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Aftermath- Part Two

Another Aftermath of the “Aftermath’s” Aftermath

Gerry and like-minded brethren,

Just a few comments on your answer to my review of the subsequent events of the “GGW0 9/11 of 2005,” as a way to maintain dialogue and provoke thinking on the subject. Let me also say that I do not officially represent GGWO by these thoughts. They may or may not agree with me.

First, you seem to confuse my Biblical rejection of division with a rejection of ‘dealing with issues.’ The Biblical mandate to maintain unity and Christ’s love in the Body despite differences, issues, corrections needed, even sin (1 Pet 4:6-8), is not debatable. I do not think I should have to cite this most basic Christian principle with a litany of verses. The Biblical mandate to maintain unity and to exhort and correct each other is neither mutually exclusive, nor synonymous.

Neither is the positive comparison with the Reformation very valid in my opinion, although perhaps a negative one is. Luther was dealing with a basic doctrine, salvation by faith. Sandy Cove clearly stated that there should be no disunity over secondary doctrines, and then the same leadership violated that very principle. Also, Luther was excommunicated as he, the reformer, attempted to exhort and correct while maintaining unity. In our relational turmoil, those that were claiming that they wanted reform provoked the disunity at Chicago by forming a counter-organization.

Thirdly, I particularly do not hold up the Reformation as any model to emulate (Sorry, I guess I’m just not a ‘Reform’ Pastor.) It resulted in war, bloodshed, Phariseeism, shattered lives, chaos and other maladies that even Luther lamented in his older, wiser years. Jesus said we can be very fervent, righteous doctrinally, but without love, we are nothing. And we will have done nothing except cause more damage than the damage we intended to fix. In other words, the cure was worse than the illness.

You use Paul’s apostolic and public mentioning of certain people as a role model for the breakup, as you do, I suppose, for the justification of going on public forums, and joining with unbelievers in ridiculing and ‘exposing’ sins of people and GGWO. I think it is worth mentioning that the examples in Paul’s ministry that you make mention of ‘marking’ were specifically people that were publicly and blatantly causing division in the Church. They were not quibbling about church government or what is an anointing.

Going on to the issues about the events leading to the schism, while I acknowledge that the first meeting started out hopefully and with Pr. Stevens’ blessing, it was evident to myself and many others that as it progressed, there was a subtle divisive, cliquish spirit and methodology underlying it that eventually lead to the schism in Chicago. I foresaw a massacre and chose not to waste the $800 dollars it would have cost me to go watch it. Like I said though, while certain reforms proposed might have been positive and needed, what we had agreed on at Sandy Cove about no division over secondary doctrines was not honored, rather gnat-straining and camel-swallowing, hoofs and all.

Next, there is a misinterpretation of my laying the blame for the untold relational damage caused at the feet of those who initiated, organized and promoted the church split. Of course there were probs prior to the split, as there are in many churches. I grew up in a home divided over religious differences. Nevertheless, the blatant fruit of the church split was a vast number of split homes, marriages, families, friendships and churches that dwarfs any previous comparison, and did such damage to the Body of Christ that it will last for a very long time. It is quite a bit of a stretch to attempt to portray the subsequent disintegration of AIGM, the paralyzing of many churches and leaders, the abandonment of their ministerial callings by some, as some kind of ‘healthy’ phase. Wouldn’t it be natural to suppose that if the schism, as you make the claim, was born in a great desire for unity, that this would be the fruit, no? Surely God would honor that desire. Yet the fruit reveals the root.

There could only have been two predispositions, as far as I can see, in the leadership of the schism regarding these very predictable side effects – either these pastors were utterly unconscious that this would be the result, which I cannot imagine, or they simply did not give a flip, which I cannot fathom. “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead”...and straight into the iceberg,… seemed to be the prevailing attitude, I fear to say. But that is how it seems.

You take strong offense to my having dared to mention the subsequent fruit of the schism (calling my attempt to look at the effects ‘crapola’ and ‘sick’) in the AIGM organization and disorganization, and in the lives of many pastors and their churches. While I know that this kind of criticism has been misused in the past and have no desire to repeat that, I think it is a learning experience for us, albeit painful, all to see the results of any particular strategy or action and to judge it correctly by its fruit. The Bible does quite a bit of that, in the historical books for instance. “King Fred worshipped a cow and got mad cow disease.” Let me state unequivocally that I make no bones about saying that the split itself was a fruit of the discipline of God on us as an affiliation for sins in the camp, as I believe the loss of Lenox in the Dovydenas case was too. Yet Hebrews also says that God’s discipline is a sign of our sonship and that good things will come if we are broken, repentant and humble. I believe God is doing that in GGWO and do not doubt that He is in those who left. We are his masterpiece after all, even though it ‘don’t’ look that way a lot of times. But if my life, ministry, church, are ‘crapola’ to borrow a graphic expression, it might behoove me to take an honest look at it to see why. That is not ‘crapola.’ Believe me, I’ve had to. Sorry if this offends, but let me say it even clearer- the fruit of the schism is what truly can be described as ‘crapola’, not my stating what is painfully obvious. I am sorry again if this may offend you, but I say again- the fruit reveals the root.

I believe that I have already addressed in general the issue of your subsequent litany of the ‘handwriting or ordinances against us’ –the sins you perceive that was in the GGWO or Pr. Stevens. I just want to reassert that we are God’s handiwork and so, guess what? -God has dealt with and is dealing with it. I am not in denial, either about GGWO sins, AIGM sins, independent-guys-out-there sins, or even – gasp! my sins. God help us all. But how happy I am that, while I am not in denial, I also do not have to act as prosecutor, judge and jury on any of these. Can I have a witness?

I can point to many cases where the truth of Romans 2:1-3 became painfully, horribly evident. To cite one example for clarification, there were cases of a pastor arbitrarily deciding to make his church participate in the schism, utterly denying everything that these same pastors had taught their people for years, while at the same time citing as the reason for separating as ‘abuse’ or ‘control’. The church was forced to obey the pastor who then publicly criticized certain of its local leaders who left for “dividing” or causing ‘spin-offs.’ Go figure. Others cited a judgmental spirit as the reason for leaving, while they consequentially judged much more harshly and publicly lambasted former colleagues and friends mercilessly. Again, the irony was completely lost on them. When those pastors or ex-members engaged in public denunciations or private campaigns by Internet, well, that was ‘healthy dialogue’ or ‘just communicating with friends.’ But if a GGWO pastor talked to a group that wanted to maintain their identity with GGWO, well, that was ‘attacking’ and ‘causing division.’ Right? The circle of judging is indeed a deep, bottomless black hole, leading to all kinds of semantic gymnastics, isn’t it?

Let me now go to some short replies to some short comments of yours (highlighted in black).

Whenever sin is in the camp, the righteous will either try to correct it, or leave. Yea. Boy, am I glad that Jesus does not think like this. He would have left me a looong time ago. Is there anybody left in your church?

This is akin to saying “The patient got better so the treatment wasn’t necessary.” I think it’s more akin to saying “It was just a really bad virus so the double-amputation, chemotherapy, self-mutilation and lobotomy wasn’t really all that necessary.”
Would you care to expand on these reforms? Well, I understand that there are financial safeguards in place, more accountability by the pastor to the board of elders and by dept. heads, more definition with regards to pastoral discipline, and a clearer policy with regards to replacing a pastor. If you are truly interested, you might even want to contact Baltimore and ask them for more details. More importantly, there is a different spirit and heart attitude, because, as this sad episode has brutally shown us all, you can cry for external reform all you want while your own heart remains utterly unreformed and hardened. Let us not forget that the Pharisees started out as reformers and the great defenders of Biblical doctrine and practice, no? Let us pay attention to church history to see how the Reformers turned on each other viciously, each one believing he was `defending the true faith’, while mercilessly ‘biting and devouring’ each other. Who, may we pray, will reform the reformers?

What would you define as a misunderstanding? For instance, while I agree that the CRI report should have been accepted with more humility, it failed to mention the true work of God done in GGWO (TBS at the time.) That gives a false impression of the reality of GGWO as you yourself well-know, allowing for misunderstandings by people who would like to label and slander us as a ‘cult.’

Please name a new church that wasn’t a spin-off of a previously affiliated one. Fredericksburg and Silver Spring, Maryland. Trujillo, Peru. Bunches in Africa I suppose. Turkey, the “istans”, India too.

In the rest of your letter, you quickly descend into what sadly appears to be a swamp of vitriolic sour grapes. While I understand that numerical growth (which I wasn’t necessarily even claiming) is not necessarily a sign of spiritual health, comparing the church where you were called, raised, loved, trained, invested in, fellowshipped joyfully with for years, where so many of your ex-friends and ex-colleagues still go, to genuinely demonic cults is going a bit beyond the pale. If you told me that Finger Lakes Christian Fellowship was growing, had an increased vision for missions and the lost, a joyful agape love fellowship, and an anointing of His presence in your meetings, I would simply rejoice with you, not throw rocks because my concept of church government may not be the same as yours. If we were as destitute as you apparently wish we were, why would not 1 Cor 12: 24-25 apply in your thinking, where God gives greater honor to the members that lack the most, “so there would be no division in the Body?” Your letter tragically shows neither genuine concern for any supposed fallen state of your brothers in Christ, nor an honest love and gratitude for a healthy recuperation from a very difficult time. This once again highlights the ugly truth about the dirty business of church division as pointed out by Paul Billheimer’s great truth in his classic book, Love Covers:

“No breach in the Body of Christ is ever caused primarily by superior knowledge, differing convictions, or divergent views of truth; but by one thing and only one- lack of agape love. Therefore, the only remedy will be found in growth of love, that is, authentic love for God. Mark this well: In any controversy over nonessentials, the question is not primarily who is right; not even who is most nearly right. The real question is: Is there sufficient maturity in the love of God to cover differences in nonessentials and unite the Body? Is there sufficient deliverance from idolatry of personal opinion to enable those of differing views to accept and fellowship with those whom God accepts? Can the Church understand that differences in nonessentials provide a means for practicing agape love? Can the Church comprehend that in God’s book, increase in agape love has supreme priority, priority over all other considerations?

What is even more tragic, disconcerting and appalling is how Christians can continue to “bit and devour” each other, as typified on this website and others, while Christians in the rest of the world are getting martyred at an alarmingly growing rate, while Israel and the Jews are more and more isolated and threatened by the world community, while human secularism and radical Islam are destroying what remains of Christian civilization. The widow of the Turkish martyr who was tortured, disemowelled, castraed before he died, forgave her husban's killers. It is pathetic that US Christians cannot forgive and get beyond their petty offenses and differences. I will attempt to end this on another excerpt from Billheimer’s book, which I would heartily recommend to anyone having gone through a church split, or much more, anyone contemplating starting a holy Christian bloodbath for the cause of “the correct doctrine,” “sin in the camp,” or “a just crusade.” This is an example of true Biblical and godly conflict resolution, in a letter-poem that Wesley wrote to Whitefield years after their long-standing quarrel, ill-will, and division provoked, in this case, by differences over a truly cardinal doctrine- Arminian vs. Calvinist views of eternal security.

Come on my friend Whitefield, since the strife is past

And friends at first are friends again at last,

Our hands, and hearts and counsels let us join,

In mutual league to advance the work Divine,
Our one contention now, our single aim,

To pluck poor souls as brands out of flame,

To spread the victory of that Bloody Cross,

And gasp our latest breath in the Redeemer’s cause.

Too long alas! - We gave Satan place,

When party zeal put on an angel’s face,

Too long we listen’d to the deceiving fiend,

Whose trumpet sounded- “For the faith we contend!”

With hasty blindfold rage in error’s delight,

How did we with our fellow soldier’s fight!

We could not then our Father’s children know,

But each mistook his brother for his foe.

”Foes to the truth, can you in conscience spare?
Tear them,” the Tempter cried, “in pieces tear!”
So thick the darkness, so confused the noise,
We took the stranger’s for the Shepherd’s voice.

Rash nature waved the controversy sword,

On fire to fight the battles of the Lord;

Fraternal love from every breast was driven,

And bleeding charity return’d to heaven.

The Savior saw our strife with pitying eye,
And cast a look that made the shadows fly,

Soon as the day-spring in His Presence shown,

We found two fierce armies were but one;

Common our hope, and family and name,

Our arms, our Captain, and our crown the same;

Enlisted all beneath Immanuel’s sign,

And purchased every soul with blood Divine.

Then let us again cordially embrace,

Nor e’er infringe the league of gospel grace;

Let us in Jesus’ name to battle go,

And turn our arms against the common foe,

Fight side by side beneath our Captain’s eye,

Chase the Philistines, on their shoulders fly,

And, more than conquerors, in the harness die.

…Then, when we served our God through fear alone,

Our views, our studies, and our hearts were one;

No smallest difference damp’d the social flame,

In Moses’ school we thought and spake the same,

And must we, now in Christ, with shame confess,
Our love was greater when our light was less?

When darkly through a glass with servile awe,

We first the spiritual commandment saw,

Could we not then, our mutual love to show,

Through fire and water for each other go?

…Ah! Wherefore did we ever seem to part,

Or clash in sentiment, while one in heart?

What dire device did the Old Serpent find,

To put asunder those whom Christ had joined?

From folly and self-love, opinion rose

To sever friends who never yet were foes;

To baffle and divert our noblest aim,

Confound our pride, and cover us with shame,

To make us blush beneath her short-lived power,

And glad the world with one triumphant hour.

But lo! The snare is broke, the captive’s freed,

By faith all the hostile powers we tread,

And crush through Jesus’ strength the Serpent’s head,

Jesus hath cast the cursed Accuser down,
Hath rooted up the tares by Satan sown,

Kindled anew the never-dying flame

And rebaptized our souls into His name.

Soon as the virtue of His name we feel,

The storm of strife subsides, the sea is still,

All nature bows to His benign command,

And two are one in His almighty hand.

One in His hand, O may we still remain,

Fast bound with love’s indissoluble chain;

That adamant which time and death defies,

That golden chain which draws us to the skies!

His love the tie that binds us to His throne,

His love the bond that perfects us in one,

His love, let all the ground of friendship see,

His only love constrains our hearts to agree,

And gives the rivet of eternity.

Until we all come to the “unity of the faith, and of the experiential knowledge of the Son of God, unto a mature man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,”

Bruce Moon

Comunidad de Gracia

México City