Dear Bro. Charles,
By now, you have almost certainly heard about the contention between Pastor Dan and the deacons of First Baptist Church. In fact, it would be nigh impossible for you to have missed it. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation being spread by both sides of the conflict, and I wanted to write you to ensure that you received an accurate account of the proceedings up to this time. Of course, I won’t be able to go into a lot of detail, but I hope that this overview will help you to sort out truth from fiction among all the conflicting reports that you have read.
In 2014, the Missions Board, the deacons, and the Pastoral staff of First Baptist Church voted nearly unanimously to collect an annual offering to send to the House of Heaven orphanage in South Africa. The congregation was eager to help, and the House of Heaven has received a large donation from the church every February. The Smiths were some the most vocal proponents of this decision because their son John is on the board of directors for the orphanage.
In 2016, First Baptist Church called Pastor Dan to be their head pastor, but the Smiths, who are related to the former pastor, strongly objected to that decision. Ever since then, the Smiths have been quick to point out each and every mistake that Pastor Dan has made. They have made multiple threats to see Pastor Dan ousted from the pastorate, and Pastor Dan has made just as many disparaging remarks about the Smiths.
In February of 2019, Pastor Dan told the church that he would be sending their annual donation to the House of Heaven orphanage at the end of the month, but the donation was not sent.
In July of 2019, the congregation discovered that the donation for 2019 still had not been sent. People began asking Pastor Dan for an explanation, but his answers were not very consistent.
On July 25th, 2019, Pastor Dan called the Steve Jones, the president of the House of Heaven orphanage to talk about the annual donation which still had not been sent. In that conversation, Pastor Dan reminded Mr. Jones that First Baptist Church was the orphanage’s largest donor and that they had done more to support the orphanage than any other church. Pastor Dan also complained that House of Heaven hadn’t really done much for First Baptist Church in exchange for all of that financial support. Pastor Dan then made the following request of Mr. Jones:
“I would like you to do me a favor. You know, we have this family in our church, the Smith family, and they’ve really been making my life miserable over the past 3 years. Well, there’s a rumor that they’ve been benefiting financially from our donations to your orphanage, and I’d like for you to get to the bottom of it. It’s very important that you investigate whether they are doing things they shouldn’t be doing. I’m going to have my head deacon give you a call, and I want you to tell him everything that you can find out about the Smiths. I’m also going to have my friend Mr. Adams call you. Mr. Adams knows all about the trouble that the Smiths have been causing, and I want you to talk with him as well.”
Mr. Jones agreed to help Pastor Dan by investigating the Smith family.
On August 12th, 2019, a member of the church staff wrote a letter to the deacons about Pastor Dan’s call to the orphanage. The member expressed concern that Pastor Dan may have acted immorally by refusing to send the church’s annual donation to the House of Heaven orphanage. The member provided details about Pastor Dan’s phone call with Mr. Jones and suggested that Pastor Dan may have been guilty of bribery because he was using the withholding of the donation as a means of forcing Mr. Jones to investigate the Smith’s.
The deacon who received the letter was a friend of Pastor Dan, and took it straight to the Pastor. Pastor Dan immediately confiscated the letter and refused to allow the rest of the deacons to see it in spite of their request that the letter be made public.
By the end of August, the entire congregation knew that the annual donation for the orphanage still had not been sent, and rumors about Pastor Dan’s conduct had begun to spread through the other churches in the community.
On September 9th, 2019, the Deacons voted to launch an official investigation into the impropriety of Pastor Dan’s decision to withhold the church’s annual donation to the House of Heaven orphanage. Several of the Deacons suggested that the church stop all funding of Pastor Dan’s other projects until the donation was sent.
Two days later, on September 11th, 2019, Pastor Dan sent the church’s annual donation to the orphanage.
The deacons continued their investigation into Pastor Dan’s conduct, and one of the deacons publicly threatened to sue the Pastor if he did not release the letter to the deacons which the Pastor had been holding since August 12th.
On September 20th, 2019, the local news media began talking about the conflict between Pastor Dan and the deacons of First Baptist Church over the withholding of the church’s annual donation to the House of Heaven orphanage.
On September 24th, 2019, the head deacon announced to the church that the deacons were deliberating over the question of whether Pastor Dan should be removed from his position as the Pastor of First Baptist Church.
On September 25th, 2019, Pastor Dan gave the deacons a recording of the phone call from July 25th between him and Mr. Jones of the House of Heaven orphanage.
On September 26th, 2019, Pastor Dan gave the deacons the letter which had suggested that he was guilty of bribing Mr. Jones into investigating the Smith family.
The deacons continued their investigation and began requesting interviews with members of Pastor Dan’s staff. Pastor Dan ordered his staff members to ignore the deacons’ requests and to refuse to cooperate with their investigation. Throughout the investigation, Pastor Dan publicly belittled and slandered the deacons who were leading it. He used his social media account to announce to the whole world that he was being unjustly punished by "Stupid Sam" and that "Crazy Cathy" had become deranged because of her hatred toward him. The investigation became the spectacle of the entire world as Pastor Dan launched attack after attack against his accusers.
The bylaws of First Baptist Church require a two-step process for removing a pastor from office. First the deacons must vote for the Pastor’s removal, and then the trustees of the church are to conduct a trial to allow the deacons to present their charge against the Pastor and to allow the Pastor to present his defense.
On December 18th, 2019, the deacons officially voted by a narrow majority to remove Pastor Dan from his position as the Pastor of First Baptist Church. They listed two reasons for this decision. First, they voted that he should be removed because he used the church’s annual donation to the House of Heaven orphanage as a means of bribing Mr. Jones into conducting an investigation against the Smith family. Second, the deacons voted that Pastor Dan should be removed because of his disreputable conduct toward the deacons during their investigation.
Pastor Dan responded to the deacons by telling the congregation that he’s not worried because he knows that most of the congregation isn’t like “those lying deacons” and that he’s certain that he’ll be victorious when the trustees conduct their trial. He then told the congregation that the deacons who voted for his removal are really out to destroy the church and that they only voted against him because he’s in their way.
At this point, we’re still waiting for the deacons to transfer the case over to the trustees for the trial, but I wanted to give you this overview of what has transpired so far because of all the rumors and misinformation that have been circulating. I hope that you’ll take this information to heart and pray with me that the Lord’s justice will be done regardless of the outcome of the trial.
Yours in Christ,
Bill Fortenberry is a Christian philosopher and historian in Birmingham, AL. Bill's work has been cited in several legal journals, and he has appeared as a guest on shows including The Dr. Gina Show, The Michael Hart Show, and Real Science Radio.
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