Home      DIs: Ellis

Pastor Ellis

April 5, 2005


Dear Pastor Matti Sirvio,

Greetings to you my precious brother.  I received your letter to “Dear Friends” and felt that it was sent to me also.  I wanted to respond, not as a representative of the Russian and Belarus pastors but as a friend to you and the other pastors who sent out a letter of distress or S.O.S.   I first want you to know that friendship is not the question on our part.  Here in Russia you are a hero of missions and greatly loved.  I am sad that you and I must be caught up in the politics of a world wide ministry instead of doing the things we do best and are called to do.  However, I have been in many such battles and many times the outcomes are tremendous promotions by God for those who remain faithful and do not give up their integrity.  I certainly do not answer all the letters I am now receiving or I would have to give up the ministry and go into correspondence.  Because I count you as a very precious friend I write you.  I thank God for your portion and the hours of sweet fellowship we have shared.  I want that to continue.  Please allow me to make comments within your letter as to keep my simple mind from becoming confused.  I was glad to receive correspondence from you even though I wished it had been concerning other things.  I wish to be as transparent as possible. 

>Dear Friends, Thank you for your letter concerning your relationship with the Greater Grace World Outreach.

Pastor Matti, the basic issue is not with GGWO.  The issue is with the present leadership in Baltimore and how it came about.  It is the general consensus of the affiliate pastors that Baltimore is a “church among churches” but is now out of step from most of the rest.  From talking to many pastors there seems to be a division between the Baltimore church and the majority of the world wide ministries.  Under the leadership of Pastor Stevens we knew that we were following a man who was one of uniqueness in that he could lead Baltimore, MBC&S, and head up the World Outreach part of the ministry.  He led us with integrity and we followed.  He touched all our lives.  Even when there was disagreement, we followed out of much love and respect.  Many hoped that there was another Pastor Stevens somewhere hiding in the shadows and that he would be revealed to fill that place, but it was not to be. 

>I strongly feel that you didn’t do justice to the present situation at the Greater Grace church in Baltimore. I would like to comment personally on some of the issues that were mentioned in your letter.

Maybe these young pastors are more accurate than you presently understand.  You see, they see the heart of our Bible College ripped out with resignations of people like:  P. Ed Lutz, Professor Dede Stoddard, Professor Jacqui Gough, Dr. Daniel Lewis, P. Paul Stevens and others who represent many years of Finished Work teaching experience.  Where do you go to replace men and women like this?

Don't deceive yourself about why they left.  There is a strong probability that others will leave when this semester is over.  When I see the mission’s office, I do not see even one person who has been there for any length of time, but only replacements for one of the finest mission personnel any missions agency has ever had.  They are all gone.  Why did they leave?  Is it just a coincidence that they all left within a year?  What happened to the leadership in our Christian School?  Certainly not because of failure to lead our school to a place of noted success, but now they are gone as well.  Wonder why?  Where have 300 to 500 members gone from the congregation within the last year and a half?  I also wonder why men like P. White, P. Brown, P. Hogarth, P. Powell, P. Morin, P. Prokop, P. Williams, P. Walker, P. Reed and a host of other men of God are distancing themselves from Baltimore.  Just look, my brother, at the facts and not at the rhetoric that claims this is revival.  Can it be so wonderful when most of the men I have come to love and respect, who are certainly Pastor Steven's spiritual sons all now raise a red flag of danger ahead?  I feel that our young pastors here in Russia are seemingly more discerning than some veterans.

>1. You pointed out that you “will not participate in any missionary program till the major issues will be resolved and offended ones will consider this satisfactory”.

This must be taken in the context that it is written.  We are all missions minded here and will continue to start churches and nourish those which we have begun under Pastor Steven’s vision for Russia.  The point is Amos 3:3.  The main view of “stepping aside” here includes international conventions, regional seminars, conferences but not the disassociation from our mission work or our commitment to missions.  There are over 2500 mission agencies world wide that do fine without Baltimore; we too can survive.

>You also mentioned the election of Pastor Stenger and “all unbiblical behavior”.

Glad you brought that up.  After several attempts to appoint an elder to lead in Baltimore, finally P. Stenger was appointed.  Some of the other Elders had already been marked by some of the leadership there, to the place where they did not want to cause any more division in the Church.  P. Stenger received a 5 to 2 vote.  In Budapest P. Scibelli was saying that the vote would go 6-3 in favor of P. Schaller. He also told me that.  It did not happen.  I have since learned that if that same vote were taken today it would be 7-2 in favor of P. Stenger. 

Anyway, my brother, it was obvious that P. Stenger was chosen according to Biblical principles as well as the by-laws in Baltimore.  P. Stevens was in favor of this process.  The men, as I am told, then voted for harmony and voted 9-0 for P. Stenger.  According to normal GG procedures that should have been sufficient, but it was decided to give the congregation the opportunity to approve and stand with the Elders.  It seemed and should have been a done deal.  However, after the unanimous approval of P. Stenger one of the Elders went to P. Stevens and told them that they had voted him out.  That was not true.  They dishonored the office of Elders and even their own word.  Then the most amazing political campaign began to take place, not by the Elders as a whole or the congregation, but a small group determined to have P. Schaller as pastor.  Letters, emails, speeches, raps (political rallies) were common.  By the time the vote came to the congregation there was so much confusion that no one understood that the vote was simply an approval of what the men of God had done in agreement.  There were attacks on several of the Elders saying they were not worthy to lead, made bad decisions, were evil and much more I do not want to talk about. 

P. Stenger was hurt deeply and attacked often.  You do not hear him talk about it because of his walk with God and his strong desire to be a peace maker.  He never exposed anyone in the campaign.  He handled the Sunday night service where people were yelling, "We want P. Schaller for our pastor" like a real pastor full of humility and care.  It sounded like Israel when they demanded a king.  P. Stenger did not want to put his family through this and resigned.  Only time and perhaps the Bema will expose what was done to cause him to step down. 

>Let me ask you. What have you done to be a part of the solution in Baltimore?

I believe that you can see that Russia was well represented at Sandy Cove.  They came there at great personal and financial cost.  They prayed for Baltimore and now stand to be heard one final time: that we do not agree with what is going on in Baltimore in several serious categories.  I really do not know what you have in your mind for our Pastors half way around the world to help with the problem when the present leadership has refused Sandy Cove, the other Elders and staff.  What do you have in mind?

>Have you made yourself available to help Pastor Stenger, Pastor Schaller, Pastor Stevens? Are you calling Pastor Stenger the offended one?

I simply must ask: Is P. Stenger attending services in Baltimore?  Is he an elder anymore and if not, why not?  I know P. Stenger to be a peace maker, but I am convinced that he has been deeply wounded and dishonored by some in Baltimore that owe him and his wife a public apology.  He is added to the long list of people who have been stepped on by those who want to fulfill their agenda. Excuse me, but I hate to play games with words.

>Have you spoken with him in person?

It is a little hard for our pastors to do that but I personally talked to him at Sandy Cove and offered to help in any way I could.  P. Stevens is unavailable to us but since P. Schaller did not heed the warnings of nearly 60 Greater Grace pastors at Sandy Cove, why would he listen to P. Alexei or any other Pastor in Russia or Belarus?

>2. The issue of sin of a leader… Is this a reference to a sin committed by a pastor or a leader who is still with the Greater Grace church in Baltimore? If not, how do you think the present leadership should deal with it? How should they bring it up now, when the pastor is not in the church anymore but has started his own church.

I feel that this is another done deal.  The question by the Russian pastors is why was the issue swept under the table and no one held accountable?  We agree with the decision of the Sandy Cove pastors that we now seek reconciliation because there is evidence of repentance.  That is not an issue here.  We love P. Paul and have and have had a good relationship with him.  There were many failures in this issue and P. Paul and his family have been wounded deeply, not because of innocence but because of the way the situation was handled-- outside of the Finished Work that we have been taught.  There are many facets to this issue but we have moved on and desire full fellowship. 

>3. Misuse of ministry money… We all are sad and grieved about the known misuse of money. It has happened and I’m sure it will be addressed.

When? We have waited a long time.

>4. The Florida letter that you referred to and surprisingly all you have signed is not rightly representing the Sandy Cove meeting.

We undersigned the Florida letter, not stating that we were at Sandy Cove but that we all agreed with the Florida letter. .  The issue is not who was at SC, but the 80+ pastors who signed this statement.  Is there going to be any accountability to the letter at all?

>Only three of you were present there.

Yes, three!

>I was there and I loved most of it and so did Pastor Schaller. If you have not received his view on it in a written form, request it from him. I’m sure he would be happy to send it to you.

I believe P. Schaller sent all of us his letter.  I would highly recommend that you read P. Hogarth's answer and to liven up your day read P. Wood's expanded version answer.

>In the Florida letter there is an attitude that we all agreed in Sandy Cove that our ministry >would not continue with one leader world wide. This is not true. I was there and personally >opposed this view.

P. Matti, there is not a doubt that the majority of Pastors at Sandy Cove and the affiliates feel this way.  I was in raps at SC where men spoke so strongly about this, that I was amazed.  If this is not true than why are we seeing an exodus of affiliated pastors?  Do you have access to the many who are saying "Dos vidanya!" ? I am not a prophet but I suspect by September this year we will all be shocked at the Exodus.  I have only heard your comment from two Finnish pastors that we did not all agree, when the majority feel that the majority did agree.  Just look at the notes and remember the raps.

>Pastor Schaller has been a pastor here less than two weeks.

This is another issue, my friend.  Many feel that P. Schaller did not become the pastor through the integrity of a church praying and fasting before God under the leadership of the Elders, but rather through a hostile takeover.  We will see.  The idea of "following the anointing" was rejected in SC but still followed in Baltimore and promoted in raps, the Bible College, services etc.

>He didn’t need this position. He has not fought for it ambitiously as it has been explained to you.

This statement stumps an old country boy the most.  The political campaigning for the leadership of Baltimore was more potent than the Democrats and Republicans in Florida in 2000.  Even a year ago, I got news that in a birthday rap, with 300 to 400 people present, it was announced that P. Schaller was the “anointed one” to be the next Pastor.  It was mentioned in Budapest raps, as well.  Letters were sent and the mission’s office became the party headquarters.  I am confused when anyone can say that he has not sought that position.  It simply is not rational.  There are so many facts that point the other way, that you could write an interesting book.  The politics have infiltrated the Bible College so severely that students write me and tell me instead of a Christian Education based on godly academics it was a political pep rally and if you did not go along with the crowd you were suspected of being “evil”.  Read the letters.  Some have left classes crying because of the unbelievable things that are said in the classes. 

>Pastor Paul is not accepted as a leader here.

Not an issue, so why bring it up?  I know that P. Paul was a threat at one time and because of this he was marked, and old issues were talked about as if it were yesterday even though they were 5 to 6 years past and under the Blood.  I know that it was portrayed to P. Stevens that P. Paul was leading a conspiracy against him.  God help us.  I know who projected that notion and this not only divided a church, but a family. 

>Dr. Lewis has not even been an option.

Wrong!  The fact is that when it appeared that P. Stevens could no longer handle the tremendous work load and P. Paul was gone, a senior elder recommended to P. Stevens that Dr. Lewis be made the leading interim elder for this special time because of his 34 years with P. Stevens; his having started almost every ministry in Baltimore and his tender heart towards reconciliation and peace.  P. Stevens told that Elder with a finger placed on his chest to “make it happen”.  So Dr. Lewis was recommended and immediately came under attack which was intensified by three men, (one who later repented) until he stepped down to have peace.  He was very capable to be the interim Chief Elder during the transition period until a Pastor/Teacher was chosen.  So he actually was an option!

>Pastor Carl Stevens, the founder of some of your churches isn’t around.

Strange, I don't remember seeing P. Carl in the letter at all.  What is the issue with him?  I think maybe you are trying to make a statement here but will not presume such a thought.  P. Carl did a great work of God while here and is deeply loved by every Russian church.  We love him through what we learned in the Finished Work. 

>Pastor Rodger didn’t get the congregation’s approval.

Wrong again!  Pastor Stenger got the Elders approval and 56% of the Congregation.  If there had not been the immediate attack on him, and the mass letter and email campaign (to confuse the simple fact that the Elders had recommended him) then I feel, as others do, he would have easily gotten between 80 to 90%.  It was again handled in such a way to make sure P. Schaller got in. 

>Pastor Steve Stevens lost in voting.

This was a sad day, when electing a pastor of our church in Baltimore followed the American political system instead of Biblical standards and the example of other evangelical ministries.  I do not know of any evangelical group in America that would approve voting on two men at the same time.  I cannot personally believe that our leadership in Baltimore could ever have allowed that to happen.  In evangelical churches, when a pastor is too old to pastor or handicapped, he is usually honored with the title Pastor Emeritus, which is the highest honor to be placed on him.  If he dies or leaves the church, there are proper ways to fill the gap.  It is not an appointment but a seeking God by fasting and praying.  The Elders or Deacons or a Nominating Committee seek God's face until they feel they have God's man.  They agree and then present to the congregation (not to vote necessarily) but to agree with what God has told them.  Then they extend the call to him which he may accept or reject.  If at any time this process fails, they simply begin praying and fasting to once again seek God's gift for the Body Eph. 4:11.  It is unheard of to give a list of men wanting to be pastor and then follow it with a political campaign to choose, not necessarily God's man, but the most popular. 

>Now what do you want?

Accountability, honesty, integrity, humility, Word of God, and the strength to step aside to save our ministry from, not splitting but splintering.

>How would you deal with this mess?

Brother, I do not have all the answers for Baltimore.  I have all I can handle with pastoring my 200 or 300 hundred here. I feel like it is a growing consensus that perhaps P. Schaller should follow suit with Dr. Lewis, P. Stenger and others to step down for the sake of peace.  Perhaps that would be a new beginning since it is obvious that the ministry is quickly dissolving.  It may be good for him and his wife to take a rest for 6 months to a year.  Priority number one is to publicly confess, repent, and offer a hand of reconciliation to every person that has been alienated because of the type of leadership we now have.  I can sense that you are not totally aware of the real picture at present and basing things on those around you now.  There needs to be an agreement that once a man leaves a church he no longer has the right to control (by remote control) and work behind the Pastor's back to his members.  That is heresy.  Pastor Brian Lange's statement on affiliation is totally unacceptable in this ministry or any fundamental Bible believing group in the world and it alienates us from all the rest.

He writes to the staff in Budapest: “the relationship that the church in budapest has with pastor schaller is the best description of affillaition. you have recieved from his ministry, you have him and the church here over you in all matters concerning government, or policy or vision and you welcome him to minstrer there any time.”

>Give some constructive ideas before you start sending an open letter of negativity around the world..

The negativity did not start with a simple letter from Russian & Belarus pastors who are “getting off the train”.  It started when most of the seasoned staff in the Bible College left; it began when the mission’s staff was pressured out; it began with the fact that when anyone asked a question they were severely marked as "evil' or "conspirators";  it began when the leadership in the Christian School left; it began when some people in Baltimore began calling the wonderful men and women of God leaving the Church "dead wood"; it began and continues when I receive emails saying about those leaving, "We are glad that all the rats have left the ship thinking the ship was going down."  Just today I received an email from a lady from our Church telling me that she will be trashing all emails that are not from her “beloved” pastor. This is a friend of 13 years. My wife and I have invested in this precious lady and to my wife she was considered one of her best friends. I played a part in her going to Baltimore to finish her education in MBC&S. I wrote letters to assist her immigration to now be cut off from communication with her. It begins to smell a lot like “Jim Jones” syndrome. If this is being taught in Baltimore it will surely reserve a lot of pages in the next editions of “Kingdom of the Cults”.

>I’m afraid the examples you are following don’t know themselves what they are doing and the amount of harm that they are causing.

Harm to what?  To an agenda which does not agree with what we have been taught?  Is it wrong to follow men who stand against the tremendous pain and suffering hundreds are experiencing because of this process to "follow the anointed man"? 

>Whom are you accountable to?

This one is easy.  God first, not a man!  Years ago we formed a Union in Russia that was required to minister here in Russia.  That Union has standards, fellowship and purpose.  We have good fellowship, good doctrine, and good vision to follow.  We have always considered P. Stevens as our covering because of his vision and investment in our people.  He has been well represented here by the GGWO Field Secretary, Dr. Daniel Lewis.  Anytime Dr. Lewis is here we know P. Steven's heart is here through him.  We still look to Dr. Lewis along with the affiliate pastors who hold to be of "like faith and message".  We honor P. Steven's legacy and love him dearly. 

I personally am accountable to my Elders and to the Congregation.  I do not consider us to be under a “King” or any other outside organization that replaces our local autonomy or Biblical authority.  We closely follow the book on Administration written by Dr. Lewis and approved by P. Stevens.  Our affiliation has always been voluntary on our part.

>I’m at the moment in Baltimore and I see with my own eyes what is going on here. If you don’t want to call it a revival, that’s fine. But there’s a great spirit of freedom and excitement about Jesus and the Word of God.

I made the statement in Sandy Cove and will again say that what is happening in Baltimore is not even a facsimile to what Revival is.  I am not condemning the atmosphere in Baltimore but know it is not the traditional sense of revival.  I would highly recommend reading men like Leonard Ravenhill's three books on Revival.  If you are one of those who feel we cannot learn from men of God outside GGWO then perhaps reading II Chron 7:14 and the context.  One of the first signs of revival is repentance, not a good feeling, good meetings, evangelism, big crowds or someone announcing in every service, rap, program and College class, "We are in revival".   The repentance needed in Baltimore would put things at a standstill with people falling on their faces before a Holy God and crying out for forgiveness and seeking reconciliation.  All self promotions would end abruptly.  The phone lines would be smoking with calls confessing to those who were pushed out, asking for forgiveness and reconciliation.  Letters would be written and no one would have control of the service but God, AND GOD ALONE!  Oh my brother how I long for that. 

>Nobody is trying to pretend that there are no problems. There are big problems. Therefore we need everyone who loves God and loves our ministry to labor together for the solutions.

I really think it is unfair for anyone to question the Russian pastors concerning their love for Pastor Stevens, GGWO, the ministry or the people in the ministry.  The present issues and questions arise out of a lack of accountability and integrity. 

>I’m more than happy to help you to get a more objective picture of what is happening over here. You can reach me by phone 410- 491 3475. >If you give me a quick call or send your number by e-mail, I’ll call you back. I’m writing to you because I respect you and your work and don’t want ever to consider you my enemies.

“Enemy” is not the question between brothers.  The question is Truth.  We love you and if our relationship dissolves, it will be on your part.  We love P. Stevens and have followed faithfully.  No place has embraced the Finished Work more than the Russian churches.  Maybe we were taught too well to test doctrines such as accountability, checks and balances.  Please know that you are loved and not considered anything less than a precious brother.  I count P. Schaller my friend and brother.  At this time I cannot walk with him in agreement, but that does not mean I don't love him, pray for him and wish to someday walk with him together again.  He may someday go down in church history as one of God's great church planters and evangelists, but I cannot agree with his pastoring in Baltimore for doctrinal reasons, church polity reasons, and the terrible plight on our ministry of “marking” and stepping on people.  I have many other things so say but I have taken so much of your time already.  Please forgive me.  God bless you in the kingdom's work.


Yours By His Wonderful Grace,

Dr. M. Dennis Ellis

Greater Grace Church

St. Petersburg, Russian Federation.