In the context of what I have shared today about truth, I thought it would be helpful for me to read out this statement in response to allegations made about my wife and myself on the blog known as ‘Victims of Trinity Church’.
Our history as a Church has been mainly of the goodness and faithfulness of God and of the genuine desire of many in this Church to love and serve Him. We have witnessed the presence and power of God in our worship and seen many lives being transformed and healed by Him. However, in the midst of this blessing we acknowledge with shame that the leadership was deeply flawed. We were taken in by the personality and gifts of a very charismatic and manipulative man whose ministry blessed many of us and were blind to his weaknesses. Some did speak up but clearly not enough as those who did were ridiculed, humiliated and marginalised. It is with deep sadness that we acknowledge this terrible part of the history of Peniel Church.
Carolyn and I were part time pastors in the church for many years and based on that fact alone we bear the greatest responsibility. Sometimes we challenged, sometimes we did not and sometimes we did not know exactly what was going on. For the hurt that this has caused we can only say that we are deeply sorry.
For about 5 years prior to Michael Reid’s departure we too were attacked and ostracised. From a personal point of view we know how devastating that can be. I am not making excuses, that is simply how things were.
As I look back over the years and speaking on behalf of my wife as well, I think that our greatest fault was probably a naïve trust in a man whose ministry had been the vehicle of tremendous blessing in our lives. As a result we were too ready to overlook the real character flaws, domineering leadership style and other issues in his life. There were weaknesses in our governance both in terms of transparency and accountability. I was part of this faulty and inadequate system.
In 2008, when Michael Reid finally stepped down he left behind countless bewildered members of our church in a state of shock and shattered trust. We knew that only God could help us. In good faith the trustees and many church members set themselves to seek God believing that He was still with us, and that He would forgive and restore His broken church.
Although we still attended the church at this time, Carolyn and I were no longer actively involved in ministry and we were busy with our own jobs when we were approached by the trustees to step into the breach. It was not a role that we desired or envisaged but at the time we felt that this was God’s call.
Over the subsequent years we have tried to learn from and correct the errors of the past. Thank God that in Him failure is not final. We built the Leadership and Ministry Teams in an effort to ensure accountability and balance. I went to Trinity College, Bristol, to train as a pastor. I now have outside mentors with whom I can share and receive counsel. I have honestly tried to lead this church out of its damaged, isolationist and arrogant past and by God’s grace to move us into a new and more positive place in the overall body of Christ.
My role is not simply to preach on a Sunday. I see my role as a facilitator, enabling each member to develop and move on in their knowledge, love and service of God. I have also been quietly working in the background to build relationships with other ministers, to establish trust and counteract our negative history. The school is very close to my heart. I am closely involved with the overall management and I spend one day each week talking with every pupil from year 3 upwards.
I have both apologised and repented for past failures and sought reconciliation with former members and other ministers. We have been warmly received into the fellowship of other churches in Brentwood and I now serve in the role of Moderator of the Churches Together in this town. God has not deserted us and we are moving on with our confidence in Him and Him alone.
However, in the light of past mistakes made by the leadership (which included myself) of what was then called Peniel church, an apology was made – see above.
Also this week, via the website organised by Nigel Davies (the man who sits in his car at the entrance on Sunday mornings), an allegation was made that in the late 1980’s my wife and I colluded to create an environment in which a rape took place. The allegation was brought anonymously by an American woman who was a student at a small Bible School here at that time. This was not Peniel College of Higher Education [PCHE] which was established later and linked to ORU.
The details behind this allegation have not been disclosed. We have not been given the names of the individuals involved. It simply refers to the student being taken in a car at 10pm and returning to the Bible School at 3am the next morning. This is obviously extremely serious and in response the Trustees placed the statement above.
There have been calls on the web for me to resign as a result of these allegations. I have spoken with the Evangelical Alliance and informed them of what has happened. I have also sought counsel from other ministers.
I can confirm to you that my wife and I are innocent of what is being alleged and we are praying for the lady concerned.
However, our future as pastors has been called into question. The fact is that we were here at the time the alleged incident took place.
So I would like each one of you to search your hearts before God. If you decide it would be better for us to resign and for the church to move on under the leadership of someone who is not part of the past, then you need to contact the Trustees and make your views known.
If you trust me, then please also inform the Trustees to give me your backing so that we can stand together, supporting each other and moving forward to progress the work of God here. This is not the time to be silent. We need to know the opinion of each one of you.
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or drop in a letter to the office. We would ask that you prayerfully make your decision and let us know by 6pm on Sunday 9th November.
Carolyn and I have no fear of the future. We have a big God and we have proved His faithfulness over many years. May God give us all more grace to lift up the name of Jesus and to glorify Him whatever the future may hold.