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Pastor Graziano

Dear Elders,

My heart is very saddened that I have arrived at this place in my relationship with the ministry I have loved for over 20 years. As I watched what should have been the conclusion of a legacy become a chaotic grab for power, I realized that there are deep systemic problems within GGWO.

As I attended the Sandy Cove meeting, I quickly saw that there are in fact two very distinct views about the future of this ministry. One view comes from a hermeneutic that elevates the Old Testament allegorical symbolism and nuances of authority and leadership above the clear Pauline instructions for plurality of elders and accountability in the New Testament church. This really became a disagreement regarding dispensationalism.

One of the men I interacted with in three different sessions was Pastor Schaller. I was surprised that he so strongly held this view. It would also seem that since he does hold this view, appointing him the new pastor in Baltimore would be a huge mistake.

We are pastors and elders, not kings, priests and prophets. We are servants and shepherds, not lords and rulers. While it is true that every believer in the Body of Christ is a king and a priest, the church government and leadership structure we should embrace is the ‘elder-led’ New Testament model. Under which there is accountability and exchange. The correct and clearly dispensational view balances the clear Pauline instructions with the caution of seeing God’s men in their proper place: among other men, but accountable and submitted to one another.

These two views have resulting in two very distinct factions in the church. This was very clear at Sandy Cove and is now even clearer. This is the crux of the current problem of division.

The view that holds tightly to the allegorical symbolism and nuances of Old Testament leadership and authority has prevented the current leadership from being held accountable for a number of sins. This view says ‘touch not God’s anointed’ while it smears everyone who holds legitimate concerns out before the leadership! About 66 pastors agreed that the practice of ‘marking’ other believers was an apostolic right and should not be practiced today. This same vast majority redefined their position about the office of the pastor, to one that is balanced and accountable among other elders.

We also realized at Sandy Cove that the current Constitution that GGWO has been functioning under is unbiblical. To state that the senior pastor can “only be removed by God” violates both Scripture and common sense. If the pastor has the right to veto what the elders do, then they are not really elders. The word for elders does mean rulers and overseers. The pastor may the first among equals but he can not strip the other elders of their biblical authority.

I understand pastor has been removed. Has the constitution been changed?

I now understand that a vote has been held and Pastor Roger Stenger has been elected by the Board of Elders to replace Dr. Stevens as the new pastor. Yet, rapps are being conducted by certain elders who are attacking their own Elder peers’ recent decision even after agreeing to abide by it. This is just unacceptable behavior. The elder conducting these raps should resign or be removed by the remaining elders.

It is imperative that another vote is held so that the two elders who abstained can decide whether or not to support Pastor Stengers appointment. What is needed now is unity and oneness. Natural parents know the value of presenting a united front to their children. It is unwise to show division to the Body at a time like this. The other two elders should engage.

I believe that Pastor Stenger is a tested, mature man and would do a fine job. I also believe that the Elders possess the biblical authority and practical wisdom to collectively make the right choice.

My fear now is that you will appoint him and the church will implode and splinter. Not just split, splinter. It is time for the division to end by the entire Board of Elders confidently and quietly abiding by the vote of the majority. Those who are now causing division must stop or be removed.

For the past two years, I have watched men shunned and attacked, including my own pastor. Three of the current elders have practiced slander against another elder without witnesses, and have marked other men. Some of you have been humiliated, not by Satan, or the ministries so-called enemies but by one another.

I have been called on the phone by two of the elders and rebuked for not abiding by some mystical ‘Greater Grace Doctrines’ that I was exhorted by at my ordination. They were referring to fact that I had disagreed (and still do) with the conduct of the Board of Elders and Pastor Stevens’ handling of the Lang situation. I assumed that those who ordained me expected me to conduct myself biblically.

This other issue of Elders exploiting Dr. Stevens in his weakness by running to him when the Board should make decisions in his absence is childish and wrong.

Our elders here in Seneca Falls have decided to change our Church’s name because of the terrible reputation the ministry has, not amongst her enemies but among sound, bible believing circles.

My suggestion is very simple. For the sake of unity, for the sake of the Body, for the sake of Pastor’s lifetime of work, for the sake of our missionaries and for the sake of our future, end the division now!

We have always believed in the necessity of a plurality of elders. We have also been taught that younger men must show respect and honor to the older men of God and not forsake their counsel.  Each of you has a right to disagree. You do not have a right to attack one another and cause these kinds of problems with division and slander.

The majority of the elders have voiced their decision - get on board and support the decision of the Elders or quietly leave. God will not honor attempts to circumvent His Biblically instituted government. He will not honor those who get into the office of pastor through manipulation and slander.

Please know that you are all in my prayers.

Resting In Him

Pastor Graziano