An open letter to the Interim Pastor, Elders and members of the Edge Church and members of Christ's church universal, his Bride.
Jesus Matthew 18: 15-
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
“But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.
“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.
“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.
“When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.
“But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.
“So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’
“And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.
“But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’
“So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’
“But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.
“So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.
“Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’
“And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.
“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
This is what that looks like.
Mark and Angel Morris
It is with much thought and prayer that we wrote this letter to you. Your actions regarding the church, its staff and leaders have become divisive to the church congregation. Because of this, the pastor and elders are now requiring you, beginning immediately, to no longer take part in our church functions, meetings, assemblies, and or any other associations with the Edge Church.
The Elders, Pastoral team, and staff feel this is a very critical time for the Edge Church and all agree that it is important for us to be resolute in this decision so that the church can continue its quest of recovery from hard times that we have all experienced over the last year.
Edge Church Elder Board
Sent from the email account of Aaron Owen and brought to my attention through a speaker phone conversation this afternoon at about 3:30.
To which I responded, that is fine (angrily, I admit) then you need to carry this out correctly according to the words of Jesus in Matthew Chapter 18. To which they replied, or rather I believe it was Mike Arnett replied, We are not going to argue with you about this, it has been decided and there is going to be no further discussion. I asked them what the cause was, or what had I done. He replied that it was self eveident and needed no clarification.
To which I replied, Fine I will show up there myself and then you can explain why you are escorting me and my family from the premises, you F'ing cowards. (this is the first time I have lost my temper with this group, which took considerable control once you have heard the rest of the story. I am not proud of my conduct in regards to this conversation, and deeply regret that I lost my cool, but am not trying to hide anything. You can decide for yourself if anyone else is.)
What follows is an account from my blog, private journal and memories of the events that led up to this moment and my excommunication from the Edge Church. I believe, except where I willingly admit in this account, that I have conducted myself in an honorable and forthright manner and therefor have nothing to hide.
In July, or August, I don't remember because I didn't write it down, but many of you already are familiar with the date a letter of resignation from Israel Hogue, the founding pastor of The Edge Church was read in Sunday service. I was not there, but did later receive and read a copy.
The details of this situation were highlighted briefly, which is neither here nor there, and I addressed it in a blog post which I will include in its part of this time line.
The next Sunday evening a Church Townhall meeting was called in which the circumstances of this resignation were termed no longer a topic for conversation the elders. Mike Arnett, Andy Rasmussen, Tod Nickels, Aaron Owen and at that time John Savage, and one other whose name I have since forgotten had determined that talking about it would only make things worse and they said as much.
They outlined their plan. Britton Thurlough, one of our associate pastors, would be stepping in as interim. He would also be heading up the pastor search and we would be hearing from candidates over the next few weeks. Mark Ryan, our music minister, had been recently appointed as executive pastor and we were assured he was not going anywhere, but his wife would be stepping down as co-children's minister effective immediately. They then opened the floor for questions and comments, there were a few.
On the way home from that meeting my wife turned to me in the car and said, “I think you should do the job.” I laughed and pretended to blow her off. In my heart, I felt God say the same thing, when I heard that Israel had left.
I spent the next month praying and fasting and generally freaking out as to whether I should even say anything. Through that month, God continued to speak to me about it. I couldn't sleep, because my heart was heavy for The Edge and I wanted to know what to do to help. I immediately went to Britton and offered to help in any way. He offered nothing, but asked us to pray. So, we showed up every time the doors were open and did everything we could to serve.
In September my wife felt called to start a women's ministry since what had been there was connected to the pastor's wife, who was now gone. There was no one else prepared to step in, she asked if she could join up with the women who had done it and submitted her ideas to Britton. Here in her own words is why she did that.
My name is Angel and I volunteered to help plan the women's ministry. If you have attended the events or talked to me then you know why I have done this. For those of you who have not I wanted to let you know . There has been a lot of gossip in our church since our pastors have left, starting with why they left and then going on to everything else going on in the church. I believe transparency is key to defeating gossip that can quickly turn hurtful. So here is my story.
I became a Christian in the 2nd grade by watching a puppet show, and it changed my life. From that moment on I have always followed and trusted Jesus with the faith of a child. I have attended First Baptist Church, a penacostal church and ended up at MetroChurch when I was 15. Where I met my husband, the only man I have dated or kissed. I was blessed to seek God's guidence my entire youth and highschool years, which protected me from trying the things that kids often do. At Metro youth I fell in love with my husband and the light of God I saw in him. He, from the day I met him, knew the Bible and was always helping others, mostly girls at the time but that changed. He had an amazing family who's parents prayed for their children and showed me love that lasts to the end. We married the December after I graduated in 1991, and have been together since. I have found that marriage is work but it's worth it.
After we married we attended Metro Church till it ended, then went to LifeChurch, Bridgeway and NewChurch. We were looking for a place where everyone in our family fit and felt at home. We never found that till the Edge Church. We fell in love with the teaching the Bible, the worship, children's ministry, and the men's ministry. These were all important to us. Then the church changed.
I had attended the Edge for over 2 years and had created no friendships. This didn't really hit me until Kathrynne and Brittany were not there to say hello and talk to me on Sundays. When that happened is when I really felt alone. It occurred to me that Mark, my husband, had built many great friendships and knew a lot of the men in the church. He went to movies with them, they played poker, went on fishing trips, and ate breakfast together. I did nothing. It was because of this that I started to think what about the women. I began to get excited about making a women's ministry that could include everyone, create lasting friendships and help women with their daily life, because none of us should have to do life alone. When I began, I was surprised to hear from many women that I was not alone, in feeling lonely. I have been so ecstatic to see friendships being built and how God has been moving in those relationships.
It was my goal in working with the women's ministry to create an enviroment that was open for anyone who wanted to to serve. I believe that we all have gifts and talents and I want to help you see those used to glorify Jesus. The only things I have asked of the women on the committee is that they be willing to serve and they not overwhelm themselves by taking on to much.
It has come to my attention that people have said that I had other intentions for taking over the women's ministry. This is simply untrue. I was lonely and wanted to make sure that no one else was. I love doing the women's ministry. I love doing fun events, gno's, I even love the planning meetings. I really hope to move us to a place of discipling in the future. Where we are given a chance to find accountabity for the things we want to change in our lives, and we truly learn what the Bible teaches us about following Christ. It is my hope that the women's retreat will be a launch for this next step. Women are the foundation to our families. We all know that if the woman isn't happy then no one is. I hope this helps you all get to know me and why I am here. (This was written prior to this afternoon, before the email)
Through this time she had to handle several difficult things. Some of the women who had been involved before felt they were not being heard, but they worked it out and held a few moderately successful events.
During this time I began to seek council on whether to declare what I was feeling or not. I talked with my father, a nearly forty year veteran pastor. I talked with several close friends, all four of my brothers and a long time pastor friend. My question to them was this, and I had asked Britton as well, Am I crazy to think this is even possible? These men, several of whom are quick to tell me when I am crazy, all of whom have known me intimately, or at least well, for years, to a man encouraged me to say something.
Sometime after the first of September, and I wish I had written more in my journal so that I could tell you the date, I asked Britton if he would meet with me to discuss something. We met at Vintage Coffee on 33rd in Edmond and I told him that I felt God was calling me to put my name in the hat for position of pastor. He revealed to me that he had recently declared his own candidacy only recently, in his words he hadn't been sure, but the elders had forced him to decide. So, again in his words, he might not be the best person to advise me. We talked for a wile, pleasantly and he informed me that since he had decided to be a candidate, Mike Arnett would be the man to talk to.
We met once after this at a meeting where I asked if it would be okay to start a Bible study, reading through the 90 day Bible, a program that breaks the scripture up into readings so that the whole Bible is completed in 90 days. He said to wait on that but it sounded good. I said I had heard that we had some issues in our community of moral concern (details don't matter) he asked what I thought should be done. My response was to take the opportunity for our community to go through the 90 day Bible, bringing them to the ultimate standard, so that opinions would not come into it more than humanly possible, and they would get a complete picture of what God is about, he again said good idea, but please wait.
Mike and I played phone tag until about the first of October at which time I met him at his office for lunch and we went to Panera bread to discuss the matter. I told him everything that I have outlined here to which he replied, you may be the one for the job, but Britton is the front runner at this time. Once everything settles and our commitment to Israel is finished after the first of the year I would have absolutely no qualms about suggesting you as an associate pastor, and he gave me a set of videos and asked me to look into a men's retreat, we also talked about the possibility of starting a study based on the 90 day Bible.
During lunch he also shared what he felt were pertinent details of the “situation” that had occurred and when I suggested talking the whole thing out with everybody, he whole heartedly agreed that that would be a good thing.
I went with the men on a fishing trip, during which I spent an entire day with Mike Arnett discussing many things, little having to do with this, since I had decided not to mention it.
I have been an active part of the Bacon Club and met with the men's council, I think for every meeting, or at least most of them. At one of these meetings I did express a strongly held belief that we didn't need to spend our money on marketing until we had our feet on the ground and had worked out our own junk, before bringing people in. I also told Mike Arnett and Andy, with Britton present at breakfast that I felt there were spiritual elements of the situation that were being ignored, after which they held kneel. ( a prayer meeting attended by very few)
On October 10 I wrote this which I shared with Britton after seeking council from a pastor friend and a man that he considered to be very knowledgeable when it comes to prophecy.
Here is a link to the blog post.
I started going to the Warehouse for worship on Thursday nights. It was a wonderful time of worship. A few times I showed up early swept and set up chairs while my son Asher was at soccer.
Then I wrote this:
Britton had asked me to call him, so I did. That evening he expressed that he felt like I was trying to push an agenda. He told me that I was too forceful and needed to back off. He complained about my blog post, and asked why would I put all that out there to embarrass our church and make his job harder, he said he had been getting calls. I asked him what he thought of it, he said he hadn't read it and asked me to “back off” for a while. I apologized and asked him what I had done to make him say that. He told me that he felt like I was just waiting for him to screw up. I again apologized and we left the conversation with him telling me perhaps he had overreacted. That Sunday he came to me smiling and said he was putting together a team of men to study leadership, I said that was exciting, he said he wanted me to be part of it. During this time I shared this with no one. I did not place any phone calls to him facebook with him, or speak about the bible study, or any other ministry related issues through the Holidays, until after the New Years.
From my personal journal that no one but me ever reads
Today I had lunch with Britton Thurlow, or at least it was supposed to be with Britton. When I arrived, Ben Hill walked in, should have known things would get interesting. Britton showed up a little later, we ordered lunch and sat exchanging random pleasantries for ten minutes or so before we got to the topic. Britton asked me to refresh his memory regarding what I had in mind. I outlined a plan for a Bible study discussion group based on The 90 Day Bible that I have been talking with him about for four months,as outlined in a few of these other posts, he kept putting me off. So, he started into the same old song and dance, wait a few weeks until we get organized. I tell him I will, but if it takes longer I will probably go ahead and start a group with some friends, that I don't care if it's official. Then he drops the bomb, that he doesn't think I'm fit to lead a Bible discussion group, or anything else in his church. WHAT!??? So, I ask him why and get the damnedest response. He tells me that it has to do with the fact that I am too intimidating and I scare people with my confrontational attitude. Funny, he's never even seen me pissed off. So I probe further to discover he's been talking about me behind my back for months. A random "pastor" who doesn't know him, or me, saw my blog, looked him up and told him not to let me lead anything at his church, what the heck??!! Then he claims that( afriend of mine who I have not asked permission to reveal his identity) told him that he was glad I had not stayed at his Church. I feel like I am living in a nightmare. Where do these people get off? What is their problem? Why would they talk about me like this and think its okay. The stranger should have commented on my blog, (my friend) should have the balls to tell me the truth and Britton sat on this information for several months, letting me think everything was okay. Really cool. So, what now?
Just so you know, I am not a “saint” in the holier than thou way of speaking, but I was the son of a Church of Christ minister and I don't use strong obscenity in print, even in my own personal writing, so this is unedited.
The conversation continued and I said some things to Britton about the fact that I felt he was holding back in his preaching. I encouraged him to share everything with us, because what we were getting was not teaching, or inspiring, and while I don't think we should be looking for a ring master, if we were going to only have Sunday service, please give us everything that I can see is in you! Then he awkwardly drove me home and we talked on the way. I apologized for the way I shared the things I shared, he said he knew I would be upset and didn't blame me. We agreed to meet, because, he said, he needed to see my humility before we could work together and that if he became pastor we might never be able to work together in ministry because out personalities were just too different.
I went inside and wrote the blog post you just saw and posted this on my Facebook.
To the anonymous “pastor” who was so offended by one of my blog posts that he felt it necessary to call the interim pastor of the Edge Church, Britton Thurlough, to tell him that I was unfit would he next time please leave a comment, or call me or email me.
After my lunch, my wife sent this:
Dear Elders of the Edge Church,
My name is Angel Morris. Most of you know me as the mother of the eight kids and Mark's wife. Some of you may know me through your wife, as I have been working on creating a strong women's ministry at the Edge church that unites the women of our church. My husband and I have been married for over 19 years. We met in a church youth group and have been in church and served in church for our entire lives. We have attended the Edge Church for over 3 years and love our church and our friends that we have there. We have committed to stay, serve and do whatever is necessary to help our church through this difficult time. My husband does not know I am writing this to you and would not agree with what I am doing, however I feel that my family has been greatly offended without cause or reason by the interim pastor. He has been told that he is unfit to serve in our church. Mark is a strong man of God who knows the Bible, I would dare say, more than the majority if not all of the people in our church. He is continually trying to follow and honor God and His word. I am beside myself with disbelief at what has been done to him. He has done nothing wrong. His only offense is that Britton does not like his personality. His request that got him said treatment, was wanting to start a group that read the Bible in 90 days together.
This in a church where ( this section has been edited because the information shared was sensitive and regards personal moral issues in the lives of people we love) My husband is a man of character. He does not get drunk and never has a day in his life, he has been the man of one wife and if you truly want to see what kind of man he is, spend time with his children. They are a true testament to his character. They are respectful and kind to others as well as strong thinkers encouraged to have their own opinions.
I am tired of watching my friends leave. I am tired of seeing the wisdom and pillars of our church walk away because they are unhappy with the direction that Britton has taken our church. I fell in love with our church because it was scripturally based. The Word was taught. Now it is not. We no longer serve the others. We have been left with a great number of immature Christians. I am constantly be told by those leaving and some who have stayed that he has changed everything and I agree. But now, he has chosen to hurt and offend someone for speaking God's word, to protect people who might be offended by it. Isreal was a man who spoke the word of God without fear and Britton, in my opinion is the complete opposite. He is afraid of the doing anything that would hurt others including sharing the Bible.
I know you are all in a difficult position and making hard choices, and I pray for you often. I am extremely sorry to add to that, but I feel I no longer have a choice to remain silent.
I am willing to serve in anyway needed in our church, I am a graphic designer and am willing to work for free. (you can see my banners in front of Bob Moore and Edmond Hyundai) I will sweep, work, attend and do anything needed of me to help our church succeed and follow the mission that once made it great.
The next night, this happened:
After a really hard conversation with a friend who informed me he was facing some very tough temptation and needed my prayer and advice, I went to Warehouse to worship. Toward the end, I went to ask Britton to pray with me. He said, I think its awesome that you want me to pray with your for your friend but how can you ask that after you bad mouthed me on Facebook all day, I have been getting calls from the elders. Did you read it yourself? I asked, no he had not. I told him I didn't think that was fair. I told him what I had posted. He told me he never said the man was a stranger to him and revealed that he was Josh Kouri, the pastor of Frontline Church. After which he said. I didn't want it to come to this, but, Disciple and Ben and I have discussed it and you and your family are not welcome here anymore. I told him that that would only work for me if he was willing to handle it under Jesus' terms, as very specifically outlined in Matthew 18 at the beginning of this post. He immediately said if he was wrong he would back off. I then asked him if he could not see that I was infinitely in love with Christ and wounded by the way the Church was being run. He shook his head no. I sais, you do know that I am saved and have been a believer since childhood, to which he replied that he did not believe that. I told him that no matter whether I was at Edge Church or not, they could run it one of two ways, God's way (Biblically) or by man's opinion. Judge for yourself what they have chosen.
We were at Church last Sunday, he scheduled a meeting with me on Tuesday at 9, later on in the week over Facebook, then this happened today.
I have been in conversations in the last week with several men in this congregation who have serious doubts and issues with our pastor and elders. I approached them with every concern I had about the way things were not handled the increasing gossip and hostility toward Mark Ryan, Katherine, Israel and Brittany, who have all been the villain in at least one story version I have heard over the last week. I met Mark the other day, the details are not you business. I told him I was sorry for believing what someone else said, about someone else's version of the story, without ever talking to him. For those of you have sent him hateful messages, and attacked those who have remained his friends, shame on you, no matter what happened.
The elders have spoken and now I have said my piece. There are rumors that I was trying to take over, what army general submits his “takeover” plans to the enemy general. They won't answer me as to why they have made this decision and no accusations have been made against me in my presence. This is not meant to be a defense, but rather my side of the story.
Edge Church. Do not believe the lie that says you are not allowed to question “God's annointed”. The word pastor is mentioned one time in the singular in your New Testament. Every other time it is translated as “elders” and is typically discussed in plurality. Here are the qualifications listed for Elder and some exposition, I make no claim about its correctness, but do not have time or strength to share what I think in depth.
It is your job to judge the Spirits, whether they be from God. Fathers, you are called to be the prophet and priests of your own family to guard them against the wiles of the enemy, including false teachings.
In that light, ask yourself one question: Would you agree to be an officer of any corporation without A: reading the bylaws, B: Finding out what your obligations and responsibilites were, let alone wait until the corporation was deeply in debt ($1.3 million dollars) with a heavy monthly obligation ($15000) to even ask where they were? Or be able to give an answer as to what your duties are as a Biblical elder?
Mike, Andy, I have loved you guys like brothers and still believe you to be men of integrity who are making some very interesting choices. Britton, this is me coming to you to say that you have sinned against me. You started out great, but I am not the only one who questions if your intentions are still selfless.
I know many of you will be angry with me, for airing our “dirty laundry” that this is “family business” but here is what I have to say. ALL of us know that a former king of Israel killed his best friend and stole his wife, because its recorded in scripture for all posterity. All of us can read about Christians who were committing adultery, incest and engaging in temple prostitution, none of which got them excommunicated. It was written in a public letter to those congregations then copied, sent elsewhere and was eventually recorded in the Bible. I do not feel one ounce of guilt for sharing any of this, and I will swear to its truth in front of anyone.
The Edge Church is not an isolated little community. It is a part of the Body of Christ. What you do there effects the entire Bride of Christ. WE, as the Church, are the culmination of history, creation, the crucifiction, the resurrection and His second coming are all because of us and if we do not care enough to get Church as right as humanly possible, we should stop breathing.