Second, God is ever and always, with no shadow or turning, both light and truth. He is truth. He is light. Light exposes the truth. It exposes beauty and horror. Clean and filthy. And truth always calls what is exposed by its right name. “White-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones” is both exposure and truth. To cover-up or even slightly shade, deceive or rename anything the light exposes is ungodly. The Light does not flinch. The Truth does not water down. You see it is only light and truth together that expose the cancer; call it by its right name and enable healing to occur.
Third, light and truth require transparency- which simply means letting light pass through so that what is hidden can be distinctly seen. Transparency is the opposite of complicity which means to be folded up with. That means when sin is named light is needed. We do not like it. Neither did Adam and Eve whose immediate response was to hide. We prefer hiding and damage control. God calls us to the truth and light of transparency. Transparency protects both alleged victims and alleged predators from the horrific burden of lies. A transparent process protects truth for all. When those in power attempt to dissemble in order to protect an institution they are no longer accomplishing damage control. They are causing damage – damage to God’s precious sheep and damage to the name of our God –this, in the name of protecting the house of the Lord. That is what the Israelites said in Jeremiah – “the Temple of the Lord” – all the while throwing their children, the vulnerable ones, into the fire of Moloch. God’s response was to destroy the temple system he ordained and designed and cast his people across the earth.
Finally, dear vulnerable ones, those used, silenced, and cast aside – know that Jesus is often not like his church. He loves and calls us to truth and light, transparency and right naming. He himself is the one who bends to tend and care for you when his church does not. He weeps – not only over you and your suffering at the hands of those who name his name – but also over his church saying, as he did over Jerusalem: “If you had known the things that make for your peace…my house has become a den of robbers.”
Dear Church: Hear the Word of the Lord, by Diane Langberg
“Furthermore, its aim is to ensure maximum transparency, total objectivity, and strict adherence to Biblical principles in reviewing the events that transpired.
…The Board will present the findings to the entire church body, in the spirit of utmost transparency.”
The Chapel Leadership Update, May 22, 2021
“This Constitution Committee will begin meeting this week to examine the events leading up to and through this past week. Its aim is to ensure maximum transparency, total objectivity, and strict adherence to Biblical principles in reviewing the events that transpired.”
The Chapel Leadership Update, May 24, 2021
“We request your grace and your patience as we walk a careful line between full transparency and the wise restraint necessary to honor the investigative process, and to protect the dignity and privacy of all Chapel staff members, pastors and their families.”
The Chapel Leadership Update, June 18, 2021
The Wartburg Watch has been following the saga of The Chapel Church for about three months now. Our involvement began as many of our stories do, with a tip from someone who had some inside information. Allow me to bring you up to speed on the general framework of this story by quoting from The Chapel’s website:
Q. What happened?
A. On Thursday, May 20, Pastor Tim Armstrong (Senior Pastor) asked for the resignation of Pastor Mike Castelli (Campus Pastor, Green). 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.
Around the same time, concerns of a very different nature were brought to the Board of Trustees, involving claims against Pastor Tim of harshness and fear-based leadership toward The Chapel’s staff. On Friday, May 21, and Saturday, May 22, the Chairman of The Chapel’s Board of Trustees called a committee to conduct an inquiry into these claims, in accordance with Constitution Policy C-19.
The Committee engaged The Center Consulting Group to help with the necessary fact-finding to discern an appropriate path forward. Additionally, the Trustees placed Pastor Tim, along with Executive Pastor Jim Mitchell, on a voluntary administrative leave. In their absence, Pastor Mike was reinstated and also placed on administrative leave while the inquiry ran its course.
The Chapel Church consists of seven campuses in and around Akron, OH. Tim Armstrong and Jim Mitchell were the Lead pastor and Executive pastor of the Akron campus; additionally, Armstrong was the Senior Pastor of the conglomeration of churches listed below.
In spite of the four quotes listed above, which gave lip service to “maximum,” “utmost,” and “total transparency,” to date we have seen precious little transparency. The only thing we know is there were “claims against Pastor Tim of harshness and fear-based leadership toward The Chapel’s staff.” These claims appear to have been validated in the investigation. In the Leaders Update dated July 30 we read the following:
After extensive review, the evidence reveals a consistent pattern of conduct that substantiates the concerns raised about Pastor Tim’s leadership of the staff. Given this troubling and consistent fact–pattern, The Constitution Committee unanimously recommended to the Trustees that Pastor Tim, in accordance with language outlined in The Chapel’s Constitution, is unable to fulfill the duties of senior pastor and therefore cannot be restored to the role of senior pastor of The Chapel. The Trustees unanimously voted to affirm that recommendation. Pastor Tim agreed to resign, effective immediately.
The update included a letter from pastor Tim Armstrong in which he admitted to nothing. I have been told that Armstrong had his attorney present for his meetings. This would not surprise me. A guy can make an unbelievable amount of money in the Evangelical Industrial Complex if he is charismatic (little “c”) and remembers to always protect the brand. In the case of “pastor” Armstrong, don’t shed any tears for him losing his high paying gig in Akron. I heard last week he is already relocating for a new job in “the ministry.” It took him less than one month to get back in the game.
The latest Leadership Update, dated August 20,2021 had this to say about the fate of pastors Jim Mitchell and Mike Castelli:
Pastor Jim Mitchell
By way of clarification, in late May, Pastor Jim Mitchell went on a voluntary administrative leave as we prepared to begin our inquiry into the concerns regarding Green Campus Pastor Mike Castelli and Senior Pastor Tim Armstrong. As Executive Pastor of The Chapel, Pastor Jim’s role in the Senior Office aligned him intricately with Tim’s leadership. On Monday, August 16, Jim voluntarily chose to resign from his staff position at The Chapel.
Jim arrived at this decision while the Constitution Committee was still deliberating on many issues; therefore, Jim’s status as a Chapel employee was never brought forward for an official recommendation or Trustee vote. While the Trustees did not ask for Pastor Jim’s resignation, and acknowledge that he followed his own conscience in this decision, we agree that this decision is right, and we accept his choice as the best way for The Chapel to move forward into a new season of healthy leadership.
This fall, we will host a reception for Jim at the Akron Campus, to honor and acknowledge his 30 years of dedication to The Chapel’s ministry. We look forward to sharing the details of this event with you soon.
Pastor Mike Castelli
We commend Pastor Mike Castelli and say thank you. Our inquiry has revealed that Mike was in a difficult and complex situation when he exercised his only remaining option to expose Pastor Tim’s harsh and fear–based leadership to the Trustees. The Chapel is in a better, healthier place today because of Mike’s courage in bringing the truth to light. We affirm the integrity of Pastor Mike.
In partnership with The Center Consulting Group, we have had multiple conversations with Pastor Mike in recent weeks. Out of those conversations, we have reached a mutual agreement regarding next steps that we believe will be most beneficial to the congregation, the staff, and Pastor Mike and his family.
We expect this short season for Pastor Mike and his family to last for six weeks and desire to restore Mike to his position by the end of that time. Collectively, we will continue to move toward stability and unity as a church.
Allow me to summarize what has taken place to date. Pastor Tim Armstrong, apparently the culprit in this crisis, has been found to be harsh and have a fear-based style of leadership. The Constitution Committee and the Board of Trustees both voted unanimously that pastor Armstrong is “unable to fulfill the duties of senior pastor and therefore cannot be restored to the role of senior pastor of The Chapel.”
Pastor Jim Mitchell resigned while the investigation into his actions was in progress. Church Leadership agreed his resignation was the best thing to do for the health of the church. So, since “Pastor Jim’s role in the Senior Office aligned him intricately with Tim’s leadership,” causing him to be placed on administrative leave for nearly three months, Mitchell apparently also did nothing wrong, and in fact there will be a big church party for him sometime in the near future. Mitchell also was allowed to address the church in the Leadership Update. Like Armstrong, he admitted to nothing. (No word on whether his son, also employed by the Chapel, and not a part of the investigation, will remain on the payroll.)
Are we straight on the story so far? Two guys were placed on administrative leave while an independent group conducted an investigation into their behavior. Sure, pastor Armstrong ran a bit roughshod over people, but he was allowed to resign and admit to nothing. Mitchell apparently also did no wrong as he was allowed to resign and will have a party to honor him for his 30 years of service. After his resignation the investigation of him was dropped and there was no mention of anything the investigation may have turned up.
Castelli, in my opinion was the hero of this story for standing up to the bullying tactics of the Senior Pastor, Tim Armstrong. The Constitution Committee and Board of Trustees seems to have agreed with me, albeit apparently somewhat grudgingly. While they commended and thanked Castelli for exposing Armstrong’s harsh and fear-based leadership, and affirmed his integrity, they did not mention whether this was a unanimous feeling among the two leadership groups. Additionally, it took “multiple conversations” to come to a “mutual agreement regarding next steps that we believe will be most beneficial to the congregation, the staff, and Pastor Mike and his family.”
What was this “mutual agreement?” In the words of Castelli:
The Center has recommended a short season of healing for me and my family as
well as, during that time, coaching to assist in the success of the future of our church. I fully agree with their recommendation. I am looking forward to the future, and I also welcome good coaching as I and we all earnestly seek better cohesiveness and unity across The Chapel Campuses.
Why wasn’t Castelli, the hero in this sordid mess, simply told, “Great job, Mike. You are a man of integrity. We wish all our pastors possessed your courage and integrity. Now you let us know when you want to get back to work. If you want a month or two off to recover from what you and your family have been put through, it’s yours. Just let us know when you will be back.”
Why? Likely because we have some men on the Board of Trustees that lack intestinal fortitude. You know the type – Pastor Mike is not without sin. His tone in speaking to pastor Tim was not winsome enough. He needs coaching on how to speak in a more winsome tone to bullies.
Kudos again to Mike Castelli for taking the high road with these individuals in leadership. He shows his wisdom and maturity. He did the right thing, swallowed his pride and agreed to their demands so he could get back to serving the people he loves. Lesser men, such as I, who actually could benefit from some coaching would never agree to it. Mike was in the right. Mike needs coaching. Tim is a bum, he skates. Nothing mentioned about him and he flees the scene unscathed, and of course finds a new job in less than a month. I am not a fan of Matt Chandler and the Village Church, but at least when they fired Anthony Moore for repeatedly filming his assistant pastor in the shower, they pronounced him unfit for ministry. (But not unfit enough to keep Thomas White from hiring him at Cedarville. And by the way, White fired his buddy Anthony Moore when the story came out, having been made aware of all the facts prior to hiring Moore, and then lied and kept his job. Tim Armstrong was on the Cedarville Board of Trustees and voted to reinstate Thomas White!)
I recommend that the Center Consulting Group be brought back in to investigate the Board of Trustees. Tim Armstrong was the senior pastor of the Chapel for seven years. Do you mean to tell me that in seven years of bullying staff the Trustees never knew a thing about this? I find that hard to believe.
My guess is there are one or two Trustees who knew everything and did nothing. They should resign immediately. My guess is there is also a lot more than harsh treatment that has taken place. For starters I would have a complete and thorough audit of the financial records of the Chapel covering the time period Armstrong was in charge.
Something is being covered up.
The Leadership Update of August 20, 2021 mentioned informational meetings that would be held in October. Perhaps these meetings are when the promised transparency will take place, but I have my doubts. Questions can be submitted in advance and the meetings will not take place for weeks. This does not bode well for “transparency.” Chapel leadership is likely hoping most people will lose interest by October and the event will be sparsely attended.(The meeting was not even mentioned at The Greens church service last week. Just an oversight, no doubt.) Church leadership will also be able to control the information and tone by only allowing questions submitted in advance. I would demand microphones be placed in the audience and any and all who have questions be allowed to voice them.
“Help us to assume the best in others, not worst.”
“Help us to be people that seek unity and not division.”
I recommend you go back to the top of this post and read Diane Langberg’s words again. Investigations are completed. Nobody needs to assume the best or worst. The truth is known. Share it. Share the complete results of the Center Consulting Group. I have confidence that the members of the Chapel can bear it. And I guarantee that knowing the truth will cause unity, not division.
God bless you, Mike Castelli. May your tribe increase!