Meeting with the Evangelical Alliance (EA)
As we had previously mentioned that we would, two of the trustees (Jon Cope and David Atter) met with Steve Clifford, General Director of the EA on Wednesday 10 December 2014.
Here is a run through of the meeting:
- Steve opened in prayer.
- Steve expressed his support for the process we are going through.
- We discussed three documents that we had prepared and sent through to Steve prior:
- Draft terms of reference for an investigation into past wrongs and how best to reach out to those hurt.
- Timeline of key events from the start of the church to today to give context.
- Culture Change strategy designed to put a spotlight on the errors in our culture as modelled by previous leadership, and instead to put a focus on the right behaviours as modelled by Jesus Christ. This strategy recognised that those old leadership behaviours were wrong, and furthermore had a powerful negative impact on the behaviours of the leadership team, and that these wrong behaviours in turn affected the church.
- There was a good degree of input and debate about various points on these three documents, however key points are:
- Agreement to call the process and team, a “Commission”.
- Acknowledgement that this process will take months, possibly all throughout 2015.
- Trinity had requested a joint investigation, however the EA recommend it be a Trinity investigation with an independent Christian senior leader (possibly retired) in the small team of 3 or 4, to ensure openness and transparency, probably acting as Chair.
- Agreement that the focus of the Commission will be on the wrong culture and in continuing to put it right, and, especially, on reaching out to those who have been hurt to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
- The EA commended the honesty contained in the Culture Change strategy, including our desire to work these issues through in a way that honours Jesus and His church. Whilst the document had focused on the errors of our past, and the right behaviours to replace them, Steve said that we should also recognise the good things that God did and that we did good things for each other. We agreed with this.
- Steve discussed some possible names of people with a suitable level of seniority within a church or other Christian organisation, possibly retired, and who could be an independent chair of the Commission team. He has not approached them yet as Steve is awaiting revised proposed terms for the Commission, which we will consider prayerfully, and deliver for consideration by the EA during January. Of course, the independent chair will have the option to amend the draft terms, after they accept the role. We will publish the terms after the independent chair has agreed to them.
- Steve ended in prayer.
Following this important meeting with the EA, the trustees would now like to make public the following commitments:
- The Commission will be open, transparent and independent of vested interest.
- The Chair of the Commission will be independent of Trinity and will be provided by the EA.
- The purpose of the Commission will be to continue to put a spotlight on past wrongs with a view to helping to put them right, with Jesus Christ as the model to which we aspire.
- The trustees will not rest until the erroneous culture of the past, which was decades in the making, is put right.
- The Commission will follow due process which will include reviewing all the testimonies received to date, requesting new testimonies from all who wish to be heard, and meeting anyone who was hurt by our past, if they so wish.
- The Commission will reach out with Christian love and compassion. We are committed to a process that brings peace and forgiveness. Our desire is for there to be no more hurt, and to put right where people have been hurt in the past.
- That we will publish the key findings of the report, with innocent names removed or anonymised. We will also remove names or redact elements that if left in, would serve to propagate hurt or where it could cause further grief to those involved. We will be open and publish a summary of all the findings with one overriding principle: no more hurt.
- That the trustees will act on all the findings of the report by the Commission.
- That anyone who comes to the Commission to present their concerns and to explain their hurt, will be accepted in love. They will be listened to respectfully. There will be a desire for reconciliation. The meetings will be run peacefully, prayerfully and in a spirit of Christian love.
As before, if criminal activities come to light we will continue to hand this information over to the Police, as the law requires.
Errors of the past
In terms of acknowledging the errors of the past we would make the following observations:
God did work in our midst and we did love each other with Christian brotherly and sisterly love. This continues today. However we accept that many of the human behaviours modelled by our former senior pastor were wrong. Some of these behaviours were toxic, and they polluted our church. Another way to put it is that, like yeast, wrong behaviours permeated through the culture of Peniel. And we recognise the corporate responsibility we have for these wrong behaviours. That is why the leaders issued an apology a month or so ago.
In fact we believe there were 7 main errors that were modelled by our former senior pastor and learned by some of his leadership team, for example treating leadership as an opportunity to ’lord it over people’. Whereas the behaviour of Jesus Christ is the opposite of this. Jesus saw leadership as a service: Mark 9:35 “He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, ‘Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.'”
There were other errors that were modelled, learned and copied by others in the church. And because of these errors, trust broke down. Trust in the leadership and trust between each other.
We will talk more about these past errors, and about the way we feel that we, as trustees, should behave as exemplified by Jesus, in future statements from the trustees.
Why analyse our culture now
We believe that God continues to work amongst us and that He has put a spotlight on our culture at this time, because now is the right time for the church to fully analyse and learn from the past. The trustees are committed to work to help change any aspect of the culture that still remains that is wrong. And to focus all our efforts, with all our minds, and all of our hearts onto Jesus Christ. We want to submit totally to Jesus because we know that Trinity Church does not belong to any person. Trinity Church Brentwood belongs to Jesus Christ.
Why put a spotlight on our culture now and not before? Perhaps as a body we have been going through a process ourselves. Perhaps the shock of what happened six years ago was so strong it has taken us this long to get to this point as a church body. Many were angry when they heard the news – within and outside the church. It also caused many to reject that what we did was wrong until now, or worse, to doubt their faith. Many people in our church were deeply hurt, we were angry, many were confused. All we might offer as a way of explanation as to the timing, is that we believe God is in control, and perhaps it is right that this process is happening now. The trustees are committed to doing whatever it takes, before God, to strive to correct errors that remain in our culture. We know that this change process will probably take a couple of years, if we are to do it effectively, focusing on Jesus at all times.
To Nigel Davies
We are sorry you were not always treated with respect in the past, however we hope that over time, the current trustees and you will learn to trust each other. We recognise that trust has broken down – on both sides – and we would love for that to be put right. We believe Terry Mortimer has a key role to play in this.
We want to work with you in a peaceable way. We will listen to you as we move forwards in an open dialogue. You have promised to send a detailed email with all the points you raised when we met. A step after that will be for the trustees to meet you and ask you further clarifying questions so we can better understand what we must do. We would like your help to heal the hurt with those people who have been hurt in the past. We would like reconciliation with you.
We also thought you should know that we recommended to the EA that meeting you will be a key step in the process for the Commission to undertake during 2015. The Commission will have an independent chair.
We thank you for the effort you have taken to date in preparing statements and presenting your findings. We hope there will be no more hurt. We hope that we can work together to bring light to the errors of the past, and look to a future where Trinity is modelled fully on Jesus Christ alone.
The trustees are committed to being open and to learn from respected independent Christians who have leadership experience. There are two such people who give us the benefit of their experience today. The trustees will add more independent people as required to seek input and guidance. The Evangelical Alliance will add a third in 2015.
1. George Kovoor
George is working with us as our Coach. George is a respected minister of the gospel and is coaching the trustees as we learn from the past and develop clarity around our governance. He is praying with us to ensure we are always modelled on Jesus Christ. George has preached at Trinity a number of times. George is independent of Trinity Church Brentwood.
George is a former principle of Trinity College Bristol; despite the name, this is independent of Trinity Church Brentwood. George is currently living in America. See here.
Extract from Wikipedia: George Iype Kovoor – Principal Trinity College Bristol 2005-2013. Chaplain to the Queen; Rector of St John’s Episcopal Church, New Haven, CT.
2. Terry Mortimer
Terry is working with us in the capacity as Conciliator. Terry is working tirelessly as a trusted intermediary. He has met and prayed with many people with a view to a peaceful reconciliation for all who wish it. Terry regularly talks with Nigel on the phone. Terry is independent of Trinity.
Terry is an ordained pastor with over 25 years experience of full-time ministry. He has a Cambridge Diploma in Theology and has served as an ordained minister in three denominations; The Salvation Army, The Assemblies of God and Elim. He has also worked alongside the UN during the Kosovo crisis helping to set up a refugee camp.
If you wish to contact him his email address is: Revtjmortimer@hotmail.com
3. Independent chair of Commission provided by the Evangelical Alliance
This will be a new person who we will work with during 2015. The person will chair the Commission. They will be an independent experienced Christian leader (possibly retired), provided by the Evangelical Alliance (EA). The trustees will also continue to work with the EA, seeking their guidance as required. The Evangelical Alliance is independent of Trinity.
Extracts from the EA website:
“We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members.”
By these three independent roles – Coach, Conciliator and Commission – we pray and trust that God will guide us. We also hope that through an open dialogue between Trinity and people hurt by our past, these three independent people will help to rebuild the trust that was broken, in a spirit of Christian love.
The part we ask you to play
The trustees believe in the power of prayer. We ask that anyone reading this, to please pray. Pray for all those who were hurt in our past. Pray that God uses this time as a time of revelation and acceptance of the errors of our history. Pray that we learn from the past, and with His strength, correct all the errors remaining in our culture. Pray for God’s wisdom as we change the Governance of Trinity. Pray that we are always reminded to focus on Jesus Christ each day, to be inspired by how Jesus acted, to see Jesus as our model of how to behave. Pray that God’s plan will continue to be revealed. Pray that when we look back on 2015 we will be able to say that God did this, for His glory, and His glory alone.
Your servants, the trustees.