Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
I have heard through the grapevine that there are still some out there who continue to harbor pretty strong hatred towards me and also hate this blog.
I can only guess at what the issues are, because no one has spoken to me directly. But I have heard some things (again, through the grapevine of sorts) about what you are upset about.
I have been told that many of you wish I would just disappear and go away. Also, that you feel like I am attacking the church on this blog, evading personal responsibility, or mis-representing what has happened. Finally, some think that the public forum of a blog is an inappropriate place to discuss these issues. (And others just really hate me… one email said it this way: “No one likes you. No one wants to see you. No one wants to hear from you. Go away! PLEASE!!!” — and another said it this way: “God hates not just what you did but who you are and what you think about. I hate you too.” — not much I can say to this.)
While I would appreciate it most if you would simply talk to me directly, I understand your concerns and want to address them directly.
First, as for disappearing, I am sorry that I cannot do that. There is not much more I can say about that. Know that I continue to pray daily for both forgiveness from you and reconciliation with you. I know I have received full pardon from Jesus and that I am fully reconciled to and in him; and I pray that someday I would receive your forgiveness and some measure of reconciliation, for I believe that is the heart of Jesus and central to the Gospel.
Second, I do not think I have ever attacked the church on this blog. I have expressed where I disagree with the process and some of the decisions the church has made. I have stated what happened when, and what did not happen when. I have also expressed disappointment in how things were handled in terms of grace, process, etc. I have never blamed any particular people, I always acknowledge that this whole situation is my fault, and that everyone is working through this for the first time and deserves grace. I also have explicitly said (and will now say again) that I don’t think that the church is homophobic or evil. I am still a big fan of the church and believe it is still the best church around. In fact, I hope and pray that sometime sooner rather than later, the Board will allow me to return to worship at the church. I believe in, financially give to (when I can), and support the mission of the church — and always will.
Third, as for evading personal responsibility, all I can do is repeat what I have said dozens of times on this blog… I alone am 100% responsible for what I did and all the consequences that followed. Period. I am not sure how else I can say that. I am 100% responsible. I am sorry. And again, I ask for your forgiveness.
Fourth, as for mis-representing what happened, to be honest, I feel like I have been as open, honest and transparent as I can be. Without revealing who the other guy was (which I will not do) and or revealing a level of detail I can assure you that none of you want to hear, there is really not much else to be said. However, if you have specific question about what did or did not happen, feel free to ask me “off line” by email, phone, or in person. I promise to answer as honestly and forthrightly as I can with as much detail as you think is helpful (again, with the exception of the identity of the other person).
I know that in addition to the sexual sin, some have accused me of financial impropriety and of essentially stealing money from the church. I have also been accused of many other things these last few months. While I have addressed these previously on the blog, I will say it again: none of that is true. There is much that I am guilty of. Enough certainly to warrant plenty of justified anger at me. There is no need to make up other things.
Were mistakes made along the way? Absolutely.
Were some of those mistakes my responsibility? Yes.
At the end of the day may it be that I was a lousy lead pastor? Certainly possible.
Did the church rapidly outgrow the systems we had in place? Yes, I believe so.
And as lead pastor, was I responsible for this? Yes, absolutely.
But that is it.
Let me say a few specific things as they relate to finances:
1. The church did lose significant outside funding because of me. For that, I am guilty and deeply sorry.
2. Even with that outside funding, the operating budget this year was going to be very tight and this was the year that we had to become 100% self-funding in terms of operations. This financial situation should not have been a surprise to any one. If all this had not happened, we would have spent the summer rolling out a plan to address the financial issues… obviously that did not happen.
3. When all of this happened, the Board committed to paying me my salary and benefits for at least 3 months (I was placed on a 3-month paid leave prior to resigning). I was also assured that resigning would not effect that arrangement. When I found out how bad the finances were, I voluntarily gave up my August compensation. I did this because I believe in the mission of the church.
4. In August, when questions about certain expenditures were first raised, I let the Board know that if there were any purchases they didn’t think were appropriate, to just let me know and I would fully reimburse the church — no questions asked. In other words, I am not going to debate the merits of this purchase vs. another one. If the Board thought it was inappropriate, I would reimburse it. To date, I have been asked to reimburse nothing, though the offer is still on the table.
Why did I do this? Because I take financial integrity very seriously, it deeply upsets me that some people think I might have done anything malicious in this area, and I don’t want there to be any lingering questions or issues around the finances. (Of all the things that have happened the last 6 months, these accusations — and how they were made — has been the most hurtful and upsetting to me.)
5. I am continuing to financially support the church as I can. To be honest, my ability to give regularly right now is pretty limited. I am making less than 1/3 of what I was making previously and am living mostly off savings, not income. But I am committed to continuing to support the church financially because I fundamentally believe in the mission and vision of the church.
And let me add this… if you have specific concerns or issues/questions, I am willing to meet with anyone to talk about anything. Just let me know and I we can meet at Starbucks or wherever you want. You can email me using the link above. (I have discovered that having these conversations by email is not fruitful… so email me and we can schedule a time to get together.)
Fifth, as to the public nature of this blog, I understand your concern. The reality is that there was not other venue for me to address these issues. I asked to be able to meet with the members, I was willing to meet with the Board, I requested that my resignation letter be shared with the members and congregation. I also requested to speak with the consultant the church was using. All those requests were denied.
I have heard nothing official from the Board since August. I have also been told that many people thought that I left without asking for forgiveness, addressing people’
s questions, or simply saying goodbye, at my own accord. That wasn’t true. Others think that I want no contact with people from the church — nothing could be further from the truth. So this is the venue I was left with.
Also, one of the very valid things people are angry at me about was my lack of transparency about this issue. That lack of transparency and the secrecy I held onto is a significant part of how I got myself into so much trouble, allowed my self to cross so many obvious boundaries, etc. As we all know, “you are only as sick as your deepest secrets.” So for me, this blog is a discipline and practice in openness, authenticity and transparency. I have made the decision to live with no secrets and to be as open and transparent as I can be about this issue and my journey forward. I am sorry if that is upsetting to you, but I want you to at least understand why I am doing it.
As it turns out, the blog has been a blessing to me and to others. I can’t tell you the number of encouraging emails I have received from people. Some sharing their own stories of sexual brokenness and shame. Others thankful to just have a place to follow one person’s journey. Many gay and lesbian folks who wonder how their love of Jesus and their sexuality can possibly get worked out. Many people who do not identify as Christians. Several pastors I know who have been challenged and encouraged by it… so all to say that while I understand you hate this blog, many others are being blessed by it (and I assume, for that, you share my sense of thanksgiving!)
In conclusion, let me say two things:
(1) I am far from perfect and I make a lot of mistakes. Also, what I post represents where I am on the journey at that given moment. The last 6 months have been an emotional roller-coaster ride from hell and where I am and how I am doing changes daily (if not more often). That said, if I post something that seems inappropriate, please email me and I will certainly consider correcting the post or taking it down. And if there are past posts that concern you, let me know and again I will consider correcting, amending or removing the post. Obviously, the sooner you let me know your concerns, the better.
(2) While I have said this before, it is worth saying again… if you have specific issues to address with me — about what happened or did not happen, about the process, about this blog, or about any other issue — please contact me directly about it. I am willing to meet anywhere and anytime (when I am not working or in school) to discuss the issue, or simply just to listen to you (if you prefer not to get a response). I can also address issues directly on the blog. Know you can contact me anytime. You can email me through this blog, or if you have my old email or cell phone number… they are still my email and phone number… so contact me in any way that is easiest for you.
Finally, I want you to know that I am very serious when I say I am committed to reconciliation. While I have not always acted in a way befitting a follower of Jesus, I am trying to be faithful to him every day. And faithfulness to Jesus means I must forgive those who have hurt me (I have), pray for those who say bad things about me (I do) and seek relational reconciliation (I am).
Under His Mercy,
Your Brother in Christ,