And much more than a church plant in Clarksburg, Maryland. Speaking of repentance the continued silence by the Clarksburg campus pastor David Bullock speaks volumes. His silence in not denying the fact that he called Dee Parsons a liar says a lot. I wrote about this issue here. But why hasn’t David Bullock sought to address that issue either?
I want the leadership of FCC to know that I am willing to meet with them if they are. If they stay silent then I will have an answer, and it will put Fairfax Community Church in greater perspective. If they do work things out I would have no problem attending or getting involved again. It could be a like a Paul and John Mark situation, where conflict is resolved and the Gospel could truly shine. If the leadership at FCC thinks I do this for fun, well they better think again. I don’t enjoy the conflict, I don’t enjoy the strife. As I type this its almost 9:00 on a Saturday night and there are so many other things I could be doing. I want the leadership at FCC to know that I am always open to meeting and discussing. Part of me tells me in the course of time I am probably going to learn a lesson in why the Old Testament prophets were hated, killed or chased out of town. People love their idols, they love their status quo and don’t want the boat rocked.
If FCC chooses not to go that route of conflict resolution then I think the following U2 song will best describe this situation as well as others. Sunday, Bloody Sunday is not just about the British in Northern Ireland, Sunday, Bloody Sunday can mean the modern evangelical church that is cranking out the wounded, and destroying lives. Instead of beer bottles and broken glass there will continue to be broken lives, and shattered faiths, while the evangelical industrial complex marches on indifferent to God, indifferent to scripture and indifferent to people. The evangelical Christian church is its own worst enemy. It should not be, but sadly it is. If Rod Stafford and FCC continue that approach they will demonstrate their irrelevance and what their motives are in the end. And in the course of time their function and purpose will diminish. The Lord gives and takes away, and even a church like FCC can be taken by the Lord if it continues to squander its resources and trample the Lord’s name in the process. The choice alone lies with Fairfax Community and Rod Stafford.