Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Edge Church Scandal: The Juicy Details

This blog entry was not approved by anyone on staff, or the elder's board of The Edge Church. The information, ideas and opinions contained herein are the thoughts and ideas of myself and myself alone.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. -Jesus, Matt. 5:48

What goes into a man's mouth does not make him unclean, (imperfect) but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean. Matt. 15:11

We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. -James 3:2

Recently, the Church that I belong to has lost its pastor. I've written a little about it, but today I am going to say everything that has needed to be said. Not only am I going to uncover all the “dirty little secrets”, but I am going to give my two cents on where we need to go from here. Before you hit the send button on your email, or skip to the bottom of this post and comment, keep reading, this isn't going to be what you think.

In July of this year, after what was described as a “sabbatical” on the part of our pastor, a letter of resignation was read aloud in the Sunday worship service, from that same man. I was not present. Over the course of the next several weeks things begin to take what seemed like a serious turn for the worse. In the wake of the pastor's resignation, which, we were told, was of his own choosing, we lost: one half of our childrens' staff, our worship leader, the pastor's executive assistant and a band of congregation members, leaving for a variety of reasons, some connected, others not.

Throughout this time a group of men that had the dubious honor of being named as elders of our congregation were thrown into the fire. They moved quickly to name an interim leader, establish a chain of communication to get control of the financial accounts, computer systems and the like. While this was going on these men were subjected to hours of meetings, listening to all of the details of both the scandals behind our issues and the issues themselves. They spent countless hours in prayer, trying to decide what needed to be done, trying to discern where God was in all of the wreckage. They made several tough, and in some cases, unpopular decisions.

Many, many people have taken offense at their choices. This has led to bad mouthing, gossip, blind guesses as to what happened and why, and people making the decision to leave, some quietly, others trying to wreak as much havoc as possible on the way out. For those of you who may not understand why this group of men is even in this position, here is a brief explanation.

Israel Hogue, former pastor of the Edge Church, asked each of them to be part of a council which was called (using the Biblically accurate term) the Elder's board, or Elder's council. These men, for the better part of two years, met together infrequently so that they could be informed of decisions and put “in the know” about the direction of the Church, etc. They were not, in any sense, a decision making body, an advisory council or have any power to make or change the policies of our congregation, except in whatever capacity the staff of the Church deemed it appropriate to take and follow their advice.

Another misunderstood, and in some cases much maligned, character in this process is my friend, Britton Thurlow, our interim pastor. Many of you may not know how he came on the scene, or what his part in all this is. When the resignation was announced, Britton had been serving as a volunteer, part-time, associate pastor, whose primary responsibility up until that point, had been the formation and operation of the Warehouse college ministry on Thursday night.

Britton's availability, schedule wise, and his former professional ministry experience, over a decade in various capacities with Churches throughout the area, made him the man with the most knowledge as to how to proceed, and he willingly took up the challenge. (some of this is partly my assessment of the situation based on what I know to be fact)

Britton and Michael Arnett, volunteered to man a public forum to discuss and advise the congregation as to what had happened, and what our response would be. They announced that we would be conducting a pastor search, and that several guest speakers had been lined out to appear over the course of the next several weeks.

Since that time, little has been said about what actually spurred the decisions that led to the collapse of our leadership. Hang on to your hats, folks, cause I am about to tell you everything you need to know about the entire scandal. Here it is.

In the course of living out, what many of us know to be an, at times, difficult existence, as a father and husband, Israel Hogue fell victim to his human nature and committed acts that put him in a position that was deemed beyond repair by those involved. While there were, I am sure, since it has always been the case in my own life, many mitigating circumstances, what caused the disintegration of two marriages and rocked a congregation to its foundation, was sin. Pure and simple.

There, there you have it. Now many of you believe that you have the right to know more, however, I dare you to find me one verse of scripture that backs that up. The sin in this man's life has not only been exposed, albeit not in detail to us, but he is actively working, with outside professional help, to repair his relationship with God, recover from his shortcomings and find a way back into God's purpose for the rest of his life. That's it, the show's over, there is nothing else to see here.

As for the rest of them, my Mother used to tell me that if I was not a part of the problem or an active part of the solution that knowing the details of this type of thing could lead to nothing good and was not something to be sought after. Now, some of you will argue that you need to know in order to more effectively pray for the recovery, repentance, etc of these individuals, I say that is a load of crap! God does not need your account of what happened -he was there, after all- in order to know that you are on his side, and asking him to heal and restore these families. He already knows what happened, and if he thinks it important for you to know, he can reveal it to you. The only other acceptable way to get this information is to go directly to the person that committed the offense, and that is Biblically reserved only to the “offendees”. So stop asking!

Not only does it not matter, who did what with or to whom, it is downright disgusting to be so morbidly excited about it. This is not an episode of Desperate Housewives, with actors paid to portray salacious behavior, this is people's lives! There are children and families, and people who most of think, or used to think, of as friends involved.

I agree that it is a shame when people make bad choices. I agree that it sucks that their families and the rest of us have to pay for it with broken relationships and disillusionment. But what I think is even worse, is that we insist on compounding an already tough situation by griping, complaining, gossiping and speculating. If this is you, and you don't understand my issue, go read Exodus. See how many times the Children of Israel got slammed with plagues, toasted to a crisp by wildfire, swallowed up by faults in the earth, bitten by snakes, the list goes on. God hates it! It is time for us to stop! The mission of our church is Love, Love,Serve, not Love, Love, Slander!

So, here are three things I am committing to, and I challenge you to leave a comment, making the same commitment:

  1. I am committing to pray for the blessing of God on all of these lives (with the understanding that blessing in some lives includes dire consequences for actions) and on the lives of the men who are leading us, the members of our congregation and the lives of the greater community, nation and world that we have contact with.
  1. I am committing not to repeat anything that I do not know as fact, and even to avoid repeating such facts as may tarnish, or negatively affect the reputations of the individuals involved. If there is correction to be done, God will do it. He is in the business of humbling the proud and lifting up the humble, he even reserves the right of revenge to himself and I intend to not get in the way of that.
  2. I am committing to examine my own life and get on my face before God to repent of my own bad decisions. That includes anything that I have thought, or said, or done regarding this situation that I should not have. It also includes safe guarding my own marriage and family by keeping an eye out for attitudes and behaviors in my own life that may lead to destruction in my family.

This is my prayer: That God will not only sort out the wheat from the chaff in the lives of the members of The Edge, but that he will bring us through stronger, healthier and better prepared to meet the needs of our community, to share and build into eachother's lives, and to worship him more deeply and fully. I also pray that God will put a guard on my tongue, that I might not speak, or write anything that would bring less that life into the lives around me.


Anonymous said...

May God Bless you for your well chosen words!
Dustin "DJ" King

israel said...

I appreciate your words. Being close to this story (wink, wink) I too have learned that my human nature is to believe the worst about everyone. Why is that? It's so fun and easy to blame others and to point fingers.
Like i said when i was pastoring... we are all two or three bad decisions away from being Ted Haggard...
well, i made those two or three bad decisions... and now, I, too, have lost everything. But wait. I haven't lost everything... i have never been closer to Jesus than in the last 5 months.

Jesus is truly sufficient. Everything that i thought was gain i count as loss compared to knowing Christ.

keep up the fight my brother... love.love.serve!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that Mark. You hit the nail right on the head. Need to get on my knees and ask for giveness myself. It truly suck for these families. i have take your three step to heart and going to try my hardest to follow them. Thanks for posting this and thanks for listing to what god told you to say. d

Anonymous said...

Hi mark, I deeply respect your blog and for communicating this bit of information. There is much more to the story that might make some if what you wrote be perceived in a misunderstood manner. Mark is where my feelings have been hurt. You just don't hear of that degree of infidelity in a church.