The few people who opposed disaffiliation, a few of whom left for other churches, are good people now missed by us. We respect their decisions and, in my conversations with some of them, they respect ours, although they still disagree.
The AC report gives an “example” of how I supposedly intimidate people:
“At a required clergy self-care worship of June 2, 2006, Rev. Gray told several people present of a situation he had confronted early in his call as pastor in which the resolution he reached was speaking to one of the elders of the Kirk after the meeting and saying essentially, ‘Tell me where you want me to send you letter of transfer.’ When the elder indicated things weren’t that bad, Rev. Gray reported repeated, ‘No, I’m serious. Tell me where you want me to send your letter of transfer, because we’re not leaving tonight until I’ve written that letter for you.’ While this incident reportedly happened many years ago, Rev. Gray’s recent reporting of it was done in such a way that expressed no regret at this occurrence. This appeared to the AC to be Rev. Gray’s expression of his present approval of such tactics when approached by members of his congregation who expressed concern about him or the church.”
I hardly know where to start:
- This quasi-legal report bases its conclusions on hearsay.
- This quasi-legal report doesn’t have the facts behind the story.
- This quasi-legal report jumps to erroneous conclusions thereby.
Let me tell you the story as it actually happened. It was in 1987 (not 2006 some might think with a casual reading of the report) and the Kirk was in crisis thanks to a couple of very serious problems. Tulsa’s economic crisis at the time meant that hundreds of our members had lost their jobs or were in danger of losing their jobs. On top of that, the Kirk was still reeling from the shock of the pastor previous to me leaving the Kirk over a serious moral failure.
In the midst of these crises, one elder began to be quite divisive in the Kirk. This person was (prepare for a big irony here) trying to talk people into having the Kirk leave the PCUSA. Additionally, he was advocating issues that, while possibly in line with the Kirk’s ethos, were presented in a divisive manner, setting member against member and members against the session.
The incident cited in the AC was not after a meeting, as they say. This elder walked into my office on a weekday and said, “This church isn’t big enough for the two of us—one of us has to go.” Obviously, he meant that I should be the one to go.
I’m surprised to this day by my own response, but am equally sure that it was the right one. I asked him what church he would rather be in. He didn’t, as the AC report asserts, say that things weren’t that bad. What he did say was that he was going to make sure that I would be the one to go. That’s when I reiterated my statement. He suddenly seemed deflated, and then gave me the name of another large church in Tulsa. That’s when I wrote the letter of transfer.
I agree that this situation was not typical. I’ve never experienced something like this before or since. I did not come out of that encounter feeling good. I was shaky, upset, and even fearful for my future. Thanks be to God, it was the right decision for me, the Kirk, and that elder.
There are further inaccuracies that I’ll deal with in future blogs.
Keep praying—keep the faith.
"The Intimidator"--I'll be back.