Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Response To Dr. Robert Morey's Letter To FIRE!

Dr. Robert A. Morey was recently asked to resign his membership from the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (FIRE) by the board. Morey has posted a response to FIRE at his Faith Defenders website. I would like us to take a look at some of Morey's comments. Morey's comments are in bold and mine are in blue so that the reader can follow along.

Dear Brothers: Withrow, Krogh, Ray, Anderson, Crotts, Elliff, Flatt, Marcellino, Newheiser, and Sale,

(1) You have refused to participate in a conference call requested by members of the FIRE Board to talk with you about concerns that have been brought to our attention.

Comment: Since I was not the elder who dealt with Maxham, I sent you to talk with the elder who did so. I would not be able to answer some of your questions as I was not involved in the non-compliance of Maxham.

However, Morey was the only elder at FCC at the time. If you look at the Timeline of FCCOC Eldership you see that Morey ordained elders after Maxham's departure from FCC. This means that even if Morey didn't know every detail (being that he appointed someone else to deal with Maxham) he is still responsible as the then sole elder at FCC.

We did not know that the issue had been secretly switched from Maxhamʼs non-compliance to slander against me personally. I am forbidden by Scripture to answer slander and gossip. I am sorry you did not understanding that I would sin against my Lord if I did so.

Morey has perfected the art of accusing others of the very things that he himself does. The situation with Maxham was what moved FIRE to look into Morey's behaviour as an elder of a church. But the moment someone examines his personal character (which is one of the qualifications of an elder) he accuses them of "slander and gossip." This mantra is a brilliant Morey tactic that keeps his most loyal followers at bay from the truth. Scripture does command us not to "slander and gossip", or not to listen to the counsel of "slander and gossip" but I don't know one that states not to answer it. Surely Paul defended himself from the "slander and gossip" of the Judaizers and the Corinthians that challenged his authority.

Notice how many times Morey mentions or accuses others of his mantra of "slander" and "gossip", it is a great way to play the martyr.

(2) We have received overwhelming substantial and consistent documentation and testimonies that reveal a pattern of abusing pastoral authority and injuring Christʼs sheep that cannot be tolerated within FIRE.

Comment: Since we have never heard of or seen such documentation, we do not know what you are talking about. Scripture tells us that it is gossip and slander to listen such things (1 Tim. 5:19).

Was Paul guilty of "gossip and slander" when he said "It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife." (1Cor. 5:1). And 1Tim. 5:19 talks about needing two or three witnesses in accusing an elder of wrongdoing. It is clear from all the documentation and witnesses provided on the Internet that we have satisfied the requirements of this passage.

I am guessing it is a petition with names on it of people who say that I am mean or something like that. I am surprised that anyone would take such a silly document seriously.

I suppose Morey would be "surprised that" Paul would have taken such "a silly document seriously". Paul wrote to Timothy about qualifications of an elder, "he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." (1Timothy 3:7)

a. Korah and over 300 leaders gave “overwhelming substantial and consistent documentation and testimonies” against Moses in Num. 16.2
b. The enemies of Paul gave “overwhelming substantial and consistent documentation and testimonies” against him in Acts 24:1-9.
c. Jesus was convicted by “overwhelming substantial and consistent documentation and testimonies” by his enemies.

The people in these passages were challenging the authority of men we know gave "God-breathed" revelation to them. With Jesus they had to twist his words and lie about him as the gospels tell us they did. How the testimonies of those men constitute "overwhelming substantial and consistent documentation and testimonies" is beyond me. The issue with Morey is whether these witnesses are telling the truth about his abusive character. And to parallel them to the biblical witnesses that we know were in sinful in their actions against the saints merely begs the question. Morey is accusing them of slander while not dealing with the evidence.

d. The same was true of Luther, Calvin, etc.

With the reformers the same principle applies, we believe that they were right to fight against Rome. The Reformers even answered the slander against them (which Morey claims is forbidden in scripture) and we believe they vindicated their work. The evidence of Morey's abusive behaviour has not been answered and hence stands.

The leadership and congregations of New Life Bible Church and FCC could sign a statement that I have not taught heresy, committed immorality, or abused my authority. Would this satisfy you?

No it wouldn't, because these people have not been injured by Morey yet. The current witnesses against Morey would have gladly signed that same petition in his favor years ago. They now hold a different opinion about his character. The question is why would people that loved him and worked with him now call for his repentance of sinful wrongdoing. Supposing someone had stolen your car and you had 7 witnesses and other evidence that someone you knew was the guilty party. You found out that there were others throughout the years that have testified to his pattern of theft. But then you had a group of witnesses that say he's never done that to them. Would we acquit him of the crime simply because he didn't steal from everyone?

You would end up with two sets of documentation:
(1.) the leaders and members of the continuing churches who testify that their pastor is gracious and loving man who follows the Bible in everything he does;

Mostly people who have not looked at the history of evidence of Morey's abusive character and have not been victims themselves.

(2.) those who were disciplined or left in sympathy with those disciplined or left for no known reason, who testify that the pastor is a mean man who hurt their feelings.

Or they could be God fearing people that came to the realization that Morey was an unethical man and could not continue to submit to him as a pastor. People that looked up to him as a spiritual leader and were eventually injured by his actions. But this is an interesting point by Morey because he recognizes that he has this reputation among many. This in spite of the fact that scripture tells us what a servant of God should be. "The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will." (2Tim 2:24-26) Even though the passage speaks about how a servant of God should treat an unbeliever, the principle applies all the more when dealing with members of the church. And "gentleness" is not a gift that any honest person can say Morey has mastered.

How would you determine which group was telling the truth?

By examining the evidence and weighing the testimonies of the witnesses and determining the truth of the matter.

1. The fallacy of ad populum. Whoever has more names than the other?

No one says that whoever has more witnesses is right so this is a straw-man. However, Morey is admitting that there are more witnesses against him than for him. This is an admittion on his part of the negativity of his reputation among many christians. Let us remember what Paul said to Timothy "he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." (1Tim. 3:7)

Moses would have been condemned!

Well we know from scripture that the witnesses were wrong. But is Morey suggesting that Moses should not have been held accountable if he had been guilty of wrong doing?

2. Take each accusation apart to see if it has any hard evidence to back it up. This will take months to do and exhaust all the men and churches involved.

This sounds very convenient for any christian leader that is suspected of wrongdoing. The problem with this statement is that if Morey is guilty of sinning against the saints, we should not bother to "exhaust all the men and churches involved". If this is the case, then what is the point of having accountability in church anyway?

3. The burden of proof is on the accuser, not on the accused to disprove.

The "burden" has been met with Morey's history of scandals.

If someone slanders a pastor- having never come first to him in private in obedience to Matt. 18 - by what biblical basis do you take seriously such accusations? The first thing I ask when someone comes to me and slanders someone is, “Have you first gone to this person in private? If not, I will not listen to you until you follow Matt. 18.”

If one listens to the testimonies of the witnesses against him, one can see that Morey has been confronted about things. And when this takes place, Morey then slanders them questioning their mental states and accuses them of gossip and slander. One instance is found with two former members of FCC that Morey "handed over to Satan".

With respect to (1), Dr. Jim Newheiser, in accord with Scripture and our Constitution, requested assistance from FIRE in resolving issues affecting “the peace, unity and edification” of several churches and individuals (FIRE Constitution Article 7.F). FIRE Moderator Greg Withrow emailed you on Oct 2, 2008 and said, “In reviewing correspondence between yourself and Grace Bible Church, as well as the testimony of current and former leaders and members in your ministry,we felt that we needed to contact you and discuss the issues that have arisen. We have concerns for you as a fellow Pastor, as well as concerns regarding your involvement as an individual member in FIRE. We are requesting that you join us in a conference call.” Although you agreed to this process when you applied for membership in FIRE, you rejected the Boardʼs request, insisting that, “We must make it absolutely clear that according to our doctrinal statement, we cannot and will not ask FIRE or any other outsiders to arbitrate or adjudicate our internal church business such as Maxhamʼs resignation. You have no biblical authority to intrude into the internal affairs of member churches.” Dr. Morey, not only do we have no authority to intrude into the internal affairs of member churches, we also have no desire to do so. However, Acts 15 supports the idea of elders from several churches conferring together to resolve issues that affect the churches. Such a church council has no authority to impose its findings on a local church or its officers, but it can publish its findings and recommendations to all concerned. Surely we can agree that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. This is the biblical basis for The 1689 Confession 26.15 and also for our FIRE Constitution Article 7.F. The effects of your actions have overflowed the boundaries of your church and have affected other churches and individuals. Consequently, we have been asked to provide assistance in resolving these matters. While we have no authority to compel you to participate in a conference call, we think that you were unwise in rejecting the opportunity to meet with us.

Comment: The Acts 15 council was not called to discuss the complaints of people against a pastor. I have reread the passage and do not see any discussion of any slander or gossip against some pastor. The council dealt with DOCTRINAL issues that affected the entire church. Your interpretation of the passage is wrong. The doctrinal issues related to the Jewish-Gentile relationship.

There are two things that I observe from Morey's comment here.

1. Morey seems to think that either:
a. FIRE believes that Acts 15 was about "slander or gossip against some pastor".
b. You cannot draw a pedagogical principle from Acts 15 about the churches working together to resolve an issue.

However, FIRE has never stated that the passage deals with "slander or gossip against some pastor". And if Morey is denying the principle behind Acts 15 then he would have to reject the passages he quoted above regarding Moses, Paul, and Jesus. After all those passages were not dealing with "slander or gossip against some pastor" in a local church were they?

2. Morey as a member of FIRE is admitting that he is not abiding by the FIRE Constitution Article 7.F.

Furthermore, you sought to avoid interaction with us by directing us to Elder James Epperly to answer our concerns and stated that “In order to abide with the Board's resolutions, I must refrain from dealing with him [Tom Maxham] any further.” We sought to speak with you only about our concerns, but you have since included your Board in correspondence directed to us. Dr. Morey, we will respect your desire to include your Board in our communications, but we want to remind you that you are a member of FIRE, not them, and our concern is with your behavior, not theirs. We will continue to communicate directly with you as a FIRE member but will copy our correspondence to your Board as you wish.

Comment: The original issue with Newheiser was Tom Maxhamʼs non compliance, resignation, and then schismatic sins.

However Morey has not proven that Tom Maxham is guilty of "schismatic sins" this is Morey's allegation. It is Morey and Epperly who have the burden of proof for this claim.

Somewhere along the way, Newhesier switched the issue to ad hominem attacks against me personally.

As I mentioned above, Morey now accuses Newheiser of switching the "issue to ad hominem attacks against" Morey. When Newheiser was simply trying to find out the truth regarding the situation between him and Maxham. Let us not forget the qualifications of in elder explained by Paul in 1Timothy 3.

If some disgruntled ex-member of a church has a problem with the leadership of his past church, then he has Matt. 18 to follow.

Which they have and has resulted in several church splits in Pennsylvania and California.

With respect to (2), while it is true that "the first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him" (Prov 18:17), if the other party refuses to cooperate then the first to present his case seems, well, right! Because you have refused to meet with us in a conference call as we requested, we are left to draw our conclusions based upon the evidence and testimonies that we have received. We believe the evidence of pastoral improprieties and the gross mistreatment of people is overwhelming.

Comment: Since we thought the issue was Maxham, I referred you to the elder in charge of him. You did not tell us that you had changed the issue. You should said, “Look, Bob, Newheiser has put together a document of all the slander and gossip he could find. Although these accusations have no hard evidence to support them, they do say you are “mean.” We have read some “tasty morsels” (Pro. 18:8) and would like you to answer these accusations.”

Following the Dr. Robert Morey play book, he now mocks and accuses Newheiser of putting "together a document of all the slander and gossip he could find" against him. But how does Morey know that there is "no hard evidence to support them" if he had "never heard or seen such documentation" as he claims?

Speaking candidly, this Board of pastors, your peers, unanimously agrees that your actions are inappropriate and are grounds for disqualification from ministry. While recognizing that authority for removal from ministry belongs to Faith Community Church, we do have the authority to seek your removal from membership in FIRE. We therefore request your immediate resignation as an individual member of FIRE. If you do not resign, we will begin the process to bring this matter with the appropriate documentation and testimonies to the attention of the full membership of FIRE with our unanimous recommendation that you be removed from membership at the next National Conference.

COMMENT: I can see where this is going. As friends of Newhesier, you have already pre-judged and pre-condemned me without a trial on the basis of sinful and groundless gossip and slander that fails to meet biblical qualifications. You have violated Deut. 19, Matt. 18, 1 Tim. 5, etc. .

Well again Morey goes from being questioned to accusing others of sinful behaviour. He accuses FIRE of precondemning him without meeting the "biblical qualifications." It's funny to me that Morey says that they violated the above passages when it was he that refused to have a conference call with them on the issue.

You rejected the vast amount of biblical material I sent you and have chosen slander over Scripture, friendship over Lordship. If I resign from or am thrown out of FIRE, Newheiser will use that to redeem Maxham at NANC. That, of course, is his goal. You have allowed him to manipulate you into his smear campaign on the behalf of his friend Maxham. I admonish you brothers for being so gullible.

And now Morey pontificates how FIRE is being manipulated by Newheiser to believe the so-called "slander" against him. Bare in mind that Morey has not proven his accusations against FIRE, Newheiser, or Maxham. He is now engaging in the very actions of "slander and gossip" that he spends so much time condemning.

Now we have a decision to make:

a. We could show up and debate you publicly at the next FIRE meeting on the biblical issues that apply to this situation and with ease destroy the flimsy accusations made against me.

These are strong words but we have yet to see the evidence to back it up. Anyone can say this and make his followers cheer for him, but it's another to actually do it.

We have never heard a single accusation that was credible or met the biblical qualifications.

Well this is a shock, Morey says he's innocent. That must make it true right? But who decides what "accusation" is "credible" against Morey? Are we to ask Morey for approval?

b. We could show up with godly people from my previous churches who would testify that I am a gracious, loving pastor.

What about the people that were involved in the church splits in Pennsylvania and California? Will their testimonies count? Or will Morey dismiss their testimonies branding them as "gossip and slander" not provide evidence as usual.

c. Newheiser would show up people whose blogs and internet sites are filled with “bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander” (Eph. 4:31).

This answers part of my question, but how does he know they are angry or bitter? Can he see into their hearts and make that judgment? Is it not even hypothetically possible that they want justice done? Could they want to warn other potential victims?

d. FIRE would explode as pastors would divide over whether FIRE should be used for such things. It would become a circus.
e. Other long standing disagreements among other pastors would now have to be debated and judged. FIRE would become a nasty negative experience.

How does Morey know that this would happen? Are we suppose to believe this would happen because Morey says so? Why can't it be that FIRE abides by their Constitution Article 7.F. and continues to edify the body of Christ in this regard?

f. Or do we at FCC do the gracious thing?
1. protect the members of FIRE from the foolishness of its leaders;
2. protect the members of the churches involved from the emotional turmoil of having to deal with old internal issues;
3. avoid wasting more time and energy on silly accusations that fail to meet biblical qualifications;
4. avoid wasting time on an issue that has already been pre-judged by those who are not willing to submit to biblical standards;
5. avoid tearing apart FIRE by public debate and chaos;

Given that Morey has concluded that FIRE is guilty of the following (unproven) errors. He now pretends to take the moral high ground leaving FIRE saving them from waisting time in turmoil. And now doesn't have to be held accountable for his actions as he has continually done.

We have always said that Newhesier is free to accept Maxham. We did not involve FIRE. We did not change the issue from Maxham to slander and gossip. If the accusations do not concern morals or doctrine but matters of discipline and ministerial judgment, there is no group above the local church to adjudicate such things. You are free to disagree with our doctrine just as we are free to disagree with yours.

Actually it is Morey who has changed the subject, the issue was Morey's unethical behaviour towards Maxham and several others. Though Morey is not guilty of teaching heresy, this is an issue of morals, but again Morey is accusing FIRE of changing the issue when it is he who is changing the issue. He is accusing them of listening to slander and gossip against him, when in reality they had documentation and witnesses against him. Those are two very different things.

Be assured that we have forgiven you for your foolishness. Hopefully, you have already decided that FIRE will never again get involved with such a “tar baby.” Hopefully, other pastors will not be put through such nonsense. Future pastors will thank us for keeping FIRE from being used for personal vendettas.

First he calls them foolish, then says they will thank him for it. This speaks volumes about him.

Lastly, brethren, there is lost world going to hell out there. There are Muslims who want to kill us. The gospel is being denied as never before by heretics all over the place. And, while the world and church are burning, we are fiddling away on issues of whether some disgruntled ex member of a church feels that his pastor was “mean.” Shame on us!

Once again, this is not about "disgruntled" ex members feeling their pastor was mean, it is about holding an elder accountable for his actions. This again is "changing the issue" which he so clearly condemns.

I was sitting with Francis Schaeffer in Switzerland one day when he gave me the following illustration that has shaped and formed my ministry to this day. “The church is like ship at sea that is slowing sinkingbecause the enemy has punched holes in the bottom of the ship below the water line. Bob, your gifts for writing are wonderful and I want you to use them to patch the holes below the water line. While you are dealing with the great issues such as the existence of God, others are up on deck arguing over rearranging deck furniture while the ship is sinking. Do notwaste your time arguing over deck furniture.” To my shame, I forgot his kind exhortation and wasted valuable time arguing over deck furniture with you. Please forgive me for not understanding this sooner and the need to redeem the time because the days are evil. I hold no personal animosity against you or anyone else (including Maxham, Newheiser, et al). I agree with Paul that is always foolish to defend your reputation (2 Cor. 11:21). Let us then leave to the Great Judge to reveal the hearts and motives of men on the day when each manʼs ministry will be examined. To Him alone be the glory both now and forever more, Amen!

We agree whole heartedly that you should "not waste your time arguing over deck furniture," but this does not give any christian leader a right to injure Christ's sheep. This does not give any pastor the right to abuse their power and accuse them of "slander and gossip" while in the process slandering them and causing them pain. When Saul of Tarsus was on the road to Damascus persecuting the church, the Lord Jesus told him that it was a persecution of the Lord Jesus himself. To injure the saints is to injure the very body of Christ, hopefully one day Dr. Robert Morey will understand that.

My resignation is effective as of Oct. 12, 2008. No future communication will be forth coming. We all have better things to do with our time.

Brother Morey

Hopefully one day Morey will see the error of his ways and repent of his sins against the saints and restore his broken relationships.


Gadfly J said...

Great article brother! Your points in answering Morey were spot-on. Keep up the great work! May Morey's covers continue to be pulled.

Curious George said...

I think this article is good in terms of examining point by point Morey's rebuttal. It doesn't seem like Morey was interested in discussing the issue himself. It is strange in light of the fact that he is the head elder of FCC, if I understand correctly, not to discuss the issue. What is the harm of responding to the questions? If he is right then he will only be exonerated! Like the writer stated, Paul did address and defend his position and standing against his accusers. Even though he might not needed to. The Reformers did as well. It's not going to help your cause to just avoid the concerns. As FIRE stated, as a member, which he agreed to be, he needed to discuss the matter with them. They wanted to hear him, not condemn him. His failure to comply is what led to his dismissal. Not much wisdom there.