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We will soon hear the results of the final hearing (Monday/Tuesday) in the anti-SLAPP motion to halt the defamation lawsuit of Calvary Chapel Visalia (CCV) Pastor Bob Grenier and his wife, Gayle vs his step-son/her son, Alex Grenier and former CCV member Tim Taylor.
I have spent literally hours reading Alex and Tim’s story, the personal testimonies of former members, reading news articles, blog articles, audios of interviews/sermons. What is going on in these churches? Why are there so many similar stories of abuse, corruption, cover-ups? Is there a pattern? Why do leaders not deal appropriately with alleged abuse? Why are leaders not held accountable? Why do corrupt leaders stay in their positions of authority, while others are removed? What is going on!! At Spiritual Sounding Board, this is like a broken record, because we have been watching similar patterns since my case.
What is unique about Calvary Chapel is their church governance system: The Moses Model. It is my opinion that this system provides fertile soil for malignant pastors to misuse authority without any real accountability. Those who question authority or report problems are often blamed and accused of being “the problem,” and so the abuse continues. Just as I have been called and continue to be called names by my former pastor, Alex has also been told he has a bee in his bonnet, etc. I’ve seen pictures of Alex in news articles. I’m sorry, I just don’t see this dude wearing a bonnet. He’s all guy, yet Chuck Smith from his lofty throne dishes out rudeness about Alex who is calling out abuse and saying: “YO, there is a problem going on!” Alex has been relentless in attempting to get Calvary Chapel leaders to address these ongoing problems, to no avail.
Here is what I believe to be part of the problem: The Moses Model.
In my researching, I came across an article in Christianity Today from 2007, Day of Reckoning. Did you catch that date? 2007 – SIX years ago, the problems of the Moses Model were addressed in Christianity Today and the problem is still alive and well today. HELLLOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
“We take the model from the work that God established in the nation of Israel,” Smith says. “Moses was the leader appointed by God. He took 70 men, and they assisted Moses in overseeing the mundane types of issues that developed within the nation. There was the priesthood under Aaron.” Similarly, he says, “we have assistant pastors, and they look to me as the senior pastor. I’m responsible to the Lord. We have a board of elders. We go over the budget. The people recognize that God has called me to be the leader of this fellowship. We are not led by a board of elders. I feel my primary responsibility is to the Lord. And one day I’m going to answer to him, not to a board of elders.”
Critics say this “Moses model” produces pastors who refuse to let their authority be challenged. Such pastors often resist accountability measures such as financial audits and providing detailed financial statements. Some curious Calvary Chapel attendees, who have sought financial information from their churches, say they were ostracized.
The article continues, but pay close attention to these words by Pope Pastor Chuck Smith. Watch his response to being questioned.
Other churchgoers say Calvary Chapel pastors also don’t like to be questioned. During the investigation for this article, Smith cautioned CT’s reporter: “The Lord warns, ‘Don’t touch my anointed. Do my prophet no harm.’ I think that you are trying to do harm to the work of God. I surely wouldn’t want to be in your shoes.”
Do you notice how he turns it around and the reporter gets reprimanded for asking questions? Whoa! Isn’t it a reporter’s job to ask questions? Is this reporter a member of Chuck’s church? Probably not, yet Chuck decides to go all Papal on him and put the fear of hell in him. If this reporter isn’t even a church member and gets reprimanded, imagine how a church member might feel. It creates a very strict no-talk environment where the Pope remains high on his throne and you simply do not question that kind of authority – because who wants to be accused of questioning God?
Below are a couple of diagrams found in Calvary Chapel’s documents describing the Moses Model. The first diagram is what we find in typical church models.
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Take a look at the Moses Model.
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It is not the leadership model of the New Testament, but rather of the Old Testament, and only one small part of the Old Testament, at that. It was only for the 40-year period where the people were wandering in the desert. They never got too far under the system and only were under it for the 40 years because of their unbelief. God did not want them (even in the Old Testament) to have a king (Senior Pastor) to rule over them as the other nations.
Exploring the Faith blog discussed the Moses Model:
There are many serious problems with this approach. To begin with, Moses led the entire people of God (probably more than two million people), not just a local gathering of Israelites. If we consistently apply this model to the church, it would lead us to something closer to a Pope than a local pastor. Thankfully, we know that Moses’ role was a unique one, and that he didn’t foreshadow the New Testament local pastor, but the New Testament Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ (John 1:17; Acts 3:22-23; Hebrews 3:1-6). Moses was the mediator who went between God and the people. Today, the pastor doesn’t fill that priestly role—Jesus does (1 Timothy 2:5).
While many insist that the pyramid is actually turned upside down, with the pastor serving the entire body, it still leaves a diagram showing not “one mediator between God and man,” but two—Jesus and the pastor. This is revealed to be more than just a diagram fluke by a pattern of unhealthy authoritarianism. I should hasten to say that many Calvary Chapels and Vineyards are pastored by loving, humble men who seek to do the best for the flock. But the leadership model itself opens the door for serious abuses of authority.
Most of the people in the churches don’t see any of this. But when you become a leader, you’re taught not to question the leadership or views of the senior pastor (publicly or privately). To challenge him is seen as a sin just as Aaron and Miriam sinned by challenging Moses. To even ask questions is often seen as being divisive, and if those questions involve the senior pastor, you’ll be told to “touch not God’s anointed” (misusing Psalm 105:15, and also 1 Samuel 24:6 and 26:9-11). You’re taught that if you can’t agree or follow the senior pastor, then you should quietly leave the church and go someplace else.
Back to the Christianity Today article, we hear from a former Calvary Chapel pastor about the Moses Model systemic problems:
Michael Newnham, a former Calvary Chapel pastor, says his experience suggests the association has systemic problems. “There was adultery in the leadership. There were alcohol and drug problems in the leadership, and none of them were being dealt with. If you did say anything about them, you ended up being ostracized.” Newnham now runs a blog where he reports on scandals and gives a voice to Calvary Chapel members who have been victims of other scandals.
One of our WWJS crew commented a few observations after listening to a Chuck Smith audio in which he refers to Alex Grenier:
Chuck says of Alex Grenier, “This guy’s a loose cannon … he makes these wild accusations … there’s no real basis to it … I can’t oversee or police two thousand Churches around the country, and I don’t try to.”
“It’s sad that Alex can’t get a life other than one in which he’s trying to destroy anybody that doesn’t agree with him totally.”
“Let the little dogs bark.” said Chuck
Chuck Smith ends the conversation with this jab at Alex: “You got this bitterness and all, that is eating you up and destroying you and I would encourage you to get a life. Get a life.”
Chuck Smith says, referring to Alex: “Let the little dogs bark.” Okay, Chuck, with your papal permission, we’re going to let little dogs bark, but I think you are confused. Alex is like a freakin’ bulldog. Go Alex. Go get ‘em! I’ll shout the bullhorn behind you!
Setting all snark aside, folks, this is a very difficult and emotional time right before the hearing for Tim and Alex and, of course, Paul Grenier. Please pray for these guys and other victims of not only Calvary Chapel Visalia, but Calvary Chapel as a whole. This lawsuit could open the door and really expose the bigger problem going on among some Calvary Chapel churches, and that is why we are trying to expose this story. Please pray that this system that allows for abuse of children and other corruption will be dealt with appropriately. Please pray that pastors who do not meet biblical pastoral qualifications will be removed from their positions of authority.
Please don’t forget #WhoWouldJesusSue on Twitter!
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