Q & A Meeting with Pastor Steve Wingfield and Elders – 4/8/15


Introduces meeting, shares Easter service attendance, reviews Brandon Milburn’s case.

Introduces the group leaders that are being targeted in this meeting, referring it as a FAMILY MEETING, shares an announcement will be made later, reads elders job description according to Christ, reviews Brandon Millrun’s sentencing.

” We found out as elders the, um, shortly before Brandon was arrested, Steve was contacted by one of the victims families, that’s when we found out. That’s when the eldership found out this was going on. We honored the request of the one family who came to us. That request was to keep them private, not to share their name. Steve is the only elder to know the name of that family. Steve has ministered to that family, we have not. We have prayed for the victims, but we have not specifically said we’re gonna go visit family A. They, they wanted to keep it private so we honored that. Also um, aah, we also we honored the request of prosecuting attorney. So when this happened, aah, Tyler Brown, who was the executive pastor at the time. Steve talked to the prosecuting attorney, their request was to make an announcement in the church setting from the pulpit. To, to make the announcement if anybody was a victim, know anything, that they are to contact the aah,, authorities. So we followed their advice. We followed, we did that and Steve met with, aah, a couple other small groups along the way, aah, shortly thereafter. So we’re cooperating in the legal process as we’ve been advised.

We also sought advice or counsel from Southeast Christian Church. Their advice to us was that, ‘you guys minister to the victims, you don’t go looking for the victims, that is the police, that is peoples job to, if there’s someones gonna come forward they’re gonna come forward, but your job is not to go out and look for the victims, not to have a parallel investigation, your job is to be there to minister to those families’.

**NOTE: ELDER STATES IN FIRST MEETING 4/1/15 THAT THERE WAS AN ONGOING CHURCH INVESTIGATION. SECOND MEETING THEY SAID THEY HAD NOT DONE A CHURCH INVESTIGATION. Elders statement from first meeting–“Church investigation is still ongoing but as of right now the only two boys who have come forward” quoted notes by Erica Williams 4/1/15]**

“Again we followed that advice, we thought, we sought the advice and we followed the advice. So all of that’s what’s happened in the first couple weeks, couple days actually of Brandon’s arrest. What we did as an eldership, and this is kind of where I believe that people are brought to our church for different reasons. Tyler Brown had a, ahh an administration background, school administrator background. So for him to come and re-visit the policies and the teachers we had in place, the safety and security that we put on our children in student ministries was, was appropriate. It was good to have him here and he was able to do that and…(got microphone) Okay, so, again the problem. From Tyler’s perspective, it was let’s look at our policies, let’s look at our procedures. Let’s look at the safety things that we do for our students. Let;s do that, we did that. We also had, ahh, training and the seminar to, aah, equp the staff, the volunteers on the issue at hand, aah, what Brandon was arrested for. So we’re trying to be aware of what’s going on, and trying to make sure that our staff, our volunteers are aware what to look for as far as well. So we’re doing what we think we can do, from a leadership perspective. Okay so that brings us to what we’ve been doing up until the first week of March.

First week of march we received a case study from an individual that made an accusation about what Steve knew…um, yeah, just made an accusation that Steve knew of Brandon’s, what Brandon was, was all about and he covered it up. Our INTERNAL INVESTIGATION, okay?
We found that there’s CLEAR EVIDENCE that this is a false accusation. Okay? We believe one hundred percent in the integrity of Steve, our senior pastor. In this matter, that we stand behind him, no doubt. Okay? As spiritual leaders of this congregation, and you as leaders of small groups, of celebrate recovery, of adult Bible, Deacons, we’re all in this battle. Okay? So we’re asking that you all stand with us, from a standpoint of praying for the support of the senior pastor, we’re praying for the victims aah, for the, for healing, we’re praying for the ministry of this congregation to continue to grow, flourish like it did last Sunday, with over 2100 people.
There are good things going on in this congregation. There is a hurt in this congregation.There’s no doubt about it. .. I’m moving off script here. This is the passion part, I’m a banker. Okay? I do numbers, I don’t have a lot of passion (laugh), I mean it’s just not in my character. Um, but we as a church, we have an obligation to lead, to do what’s right, to spread the Good Word, to preach redemption, to preach forgiveness. We have those obligations, we want to be the place where people will come and share. Dennis does a great job in his counseling. Karen and I came to this church almost ten years ago because of a hurt. Okay? This place is wonderful. Given the opportunity to, to allow you to heal.
Social media does not allow you to heal! In my opinion. You won’t see me on Facebook. (laugh) That’s just not my realm, I’m just too old. I admit it. I think I’m done. I will tell you one thing, I’m not done. Um, I trust Steve, I think when Steve is in the pulpit he teaches us the things that the Bible tells us to do. I think when,… I mean that’s it in a nutshell, Steve is our pastor. He is our spiritual leader. He’s not being accused of saying something wrong from the pulpit. You cannot say that he’s a bad preacher. A bad individual. Now you may say he’s a bad boss, I mean, shoot, I mean, I’ve worked for the same organization for 28 years, but I’ve had 15 portfolio managers, or investment officers changed just because, they went somewhere for more money, they want somewhere for aah, a better out look, they went somewhere for their mother to be better, they went somewhere because, quite frankly they didn’t like the direction of the, of the bank. It happens. People leave, but I get in this from a standpoint of, what Steve does. He preaches, he teaches, and thats what we want him to do. He’s good at it. I don’t know. I’m, I’m gonna ask Bob if you would say a prayer and then we’ll do a little Q and A.”
Says prayer.
Opens the meeting for questions and answers.
” I was wondering if you would repeat the reason that Virgil gave me today as to why we’re have the small groups instead of a large congregational meeting. I loved his answer and that’s the big thing that I hear everybody saying, ‘we should be doing this as an entire congregation,’ and to me that would be very chaotic. And I really liked Virgil’s answer”.
“Yeah that’s one of the reasons why we are doing it this way. Aah, first of all we were wanting to go to the children’s ministry and teenagers first. Aah, because there are some issues there that we don’t have to deal with here. But the stuff like child security, and so on, that we wanted to reinforce to those groups. But we wanted to have a meeting with the, with the leadership of, of the organizations that you guys represent, Deacons, Celebrate Recovery, Adult Bible school, aah, so on and so forth. We wanted to have a small group meeting with you all, aah that way you can hear it, aah, first. Aah then we’ll have, we plan on having any pick up meetings that we need to have, small groups.”
“Well, um, I am on social media [laugh], and I was going to share with the elders something that I found that seemed to be a bit of a bomb, um, from Peace Keepers ministries, Peace Makers ministries, I don’t know, Keith I’ll give that to you, I only have a few copies, sorry (handed paper). Um, but I shared one question and [showing paper with question on it], shared that question on social media, seemed to help a lot just that we all approach this all with love and concern and care for each other. I was hoping for that, but as were working thru hurt, as I am hearing a lot of questions and concerns from people that are in the church, no longer with the church, and, and maybe have never been in the church, this particular church. Um, everybody’s asking what is being done to help the people that are hurting? Are they being approached?
And is conflict resolution, um, is it being sought after? And just the healing, cuz there are, whether it’s misguided or not, there are people that are hurting and they’re very much hurting, and, and it’s coming out in an emotional way, that is, um, just acidic. So um, I’m not saying that they have, ahh, that they are in error to feel that way, they’re not. But I’m asking what is being done, or is there, are there any plans, there are a lot of people, I would venture to say close to a hundred or more, given what people are throwing out there. But anyway that’s my question.”
“From a ministry standpoint and ahh…Thank you guys for being here and thank you for serving. Aah,we have deacons, we have Celebrate Recovery leaders, we have Sunday School teachers and small group leaders, that’s that the aah, aah, those who are part of this family meeting. Um, so thank you for serving. And believe me I know some of the pressure you have if your in social media though, though I wanna be able to respond to that. I think the first question you, I think one of your main questions is are we, how are we ministering from a ministry standpoint? Let me try to share something.
When I became aware of, I’m trying to think of the term of the calendar, like two days before it went public, the victims, well victim, per one victim family called me and asked to meet with me and my wife and tyler Brown. And wanted to know, wanted us to know what was going on and that Brandon had been arrested and that this was going to be public in all venues. Their important request was of course confidentiality. You can imagine the pain of a family and these facts are out there in a public case, that this family was not aware of the situation until right before they went to the police, and it had been kept silent from those parents for years, 5, 6 years. So obviously they’re in that pain of why, why didn’t we know.
That was the same reaction I had and everybody in our leadership, why didn’t we know? Why didn’t we see this? Um, that went, that went public and the police went very public and they did it for a very particular reason and we championed the police, we know their role is ordained of God, and that role of making it public was so if there’s other victims they can come forward.
Here’s one of the challenges always in ministry, if I suspect somebody’s a problem, a counselor usually, there’s a rule of counsel not to insert yourself into being a solution to the problem, the person has to come to you. And, so even when the family came forward they said we can’t speak about the second victim family, we can only speak for our self, and they already have someone that they are speaking to, and they do not want us to reveal who they are.
So families, when they’re going through this, if you have any type of very hard thing that you’ve dealt with in your own family, families usually gather the family around and they’re very protective trying to work through their own trauma in their own way, choosing their own counselors.
We were given the strong counsel, not only by the family that came to us, that we could only minister to those who went forward to the police and that’s what our communication was. We want you to go to the police, then if we can help you minister we would be glad to. We were limited to only be able to minister to those who say, ‘hey, I’m a victim.’ That’s hard because if you have a suspicion, or as in the Facebook media realm, aah, at one time there’s 30 victims, there’s 20 victims, there’s 10 victims.
All we could do is allow the police to be the investigation, and I checked that out, aah, we called and asked for an update, to update our congregation, aah,as we got within a couple days of the sentencing we just said, ‘is there anything further we can do, ya know, to support the police and cooperate. And we would love any information so that we can tell the congregation what the facts are rather than whats being said out.
I’ve heard 8 victims being said very widely right now. And as of a week ago Thursday, aah, or a week ago Friday, the officer who did all the interviews that had been in the investigation, said there are two victims and that they have had no other victims come forward, in California, in Louisville, in St. Louis with the high exposer of putting this out, and it’s been visible with an open investigation for a year.
Others have called with worries that somebody might be a potential victim. But the police deal with those who are victims. So, I don’t know how many victims, and I don’t think those that say they know on social media are speaking from knowledge, they’re speaking from something other than knowledge. So, so it’s hard to minister to victims that don’t say that they’re victims. Or victims that maybe not part of the church that have ministries some where else. Um, and that’s hard. Um we were, We did, ah, one of our pastors did continue to visit ah, with Brandon, and minister to him in jail. But there was a condition that he was not to be a (pause), how should I say this, a; he was not to communicate to the church, we were not to accept what Brandon would say to a pastor who’s just there to be there for him. To him to be a source of authority of whats happened or didn’t happen.
So we do not know the number of victims. Other victims may come forward two years from now. Um, we don’t have knowledge of that, but only as a week ago Thursday, the detective, um, over the case, the update was there’s still two victims that have come forward and Brandon has confessed to those events that ended, started/ended with those victims in 2009, I believe the year was, thats a matter of public record. That’s details about the case.
For you all, I ache as a pastor when anybody is a victim of sin. What Brandon did is a horrible, terrible sin to take advantage, or a position of trust, with anybody. That, That’s a horrible sin, there’s no way to minimize that sin. Um, and that, that’s certainly a place where a lot of people, as it came down to judgement time, aah, to which he confessed, it moves from the alleged, to the confessed, to the sentenced.
This is not something for us to talk about every week or every month in our church when there’s an open investigation. Um, um, that’s the police’s role and they serve that role, I believe, very well. And I trust, and I, I trust the police, and have to trust the police in that their roles as investigators. Um, I love our church, I hate people that, I hate that people have to deal with the repercussions of sexual sin. Let me give up some pastoral advice. If you have been a victim of sexual sin, or you’re dealing with someone who’s a victim, now we, we communicate that. If anybody told me about a sexual crime I would immediately hotline and have done that in the past. And you need to understand that there are laws in the state of MO of mandated reporting and I am obedient to the law. And if I received an accusation of sexual misconduct by Brandon or anyone, I would immediately hotline that.
Now, here’s the challenge, if you have personally, or we’re dealing with people who have had sexual abuse in their past, here’s the two spiritual issues, this is a little spiritual counseling. There are two big things to deal with. One, that victim should not accept the shame of what was done to them. That’s a hard counseling issue when it’s a child or when it’s an adult. Sexual sin, you cannot accept the shame, you have to say that, that wasn’t me, that, was this person’s sin. I will not accept their sin. And there’s usually counseling (inaudible).
The second thing, and this is really hard from a pastor’s standpoint, this is biblical. The person who has been wronged has to wrestle through forgiveness of the person who has sinned against them.
Now there’s still legal consequences. The court case did not name the victim verses Brandon Milburn, it said the state verses Brandon Milburn. The state plays an important role. The Bible says that the state doesn’t bear the sword for nothing. It has a role, it has a God given role. So a victim, and if you have ever had sexual sin against you, not only do you have to get past that it wasn’t my fault, the other side is, I can’t keep trying to make the person who sinned against me pay and hold onto forgiveness or that acid can destroy you, including trying to make other people pay. I mean it’s just, unforgiveness is,… and that’s not easy for any victim. And if you’ve, if you’ve had to battle forgiveness in some things like, okay, I have to forgive again today, I have to forgive again today. And that’s a, that’s a battle. So praying for the victims and that, that they do not let unforgiveness help justice and judgement,.. and the courts is not unforgiveness.
Um, this is really hard when some people are very strong advocates in the area of child abuse that they name that they are a victim. It’s very important that they, um, that they work through that and not assume that everything has been hidden and everything has been… it’s, it’a a very hard thing for people coming form that perspective. So we got a lot of ministry, a lot of people are victims of sex abuse and we have to move people towards healing. Social media is a very poor place for counseling and processing through, um the pain and grief of sexual sin, um, shame and forgiveness. My filter on social media is if it doesn’t edify Christ, doesn’t glorify the church, it probably doesn’t need to be said. and….”
“I’m sorry, I aah, the teacher in me didn’t quite get the answer, maybe I didn’t ask my question clearly, about helping people that are hurting” [paraphrased]
Wingfield tries to understand question, repeating the question.
States his wife (a counselor) was available for about a month for anyone hurting wanting counseling after Brandon’s arrest. (paraphrased)
Validating Tracy’s point and explaining now a year later they will consider her requests for continued counseling.(paraphrased)
“The reason I’m a member of this church is because of Charles, Ruth and Steve. And there’s no more creative minister than Steve and the way that he delivers the message and it’s something, that I think we need to protect. I have only 3 questions and those are the ones that popped up, in, somewhat in the news paper and I don’t mean to say something… that there were two people involved and they said that Brandon was convicted of 7 attempts. So, that would be nice, only to just talk to the congregation that we look at something that are false things, for allegations, and, and make aware of them, like they said this is all, all started when they reported it and I don’t believe it. But they said they started.. allegations reported that… January of 2012, and they repeated aah, that Dawn Varvil, is, I say it right? (referring to Dawns name). Went and had a meeting with Steve in February of 2013. So the three questions are…I would, I would hope that we could answer those because I know what a wonderful church and the staff we have and if, of all the questions that are out there, I think that’s gonna be in somebody’s mind, if, if there are 2 or if there are 7? Aah, aah if, if, if Varvil really talked to Steve in February of last year, or it was reported to staff in 2012, not that I believe it, but it’s out there. And I think that maybe people with those questions… and I pray to God that we continue to support this excellent staff that we have. And aah, get rid of those thoughts in peoples minds, if I said that correctly?”
” So the seven counts.. two victims, multiple accounts, per victim. So that’a the, that’s how you get the seven or eight charges. Seven charges, two victims each of., each offense becomes a charge. Aah, yeah just two victims. Um, The the question about, um, t did Steve meet with Dawn? Steve and Scott Strandall, the executive pastor at the time did meet with Dawn, aah, so that meeting did take place.”

” I can answer that because that is a charge specifically against me that we are trying to address. And charges that um, and, what I want to describe as a false charge is that a parent came forward and told us about um, Brandon’s, Brandon being, having some sexual crime. Um, that is not an accurate representation. Um, we will be looking to make a formal statement to the whole congregation, um, but we want you to know that, that yes we had a conversation that we initiated, based on a rumor that was being said that was brought to our attention. We asked for the conversation, because we wanted to find out if there was any substance to it. In that conversation, um, the question was repeatedly asked if there was any sexual misconduct. Any kind of a sexual activity of any kind. And the person repeatedly said, ‘No, Brandon Milburn would never do anything like that.’

**[NOTE: STEVE W. STATES IN FIRST MEETING, 4/1/15, THAT THEY DID NOT DISCUSS BRANDON. IN SECOND MEETING STEVE STATES HE ASKED THE PERSON (Dawn Varvil) IF THERE WAS ANY SEXUAL MISCONDUCT OF ANY KIND…Steve’s statement from first meeting–“He also said he would not dismiss a parent’s concern about his or her child. He implied that the person who came to him either had an agenda of sorts or was a previous molestation victim and needed to lash out or hurt someone but, that person did not discuss Brandon Milburn.” quoted notes taken by Erica Williams 4/1/15]**

Our desire to meet with that family was to say that if there is something and there is a concern that you know about somebody else,your own family, we are here for you. That’s why we’re having this conversation. We would support you, we would call that in, we would support you in every way. That person did not leave that conversation in a negative way. Um, that is, that conversation is witnessed by me and the executive pastor who were present in that room. We also have a email from that person shortly after that meeting, that indicates that it was not ended in at negative way at all. She was thanking us for our counsel.

This is highly sensitive stuff, but it has been moved from the fact that somebody wants to make a charge. An outside person wants, a non-authorized self investigator wants to investigate the situation, if they demand to know what happened in a private conversation between two pastors and a parent from two, from three years ago, we do not have an obligation to communicate to that self appointed investigator what happened in that conversation. I,

I hope you understand that there was, we, if there’s a police investigation, that’s one thing. There is a very clear line that changes if the person we talked to makes a charge against myself or Scott Strandall, that is a false charge. We have a legal right, an obligation to defend ourselves. To say what happened in that meeting, and to say what is being said is not true. And we can demonstrate that with evidence, and we will do whatever it takes, um, to help that person to withdraw that false accusation.

I will say that those meetings have been happening privately, with efforts with everybody who’s made accusations. We have had opportunities to communicate, to respond, and try to meet with each of them individually. I can’t say that to this point we have met with success to get them to withdraw the charges. But I will say that in the next two weeks there will be more disclosure in terms of the public statement, and opportunity, that we look at, in terms of those outside the church.

I would agree with the statement there’s a lot of people talking about this. Um, and I have distanced myself from social media, other than, um, very minor involvement, to just make sure that my own site is not abused. But I can say that a lot of the people who are stirring a lot of this are people who have left the church, that have been gone for years and years. And for those of you who that even hurts and bothers, I would encourage you to limit your engagement because it is very toxic. And aah, it’s not, it’s not a legal process, there’s very little accountability. And anybody can say anything they want to say. Ya know we, and people can have their opinions. We certainly aren’t trying to control peoples opinions, or what they say or don’t say. But when accusations are false and made public then those have to be brought to aah, some attempt to try and press that.
So since you brought up Dawn Varvil, her name is, we do have the ability to now discuss that name, because she has made public those charges, and we do have a witness, aah more than one witness, in terms of two people that witnessed that that is a false charge. “
Encourages people to go through Celebrate Revovey (paraphrased)
” I think we’d all agree that um, probably what started these meetings was Kari Benton’s letter on Facebook. And so um, because she called for Steve’s resignation, I’m not saying that that’s necessary or that I’m calling for that in any way. But, um, when I started reading on Facebook I did listen. I didn’t speak a lot, but I did listened a lot. And I thought these may be rumors these may not be, so I’m gonna find out for myself, first account.
So I spoke with many ministers who had left and many families who had left, and elders who had stepped down, um, almost at the same time. And thought, ya know, this… I asked my husband a year ago probably, what is this big mass exodus of people form our church, why are people that we love and cherish as members form our church, um leaving. And I thought maybe they’re growing older, their kids are growing out of Sunday School, and maybe they left the house and they’re moving west, or ya know whatever.
But now, the accusation has come that it is one person that is causing this problem. And I’m not saying it is, I’m saying that that’s the accusation. And many first accounts that I have spoken with are saying have said that. I was wondering if, um, in order to help the situation if um, Steve, if…some of the accusations have been that your authoritarian leadership has, um, not allowed certain people to use their God given gifts in a way that, ya know, maybe they thought, and maybe it wasn’t right, but I’m just saying that’s what I’ve heard over and over from people I deeply respect, and miss that they’re not ministers at our church anymore. Um, I did not have strong personal relationships with them, so it’s not like I’m upset that they left because I miss them greatly. But I miss their ministry and their preaching, and their um, and the way that they helped my children and things like that.
So I was wondering, to answer that, um would you be willing, Steve, would you be willing to submit to Spiritual counseling, leadership counseling and emotional counseling? Whatever you wanna call it. Um, to a counselor that’s not related to our church, um, to maybe answer some of those accusations from multiple people who I know you’ve loved, I know that you have ministered with. These are not people that, fly by night people, these are people that have been here, families who’ve been here 20, 30, ya know 20 years, grew up with you, that have said, ‘I’ve spoken personally with him, I did what I thought the Bible asked me to do and nothing was resolved, and I felt released and that had to leave the church, cuz I could no longer worship there, um, under that type of leadership, so I was just wondering would you be willing to do that?”
” Sure, and your coming first of all, you are one of our small group leaders?”
“I’ve been a Sunday School teacher for two years.”
“So you’re with the children and we thank you for doing that. thank you for your serving as one of our custodians and that’s very appreciated. Um, I think one of the questions was am I willing to submit to spiritual counseling, or counseling outside of, not directly related to church. I have no apologies to share with this group that I have had a outside counsel in the past. Um, and that has been a benefit to me with different things through the years. Um, Christian psychologist and I encourage others that have environments such as ours, of, we have a rider, um I think it should be very transparent about this, we have a rider that I made sure was included in our insurance program, 15 years ago, when I was senior associate, I was the staff manager. I have not been the staff manager for um, for a long time since I’ve been senior pastor. But when I was the staff manager, senior associate, we put a rider on our insurance that any of our staff members could see an outside, professional counseling source, and that would be covered with a very, very small deductible. And aah, I mean it’s 10, 20 dollars a counseling session. And that’s the rider on our insurance, but because you are in a church environment, aah, I love Dennis, Dennis has been in our staff 14 years, he’s a certified marriage, he’s a licensed marriage and family therapist, aah, and he even received a lot of that, ya know, certification while he was he was part of our staff. Came to us with a masters. So all of our staff, there’s always that, do we go to one of our fellow workers or is there value outside, and yes there’s outside.
That’s another reason when the senior pastor goes to a conference, that aah, I and many of the mega church pastors use as an opportunity to network and form some accountability partnerships, for us to get outside counsel, and how we make decisions because are in a space, similar type of issues. Um, I will say that I have some very godly counsel, as I have gone through pain, I… There a three roles of our elders, oversee the congregation and see to its wellbeing, oversee their own eldership and see to its wellbeing, and the third is to oversee the senior pastor and see to its wellbeing. And in defining that I’m one set of elders ,but I’m also submissive to the eldership, and there are a number of times when decisions, recent decisions where I say, I’ll tell ya what I’m feeling, I’ll tell ya that I’m hurting, I need you guys to pray for me, but I also need you to guide me on this decision because I’m, I’m right here. So I think publicly the support of the elders and I have invited others to help me in the area of my personal health, um, and my own management of anxiety and stress, and I will continue to do that. And I thank you for that expressed concern for me.
I can’t speak for everybody that’s gone. And, aah, I think our focus really needs to focus on those who we love and have stayed. I think we actually need to celebrate, aah, the longevity of those that do serve, and not to assume that everybody has left negatively, or for bad reasons, or that somebody that wants to count every exit, and that those exits are all related to my leadership. Um, I’m gonna be a better leader and I have all sorts of flaws, and one of the reasons we have an executive pastor, and we’ve had very good people serve in that role, is so that I can stay focused over prayer and ministry of the Word, overall vision of the church, but I do not meet one on one with the staff, that is a responsibly of all our executive pastors. I try to be available to the staff, but the executive pastor oversees them directly.
Um, am I a dictator or those kinds of things? Um, I don’t believe that’s a fair charge, but, but, that’s not my role to manage the staff. I love our staff, I think we have a great staff now, it does make it on our staff to come, and the staff we try to hire, if those that stay maintain loyalty to those that leave. And I’m not saying loyalty, those that leave have reasons for leaving. There use to be a rule that when you left you didn’t, you didn’t return, do weddings and funerals.and… You let the new person establish relationships. The whole world of social media and staying connection, that’s kinda blown all the rules out. I’m not saying you need to unlike people when they leave, I say we need to love those who come, not compare them to those who have left. They have totally different gifts and have great experiences here many times. We gotta love the people that come. We are a mission field right now. It was easier for me to hire a youth pastor 25 years ago than it is today because some things in our community today. But we’re still doing an amazing ministry here, this is a mission field.So I encourage you to love the staff that we have, rather than look for things bad report from those who have left. And, man I would love for our churches to get bigger and bigger and nobody ever leave. That’s not realistic.
Um, I hope you will encourage people to love the ones that are here. And I’m thankful you’re here, I hope that any of you who are burdened through this, and believe me, I think you would not say that I’m overstating that there’s no one more burdened by the pain that is going on in church than me. Um, because the attack is very personal. But, I’m also very strong because I have very loving and supportive elders around me, and I am, I am getting support, and I continue to reach out for more. I’m committed to discip….to putting myself under others who can speak wisdom. And I pray that you’ll pray that I grow and be a better leader and I (inaudible). But thank you for asking the question. I believe it is rooted in your desire,… am I willing to, and am I, ya know, am I just a driven, ya I’m a strong person too. I have strong opinions.
But I’m submitted to Bob Farmer who is a excellent executive pastor, and we’ve had excellent executive pastors, that I still have very strong personal relationships that have served before him. That includes Dr.Tyler Brown that did an amazing job here. And I hope you realize the gift that he was to this church. And Scott Strandall who served before him, was an excellent executive pastor. And Dan Donaldson, who served here before him, only for a short period before going back to an opportunity that restored his family that was separated, um,did an excellent job. So “
“Yeah Steve, I struggled with this topic. I aah (inaudible), I raised the question, um, (inaudible) recorded it, and um, and it made it into social media, which I do not follow. I actually have a hard copy of, “Is It Enough.” I don’t read it social media, I hate it. I get enough of computers during the day. But the point that I raised was the question was, what is the root cause of the problem? Brandon Milburn can happen anywhere. The fact that it’s bared it’s ugly head again is an issue. I asked that question last week, Steve respond, and then I raised a question, why do we have such a mass exodus of, both congregation, volunteer staff and then as leaders for years and years. Um, and this is the difficult part, Steve said, responded, that um, people are mobile now, ferguson might of been an issue, people um, there’s loyalty issues, there’s these types of things.
Um, the next morning I received no fewer than 5 emails and contacts from those former ministers. Each of which indicated that they left because of leadership. Because they could not work with it, under that leadership. That was five, five people the next morning. They, these, this is the people that left. Now that’s, I mean, in this certain, that’s one, one, one point. The second point that I’m asking, um, and maybe this is standard operating procedure, I don’t know. But Brandon came from South Eastern Christian Church in Louisville? Our counsel is from Southeast, the same church, the same church right? Brandon’s mother is employed at that same church? His family goes to that same church? Is that a conflict of interest? It seems like there are ties to that church, it just…”
” Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky is one of the strongest, and um, actually very, a great model church. We have done leadership, we have taken leadership there for leadership training. They’re, They are well known around the country for their integrity and their ministry. They run about 28,000 on the weekend. And I don’t have any idea what their attendance was on Easter Sunday, but they’re a great church in Louisville, Kentucky. Um, the fact that Brandon, that was just his home church, was a reality, they were involved in an investigation. They’re a large enough church, they have internal counsel, it’s on staff. And um, they had the same investigation, in terms of public and media in Louisville because Brandon served here two years as an intern while he was going to St. Louis Christian College to get his associate degree, they hired him there as a graphics person for, I don’t know 9 months, and then he decided to come back and finish his degree at St. Louis Christian College for a 4 year degree. So he had an employment with them, and so they were also involved in terms of responding to media.
They simply volunteered to share any counsel, because when this became public we knew we had, aah, we were to communicate to the press. It was on channel 2, 4 and 5, 11 and 30, all at the same times, many of which, they kind of didn’t have facts. So they agreed that we needed to have immediate communication, but that we needed to um, ya know that they wanted to look at that, and they gave us that um, they looked at it and they said, ‘well you need to say that he’s the accused, not, not that he’s done this’. There’s certain thing that we need to be careful of because the fact that he’s arrested or accused does not mean he’s convicted. So, so it was a brief, but a very valuable and open, 4 people on their staff, um. communicated with Tyler Brown and I to say here’s what you can say and can’t say at this point, from a legal standpoint. We appreciated that free and wise counsel and aah, that served us, um, that served us at that time.
And, conflict of interest, aah. Brandon had no, he passed all background checks, he had no arrest before the time that he was arrested in 2014. And so, aah, and Louisville, and in the churches he served in California two years after he left us, there, there has been investigation, and to this point there have been no victims come forward in California or Louisville. But those churches, through their executive pastors have tired to stay up, ya know abreast of any developments. Um, so churches are linked in this but there certainly, aah, we don’t see that as a conflict of interest. We, we found it as a great service, because we were in a place we’ve never been before, and who do you ask? And we still need counsel, um, from legal standpoint, what to do ya know, what we can and can’t do as a church. What we can and can’t say publicly. I hope you respect what we just, we’ve never been there before. And I do appreciate, ya know ya did share in the other meeting, um, it does concern me that even if you’re not on social media that you share one night why 5 pastors would respond to you the next day. That’s kind of a little strange, but um..”
“Apparently they got, they were here…they heard through social media”
“We did have a person that became a self appointed secretary, [Erica Williams] and did put out, um, their version of that, one our meetings so it became social media, um, and we would rather that not happen because it’s just, we’re trying to talk to our church family not to social media. Thats why we, why we’re having these meetings. We will communicate in a way that will, will be translatable as an official statement there. But we really wanted to talk to those who are currently serving and loving and active to our church, before those outside the church get second or third hand.”
”How long ago did all of this happen, and, um did this take place at the church ?”
” I don’t know what we can share about that. The, I’ve heard form the police on that, and I have heard form one victim family on that. Um, but to discuss exactly, all the details, if that wasn’t put out in a public report by the police, I don’t want our congregation to be defining every crime. I want the victim that came forward and the victim that didn’t come forward to be in our church without diving into details of where this happened. Um, I don’t know if I’m talking, allowed to say more than that or not. Um.”
” I think it’s a good, I think it’s a good question, and I think with a little bit more clarity from our part we may get the answer to that. We just can’t say.”
” So we can say that, you can’t say right now that any of these thing happened on our church property? And how long ago did this start, the whole thing start? “
” My knowledge of where these events happened I have heard from the police, um, look, there is something called case net, aah, St. Louis Countly police case net. If you wanna pull that up you can it will tell exactly when the events took place, the public record, and I’m going from memory so, I’m not trying to be the police, I believe it was June 2009, 6 events on June 2009, June 1st, and then one event on October first 2009. So there were 7, there are 7 counts with two individuals. Um, I can say that one of the things that we can improve in our own policy, that our polices were not violated, there was no one failed a background check or that kind of thing.
One of the things that we can improve in our policy, and this is the children’s meeting side of (inaudible), is we don’t have any directed policy of how somebody relates to people outside of the program. There are those rules in schools. Tracy, you’re a teacher, you loved your students but your didn’t friend them on Facebook. Why? Because there’s rules that teacher don’t cross that personal boundary. We don’t have the policies, there a little bit unspoken, and we need to figure out how to help people because these actions did take place, because of relationships beyond the immediate program.
And aah, and we need to develop those policies in such a way, because it’s not just the protection for the child, it’s also protection for the sponsor or the well meaning person that gives somebody a ride home. They need to have two people in the car if they take the person home. We got all the, we gotta have at least two of the classroom rules.
But, but we think we need to, aah, and we have asked, we’ve asked even the, aah, the prosecuting attorney, help train us better, give us more rules, give us some information, help us, how often do we need to teach about mandated reporting, and does that mean sponsors have to mandate, we know pastors do, but what about sponsors, or committing to report too, to report.
There’s some things, We got some work to do there, because, again it’s the relationship we have, we …, a sponsor, or a child, you might love that child that you relate to but if you take them on a camping trip, or again, how do you, you have a relationship, you build a church, but how do you carry that on outside the church, and there are limits that we need to. And coaches, I mean, not that we are all gonna do something bad, but we also need to be above reproach so that we don’t have a, an accusation made against somebody. It looks bad where it’s concerned.
Um Vivian, I would love to disclose a lot, and you know how much I love you, and um, but we don’t want to go beyond what we should share that we heard from a victim, not made public record. “
(inaudible)” I understand…So what I can say from my heart is that we as a church, pray for our minister and pray for the staff because that, those people who need, and Steve really needs the prayer. If anybody’s hurting it’s Steve. And so we should let our hearts and prayers really go out to him and put our arms around him to give him the hug and the prayers, [AMEN] and everybody else, nobody else shouldn’t matter because there not going though what you all are. [AMEN] And you, the ones who gives the messages on Suday that’s beneficial for us, so.”… [CLAPPING]
“Thank you mama Leopold.”
…”and I love you. Okay, I’ve been here for 25 years and I (inaudible), anything I’ve never heard in this church that has gone, when you can go to the church for that long and you don’t hear of anything, or any discrepancies, and stuff like this, Hey there has to say theres something good about the stuff”. [CLAPPING]
” Thank you for your prayers, and for those of who don’t know, I finally called mama Leopold, and in any spiritual battle this is a woman I would, I would count on my side, who’s always been on my side. And Thank you and I’m praying for you too.”
” Steve, aah, you talked about the meeting with Dawn you had in 2012, and you said how it ended on a positive note. Aah, I just wanna ask, I have two questions. This is the first one. Um, what is your response to this idea that’s going out there that Dawn, after leaving that meeting went to the house of Doug and Tamy Lay, and disclosed with them that that meeting did not end positively and that there is possible intimidation or accusations made against her. Um, what is your response to that?”
“Well Jeff, thank you for being here tonight, as you were in our last meeting and raised questions. And, um, and I am , I can answer that question this way. You have brought up Doug and Tamy Lay’s name in this and your bringing parts of Dawn Varvils accusations into this meeting. There is one thing that we need to deal with about Dawn Varvil and Doug & Tamy Lay at this time and that is that a charge was made, that, that we were brought information that Brandon had committed some type of sexual activity that that was brought to us. That is a false charge. That’s what we have to say about that. What she says that she said to somebody else, um, I can, I can demonstrate that Dawn did not leave that meeting in a negative way, and there is a witness that, his name’s Scott Strandall. And beyond that point um, yes Doug and Tamy, though Doug Lay has made, aah, a charges in a long document, I think there are other elders in the room, the elders can speak to some of the ways that were addressing the charges by Doug Lay, who, um, and I would suggest, possibly, Bob, or those who have talked with Doug, even in this week, um, can address the Doug Lay question. Did I answer your question?
Um, yeah. Um, But my second question, and I guess you might of slightly answered this already in your response to the first one, is have you personally been in contact with Dawn, Doug, Tamy, or even Titus Benton, um, about all of these things. I know that there’s…”
” I’ve had 3,4 email correspondences and a phone call to Dawn today. Aah, we’ve tried to meet with and are still trying to meet with her directly but there have been, aah, yes, there have been communications with, um, the parties that you’ve named. Not all the communication of Doug Lay, Titus Benton, Kari Benton and Dawn Varvil, none of those people came to me individually, privately, with a phone call, email, um to make charges before they made public charges to multiple people. So, we’re, we’re having to deal with, um, we’re having to figure out how to respond when things begin by being communicated to groups. But, aah, to the question of Doug Lay, I would invite any of our elders to address kind of where we are with an existing Sunday School teacher making this accusation.”
“Yeah, I’d like to speak to that, so aah, like Steve said we’ve reached out to each one of these individuals, aah, and tried to come up with some reconciliation. Um, it was clear that we weren’t gonna reconcile and aah, so we’ve asked Doug and Tamy Lay to step down from teaching, and we did that on Tuesday of this week. Um, three elders, aah, Keith Vehiwald, Eugene Strojghann accompanied me, aah we asked, Doug and Tamy Lay not to teach anymore.”
” This question’s for Steve. First of all thank you for the opportunity to meet, aah, I appreciate, aah, this forum. Um, I seem to be getting a little bit of a conflicting message tonight in how we, um, are to be, how you are suggesting we are communicating with families, um, staff members, deacons, um who have left the church. Um at one point you had suggested, um, because of the negative, aah, messages that are out there on social media that it’s, that it might be best for us to disconnect from some of that. Um, I may have misunderstood that, I can see by the look on your face.
Um, But I also heard the message to love the ones that are here, and, um, just hoping you can provide some clarity. The, um, the concept of love the ones who are here is what built the loyalty, and the friendships, and the trust, in um, the staff members that have left. Um, when I arrived at this church I very much, um, found friendship and counsel from staff members. Um, and became very close friends, and continue fairly close friendships with many of those people, who are, are now gone. And felt like I was following exactly the suggestion you gave tonight which is to love the ones that are here, but in the process of loving the ones that are here we built lifelong friendships. That, um, regardless what the reason was for them to leave, um, we still hold on to those friendships and those relationships. Um, Still respect those people, still trust them very much, um, and it’s difficult. It puts us, um, I put myself in the category of people who are hurting, that Tracy mentioned earlier, of having some confusion, of…I thought I was doing what I was suppose to do by loving my staff, the church staff, and plugging into them and getting counsel from them and building those relationships.
And now it, it feels a little bit like, um, they’re gone, so lets take our focus off of them and put our focus on our current staff, which, and I see what you’re saying there, but, I think you can see the struggle where, where we’re at, because of those relationships that we formed previously. And now, um, with the accusations and um, the mess, and how to respond? “
“So let me see if I can reflect, your question is, how do you love the ones that are here, but the ones that are here as they disappear or they go into other ministries, and you’ve got relationships there, how do you, how do you deal with, when there not on the same page as us, or they’re…”
TIM ARNOLD:   ” Exactly’
” Something like that? Um, first of all I’ve had a lot of affirmation form staff who were part of our ministry in the past that are not here now. And to suggest that all to them who left that are negative is an unfair representation of, I’ve been on staff 28 years, and I’ve been part of the church since I was 10, and I’m 53, so I’m kind of a, I ‘m pretty old and that’s, that’s a long time. So I gotta a lot of relationships with a lot of staff that leave that is very personal, very close, and the majority of that is, and over 28 years of being on staff, that’s a, that’s a long list of people. And the majority of those that maintains, I continue to, aah, see them places, I’ve done, met them on vacation, there’s aah, there’s great mentoring relationships, aah, still with people who have served under me in the past, that have changed as they have moved from, for example, Sean Moyer, from my student pastor, who mentored Titus, to now he’s a senior pastor of a church of 3,000 in Denver. And he’s been one of my greatest encouragements and counsels, and tried to, to help some people that he has influence with.
So there’s a lot of people with a lot of people with a lot of relationships, and one of the things that it’s hard for me is my phone’s been blown up with messages. A lot of them are negative, but the majority of them are very, very positive from people that have been here in the past, speaking their support, letting them know they’re praying for me. And I cherish those relationships a lot, even though the people… some people that… there’s people that have been here for years that it was positive in our working relationship. But when they left, maybe the last 6 months there’s some issue that they left over, I hope that anybody that left for negative reasons, with time, will choose to focus on the many years that were good and great, and the relationship was great. But that’s a forgiveness and a restoration issue that we have to work on, again people part ways. People part ways not just because of, Ferguson came, I do believe that it in impacted a couple of our leavings.
I will say that and I will stand by that. I think sometimes a person outgrows the position that they’re in. Um, there’s other significant opportunities other places. I think there’s financial reasons some people move. I think there are school reasons. And I think there sometimes they don’t like the leader, or they don’t, they’re not in agreement with the vision the church clearly casts. Um, I don’t define everybody’s ministry plan, but I do define with the elders, their vision. So there’s always, there’s always key times that that will be affected. I love our staff that I’ve worked with in the past.
The majority of those I have had excellent, and still maintain excellent relationships with. If, if, if they choose to str…if they choose to express their struggle, and some have, um ya know, I wish they’d come to me first, and I wish they had a opportunity to defend an accusation out there before they express their opinion widely, but.. It’s hard stuff, we’re in a hard season and um, Tim I love you, and I love your wife and it’s a joy to see your daughter up on um, aah Satruday, Christmas Eve, and I know you’re very proud of her. I know it is hard. I know some of those staff member that you have personal relationships with, and I love them too, even if they don’t love me back. I love them, I love a lot of people (inaudible) the past.”
I’lll continue to work on a personal level to support people who left in the past, to, and I’ll see everything I can do to reconcile with them.
“I just wish to reference, um a separation of a few leaders, as far as I can remember, that happened approximately 2000 years ago. That was between to great leaders, Paul and Barnabas. They had differences of opinion. They did not leave on particularly good terms, but God used that for people who go in different directions and further his church where they were. And so some of these things that I hear referenced about (inaudible) and differences of opinion (inaudible) and I ask us to keep that in mind. “
“I’ve heard through social media, that Doug Lay, who works at St. Louis Christian College, that the funding for St. Louis Christian College from Paul’s [Wingfield] church, your brother’s church was withdrawn. Is that correct? And was this just recent? That, that, the timing seems very unusual, that’s all.”
” Are you asking if the church where my brother serves in South County, White Flag Christian Church, has recently changed in their financial support to St. Louis Christian College? “
“Yes! I was informed of that after that decision was made by the eldership there. And it was stated simply that they love the college, and the mission of the college, and, but because a professor at the college is making an attack on a local pastor and damaging the bride of Christ, that they were going to cease support until, um, they wanted the college to be aware of that if they weren’t aware of that. And um, I don’t think that’s a permanent decision, I think that was, that was not a decision that I would have encouraged, or asked for. Aah, we have not reduced our support of St. Louis Christian College, we are, if not the top supporter, um it is our top mission that we support of all of our mission colleges. We believe in the mission of St. Louis Christian College. Um, one of our elders is the chief financial officer at St. Louis Christian College. Um, we love St. Louis Christan College. We believe in their mission, we’re behind them one hundred percent. And there’s a little bit of debate, by the way, just a little history, ask Lassie Ulehmeier.
Sometimes St. Louis Christian College says they started us. Lassie would say, “uh-uh, we started them.” But, we started close to the same time, there’s been a tremendous partnership. Aah, I love the college, um we have, um, our leadership communicated with the college, they we’re about to aah, meet with Doug Lay. Um, that wasn’t my communication. Um, they are aware, but they have their own processes that we are not trying to control or manage. We will not strong arm, or threaten St. Louis Christian College in what we would like them to do or want them to do. We don’t have a ‘we’ on the eldership of St. Louis Christian college oughtta do. We love the college, we plan to support the college. We support the leadership of St. Louis Christian College. We support Gutrie Veach. I ran with him, and your son, um, the last part of the marathon, and aah, your sons a lot faster than Guthrie Veach.
I support Guthrie Veach in his role as president, I support Mike Chambers, a member of our church who’s the academic dean. And I think they have a difficult task. Um, they did not ask their professor, English professor, to do what he’s chosen to do. So, I hope that, I love St. Louis Christian College, and by the way I love my brother Paul, he is an amazing leader. Aah, our church had a tremendous, I don’t know what our count is, I think possibly 2100 without kids, we need to add the kids and teens, they count too. I know they had over a 1000 in their Sunday service at White Flag Church. they had over a 1000 in their Saturday service for Easter, so I don’t know what the count is, but they’re a great church. I respect their leaders decisions. It was made independent and in, if they had sought my counsel, and my brother doesn’t listen to me, I would, that would not have been. But I support, I support their gesture and their concern. And I love that church, and I love my brother Paul, and I support them a hundred percent. “
” If you don’t know me, um, I came here 2005, after a two year bout of aah, drug addiction. And aah, I came here looking for a place for Richard, because I was a single father at the time, and I wanted a place where I knew that he would grow up with good morals and be taught the right things, and to be led in the way of God. And aah, most of what I had learned at that time had been form the radio, KSIV, James Dobson, and, ya know, all the great teachers that are on that station. Um, so I wanted him to grow up in that. And when I started looking around at churches, this fit the bill, because every class is a age appropriate class. And when I walked into the children’s area, kids were lit up, and they were having fun. Um, that was 2005, when I started walking around the church to try to get to know people, it was aah, a real big church, ya know? (inaudible) I’d come to listen to Charles, he tells a good story. Um, it was in this room, I walked by those doors when Steve Lata came out and said, “Hey, what are ya doing?” And I looked there’s a big buffet of food. And I said, “I was just about to leave,” and he said, “Well, there’s Bible Study and you’re welcome to come, we got coffee, food.” And they had a spread. I said, “Okay.” It seems like a good idea. And that’s a (inaudible) of people. Um, some of them are still here. Um, all this to say that, that’s where the cookie started to crumble. After, aah, Michael Frost left, nobody knew what was going on, and there’s a whole bunch of questions, we had one great big meeting, and I got to talk to one elder, and the reason he left was because he was spending money. And aah, he was spending too much money. And, I said okay, I can take that. And then Titus and Chris left, and several elders left, and friends or whatever left, then a whole bunch of other families left at, around that same time. And, I’m (inaudible) a lot of people asking the same questions and praying, what do we do? Ya pray for your pastor and you pray for your ministers, that’s all you can do right? Seems like I’ve been praying for 6 years. And I keep seeing the same thing happen over and over and over again.
You, sir, are in denial that you have a problem. Coming from an addiction I can see that. And also having been a great liar, I can see that in you. Because from the people that I’ve known and people that I’ve built relationships with here, those that have left, I would believe them. Because there’s ten and twelve and eighteen of them, and there’s you. I’m not here to bash you, I love this church, I can’t leave this church because of my son, because he doesn’t wanna go. Because he loves this church. But we keep seeing the same thing happen over and over and you do this really good job Steve, you get this swirl going, and you talk for a long time and all of a sudden people go, ‘what the hell just happened?’
I don’t know how to put my hand on it. I, I , I don’t know what we have to do but there’s a problem here Steve. And to say that, ‘hey I go to these great counsel sessions every once in a while’, man you are in denial. I love you like a brother, but you have to stand back and look at everything that’s gong on. You can’t make me believe that (inaudible), over everything else that I’m saying, over everything else that I’ve seen. As far as the accusations, again, Ive been, for known Dawn Varvil for 4 years, use to babysit my kids for two of those years. She was in our Bible study when we were at the Clancy’s house with Jim Taylor, okay. I know and love these people. They don’t lie. She wouldn’t make this up.
She went to you and she told you what she saw and thought this was a bad thing, She didn’t see anything sexual, but when you see something that looks bad you tell the people in charge, right? But, yet you say that’s not what the conversation was about, she left on good terms and you have no idea why she would go upset to Doug and Tamy. And now you’re gonna get rid of them too.
I don’t see how you can continue, ya know, one of the weirdest things in celebrate recovery that you learn insanity is when you do the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different results. Do you really believe everything you.. Like I said, I love you but I can’t believe everything you say. “
“I hear you Rich, I love you, I love your sisters and your brother (inaudible), and I hope that you’ll work through that. Um, I don’t agree wight the things that you said, but I hear you (inaudible). I didn’t hear a question but I did hear what you.”.
” I guess the question is what are we gonna do? What are we gonna do? Something has to change. I mean, from my understanding and from talking to all the elders that have left you’re the decision maker. The elders don’t really do anything besides say yes. And those that didn’t say yes were rushed out the door.”
“Well, let me say something, what has the church done for you? If you meant anything in the 5, or whatever years you’ve been here, then you should be able to transport some of these things over to your son, and then when bring your son to the church, and then they finish teaching them what you can’t teach them. So, I would not stand up here and tell you that Steve is in denial. He doesn’t owe us everything that has gone on. Like he said, some of those things are confidential, that they could not put out. So I think you owe Steve an apology. “[LOUD CLAPPING]
” And I think to refer to the elders as ‘yes men’ is pretty presumptive on your part.” [LOUD CLAPPING/YELLING OUT @ Rich]
” Well, you know there are a lot of things that you’re throwing up here, Ya know we’re taking about the Brandon thing, we’re talking about the people leaving, just hang on a second. When we talk about people leaving, transparency is a great thing as long as it’s not about you.” (yelling)..
RICH RAYNES:   “You’re absolutely right, how transparent are then? “
” Right? And the people who left here have left for reasons. Now you can blame Steve, but there’s two side to every story.”
(yelling) “That’s right, that’s why I went to hear the other side. Because for years and years..”
” You went to the other side, but you didn’t go to my side. Because I can tell you the reasons, I’m not gonna besmirch the reputation of men that I love. And there’s reasons why they left. It’s not sin, it’s not anything like that, but there are reasons that they left. And you’re starting with Michael, and I can give you a list there. I’m not gonna do it. I do love Michael. He’s not here now. Ya know, I’ve had ten jobs in my lifetime, I’ve had 3 people that were really difficult to, to work with. I mean they were tyrants. I left, I didn’t say anything bad about them. I can still say they’re a friend of mine today.
And I left and I moved on. When people have to be talking about a place when they were here 2, 3, 4 years ago, what’s wrong with that? That’s not, that’s not even right. Move on!! I think all we can do now is move forward, because what we’re doing here is, we’re talking about filling the great commission, we’re trying to reach the lost for Christ, we had over 200 people baptized here last year, find another church in this area that’s even close. The Gospel is being preached here every Sunday. Steve is not in sin to the best of my knowledge. Those are two qualifications for a minister. So I think that…”
” No, let me, let me ask a question? How long have we been talking about doubling and deepening? “
STEVE WINGFIELD:   (in background) “That’s on our current…”
“Yeah, we’ve talked about doubling and deepening. We always wanna double and deepening
Why? How do you keep doing it if you keep chopping off the roots? “
ELDER: What are do you doing to help?”
“I told you what I did with … why would I come to a group of elders when I know that the elders keep on saying the same thing. If it doesn’t agree with what Steve has to say then I’m sorry you’re wrong!”
ELDER:  “Well,”
”That’s what they, That’s what everyone’s been told.”
ELDER:  “Ya see”
“The problem in the, I’m sure with lots of people don’t know me and are going, how can you say these things about your church, about your pastor. Well, I lean more on the side of truth then I do anything else, right”
VIVIAN LEOPOLD:   “Since you don’t wanna know the truth then you…”
“We’re not gonna start going back and forth, that will be very unproductive quickly, and it’s very disrespectful to our, to the staff that is here. I’m not gonna have anyone talking this way and that way. Please direct your questions to the elders.”
” I have a couple questions, one will Doug Lays form be addressed, point by point, will we know exactly what the accusations were (inaudible). Um, my other question. or actually comment has to be with what Rich was saying. I have a list here of 50 people who have left the church, who are close friends of mine. Basically, Faith Builders class that I started with here 15, 16 years ago. Steve Lata, Dave Emanualle, Scott Seppelt, most recently who came and talked to you Steve and, and spoke some very hard words. And I know that they were hard for him, I know they were hard for Steve, but he thought they needed to be said. Um, we could have had another 400 people here last Sunday, but these people felt that they had to leave because there was a wound that just has not been healing here, over the last,
I don’t when the date was when Titus and Chris and Michael started the big exodus. Um, I’ve contacted everyone one of these people and asked them, ‘why did you leave:?’ Two of them would not respond back to me, and one of them I suspected is for legal purposes. Um, only one of them told me that he left because he loved a different mission more. Every one of these people have said to me that they no longer have faith in Steve. I have stayed here, I’ve been a champion for Steve and asked people to pray for him, and to try and be reasonable and to look at his side as a, aah, leader of our church.
But I also have to say that their have been many things said and many things happen over the last several years that we get through a phase, we’re devastated, we see people leave, we’re upset, we pray, we try and get through it. Things settle down, things calm down. Six months later it happens again. Why? We get the same answers. Six months later it happens again. We get the same answers. I have been on social media, I don’t have a chance to talk with a lot of people at different times. And these are my friends.
Um, I know there is one person on social media right now that were critical because she’s not revealing here identity, and I think there’s a reason, but what she’s saying is not untruth. Um, I just, I feel like, Steve, you’ve got two options at this point. One was suggested that you leave and part of me sees that for your your family… I’ve cried on your mom’s arms, I’ve cried on your daughters arms, because I know that this is so horribly painful for them. Um, but I know on the other hand too, that, we as a church, none of us are perfect, and we want reconciliation, we want our church to function. We want it to be effective, but one of my dear friends that..”
(interrupts Barb mid sentence),” Barb, I love you, but you brought my daughter and my mother into the conversation. If you have a question I can try to answer that, but I have to answer whenever my family is brought into the conversation. Is there a question? Um, I love you Barb, you’re one of the most servant-hearted people that I know, you care about people beyond yourself, and I love for you that. Um, I love you even if you did nothing in this church. I can answer the question, I do need to respond to your comment about my mother and my daughter. But is there a question so that when you can deal that, we need to wrap up our time. Is there a question?”
” How do we keep this pattern of these people from repeating itself in six months? There all .. one of my comments on Facebook was, ‘why am I bringing this on Facebook?’ My comment was if asked 50 people why they left and they all give me a different reason. People leave church, like you said for a different reasons”
( interrupts Barb mid sentence) “So, how do you change, this is your question, moving forward? If that is your question I would love to answer that. Because one of my tasks is to lead. And so, I think it important for leaders, and to suggest, not everybody will follow that leadership (inaudible). I trust that you love my mother, and I trust that you love my daughter. My mother and my daughter were both, have expressed to me, they’re my mother and they’re my daughter, they’ll talk to me. That they have, that they did not, they we’re not comfortable with your hug. They both expressed that, because this, they loved you, and they love you, and they wanna love you. But you are attacking and loving at the same time. And it’s hard, it’s that’s hard. Um, because they want to love but yet they feel like you’re wounding at the same time. So I can speak for my family that my family is hurting and is wounded, and is hurting by people that they have loved for a long time but they naturally should want,
I mean it’s just a natural thing, they’re going to want to defend me, and they’re going to be hurt when you hurt them, or hurt me. You’ve hurt me Barb. I love you, um, you posted on my sight, aah yes you are very good at social media. I have dealt with very little with social media, but one of your comments aah, tagged all of these people, which invites their name and all of their friends into the conversation. And that is, you were seeking their response on social media. Um, and I believe as of this evening, and the last time I checked, I don’t read all of your stuff, I don’t regularly go on your page but there were 140 comments. And, if we need to work out our church issues on social media, um, that would not be the leadership that I’m providing the church. If you are trying to provide that leadership, I would provide a different leadership. The leadership does need to answer for this situation.
We do have the 7 elders in this room, and they can, aah, I thought we would have a shorter meeting, basically answer questions one on one that… instead of a public setting. I do encourage you Barb to consider that their is a value, yes, anybody can say anything that they want to say on social media, and I have sent you a private message, asking you to, um that I believe that you kind of waffle at times between support and wanting people to express themselves, and I think there’s room for people to express themselves. Um, but I still believe, whether it’s social media, or whether it is, the scripture says let no unwholesome word come out of talk, but only those things that are beneficial for building up others. And so that filter, I have post that scripture, my wife has, um, Janet Ross has, and these are godly women that I think are handling the situation in a different way. And I think that there is a responsibility for us to filter what we put out in public. And it is the wild, wild West in social media. There aren”t, there aren’t any rules there.
Slander, aah false accusations, and artificial websites, threats to my family on Facebook messenger. These things move in the area of fraud and these things move in the area of personal harassment. There is accountability for those things, it’s never immediate. Um, but there’s things outside ya know that I just ask for God’s protection, and I have aah, again, I have been transparent with those things with leaders around me. Um, I will continue to love you Barb. You can’t, you can’t make me so mad I get mad at you. We’ve had conversations where we didn’t agree on things in the past. I do not agree with um, what I believe was well intentioned decisions that you have made on social media. Um, and I have to say out loud to this group, I forgive you personally for the pain that you’ve brought into my life. And I will continue to love you. And I hope you will forgive me for anything that I have done that has brought pain into your life.
I did not go into ministry, I am not here now to hurt people but to serve people. And if there’s ever a time when I feel that I’m hurting the congregation,not people that are not a part of our congregation, if I believe that I am not honoring Christ, if God gives me a call to another ministry I’ll follow that call. But He’s also given me a call not to leave when the church is hurting. I will not abandon the church. I love the church. Um, I hope my current staff supports me. I hope the current elders support me. I hope you’ll, you will. If you’re on the fence, find the place that’s a little more predictable, um and then, then if, then it, then it feels okay when my daughter to accept a hug when she’s not afraid that you’ll hurt her the next day. And my mother as well. I love my mother, she’s an awesome lady, she’s an awesome servant, and..”
BARB KRUSE:   ” I actually said that”
STEVE WINGFIELD:   “SaId what?!”
BARB KRUSE:” That when we hugged today, gave her a hug today”
” I have said what my mother has expressed to me in tears. And my mother’s a very rock solid woman. She sees you say something positive, then she sees you do other things negative and it’s just a double message. And that makes it really hard to know how to receive love if, if, if it’s not consistent and it’s not unconditional. And yes my mother’s hurting. But she’s also a very strong woman, and she does not hold grudges, and we all make mistakes. I have made mistakes and I will continue to try and grow through the mistakes that I’ve made. I will continue Barb, I promise you, um to live and examine life and continue to grow. I ask you go forgive me if I have hurt you by the things I’ve said tonight.”
“Okay we’re going to let Joe Mueller speak and then I’m gonna ask Eugene to close us because it’s quarter after ten”.
” I’m gonna say just one thing, aah so I’m sorry to interrupt (inaudible). Um, I’ve been here for longer than Michael was here, I’ve been here longer than Chris was here, I’ve been here for longer than Titus was here [CLAPPING], not one person has asked me why I’ve stayed, so that’s just something worth considering while asking why many people have left”. [LOUD CLAPPING/ LOUD CHEERING]
EUGENE STROJHANN: {closing prayer}