“Church leaders should not try to silence those who have been hurt, especially if they have been hurt by leaders in the church. Silencing victims will always result in more pain being expressed. Also, those victims will seek solace from friends. These friends may become angry or concerned for their friends and speak to others. This is normal life. The church should be open about the pain that has occurred and should not spend its capital on hushing everyone up. Instead, they should eagerly seek help in dealing with this. We should actively love, protect and attempt to heal our fellow church members who have been hurt.” -Dee Parsons, The Wartburg Watch
The only way our Church can move forward in unity is to bring all things into the light. The Board desires truth above all in these matters. Therefore, over the next several weeks, the Constitution Committee will prayerfully, humbly, and soberly examine the facts of the matter. Once completed, The Board will present the findings to the entire church body, in the spirit of utmost transparency.
-The Chapel Leadership Updates, May 22, 2021
On September 18th, The Chapel leadership published their 14th update regarding the scandal involving their former senior pastor, Tim Armstrong and Mike Castelli, the lead pastor at the Green Campus. Below is a copy of that update.
Below is a quote from The Chapel Leadership Update, dated July 30, 2021:
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 Constitutionally outlined process for removal of Tim Armstrong was not followed by The Chapel leaders. That sets off alarm bells in my head. Below is a quote from The Chapel’s Constitution:
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.
I understand the response of some who have said that since Armstrong resigned, there was no need to have a membership vote to remove him. While I agree with that sentiment, my question is why was a leadership meeting with Armstrong conducted prior to the constitutional process being completed? Could it be that there are some issues that neither Tim Armstrong nor leadership of The Chapel want to reveal to the membership at large?
Additionally, based on The Chapel Leadership Update of September 24, 2021 it appears that The Chapel leadership once again failed to follow their Constitution in reinstating Mike Castelli. Here is the applicable paragraph from the Leadership Update:
After extensive review and conversations with Pastor Mike, The Constitution Committee unanimously recommended to the Trustees that Pastor Mike, in accordance with language outlined in The Chapel’s Constitution be fully restored to his role as Lead Pastor of The Chapel, Green Campus, and removed from administrative leave. The Trustees responded by unanimously voting to affirm that recommendation.
I hate to break it to The Chapel’s leadership, but complying with two of the three requirements outlined in their Constitution fails to be “in accordance with language outlined in The Chapel’s Constitution.” Again, the third requirement was not met. ( “a two- thirds vote of the members voting at a members’ meeting called for this purpose shall also be required.”)
In my opinion, The Chapel’s leadership is either incredibly incompetent, or they purposely do not wish to be open and honest with the membership, which would be necessary if they were to comply with the third requirement outlined in their Constitution.
The first choice – they are incredibly incompetent – is not likely. Stephen Neumeyer, pastor of the Cuyahoga Falls campus, is a member of the Constitution Committee. Neumeyer was also a former Assistant Prosecutor in the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. I have listened to several of his sermons and he is a bright man, not the kind of individual who would overlook the precise duties of his committee as outlined in their Constitution.
I must therefore conclude that there are individuals either on the Board of Trustees, the Constitution Committee, or both, that are working contrary to their promise of “utmost transparency” with church members. These leaders need to be exposed by men of integrity on the Board of Trustees and the Constitution Committee. Not to do so is unethical, compromises their integrity, and may ultimately cause the total implosion of The Chapel.
The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Staight
I will now address The Chapel’s leadership plan they rolled out to finally share with membership what has transpired since May 2021. The paragraph below is from the Leadership Update of September 18:
As a reminder, you will receive the Summary of Findings document on Friday, October 1. This document will be prepared by the consultants from The Center, based on their findings, and will come to you without any edits or changes made by The Chapel.
Based on the preceding paragraph, I can’t help but assume that The Chapel leadership have a very low opinion of the intelligence of their average member. This will become more evident as you read this article.
Are we expected to believe that the Center Consulting firm, who have undoubtedly received a significant amount of money, courtesy of the generous tithes and offerings of The Chapel members, have not worked “hand in glove” with leaders of The Chapel? Let me remind you of how much time these two entities have spent together over the last several months:
“This week, our campus pastors, central administration team, and staff teams from the Akron and Green campuses had the opportunity to visit in person with Billy Dunn, a representative from The Center Consulting Group. Billy has walked closely alongside our Constitution Committee and Board of Trustees throughout our present leadership situation and was available this week to share insights, answer questions, and offer clarity for Chapel staff members where needed.”
You can bet that Billy and his highly remunerated colleagues from The Center Consulting Group worked closely with Chip Weisel, Zac Derr, and the boys to churn out a “Summary of Findings” that will be highly sanitized. Once they all came to a mutual agreement on what “findings” would be released for public consumption The Chapel contingent left it up to The Center Consulting Group to compile the document. Of course, no further edits or changes were needed by The Chapel leadership at this point!
If Chip, Zac and the boys really believed in transparency they would release the initial report they were given by the Center to the membership. (Ed Caswell is the husband of Vicki Caswell. The Wartburg Watch ran her story here.)
Next, I will look into the process The Chapel leadership intended to utilize for those who wished to submit questions regarding the Tim Armstrong scandal. Again, I quote from The Chapel Leadership Update of September 18th:
“We will use a web-based tool called Slido that will allow you to submit questions for us to address during the series of meetings next month. We like Slido because of its ability to set expectations—your questions, though submitted anonymously, will be publicly viewable and will be seen by the church at large. Everyone in the congregation will know exactly what’s been asked, what still needs to be addressed, and what they can expect from the discussion.
We are relying on your input to shape the content of our town hall meetings. Your votes will help us understand which questions are of highest priority.”
Never having heard of “Slido” I decided to look into the company and what they offer. I specifically wanted to see if those utilizing their product had the ability to moderate the questions; that is if, as The Chapel leaders stated above, “everyone in the congregation will know exactly what’s been asked.” Here is what I found:
Based on the video above, the Chapel leaders have the ability with Slido to moderate questions. What I next wanted to find out is if The Chapel Leaders were, in fact, moderating questions.
The answer is yes, The Chapel Leaders are moderating questions. I found this out by submitting a few questions to see what happens.
As you can see, both of these questions entered “moderation.” Neither question was ever listed publicly.
In the case of my first question, there was a similar question already available for the public to view. Here it is:
I am doubtful this question will be answered by The Chapel Leadership, but it should be. I feel it is very important and a full explanation and accounting of the money needs to be given to members. It very well may have been a factor in why Armstrong resigned. To answer the question above I submit the screenshot below.
So yes, the Chapel took $1.2 million of the taxpayers money in the form of a PPP loan. Many other well known Evangelical churches and Christian para-church organizations did the same. Basically, as long as you didn’t lay-off any employees during a certain time frame these loans were forgiven. Not a penny was returned. This was a gift from the taxpayers. Also, the recipient of the loan had to attest that without the infusion of taxpayer dollars the church would not be able to continue operations. (Attest means to state formally that you believe something is true, correct, or real.)
Serious? You better believe it. It appears to me that what many churches did with the money was “technically” legal – that is, they used the money to pay employees. This is similar to the way gambling was sold to various states – they were told that all the profits will go to the public schools. It was a shell game. Money from the gaming industry did go to the public schools, but money from general revenue that used to go to the public schools no longer did. Instead it went to some politician’s pet project and the schools had no increase in funding.
What I suggest needs to be done is everyone who has accepted PPP money should have their books closely examined by an independent accounting agency. In fact, the government has started checking into this.
I’m not saying anything illegal was done with the money The Chapel accepted, but I believe it should be looked into. I don’t believe Tim Armstrong resigned because of his “harsh-fear based leadership.” Why couldn’t Armstrong have been left on administrative leave and assigned classes through the Center Consulting Group to assist him in changing his leadership methods? Mike Castelli, who reportedly was the good guy in this mess, “agreed” to take some classes through the Center.
I was also told that Tim Armstrong and Jim Mitchell were accompanied by their lawyers when they met for questioning. If true, (A good question for the church-wide meeting!) I find this very alarming. I don’t believe Mitchell was even accused of anything other than being close to Armstrong.
I did have one question that made it through moderation. Well, to be more precise, it made it through moderation, then it was removed from public view, then it was placed back in public view. (Perhaps just a clerical error?) My question is the middle of the three below, having to do with following the Constitution.
You should also be aware that even if your question makes it through moderation, that doesn’t guarantee The Chapel leadership will answer it. They plan on answering the most popular questions. Popularity is determined by how many people click on each question, and that process can be easily manipulated. Nothing appears to be in place to allow only members to submit questions or vote on questions, therefore, if you have a few hundred loyal friends, you could ask them all to vote for a question of your choice and manipulate the questions that will be answered.
As an experienced blogger, I know enough to make screenshots of things I plan on writing about, so on September 18th I took screenshots of all the questions that had made it through moderation up to that time. They follow below. I post these for a purpose, which you will see if you continue reading.
Again, the questions above were all from September 18th. I did not see any particularly offensive questions. They all seemed sincere and worthy of a response. But then on September 22nd I received word that The Chapel leadership had removed all questions and replaced them with several statements on the public question forum. Here is what they posted:
I find this response by leadership condescending and childish. If they had issues with questions, why did they publish them? Obviously the option to not publish questions was being exercised; as I displayed above – two of my questions did not make it through moderation.
I have to say that were I a member of The Chapel and had made it through this past “summer of discontent” I would be looking for a new church. The exception to this would be if I attended the Green campus, in which case I would remain long enough to welcome Mike Castelli back and see if there were plans to take the campus independent. If not, I would move on as The Chapel leadership seems totally inept.