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Response to "The Aftermath"
 

Bruce,

I’m going to make a few comments regarding your assessment of the ‘aftermath’. I am writing as one who is neither affiliated with GGWO, nor with IAGM. Exerpts from your letter are in italics.

It might occur to the occasional Internet surfer who wanders into this obscure, disturbing corner of cyberdom the following question: " Whatever happened to GGWO and the turmoil evident on these pages?" I thought it would be helpful, instructive, and quite inspiring to see that the Word of God is always true in the context of this particular saga.
Before I answer that from my own perspective, let me first refer you to my previous letter posted in the "Disaffiliation" section where, as a pastor/missionary of GGWO for 20 years, who has been well aware of the problems within GGWO and somewhat marginalized as a result, I took the stand that the very real problems could only be dealt with Scripturally from the context of unity and love, and that division is always, Biblically, counterproductive, and would be simply adding more grievious sin unto sin.


Your first premise here underscores the trouble, not only with what took place among us, but with what takes place in other groups and/or churches as well. It is the fact that believers in general are not comfortable with addressing issues although they should be. Actually we are biblically mandated to do so (Matt 18:15-17, 1 Ti 5:17-22). The Reformation is just one example of where division is both necessary and fruitful. We are told to ‘divide ourselves’ from one another when the cause is heresy and from those who cause (unwarranted) division. The point is: it is na├»ve to think that all division is bad, since God directs it under certain circumstances.

Was Paul wrong to name Alexander, Hymenaeus, and Demas, or was John divisive in his comments about Diotrophes? Paul’s public confrontation of Peter and the whole Jerusalem group was potentially divisive, had it not been for their willingness to accept correction, something that has been sorely lacking in GGWO.

The aftermath of the organized schism within GGWO led by a group of ex-affiliated pastors and ex-elders of the Baltimore church, revealed the true nature of the events by their fruit.

Let’s be perfectly clear. The affiliated pastors were given “permission” (a topic in and of itself) to meet and evaluate GGWO doctrines and practices, and then within 48 hours were attacked for doing so. The initial Sandy Cove meetings were initiated by and with the blessing of Carl Stevens who encouraged Pastor Powell to organize and to head up the meetings. It was his (Carl’s) subsequent attack on those meetings that led to the departure of many affiliates. Furthermore, the Baltimore church was invited to Chicago to co-labor in the reform process. Tom Schaller’s lament at the conclusion of that meeting was that there would be an information war to follow in upcoming months. In my attendance at all of the meetings that concluded in the formation of IAGM, I never saw anything but a desire for maintaining unity, BUT NOT AT ANY COST. The Baltimore leadership was in fact invited to go forward as a part of the reforms, which they previously acknowledged as positive and important by virtue of their signatures to the Sandy Cove Declaration.

After an auspicious, promising start, AIGM has since been plagued by internal dissensions and consequent paralysis as an effective organization. Yet that is utterly insignificant when compared to the splintering of marriages, families, churches and friendships that radiated from the Baltimore church worldwide, as a result of the leadership of the dissension. The disaster and pain this has caused will radiate through generations.

You have basically attributed divided marriages, families etc. to the leadership of the dissention? I am surprised that such a generalization would come from someone who has a church and has led individuals through conflicts on any level! You are obliviously blaming failed marriages on IAGM’s leaders. I can name (on more than one hand) marriages, families and friendships that throughout the years have been divided, during the TBS days, as well as GGWO days. Long before this train even left the station, there were problems in ex-TBS, GGWO homes!

Within two years of the events reported in this website, at least eight pastors within the dissenting faction (AIGM) have resigned their churches and, in some cases, causing those churches to close, their flocks to scatter. Many others have suffered internal divisions, severely crippling their effectiveness for the gospel and for testimony of Christ, in one case, forcing a formerly strong church to merge with another. Most of the others, with one or two exceptions, are experiencing lowered attendance. Many others have an underlying current of dissatisfaction within their current membership, who, while continuing to support their local church, are not happy at the changes and direction their pastors, in some cases, arbitrarily took, contradicting the very reasons they claimed to be taking them. Many of the leaders of the schism quickly entered into conflict with one another continuing the demonic process of division and strife.

None of the things that you’ve mentioned is in any way limited to ex-GGWO pastors or churches, so you are drawing an unfair conclusion by blaming those problems on the severing of ties with GGWO. I know of one pastor who, two years prior to the outbreak of problems, was planning to leave the mission field within 5 years, and his leaving simply coincided with the GGWO/IAGM events.

Bruce, this is not the place for naming these men or their autonomous, independent churches, but in each case, every one of them had independent reasons. Perhaps the more balanced and biblical form of church government that these churches embraced (as opposed to the current “one-pastor-over-all-for-life” at GGWO) actually demanded accountability and created a re-evaluation. Perhaps the lack of pressure from a controlling ‘home-base’ gave the freedom to examine other options to these churches and pastors.

This is typically-sick GGWO “see what happens to those who’ve left” crapola….sorry Bruce! Let’s talk about those who left GGWO because the leaders were not accountable and now go NOWHERE to church because they were slandered and attacked. Let’s talk about staff members who were ‘fired’ for voicing their views. Let’s talk about people who were bilked out of millions of dollars, while the court transcripts right here on www.carlstevens.org/gpage2.html demonstrate Stevens’ attack against the spouse. Do you really want to go ‘here’ Bruce?

Furthermore, any of the division between the affiliates who left may lie in the fact that some who did leave refused to attribute the problems in GGWO to their true underlying cause. I am one of those who felt that IAGM did not go far enough in attributing directly to Carl H. Stevens responsibility for deviation from healthy church behavior and the subsequent disaffiliations. (Actually, they didn’t go anywhere near that issue.)

The Baltimore church splintered into three, possibly four factions, with the Stevens sons leading two split-off churches. Those churches too, within two years are struggling with many of their original leaders having left due to internal strife. Many ex-pastors, leaders, formerly very committed Christians are now scattered accross the U.S. in lonely isolation from each other.

In both Paul and Steve’s cases, the churches were sanctioned by Carl Stevens publicly and then attacked privately. If they are struggling, it may be because their sending church abandoned them. As you might know Bruce, some leadership teams change and restructure under normal circumstances.

The Baltimore church originally lost approximately one third of its membership to the aforementioned schisms. Since then, under the leadership of Prs. Schaller, Scibelli, Love and others, there is an amazing Holy Spirit renewal taking place. As evidence, I would simply direct the objective reader to their website and view the services there: www.ggwo.org.

Whenever sin is in the camp, the righteous will either try to correct it or leave. Scores of Bible-believing (and Bible-obeying) men and women left for healthy churches, some left out of the pain of knowing the GGWO leadership betrayed what it taught. It taught forgiveness but did not forgive, accountability, but was not accountable, and unity, while its own elder board split, and did so long before the affiliated churches left. They taught that each church was self-governing, but they have been intrusive and controlling for years. Pastor Stevens claimed to be fiscally accountable, yet authorized $500,000 to be paid out in a settlement, without the knowledge of all the church elders. This took place in a church that claimed to be elder-led. The departure of one third of the membership should be attributed to mismanagement of funds, behavior unbecoming a pastor, and a growing sense of forced adulation of leaders. It happened long before Sandy Cove and was part of what prompted a desire on the part of the affiliated pastors to try to make needed corrections.

Needed reforms have happened that showed it was utterly not necessary to split and damage the Body of Christ, and also revealing that, in some cases, the split was motivated simply by personal animosities and carnal power struggles, and not a deep desire for unity, love and healing in the Body of Christ.

This is akin to saying, “The patient got better, so the treatment wasn’t necessary.” Any reforms that the GGWO church may have experienced are the direct result of men and women who would not just quietly go along, and who exposed wrongdoing. The Baltimore church owes a debt of gratitude to the multitude of men and women who spoke up, assuming, of course that there have been any changes or reforms. Would you care to expand on these reforms?

Bruce, as you know, this organization has been eye-balled for years by other sound, widely accepted Christian leaders and groups. It is considered by many to be an abusive, controlling, leader-centered church. Scores of members who’ve left over the years will testify to that, including pastors and missionaries. No reform ever takes place in organizations like GGWO without a profound amount of pressure from inside and from outside.

As an organization, with all its internal problems and misunderstandings by Christians from without, GGWO has picked up the pieces and continues in the vision God originally gave - to train people in the Word, to live and teach the Finished Work and grace, to send missionaries into all the world. Many new churches have started accross the world and many GGWO churches are experiencing growth and renewal, in the humility and unity that God commands. Here in Mexico City, we are enjoying this renewal- unity with Baltimore and the affiiation, a sharpened vision, greater hunger for winning the lost. We had our first GGWO conference last year which has since created a deeper desire for Bible school training, world vision, and church planting.

What would you define as a misunderstanding? GGWO has been misunderstood? Or just not accountable to anyone from without? As for these so-called ‘many new churches’ that have been planted, please name one that isn’t a spin-off from a formerly affiliated church. Then assure me that GGWO was not responsible, in places like Russia, Florida and Rome, NY for causing the spin-offs and that GGWO’s leaders did not attack those pastors.

To those who would presume that I am exhibiting a bit of gloating here, please understand that, while I am relieved that GGWO is healthy and moving onward, that the Word of God is always true, I write about the negative consequences with deep sorrow, regret and brokenness. I truly wish the very best to my colleagues who have taken up their individual paths. Any of them (with two or three exceptions,) although some have barely spoken to me for years because they assumed I was "not really Greater Grace," would be welcomed here with open arms and an invite to share the pulpit and our house. Unity, love, humility, brokeness, honesty..ETC is what the Word teaches and there is a blessing in that. I continue us all to continually move in that direction, so that we be not ashamed at His coming.

Let me assure you that you have absolutely nothing to gloat about. Your bragging is nothing more than an ungodly pathetic attempt to vilify those of us who left and exaggerate the condition of the church in Baltimore, formerly known as the ‘The Bible Speaks’ and now - Greater Grace World Outreach. For years Stevens and Company has practiced this “look at the growth/fruit/churches/numbers” foolishness. By your evaluation, the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Masons, Moonies, Muslims and any other group that experiences numeric growth is having “an amazing Holy Spirit revival”.

One final word about unity: Charles Spurgeon once said, “To preserve unity at the expense of truth is to betray the Lord with a kiss.”

Jerry Graziano
Finger Lakes Christian Fellowship
Seneca Falls, NY
2/28/2007