L.A. AMS Open Forum (or not)
March 9, 2003
(as told by a former member)
Since I live within walking distance, I couldn't help checking out the first-ever L.A. AMS Open Forum for members to air their grievances. Just so you know. I was there as a witness, not a participant.
It began with Mike Upton reading scriptures that outlined the forum's parameters of how one should present his case. For example, any complaints could not mention any person by name. If someone has sinned against you, you should get with that person in private, one-on-one to resolve things.
He made a joke that proved prophetic: "And I hope this thing doesn't turn into a Jerry Springer show." Alas, Mike was hoping in vain.
I'm a teacher, and it reminded me of the meetings I've been to on the job---both the school's meetings of teachers, as well as the union (United Teachers Los Angeles/UTLA) meetings. While respectful most of the time, it got definitely heated at other times---most prominently at the very end. People raised their hand, and once acknowledged, got to come up to the mic and talk for a maximum of 5 minutes.
There was a tall, husky guy in a black T-shirt and grey "Dreamworks" baseball cap who kept raising his hand, but was never given the floor during the entire meeting.
After the speakers were done, Mike introduced Kevin Holland, and the guy in the black T-shirt asked for a turn to speak. Kevin said they were out of time. He shouted back that there was 30 minutes left, and he just wanted five of those minutes.
And that's when things got ugly.
Half the crowd started screaming, "Let him speak!" The other half started were hissing, and shouting, "Get outta here! Nobody cares what you have to say!" It was riveting stuff, to be sure.
Kevin got the mic and said, "----, you're not gonna get the floor, so be quiet!"
He shouted back, "I AM NOT GOING TO BE QUIET!!! I WAS WRONGFULLY MARKED AND DISFELLOWSHIPPED, AND PUBLICLY LIED ABOUT AT THE MARKING 30 TIMES!!! BEFORE THE MARKING, I WAS SUBJECTED TO A VICIOUS BREAKING SESSION LED BY AL BAIRD, ROGER LAMB, AND MY BIBLE TALK LEADER!!!! I SECRETLY RECORDED THAT BREAKING SESSION, AND ANYBODY WHO WANTS TO HEAR THE AUDIOTAPE CAN COME TO MY HOUSE AND HEAR IT!!!"
At this point, three huge black men surrounded him and yelled for him to shut up.
"I WILL NOT SHUT UP!!! 21 OTHER PEOPLE WHO SPOKE IN MY DEFENSE WERE ALSO DISFELLOWSHIPPED AND MARKED!!! I WANT A TURN TO SPEAK MY TRUTH!!!"
Another guy---one of the Staff members who, along with his wife, earlier spoke favorably about the church during his turn---stood up across the room, and began shouting, "Hey, ----, NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR TRUTH!!!"
----, speaking to the crowd, said, "DOES ANYBODY WANT TO HEAR WHAT I HAVE TO SAY?"
The Staff Member fired back, "NO!!! WE DON'T CARE!!! SO SHUT UP!!!"
Trying another approach, ---- fired back, "CAN YOU AT LEAST HAVE A VOTE AS TO WHETHER I CAN SPEAK?"
The Staff Member fired back, "YOU JUST CAN'T CALL FOR A VOTE AND TRY TO TAKE OVER A MEETING!!! POINT ME TO THE SCRIPTURE THAT SAYS YOU CAN DO THAT!!!"
---- continued, "DO YOU GUYS WANT TO VOTE ON THIS?"
The Staff Member, presumptuously speaking for everyone there, fired back, "NO, WE DON'T WANT A VOTE!!! YOU'RE ASKING US IF WE 'WANT TO HEAR YOUR TRUTH'? THE ANSWER IS 'NO!' NOW, SHUT UP!!!"
Helplessly watching this spectacle, Kevin then said, "----, you are not going to get to speak!"
At this point, the thugs kept surrounding ----. One asked Kevin, "You want us to throw him out?"
Kevin pondered this a moment, then said in a quiet, defeated tone, "No, we're just gonna adjourn the meeting. Could somebody in the back turn on the music? This meeting is over."
Kevin walked away from the microphone, and it seemed like it was all over, with people getting out of their seats, and starting to 'fellowship.'
Then a livid Roger Lamb took to the mic, and asked the crowd, "How many people want to hear what Kevin has to say??!!! Let's hear some applause!!!"
People started applauding, but not ----. ---- continued, "ROGER, YOU ARE A LIAR!!! YOU LIED ABOUT ME!!!!"
Roger said, "----, I've already spoken with you! This matter is closed!"
More screaming from the crowd. Some in favor of ----, some against.
Eventually, ----, along with his wife and two kids, walked outside to the sidewalk in front of the Upside-Down Club. Before leaving, --- yelled, "If anyone wants to hear what I have to say, I'll be outside!"
Of course, I followed, as did some other disciples. Again, I was just there as a witness, not a participant.