Houston Church Open Forum
March 9, 2003
(Notes from a current member)
I'd like to share my heart, as there were definite good and troublesome things that came out of this meeting. I will use names of only the people on staff, all others will be anonymous. I really am trying to write this without a slant. Please forgive me if I misrepresent anything that was said or done. This is my perception.
We started out with a BAPTISM. Business as usual, and an interesting first lesson to hear and to remember for your baptism day. The congregation was fired up, and clapped, giving 3 standing ovations total. Next was a prayer, and then a power point presentation of the list of grievances that had been collected from smaller forums this past week at the homes of deacons.
Then, M.B., a former elder of 2 years and board member of 5 years, stood and addressed the congregation. He personally confessed and took responsibility for many sins of omission over the years. He said many times as an elder he went along with and condoned things that were man-made, and that was wrong. He should have been a shepherd for us, and was not. He also said over the years on the board, he signed many resolutions to send money places that he was not 100% sure about, but did not ask more questions, didn't make sure that God's money was being used appropriately. He then begged for our forgiveness. (later in the meeting, Doug Wens, our evangelist, clarified that for any of us not understanding what was on M.B's heart, saying that "we don't want to throw gasoline on the fire when M said signing resolutions about money--he was talking about money to go to LA to support staff and support LA buildings. I don't understand why he negated M's conscience).
Next up was J.H., an elder for 2 years. Sobbing, in a low and humble voice, he spoke, I feel so ashamed looking at that list. Seeing so much hurt and anguish that people have put up with-waiting for God. You are my flock that I was supposed to look after...I am sorry. I feel the heavy hand of God...please forgive me...
Next up was the Southwest Sector Evangelist Peter Sterling, on staff since 1997, (through sobbing and lots of sniffling-even made a joke about relating to the sisters this past week because he was so emotional). He remembers selling his business before going on staff, and remembers a time when studying the Bible was more important than making money. But things have changed-he has changed. Even Henry's letter. Until this morning at 3am, he had only skimmed it. But thanks to M.C. he woke up and read it in full detail, and felt liberated. He has seen and felt all of theses things. He made lots of changes in the past year, he had started really resenting who he used to be. He was a coward. He was too sentimental. What hurts him the most is what he's done to all of us. He said he'll "NEVER NEVER SEAR MY CONSCIENCE AGAIN! I REFUSE TO POLICE PEOPLE EVER AGAIN. I APOLOGIZE FOR SINS OF OMISSION AND COMMISSION." And a personal apology went out to F.F., a SW brother who had tried to help him see his sin in the past and he would not open his eyes. Peter said he saw it now. He asked us to hold him accountable. Just like in Matt23, he's become a Pharisee. "I am very, very, very, very, very sorry. I love you, I love God, and I will stand by that till the day I die. As a shepherd of the flock, I don't deserve that much grace. I will be what you call me to be.
Then Doug Wens, lead evangelist of 1 year got up. True to form, he joked, "I don't think everything said today was true, but that doesn't matter, there's sin in our church and we want it gone. (note: my feeling is that he minimized the sins that had been listed and even called the congregation untruthful, not a good way to start.) Then he goes on to apologize for God's gift of sarcasm, and how he can't help being so funny. It's God's fault. He read the "Official Houston Letter," that honestly seemed quite short, and then he said he feels pressure to bring back other ministries to apologize, but he can't do that-he doesn't know how to do that-I'm sorry. (note: unless I completely slept through this section, as well as my husband, there was no personal responsibility taken).
Next up was another man of integrity, Larry Craig. He has been with our congregation for 3 months, but yet he felt the need to stand and address us, as he's been in the ministry for a long time, and has hurt many over the years. Many times has he committed the sin of cowardice. The 2 quotes that he heard in the past couple of weeks that hurt the most, were 1. Leadership didn't trust my heart to do what is right, and we never dreamed it would be this way.
He said sadly, that over the years, the times he's really stood up for something in the church has been for his children. What about his sheep? He's soo sorry!! His daughter is sitting in our seats today and has been asking him advice on sharing some hurtful things leadership in another church has done to her, and he's giving the advice, it puts a different spin on things. I'm so sorry, that so many of you have lost hope that things can be different.