* * *
There are a lot of sad church stories that come my way. Many times we discuss really difficult situations and happy endings cannot be found. Although this next story is not over, it is headed in a completely different direction than it was earlier. My friend and fellow blogger, Alex Grenier of Calvary Chapel Abuse blog posted a wonderful story today and has given me permission to copy it in its entirety to share with you. I think you’ll understand why I wanted to share it. I have to give kudos to Alex. He is truly the real deal. I’ve had the opportunity to work with him on a few projects behind the scenes and let me just say that I feel privileged to have him as a friend. His heart is in the right place. He is honest, vulnerable, a bit rough around the edges, sometimes snarky, a load of laughs (which we definitely need in this business), but what an amazing champion for victims! He, like me, comes from an abusive family and is currently in the midst of a defamation lawsuit brought on by his step-father, Bob Grenier, who also is the pastor at Calvary Chapel Visalia.
Alex is a gifted communicator and when he heard about this story which happened to be in his neck of the woods, he took a chance and contacted the pastor to see if there was a possibility of mediating. I also have to give kudos to Pastor Bob Caldwell of Calvary Chapel Boise. Mediation could have and should have been done years ago, but this is not a story about shaming, but a story of possibilities and hope. There is a lesson to be learned from Pastor Bob Caldwell and I hope that this message spreads around to others. Church conflicts do not need to escalate to lawsuits.
A big thanks to Alex for allowing me to share this here!
* * * * *
By Alex Grenier of Calvary Chapel Abuse Blog
Hell froze over yesterday. And, I’m pretty sure I saw some pigs flying around in Boise.
OK, not really, but it seems like it.
I’ll admit it (as if it isn’t obvious)…I’m jaded, skeptical, un-trusting of Calvary Chapel and its 1500-2000 affiliated official Senior Pastors. Well, there are some good ones in there after all, good in the context of they try to do the right thing and they are approachable and give it a real shot at resolving a tough situation…without attorneys and bodyguards and stone walls.
I am happy (thrilled really) to report that one such rare case happened yesterday at Calvary Chapel Boise with the help of Pastor Bob Caldwell.
Here’s the gist of the controversy in a nutshell:
There’s a guy “Greg” who’s been protesting/picketing Calvary Chapel Boise…literally standing out front of the mega-church (it’s a really big CC) on a busy road, with big signs, expressing his beef with Calvary Chapel that has, up until yesterday, remained unresolved.
It would be easy to paint the guy as “crazy” and dismiss him as a nut and move on. That’s the easy thing, and not the right thing, IMO. It’s also not the wisest thing for Bob and CC, as the guy was quite resolved, and he wasn’t going anywhere.
Obviously there’s a problem. Who pickets a church? Well, either a total nutcase…or a guy who has a beef that he can’t get passed and needs some closure…and feels he hasn’t got a fair shake inside the church walls.
I’ve talked with Greg, he’s not a nutcase. He’s a little different, but not institutional different…more like very bright and talented and determined and passionate different. Is he a homogenized “normal”? Heck no, what vanilla normal person pickets a church in public and opens themselves up to that kind of embarrassment?
When I look at a situation like this, I see it through a lens of someone who knows what it’s like to be kicked out of a church Group (or a family unit, as dysfunctional as it is) and blamed for the separation…even though I tried to do what was right and righteous…and in fact commanded in the bible (which is supposedly “the” authority that the same church and family says is the final say on all matters). IMO, a guy like Greg is either an institutional nut and needs to go spend some time in a padded room…or there’s something legit there that needs to be resolved.
It didn’t take me long to believe that Greg is legally sane and had some legit beefs and that Calvary Chapel should/could sit down and help work this thing out.
I agreed to try and help Greg approach Calvary Chapel. I called and left a message for the Senior Pastor (CCSP) Bob Caldwell. I explained who I was, gave info about CC Abuse, stated briefly what the inquiry was about and requested a call back.
I was shocked when my cell phone rang just a little time later, and it was Bob Caldwell.
The guy didn’t get a word in for quite a while as I was pretty amped up and expected a knock-down drag-out.
To my pleasant surprise, Bob was very gracious, yet frank and not patronizing. He listened. When he spoke, it felt real and candid and not guarded and even more importantly, not as if he was some special prophet/guru who should be approached from afar with sacrificial gifts and chants of praise and allegiance…and there was no kissing of rings.
Bob’s a real guy. If I didn’t know he was the pastor of a huge mega-church, I would have thought I was talking to a really nice laid-back guidance counselor or something.
I presented Greg’s beef and asked Bob for his (CC Boise’s) side of the story. Bob shared some stuff in a straightforward manner. There was a little push-back on both sides of the convo in a couple of spots (Bob’s still a man and a Leader, and I expect honest push-back where it’s warranted). The result of the convo was an agreement to an in-person meeting with the offended party, me and Bob.
The biggest take-away from the phone convo that gave me some hope about the meeting: Bob seemed to sincerely care about Greg…and not as much about himself or the church business.
I phone Greg and told him the news of the meeting. He was ecstatic, while having some butterflies (a very normal human reaction). I told him how excited I was with the opportunity and that, IMO, this was rare (in my experience) and a great sign so far.
Bob’s taller and skinnier than I thought. I patted him on the back and encouraged him to eat something…commenting that most of his fellow affiliated CC Pastor brothers aren’t so svelt and are usually busting out of their Hawaiian shirts or Tommy Bahamas.
Staff was friendly, just like at CC Costa Mesa. Some of the folks looked so innocent and naive…and a couple looked as if they thought we were really weird and looked a bit uncomfortable, my perception.
We met in a small conference room upstairs. Bob on one side of a smallish table, Greg and me on the other.
I tried to take some control of the meeting, explaining that we have three chiefs in the tee-pee and needed some sort of structure to get through this. I explained how I thought the conversation should go (in regards to a structure/order). Bob suggested we open in prayer and turned to Greg to pray first. Greg prayed. I was offered to pray, I declined (I pray to God in an unorthodox way, I pretty much keep an ongoing dialogue in my inner-voice and I feel that public prayers are pretty much not praying to God, but a prayer performance for the others present, and I don’t like that. If I’m going to pray to God, my Father…others would be very taken back at what they’d hear…and I didn’t want to freak these two out, especially Bob. He probably thinks I’m weird enough already). Bob then prayed.
After the prayers, I provided a synopsis of why we were there, thanked Bob for the opportunity and then summarized what I had gathered was the “situation” from both sides, what the beefs were and asked how we could resolve this so Greg doesn’t feel compelled to picket CC Boise any longer and feels he has closure on these issues.
Greg spoke at length about his side of things. Bob responded many times. I interjected and pushed back in some spots for consideration…for both parties. It seemed to keep some balance to the discussion…as both sides tend to see things through their personal lens.
Greg conducted himself very well…so did Bob.
Bob showed me, and more importantly he showed Greg, that he was sincere in wanting to help work this out. That’s a HUGE factor. Bob’s good leadership is the reason this meeting was a success, not me.
The controversy was many years old. It started in 2004 and reached a climax in 2005 with Greg being banned from a single’s group at CC Boise, which resulted in an arrest for trespass (misdemeanor) when Greg showed back up to the group.
Greg’s side of things was that he didn’t know why he was banned and felt it was wrong to then be arrested when he tried to return to the group. Greg said there was some conflict between him and the leader of the single’s group at the time, an associate pastor who is no longer with CC Boise and according to Greg was fired for just cause by the church. The banning and the arrest for trespass really bothered Greg. He felt he was treated unjustly and he reports he never got a clear answer of what happened and why it happened. All the sudden, he’s out, he’s arrested and he’s the bad guy. He was not able to move on and let it go without some sort of resolution. He felt he was bullied by the assistant and some others and felt he got a raw deal.
In around 2007, Greg’s wife reached out to Bob and expressed concern that Greg was still spinning over this unresolved issue. Bob agreed to a meeting. He met with Greg and gave him a general apology and tried to work things out. Greg still believed he wasn’t told what happened and why it happened. No details were given to him previously or at that time of what the beefs against him were, specifically, that led to his banning from the group. Greg left this meeting feeling better for a time, but the underlying issues had still not been fully resolved.
Flash forward to 2013. Greg sees the “Save Saeed” campaign and sees CC Boise beating the drum to save the Iranian missionary (whose church home is CC Boise) who has been arrested wrongly in Iran and is in prison for being a Christian…(a really good Cause that Greg agrees with, and I agree with. Iran needs to free Saeed now and our State Department and our Government needs to do more to make that happen).
This is what is called a “trigger”…something I’ve learned from licensed therapists, etc in the psychology world.
Greg felt this was quite hypocritical, since CC Boise had not fully resolved his beef with them…and he was arrested, too. How about “Save Greg”?
The negative feelings and emotions popped back up. The scab had not healed. Greg began to rehash the situation and got angry. When folks get angry, sometimes they make signs and protest…a healthy and legal choice to deal with the frustration…a much better choice than turning to drugs and alcohol…or even worse, breaking the law. Again, many vanilla normal folks probably would’ve let it go…we’re not all vanilla normal…God makes us all a bit unique and some of us…in this patchwork quilt called this life, this existence…are not just like everyone else in all regards. Heck, some of the craziest dudes I know are CC pastors…literally. Some of them really think they have the “gift” of “seeing demons in people” and some think they are really prophets of God…talk about delusional…but Greg’s crazy. Got it.
Greg has some great qualities. Part of his good qualities, like his passion and his bright mind, can be a challenge for him in letting something go (believe me, I know this from personal experience). Greg’s not a circus freak, he’s not a threat to society. He’s a human being, with a soul, with a family. He needed some help and some grace and some good Godly leadership in this situation and some sort of resolution that made sense to him.
So, Greg’s been picketing CC Boise…and now, here we are in a meeting with the Senior Pastor and we’re hashing it out (again).
This time around, Bob provided the details of what went down in 2004/2005. He presented a copy of the police report that detailed the situation and some complaints CC Boise had received from some others in the group about Greg. Greg was told specifically what those complaints were. They were not allegations of a crime or anything like that, but they were allegations that warranted the church deal with the situation. If the church is expected to take Greg’s complaints seriously, they have to take the complaints of women in their flock seriously as well. I affirmed that Bob was in a tough position with regards to that issue. Without a ton of evidence to the contrary, Bob is left with some women saying one thing and Greg saying another…and if the church doesn’t respond to the claims from women, and it turned out Greg was a psycho and something bad happened, then the church gets their arses sued off and accused of not protecting women.
The specifics: A couple of women in the church said Greg was stalking them. Greg said he was just involved a lot in the group and volunteered for lots of stuff and was around them a lot in church-related functions. It was a single’s group. Without the benefit of tracking down the women and getting their side, we can assume they were uncomfortable at the least and they expressed their discomfort to the church. OK. That info would have gone a long way for Greg back then…and in the first meeting with Bob in 2007. Greg feels the specific charges against him would have given him the opportunity to respond better and to know why he was banned, etc.
This was a big thing for Greg. He really wanted to know what he had done and he wanted the opportunity to make it right. He appeared very relieved to get the specifics and claimed he was not aware of those details. Bob was under the impression he was from what he was told from others back then (one of them being the ex-assistant who later got fired).
In reviewing, again, the climate of the single’s group under the leadership of the former assistant pastor…IMO, it became clear that the assistant didn’t handle the problem well…and that there was some sort of p***ing match and personal beef with Greg over some stuff Greg had challenged him on. Without the benefit of speaking with the assistant, I come to this conclusion based on Greg’s take and the fact that the assistant got canned from CC Boise for not dealing with other situations in the best manner as well. Bob didn’t throw the guy under the bus, but he did acknowledge that there were things the guy could have handled in a better way and he apologized to Greg for that (again).
Here’s what became clear…and here’s what I think just resolved the issue and has helped Greg to burn up his protest signs and to hopefully move on: Bob Caldwell heard him out, again. Bob Caldwell provided the specifics of the other side and of the stuff Greg was accused of. Bob Caldwell was open, he acknowledged some mistakes, he offered to help…he is even providing counseling from a psychologist who helps in their church. Bob sat across the table as a pastor who was more concerned about Greg at that moment, than he was about being 100% right and protecting his man kingdom.
Greg did great as well. He is a good guy, IMO, he just wanted to know. He just wanted to hear that it didn’t go as well as it could have or should have. He just wanted to hear all there was to the situation and not be left guessing. He handled the accusations against him very well. I tried to explain that Bob is in a tough spot when he’s got one sheep saying this and that about the other sheep…while agreeing that Greg had a right to know the specifics and to get some sort of airing of his grievances and some sort of shot at finality.
I think we got that shot yesterday. I think Greg got the closure he was fighting for. I think Bob Caldwell acted as a Servant Leader and got off his stage, climbed down from his ivory tower and got dirty with some regular sheep. I think what happened yesterday was right and righteous and I think that if the Faith is real, if the bible is true and if God “is”…then God is pleased with it.
The take-away from this one, IMO: Some folks need resolution, they need a fair shake and a frank discussion with the Pastor. They need to hear they aren’t the “enemy” and of the devil. They need the church and the Pastor to slow down for a minute and to take the matter seriously. Yes, CC Boise is extremely busy. Yes, they help a lot of folks. Yes, it was probably very inconvenient for Pastor Bob to have to deal with this in the manner he did. Yes, that’s what the bible calls him to do regardless. If a “pastor” can’t slow down enough to take some of these situations seriously and really try to resolve them in a positive manner…then I question the validity of their supposed “calling”.
If Jesus Christ the SON of the living God was/is not too busy for dirty muddy stinky sheep (even when it’s tough and uncomfortable)…then what the heck are you doing? Leave the 99 to save the 1. Try to resolve beefs. If you’re too “busy”…if you have underlings to handle that stuff…you aren’t really a pastor, you’re a paid public speaker. Go read the news off a teleprompter or join the local theater or become a politician….but get the heck out of my Father’s House, you brood of vipers.