Reaction of St Louis Church
(notes from member of St Louis Church)
Leadership in St. Louis seems to be starting to "get it". We had a open forum 10 days ago in which all those who suffered through the Dallas/LA dispersion were invited to share their feelings. There seemed to be a lot of tension as the meeting started, particularly among leadership. I think most of us realized that we were embarking on a major voyage of no return. There was an extended song session and introductory statements by leadership. Curt, Dan, Jeff, & Shannon stayed seated on the front row as Jeff Hovey, Lu Garcia, and Ed Carr acted as moderators.
Things started out with a bang when one sister stood up and powerfully demanded an explanation of why the church had not acknowledged that the whole Dallas/LA thing was a mistake, why there had been no apologies, and why it had taken 6 years for any dialogue on this issue to occur. Curt got up and tried to offer some explanation/apology and stated that he wanted to talk to this sister about it later.
I got up and told the story of "The Emperors New Clothes". The similarities to the ICC culture are obvious and were not lost on anyone in the room. I accused the leadership of cowardice in not discussing, acknowledging, apologizing for the Dallas/LA debacle until now. I reminded everyone of the hierarchical leadership model in which any voice of dissension was suppressed and leaders could lose their jobs.
The comments that followed were mostly critical although there were a number of speakers who seemed to defend the church/leaders. There was a lot of powerful testimony about personal pain and abuse due to the church. Emotions were charged, and many speakers became tearful. Many of the comments were critical of Marty Fuqua, Nick Young, and Mike Isenberg. It also was revealed that the St Louis church had paid for Mike and Margarets move, and salary while they were in LA supposedly being trained to lead more effectively upon their return to St Louis. This was difficult for many to hear since most of us knew that when the Isenbergs left, they would not be coming back. It was also painful to recall the financial resources that St Louis sent to support the development of the Dallas church, the building, camp, etc. For me, it was amazing to see the people who had been around for 10-20 years who had always seemed to be such "party-line" disciples now sharing powerfully about their pain and criticisms of the ICC. I think we all were surprised but encouraged to realize we were not alone!
The meeting ran for almost 4 hours and finally was stopped because of the time. There were plenty of people who did not share but had strong criticisms during the post meeting "fellowship". I think everyone agreed that it was refreshing to see people taking off their masks and being really real. At the end of the meeting, leaders spoke briefly. No major apologies or confessions. They thanked everyone and said that they needed time to process what they had heard. They had taken detailed notes.
Two days later, we had a full congregational midweek meeting. Curt Simmons taught an excellent lesson from acts which pointed out the similarities of the prideful approach of the 1st century Jewish Christians regarding the Gentiles. He then ran through a list of mistakes/ sins of the ICC and leadership. He seemed sincere and wanted to take personal "ownership" of his sin. The details are basically the same as detailed in the LA letter and in the Chicago leadership responses. It appeared that they were taping the meeting so many did not take notes (myself included). Unfortunately, we were wrong and there was no tape.
Dan Rice then spoke. He ran through a list of mistakes/sins which also were personalized and delivered sincerely. Jeff Lamotte then spoke regarding the finances. He admitted that he had been disorganized at times but said there had never been any misappropriation of fund at the local level. He confessed that he could not speak for the ICC/HOPE. He also confirmed (what many already knew) that the St Louis church had lost $95,000 in a sublease agreement for a building we had been using in far west St Louis County.
Most thought the meeting was encouraging, although some noticed a lack of sincerity in leaders. It was significant that Curt Simmons did not shed a tear at any time. Curt has a soft heart and tends to get tearful frequently, sometimes for what seems to be relatively insignificant matters. I would have definitely expected a lot of tears at a meeting of such ground-shaking significance, particularly if he was truly "broken" about his sin. Yet his eyes were dry from my vantage point.
Since then, we had a Sunday service which was uneventful. The changes were acknowledged briefly and in a very general way. Dan Rice preached a message on Love. Last night, Bible talks met as usual. Our group had a lesson on "judgment day".
There is a lot of private discussions going on among the members of the church. Curt and Dan have been trying to get together with individuals who are hurting. There is a committee trying to explore the financial questions that we all have. It is revealing to know that in order to get access to salary info for leadership, legal forms of confidentiality have to be signed. There seems to be a lot of hurdles in the way for anyone wanting to see "the books". This is just one more example of the difference between the ICC statements and reality.
I guess most in St Louis are encouraged overall. However, I am disappointed that there has been a limited disclosure regarding the events worldwide. Plans are being made for future governance. I suspect that an oversight committee will be assembled which will have ultimate authority over all church issues including salaries, budgets, doctrine, staffing, etc. I am hopeful that we will decide to remain in fellowship with other churches but ultimately autonomous.
That's where we stand presently. I'll keep everyone abreast of the developments.