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Pastor Hogarth

Greater Grace of Pioneer Valley
848 North Road
Westfield, Ma. 01085

April 23, 2005

To all the Elders and Pastors in Greater Grace of Baltimore:

I open this letter with greetings and loving salutation to Pastor Stevens and to the board of elders. It is in regards to all of the ongoing developments and significant changes in the ministry that prompts me to write this letter. I begin by stating my love for Pastor Stevens and to all the men who have served God faithfully all these years. In addition I would like to take this time to congratulate Pastor Schaller for being voted in as chief elder of Greater Grace in Baltimore.

I have spent much time in prayer and contemplation concerning the complexities of these developments. I now would like to share my heart on these matters as well as some decisions that I have reached. I believe we have done precious work together, filled with many souls coming to Christ and many lives have been touched, so many great things to praise God for. It has been a privilege to co-labor in the Lord together these many years.

Yet there are some concerns as of late which are being discussed among leaders and congregation members across the entire ministry. Some of these concerns reflect personal issues, and others, decision making processes. I would like to say on a personal note I love all the men of this ministry, and that I view the current situation not to be a problem with precious individuals, but rather a problem of current policy and practice within the ministry.

The Bible clearly charges us to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Many people have no problem with love, but fall short concerning the truth. Some have no problem with the truth, but struggle with love. I believe, like in any family, there will be compounding problems, but through God, there can be resounding resolutions. Regardless of the numerous problems and troubles which we have been facing these many months together, the answer lies in one simple conclusion— accountability, transparency and humility before God and men.

Please keep in mind that these things are to be taken in a spirit of edification, constructively from a lifelong friend of this ministry. There are many hurts and cries around the world that should weigh heavy on our hearts as men of God. These hurts and cries are a direct result of the disregard of three fundamental imperatives: First, the need for complete accountability; second, the need for absolute transparency; third, the need for genuine humility.

Accountability puts the checks and balances in place to protect us all, leaders and followers together in Christ. For example, presenting the finances semiannually before the congregation is financial accountability. Every single person’s contribution to the offering, regardless of amount, must be esteemed with the highest regard, for the reason that it is their church as much as it is ours. In addition we need to be accountable morally, and in our ethical practices. Accountability appropriately guides the ship to safe harbor through all the storms we will face in life. No man of integrity fears accountability because it provides safety for all. Someone cannot be expected to be accountable to a system that is without accountability.

Next, there is transparency, which is often avoided because of it’s attached stigma of shame and embarrassment. When we fail, and as human beings we often do, we need to be, as leaders, the ultimate example for the Lord. We need to repent and ask for forgiveness like a child before God and men. We need to bare our hearts with honesty and clarity so the weakest person in our congregation would not stumble. "…All things are naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" (Heb 4:13). It is easy to say, as a leader, "follow me", but true transparency means facing, admitting, and changing our wrongdoings for the health and the spiritual well being of the body. Allow me to humorously state that we sometimes express issues to the body as though they were three year old children, incapable of comprehension and unable to deal with heavy matters. On the contrary, they are well taught, well furnished men and women of God that could lift up our arms, if we allow them, in the heavy dilemmas that we face as leaders. We owe them the entirety of the truth so they cannot become victims of the air in speculative reasoning.

I have saved the greatest of these things, humility, for last because as we all know God resists the proud but gives more grace, or in our case, "Greater Grace," to the humble. Humility opens the door for victory and harmony within all three. I don’t speak as an accuser, but as a heartbroken friend. I ask all of you, and anyone else who receives this letter, to forgive me if I have ever failed to be humble in any of these areas. This brings me to the conclusion and directive of this letter.

Many of the body members in Westfield have become aware of the events of last several years through family and friends in Baltimore. I have tried desperately to preserve the honor and dignity of the leadership in Baltimore. As you well know, I came to Springfield ten years ago when this body faced serious challenges concerning immorality, mismanagement of finances, and a lack of accountability which resulted in backbiting, dissension, and ultimately, wounded body members and chaos. Sadly and regrettably, they are hearing the very same echoes ten years later, this time coming from their "home base".

I now have to inform my church because I am being inundated with questions. I must live and hold true to the honor code and values that I have upheld before all of you, and have expressed throughout this letter. As you know, I say what I mean and mean what I say. This creed now compels me, in a loving and truthful way, to disclose these matters to the Westfield church. Regretfully, in our community, the name "Greater Grace" has suffered grave reproach, not because of the glorious privilege of bona fide persecution, but rather the travesty of Baltimore’s indiscretions.

It is necessary at this point to address the matters of Pastor Paul. Before God, I am continuously praying for him and his entire family. When he fell, he was reprimanded on several occasions over a three year period, and yet continued to preach, as well as taught the marriage classes. This was wrong. Also, the very large sum of money that was paid without going through the insurance company, to compensate the damaged parties was taken directly out of the general fund without the body’s knowledge and consent. This may have been legally permissible but ethically questionable. Moreover, to go more than three years of not defining these issues, when they became public knowledge throughout the world, is wrong.

Next, concerning Pastor Stevens whom we all love dearly, he deserves our full support in all his medical concerns. I feel, however, that the degree of his illness should have been made public to the body. Perhaps we could have done more to protect his dignity in his most needy and vulnerable state.

Along with this, the appointment of Pastor Rodger Stenger as chief elder although reached by a bona fide vote of the elders and confirmed by the body, was handled in an inappropriate process resulting in his resignation. I feel pastor Rodger displayed courage and integrity throughout the entire proceedings.

I want to make it clear that I am not acting in haste. I have spent hours and hours on the phone. I have flown in to help and plead with the elders to make things right. I have gone alone and with witnesses to each elder individually and to the board as a whole (Mt. 18). I have begged leaders to say these things are wrong, and to give hope that these matters will be resolved now or in the near future. I was told lovingly by a very dear and close friend, and a key leader, who is very close to these matters that I was being "moral" and not "spiritual" by focusing in on these matters, but I believe we can be both.

I want to thank Pastor Tom Powell and Doctor Ken for their sacrificial labor in putting together the Sandy Cove conference. I am compelled to express my heart that the Sandy Cove conference was given by God and was needed because of vulnerabilities that exist within our ministry. Sandy Cove was a breath of healthy reform to enable us to correct some of these matters so we can go on together, enjoying our precious ministry. God has given us a beautiful ministry, body life, discipleship, and worldwide outreach. Please understand that I am not forgetting any of the precious and beautiful things that we have counted dear together all around the world over the years. Although Sandy Cove was embraced by a majority, it is not currently being implemented by the present administration. Therefore, we remain in the same dilemma, unable to correct the things that have brought serious trouble to our ministry.

In an effort to protect our flock from harmful policies, Pastor Marshall and I, along with all the leaders in Westfield have decided to change our name. The depth and the future of our affiliation will be based on Baltimore’s response to all of the doctrinal issues discussed in this letter and the Sandy Cove covenant. We are, however, changing the nature of our relationship. Pastor Schaller has beautifully said that some may be under and some may be beside, but we all serve the Lord together. At this point, we choose to be beside, following the leading and guiding of the Lord. This should not be viewed as a step back but as a step forward into a greater work, continuing the precious legacy that we have been given . We still love these men and leave a door open for fellowship. That is my true heart, no matter what the air may suggest. We are praying for our families and friends that God would bring in guidance and correction with great healing at this time. Before we can consider fully separating ourselves from Greater Grace, we want to give Pastor Schaller, whom I love with every bone in my body, and count him as a dear and special friend, the opportunity to publicly correct these matters in Baltimore that have brought us to this unfortunate place. We are praying for you. As a personal suggestion, if anyone has been hurt or has left Baltimore, now is the time to diligently seek them out and restore the brokenhearted.

I realize that you may feel that some have expressed their concerns sharply. However, I am speaking to my friends, whom I love and treasure. I believe God that these matters can be dealt with by His amazing grace. Please do not hear my words in a stereotype or think of me in any camp, rather receive my words as coming from one friend to another friend. I know the type of friends you are, and know you will take my words to heart.

In closing, I thank you for your consideration and receiving this letter in the gracious spirit that my entire heart intended.

In Calvary’s Love,
Pastor Wayne Hogarth