Note: Due to the sensitive subject matter being discussed, the names of the people and places involved have been changed to protect their identity. Otherwise, there were no other changes--even the typos were left in to preserve the accuracy of the letter.
A Disturbing Letter from an Elder at OWC
by Allan Mack
Below is the actual correspondence that took place between me and an elder named "Tom" at OWC. You can see that this elder was more willing to go along with rumours from other pastors and elders rather than approach my friend Paul Sue in person. Several times in his long, rambling letter he calls Paul a "heretic," even though he has no evidence whatsoever to back up his claims. He goes on to make up several more lies about Paul "attacking individual leaders," which is totally untrue. Keep in mind that Tom doesn't even really know Paul at all at this point, and has made no effort whatsoever to get to know him--he is going on pure conjecture, speculation and rumors, things that an elder of a church should not do.
Subject: sunday school
Date: Thurs, 04 Jan 2001
From: Allan Mack
To: Tom <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Any word yet on finding a teacher to teach my grade 3 class for the second term (Feb-June)? The reason I'm asking is that I will be leaving this church permanently at the end of this month (January) to attend another.
Subject: Re: sunday school
Date: Thurs, 04 Jan 2001
From: "Tom" <email@example.com>
To: Allan Mack
I am a little bit surprised that you will be moving to another church permanently. I hope your move is due to good cause. If not, let me know and we can always discuss different issues. As for the teaching, we are always short of female teachers. We are a few brothers interested in teaching. I will speak to Wilma to find out who she has in mind. Have you talked to her about your possible departure?
Subject: Re: sunday school
Date: Fri, 05 Jan 2001
From: Allan Mack
To: Tom <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thanks for getting back to me. I hope I have given you enough time to find a replacement. I haven't spoken to Wilma about this matter as of yet.
I'm leaving because I feel that OWC has lost its focus, and there is too much church politics for my taste. I want to find a church where the leaders are more discerning and who are willing to sit down and irenically discuss any differences by reasoning from the Scriptures. I want to find a church that is seriously committed to missions, evangelism, discipleship, and helping the poor instead of having expensive golf ministries, building magnificent edifices, and holding retreats at high-priced resorts. I want to go to a church that doesn't blindly and enthusiastically endorse parachurch ministries that contain teachings which are borderline heretical, or, at best, controversial (ex., Basic Life Principles, Promise Keepers, etc.). I know that no church is perfect, but I want to serve in a church that is at least trying to be perfect (ie., more like the early church).
Having said that, I do love the people in this church and will continue to pray for them after I'm gone. I sincerely hope the Summer revival will result in genuine revival, but before that can happen, this church, in my opinion, needs to be reformed from top to bottom.
I haven't actually found another church yet, but I would like to start looking for one beginning in February. If you could pray for me to find a church, that would be much appreciated. I apologize for putting you through an inconvenience at this time, but I am confident you will find a suitable replacement for me.
Subject: Re: sunday school
Date: Sun, 4 Feb 2001
From: "Tom" <email@example.com>
To: Allan Mack
My apology for not responding to your earlier message. The reason why I didn't reply earlier is not that I don't want to discuss the issues you have raised. In fact, I really want to have an open and honest discussion about some of the points in your message. I couldn't find time to respond because I am barely surviving in my work, family and ministry. I just had a mid-term exam a few days ago and have to prepare for two more mid-terms a week later. These are not my mid-terms for students, but my own credit courses. Yes, I am full-time working and a part-time student taking 3 courses at the university. Some people think I am brave, but I am sure others may consider me stupid. Anyway, God may have other plans for me and my family. That's why I decided to return to school part-time just to get my self ready. Please accept my apology for my late reply.
Back to your comments. I hope you will find a church that you are happy with and get involved in the ministry again. I believe that every Christian has the freedom and sometimes privilege to seek a church that is good for him/her. Not every church is good for every one. We are all redeemed sinners waiting for our full redemption before which we are still bounded by our sinful nature and body. I am glad that you have the courage to seek out other churches rather than being complacent and becoming a Sunday Christian. Our church is not perfect, as you and I know.
However, I may not agree with some of the points that you raised. Please don't misunderstand me that I am NOT defending OWC. You probably attended OWC longer than I do and you probably know a lot more than me. This my sixth year at this church. I am glad that I came to know you after I came to your former fellowship to share about "fellowship". I don't remember whether you have been in my Sunday school before. But through our past conversation, I am sure you know that I hold on to my faith in Christ very strongly.
In fact, one of the reasons why I decided to stay in OWC is because this church has several times less politics than all the churches I have come in contact with. I am not exaggerating anything. It is true. I have been approached to serve in the Elder board in this church twice. I declined it the first time because I "hate" politics. After another year, I was approached again. This time I accepted the invitation because I found that the Elder board has very little politics. You may not believe me and that's fine.
To give you an example, in my former church, not only the elders are "fighting" against each other, but the elders' wives are also "fighting" against the pastors' wives, the pastors are "fighting" against the elders, battles are everywhere. In fact, I was given a stern face just because I forgot to address a pastor's wife as "Mrs Rev. ???". At OWC, I really appreciate the pastors, their wives, as well as many elders and their wives. Of course, someone may think now that I am an elder and I am just like one of them defending them. Well, based on my past dealings with you and many others, I know you trust that I am saying these things with all my honestly and humility.
Yes, not every one is perfect, some of the may complain about different things, but all of them have great respect for each other. Most of our pastor wives are serving HUMBLY and QUIETLY in our church. Our elders are FAITHFULLY respecting our pastors. Our pastors are very discerning in many matters. However, we have a difficulty that the congregation may not know about. Many times, the pastors and even elders see a more complete picture than the individuals that sometimes the individual may feel that the pastors are out of touch with the issue.
I am particularly interested in your statement "are more discerning and who are willing to sit down and irenically discuss any differences by reasoning from the Scriptures." This seems to refer to a recent incident about a fellow who is from your former fellowship and has created a lot noise because of his own opinion. Whether my speculation is correct or not, I'd like to use this as an example. I was also drawn into this incident because the individual has written a letter to several elders including me. After I found out more details, I realized that the leaders have gone an extra mile in protecting and respecting not only the individual but his own family unity even though that person is clearly BIBLICALLY wrong.
When you say OWC supports certain ministries that are borderline heretics, I can confidently and biblically say that the opinion of that person is totally heretic. He may have spread his own opinion among your fellowship members, making them think that our church leaders are hermeneutically wrong because he thinks he knows hermeneutics. I am sorry to say that I am more than happy to open the bible and categorically refute that person's interpretation of tithes. However, think from the leaders' perspective, what can the leaders do when that person is not willing to listen and start attacking individual leaders? Should the leaders make public announcement or spread around about that person's problematic history, behavior, family problems, heretic view points etc??? Of course not, they decided to swallow everything and trust that God will take care of the person as well as his family.
Allan, you know, I can go on and on. To you one more example, several people have come forward to complain about one of our former sunday school teachers of unacceptable sexual behavior toward female students. We approached this teacher according to the bible, but he refused to admit any wrong doing and refused to accept counseling/guidance when the leaders were "willing to sit down and irenically discuss any differences by reasoning from the Scriptures." What can the leaders do? Should the teacher continue teaching sunday school and wait until one of the female students file a litigation against the church? Several female students now in the early twenties have come forward to witness that this teacher has touched them inappropriately.
Allan, what should we do? Should we make all the reasons known to every one in our church so that we can all see the more complete picture or should we just swallow other people's misunderstanding of the leaders?
I can honestly say that our church is indeed committed to "missions, evangelism, discipleship, and helping the poor instead of having expensive golf ministries, magnificent edifices, and holding retreats at high-priced resorts, etc". If congregation do not come to the prayer meeting, how do we know who is poor and who is in need. In the past, those who need help come to the prayer meeting and we could only help up to certain extent because there were just a handful of us in the prayer meeting. There are problems in our church families, husband stealing all the money from his wife, father deserting his own children, young people seeing their parents break up, on and on, Allan, if people including you don't come to prayer meeting, how much more help can we do when we are already overwhelmed by many other people issues.
We have discipleship training, but people won't even consider going to sunday school, I am at lost for words. There may be golf ministries for the richer, whether or not I endorse that, I take the Lord's position as the bible says that some preach out of malice or jealousy, other preach out of love, what would it happen as long as the gospel is spread. As for the expensive Summer conference, there is a long background story behind the organization of this expensive conference. Again, those involved know the complete picture and some of us are willing to "put up with" it. What should we do? Should we make every single twist and turn known to the congregation so that the congregation would appreciate the "hardship" we are having? Of course not.
If you are interested in knowing the details, I can definitely share with you. There is really no secret about everything that is happening at the leadership level of course except personal issues. Again, some speculate that the leadership has "triggered" the resignation of Pastor Albert. Should we make the complete picture known to everyone? Does everyone need to know everything? Is it constructive to make every single issue known to every one?
Anyway, I have written a very long reply and I should stop here. Sorry about that. I just want to leave you with a memoir that OWC may not be as "poor" as one thinks. There are many areas that the church can improve. This church is not meant for everyone. But remember that a person encouraging others to leave a reasonable church for unfounded reasons is definitely not from God's side, and there is either God's side or satan's side. We haven't found a replacement yet because we are struggling with many different issues. Don't worry about us though because I am sure God will continue to look after his church. Let me know once you have settled in another church and remember that you are always welcome at OWC.
Subject: Re: sunday school
Date: Wed, 07 Feb 2001
From: Allan Mack <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Tom" <email@example.com>
I'm quite shocked by the angry tone and accusatory spirit of your e-mail. Most of it was directed not at me, but a "certain fellow". Why are you directing your comments to me instead of to him? Is this the biblical thing to do?
"This seems to refer to a recent incident about a fellow who is from your former fellowship and has created a lot noise because of his own opinion."
Let's not kid ourselves here, Tom. We both know that you're talking about Paul Sue. And why do you call it "noise"? Aren't people allowed to discuss disagreements? What evidence do you have that there has been "a lot" of noise? Who did he make noise to? Anyhow, is "noise" necessarily a bad thing if it gets people thinking and seeking the Word of God?
"Whether my speculation is correct or not, I'd like to use this as an example."
What you have to say, in fact, is pure speculation on your part. How much personal face-to-face contact have you had with Paul, compared to the opinions/speculations fed to you by others?
"When you say OWC supports certain ministries that are borderline heretics, I can confidently and biblically say that the opinion of that person is totally heretic."
Have you actually heard Paul say this? The phrase "borderline heretics" was mine and mine alone. Why are you even bringing Paul into this line of argument? And assuming that Paul DID actually say this (which he did NOT), how can you be so "confident" if you haven't even spoken to him? Why haven't you spoken to Paul and shown him why he is "wrong"? Accusing someone of being a heretic is a serious charge -- on what grounds do you base your accusation?
"He may have spread his own opinion among your fellowship members, making them think that our church leaders are hermeneutically wrong..."
Ah... that's the operative word --"MAY" have spread. What proof do you have that he is "spreading his own opinion"? What happened to free speech in this country? If he is as subversive as you seem to think that he is, why not have people confront him on this?
Is Paul Sue not entitled to his "opinion"?
Is this fact or speculation on your part? Has he been confronted about spreading false teachings if he is? And what if the church leaders ARE hermeneutically correct - are they willing to discuss this with Paul and point out where he is wrong? And if THEY are wrong, are they willing to change their dogma?
"...because he thinks he knows hermeneutics."
How do you know if he does NOT know hermeneutics? Have you ever discussed the subject with him? Aren't you being presumptuous?
"I am sorry to say that I am more than happy to open the bible and categorically refute that person's interpretation of tithes."
If you are so open to sharing with him about your opinions, why have you NOT done so?? And how about the other leaders--could they not do the same?
Have you even read his paper on tithing? If not, see http://www.bereanbunch.com/tithing.html.
Even if you disagree with him, you certainly can't be so dogmatic to call him a heretic. Do you realize that his paper has been favourably reviewed by a number of pastors as well as biblical scholars from well-known seminaries?
Furthermore, Pastor Dan has read it and remarked it was a good paper, and that he generally agreed with the conclusions, even though he still insisted that tithing is a minimum standard.
"However, think from the leaders' perspective, what can the leaders do when that person is not willing to listen and start attacking individual leaders?"
How has he "attacked individual leaders"? Has anyone confronted him about this? Again, what evidence do you have? You are making very serious charges against someone you haven't even spoken to. Is this BIBLICAL?
"Should the leaders make public announcement or spread around about that person's problematic history, behavior, family problems, heretic view points etc???"
Does Paul, in fact, have a "problematic history and behavior, family problems"? Separation has to be made from one's past, and God's forgiveness and change through the Holy Spirit has to be factored in as well. In fact, should the leaders EVER have to resort to rumor-mongering and maligning a person's character by attacking their background? If this is the case, the Apostle Paul would have been afraid to speak up because of his background as a Christian persecutor/killer.
Tom, how well do you know Paul Sue? Have you ever spoken to him personally? Where do you get the details of his personal life and "history" from? What are his "heretic view points"? Have you confronted him in love about all these matters?
"Of course not, they decided to swallow everything and trust that God will take care of the person as well as his family."
Swallowing is not necessarily a good thing if it results in resentment and bitterness towards Paul. It would be better to TALK to him.
"But remember that a person encouraging others to leave a reasonable church for unfounded reasons is definitely not from God's side, and there is either God's side or satan's side."
What evidence do you have for the above statement, or again, is this speculation on your part? Are you trying to imply that Paul somehow 'brainwashed' me and others to leave? If so, you'd better have some pretty strong evidence to back up your claims.
Just for your information, I wanted to leave as early as two and-a-half years ago--BEFORE I even met Paul Sue. And my opinion of Promise Keepers was formed BEFORE I even came to OWC over five years ago. As for Basic Life Principles, I actually studied Gothard's material myself and came to my own conclusions long BEFORE I ever met Paul Sue. And besides, even elder Fred's own son, Byron, agrees with me that Gothard's method of hermenuetics leaves a lot to be desired. And Byron is the contact person for Basic Life Principles! Furthermore, there are also plenty of websites on the Internet which discuss concerns for these two parachurch ministries, so I am not alone in my views. And anyway, aren't I entitled to my own, personal opinions?
I also know that certain fellowship people have left for various DIFFERENT reasons. Their reasons for leaving had absolutely NOTHING to do with Paul or his views. And besides, have you even bothered to ask why these other people left, instead of just sitting around and coming up with these ridiculous speculations? Did you know, for example, that Paul tried many times in vain to persuade me to stay at OWC? Does this sound like someone who is "encouraging others to leave"?
For your own good, Tom, I hope you have some IRREFUTABLE evidence of this for all these serious accusations. I would also prefer that you NEVER again send me any "speculations" about Paul. For you (or any of the other leaders) to spread rumours (whether true or not) to others about brother Paul without first approaching him is gossiping and slandering. If you have ANY problems with him, or if you think he is causing ANY division in the church, why don't you just pick up the phone and CALL HIM? If your case against him is so strong, why haven't you already tried talking to him? Isn't this the BIBLICAL to do, instead of spreading malicious rumours about him? As an elder, isn't it your responsibility to take the initiative to confront this sheep (Paul) if he is indeed wandering astray and causing disunity and havoc among the flock?
Tom, I strongly urge you to contact Paul immediately. If he is as wrong as you claim he is, he needs to be corrected; if some (or all) of your accusations are not true, he can clarify and correct them for you. Isn't this what Christian love is all about?" (Gal. 6:1, 2). I will check with him in the next week or so to see if you have actually contacted him or not. If you haven't, then I will be forced to forward the accusatory e-mail you sent me to Paul, so that he can contact you directly. I simply will not tolerate any misrepresentations about any of my friends behind their backs.
As for the other issues you responded to (lack of help for the poor, lack of evangelism, lack of discipleship, etc.) I already talked to Pastors Joe and Dan about these, and for the most part, they AGREED with my concerns. Therefore, I do not need to talk about these.
As for the upcoming Summer Conference, Joe did express a little regret about the choice of venue, and he promised me that he would announce financial help for those who cannot otherwise afford to go. Also, I don't know if you were aware of this, but as church webmaster, I was actually ON the Summer Conference personnel list and therefore I was privy to some background information as to how and why this conference came into being. In my own, humble, PERSONAL opinion, revivals can be held in the congregations--after all, Jonathan Edwards did not preach revival sermons in expensive resorts, and neither did John Wesley.
To this date, Tom has not apologized to Paul for writing his accusatory and disturbing letter. In fact, after these letters were written, Tom called both Paul and me "heretics" right to our faces, and has never responded to any of Paul's attempts at further dialogue and discussion. Sad, isn't it?