But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. – 1 Timothy 5:20 NIV
The Wartburg Watch has been tracking the opprobrium taking place among The Chapel Church of Akron since it was announced in late May that senior pastor Tim Armstrong had terminated the employment of Mike Castelli, the lead pastor of the Green campus church. As I delve ever deeper into the story it has become evident that, to borrow a phrase from Shakespeare, “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”
Several members and former members of The Chapel have told me that Senior Pastor Tim Armstrong has been abusive of staff members for years! The Facebook post below indicate that this abuse has been going on for seven years; that is to say, the entire tenure of Armstrong’s employment at The Chapel Church. The author of this Facebook post states confidently that “The Chapel has the full report on this and needs to be transparent.” I assume he, among others, have passed the information they have compiled on Armstrong’s behavior to The Center Consulting Group, the company hired by The Chapel Church to conduct an investigation into this affair. The Trustees and members of the Constitution Committee are now in possession of the report, but in spite of claims they have made early on in this process of “maximum transparency” and “utmost transparency,” they have remained very tight-lipped on the specifics of Armstrong’s behavior, other than to quote The Chapel’s Constitution saying Armstrong is “unable to fulfill the duties of senior pastor and therefore cannot be restored to the role of senior pastor of The Chapel.”
The unwillingness of the Board of Trustees and the Constitution Committee to name Armstrong’s sins and publicly reprove him as required by Scripture (1 Timothy 5:20) does an injustice to the victims of Armstrong’s abuse. Further, their choice to allow Armstrong to write a note to church members in the Leader Update of July 30, in which Armstrong made no mention of his workplace harassment was unwise. This harassment is not only sinful, but is likely unlawful. What bothers me is that The Chapel’s leadership stated that Armstrong is “unable to fulfill the duties of senior pastor and therefore cannot be restored to the role of senior pastor of The Chapel,” yet, without a confession of sin and a public rebuke, Armstrong will find it relatively easy to land another job in “Christian ministry” where his workplace harassment/abuse will likely continue.
In my opinion, there are some Trustees who have been negligent in their oversight of the church. There is absolutely no way that at least some of the men on the Board of Trustees were not aware of Armstrong’s “consistent pattern of conduct that substantiates the concerns raised
about Pastor Tim’s leadership of the staff.”
“Leaders who stand conveniently silent – or willfully ignorant – regarding the abuse and exploitation of God’s people by another leader, are idolaters.They sacrifice innocent men, women and children on the altar of their own ease and self interest, which they often justify by their own warped concept of unity and misguided sense of friendship.
Understand that eventually you will be forced to give an account of your silence – not only to God, but in the “here and now” to His people whom you profess to serve.”
–The Sin of Silence, by Jim Wright
I also have another issue with the Board of Trustees. In their Leadership Update of May 22 they stated:
“Just as our church constitution gives the Senior Pastor full authority to make this
employment decision, under Article 7 (Section 2), it also gives the Board Chairman,
under extraordinary circumstances, the authority to call a Constitution Committee to
inquire into the appropriateness of such a decision. This provision is known as a
meeting of the Constitution Committee.”
Clearly, at least a few of the men in leadership have read their church’s constitution, yet they failed to fully comply with it. The Constitution Committee investigated Tim Armstrong and determined by a unanimous vote that Tim Armstrong was “unable to fulfill the duties of senior pastor and therefore cannot be restored to the role of senior pastor of The Chapel.” The Board of Trustees voted unanimously in agreement with this, though both groups only required a 2/3 majority. So far, so good. But they skipped over the third constitutional requirement – a 2/3 vote by church members!
LEADERSHIP AND BOARDS
C. DISSOLUTION: The senior pastor shall give a written two–months notice of resignation to the
trustees and staff leadership team. Involuntary termination related to inability to fulfill duties of the office, immorality, or infidelity to the Chapel doctrinal statement requires a two–thirds vote of the constitution committee (Article VII, Sec. 2). A two–thirds vote of the board of trustees, and a two–thirds vote of the members voting at a members’ meeting called for this purpose shall also be required.
Was this failure to follow the requirements of their church constitution a mere oversight? Doubtful. There are some sharp men on the Board of Trustees and the Constitution Committee, including one man who is a former assistant prosecutor. (More on that below.)
My guess is the leaders made a conscience decision to skip the membership vote. They would have had to reveal information that they don’t want the members to be made aware of. Perhaps they are fearful if some of the information got out there would be many people who would resign. So much for transparency.
I would guess Armstrong was also aware that a members vote was required, this could prove embarrassing to him and harmful in his search for another cushy job in the ministry, so he agreed to go quietly, in the name of unity, don’t you know.
Below is a video from the Cayahuga Falls campus on August 1, 2021. The lead pastor at that campus is Stephen Neumeyer. Stephen is also a member of the Constitution Committe and a former assistant prosecutor in Cayahuga County.
Did you catch his words?
“God uses sinners, …and yet there is also a time when we have put ourselves in such a situation that we cannot lead anymore and that is what has happened… it was easier to be a prosecutor at times because we at least expect criminals to act a certain way.”
Whoa! What exactly has Armstrong done? Neumeyer has made it clear that he doesn’t believe Armstrong can lead anymore; that he has acted in ways you would expect criminals to act, not a senior pastor!
I would guess that Neumeyer had no input on the statement the leaders put out for public consumption. I get the feeling that Neumeyer is an honest, honorable man and if he had his way Armstrong would not have been allowed to write a letter, to be included in the document, in which he admitted to no wrongdoing.
From my research I am now relatively certain that Mike Castelli is an honorable man and a faithful pastor. Members of the Green campus love him.
Here is what the Leaders Update from July 30th said about Castelli:
“By way of brief background, on May 20, 2021, Pastor Tim Armstrong sought the resignation of Pastor Mike Castelli. Pastor Tim made this decision based on his belief that there existed under Pastor Mike’s leadership a culture among the staff at the Green Campus that did not support Pastor Tim’s overall vision for the church. Pastor Tim felt that these cultural differences were contributing to a breach in the foundational unity of our church. When Pastor Mike declined to resign, Pastor Tim terminated Pastor Mike’s employment.”
I don’t believe a word of it. Why should I believe a guy that has been removed from his position for a pattern of abusing staff?
I was told by a person who is aware of many first-hand stories of Armstrong’s manipulative and fear-based leadership tactics that Mike Castelli called him on his behavior one too many times.
When Castelli was fired by Armstrong, church members from the Green campus were understandably upset, even outraged. A petition drive was started and in less than 8 hours they had over 700 signatures. Many of the people who signed the petition left positive comments expressing their love and respect of Mike. Many said if Mike goes they will be looking for a new church.
I hope Mike is speedily restored to his job as pastor, and that without any profession of not fully supporting Armstrong’s vision, or any other such nonsense. He doesn’t deserve what he has been put through, nor does his church.
I wonder how many other staff members have been put through hell, fired, had their reputations tarnished, etc. because of Armstrong’s abusive ways? I feel sorry for them.
Two other comments; in the spirit of “maximum transparency” what’s the reason executive pastor Jim Mitchell has been placed on administrative leave? Nobody seems to know.
Lastly, after further contemplation I hope Tim Armstrong remains on the Cedarville University Board of Trustees. Tim and his hunting buddy, Thomas White deserve each other. If you are thinking of sending your child to that pricey institution all I can say is, buyer beware!