The following transcript is from a members meeting held on August 25, 2019, at Christ Community Chapel.
This is the time–now we’ve looked in the past, through celebrating what God has done–this is the time to look in. And I just want to talk to you from my heart and I really–don’t want to worry about how this is gonna play on social media or whatever. I just want you to know my heart. It’s been, I think, 26 days since Suzanne Johnson’s review came out, and I have gone through a range of emotions, and I’ve really kind of settled into focusing on three things. And I want to share those three things with you.
The first area that I focused on is God. And the reason is because it has been very, very difficult for me to see the damage that’s been done to this church and to–it–I’ll talk about the different areas that have been damaged–and to know that it’s primarily because of me. That’s been very difficult. So I have to gone to God every morning since and asked Him the same thing: “What is it that you want to change in me? What is it that you want to do in me?” And I also am asking what He wants to do in the church and to do with us, but I need Him to tell me first what He wants to do with me.
And one of the reasons I am desperate to learn what He wants me to learn is because I’m studying some ahead for Hebrews Together and in Hebrews chapter 12, it says that “God disciplines those he loves.” And the thing that struck me was that God is always as gentle as He can possibly be to change what He wants to change about you, and about me. And this doesn’t feel very gentle to me. And that means that God’s been trying to teach me and to change me for some time–because His love stays constant. The severity of his discipline moves because of the hardness of our hearts and the hardness of my heart. So every day I am going to God and saying, “Whatever You want to do, I am desperate to know, I want to change. I want to be what You want me to be, because I know that You’re as gentle as You can possibly be right now.”
And I want you to know that He is doing things in me, but I also want to ask you to be as patient with me as you probably are with yourself. When God wants to do something deep down inside of you–Romans 12 says, “I beseech you, therefore, brother, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship.” And I heard somebody say one time, “The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps trying to crawl off the altar.” (Audience laughter) And I do that, too. So for me, with God, even in the midst of this, I feel like many times it’s three steps forward and two steps back. So I want you to be patient with me as God tries to change and do things in me that He has probably been trying to do for a long time. And now I desperately want Him to do it. So that’s one thing.
The second thing where my thoughts have gone are to the damage that’s been done. The damage has been done in kind of concentric circles in my mind. And the first circle are the young adults in the Philippines, because by believing so strongly in what I believed to be true, I disbelieved them and disregarded them and didn’t pay attention to them, and that is a terrible thing. And so we want to try to focus in any way we can to help heal them. And you’re gonna hear more about that. I’m gonna return back to both one and two in a minute. But that’s the first circle that we want because that’s the most important circle.
The second circle are the people who were advocates and who were trying to get our attention, trying to get my attention, and they were disrespected by me. And that is something that we want to reconcile. I’ve reached out to Joe Mauk, who was the first one to try to bring to my attention. He’s a missionary in the Philippines, and apologized to him and asked him for forgiveness and he has been very, very gracious to me. But we know that there are other relationships that absolutely need to be reconciled.
The third circle is you guys. Because I know this has fractured the trust that you have had in our church and that I have wanted you to have in me, and that needs to be healed as well. And I’m telling you that–the damage–I don’t know the answers of how to heal all these. I just know that this is where my thoughts have gone. And this is what has broken my heart.
And the fourth circle is the community and how the community now views Christ Community Chapel. There’s a verse in the Psalms where the Psalmist cries out, in Psalm 69, and this verse wrecks me. This is what it says: “Let not those who hope in You be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts. Let not those who seek You be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.”
So those are the four areas of damage that’ve been done. The third thing I have been focusing on is–I’ve heard this question several times–is how we make sure this never happens again. No one has asked that question more than I have. And what is, what happened, when I, you know, my relationship with Tom, my trust of Tom, my history with Tom, my emotional connection with him, my love for him, blinded me to anything else. And when I say blinded me, I’ve gone through some of the emails and information that I have access to, that was sent to me, and I’m embarrassed in hindsight, because I didn’t even consider that.
So the whole idea of being blinded by this, you don’t know what you don’t know. And this is what I feel like is true. I don’t think our system is broken. We have, our elders are a great group of men. What they needed from me, what they need from me now is for me to tell them, “I am absolutely open for you to speak into my life. If you see me being emotionally connected in a way that you feel like it has started to make me less objective, you have absolute authority to remove me from that and bring in somebody who is more objective.” Because we desperately want to protect our church and protect the reputation of Jesus in our community.
And so as part of that, I’m gonna return now to, that, part of that’s number one, which is what God’s doing inside of me. And part of that now was number two, which is how to respond to the damage that has been done. The elders have assumed leadership in beginning to address some of the damage that has been done, along with Stacey DiNardo, who is part of our leadership team. And I’m gonna be involved. But I am absolutely, I submit myself to them and I will do whatever they want me to do and however they want, what part they want me to play in whatever needs to be done now.
So I wanted you to hear my heart. And I want you to hear me tell you how sorry I am. And I ask you to forgive me. Because I love you. And I love this place. And I love Jesus. And I don’t want to be somebody (Audience applause, “We love you, too, Pastor Joe”) that brings, that makes it harder for someone to come to Jesus. Alright. So with that, I want to introduce the chairman of our elders, Jim Gaul, and he’s gonna come up, and I want him to share some of what is gonna happen. And then he will take it from here. So, Jim, thanks.
Thank you, Joe. We just want to take a few minutes and give you an update from the elders. First, what I’d like to do is to introduce to all of you who our Elders are, so you can know who’s serving in that capacity. So I’m gonna ask our elders to stand as I introduce them. So you can see who those individuals are that are serving, and ask that you guys just please remain standing until I’ve introduced all of you.
So Joe Coffey is our lead pastor, is an elder. Then we have our elders whose terms expire at the end of this calendar year, at the end of 2019, Jim Gaul, Tim Grubbs, Jim Colledge, and Tony Galieti, who’s not able to be here tonight. And then we have elders whose terms expire at the end of 2020. Chris Gurreri, Brian Moore, and Frank Williams. And then we have those whose terms expire at the end of 2021, Bill Fitzgerald and Kris Jaenicke.
So folks, I just ask you to take a look at this group here, because these are men that are interested and willing to meet with you and talk with you if you have any questions or concerns. Okay, guys, you can have a seat.
The other thing that we are doing as we go forward here is if you wish to contact the elders, we’ve set up an email account so you can contact the elders. And very creatively that email account is email@example.com (Audience laughter). So, shouldn’t be too hard to remember. Elders plural at CC Chapel dot com.
Before I ask Chris Gurreri to come up here and update you on some of the steps we’re taking next, I want to take a minute to apologize to all of you on behalf of the elders. You heard Joe apologize just a minute ago. But as the elders we need to take some ownership and some responsibility in this situation as well. And our desire is to honor Jesus Christ in all we do. And as we reflected back on this situation, we know there’s more that we could have and should have done to do a better job for all of you. So we’re sorry and we apologize. But as we go forward, we will seek to honor Jesus Christ in all we do in these steps as we move forward.
And with that, I’m gonna ask Chris Gurreri, because Chris is gonna come up and he’s gonna outline some of the steps that we’re taking as we go forward. Thanks, Chris.
Good evening. As Joe said, it’s really been 26 days – you were right – since we got the report and I gotta tell you, just, trying to read it and absorb it was difficult. At the same time, there is no wisdom you can get being a human to try to even understand where to go with that. So we went to God. We said, “God, give us wisdom on how do we respond in a way that will honor You?” And through that we’ve got really four initiatives in places that we’ve been working. You’ve heard parts of these from Joe so I’ll repeat them. They are reconciliation, support for the abusers, the World Harvest funds that came in, and how do we move forward with the missions, missionaries, and the ministries that we serve today.
Let me start with reconciliation. We are already working diligently to try to reconcile with the parties involved that we’ve hurt. That includes the Mauk family, who was the first to report the abuse. It includes the advocates, who fought hard to have their voices heard. And, most importantly, it includes the folks that were abused. We feel so strongly about reconciliation that we’ve actually reached out and sought and retained an expert in Christian conciliation. We feel like there’s so much pain here, and if we want to really get to deep, true, full reconciliation, we need help. And so, through her, we believe we can get to a process with these folks that will help our Christian families come back together. Because we’re not supposed to have fights that can’t be reconciled under Jesus. That’s what we’re trying to work through that. She says it will take several months, maybe many months. So please have patience with us as we go through that.
The second is support for the abused. We are reaching out to advocacy organizations that deal in the Philippines to try to understand this, and we’ve reached out to Compassion International, the International Justice Mission, to see best we can support and help those that were abused. We realized that for them to accept help they need to have trust in who’s reaching out to them. We probably haven’t earned that. So we’re trying to work through some of these agencies who can build that trust with them, to give them any help or support that they need.
And the third thing is the World Harvest funds. First, just let me give you a little bit of background. It was actually in March of 2014 that the board of directors of World Harvest Ministries came to us and first said, “Hey, we’re looking at dissolving our ministry. We have some assets that are in our account, and we’d like to turn them over to you so you can use them for God’s work.” They actually didn’t even put any restrictions on that gift and how we can use it other than trusting us to grow God’s plan. It took until about August of that year for us to accept those gifts. Since that time, we’ve actually used some of it to continue to further the missions in the Philippines. But to be honest with you, a big chunk of it’s still sitting in our account.
What we’re doing today is we’re asking our outside auditors to go in and dissect that account. Tell us what came in. What did we use for the missions that we were supporting through that? What grew through some of the investments that we had with those monies? So we get at least get first the accounting of it. Next, as a team, we’ve gotta figure out how to use that money to promote God’s work for the kingdom. So that’s where we are with the World Harvest funds.
On a side note, we realize that you want more questions or have more questions about our information here at CCC and the financial accountability and transparency and that. And we’re going to start adding some questions that will answer that for you on our website, under the FAQ section under the Sankey event.
And last is what do we do with the missions and the ministries moving forward? What can we do so we can get better there? We don’t have all the answers, but we’re already updating the protocols in the applications that we use to evaluate missions that we’re gonna support. We’re also looking into joining a network that helps with the safety and the protection of children. And our global outreach pastor Paul Widas has already contacted 8 to 10 large churches and organizations to benchmark our processes versus theirs, try to get a best practice on doing this. As you’ve seen with the Micah 6:8 weekends, the last thing we want to do is slow down the folks we’re able to help with those events, but we do want to have best practices while we’re doing it.
Lastly, our team here, some of the members will be attending a conference, a national conference on child safety and response to abuse this October. We’ll continue to update you guys on progress we’re making as elders through this, but it’s not gonna happen fast. We want to do it right. And so please give us some patience. As we get things updated, we will update the website through the FAQs to try to give you as much information as we can.
More than anything, if you can please give Stacey and our team just a chance to work through this important matter. We really want to do it with diligence and care. And more importantly, we believe that we’re working in the right four areas. If there’s areas that you think we should be working in and they’re not listed here, email that address that Jim just gave you. Tell us what you’re thinking. Because we want to have the right list. We know we’re starting here, but if there’s things we’re missing, please let us know.
With that, I’m gonna turn it over to Tim Grubbs so he can close us in prayer.
Let’s pray. Father God, we are thankful that you are in control and that your will and your plans will be accomplished. Your purposes are higher than ours and we long to align ourselves with you. When we discover that we have been wrong, we can only acknowledge it in humility. We’re reminded of Nehemiah when he discovered that your work was not proceeding as planned and said, “When I heard these things I sat down and wept for some days and mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of Heaven.” Many of us have felt similar emotions in these last weeks, and it’s been a challenging time for us all. But just as Nehemiah moved from mourning to prayerful action, we ask that these plans that we’ve prayerfully made will be blessed and will accomplish the reconciliation that is desired and needed. We’re so grateful for God who continues to work in our lives and who has blessed this church in so many ways. As we continue in a time of worship and as we hear and have heard what you are doing in marriages, in church planting, in community, and in so many others areas, we can only cry out in praise. We ask that you would equip us for your work and for your glory in the days to come. We ask this in the powerful name of Jesus, amen.
All right, one more thing I’ve got, they gave me another task here, so we’re transitioning. If you would, anyone on the side of the pews, grab the stack of cards that looks like this and pass them across. These are our prayer cards for the members meeting. And what we want you to do is take one and pass it along, we want you to fill it out if you would. You’ll notice that there’s actually two areas on it. One is how can we pray for you and your family. The other is who are you praying that will come to know Jesus, and we want to join you in praying. There’s some areas outside that you guys can put them in after you write on them. Just know we take these seriously. Leadership will be praying with you for the people you put down, and for your prayer requests. Thanks.