Part Two: Times of Trouble
"Don't you understand? Our people are not yet ready for disagreements." - Soviet official to ABC correspondent Betsy Aaron, broadcast on 2-18-86.
It should be obvious from everything related in Part One of this history that those associated with the Blitz accomplished and experienced much that was spiritually profitable as well as emotionally exciting. However, as intimated at the end of Part One, problems did exist and were growing in the Solid Rock Fellowship and within the Blitz as a whole…
The Bill Taylor Affair
On Sunday, September 12, 1976, the assembled members of the SRF were severely shocked and saddened as Mike Keator and Fred Colvin publicly excommunicated their fellow-elder, Bill Taylor, on a charge of "faction."
The storm unleashed on this day had been brewing since at least August 1974. At that time an elders conference was held in Albuquerque, N.M., attended by leading brothers from most of the then-existing Blitz fellowships. All three of the current Columbus elders (Dennis Clark, Mike Keator, and Bill Taylor) were in attendance at this gathering, having committed the responsibility of the assembly to Mike Meese and me.
During this conference Bill addressed the subject of truth and unity, saying that while unity is important, Scripture also speaks of the importance of truth. Bill stated further that the point can be reached where the pursuit of unity exceeds the pursuit of truth and thus becomes an invalid unity; as an example he cited 1 Chronicles 12:23-13:14 and 1 Chronicles 15:1-16:7, which tells of a thoroughly united effort by King David and the Israelites to bring the ark of the covenant up to Jerusalem, but not in the way prescribed by God. This united but wrong endeavor resulted in the death of one man and God's displeasure. It wasn't until they united within God's plan that they succeeded in this task. Bill concluded his remarks by proposing that the brothers re-examine some of their key teachings and the direction in which they were headed.
Next morning Jim McCotter took Bill aside to reprove him for what he had shared. Jim suggested the real problem was not with the teaching or direction, but rather with jealousy on Bill's part. Bill rejected this, maintaining that Jim's interpretation of Scripture as well as his methods were the problem.
During this same elders conference Jim McCotter met privately with the Columbus elders to discuss plans for the Winona Lake, Ind., conference (sponsored by the Columbus church), then less than one month away. Columbus had previously invited Jim along with Jim Wright of Colorado Springs to be the main speakers - however, Jim McCotter now stated that if Jim Wright were to come, he would not. Bill felt Jim's attitude was an attempt to dictate to the Columbus elders whom they could and could not invite as speakers. He angrily objected, saying Jim had no right to do this, and was acting as though he were the "king-bishop" of the movement. (Later, Bill confessed his angered reaction was sinful, though not the principle he stood for - now he has no qualms about his reaction, either.) Mike Keator reminded Jim that only a year or so earlier he had invited Jim Wright to speak in Ames. Jim replied that during that time Jim Wright had counseled people in Ames without the elders' knowledge, and therefore couldn't be trusted. However, Brooky Stockton (an elder in Las Cruces, N.M.), who was also in Ames at the time, repudiates this assertion, and Bill also knew it wasn't so. What actually happened was that Jim Wright had confronted Jim McCotter about problems and directions in his life and the latter had been unwilling to receive this counsel. Because of this, as well as doctrinal differences between the two, Jim McCotter tried to enforce his wishes upon the Columbus elders, and was successful in that he and not Jim Wright spoke at the conference. The implications toward exclusiveness in the movement were clear: the kind of unity that was being forged was not biblical.
These events were the beginning and basis of a major controversy that simmered within the Blitz leadership for two years until it erupted into the open with Bill Taylor's excommunication.
In Columbus some of the members with greater spiritual discernment were beginning to see signs of a conflict - signs which are even clearer now in hindsight. During the conference at Winona Lake over Labor Day weekend 1974 Bill Taylor rebutted the notion that Paul's "heavenly vision" (Acts 26:19, 20) referred to a specific evangelistic strategy he was given by God. Such was, however, the teaching of Jim McCotter, who saw this specific evangelistic strategy also in Acts 1:8; 8:39, 40; Rom. l5:17-l9; 2 Cor.10:12-16; 1 Thes. 1:8; and Luke 24:47 (see Appendix One). While not referring specifically to Jim's teaching, Bill contended to the contrary that Paul's "heavenly vision" was nothing other than Christ himself. He went on to emphasize that in stressing evangelism or any other form of service for God ahead of personal devotion to Christ we are putting the proverbial cart before the horse.
Other slightly less obvious indications of conflict between Bill and Jim were noted by some of the older believers in Bill's teaching in Columbus throughout 1975 and 1976 until his ouster. Especially significant in this regard were his teaching on:
Crucial Truths and Their Symbols (8-3-75);
Exposition of Galatians (fall-75);
God's Character (1-4-76);
Romanticism - Idealism - Reality (2-15-76);
The Weightier Provisions of the Law (Jan-76);
True Spirituality (Colossians) (4-25-76; 5-2-76);
Unity (Ephesians) (5-16-76).
During the Winona Lake conference Bill was approached by Stan and Debbie Berberich, who expressed to him their concern about certain directions being taken in the teaching in Ames. They wanted to know what to do about this. Bill replied that he and some others had taken a stand against some of these very teachings when they came up during the elders conference in Albuquerque the previous month. He counseled them to keep Jim McCotter in balance by standing up with the Scriptures whenever they sensed that things were not squarely centered on the Word. Bill based this counsel on Proverbs 2:17, "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."
In November of this year Stan called Bill from Ames to say he thought he was about to be excommunicated, though he wasn't sure - he was afraid something was going on behind his back. Stan had learned that the elders planned to visit him soon, so Bill advised him to tape record any charges they made against him when they came. Bill suggested this so that Stan would have a record of the charges to review before the Lord and determine if any of them were true.
However, when the elders finally showed up at Stan's place and found him ready with a tape recorder, they interpreted this as a sign he wasn't really repentant of his "sin." The elders gave Stan no specific instances of sin on his part, merely accusing him of "faction." They then informed him he was, as of that moment, excommunicated from the church in Ames. Thus Stan became the first of many in the Blitz movement to be excommunicated on the charge of faction.
It was through Mike Keator and Dennis Clark that Bill first learned that this action had been carried out, then through a letter from Ames requesting others to have nothing to do with Stan because he had been disciplined. Bill was suspicious about the circumstances of this action, and therefore called Stan to hear his side of the story. All in all, this incident seemed to confirm to Bill the things he had been mulling over about Jim's teaching and actions since the elders conference.
Bill felt he had to talk to Jim again about the problems he saw; but because he had found it hard to talk to Jim straight on, Bill called Herschel Martindale in Houston to ask his advice. He posed the theoretical question: "If I have serious questions or problems about someone who is an elder in another church - problems about which this person needs to be confronted -, how should I approach him - on the basis of Matthew 18:15-17, or 1 Timothy 5:19?" Herschel replied that unless he knew some specifics he wouldn't know how to respond. Bill was not yet ready to share any details, so he decided not to pursue the matter further at that time and rang off.
About two weeks later Bill called Herschel again and told him the problem was in the direction in which Jim McCotter appeared to be moving, as well as the handling of Stan Berberich. Bill cited the following specifics of which he felt Jim was guilty: (1) making commands out of biblical examples or particular applications of principles; (2) setting himself up as a prime example to imitate while being unwilling to acknowledge errors in doctrine or action; and (3) linking authority with being right so that any suggestion of his being wrong was a threat to his authority.
Upon hearing Bill, Herschel stated that the proper approach to Jim on these issues was 1 Timothy 5:19; he also suggested that both he and Bill should go right away to confront Jim on these things. As Bill and his wife, JoAnn, were planning to visit her parents in Hawaii for Christmas in a week or so, Herschel agreed to meet Bill in Ames as they traveled west from Ohio.
Bill reports that on the morning he and Herschel arrived in Ames Jim was "a bit uptight." Their time together was quite brief, since Herschel had to catch a plane at about 2:30 in the afternoon. Bill therefore began at once explaining the three problem areas he saw in Jim, giving examples in Jim's life and actions in support of his contentions. Jim objected that Bill hadn't come to him alone about these things first, and attempted to cut off the discussion. Time was fast running out, and Jim's unwillingness to deal with the issues greatly irritated Bill. Finally, Herschel had to leave. As the three men drove to the Des Moines airport Bill continued to press the issues with Jim. After dropping off Herschel at the airport, Jim and Bill returned to Ames in silence.
On their return they sat in Jim's driveway and Bill brought up seven specific incidents in which he felt Jim had wronged others and which he wasn't facing honestly or hadn't made right. (Jim had said he wasn't interested in issues, but facts.) Bill and Jim then walked into the kitchen where, at Jim's request, Bill wrote these things out for him. At this point Jim denied the charges, one of which was that he had not learned to be in subjection to others, especially to his original elders in Colorado Springs. Also at this time Bill mentioned his concern for Stan Berberich. He reported Stan's phone call to him before he was disciplined and Bill's own call to Stan afterwards to learn his side of the story, plus a brief call to Stan that Bill made upon his arrival in Ames in order to learn what Stan's present situation was.
With Jim's steadfast refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing on his part, Bill and JoAnn then left to continue their trip to Colorado Springs and Hawaii. Before leaving Colorado Springs after visiting Bill's parents, Bill telephoned an elder in Jim's home church, Northeast Bible Chapel. This brother confirmed to Bill that Jim had never really learned subjection to the church authority; Bill sent a letter to Jim outlining the elder's observations.
Following the Taylors' visit to Hawaii they returned after the first of the year (1975) to Colorado Springs to find a letter from Jim awaiting Bill. In the letter Jim stated his desire to meet with Bill again if possible. Bill says, "He seemed soft, like he wanted to discuss some of these problems."
On their return trip to Columbus Bill and JoAnn drove down to see Christian friends in Fort Worth, Tex. Herschel somehow found out they were there and called Bill to arrange to meet with him half-way between Houston and Fort Worth. Herschel had spoken again with Jim in the interim, and had been disturbed by what he felt was a condemning attitude on Bill's part toward Jim during their meeting in Ames the month before. He also felt that Jim hadn't really understood the three big issues Bill had brought up, because Jim had lost them in the examples Bill had given. Beyond this, Herschel wondered whether Bill did, in fact, have a problem with jealousy toward Jim. Finally, Herschel recommended that Bill make another trip to Ames to lay these problems before Jim once more, and he offered to accompany Bill again if he desired. Bill agreed to see Jim again, but didn't want Herschel to spend the money on another round-trip plane ticket. Instead, Bill suggested Herschel send a tape to Jim urging him to openly receive Bill's concerns. Herschel consented to this, and was to mail this tape by special delivery.
When Bill re-visited Jim in Ames that same January the latter listened ("coldly," Bill thought) as Bill repeated the problem issues to him. Jim had received Herschel's tape, but refused to permit Bill to hear it, saying he hadn't thoroughly gone over it himself, but had talked to Herschel personally on the phone and knew what he had said. This seriously disturbed Bill, as he felt this was just another brush-off. Bill then requested a meeting with the Ames elders in order to discuss some of the problems Stan Berberich had brought up. This apparently was something Jim also wanted - the meeting was therefore arranged for the evening of the same day.
When they were together (Jim, Bill, Larry Clemente, Dave Bovenmyer, Gary Kellogg, and Rob Irvine), Bill brought up the issue of authoritarianism in the church leadership, as well as various questions about justice and truth connected with Stan's case. Bill sought to make it clear that he was not intending to express any authority over the local elders, but was merely calling on them to hear Stan's complaints and face what appeared to be injustice and false action against Stan. Bill emphasized that while he had thus far heard only one side of the case (Stan's), the things he had heard needed also to be heard and answered by them. Bill acknowledged that the farthest he had the right to intervene in the matter was to raise these issues and challenge the brothers to deal with them seriously and honestly; he added, though, that "truth, if it were truth, would demand righting any wrongs."
The elders requested some time alone to discuss Bill's concerns. When they reconvened with Bill they denied they had acted wrongly in any way, and then presented their own view of the situation. They contended that Stan had been factious in the church and bitter towards them. Since Bill had no way to verify or deny this latter charge he simply accepted it, though he did cite the applicability of Colossians 3:21 ("Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart") to the spiritual father-son relationship. The discussion was brought to an abrupt close with Jim's saying words to the effect that "We were absolutely right; Stan was absolutely wrong," and Bill did not wish to press the matter further.
At this point Jim produced a pre-typed letter of confession for Bill to sign, indicating that Bill had sinned in contacting Stan after the latter's excommunication, and that he had sinned against "the elders in Ames, especially Jim" (see page 47). Bill refused to sign, taking his stand on Leviticus l9:15-l7. He then left Ames after sending a letter to Stan addressing the bitterness issue and counseling him to deal with this before God. Bill now feels even this much was inappropriate.
During this time period Stan was in touch with a pastor from Ontario Bible Church in Ames, and under his counsel he eventually confessed, not to faction or bitterness, but rather to creating a tense situation in the city among believers over the issues he had raised (authoritarianism, teaching imbalances, etc., in the Blitz group). The elders (Jim McCotter, et al.) accepted this as a satisfactory "repentance." With this matter out of the way they immediately sought information from Stan about Bill, but Stan became suspicious of their intentions.
Next month in Columbus Dennis and Mike received a letter and a phone call from the Ames elders accusing Bill of breaking their discipline of Stan as well as interfering with that discipline. (In the meantime Stan had already been received back into the fellowship, but was about to leave again voluntarily in order to join Ontario Bible Church.) Dennis and Mike approached Bill about these accusations, Dennis bringing up the old charge of jealousy towards Jim. Bill again rejected this, saying, "Issues are the issue," and that this jealousy thing was merely "a tool Jim has used with others who have confronted him."
This controversy over Bill's role in the Stan Berberich affair was finally resolved by a compromise in April 1975. By then Mike appeared to have recognized at least a measure of truth in some of the things Bill had been saying, though Dennis remained loyal to Jim and his accusations throughout. (This, in fact, raised an additional issue of loyalty to men versus truth.) The compromise which was finally reached was expressed by Bill in a letter he wrote on April 22, 1975, to the elders in Ames (see pages 48 and 49).
Prior to the resolution of this affair Bill determined to verify if the problems other men had discerned in Jim McCotter and his ministry were the same things he had seen. Bill reasoned that if their concerns were the same as his this would be strong evidence that jealousy was not the issue, but rather genuine problems with Jim. To this end, therefore, Bill called eight men on April 6, 1975. Among these were a brother who had discipled both Jim and Bill; an elder in Jim's home assembly; four men who had been close associates of Jim in the early years of the movement; a Christian publisher who had been close to the movement for several years; and a well-known Bible teacher and author who had been quite influential on Jim and the movement in its early years.
Bill began by telling them that he had serious questions about Jim, and he wanted to compare his concerns with theirs - "Are we seeing the same root problems?" He did not elaborate his thoughts until they first shared their own. Of the eight, only one declined to talk with Bill concerning Jim, and one other spoke only of the movement in general or applied the problems only to himself personally during the years of his own involvement in the Blitz. Every one of the remaining six men were unanimous in their belief that two central problems were: (1) Jim had never learned to be in submission to others, and (2) he was becoming increasingly authoritarian in his own leadership. (I have in my possession a copy of the notes made by Bill during these conversations, and they bear this out with details and examples cited.)
In further meetings of the Columbus elders the continuing controversy was repeatedly discussed, with Dennis and Mike disallowing the testimony of these other men and calling it "slander," as they had been terming Bill's own charges against Jim. Dennis and Mike considered it slander to say anything negative about another person, true or not, while Bill held that slander was always false and that, therefore, he was not guilty of it, as shown by the confirming testimony of the six men. Bill's definition of slander is supported by W.E. Vine (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words) and Webster (Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged). From April onward Dennis and Mike (and soon Jim McCotter) continued to perceive Bill's most serious "sin" to be "slander," although the specific charge under which he was ultimately excommunicated was said to be "faction."
When Fred Colvin was recognized as an elder in Columbus in August 1975 he immediately found himself caught in the middle of the dispute, basically agreeing with Bill's teaching as opposed to Jim's, but at the same time agreeing with Dennis and Mike that Bill needed to sit down with Jim again and thoroughly discuss their differences.
By way of summary, Bill's major complaint against Jim was three-fold: he had never really learned to submit to spiritual authority over him; he had, consequently, never learned how to be in authority over others in a right way; and these first two factors had led inevitably to unbalanced teachings and concepts, including "an encouraged loyalty to him in others [that] was developing things in a sectarian direction much like what I observed in the Witness Lee 'movement.' "
Pre-typed letter of "confession" handed to Bill Taylor to sign in Ames regarding the Stan Berberich issue:
The compromise letter written by Bill Taylor "resolving" the Stan Berberich issue:
Deposition composed by Jim McCotter, detailing the charges against Bill Taylor:
Letter of excommuinication presented to Bill Taylor on September 12, 1976:
Bill persisted in declaring to Mike, Dennis, and Fred that until these failings were somehow rectified he did not welcome Jim's influence in the affairs of the Solid Rock Fellowship.
Eventually (in January 1976) Fred, finding the stress of this situation too much to bear alone with its apparent impossibility of quickly reaching a compromise or other solution, confided the general conflict to me, since I was at the time one of the oldest members of the assembly spiritually speaking and the one with the longest experience in the Blitz, other than the elders and their wives. I, frankly, was not very surprised to hear of Bill's disagreements with and charges against Jim, though I was somewhat unprepared to learn of the great degree of disunity these had caused among the local leadership. Until Fred's disclosures to me I was only vaguely aware of the conflict.
However, I had to confess that Bill's concerns (as Fred shared them with me) were also concerns of mine, to one degree or another, ever since I first joined the movement in Tucson in late 1971. For one thing, I had long felt there was an unbiblical denigration of the mind and its intellectual capacity in exploring the deeper truths of Scripture, and general discouragement of engaging in more "secular" pursuits, particularly higher education. This was accompanied by an over-strong emphasis on aggressive evangelism, among other things, and I felt there were many truths of Scripture which had not been taught adequately or even touched upon; the teaching we had been receiving seldom provided more than the rudiments of the faith. And I, too, had recurring questions concerning Jim's position and authority in the Blitz movement. There had been a number of incidents of which I was a personal observer which impressed me as the actions of a "king-bishop," or nearly so (see pages 43 and 108-109).
As tension continued to mount between Bill and Jim, as well as between Bill and Mike and Dennis, efforts were made (unknown to Bill) at getting him together with Jim to "get right" with him. There were numerous phone calls back and forth between Dennis and Jim during which terms and locale for such a meeting were negotiated. These efforts were severely hampered (and eventually thwarted), however, by Jim's insistence that the proposed meeting be according to his terms only, to wit: Bill must agree in advance to "confess"; Jim must be allowed to choose the location; Jim must be permitted to have with him "observers" of his own selection; and Bill must come alone. Bill, on the other hand, ignorant of the position Jim was taking, sought another meeting between just the two of them, and on neutral ground, but Jim would not hear of it.
In June 1976 Jim stopped in Albuquerque on his way to the El Paso conference/outreach. While he was there elder Jim Schooler told him he was praying about inviting Bill to Albuquerque to teach for awhile. Jim McCotter squelched this idea by indicating that Bill was "having problems" at that time and that his teaching would thus be adversely affected.
Then during the El Paso conference Herschel added to Jim Schooler's knowledge of the growing Bill Taylor affair by saying that he (Herschel) had been flying back and forth between Houston and Columbus, trying to get things straightened out among the elders there. (These visits by Herschel were made under the strictest secrecy; no one but the elders knew of them.) Jim Schooler suggested that, if Bill really were doing the things they said he was, perhaps the right thing to do would be to call a Jerusalem-type council (see Acts 15) and let both Jim and Bill present their views before some of the elders of the various assemblies - surely with prayer and seeking God's mind a decision could be reached. Such a council, however, was never held.
Then, in August 1976 the Blitz staged its outreach at the G.O.P. Convention in Kansas City. Mike and Su Keator stopped in on that occasion on their way to California where Mike was planning to go through the Discipleship Intern Training Program at Fairhaven Bible Chapel in San Leandro. However, while Mike was in Kansas City Jim McCotter persuaded him not to go on to the D.I.T.P. but to return to Columbus instead, saying that something had to be done about Bill Taylor's "faction," and the sooner the better.
Back in Ohio in late August, Mike again urged Bill to pursue a meeting with Jim, which suggestion Bill received humbly, indicating such was his own desire. Bill attempted to reach Jim by telephone several times, finally receiving a return call from him on September 5. During this phone conversation Bill requested that Jim meet with him in a mutually agreeable place with no aides or counselors present; Jim agreed to consider Bill's request. However, Jim's next recorded action was to summon to Ames a number of leaders from various Blitz fellowships (about ten or twelve in all) for a high-level discussion of what action to take. This call went out a mere two days after Jim had left Bill with the distinct impression he would consider meeting personally with him, and was made without informing Bill of his decision. Jim placed such urgency on this council that he instructed one brother (Rob Irvine, then in Guelph, Ontario) to leave his new job in order to attend. At 9:00 a.m. on this Tuesday Mike called Bill to say he was leaving on vacation to visit his folks in Pueblo, Col., and he was planning to depart in 15 minutes! (Mike didn't get any farther west than Ames.)
By the following night Jim had arrived in Columbus with all his counselors and checked into a motel in Reynoldsburg, fifteen miles from the OSU campus. On Saturday evening Mike drove a rented car to Fred's house, told him he needed his counsel and requested that he accompany him to an unspecified location for this purpose. Throughout their car ride Mike remained mum as to the reason for this consultation, as well as to the destination. Not until he entered the motel room (surprised to find all the other brothers there) did Fred learn the true purpose and nature of the meeting. For twelve hours (6 p.m. to 6 a.m.) Fred heard testimony and was pressured to unite with Mike against Bill. All the while, of course, Bill was completely unaware of what was transpiring. He was not invited to face his accusers (including 12 from outside the church), and only immediately prior to the public announcement of his excommunication was he even informed of the impending action against him.
During this all-night meeting in the motel room Jim and the other outsiders actively participated in the composition of the letter that was later given to Bill informing him of his excommunication and the reasons for it, as well as what he would have to do to be received into fellowship again (see page 52). In addition, Jim urged that Mike and Fred also send letters to a number of other assemblies (all those associated with the Blitz, as well as others) to press for their compliance in this discipline, and he obligingly supplied a list of persons to whom such letters should be sent. (Jim's involvement in these things, whether or not it was welcome or even requested, constitutes blatant conflict of interest, since he was also the chief "plaintiff" in the case.)
Mike, Fred and Jim, with all the other "witnesses" and "counselors," arrived late at the Indianola Presbyterian Church, where the SRF was still holding its meetings. The meeting had already commenced, with deacon Jim Zuber leading the congregation in singing. In the meantime, Bill, believing Mike to be in Colorado and seeing that Fred had not yet arrived, was preparing to do the teaching.
When Mike and Fred showed up at the church with Jim and the others, Fred was requested to go in and bring Bill out. While Jim and the others waited out of sight, Fred approached Bill, asking to speak with him outside. Upon seeing Mike, Bill exclaimed, "Mike! What are you doing here?", to which Mike dead-panned, "We excommunicated you," and he handed him the letter of excommunication.
When Bill recovered from his initial shock at Mike's announcement and understood the intention of these brothers, he said, "You're not going to do this without me being there," and he turned for the door. At that point Mike prepared to stop Bill by physical force. Just then a late arriver to the meeting (Pat Ryan) came around the corner, saw what was happening, and stopped still (none of the others saw him at the time; he told this to Bill later). About that time Jim and the others appeared, and two of them took up positions between Bill and the building. Following this, Bill chose the course of prudence and left, while the rest went on into the church to fulfill their intentions.
Fred was assigned to begin the meeting, leading off with teaching on the evil effects of slander and faction, and spelling out what he understood the scriptural remedy for it to be. Then Mike explained briefly the charges against Bill and thus the reasons for his excommunication. Several of the brothers from other places (Jim, Herschel, Larry, Gary, and Rob) were asked to add their witness to what was said to be Bill's sin of "faction," but even here few specific actions or statements by Bill were spelled out. Mike listed the charges as follows (cited from audiotape):
"This faction has basically been against a particular leading brother in another city. Bill Taylor has continually turned people away from him on an unscriptural basis in an unscriptural manner."
1."In Albuquerque, N.M., two years ago - the charge is faction, the witnesses myself, Dennis Clark, Jim McCotter."
2.Columbus - "It involved phone calls which spread suspicion, which were factious in nature. Bill Taylor is a witness - we have his testimony quoted on paper. I am a witness to that testimony, Dennis is a witness to that testimony, Fred is a witness to that testimony."
3."In Indiana - the charge is faction and dissension, the witnesses are Dennis Clark, Mike Keator, Larry Clemente, Rob Irvine, Gary Kellogg, Jim McCotter…"
4."New York - in this particular incident Herschel, myself, and Dennis were pleading with Bill to please get reconciled, to please stop this attack; and what he did was make excuses, wouldn't hear us, wouldn't take action to reconcile matters."
5."I, myself, have been exposed to this faction - continual factious actions by Bill Taylor, dividing me from this leading brother."
6."There was another brother - Stan Berberich… The charge against Bill Taylor was faction in this particular time. Stan was being excommunicated from another church. Bill counseled him not to repent, to hold off on his repentance. That's the phrase I want - he counseled him to hold off the day Stan was going to go and repent. Bill violated the disciplinary action of the church after Stan was excommunicated, spoke divisive things for the last three years to Stan against this leading brother. We have Stan's testimony written in quotes." [Stan was an absentee witness.]
7."The next incident was a slanderous attack against this brother to Herschel Martindale; the effect was divisive. Herschel is a witness."
8."The next happened, in Indiana - Bill spoke factious things to a brother who used these things to be factious to a brother named Jay Schiller. The witnesses are Jim McCotter, Jay Schiller." [Jay Schiller was another absentee witness.]
9."In Las Cruces, N.M. - the charge is faction, the witnesses are Herschel Martindale, Jim McCotter, and Brooky Stockton." [Brooky Stockton was another absentee witness.]
10."Faction in Missouri - the witness is Jimmy Schooler." [Another absentee witness.]
11."The next one is faction in Columbus, the witnesses are Dennis Clark, myself, and Fred Colvin. These are recurring over the last three years, some very recent."
Such vague "charges" (only the sixth contained specifics, but according to Stan Berberich even these were distorted), rather than being genuine witness, were actually judgments and pronouncements of guilt. Further, as already indicated, Bill was not present to speak in his own defense, having been excluded on the grounds that he was a "crafty person" who could "deceive" those present and "thwart justice."
A deposition prosaically entitled "From Aug. 1974 until Sep. '76" was specially prepared by Jim for use in both the all-night meeting in the motel room and the church meeting. This deposition (see pages 51 and 52) consisted of a list of thirteen specific accusations against Bill, but none of these (except the Stan Berberich case) was ever publicly detailed. In fact, all but two of these charges had already been "repented" of by Bill or were otherwise mooted by the time of his excommunication. One of the two remaining charges concerned testimony from Brooky Stockton of Las Cruces, N.M. The other was the charge referred to in footnote 6, page 54. Fred was to learn later from Brooky himself that Jim's version of the reported incident differed markedly from the facts. Jim stated that Brooky had "received a letter from the Taylors" while "at a Conference in El Paso [in June 1976] with Herschel and Jim… The letter said they had many trials and had to be 'teaching against McCotterism.' Brooky was somewhat shockedt [sic] to receive such a letter at such a time."
However, Fred learned from Brooky that he was not shocked by this letter. Brooky further stated (and confirmed to me personally) that the letter was written by JoAnn, not Bill; that his wife received it in Las Cruces and delivered it to him in El Paso during the conference; and that, in fact, he had solicited the comment by writing to Bill in May of that year to ask if he had communicated yet with Jim concerning matters of mutual concern. In the above-mentioned deposition emphasis was placed on the timing of this letter to Brooky with its reference to "McCotterism" - the implied charge being that Bill was attempting to undermine the conference. Contrarily, the timing was merely coincidental; Bill was, in fact, unaware that Brooky would be attending such a conference at that time, and therefore the letter was mailed to Brooky's home in Las Cruces rather than to the conference site in El Paso.
According to Brooky, Jim told him he was eager to meet with Bill and was puzzled about what his concerns were. (Fred expressed surprise at this, as he knew Jim was actually putting hindrances in the way of such a meeting, and that, in fact, Jim was not ignorant about Bill's concerns.) Jim then suggested that Brooky call Bill to confront him and ask what his definition of "McCotterism" was, because Brooky was to talk with Jim about these things. Mike Keator's account of this conversation between Brooky and Jim (based on Jim's report of it to him) was that Jim said he had been willing to meet with Bill earlier, but only after Bill wrote down his "concerns" and mailed them ahead.
At any rate, on September 12, 1976, Bill was excommunicated from the Solid Rock Fellowship of Columbus, from the entire Blitz movement, and, as it was hoped, from the whole Body of Christ. The extremity of the discipline was indicated during the meeting when Mike declared, "Bill is excommunicated from the universal Body of Christ. No Christian in any city on earth is to associate with him and we will warn Christians all over the world if we have any suspicion that Bill has communicated with them."
The next day (Monday, September 13) Bill contacted Bakht Singh (who was still in the country following the Holy Convocation held near Columbus the previous month) to inform him of this turn of events and to request that he offer himself as a mediator in the dispute. Brother Singh was glad to do so, and to this end he called Mike and Fred in Columbus. Though Fred was eager to accept the offer, Mike hesitated to commit himself immediately.
Before the end of the month Bill and JoAnn had to move out of the house in which they had been living, because it had been sold. As Bill was hopeful of a quick reconciliation and reversal of the discipline, he was reluctant to put too much distance between himself and Columbus. Therefore, they bundled up their young son, packed their belongings, and availed themselves of a long-standing invitation of friends to spend a week in their cottage in Michigan. At the end of the Taylors' week in Michigan, Bill called Fred and Mike to ask about their decision concerning accepting Bakht Singh's mediatorial services - the decision was "No."
This irritated Bill, so he asked Fred if he was in favor or not - he was. Bill then said, "Then, Mike, you don't want him?"
"It's against my conscience. It is unnecessary; it would be foolish."
At a previous meeting (Tuesday, September 14) Bill asked Mike and Fred for a list of specific charges against him, other than the general "faction" mentioned in the letter of excommunication. He requested this because he strongly suspected there would be distortions of facts and definitions. Mike was firmly against giving him such a list of specifics, even though he had a ready-made one in the afore-mentioned deposition. Bill repeated his request during the phone call from Michigan. Again Mike refused, telling Bill instead to look to his own conscience for the specifics. It wasn't until August 1977 (nearly a year later), while visiting Fred in California, that Bill received a copy of Jim's deposition "From Aug. 1974 until Sept. '76," and thus finally had the charges in hand. Bill is now able to report that, just as he had suspected, "every one was distorted at least in some way."
Having received Mike's firm rejection (amounting to a veto) of Bakht Singh's offer, but still hopeful for an early reversal, Bill and JoAnn then drove to New York, where they stayed until mid-November with Sam and Ruth Thiagarajan, believers close to the ministry of Bakht Singh and who had also attended the Holy Convocation. Finally, when Bill realized there would be no quick resolution of the affair, he and his family moved back to Colorado Springs, where they took up temporary residence with Bill's parents, later being received into fellowship with the Christians at Southside Bible Chapel.
Throughout the ensuing months, meanwhile, the telephone calls increased as Dennis (newly reinstated as an elder of the SRF) and Mike continued to seek and/or were offered counsel from Jim on how to act and react to events and situations arising from the circumstances of Bill's excommunication. Fred, however, protested Jim's interference in the affair on the grounds of his vested interests in the outcome, to which Jim responded by recommending Fred's own excommunication for "refusing to reject a factious man," having maintained communication with Bill (according to Fred, "always with a view to reconciliation"), and also for admitting to others, when asked, that he had growing misgivings about the whole matter (see also page 58).
In addition to Bakht Singh, a number of others also urged Jim to meet with Bill, but he repeatedly and steadfastly refused, saying that Bill's disfellowshipping was "Columbus discipline" and that by refusing to meet with Bill he was merely honoring the decision of another church.
Demotion, Discouragement, and Doubt
As it happened, I was out of town when the dramatic events transpired in Columbus, having returned to Cleveland for additional brain tests a year after my surgery. I learned of Bill's excommunication the day after it took place through a visit to my parents' home by Brian Catalano of Tucson. I was, of course, not surprised to hear him tell of the growing controversy between Bill and Jim, nor even that a confrontation had taken place. I was, however, shocked to learn of the extreme nature of the action. Almost immediately I began to suspect that this was a case of disciplinary excess.
Shortly after this I returned to Columbus in order to be on hand at the beginning of the fall quarter to take up my responsibilities again as deacon and as leader of a Bible discussion group and co-leader of a larger fellowship group. But upon arriving I received a visit from two of the younger brothers, who invited me to join their discussion group as a participant - not as a leader. I readily agreed, sensing (correctly) that this was a clear indication that the elders had decided I was no longer to have any kind of spiritual leadership in the assembly, even though I continued as deacon. While this was sufficiently disturbing to me, what was even more disturbing (and frankly created in me more than a little bitterness for some time) was the remarkable fact that no one ever spoke to me about my "demotion" either to simply tell me of this decision or to explain why it was made. Consequently, I was left to surmise the reasons for it. I wondered, for example, if I, too, had been placed under some type of church discipline without my knowing it, because my thinking was too similar to Bill Taylor's. I wondered if others had been told that I, too, was "in sin" and so could no longer share leadership or teach. I assumed that what little teaching I had done was not appreciated, at least by those brothers who mattered. These thoughts, however, I kept completely to myself.
At any rate, since my ministry in the Solid Rock Fellowship had been severely curtailed, I saw nothing hindering me from taking a new full-time job as a printer, even though it required my working the evening shift and thus kept me from attending Bible studies. I also began to seek other ways to minister, beyond the confines of the SRF as well as within them, by expanding my cult research and evangelism, and by continuing to edit The Rock, the new SRF newsletter I had inaugurated one month earlier. As it happened, there were to be only five issues of The Rock in total. The elders brought it to an end with the February 1977 issue, ostensibly for the reasons that (1) the ministry-type articles were unnecessary because of all the teaching we were already receiving; (2) the news reports of events taking place throughout the assembly were mere duplication of similar reports appearing in the weekly "Communicating Sheet"; and (3) the expense involved in printing and mailing was prohibitive.
I maintained, in contradistinction to the elders, that (1) the ministry-type articles dealt with subjects on which we had received little or no teaching in at least the past two years; (2) the news reports were not mere duplication of others, but were fuller than those in the "Communicating Sheet," and many were about events that had never been reported there (and many people in other places who received The Rock by mail were encouraged and blessed by reading of what we were doing); and (3) the expense was not really that great - at the most only about $15 or $20 per issue, since we were buying paper inexpensively through the Ohio State University and I was contributing the money for postage, as well as doing all the printing, collating, stapling, addressing, sorting, and mailing. However, I was ultimately overruled, and ended up submitting to the decision of the elders to cease publication.
My one remaining ministry in the fellowship was my responsibility as deacon. This amounted to overseeing the church library which I had established, and especially cataloging the hundreds of books which had been donated or lent by various members. But I had been gradually losing the heart for this job and otherwise becoming increasingly discouraged, with the result that by the time I eventually left the fellowship at the end of April 1977 the work remained incomplete. Feeling my teaching gift progressively muted and then entirely stifled within the fellowship, I continued to look elsewhere for opportunities to minister, again through my burden for cult evangelism (see pages 26-27, and 29-30), but then ultimately by withdrawing from the fellowship altogether and returning to Cleveland and my home assembly (Gracemount Gospel Chapel), where I rejoiced to find ample opportunity to exercise my spiritual gift once more and where my contributions were warmly received - I was back in my element!
A couple of months later, during the summer of 1977, I read Roland Allen's book Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours?, and when I came to the section cited on page 109 of this history I knew exactly what he was talking about (though by no means do I consider myself a "prophet"!), having so recently experienced the very thing he described.
"Mutiny" in the Camp
During the month following Bill's discipline I grew increasingly disturbed by the realization that I basically agreed with what I understood Bill's charges to be concerning Jim McCotter's leadership and teachings, so in October I wrote to Jim. I told him that I as well as Bill had been concerned about his apparently increasing authority throughout the Blitz movement to the point of (in my opinion) violating the putative autonomy of the local fellowships. I detailed four or five incidents of which I had personal knowledge (see pages 108f.), but waited in vain for a written response to my letter. Finally, in December, I received a telephone call from Jim, and for about an hour or so he defended his actions in each case I cited, never once conceding even the possibility of error on his part. He compared himself to the Apostle Paul in that, like Paul, he also felt a responsibility for the assemblies established by him and his disciples. All in all, I felt Jim's explanations were inadequate and the whole conversation less than satisfactory.
Meanwhile, several other brothers and sisters besides myself were having second thoughts about Bill Taylor's excommunication, as well as about some of the key teachings and emphases in the SRF and the Blitz as a whole. With Bill's counterbalance gone from the assembly some of the excesses began to be more apparent. Until about the first of the year (1977), however, I was unaware that anyone besides me shared these concerns. Gradually I discovered that I was not alone, and that, in fact, Fred Colvin had come to deeply regret his own role in what he now considered a grave miscarriage of justice. As mentioned above (page 56), Fred was so bold as to share his misgivings with a few brothers who told him of their own doubts and asked for his thoughts. Also as stated above, Mike and Dennis learned of Fred's speaking with others about Bill's excommunication, and also that he had maintained communication with Bill, and so they threatened him with excommunication, unless he repented fully of his "sin." Finally, under the duress of repeated late-night confrontations amounting to harassment, Fred did make a "confession" (though now does not believe his actions were sinful), and also tendered his resignation as an elder. (Like the details of the Bill Taylor affair, this, too, was not publicized.) Not long afterwards Terry Bartley was chosen to join Mike and Dennis in the oversight of the assembly.
Upon learning of Fred's close call with excommunication, a few other brothers and I, fearing a growing autocracy in the leadership, made plans to meet at my apartment to pray and discuss what, if anything, we could or should do to halt this trend. My roommate, however, having accepted - on the basis of the leaders' interpretation of Matthew 18:15-17 - the notion that it was sin to express to third parties disagreements with others (except to certain leaders), felt it his responsibility to inform the elders of our discussion and projected meeting. (In doing so he did not realize that he was violating the Matthew 18 principle.) As a result, Mike and Dennis pre-empted our meeting by arriving at my apartment half an hour before it was to begin. In the meantime, though, most of us "dissenters" had thought better of the idea of our meeting - we realized we had been wrong even to contemplate any kind of action before first talking to the elders. I had come to believe it would be best simply to pray about the situation, and most of the others had decided not even to come over. As it turned out, only two brothers, John Grossman and Bill Hulligan, came, and both had also changed their thinking about the meeting. For two or three hours we aired our concerns with Dennis and Mike, although little of substance resulted. At that time Bill Hulligan made arrangements to meet with Mike later, though Mike repeatedly postponed this appointment until finally it was completely canceled.
After this surprise meeting with the elders in my apartment I composed a letter to them in which I attempted to detail my concerns. (This letter went through several adaptations as I wrote to a few others about these things, and now forms the core of the analysis section of the present report.) I also met three or four times with the elders to discuss the issues. Since leaving Columbus I also wrote them two additional letters (which as of this writing, have never been answered), and met with them once again in Columbus just prior to my November 1977 wedding. I have additionally written to Jim McCotter, Herschel Martindale, and Brian Catalano, and spoken with the latter for about three hours in Cleveland in May 1977. Finally, I have submitted major portions of Parts 1-3 of this book to these and other Blitz leaders for them to review and correct. Thus my thoughts and concerns are by no means unknown to the Blitz leadership, though for the most part they continued to resist meaningful dialogue until 1991.
The second weekend in February 1977, six or seven of us "dissenters" drove to Indianapolis to attend one of the seminars at which Francis A. Schaeffer introduced his film series "How Should We Then Live?" The things we saw and heard during this time really helped answer questions and clarify many of the issues with which we were grappling. Especially helpful was Franky Schaeffer's lecture on "Art Forms in a Christian's World view" - particularly when he spoke about the fallacy of "utilitarian evangelism" and focusing on winning the "masses" rather than individuals who comprise the "masses." I remember his saying that there was something more important than evangelism - namely, living the whole life of Christ to which we've been called. I could see that not only was evangelism pre-eminent in our corporate and individual lives in the SRF, but it was also this "utilitarian" kind of evangelism - we evangelized with the ulterior motive of "raising up laborers," not simply to win the lost because they're valuable in the sight of God.
The following week, beginning on February 20, we had a special week-long series of meetings in Columbus with Herschel Martindale, apparently to reinforce earlier teaching by himself, Jim, Mike, and Dennis. Subjects dealt with were trusting God, unity, "growth processes," reaching the world, strategy, fruitfulness, and discipling. Most evenings about 25-30 brothers (myself again included) met with Herschel for question and answer sessions. Although I was brimming with questions, I purposely restrained myself at the first such gathering in order not to get us immediately embroiled in a lengthy discussion of controversial issues, and because I was unsure I could control my spirit.
Jim Zuber was the first to gingerly approach the sensitive area, by asking how the full exercise of spiritual gifts in the church fit in with the aggressive, whole-church evangelistic and discipling program being advocated and pursued in the SRF and throughout the Blitz movement. Herschel replied at great length (as he did to virtually every question put to him during the week), but, as I recall, his answer could have been summed up in three words: "I don't know." Later in that first Q & A session I did speak up in an attempt to get a more definite answer to Jim's question, and to get clarification of a statement Herschel had made earlier in the evening at the assembly meeting. At that time he had said that "evangelism ought to be a function of the church" - I asked if he meant the church as a corporate body or as individuals; I could agree with him if he meant the latter, but not if he meant the former. Evangelism (or any activity, for that matter) by the church as a corporate body transforms that church to a large extent into a team, even sometimes to the degree that it may cease to function as a genuine church (see discussion of the "team-church" question on pages 95f.). I no longer recall Herschel's precise answer to this second question, but I do remember that I felt it was less than satisfactory.
At our last Q & A session with Herschel I tried once more to get a definite statement from him concerning the compatibility of fully functioning spiritual gifts and aggressive evangelism. After about 45 minutes of monologue Herschel finally confessed, "I don't know." Needless to say, I was greatly disappointed with the whole affair.
While Herschel was in Columbus on this occasion Fred confronted him about the violation of local church autonomy throughout the Bill Taylor affair. Herschel's reply, as recalled by Fred, was revealing: "When Dennis left Columbus [for Houston], we were afraid we would lose the church." Herschel has since explained that what he meant by this was merely that he and Dennis, because of their shared interest in the welfare of the Solid Rock Fellowship, "feared for the survival of the church, as it seemed to be so seriously split." (The "split," however, was strictly within the leadership - the rest of the members themselves were very little aware, if at all, of such a division.) At the time, Fred understood Herschel's remark not only as an indication of movement-wide authority, but also as a sectarian attitude on Herschel's part.
About a month later, from March 18-26, the SRF had its spring crusade on four different campuses (see account on page 39). The last day of this endeavor was a Sunday, and Mike, Dennis, and Terry thought it would be a good idea for the whole church (except for the teams on the other three campuses) to gather in Dayton for our regular Sunday meetings. A few of us "dissidents" felt this was not a good idea because (1) it was a last-minute decision (as were many decisions in our brief history); (2) it would therefore be too difficult to notify everyone of the change of venue, especially those who attended only irregularly; (3) some could not afford either the money or the time to drive an hour and a half each way just to attend a church meeting; and (4) this decision was patent evidence that the elders really thought of the church in terms more aptly suited to a team - they were treating us as what Michael Griffiths refers to as "the church on the boat" (God's Forgetful Pilgrims, p. 104), i.e., a transient, mobile collection of Christian co-workers. The upshot of this was that, whereas most of the regular members of the fellowship remaining in Columbus did go to Dayton, about 12-15 of us gathered on our own and enjoyed a truly blessed time of worship and communion with our Lord.
Before another week was out Fred, his wife Peggy, daughter, and infant son had packed bag and baggage and, with four others, left Columbus for California to link themselves with the ministry of Fairhaven Bible Chapel, San Leandro. As already stated (see page 39), by January 1, 1979, some 17 brothers and sisters had made their way west to spend at least a brief time "decompressing" at Fairhaven before moving elsewhere as the Lord might lead. I left Columbus at the end of April, eventually moving to California at the end of August, returning to Columbus in November to claim my bride and move her out with me.
It was, then, during the summer of 1977 that the massive campaign took place in E. Lansing, Mich. (see pages 39-40), at which time another Blitz fellowship was born with leaders who relocated from Ames.
Meanwhile, back in Colorado Springs, the elders of Southside Bible Chapel were engaged, since Bill Taylor's return there, in "months of prayer, letter writing, and telephone calls, plus personal conversations with persons having some knowledge of the affairs in Columbus" (quoted from a general letter from that assembly dated July 8, 1977), as well as in much searching of the relevant Scripture passages and commentaries on those passages. They ultimately concluded that the discipline carried out on September 12, 1976, was "unscriptural and not at all according to the offense." Therefore, they ceased to honor the discipline and received Bill into full fellowship on April 17, 1977. (See pages 88f. for further discussion of the problems of biblical interpretation, etc., involved in this case.)
The Bill Hulligan Case
Bill Hulligan, who participated in the January meeting with Mike and Dennis in my apartment, was not as reticent about the Bill Taylor affair as were some of the rest of us. This resulted ultimately in his own excommunication from the Solid Rock Fellowship in mid-November 1977, even though he had already ceased attending meetings by late spring or early summer of 1976, and had, in fact, at the January meeting informed the elders that he no longer considered himself a member of the SRF. (The elders acted according to a strange logic: how can one be put out of fellowship who is already not in fellowship?) Unlike the case of Bill Taylor, however, Bill Hulligan was not given a letter of excommunication, nor did he receive any prior notice of the imminent action against him, or even notification of it from the elders after it had happened - he learned of his disfellowshipping only second-hand, from some who were present when it was publicly announced to the whole church.
On December 17, 1977, Bill was married to Linda Powell (another ex-Solid Rocker), who was thereupon put under the same discipline of excommunication, for the reason that she was not honoring said discipline by having nothing to do with Bill. Their wedding was marred by the behavior of Linda's sister (still with the SRF) who attended even though intent on honoring the church's discipline by refusing to speak with either Bill or Linda, or to shake hands, or to associate with them in any way.
Then on December 27, 1977, Bill called Mike Keator hoping for some clarification of his excommunication. Mike told him he and his wife, Su, were eating supper and he should call back in an hour. Bill called back in an hour, and told Mike he was unclear on exactly why he had been disciplined - "I would like to know what I have done." But Mike refused to answer any of Bill's questions, saying instead, "We excommunicated you, and now the Word forbids me to have anything to do with you."
It was only through others that Bill learned he had been charged, as was Bill Taylor, with "faction," and that the specific charges were the following:
1. That he went to brothers young in the Lord (a year or less) and tried to shake their faith. Of this charge Bill says, "A lie. I have never ever done this. The younger brothers have not been named, the things I said have not been repeated; this is a pure error of fact, and a total falsehood. I categorically deny it."
2. That he said on the phone to Terry and Mike that he was God's chosen instrument to destroy the Solid Rock Fellowship. Bill: "I never said this. I did tell Mike that my goal was to cause him to repent, and to speak the truth regardless of what men say; but I never said this. This charge is especially grieving to me because TERRY BARTLEY WAS NOT PART OF THIS CONVERSATION AT ALL, and in fact at one point, I pointed out to Mike that we were talking all alone - I HAVE NOT TALKED WITH TERRY IN OVER A YEAR. This charge is absolutely false."
3. That his mind had been warped by a year of sin. Bill: "What sin, is not mentioned. This sounds like an assertion made against Larry Pile, which Mike would not discuss." [See page 72T.]
For about six months previous to his excommunication Bill Hulligan had been attending the independent Riverside Bible Church in a suburb of Columbus. The SRF elders, therefore, set up an appointment to meet with two of Riverside's leaders, pastor Art Crawford and elder Dave Canady. Their intention in meeting with these two brothers was to persuade them to honor the SRF's discipline of Bill by expelling him from their fellowship as well; however, their efforts foundered early on when they refused to detail either charges or evidence against him. They attempted to gain their end simply by asserting that Bill was factious and then demanding that Riverside accept that verdict. Art and Dave were properly unwilling to do so, in part because such an attempt to enforce discipline elsewhere violates the autonomy of other churches, and also because of the SRF's refusal to specify charges that could be investigated independently.
Throughout 1978 dissidence, defections, and discipline continued to mount. Rather than try to maintain a chronological sequence to the events that transpired, it will probably be less confusing to adopt at this point a topical method.
The 13th Avenue "Cave of Adullam"
A small colony of ex-Solid Rockers (three brothers and three sisters) had established itself in two apartments on 13th Avenue, four blocks from the OSU campus. These six became something of a thorn in the flesh of the SRF elders, chiefly by making their apartments available as a sort of "Cave of Adullam" for dissenters both within and without the fellowship. One brother from the fellowship led a weekly Bible study on the book of James, and, at least for a while, these believers broke bread together on Sunday. When the James study was concluded they took up a study of 1 John.
Most of these brothers and sisters had voluntarily decided to stay away from the Solid Rock fellowship houses to avoid unnecessary problems with controversy. Only one brother, Brian Delahunty, continued to accept invitations to dinner, etc., though he was reluctant to speak about sensitive issues. Even so, one house leader told him he was no longer welcome at the "Iuka house," where he had been living till his withdrawal from the SRF in December 1977.
Finally, during the week beginning January 15, 1978, the "13th Avenue saints" received a visit from the SRF elders along with two deacons. Don Bulford and Brian Delahunty were the specific objects of the visit: Don, because he had discussed controversial subjects with Brian before the latter left the fellowship the previous month; and Brian, because he had gone to encourage a sister who was about to return home to New York after experiencing much difficulty with the teachings and life-style of the SRF. Therefore, during this January visit the elders warned these brothers about any further such conversations in the future.
Soon afterward, at a Monday evening meeting of the SRF, the elders dealt with the perceived problem of having so many dissident former members of the fellowship remaining in the immediate neighborhood. The Solid Rock members were advised not to pursue or initiate any conversations with the dissenters in the areas in which they disagreed, though they were encouraged not to actively avoid them altogether. In effect, the 13th Avenue group and a few others who were also named were spiritually excommunicated by this meeting, though not physically. The elders' reason for this unusual action (as I understand it) was that those named were "unrepentant of sin, contentious and factious." In speaking of them in public, the elders, however, misrepresented their disagreements with them and their reasons for leaving the SRF. They stated that these saints did not agree with evangelism, discipleship, or submission to church authority. This assertion did not correspond to the facts - it was only with the elders' interpretation and exercise of these things that they disagreed. Insult was added to injury as the elders compared the dissenters to the Pharisees of Jesus' time.
An interesting side note to this meeting occurred at the first of three meetings that Ron DeForest (one of the "13th Avenue saints") had with the elders (Dennis, Mike, and Terry). Ron rebuked them on the basis of Matthew 18:15-17, because he felt they had sinned against him by proclaiming before the assembly that he was carnal and unfruitful, without first coming to him about this. Dennis answered by asking what proof Ron had that he was not carnal, thus implying that he was guilty until proved innocent. Terry did not directly answer Ron's accusation, but focused rather on the corrupting effects that sin had had on Ron's life because he was not presently honoring the SRF's earlier disciplines against Bill Taylor and Bill Hulligan. Mike was the only one to answer Ron directly. He said that to call someone carnal was to suggest that they were sinning, and perhaps the elders did speak hastily in this regard. Ron did not push for a public retraction and apology, because this was only his first meeting with them on these issues and he did not want to alienate them at that time.
Dennis insisted that Ron did not know what the spirit was like at the meeting, but although a tape-recording was made of it, it was kept well-guarded. For example, Charlie Lewis was not allowed to borrow the tape; rather, he had to listen to it in the presence of an older brother. There was apparently also some discussion among the elders about possibly destroying the tape after all the church members had heard it. They feared that it might be "used against them." Brian Delahunty contacted Mike in an attempt to listen to the tape, But Mike said he didn't know where it was, and that anyway before giving Brian his permission to listen to it he would have to discuss it with the other elders. (Perhaps the "spirit of the meeting" did not come across on tape.)
Before May 1978, the elders apparently had a change of heart concerning these brothers and sisters, and publicly reversed their earlier position against them, with, however, no word of apology to them, either public or private. As commendable as this reversal was, the damage had long since been done, and the SRF members had already been conditioned against the dissenters by suspicions that were never fully overcome. The "13th Avenue saints," after some intermarrying among them, eventually moved out of the immediate university area (one couple relocating to Las Cruces, N.M., for a few months), joined other churches, and sought to put the SRF behind them.
The Pete Richardson Incident
Probably the saddest event in the history of the Solid Rock Fellowship (because of the nature of the case) occurred on April 6, 1978, with the public excommunication of a brother whom, for reasons to become apparent, I will name "Pete Richardson." This action had been predicted by Bill Hulligan one week earlier after Pete had expressed his intention to speak with some close friends and with the elders "about some of the matters that plague his conscience." As in Bill Taylor's case (but unlike Bill Hulligan's) Pete was given a formal letter of excommunication (see page 63, and refer to it throughout the following discussion). Four offenses were attributed to Pete: covetousness, faction, disobeying Titus 3:10, and being unruly and unfaithful in financial obligations. Pete had decided that the SRF's disciplines of the two Bill's were invalid, and hoped to get the elders' responses to a number of points drawn out in letters written by Fred Colvin, Bill Taylor, and me. A few nights before Pete's excommunication was announced he received a visit from Mike Keator and Dennis Clark with two other leading brothers. Pete called over a sixth brother, Charlie Ranke, to serve as witness to the meeting, but the elders would not permit him to stay. Pete did have the foresight to get at least part of the conversation recorded on tape, however. To the elders' inquiry as to his intentions, Pete replied he merely wanted to find out the truth. Dennis asked if he had spoken with Bill Taylor - Pete answered in the affirmative. Pete then asked if he was receiving a warning (in the context of Titus 3:10). The elders replied that they had not come to reprove sin but only to ask questions and learn his plans.
On Thursday, April 6, the regularly scheduled evangelism was canceled (ostensibly because of rain) and an all-church meeting was held instead at which Pete's excommunication was announced. At the conclusion of this meeting some 120 people signed the letter of discipline, which was then personally delivered to Pete about midnight by Dennis, Mike, and Terry.
Concerning the charges against Pete, it cannot be denied that most of them do contain a kernel of fact; what can be disputed, however, is that they, singly or even collectively, required such extreme discipline.
Taking them one at a time, we see that the first charge, covetousness, contains four sub-charges. As to the first of these, fornication, Pete had admitted the truth of this. He did commit one act of fornication more than a year earlier. But in September 1977 he voluntarily went to Mike, confessed his sin, and fully repented. Mike never mentioned this sin to Pete again until it appeared in his letter of excommunication. If Pete had indeed made a full confession of this sin and repented of it, then it ought not to have been brought up again, especially in public, for any reason whatever. If he had not really repented of it, then he should have been excommunicated the previous fall on this basis alone. That the elders did not do so then indicates that they did not consider this sin a just cause for such action (because of Pete's repentance), and if it wasn't such then, it couldn't be later.
The second sub-charge, "indulging greedy lusts," in
spite of the charged language, also has some basis in fact. Pete did have difficulty
with his thought life and frequently sought out female company. But is this an excommunicable
Letter of excommunication given to "Pete Richardson" (re-typed):
In the ensuing weeks after Pete's discipline Ron DeForest, as mentioned above (pages 61f.), eventually arranged to meet three times with the elders. His original intent was to hear the evidence against Bill Taylor and to discuss the discipline against Bill Hulligan. However, the elders insisted that he first deal with Pete's excommunication. With great zeal they all referred to Pete's ostracism as "the best case for church discipline that we've ever seen." Ron got the distinct impression that Pete had become their test case. If Ron did not agree with their ousting of Pete, then the elders could assume he did not have a heart sufficiently willing to be shown the "condemning" facts about Bill Taylor. Though such was not a condition stated by the elders, the implication was clear to Ron. Upon inquiring after the names of the four sisters whom Pete had allegedly harassed, Ron was given the names of Jeannine Fullmer (before her marriage to Les Bartley), Jean Swanson (before her marriage to Lyle Winland), Pam Tedick, and Linn Grossman.
When Ron spoke with Mike Keator at their third meeting, John Hopler and Les Bartley were also present, along with Les' wife, Jeannine. With all participants present Ron questioned Jeannine about Pete's conversations with her and his behavior towards her. She replied that while she was still living on campus Pete had begun coming to her dorm room frequently, saying that the off-campus members should spend more time with those living in the dorms. One night he took her aside and shared with her a conversation he had had with Bill Taylor before the latter's excommunication. Bill had shared how a person could tell if the Lord were putting someone on his heart as a life-partner. Pete then asked if she thought that the Lord might be putting them together. She answered that she did not believe so, at least not at that time. At the advice of Su Keator (then Easterly), she later told Pete that there was "no hope" for a relationship between them. After that, she said, Pete changed fellowship groups within the church and she rarely saw him.
Shortly after Ron's interview of Jeannine, her husband, Les, told him that Pete had allegedly harassed another, heretofore unnamed sister (Debbie Shepherd); this supposedly took place in Michigan during the summer of 1977. Finally, after Ron's questioning of Jeannine, Mike claimed ignorance concerning the names of the offended sisters. A couple of interesting observations arise from this development:
1.If Debbie Shepherd is substituted for Jeannine, then somewhere along the line someone is guilty of prevarication.
2.If Mike no longer knows the names of the offended sisters referred to in this sub-charge, then the accusation is based on faulty recollection. Such "evidence" would never stand up in a court of law.
The third sub-charge, relating to Pete's irresponsibility in the use of other people's vehicles, is also not denied. But again, is this an excommunicable offense? It would seem to be much simpler (and more biblical) to merely recommend that others not lend him their cars!
The fourth sub-charge deals with Pete's financial debts. Again, it is admitted that he always had difficulty handling money. However, Pete had been working on this matter, contrary to what the letter indicates. He had recently paid off $400 in debts, paying back a bank loan and reducing his debts to the others by $100. This does not appear to evidence "little if any desire to pay them off." The total cash value of this and the previous sub-charge was probably not more than $400 - in most circles not considered an exorbitant sum, though by Solid Rock standards it appeared so. In spite of his problems Pete does not fit well into the context of 2 Thessalonians 3, as he was one of the very few Solid Rockers at that time to hold down a full-time job.
The second major charge against Pete was "faction." The specifics are not spelled out in the letter of excommunication, but involved in this charge (as in the identical charges made against Bill Taylor, Bill Hulligan, and the "13th Avenue saints") is a basic misinterpretation of the meaning and biblical use of the Greek word hairesis (see discussion on page 88f.). One incident that may have been taken as an instance of faction on Pete's part was during a small meeting when someone asked about the diversity of spiritual gifts. Pete replied on the basis of Ephesians 4, etc., that God ordained the diversity and all the gifts should be encouraged - hereupon (he says) two deacons rebuked him for causing division. It is apparently true that Pete did also on a few occasions criticize the elders to others who did not care to hear it, and this from a bitter heart. But even this does not fit the biblical definition of "faction."
The third major charge, "disobeying Titus 3:10," is again based on the elders' fallacious interpretation of the passage cited. It was their belief that any expression of disagreement with accepted teaching or practice constitutes "faction," and Pete was charged with refusing to reject both Bill Taylor and Bill Hulligan, who had been excommunicated for "faction." Nowhere, however, does Scripture enjoin discipline against an individual who fails to honor discipline taken against someone else.
The fourth major charge against Pete was that he had been "unruly" - specifically, violating an employer's dress code and not being punctual - and "unfaithful" in regard to the third and fourth sub-charges under charge number one (thus the elders multiplied evidence by repetition). The context of 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 indicates that being "unruly" or "disorderly" has reference to not working and sponging off others, not failing to comply with an employer's dress code or being tardy. The related charge of being "unfaithful in financial obligations" has already been dealt with above.
During Ron DeForest's second meeting with the elders in the early part of June 1978, the latter declared that Pete was excommunicated solely for causing faction. The other offenses - viz., covetousness, refusing to reject a factious man, and unruliness - were not, at the time of the excommunication, grounds for discipline, but rather the official warning from the whole church required by Matthew 18:15-17. But now that he is "unrepentant" they have taken full effect. In contradistinction to this later assertion, however, is the letter of excommunication given to Pete. It clearly places all four major charges on the same level; Pete was judged guilty of all of them, not merely warned; and the disciplines corresponding to covetousness and unruliness (1 Corinthians 5:10 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6) are invoked in the letter along with Titus 3:10. The elders' statement to Ron is an error of fact.
Also at Ron's second meeting with the elders they expressed their belief that it is permissible and even advisable to give warnings under Titus 3 or other passages without letting on that a warning is being given! This is because, if Titus 3 is mentioned, for example, it "tips off" the sinner. Ron was also given the distinct impression that the elders now believed that any conversation between an "older" brother and a "younger" one can be construed as a warning if the "older" brother mentions something he considers sin in the "younger" one.
In this same vein, when Ron met for the third time with Mike, Les Bartley, and John Hopler, the latter pointed out that in 1 Corinthians 5 there is no mention of prior warnings or rebukes. He then voiced the opinion that in that case the policy was simply to get the offending brother out of the fellowship of the believers. He gathered from this that it wasn't always necessary or even advisable to give prior warnings. However, this approach to biblical interpretation is in fundamental error, the purpose apparently being to separate passages from one another, rather than to harmonize them. 1 Corinthians 5 is utterly divorced from Titus 3, Matthew 18, Romans 16, 2 Thessalonians 3, etc. The Word of Truth must be rightly, not arbitrarily, divided. This exegesis of 1 Corinthians 5 obviously provides a "justification" for excommunicating a brother or sister with no attempt at restoration and even without notifying the person of the action taken.
Pete was, as may be expected, pretty well devastated by this excommunication, and the direct attack this was on his character, but gradually he was able to pull himself together somewhat emotionally, though he had more difficulty in recovering spiritually. He received much support and encouragement from other dissidents remaining in Columbus, and as of the first edition of this book (1979) he was still in the city, living with another former Solid Rocker.
A couple of weeks after Pete's excommunication another brother, Charlie Lewis, withdrew from the Solid Rock Fellowship. At his final meeting with Mike Keator Charlie asked why such old charges (viz., fornication and harassing the sisters) were included as evidence against Pete. Mike's answer was significant - he did not say they were, in fact, recent charges, nor that Pete had stubbornly refused to repent or receive admonition. Rather, Mike replied that they were included to show what sort of person Pete was.
The Joyce Zambon Matter
The next person to experience Solid Rock discipline was Joyce Zambon, one of the "13th Avenue saints." Sometime after Bill Hulligan's excommunication (November 1977), and after his marriage to Linda Powell (December 1977), Joyce talked with an SRF couple, asking them several questions concerning the elders' recent disciplinary actions. Her intention was not to shake this couple's trust in the elders, nor to otherwise undermine the elders' authority in their lives - at the conclusion of this conversation she did not feel her questions had done this. However, after this incident she was rebuked for being factious. The rebuke was delivered by Mike Keator, who came alone to the office where she worked in order to confront her with charges against the elders which she had apparently made while talking with the SRF couple. Mike's visit turned out to be a two-way confrontation as Joyce told him she felt he had sinned by his involvement in the excommunication of Linda Hulligan simply because she married Bill while he was the subject of church discipline.
Mike's visit to Joyce on this occasion did have the salutary effect of leading her to repent of making accusations of which she had no certain, first-hand knowledge concerning Bill Taylor's excommunication. She also apologized for sharing her opinions with the couple before first taking up the matter with the elders.
On May 12, 1978, Joyce received a telephone call at work from elders Dennis Clark and Terry Bartley, who confronted her once again with what they felt was faction on her part. This time her perceived faction consisted of talking to two sisters by telephone to invite them to the bridal shower of her roommate, Coral Benjamin. During the calls Joyce suggested these sisters examine the Scriptures to try to find where it is stated that a woman can be excommunicated because of her husband's sin, or where it says sin is transferred from husband to wife. Also about this time Joyce had written to the elders informing them she would not be afraid to talk to anyone about the controversies. She also took strong issue with them on their interpretation of Matthew 18:15-17.
The elders' call to Joyce lasted about 45 minutes as they sought answers to a number of questions (e.g., What had Joyce said to those sisters? Did she say deacon John Hopler was a "dictator"?). Joyce, however, refused to answer any questions over the phone - she would only talk to them at a meeting in person. When Dennis and Terry replied that they didn't have time, Joyce said, "Okay, no answers," and hung up.
That same night, at 11:00 p.m., she got her personal meeting - unannounced. Mike and Dennis came to her apartment with then deacon (later elder) Tom Short. At this time they brought up Mike's winter visit to Joyce's place of employment. Construing that earlier confrontation as a warning, and their present visit as a second warning, they excommunicated her forthwith - six months after she had voluntarily left the fellowship (another excommunication of a non-communicant - this reminds one of the employer who told his employee, "You can't quit - you're fired!")
Leaving her apartment, the elders went straight to the fellowship houses to publicize their action. After they had gone Joyce called the SRF couple with whom she had talked earlier, as well as Art Crawford, pastor of Riverside Bible Church, Jean Gibson, an elder of Fairhaven Bible Chapel in California, and Jack White, a minister and then-dean of religious affairs at Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Pa. All of these except the first encouraged her to examine what she had done and to determine in her heart whether she was, in fact, in sin or not. The SRF couple asked her, "What is more important - truth or unity?" Joyce turned the question back to them for their answer, which, remarkably, was, "Unity."
After making these telephone calls Joyce next attempted to reach Mike Keator at his home to request 24 hours to think over her position and decide what to do, but by then the excommunication was already carried through.
In June Joyce met with the elders once more, to repent of having spoken in anger and to confess this as sin. The elders appeared to be concerned only with whether or not she would continue to bring up controversies again in talking to members of the SRF. Joyce assured them she would not, but would rather pray for certain individuals, trusting God to lead them out of the SRF if that was his desire. Two weeks later the discipline against her was publicly rescinded.
Joyce's restoration is fairly remarkable in view of the elders' previous track record in this regard. As Joyce was excommunicated long after she had already withdrawn from the SRF her restoration was merely academic. The only practical effect of her "reinstatement" was that she was again able to fellowship with friends still in the SRF - she never rejoined the church.
The Charlie Ranke Warning
Charlie Ranke (mentioned on page 62) was another, along with his wife Jane, who began questioning various aspects of Solid Rock teaching and practice, particularly the disciplines as well as the pressure of conformity and involvement in activities. Their questioning dates back at least to January 1978. Immediately after Pete's excommunication on April 6, 1978, Charlie determined to speak with the elders about it, as well as about Bill Taylor's discipline. He and Jane continued in fellowship at the SRF, however, until the next June. By the end of May Charlie had examined the SRF's evidence against Bill Taylor and had concluded that he was indeed guilty of "turning people away from Jim McCotter" and hence of "faction." However, he had not yet had the benefit of testimony from unbiased sources, nor other facts which had been withheld from him (and from others).
His thinking, however, was still apparently in a state of flux on the whole affair. In August 1978, Charlie telephoned me to request that I write detailed answers to two questions that had been on his mind for some time: (1) "What is the scriptural basis for the teaching on the autonomy of the local church?" and (2) "What evidence is there of Jim McCotter's violation of the autonomy of the Solid Rock Fellowship?" In a reply dated September 7, 1978, I answered his first question by pointing out that according to Acts 20:28 it is the Holy Spirit who makes men overseers of the church of God; therefore, local elders are directly responsible to him, not to any men. As to his second question, I referred him to evidence already given above in connection with Bill Taylor's excommunication (see especially pages 53-56), and included other evidences of which I knew involving other assemblies and other occasions (see pages 108f.)
In closing can I share with you a great burden? It is about the growth of what I call "neo-exclusivism" among God's people. We all know about Exclusive Brethren teaching which eventually split even families in half. There are now movements moving in similar directions. Some are very obvious, like the "Children of God" under Moses Berg and the "Local Church" under Witness Lee. Others are less obvious and more subtle. Tozer said the greatest gift needed in the church today is discernment, and this is more true today than ever. Neo-exclusivism and other extremisms among God's people bring further division and confusion into the Body of Christ even if at times in the name of oneness and unity.
What are some marks of neo-exclusivism? (1) General belittling or criticism of existing churches and denominations; (2) Insistence that they or their group is NOT a denomination; (3) negative generalizations about the state of existing churches; (4) extra strong emphasis on submission to leadership; (5) unwillingness to join with other Christians or groups, especially in activities outside their own sphere of control; (6) critical of existing missionary work and unwillingness to commend or send workers into existing missionary societies; (7) such groups tend to glory in being criticized or misunderstood by other Christians - they speak of "their vision", special calling, etc.; (8) such groups usually only push their own tapes, magazines or books; they feel a great need to "protect the sheep;" they often seem to be blind or ignorant of the many different ways in which God is working in different groups, churches, etc.
There is much more I would like to say. If you are interested, I would like to send you a free copy of my book REVOLUTION OF LOVE AND BALANCE. I believe this will answer many questions which may be on your mind in these days of increasing religious extremism and confusion. Write to the New Jersey office for your book.
In His Grace - George Verwer
Around the end of the summer or the beginning of fall 1978, Charlie received a copy of one of the regular prayer letters sent out by Operation Mobilization's George Verwer. At the end of the letter (see above) George shared his burden concerning what he termed "neo-exclusivism" which he had discerned creeping into the Christian church. The eight marks of this neo-exclusivism which George listed spoke profoundly to Charlie as he had observed virtually all of them in the Solid Rock Fellowship. Charlie, therefore, wrote to George to tell him of his own observations and experiences, to which he received an almost immediate reply in which George expressed his desire to know as much as possible about the SRF as well as the entire Blitz movement. George wanted to be able to determine the proper stance to take towards them should Blitz teams ever make their way overseas to countries where OM is active. Charlie suggested to me that I would be a better person than he to supply George with such information, and it is partly in response to this request that the present history and analysis is written.
From about the end of the summer Charlie had been trying to arrange a second appointment to talk with the elders about Bill Taylor's discipline, but the elders were always "too busy," until finally on Sunday, October 29, 1978, Charlie was able to spend two and a half hours with Mike Keator. (For the outcome of this meeting see pages 89f.) Three weeks later, on Monday, November 20, Tom Short (now an elder) and Terry Bartley called Charlie and officially gave him a "first warning." The accusation against him was that he had "undermined the authority of the elders" (a common charge) by calling two brothers to ask for their witness against "Pete Richardson." (Thus the mere asking of questions about a discipline was construed as "faction.") Charlie's version of the incident is that, (1) he did, indeed, call both brothers, but was very circumspect in his choice of words; (2) neither brother was upset by his questions; and (3) one of them even invited Charlie to dinner. The elders explained that it was only after the calls that the brothers became alarmed. Charlie's reaction to this warning was that he would continue to talk with anyone who wanted to talk with him, but that he would no longer initiate controversial discussions - and from then on he would have nothing further to do with the Solid Rock Fellowship or its leaders.
The Bryce Hammond Stonewall
Yet another brother who withdrew from the SRF and subsequently suffered spiritual intimidation was Bryce Hammond. Disillusioned with the Solid Rock Fellowship after nearly four years of association with it, Bryce left Columbus during the summer of 1977 to return home to the Jackson, Mich., area. In late fall or early winter he received a letter from Bill Taylor asking how he was, why he left the SRF, etc. Bryce replied almost immediately, describing many of his reasons for quitting the fellowship and confessing that most of them were not very "spiritual." He went on to say that while he had heard only one side of the case against Bill (and though he didn't agree with the proceedings), if the charges were true Bill ought to get right with the individuals involved and with God. During the excommunication meeting Mike Keator had requested that any communication from the Taylors be reported to him, so Bryce told Bill in his letter that he felt he would have to comply in this case, but at the same time he would firmly declare his independence from Mike's authority. (This in itself was quite a dramatic step for Bryce to take, since it was Mike who had led him to Christ.)
At this time, therefore, Bryce wrote to Mike, describing Bill's correspondence with him and emphasizing that it was nothing out of the ordinary - merely one friend inquiring after the welfare of another. In his letter to Mike Bryce also added that for a couple of years he had felt constrained to speak with him because of a disagreement they had once had concerning capital punishment - Mike being pro and Bryce con. On that occasion both had called on a number of Bible verses to bolster their positions until Mike suddenly stopped and said, "That's your first warning!" - thus ending the discussion.
A good deal of time passed before Bryce received a reply from Mike - by telephone one night in mid-March 1978. Mike's call was primarily in regard to the capital punishment issue; he could not recall the discussion and had phoned to clarify matters with Bryce. In talking with Mike Bryce apologized and asked his forgiveness for allowing the earlier disagreement to cause him to act aloof from Mike for so long. Bryce also stated that, anyway, he was now persuaded that capital punishment is legitimate (which he also had written in his letter.)
Continuing the conversation, Bryce went on to mention that he had several questions concerning Bill Taylor's discipline. Mike seemed quite open to discuss them right then over the phone, but Bryce hesitated to pursue the matter further at that time, due to the fact that his parents were just then in the same room with him. Instead, Bryce asked if they could discuss the subject better face to face when he would be visiting in Columbus in a few weeks. Mike agreed and asked Bryce to give him a call when he arrived in town so they could set up a time to get together.
Mike had earlier made repeated public offers to discuss Bill Taylor's discipline frankly, openly, and in some detail, and this along with his personal invitation to Bryce gave the latter great expectations of having his questions answered. On April 1, 1978, therefore, Bryce drove to Columbus and arranged to meet with Mike at his home. Even though Mike was well aware of the purpose of Bryce's visit, it wasn't until well over an hour after his arrival that Bryce felt bold enough to initiate discussion of the sensitive subject. However, to Bryce's simple, introductory questions, Mike replied (Bryce thought) inadequately and unconvincingly - in fact, Bryce felt momentarily stalemated by Mike's answers.
About this time Dave Sachleben (an SRF deacon living with the Keators) arrived home; after greeting Bryce he proceeded to his room. Bryce now decided it was time to "get down to brass tacks" with Mike, so he asked whether Mike had indeed left on vacation the week before Bill's excommunication, but then returned to Columbus with Jim McCotter (see page 53-54). Rather than reply to the question, Mike demanded to know to whom Bryce had been speaking and on what ground he was making such "slanderous accusations." Bryce explained that he was only asking questions, not making accusations; this, however, did not mollify Mike. Just about then Dave Sachleben re-entered the room and Mike asked him to stay, apparently to serve as a witness to Bryce's "slanderous accusations."
The information concerning Mike's aborted trip to Colorado and subsequent rendezvous with Jim McCotter, etc., was contained in an envelope sent to Bryce by Bill Hulligan, and which Bryce brought with him to his meeting with Mike - specifically, copies of letters written by Fred Colvin, Bill Hulligan, and me. Bryce made use of this material in formulating his questions, quoting part of a letter I wrote to him some time earlier.
During this same meeting Mike told Bryce that the details of Bill's discipline had been shared with elders at other assemblies (among them Jean Gibson and William MacDonald of California - see pages 8 and 22), as well as with the older brothers at the SRF. However, Mike told Bryce he would have to check with the other elders (at that time still just Dennis Clark and Terry Bartley) before deciding whether or not he should discuss the matter with him in any detail. Bryce inquired as to whether Mike could tell him for sure one way or the other if he were to call him that evening; Mike said he could.
When Bryce called later, Mike said he had talked with Dennis, and the consensus was that it "wouldn't be best to go into details" with Bryce because he had "heard so many things," i.e., "accusations." Mike also said, "We wouldn't be able to share with anyone whose heart wasn't right, who wasn't broken before the Lord," stating that Bryce had "violated the discipline of the church." When Bryce asked what he meant (since he had notified Mike of Bill Taylor's letter and knew he couldn't hold that against him), Mike replied, "Receiving that letter from Bill Hulligan." He had evidently seen the return address on the envelope as Bryce held it in his hands earlier.
Bryce followed up by again asking, "What do you mean?" (He says, "To be honest, it was beginning to dawn on me what he meant, but the conversation had digressed to the point that I knew I wasn't about to learn anything about Bill Taylor, so figured I'd best learn as much as possible concerning Bill Hulligan.")
Mike replied by reminding Bryce that Bill Hulligan had been excommunicated from the church, and that by communicating with him Bryce had "violated the discipline of the church."
"But what if I didn't know he was excommunicated?" Bryce asked.
"You mean you didn't know?"
Bryce hedged by saying, "You didn't answer my question." He continued by asking how he could know for sure Bill had been excommunicated, since he had had no contact with the "official" church or the elders in Columbus for some time.
Mike responded that Bryce nevertheless "knew the discipline that had been imposed on Bill."
"Only through hearsay was I informed," Bryce retorted.
"Then you should have respected the discipline."
"How can I possibly respect hearsay evidence when I've only heard one side?" Bryce was getting a little exasperated by now. "That's what I'm in Columbus for - to hear the other side - which you had promised to share and have failed to follow through on."
At this point Mike became a bit upset, and the discussion closed with Bryce's saying, "Well, I'm glad that we had this conversation, Mike."
He replied, "Well, I'm not."
"Really?" said Bryce. "Well, that's too bad, because I really am - I'm being honest when I say this, because I've really learned a lot."
This incident was but the latest in a series of broken promises, public and private, to discuss the subject of Bill Taylor's discipline with any inquirers. In January 1977 (in my apartment) Mike told Bill Hulligan he would talk with anyone about this case - but then he broke an appointment with Bill to do so, and continued to put him off. In September 1977, Mike said he would discuss the matter with any member of the Solid Rock Fellowship - but then he refused to discuss it with Charlie Lewis. In October he said he would not discuss it with just anyone, or with just anyone from the church, but that he would lay all the facts before the elders of an assembly thinking of receiving a factious man - but then he refused to do so with the elders of Riverside Bible Church. Now he had cut off discussion of the affair with Bryce Hammond - after promising to give him a full explanation. Two years later (1979) he still claimed willingness to talk to "anyone" about it.
The Larry Pile Disturbance
Then there is my own case.
About the first of April 1977 I received a card from Todd Mills of Tucson in which he mentioned that he and his wife, Gail, had left the Blitz fellowship there a few months earlier. He intimated that there were various problems which led to their departure, including the restricting of the Holy Spirit. Todd also indicated that others had left the fellowship too.
On April 4 I wrote a 2½ page response which summarized very briefly a few of the major points of observation and disagreement which I had regarding the Blitz movement, and which are now expanded in Part Three of this volume, especially the "team-church" concept. I also told him of my own plans to quit the church at the end of that month and eventually move to California to spend some time at Fairhaven Bible Chapel. I received an immediate reply from Todd (dated April 12) in which he shared at some length the difficulties he had encountered in Tucson, particularly after the Mission: U.S. '73 campaign - at that time the Tucson church was transformed into more of an evangelistic team than it had ever been since its birth during the original "Blitz" of 1970. In such a situation Todd was unable to find a satisfying role for himself, and experienced growing doubts about what he termed "the theology of McCotterism." When he tried to confront the local elders about this they merely fell back on an ad hominem argument (see page 103) - Todd's problem, they said, was due to sin and carnality in his own life associated with his engagement in October. When he and Gail left the Blitz group shortly afterwards they found fellowship at the Tucson Bible Chapel difficult, partly because the elders there had been warned that Todd was a "factious and immoral man." At last they returned to the Blitz group, and Todd was able to get approval to publish a newsletter which he entitled The Well. However, he continued to grow more and more discouraged by his disagreements, and by hindrances placed in the way of his new-found ministry, so eventually he and Gail left the fellowship for good.
In his letter of April 12 Todd wrote concerning my letter to him, "In amazingly concise terms with hardly a trace of bitterness you have hit the nail on the head in analyzing the trouble with the Blitz movement… I agree implicitly with everything you wrote in your letter. In fact, I had expressed each idea at one time or another (although not so concisely)."
On April 22 (still prior to my departure from Columbus) I was emboldened to write to Bill Taylor, who was then in Colorado Springs. For this letter I combined, expanded, and adapted my January letter to the SRF elders and my April letter to Todd.
On May 3 (I had just moved to Cleveland) I received another letter from Todd in which he reported the sensation my April 4 letter had been creating in Tucson. Besides Todd and Gail, at least eight others (five brothers and the wives of three) had read and made photocopies of it - all were quite impressed with it, as it addressed many issues which had been bothering them also, but to which they had been unable to give clear expression. At last the letter came into the hands of elder Brian Catalano, who was very disturbed by it, and in a phone call to Todd frequently used, in reference to it, such terms as "bitter," "out of order," "division," "wrong attitude," and "poison." Todd wrote to me, however, that "all the rest of us are unanimous in the opinion that the letter is strangely free of all those qualities, and rather that it is 'inspired.' " Todd continued, "Although [Brian] conceded legitimacy to a good portion of the points raised (in your letter and arguments I have previously presented), he usually turns the table around by questioning the attitude and spirituality of the source. If he can discredit the source he need not deal seriously with the issues." This ad hominem technique was, by the way, not unique to Brian, but was commonly employed throughout the Blitz movement (again, see page 103).
The same day I received Todd's latest letter I composed a nine-page epistle to Brian, hoping thereby to clarify my position and allay some of his fears. This particular letter was an adaptation of my letter to Bill Taylor. I also sent additional copies of this May 3 letter to Jim McCotter, Herschel Martindale, Dennis Clark, Mike Keator, and Terry Bartley, as well as to each person in Tucson who had read my April 4 letter to Todd. I did this, as I wrote to Brian, "in the interests of clarity, open and honest discussion, and to assure each of these saints of my undiminished love for you, Jim, Herschel and my former elders, as well as every other brother with whom I presently find myself in disagreement."
On Monday, May 16, 1977, Brian flew into Cleveland, having been called for a conference with the elders of Gracemount Gospel Chapel, who some years before had commended him to full-time service for the Lord. They were concerned about his relationship to Jim McCotter (was he subordinate to Jim, taking orders from him?) and to the Blitz movement (was the Tucson fellowship really independent and autonomous, or was it in fact part of a "non-denominational denomination"?) Tuesday evening I met with Brian (he had already met with the elders on Monday) and we spent about three hours together. For about the first two hours Brian attempted to defend his own position, along with that of Jim McCotter and the Blitz as a whole. This he did both by denying some of my assertions of imbalance in teaching and practice, and by generally agreeing with my conception of what a New Testament church should be like - he felt the Blitz as a whole and the Tucson group in particular matched that conception. Finally, however, his bold front cracked a bit and I received the clear impression that he really felt caught somewhere near the middle of the disagreements and did not know quite what to do about it. He struck me as being upset and discouraged by it all, especially since (apparently) so much had been coming down on him from so many quarters at once. He expressed to me that he often wished he could just go off someplace and escape from it all. I came away from this meeting feeling that Brian was genuinely disturbed, discouraged, and perhaps a bit confused, unsure of what he ought to do. I thought to myself, "how unlike the Brian I used to know!"
A Tucson Visit
From June 10 to July 9, 1977, I traveled with a few others (including my future wife) to visit Fairhaven Bible Chapel in California. On my return trip alone (I had to get back sooner than the others) I went by way of Arizona, stopping near Phoenix to see some of my old Tucson friends who were then engaged in a summer outreach at Arizona State University in Tempe). No one in the Tempe group said anything to me about my letters to Todd and Brian, though I knew at least a few of the older brothers had read them. I didn't bring up the subject, either, and as a result we all enjoyed good fellowship unmarred by controversy.
I stayed two nights with Todd in Tucson, leaving Tuesday afternoon for Las Cruces, N.M. During my brief stopover in Tucson I was able to visit with several of my good friends, including current and former members of the "1st Street Fellowship," as the local Blitz group was then known, and some who were never members of it. Though these visits were limited in number and duration, their quality was excellent.
Probably the most enlightening discussion I had was with a couple who had spent about three-quarters of a year with us in Columbus, until the wife's health necessitated a move back to the drier climate of the Rocky Mountains. Actually, the husband told me that he had been questioning some of the more basic teachings of the Blitz, and that his wife's ill health was a providential means for them to leave Columbus gracefully. During 15 months in the mountains before moving to Tucson he was able to spend the time he needed to pray and search the Word on his own concerning the issues that troubled him, and he eventually arrived at many of the same conclusions the rest of us "dissenters" did. Referring to my letter to Brian (which he as an older brother had been allowed to read) he said, "Boy, I could've written it myself!" He indicated that Brian had finally realized that I was merely articulating what a lot of people in Tucson and elsewhere were thinking, and it deserved to be taken seriously.
The Las Cruces Decision
In Las Cruces the next night (July 5, 1977) I learned that the elders there (Brooky Stockton and Mack Weaver) had officially, finally, and irrevocably severed all ties with the Blitz movement. Jim McCotter himself had visited them a few months earlier to communicate the "facts" of Bill Taylor's excommunication, and to urge their continued compliance with the discipline, as they had been honoring it up to that time. In fact, there had been no communication between them and Bill since he had been put out of the Solid Rock Fellowship the previous fall.
However, as they listened to Jim's biased presentation, Brooky and Mack realized the discipline was, in Brooky's words, "a farce." Brooky says, "It was Jim's story that convinced us we could not be a part of this kind of injustice." Their acceptance of the discipline was made a condition of fellowship within the Blitz movement, so as a result of their rejection of it they were out. The following September, after seeking the counsel of the elders of Southside Bible Chapel in Colorado Springs (who had received Bill into fellowship in April of that year - see page 60), they even went so far as to receive Bill and JoAnn into fellowship with them in Las Cruces, and to give Bill major teaching responsibilities.
Thus Jim's efforts were completely counterproductive to his desired end - rather than solidify the Las Cruces fellowship within the Blitz movement, he drove them from it. Ironically, when he first arrived in Las Cruces on that occasion Brooky and Mack were not at all interested in discussing the issues with him. Instead, they actually wanted to remain ignorant and not get involved - they were content to accept the judgment of the SRF and cooperate in Bill's rejection. As a matter of fact, Brooky told Jim three times they did not want to discuss the discipline, but Jim forced the subject and demanded they take a stand. This was totally unnecessary, since Las Cruces was already upholding the discipline.
On September 26, 1977, after my move to California, I wrote a letter to Jim Zuber in Columbus in which I reported news of my activities since leaving the SRF and also raised some of the issues of controversy, especially contrasting the bondage and pressure I had felt my last year or so in Columbus with the freedom I had been experiencing both in Cleveland and then in California. A month later I was back in Columbus for my wedding, and on Monday, October 31, was visited by Jim. He told me (to my surprise) that he had been offended by some of the things I had written in my letter. I apologized for the offense I had caused, but I then also maintained that I was not wrong in sharing with him some of my disagreements with the SRF elders. However, in the SRF such sharing had long since come to be regarded as "faction" and "undermining the authority of the elders." Jim and I prayed together, embraced in demonstration of our continuing love for one another, and then he left.
The evening of that same day Dennis, Mike, and Terry paid a call on me also, mainly to discuss my letter to Jim and to get me to agree with their contention that such sharing as I had done was sin, and to persuade me to repent. We discussed at some length scriptural and unscriptural methods of dealing with disagreements, but in the end we were still in disagreement on the question. I did promise not to initiate any further discussion of controversial issues with any members of the SRF; the elders, on their part, did not officially warn or rebuke me.
On February 6, 1978, I again revised and expanded my letter to Brian - it was now fourteen pages long typed single-spaced! - and sent copies to several ex-Solid Rockers (now dispersed in many places) in order to help them understand just where and how things had gone wrong, to remind them of the genuinely positive aspects of the Blitz, and to encourage them during their time of "decompression." I also sent copies to the SRF elders and gave one each to Jean Gibson and William MacDonald in California. It is this letter which is the immediate precursor of the Analysis portion of this history.
Larry Pile's letter to elder Jean Gibson of Fairhaven Bible Chapel in response to the above letter (retyped from handwritten original):
The letter I wrote to Jim Zuber (last Sept. 26) I consider a dead issue, having already spoken with Dennis, Mike, and Terry about it when I was in Columbus prior to my wedding (on Oct. 31, to be exact). I also discussed it with Jim that same afternoon. During my talk that evening with the elders I told them I was not convinced it was unscriptural to communicate to third persons about disagreements over scriptural interpretations or practice. I remain unconvinced, in view of the fact that Paul did this very thing in his letters to the Corinthians, Galatians and Colossians (not that I mean to compare myself to Paul!), and also the fact that Paul publicly rebuked Peter, not just over a matter of interpretation, either, but because of sin!
I do believe there has to be discretion as to whom the disagreements are shared with, and I have been careful to share mine only with those who are or have been affected by the situation -- and almost exclusively the latter, ones who have already left the fellowship. Other than these I have spoken about the issues only with a small handful of older brothers (yourself included) who have been able to give advice or otherwise shed light on the situation.
Mike's statement that I have "continued to handle these [disagreements] in a wrong way" is quite misleading. He makes it sound like I've sent off a dozen or more letters to people in the Solid Rock Fellowship since talking with them, yet in truth I've only sent one that brought up our disagreements -- the one to Joe Fennel which he enclosed with his own letter. I have written 2 or 3 other letters to saints in the fellowship there, but none of them mentioned anything controversial -- they were just friendly, newsy-type letters.
The elders and I have discussed ways to handle disagreements, and I agreed with them that I should communicate whatever disagreements I have to them -- which I have done by letter at least three times now,* but they continue to refuse to reply to me. If this is the right way to handle disagreements, it seems to me I've done my part, but they are being uncooperative in doing theirs. They seek to apply Matt. 18 to disagreements as well as to cases of sin; I feel this is not biblically warranted, even though Bill Gothard also feels that way.
If I've been in error, either in my beliefs or actions, I welcome being corrected.
* once before, and twice after leaving Columbus -- the last letter dated May 2, 1978, was, I confess, rather strong.
I feel I should add a postscript:
At my last meeting with Dennis, Mike and Terry, Mike stated (for the first time so directly) that some of my views were "unscriptural." He refused to explain what he meant or which views he was referring to -- "That's not what we came here for." In my letter of May 2 I specifically requested Mike to write to me explaining his statement -- to date I have heard nothing from him, except his letter to you.
It seems to me in light of the fact that there were two third parties present Mike was wrong to make his statement without explanation. It also seems he failed in his biblical responsibility to correct an erring brother, if that's what he really thought I was, especially since I requested (both then and later) such explanation and possible correction. What more can I do?
It also seems to me that the elders there operate on the basis of a double standard: they hide behind Matt. 18 even when it doesn't apply (in cases of disagreement), but they disregard it when it does apply (in cases of [supposed] sin). They continually seek to squelch discussion of disagreement with them of interpretation and practice by referring to this passage, but they don't hesitate to tell people that So-and-So is in sin. As only one of many examples of this is the occasion when Sandy Guyer went to Mike to ask his advice about moving out here. Mike told her not to listen to Fred or move here with him, because he was "carnal" and "out of the will of God." This incident can be confirmed by talking to Sandy. (Similar statements have also been made about me.)
I don't bring this up to justify any unscriptural actions I might be guilty of -- merely to put things in a more accurate perspective.
In addition, on May 2, 1978, I composed a "severe letter" to Dennis, Mike, and Terry dealing specifically with their growing authoritarianism and abuse of church discipline. I confronted them point by point on their actions against Bill Taylor, Bill Hulligan, "Pete Richardson," and in general on their treatment of the "13th Avenue saints." In a postscript I also rescinded my earlier promise not to initiate controversial discussions with members of the SRF.
On May 30 I did just that - I wrote a two-page letter to another brother in the Columbus fellowship, the last half page touching on sensitive issues. Three weeks later the elders of Fairhaven Bible Chapel (where I was then in fellowship) received a brief note (see above) from the SRF complaining about my letter-writing and requesting them to deal with me about it. Along with this note they sent photocopies of my most recent letter and most of my earlier letter to Jim Zuber. As Jean Gibson was spending the summer in Europe ministering to Operation Mobilization teams, it wasn't until September that he was able to ask for my comments on the SRF's concerns. My reply of September 10 is reproduced above. After receiving my reply Jean told me he had no quarrel with me at all over the affair, and it was dropped.
I learned only later that the brother to whom I had last written was, like Jim Zuber, offended by my remarks, so I wrote to him again on November 20 to apologize for the offense and to request his forgiveness, which he was glad to offer. Since then I have written to no one else who is currently with the Solid Rock Fellowship or any of the churches that have been spawned by it in the central Ohio area.
Between my departure from Columbus and the time of this revision of this book (2002) I have received no response of any kind to letters sent to the elders of the SRF in May 1977 and May 1978. I have received no reply to my request to Mike Keator for an explanation and elaboration of his assertion on October 11, 1977, (made in the presence of others) that some of my views are "unscriptural." When I requested an explanation of his remark at the time he made it, he merely said, "That's not what we came here for."
The Columbia Case
Shortly before Bill Taylor's excommunication from the SRF, the local elders of the Blitz group in Columbia, Mo. (Eugene Pressman, who had been led to Christ by Bill in Germany, and Lynn Reed) had decided to disband the group, concluding that it simply was not a New Testament church. The brothers had come to believe that their basis for existing as a separate entity in Columbia was unscriptural - i.e., believing they were "the church" or "the saints" in Columbia to the exclusion of other believers there. Upon realizing that others were just as valid, "we no longer felt compelled to continue," says Eugene, "as if we were the last to uphold the banner." Now free to do as they saw fit, they recognized that their group, for many reasons, wasn't very healthy, and they saw a church across town practicing the body life they desired, as well as being much more stable and a more accurate cross-section of the community. So, most of the Blitz members funneled themselves into this other church, and became active, contributing members of its fellowship.
At the end of August 1976, a six-man team from Ames arrived in Columbia to assess what had gone wrong there and to try to get things right again, remaining through the Labor Day weekend. They determined that the root of the problem was a visit to Columbia by Bill Taylor in April of that year (see footnote 6, page 54). This, however, disregarded the fact that Lynn, Eugene, and others in the Columbia group were already questioning things about the Blitz at the time of Bill's visit, yet even so their fellowship was devoid of any negative comments about Jim McCotter or the Blitz movement as a whole.
Finally, as part of their extensive summer crusade of 1977, Ames sent an evangelistic team led by Dave Gumlia of Kansas City back into Columbia to begin a completely new work there, based on a few loyal members of the original group.
The Albuquerque Story
Albuquerque was a different story yet. Having weathered one crisis in 1972 when the fellowship was wracked by division, the church began to suffer more and more from the stress of disagreement about many of the same issues that had caused problems elsewhere. One of the first results of these disagreements was that Jim Schooler lost his co-laborer in the leadership, Volney James, in early 1974. Following the Knoxville conference and the Mission: U.S. '73 outreach, the Albuquerque group returned home, virtually all of them now convinced that everyone should have only a part-time job so they could spend at least some time every day in evangelism on the university campus. Volney was one who did not share this conviction, and he finally left the group and moved to Dallas, Tex.
Jim Schooler himself was having difficulties in the leadership of the Albuquerque church about this time, especially, he says, "…as I could never fit myself into the mold of leadership that was expected in [the Blitz] movement." Consequently, following the elders conference held in Albuquerque in August 1974, Jim took five other brothers into leadership with him. Eventually three of these relinquished this responsibility, and the oversight remained in the hands of Jim, along with Phil Shultz and Bob Miller. (Phil and his wife, Wendy, had been on the original Columbus team in 1973.) The situation remained this way until about December 1976.
By September 1976 the leadership in Albuquerque became seriously polarized and the existing doctrinal imbalance was aggravated as applications of biblical principles substituted more and more for the principles themselves and were transformed into universal commands (see pages 110f.). For example, Phil Shultz began teaching that a person could not possibly own a house and still follow the Lord, and that older Christians are often a younger Christian's greatest hindrance. On these and other issues Jim and Phil did not see eye to eye.
Also about this time, the Albuquerque fellowship began adopting the concept of "personal growth teams." Originated in Ames and spread throughout the movement, these high-pressure "P.G.T.'s" were intended to foster rapid spiritual growth in individuals' lives by bringing together small groups of people on a weekly basis for Bible study, prayer, and sharing. Individual accountability to the group was maintained through the use of checklists on which each person was to commit himself to specific goals in such things as personal prayer, quiet time, Bible reading, witnessing, faith, humility, etc. He also was to keep a record of his success or failure in keeping these commitments.
Up to the time that P.G.T.'s were inaugurated in Albuquerque, Dave Lewis had been working in discipleship and counseling with several younger believers in the assembly. But when Phil and Bob Miller organized the P.G.T.'s, none of these people were assigned to Dave's group. On the contrary, Jim Schooler's daughter Winky was put into Dave's group to "keep an eye on him" and report if he taught anything wrong. At that point Jim told Phil he didn't think he (Phil) "had any idea how God worked," that he (Jim) would not be a P.G.T. leader, and that Winky would not be a "secret agent" in Dave's group. Phil replied, "Brother, God has placed me in this position, and I am telling you to submit to me." Also during this time Phil was in frequent telephonic communication with Jim McCotter.
There was another conference in December 1976, this time in Boulder, Col., attended mainly by Blitz groups from the Southwest. On this occasion Jim McCotter chided Jim Schooler for not believing God could make him something he was not - specifically, an effective public speaker and teacher like Dave Simonton of Norman, Okla. Later during the conference Jim McCotter presented Jim Schooler with three alternatives:
1. get back into the oversight in Albuquerque and lead it;
2. stay in the fellowship and submit to the oversight that was there; or
3. get out.
Herschel Martindale later explained to Jim that "getting out" meant moving to a Blitz fellowship in another city where he could be properly trained. (This was after six years in leadership!)
After considerable prayer Jim and his wife Kathy decided in January 1977 to leave the fellowship, though they felt no leading to go anywhere else. Consequently, one Sunday they announced their decision to the assembled group, thereby causing "a tremendous uproar." The group then proceeded to present questions to Jim, one of which was, "Since Jim McCotter appointed you elder here, why are you not willing to take that responsibility?" Jim replied that man does not have the right to appoint elders; rather, that's the job of the Holy Spirit. He then encouraged the believers to search the Scriptures on the subject of elders, and they began to do this. Eventually this caused problems for Phil Shultz as it became clear that Jim was indeed correct that man does not have the right to just come in and appoint elders.
Phil, however, remained in contact with Jim McCotter in Ames, and began warning the group in Albuquerque that Jim was going to come and deal with anyone who needed to be dealt with. This actually came about around the end of February or the first of March 1977, when Jim arrived along with Mike Royal of Winona Lake, Ind., Rick Harvey of Norman, Okla., and the wives of all three. They stayed for three weeks.
Jim McCotter first questioned Jim Schooler about whether or not he had any bitterness toward Phil. Then he got Jim and Phil together at the home of John Stoltzfus on a Saturday and "supposedly got all things reconciled" (Jim Schooler). On Sunday, March 7, Jim McCotter got Phil and Bob Miller to resign as elders, and he persuaded Jim Schooler to say that he was wrong to leave the group and that there was no leadership hierarchy in the church or the movement.
After this Jim McCotter began to teach on authority and submission, saying he felt very strongly about these things and was going to get a lot stronger. He taught that it was the responsibility of the sheep to just totally submit to the shepherd, even if that shepherd were perverse, and that God would vindicate the sheep while holding the shepherd accountable. He supported his argument with 1 Peter 2:18-20, which instructs servants to submit even to unreasonable masters. The only ones who challenged Jim's teaching on this occasion were Jim Schooler and John Stoltzfus; so the following day Jim McCotter and Rick Harvey took Jim Schooler to a donut shop, where they admonished him, saying, "Brother, if the teaching is right, don't oppose the teaching."
Before Jim McCotter and the others left the city about the middle of March he declared himself to be "the elder of Albuquerque" and that if anyone began to cause trouble in any way someone should notify him in Ames and he would fly in and personally deal with that person. Jim then left Albuquerque with Mike and Rick to go to Las Cruces (see page 72), leaving Phil Shultz in charge of local affairs. All communication was directed to Phil, and the church was not to concern itself with teaching, but was merely to read through 1 Thessalonians and just discuss it.
After Jim, Mike, and Rick had visited Las Cruces and spent some time in Tucson, they returned to Albuquerque on their way back home. The local believers expected Jim to appoint elders at this time, but he did not, and Phil remained as the local chargé d'affaires.
It was now the spring of 1977, and the big emphasis was the upcoming Tempe, Ariz., conference/outreach which Jim McCotter had persuaded the Tucson assembly to sponsor (see page 71). In Albuquerque Phil now began to tell the group members that everyone was expected to go to Tempe, and that if anyone didn't they had better "have a verse" telling them not to go, because Jim McCotter was going to come through again soon.
During the summer a Blitz elders conference was held at a Brethren assemblies camp in Glenwood, N.M. When Jim McCotter and Dennis Clark passed through Albuquerque in August following the Glenwood conference, Jim gathered together six older brothers: Dave Reyes, Ted Dimas, John Stoltzfus, Wilfred Jaramillo, Phil Shultz, and Bob Miller. When Jim called Dave Reyes to ask him to attend the meeting, Dave asked if Jim Schooler were going to be there. Jim replied that he would not be invited because of something he had done. Later, during this meeting, Jim McCotter stated that Jim Schooler was spiritually immature and that the six invited brothers were in many ways more mature than he.
By this time Jim Schooler, on his part, began to be convinced that "the only hope the believers here had for a balance was to have some others, outside of the 'Blitz' movement, come in and teach." To this end he suggested that Brooky Stockton be brought up from Las Cruces. This suggestion was put to Jim McCotter by John Stoltzfus during this same meeting of the six brothers with Jim and Dennis. Jim's response was, "Brooky is a good man and could teach you a lot, but it would not be good at this time." Jim was apparently afraid that Brooky might teach some things that he (Jim) would later feel he should correct, and that might cause a greater rift between the two of them which he wanted to avoid if he could. Jim also expressed his belief that it was not good to bring people in from outside the movement to teach. John Stoltzfus took issue with this last idea, saying, "I thought we were all in one body as believers and there were none outside."
Jim replied that Paul made reference to Titus about "our people," indicating that there was a difference between people with whom Paul had worked personally, and others with whom he had not.
In the meantime, Jim Schooler had been personally seeking counsel from outside sources - specifically, the pastor of Monterey Baptist Church in Albuquerque, and a brother named Dennis Hack. After some time of earnestly seeking God's mind, Jim finally felt he should just leave the Blitz fellowship altogether. So, after taking his family to Canada for a vacation in August 1977, he simply never returned to the assembly.
Many who remained were very close to Jim, and these began to inquire as to why he was no longer in fellowship. Jim now felt liberty to share with them that he believed that anyone under the influence of the Blitz was "locked into only one source of theology and that was Jim McCotter." He also declared that that theology was definitely unbalanced. Many of these inquirers then began dropping out of the fellowship also and going to other churches, until finally the Blitz group had dwindled to about three couples (including Phil and Wendy Shultz) and a few singles.
When the fellowship's membership finally reached its nadir of about 9 or 10 in total, Herschel Martindale paid a visit to the city. On September 16, 1977, he gathered together as many people as he could and began to teach and answer questions on dealing with contention and controversies, both in general and relating to the specific problems facing the group there (see also pages 103f.).
After being there about a week Herschel called Jim Schooler and asked to meet with him. They got together for dinner, during which Herschel expressed his desire to have Jim go before some of the older brothers in the fellowship and say that he (Jim) felt the Lord was leading him elsewhere. Herschel stated that if Jim would do this then they would not have to consider him a "factious man."
Also during dinner, Jim's daughter Winky asked Herschel why he was staying with Phil and Wendy Shultz during his visit instead of with them - the Schoolers had known Herschel for almost 16 years, while he hardly knew the Shultzes. Herschel replied that he had heard the Schoolers had left the church, and, since his loyalty was to the church, he chose to stay with Phil and Wendy, who were part of it. Thereupon, the Schoolers asked him if he felt the Blitz group were the only true church. They then proposed a hypothetical situation in which there was a carnal and definitely unbalanced church with only one or two members who recognized the problem. Where would Herschel's loyalty be now? He said his loyalty would still be with the church.
After Herschel left, and after seeking counsel and searching his own heart, Jim felt no liberty to go before the older brothers to say the Lord was leading him elsewhere, because, quite frankly, this was not the reason he had left the fellowship. Jim told me, "I left because this fellowship was completely locked into Jim McCotter and only wanted to hear from him and the teaching was very unbalanced."
Sometime after Herschel, left one of the brothers who had remained faithful to the Blitz confronted another brother who was questioning things and gravitating to the fringes of the group. This second brother was also having fellowship with Jim Schooler, and it was this that especially concerned the faithful brother. Brother "A" admonished Brother "B" to have nothing to do with Jim Schooler because he was a "factious man." "B" then inquired as to how it was determined that Jim was factious. "A" said the church had decided it, but they couldn't see it until someone came in from outside and pointed it out to them. "B" asked if that someone from outside were Herschel, and "A" confirmed that it was.
In October 1977 Herschel returned to Albuquerque with a team from Houston in order to conduct an evangelistic outreach on the university campus. Jim Schooler's daughters were enrolled in classes there, and eventually they encountered Herschel. One of the girls confronted Herschel about whether or not he had said their father were a factious man; Herschel denied it. Right around this time Dave Lewis (who had moved to St. Louis in the meantime) received a letter from Bob and Cathy Miller in which they wrote that, although they hated to do it, they had to consider Jim Schooler a factious man, and that they believed it was better to obey God rather than man.
Coming on the heels of the Houston team, another group arrived from Ames to continue the campus outreach. At this time Andy Sanchez (who for the previous year and a half had been heading up the assembly in El Paso) was urged to move back to Albuquerque, dissolving the work in El Paso. The believers who had been meeting in Belén, N.M., for over five years were encouraged to sell their homes and move to Albuquerque also, which most of them did. Dave Lewis returned from St Louis about then, but not to the group; instead, he began meeting with the Schoolers to break bread in their home.
It wasn't long before Andy Sanchez approached Dave to try to persuade him to have closer fellowship with the Blitz assembly. However, Dave told Andy the doctrinal differences between himself and the Blitz were too great to allow this. As a result of Andy's overtures to Dave a meeting was finally arranged in November 1978, between some of the principle brothers in both groups in an attempt to reach some kind of agreement. Those who met together were: Andy Sanchez, Phil Shultz, and Wilfred Jaramillo from the Blitz group, and Dave Lewis, Jim Schooler, and Tino Rosetta from the independent group. With them also were Brooky Stockton and Walter Steel from Las Cruces.
Following the outline of a memorandum drawn up for the occasion by Dave Lewis, the brothers discussed seven areas of doctrinal and practical differences, things which the dissenters knew had been taught and practiced both in Albuquerque and at conferences from the early days of the Blitz movement. The following questions, with comments by the dissidents, represent these seven issues:
1.Do you believe the primary function of the church is to reach the world?
-We do not believe that God holds every individual responsible for reaching the world in his lifetime, but feel that the commission is in a continuous tense, from its inception in Mtt. to the rapture, and that fulfillment lies in the corporate body of Christ. We feel that pressure that is brought upon individuals to perform (i.e. the "Go" Book principles) is not God's desire or plan and that such an atmosphere of hyper-activity due to pressure is stifling and spiritually deforming, being an improper focal point in New Testament theology.
2.Do you believe that every brother is to become an elder?
-We do not believe that every brother should become an elder, and feel that such teaching results in an unhealthy atmosphere of pride, strife, competition, and frustration. Therefore, we cannot and will not condone such thinking, and would desire that young believers not come into contact with it.
3.Do you believe in total, unquestioned submission to the elders?
-Total unquestioned submission was definitely taught. [This comment was followed by four specific examples dated September 1973, September 1976, January 1977, and March 1977 - lap.]
4.Do you believe that the main function of single sisters is to submit to and serve the brothers?
-We do not believe that sisters are to be primarily useful by attaching themselves to the brothers via service. We believe God has a plan for sisters that would allow for their growth and productivity without the necessity of brothers. We feel that your view is unwholesome and suppressive, and not in keeping with God's sovereignty and intention in the creation of sisters, and would not desire any sisters to be influenced by such thought.
5.Do you agree that it was not allowed for anyone to voice disagreement with the elders or their way of thinking?
-We believe there was an active, undue suppression of disagreement and diverse thinking within the group, and a positive suppression of any outside influence not directly associated with the group or its way of thinking. Such practices and attitudes we feel amount to spiritual bigotry and pride, based upon an improper concept of authority and leadership, and an underdeveloped concept of the body of Christ. Such suppression we view as dictatorial and totally out of character with God's nature, and as such is extremely harmful to those placed under it. Therefore, we could not subject anyone under the influence of our counsel to such an atmosphere, nor encourage them to subject themselves. We would feel a responsibility to discourage association with such an influence.
6. Do you believe in apostolic authority?
- We maintain that Jim McCotter assumed apostolic authority by his actions and his words, and that the group here, particularly the leading brothers, contributed to that unscriptural situation by allowing such things and by actually propagating it themselves. Such views and practices we hold to be erroneous to the point of heresy.
7. Do you believe that Jim Schooler is a factious man? (Or, did he act factiously in 1977?)
-We feel that you have a twisted understanding of Titus [3:10] and issues of faction. We do not agree with your actions against Jim Schooler, and refuse to accept their validity. Contrarily, we insist that apologies be made to both Jim and to the flock that was taught this error.
In conclusion, we will always promote healthy relationships of love between individual Christians, but will maintain an aloofness towards ACF [Albuquerque Christian Fellowship, the name of the Blitz group - lap] or any group which holds the views stated above. If a relationship between groups is desired, the following represent our insistent terms of reconciliation:
- Public recantation of the above 7 issues; of teaching as well as attitude, to all involved parties (written)
- Apology to Jim Schooler
- Written statements to Jim [McCotter] and Herschel [Martindale] expressing disapproval of their teachings and actions as related to the above 7 issues.
To questions 1, 3, and 5 the Blitz brothers answered a unanimous "No." To questions 2 and 7 they unanimously responded "Yes." They were of divided opinion on questions 4 and 6 - on 4 a majority said no, they didn't believe the main function of the single sisters was to submit to and serve the brothers, but a minority said yes, it was; on question 6 they all said no, they didn't believe in apostolic authority, but a minority said it had been taught. Although Andy, Phil, and Wilfred denied that they believed or taught most of these ideas, the dissenters produced documentation to the contrary on each one. The outcome of this meeting was that the brothers remained separated, and thus the situation remains as of this writing (1979).
The Case of Kandy Kline
At a meeting of the Blitz group in Norman, Okla., on June 18, 1979, deacon Jerry MacDonald broke the news of "a very, very, very serious situation that has arisen in [the] church." He explained by saying,
The situation basically in a nutshell is this: that there's been a root of faction that has crept into the church; and the result of that faction is that four saints have left the fellowship, that a few others have been seriously affected by this faction to the point where they have contemplated leaving or as of this moment right now have serious questions and problems with the church and with its leadership. And many, many others have been in contact with this faction, and by God's grace haven't been so seriously affected. There have been varying degrees of the effect of this faction, but as Danny [Groveman, another deacon] and I have been together the past four days, sometimes till 5 in the morning on the phone, and trying to collate all this information, we've come up with almost a fourth of the church that has been affected by this root of faction. There's been much presumption, lying, strife that has sought to undermine the very work of God in Norman.
A more dire situation could hardly have been described in any church; surely those present at this meeting must have felt something like an electric shock surge through them as they sensed the nearness of extreme danger. As the meeting progressed, however, the situation referred to in these opening words became more and more confusing as Jerry and Danny attempted to explain what had happened. What was clearest in the whole narration of events was that of the four people (all young women) who left the fellowship, Kandra (Kandy) Kline was considered to be the "root of faction."
The story really begins in 1971, the year the Norman fellowship was established. Almost right from the start, one of the brothers, Jay Schlichting (also a deacon by at least 1977), began questioning certain aspects of the teaching and practice of the group. By July 4, 1977, Jay's questions had become outright disagreements with the elders, and he finally decided he must leave the fellowship in order to find the freedom to believe and act according to his own convictions. However, before Jay was able to follow through on his decision, the leading elder, Rick Harvey, met with him till late at night and succeeded in persuading him to remain.
Nevertheless, Jay's questions and disagreements were never fully resolved, in spite of Rick's persuasiveness. Consequently, in May 1979, Jay again decided to leave, and this time neither Rick nor anyone else was able to dissuade him.
Prior to Jay's actual departure from Norman, Rick and Mary Harvey strongly warned Kandy against communicating with Jay, because "he might be factious." They told Kandy he had declared that he felt his ministry was to go around to other churches and (as Danny Groveman stated in the June 18th meeting) "share his convictions, whatever they were with whoever at whatever time." The Harveys also told Kandy that the fellowship in Iowa where Jay was going would have to be considered factious if the members of the group there felt their ministry was similar to what Jay had expressed.
A couple days later Kandy had occasion to talk with Jay. At that time he shared with her that he was leaving so he could be under more mature leadership in a church with more even balance than he had experienced in Norman throughout the past seven years. He felt he really hadn't grown or been fed spiritually in the way he would have liked to have been. He also expressed his conviction that the Blitz group in Norman would only be part of everything else, i.e., of all other churches, in reaching the world for Christ.
Already for more than a year Kandy had had her own questions concerning the church in Norman, but often in the past when she attempted to question the elders about other things they employed the ad hominem technique mentioned on page 103 against her - they would point out something in her own life that they felt wasn't right, thus invalidating her questions. She never felt fully able to live up to her convictions, and this caused her a great inward struggle. Consequently, every night during this more than year-long period Kandy had been praying about posing these latest questions to the elders, as well as asking the Lord to work a miracle to resolve this situation. Jay's leaving, therefore, did not by any means initiate doubts in Kandy's mind, but it definitely did stimulate her thinking.
On Saturday morning, May 22, Kandy called Rick Harvey for further clarification of what he and Mary had told her about Jay. During the ensuing two-hour conversation Rick told Kandy that Jay was dangerous, that twice already he had almost been factious in Norman, and that it wouldn't take very much at all to cause him to actually be factious. Throughout the whole conversation as Rick continued to talk about all he felt was wrong with Jay, Kandy never interrupted him except to ask a few simple questions. Among other things, Rick said Jay was "completely lacking in discernment."
Reminding Kandy that he was her spiritual shepherd, Rick instructed her not to accept Jay's invitation to ride with him to Iowa. (Jay's plans were to move to Iowa to live with friends about 50 miles from Kandy's home.) Kandy agreed to travel separately when she went to visit her family, and even offered to remain in Norman for a meeting to be held on Monday night, May 14, for the purpose of explaining Jay's withdrawal to the church. (For some reason the elders felt it needed to be explained to everyone.) Rick told Kandy it wouldn't be necessary for her to stay for the meeting - he saw she clearly understood the situation.
The next morning (Sunday, May 13) Jay left Norman for Iowa, and Kandy left for her own visit home the morning after that.
During a visit to the Kline farm while Kandy was home Jay denied that he felt his ministry was to visit other churches and stir them up over controversy. Concerning his specific disagreements with the Norman elders, however, he was very careful not even to bring up the subject, according to Kandy, and instead expressed only love and respect for them.
While in Iowa Kandy received several letters from members of the Norman church who had attended the May 14th meeting about Jay's leaving. Kandy showed one of these to Jay, who was surprised at how he had been misquoted at the meeting. Other letters showed extremely negative attitudes towards Jay as a result of what was said at the meeting, along with earnest concern for Kandy's spiritual welfare, since she was so near to his "bad influence."
All of these things made Kandy seriously wonder what was going on - her talks with Rick and Mary, and the letters from the Norman members, seemed to contrast greatly with what she had personally seen and heard from Jay himself. Kandy's confusion was compounded when she providentially met a Christian lady in her home town who knew of the Zupke family with whom Jay was now staying, and in whose home the church gathered. This lady said she had heard nothing but wonderful reports about them. As this was yet another contrast to what she had been told back in Norman, Kandy decided to follow a suggestion Jay had made earlier and call Gary Kellogg (then an elder of the Blitz group in Ames) to ask what he knew about the Zupkes and the church in their home. Gary reported that although he had never met them personally, he knew others who thought very highly of them, and had even been thinking of visiting them himself.
By the time she returned to Norman Kandy was convinced a mistake had been made concerning Jay - she was certain that all the negative comments expressed to her were incorrect and based on misinformation. She returned to Norman the weekend of the 26th-27th, and while attending the meeting of her small group fellowship the following Tuesday evening it became immediately clear to her that many of the members had quite negative opinions of Jay as a result of the May 14th meeting, while others were simply distressed by the whole affair and didn't really know what to think.
During this evening Kandy spoke with one sister who was especially disturbed by Jay's leaving and the things that were said about him at the meeting. Kandy assured her that neither Jay nor the church he was with now was factious - there was simply a misunderstanding in this regard.
She also talked with one brother concerning the confusion surrounding Jay's withdrawal from the fellowship. During the June 18th meeting Danny Groveman said there was "nothing factious or malicious" on Kandy's part in this particular conversation - she just wanted to know what was going on and why there seemed to be a dichotomy between what she was told about Jay and what the church was told later at the meeting.
During the three weeks following Kandy's return to Norman from Iowa, and until her ultimate excommunication at the June 18th meeting, she spoke at least seven times with elder Rick Harvey, his wife, Mary, elder David Simonton's wife, Ingrid, and deacon Danny Groveman and his wife, Sandra, either by phone or in person, in order to try to clear up the confusion and misunderstanding concerning Jay's withdrawal. Kandy expressed her belief that Jay had been falsely accused at the May 14th meeting of being factious (although the actual word was never used, the implication was clear and this was what was communicated to most of the people at the meeting). Kandy felt the elders needed to make some kind of public statement exonerating Jay of this charge, but they persisted in refusing to do so, ultimately accusing her of faction because of her insistence of his innocence.
At one meeting between Kandy, the Harveys, and the Grovemans (on Sunday night, June 3), one other issue Kandy brought up was the attitude of superiority on the part of the Blitz members towards other Christians. She had noticed it had always seemed difficult for them to really love other Christians, and that they tended to look down on other Christian groups on campus. Rick and Danny admitted they thought their fellowship was the only one in Norman that was following the correct evangelistic strategy, and that therefore the other groups simply couldn't be as effective for the Lord. They also declared that it was wrong for anyone to leave the group, because they'd be forsaking "the best." These statements by Rick and Danny convinced Kandy that the superior attitude she had observed was merely the logical result of the Blitz' teaching. She also saw these teachings behind a pervading "fear of man" in the group - this idea that the Blitz was the most "right on" group in town produced in many members an unhealthy fear of disagreeing with the leaders, as well as a fear of leaving the group which had come to represent to them the perfect will of God on earth.
During this same meeting on June 3rd Rick stated that for a long time he had been looking for something wrong in Jay's life so he could remove him from his office of deacon, but he knew it had to be something major or he wouldn't be able to get away with it. He continued saying many other things about Jay that clearly showed Kandy that he held a very low opinion of him.
At one point Kandy asked Rick why, if he knew he could have talked Jay into staying with the group, didn't he do so?
Rick exclaimed, "I never said I thought Jay would stay!"
"Yes, you did, Rick," Kandy replied. "You said that you knew you could have talked Jay into staying this time."
"No, I didn't!" he insisted, and he strongly declared that he had never, ever said such a thing.
However, Mary interjected (in a very small voice), "But Rick, you told me that, and I told Kandy."
Then Kandy referred to Rick's persuading Jay to remain in Norman two years earlier on July 4th. She knew that after talking to Jay Rick had told Mary that Jay's life had just been spared, so Kandy said, "If it's not supposed to be wrong to leave the group, why would you say that his life's just been spared? That's pretty serious - to think somebody's life had just been spared because they'd been talked out of leaving."
Rick became very heated and firmly declared, "I never said that Jay's life was just spared!"
But again Mary said, "Oh dear, Rick - I told Kandy that."
Looking at his wife, Rick said with an edge of perturbation in his voice, "Those things were just for a wife's ears to hear."
Other aspects of the circumstances surrounding Jay's leaving Norman were raised at this meeting (such as the nature of the church Jay had joined in Iowa, and the fact that Kandy, like Jay, disagreed with the elders' definition of faction), but Kandy went away with most of her questions unanswered to her satisfaction.
The next morning Kandy attempted to arrange for another get-together with Rick in order to ask him more personal questions she had been unable to ask in the presence of Danny and Sandra Groveman. Rick, however, denied her request. Kandy therefore wrote a letter to him and Mary restating her desire to talk with them again so she could ask all her questions. She also outlined some of these remaining questions. Kandy hand-delivered this letter to the Harveys the next day (Tuesday, June 5), but waited until late Friday afternoon for Rick's reply. She received a second letter from Mary on Saturday, June 9, the day Rick and Mary were leaving for a month-long Blitz elders conference at Michigan State University in East Lansing. (At the June 18th meeting, however, Danny and Jerry said that Kandy had given her letter to Rick on Monday, and that Rick had stayed up all that night typing his 2-page reply, demonstrating a true "elder's heart" in the process.) In the end Kandy was never able to meet with the Harveys again or to ask her remaining questions.
Kandy read the letters from Rick and Mary earnestly and prayerfully, and when she had finished she was convinced that she could no longer remain in the Norman fellowship. By all accounts Mary's letter was much the severer of the two - she wrote that Kandy had already disobeyed God's direct command by accepting accusations against an elder without two or three witnesses, and that apparently she had only listened to Satan. Mary also said that Psalm 18:26b had been proved true in Kandy's case: "…with the crooked Thou dost show Thyself astute [margin, 'twisted']." Because Kandy had doubts, Mary wrote, her doubts had come true, and Kandy could not see God clearly because she didn't see the elders clearly. Whenever Kandy had questions about the elders that meant she was questioning God, and she would only see a twisted picture of God.
When Kandy learned that Mary thought she had disobeyed God's commands, and that she could no longer ask her questions, she knew without any doubt that she would have to leave the church and go where she could fear God according to her own convictions - prior to this moment (on Saturday, June 9) Kandy had determined not to leave (and had told others she wouldn't) lest her leaving be construed as the result of factious communication on Jay's part. Now, however, she saw no alternative.
Very soon after finally deciding to follow Jay's example and leave the Blitz group, Kandy learned that there were others who were also thinking of leaving. In talking to Jay by telephone afterwards Kandy expressed her fear that she would be blamed for all of them. Her "prophecy" was virtually fulfilled when, during the June 18th meeting, Danny and Jerry strongly implied Kandy's guilt in influencing the decisions of the three others who actually did leave - they admitted they didn't know for sure, but the circumstances looked awfully suspicious.
During this whole time Kandy continued her active service in the church, even preparing lunches for Rick and Mary to take on their trip to Michigan. Even so, the elders questioned her love for the believers, because she had not attended an open-air preaching outreach on Sunday, May 27 (instead, she was counseling an unbeliever who was having trouble in her marriage), and had missed a fellowship picnic on Wednesday, the 6th. Kandy knew, though, that the elders measured love by how much a person expended himself in service, therefore even more so after she had decided to leave she went out of her way to do all she could for the others, including helping David and Ingrid Simonton prepare for their trip to Michigan (they were leaving the 13th) by gardening and housecleaning.
The last meeting Kandy had with any of the leaders of the Norman church took place on the night of Wednesday, June 13. That night Kandy arrived home at about 9:30 p.m. after doing laundry and other things for which she had not had time earlier because she had been so busy helping the elders get ready for their trip. As she was relaxing on the living room couch with the front door open to the cooler night air, Danny and Sandra Groveman arrived and entered without so much as knocking. (They had learned from Ingrid of Kandy's decision to leave the church.) In a voice loud enough for Kandy's housemates to hear, Danny announced, "We have to talk to you, Kandy."
Kandy replied that she didn't think she should, since the issues were between her and the Harveys.
Danny declared flatly and firmly that they were going to talk. "I haven't even eaten my supper yet," Kandy protested. However, seeing the other girls listening, Kandy consented to talking with them outside.
Once outside, the Grovemans persuaded her to get into the car with them. Then Danny revealed that Rick had left him in Norman to keep his eye on her, because he felt there was real potential for her to cause trouble. Danny said he was Rick's personal representative in the situation, Rick's "ears," therefore Kandy had to talk to him.
Kandy finally agreed, saying, "Okay, just so long as you remember you're Rick's ears."
They then drove to a nearby McDonald's restaurant, and immediately as they took their seats Sandra began shaking her head at Kandy, saying, "Kandy, I can tell already that you're deceived."
"We haven't even said anything yet!" Kandy exclaimed. "We might as well stop now, if that's what you think. That's okay with me - let's go."
"Oh, no, no, no," Sandra replied. "Let's stay here."
What followed was what Kandy describes as "the most terrible conversation" she had ever had with anybody. Everything she said was minutely picked apart by Danny and Sandra, making her feel like she was being grilled by seasoned interrogators. Kandy was very careful throughout not to say anything against Rick or Mary personally, other than that she simply could not trust the leadership any longer and wanted to go where she could truly fear God according to her own convictions. She only brought up issues and questions she had already raised during her June 3rd meeting with the Harveys and the Grovemans. But at one point Danny became angry, pounded the table with his fist and said, "If you're gonna accuse the elders, we're gonna stop right now!"
Kandy replied, "Okay, that's what I said - let's go. I didn't want to talk anyway."
Danny quickly responded, "Oh, no, no, no. I'm Rick's ears - I'm sorry. That's alright - you go ahead and talk."
Again, later, he became angry, pounded his fist on the table and exclaimed, "You've said terrible things to Jay about what we think of him, haven't you?"
When Kandy failed to react or get upset herself, he calmed down and said, "Well, maybe you didn't, but I just want you to know…"
"Yeah," Kandy interrupted, "you just want me to know you'd be angry if I had, don't you?"
"I'm not angry," Danny answered. "I'm just righteously angry."
His anger really frightened Kandy; she had never before seen him in such a state. Each time Danny exploded like this everyone in the restaurant could hear him, and Kandy would attempt to terminate the discussion. Finally, about 12:30 a.m. Danny blew up for the third time, so Kandy stood up and announced, "I'm leaving. There's no point going on - you're convinced I'm wrong, and I just don't think this is out of love."
The others remained seated as Kandy walked to the door and discovered that the building had already been locked for the night. Turning back to the Grovemans (who by then had started to follow), Kandy said, "They've already locked up for the night. It might be kind of us to leave, anyway."
On the way home in the car Kandy wanted to tell Danny she had told Jay some of the things the leaders had said about him, but not all of them, because they seemed so "ugly." (After communicating some of these things to Jay, Kandy called him again to tell him what Rick wanted him to think they thought about him. Understandably, this confused Jay, and Kandy told him later, "I don't know why I did that. I'm just so used to doing what they tell me. They did tell me those other things, but they want you to think this.") When Kandy told Danny in the car that she wanted to tell him just one more thing, he exclaimed that he didn't want to hear anything more from her.
When they finally dropped Kandy off back at her house, Sandra had tears in her eyes as she said good-by, while Danny maintained a stony silence.
The next evening (Thursday, June 14) Danny called Kandy's closest friend, Susan Johnston, to tell her and her husband, Kennon, that Kandy was factious and was leaving the church. Danny told Susan she was his last hope of getting Kandy to stay with the group; Susan replied there was nothing she could do. Every time Susan began to speak on the phone, she says, "a roaring sound would appear on the line." She believes that Sandra was trying to listen on the same phone with Danny, as Mary had earlier been a silent partner with Rick on at least one occasion when he was talking with Kandy by telephone.
In spite of Danny's warning to be very careful of Kandy because she was factious, Kennon called her that same night to invite her for supper the next day. (Kennon confessed at the June 18th meeting that he didn't believe Kandy was factious and he wanted to learn from her what was going on. He also confessed to "not being alert and not being wise," though later during the meeting Kennon privately recanted his testimony against Kandy, but the group members were not informed of this.)
On Friday Kandy learned from Susan that Danny had said she was factious; she therefore suggested it would not be wise for her to eat supper with the Johnstons as planned, but rather (since Kennon still wanted to talk with her) they could meet behind the public library about 6 o'clock.
During this same day Kandy learned also that Danny and Sandra intended to talk with her again; but by this time Kandy had had her fill of these talks, so she made plans to leave immediately. She gathered her things together, prepared supper for those of her small group meeting there that evening, then drove to the home of Clyde and Neola Riddle.
From the Riddles' home Kandy called Sandra Groveman at about 5 p.m. to tell her she was on her way out of town, but, she added, "I just can't leave knowing my assembly's going to come in the house and see all my things off the wall, and here's supper, but there's no Kandy. Would you please call up one of the couples and let them know I'm leaving?" The only person who knew Kandy was actually leaving was one of her housemates, who saw the evidence of Kandy's departure. Kandy explained to her that she had to leave so she could go where she could personally fear God rather than man - but Kandy encouraged her to stay and fellowship with the Blitz group in Norman.
Sandra launched into a lecture to Kandy, telling her she was going to pray that something terrible would happen to her and that God would punish her. Sandra asserted that Kandy's spiritual life would come to an end, anyway. (Also, either in this conversation or on another occasion, Sandra told Kandy she was going to pray that God would strike her dead!)
When Sandra finally paused again Kandy said, "Sandra, I just want to ask you… don't you think I'm factious?"
"Oh, no, Kandy," she answered, "you're not factious - you're not factious at all."
"You don't think I'm factious?"
"Oh, no, you're not!" Sandra repeated.
Kandy resisted telling her that Susan Johnston had already told her that same day that Danny had told her and Kennon that Kandy was factious; Kandy didn't want to get the Johnstons in trouble with the leadership.
The call continued for quite awhile, with Sandra monopolizing the conversation, demanding to know where Kandy was, because she and Danny wanted to talk to her again. Kandy refused to reveal her whereabouts, and told Sandra that she was leaving right away.
In the meantime, though, Kandy still had to meet with the Johnstons, and her call to Sandra made her about a half hour late for their appointment. She hurried over to the library, found them and apologized for being late, saying, "I was just talking to Sandra and forgot I was supposed to meet you. She told me I wasn't factious, so now I'm confused - this whole thing sounds kind of cultic! I don't want to talk to you, because I'd get you into more trouble."
Kennon left then to get the car. Already Susan was crying because of her sadness at Kandy's leaving and because of the shock of the whole situation. Through her tears Susan related to Kandy that she had recently told Kennon some of the negative things the elders had said about him but that he hadn't known before - for example, that Kennon had an "unteachable heart," and therefore the elders were unwilling to meet with him again to counsel him or to answer any more of his questions. Rick specifically was waiting for Kennon to be broken before the Lord. Susan also told Kandy that now that he knew what the elders thought about him he wanted to talk to them and try to correct these opinions.
When Kennon returned with the car all three got in and went driving out where they wouldn't be observed. As they drove Kandy said, "Kennon, Susan told me she's told you some things, and that you're gonna stick your neck out and try to get things right about yourself. I wasn't going to tell you anything, but I'll just tell you very briefly that it won't do you any good - you'll just get really, really hurt."
Kennon and Susan told Kandy they had been thinking of leaving the group, too, and visiting Jay in Iowa, but they didn't have any money. Kennon also shared that in the past he had always thought that no other Christian groups were going to reach the world for Christ, that their group was the only right group, and that they should never fellowship with anyone outside the Blitz.
Kandy replied, "Kennon, do you see any of those things in the Word of God? Those aren't in the Bible. You really do need to get out and talk to other Christians." She then gave him and Susan $100 so they would be able to visit Jay (however, they never made the trip).
After a couple of hours the Johnstons dropped Kandy off at the Riddles' home again. She spent a few more hours there talking to two brothers who had come to find out why she was leaving. Though Kandy was reluctant to share her reasons with them, she consented to do so when they insisted; however, she urged them not to go and tell others. Finally, quite late at night, Kandy and one other girl made their final break with the group in Norman as they left the Riddles' and drove to Enid, Okla., where they spent the night before Kandy proceeded alone to her parents' farm in Iowa.
The other girl who broke from the church with Kandy that night had made her decision and plans to leave before Kandy herself even had any idea that she might be leaving; it was "by accident" that each learned of the other's decision. They were both relieved to know that neither of them had influenced the other, and thus could not be accused of "faction" (though Kandy was so accused). A third young woman also left with them at this time, but not finally; rather, she went to Enid simply to take time there to seek the Lord concerning his will for her in regard to the Norman group. This third girl had come to the Riddles' home not because of any contact with Kandy, and, in fact, while at the Riddles' Kandy strongly encouraged her not to leave the group unless she had really got her convictions from the Lord. Finally, a fourth girl also left the group separately about the same time. Ironically, Kandy and the second girl had thought this fourth girl was suspicious of them and thus had tried very hard to hide their decisions from her for fear she would inform on them, leading to further interrogation sessions. They were consequently surprised when, on this same Friday, this fourth girl told them she also had decided to withdraw from the Norman church.
Three days after Kandy and these other girls left Norman, Jerry MacDonald and Danny Groveman called the meeting of the church to deal with Kandy's "root of faction." Having now learned the details of the case, the stated purpose of the meeting seems rather overblown. Jerry explained:
Our purpose tonight is first of all to bring all of this to light, all of this to the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the light of the cross, that we can all objectively look at the information and see how this all began, how it all started, and all the causes and tragedies that it's resulted in. Second of all, we desire to expose the specific sin that has been in this church, that has caused all the problems. Thirdly, we want to warn the saints of the possible effects that the sin can still have in our midst, even by the time this meeting's over, and afterwards. Fourthly, we want to explain how this all began [which was already stated as the first point - lap]. And lastly, we want to teach how it's gonna end.
Also, knowing something now of the experiences in the church of Kandy especially, and also of some others, other sincere-sounding statements and earnest reassurances of the deacons on the occasion of the June 18th meeting take on a hollow ring. Near the beginning of the meeting, before Danny took over to communicate the details of the affair, Jerry said,
The elders and the deacons really love you all, and if we didn't love you Danny and I wouldn't have spent probably 24 hours in the last 36 together, on the phone or talking about all these situations if we didn't love you. And Rick and David Simonton at the elders meeting in Michigan have been on the phone with us probably a total of 8 hours in the last two or three days, and they've done nothing really in the meetings with the other elders but deal with this situation. I just want you to realize that there is love among the leadership toward you and that we are having this meeting tonight because of love and that we desire that all of these statements and questions and problems be brought up to the light, that you all can see that because we're Christians and this is a church of Christ, that there's nothing to be afraid of and nothing to hide from.
Finally, toward the end of the meeting, in speaking on the subject of church leadership from the First Epistle of Peter, Jerry said,
The leadership - true leadership, true elders and deacons and those in authority - they're not to "lord it over" the saints. They're to give guidelines. Two ways: they're to give guidelines through the public teaching and the preaching and the sharing; and they're to give guidelines by their life, by their example. Those two ways. [Peter] says "not lording it over them," and we've never done it. I don't remember when the leadership has done it, the elders have done it - I don't remember when they've done it, when they've come up and just given commandments, and all these laws and rituals. It's what you do with the Word of God that will either make it a command or a blessing - it's what you do with it… You need to see that they're shepherding you voluntarily and they're not lording things over you, they're not holding things over your head, an oppressive weight. There's freedom in this church, I'm tellin' you that… There really is freedom in this church. There's no freedom for sin, but there's abundant freedom for righteousness.
Summing up the case against Kandy, Jerry explained that she was being disciplined not because she disagreed with the leadership on some things, but because she had shared her disagreements with others in the church. Specifically, he said,
It's not wrong to have disagreements - but it's what you do with those differences that is wrong or right… Kandy is not in sin because she has differences… What is wrong is that she has gone to individuals… and communicated these things with them, and now those gripes - even some of the things about the situation with Jay - are in their hearts, and they have no possible way of resolving it because they're not in any way in leadership. And there's no way that they can vent those gripes - it's just goin' and tellin' somebody some problems and gripes, and then they have no way of relieving 'em. And so it's not wrong to have disagreements.
In their attempt to explain the situation, however, Jerry and Danny completely ignored the fact that none of the church leaders with whom Kandy did (properly) share her questions and disagreements ever expressed any willingness to honestly entertain the idea that they might have been wrong in anything they said or did. As far as they were concerned it was always Kandy who was wrong, and in all of their contacts with her they made abundant use of the ad hominem method explained on page 103 - i.e., they would frequently assert that her questions and disagreements were the result of some sin in her own life.
Jerry and Danny also made it sound like Kandy had taken it upon herself to communicate the truth as she perceived it to as many people as she possibly could. In fact, however, the opposite is true; she shared her thoughts with no more than seven or eight people other than church leaders or their wives, and in none of these cases did she initiate the discussions. Furthermore, in every case she was extremely circumspect in her remarks.
The conclusion of the meeting was, as Danny said, that "it has been decided that we are not to have any interaction with Kandy, not to talk to her and find out about her side of it and stuff, but to urge her to go to the elders or Jerry or myself about it to get right - and we're hoping that Kandy will come back." Though the word "excommunication" was never used in any of its forms during the meeting, the effect was the same, and in a letter sent to Kandy later she was informed that she was excommunicated.
After a while, when the effects of her excommunication had worn off a bit, Kandy got the courage to cal JoAnn Taylor in Las Cruces, N. Mex. Kandy and JoAnn had been friends for many years, but Kandy had not had the fortitude to contact her or Bill since Bill's excommunication three years earlier. As Jay Schlichting related the story in 1985 at a conference of former Blitz members, "She called JoAnn up and said about two words, and JoAnn said, 'Hold it. I'll tell you the rest of your story.' And she did - she knew exactly what had happened."
A few months later, in August, Kandy and her parents invited Bill Taylor and me to spend a weekend at their farm near Vinton, Ia., to help them rebound from the traumatic events Kandy had so recently experienced. Jay Schlichting, as well as several former members of Blitz churches in Iowa, also gathered in the farmhouse that weekend to share their experiences and discuss where the Blitz had gone off the biblical track, and what the Bible actually teaches about living a life pleasing to God. The time proved to be quite profitable, with much healing taking place.
In June 1980 Kandy and Jay were united in marriage by Bill Taylor on the Kline farm in Iowa, and together they are seeking to serve the Lord outside the bounds of the Blitz.
The Bill Taylor Affair, continued
Throughout the years since Bill Taylor's discipline that incident has been much on the minds of us "dissenters," leading many of us to search the Scriptures on the subject of church discipline, including exhaustive word studies through Titus 3:9-11, the prime passage employed against Bill. We eventually arrived at basically the same conclusions as were reached by the elders of Southside Bible Chapel in Colorado Springs: (1) Jim McCotter failed to follow through on his responsibility to seek a reconciliation with Bill according to the injunction in Matthew 5:23-24; (2) the words "heretic" ("factious man") and "reject" (Titus 3:10) were misinterpreted and misapplied; (3) the discipline against Bill was therefore overly harsh and severe, ignoring vital biblical principles of justice; and (4) the attempt to enforce the discipline in other assemblies "by some form of universal decree, requiring its acceptance upon pain of certain consequences, is to say the least reprehensible… For such a practice there is neither precept nor example in Scripture" (quoted in a letter by the Southside elders from a book by John Bloore).
To expand on point 2 above, we concluded that the "faction" of Titus 3 resided in the teaching of the factious man and that the man in question was engaged in "party-making and seeking to win followers" to himself (W. E. Vine). However, in a letter to the Southside elders dated October 21, 1976, the Solid Rock elders admitted, "We did not take the… action in response to the dissemination of false teaching." In view of the fact that the SRF members were not even told the name of the offended brother ("It is of no benefit to you to know that"), as well as the fact that none but a very small handful of them had even been aware of the growing problem (though Bill had been teaching them and in close association with them for two and a half years), the idea of his trying "to win followers" was categorically rejected, leaving the conclusion that Bill was not a "factious man" at all. Further, according to the overwhelming majority of commentators and Greek scholars (13 out of 15 I checked) the Greek word translated "reject" in Titus 3:10 has the sense of "to avert by entreaty," "to beg off," "to shun," or "to avoid," but not "to excommunicate."
As testimony to Bill's discretion in counteracting the errors he felt existed in Jim McCotter's teaching I offer the following lengthy excerpt from a letter I received from another ex-Solid Rocker who had been, as I was, a founding member of the Columbus fellowship:
I can remember Mike K. saying how there had been a change from a team concept to a church concept in Columbus… [But] the switch from team to church was never complete. Until your letter the problem of a "team-church" concept never arose in my mind [see pages 95f.]. Let me relate two doctrinal problems and one sociological problem that did arise in my consciousness. These problems became exposed to my attention while I took Bill Taylor's New Testament class. As you remember, the class met in 1989 Iuka [Avenue].
First, the sociological problem of following a man and not God. The problem appears in I Corinthians 3. Paul says he and Appolos [sic] are only servants through whom they believed. Bill's point was that the man is nothing, but God who is behind the man. With the passing of time it began to dawn on me that this problem was associated with Jim McCotter. Bill never used Jim's name [my emphasis - lap]. But I had sat under Jim McCotter for many Bible studies during my sophomore year at ISU. Therefore I recognized examples Bill used as referring to Jim McCotter. Jim had shared enough of his personal life while teaching in Ames for me to recognize references to those same personal events by Bill.
Second, in Acts 1:8 there is NO strategy verse. Bill taught that the Lord was only describing what the Apostles would do. The Lord was not commanding them to act in a specific way. Bill argued that the Holy Spirit gives specific strategy for specific situations. Well this came as a huge surprise to me. I heard Jim McCotter teach us in the Smoky Mts. of Tennesee [sic] at the summer conference of 1973 that Acts 1:8 was a strategy verse. Here was a clear point of conflict with Jim. Again Bill never mentioned Jim by name [my emphasis - lap].
Third, that in Philippians 4:9 Paul meant we're to imitate his attitude and NOT his actions. Here again I recognized a clear conflict with Jim McCotter. Again Jim's name wasn't ever mentioned by Bill [my emphasis - lap]. However, Jim's personal testimony is that when he read Philippians 4:9 he took it to mean what Paul did. Jim then turned to the book of Acts to find out what Paul did so he could imitate him. As Jim began to "DO" (an essential vocabulary word) what he saw in Acts the Blitz movement was born. This, at least, is my understanding. Therefore the question of whether to imitate Paul's action or Paul's attitude becomes central to the Blitz movement, I think. Anyway it was obvious that Bill disagreed with the "DO" Paul's action concept. [Except where noted, the emphasis is as it was in the original.]
Subsequent discussions of Bill's discipline between various individuals and the elders of the SRF produced interesting, if varying, revelations. In a conversation with Mike Keator (apparently the phone call referred to on page 60), Bill Hulligan was told that Bill Taylor's letter of excommunication did not accurately describe the cause of the action taken. This assertion was expanded about a year later when, on Sunday, October 29, 1978, Charlie Ranke spoke with Mike on the subject of Bill Taylor's discipline. The following points of interest came out of this discussion:
1. The letter of excommunication which Bill Taylor received is incorrect when it mentions doctrinal divergence, doctrinal faction. Mike declared that the faction was "personal, not doctrinal."
2. Bill was guilty of more than just faction; faction was the surface sin - there were other offenses, but they were not mentioned because faction was sufficient. (These other offenses remained unspecified during this discussion because they were "unedifying." Bill was apparently never warned or apprized of these unnamed "sins," yet he is now being held strictly accountable for them.)
3. In August 1976, at the Republican National Convention (see pages 25-26), Jim McCotter told Mike that, as he and Fred had been delinquent in dealing with Bill and his "sins," brothers from various assemblies around the country were going to meet to decide what should be done. Mike said this was how he first learned there would be a meeting; he did not know about it before.
4. As to the meeting in Ames, Fred was not invited because the meeting would be "unimportant." (!)
5. Mike did not attend the meeting in Ames in "an official capacity," but simply as an observer - this assertion was made in spite of the fact that the meeting dealt with the internal affairs of his own assembly.
6. Although he thought the meeting would be "unimportant," Mike claims he was shown new evidence against Bill, realized the significance of this new evidence, and knew that the matter should be spread before Fred in Columbus. Mike said he therefore invited everyone to return with him there.
7. The issue is between Bill Taylor and the SRF, not between Bill and Jim McCotter. This is why Jim is not working toward a reconciliation. (But… take another look at the letter, page 52.)
8. Bill is being held accountable for a third set of charges (the first two being the old charges and the new ones brought out in Ames), these latest ones deriving from actions by him after his excommunication. He has not been notified of these latest charges, Mike said, because "he already knows what they are."
On June 2, 1978, Gary Kellogg of Ames arrived in Columbus, apparently in preparation for a high-level discussion of Bill Taylor's case by elders Brooky Stockton and Mack Weaver of Las Cruces and the SRF elders. This meeting took place about a week later. The three major points raised by the Las Cruces elders were:
1. misinterpretation of Scripture, specifically of the Greek word hairetikos, translated "heretic" or "factious man." Brooky and Mack differed with the SRF's definition (taking the view already expressed above), emphasizing that while it may be possible to scare up a few commentators who support the SRF's position, it is far more significant that a great number of godly men do not support it. Further, they emphasized that faction was doctrinal, not personal. Brooky says, "To us a factious person is one who teaches false doctrine and gathers individuals around him and thus leads these individuals astray from the truth. Bill had not done this. He was not accused of doctrinal variance - nor did Bill have a following." The SRF would not give an inch on this issue.
Brooky also reported to me, "It was after this meeting that we realized that the real issues were not between Bill and Columbus, or even between Bill and Jim. THE ISSUES WERE CONCERNING DOCTRINAL ERRORS - THE SOURCE OF WHICH WAS JIM. This thing had been made to look like a 'personality conflict.' But in reality ERROR was being taught to the sheep and Bill alone recognized it."
2. distortion, mishandling, and misrepresentation of evidence - especially Brooky's (see page 43). With Brooky present the SRF could make little defense on this point.
3. the use of third party "witnesses" (especially Mike and Dennis) as prosecutors, judges, jury, and probation officers, while the rest of the church knew nothing. The SRF had failed to grant Bill's biblical right to a neutral and impartial third party investigation, and to face his accusers prior to judgment (John 7:51; Deuteronomy 19:17; Acts 23:35). When confronted with this the SRF claimed never to have thought of it before, though it had been brought to their attention in at least three letters from Fred Colvin, Bill Hulligan, and me between September 1977 and May 1978.
When asked by the Las Cruces brothers, the SRF elders admitted that they were in communication with both Jim McCotter and Herschel Martindale during the days of their meetings together, apparently unaware of the implications of such an admission - so much for their claims of "Columbus discipline" and "non-interference" in local matters.
One positive result of this meeting was an expression of willingness on the part of the SRF to meet again, though still not with Bill Taylor. (Their condition for meeting with him remained a full confession to "faction," which Bill could not make if he were to remain true to the Word of God.) At the end of August 1978 such a meeting was still being discussed, though it was not until 1991 that an initial meeting finally materialized (see below). Las Cruces had proposed that the projected conference include some neutral brothers from outside Blitz circles, and be for the purpose of reviewing the issues and dealing with questions of definition, rather than arguments relating to accusations and defense - the latter would be handled at subsequent meetings. In spite of the request by Las Cruces, as well as by Bill himself, Columbus has never demonstrated any alacrity to permit outside investigation, and has not taken any initiative to open this case to an honest and objective analysis. They refused to go to Colorado Springs to meet with the elders of Southside Bible Chapel (although the latter offered to provide their air fare), and they now continue to refuse a nonpartisan review of the case. With this total lack of cooperation and even interest on their part, all efforts at reconciliation remain at a stalemate.
Jay Schlichting undertook the goal of getting things worked out between Bill Taylor and Jim McCotter. He felt, as he said in Norman, Ok., in September 1985, "I wanted to do something to help get the situation right back in Norman as far as Kandy was concerned, as far as I was concerned. And it looked to me the best way to do this was to go to the precedent - go and get things worked out. If there's any way we can get things worked out between Bill Taylor and Jim McCotter, then this is gonna be it, the kingpin."
So Jay telephoned Bill in Las Cruces, N. Mex., and asked if he would be willing to meet with Jim, if that could be arranged. Bill replied (according to Jay), "Yes, I'm willing to talk with Jim. I only have two requests: neutral ground and a neutral arbitrator."
Jay thought that was fair enough. Why would anyone find fault with those two simple conditions? In fact, Bill added, "If Jim wants to bring one other man with him, fin. I'll bring one other man with me, and we'll just leave it at that. That's all we need. Fine. I'm ready to do it any time."
Jay reported next,
About that same time, David Simonton came through where I was living at in northeastern Iowa, when he came back from the '79 elders conference in E. Lansing, Mich., and talked with me for a little while. He said, "Jim has made it really clear to me, talking with me personally, that he is ready at any time to get with Bill Taylor - any time - to talk things over, and to receive him back, to get things right."
And I thought, "Man! God is just puttin' this together!" So, neutral ground and an arbitrator. About that same time, I realized that Bakht Singh from India was comin' to the home where I was living at… He happened to be coming to the little town of Randalia, Iowa, the size of a peanut - it's a little tiny town - and he'd been there before, because he knew the people I was living with. So Bakht Singh was comin' in - gonna have this little conference here. Bill happened to be flying in - Kandy's parents were gonna have him come in for a little meeting with some people in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, area. So Bill was comin' in. We lived a mere three hours from Ames, Iowa, where Jim McCotter lived at that time. It was just perfect. God was puttin' it all together. Jim's close, Bill's gonna be here, Bakht Singh's here, neutral ground - she's there! We got it! And I was just overcome with joy. I was livin' out in the country and just walkin' up and down the roads praisin' the Lord, late into the night, 'cause I just couldn't believe how it was all comin' together so fast. I didn't want to be presumptuous by any means, but it just looked to me almost unbelievable.
So then Jay called Bill and told him that, according to Simonton, Jim was willing to talk with Bill. Jay added that Bakht Singh was going to be in Iowa the same time he, Bill, was going to be there, and that this looked like the perfect opportunity for the long-sought mediation to finally take place. Bill responded that he was still "ready to talk."
Now Jay had to get hold of Jim to get him formally on board with this plan. Jay called numerous times in the next several days, but Jim was never home. Jay talked with Jim's wife, Barb, and with their baby-sitter, but was never able to get hold of Jim. Eventually, Jay learned that Jim was at Emmaus Bible School in Oak Park, Ill. So Jay tried to reach him there, to no avail. Jay called Jim's home in Ames one more time. He reported his conversation with Barb as follows:
Finally, one last time, I call Barb, and she says, "Well, Jay, just what is it that's on your mind?"
"Well, I'll tell ya."
And I told her the whole situation. I said, "David has told me that [Jim's] ready and willing to talk with Bill, and here's the situation. Bakht Singh's gonna be here, everything's set up. Do you think Jim would be interested in this?"
"Why, definitely. I'm sure he'd be interested in that."
All right, here we go! So we leave it at that.
Finally the weekend in question arrived. Bakht Singh and company arrived from India and various parts of the United States for the conference in Randalia. Bill Taylor and I flew in to meet with Kandy, her folks, and others from Iowa. After an initial time at the Kline farm near Vinton, Ia., Bill, Kandy, and I along with some others drove north to the farm of Vaylord Zupke near Randalia. Everyone was in place except for Jim.
Jay had left word with Barb McCotter that we'd like to hear back from Jim about whether he would be coming to meet with Bill and Bakht Singh, but by the weekend there had been no word from him. Jay suggested to Ted Koshy (see page 28) that he call Jim and inquire as to whether he would be coming. Jay felt that since Koshy knew Jim better, and because Jim had looked to Koshy in the past, that he might have more influence with Jim.
So Koshy phoned Jim. The conversation went something as follows (as recounted by Jay):
"Jim, this is Ted Koshy, and Brother Bakht Singh is here… Jim, do you think you can come? We've got the Brother Bill Taylor here, we've got the Brother Larry Pile here, myself, and the Brother Bakht Singh, and we'd like to just fellowship with you, and talk with you about the situation."
"No, no," Jim said. "I'm not able to come."
"Why not? Why can't you come?"
"Bill Taylor has been excommunicated from the assembly in Columbus, Ohio. And, you see, until he gets things right with those men in Ohio, I have absolutely no liberty to talk with Bill. So, I'm not able to come, I'm not at liberty to make the trip." He proceeded to talk about it a little bit more.
Jay concluded his account of this incident with these words:
That was it. The door was shut, bang. No chance.
And that was when my eyes were really opened up to what kind of a person I was dealing with. At that point I really began to realize that he was gonna do what he wanted to do, and that was it. So that was the end of that.
Anyway, I found out shortly thereafter that Bakht Singh, and Ted Koshy, and others had tried to get with Jim and Bill and work this thing out years before, right after it happened. So this was not the first time, it was just another opportunity that was thrown away because of convenience.
I hope and pray that it will be possible to add another chapter to this history, relating the happy news that reconciliation has been effected between Bill Taylor and Jim McCotter, between Bill and the others from whom he has been estranged, and between all of us dissidents and all of the Blitz members. I pray that one day soon all of us on both sides of the dispute will yield to the sweet peaceableness of the Lord Jesus Christ, who desires that all who name his name be united together in love. At the present time (1979), however, such an additional chapter is but a dream, though perhaps there is some slight movement in that direction.
In concluding this account of unhappy events, the following two quotations seem especially apropos:
…Nothing can be less of the Spirit of God than to apply to minor differences of a disciplinary sort the rigour which is an absolute duty where it is a question of the true Christ or a false. Such a mistake is turned by the great enemy to the scattering of those whom Christ died to gather together into one. Even doctrine in general, unless fundamental, is not a Scriptural ground for so extreme a course. Still less is it due to a difference about the institutions of Christianity, whether baptism or the Lord's Supper. But the doctrine of Christ does claim the allegiance of every saint; and he who undermines His person is to be discarded not only publicly but from private recognition at all cost.
There may be circumstances where it is proper - where it is a duty - to receive those who have been cast out of the church, ver. 8. The decisions of a church, under some proud and partisan leader, are often eminently unjust and harsh. The most modest, humble, devoted, and zealous men, under a charge of heresy, or of some slight aberration from the formulas of doctrine, may be cast out as unworthy to be recognized as ministers of the gospel, or even as unworthy to have a place at the table of the Lord. Some of the best men on earth have been thus disowned by the church; and it is no certain evidence against a man when he is denounced as a heretic, or disowned as a member, by those who bear the Christian name. If we are satisfied that a man is a Christian, we should receive him as such, however he may be regarded by others; nor should we hesitate to help him forward in his Christian course, or in any way to assist him to do good.
 Lev. 19:15-17: "You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the lord. You shall not hate your countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but you shall not incur sin because of him."
 During the Madison conference of 1972 Herschel expressed a similar concern to Jim Schooler of Albuquerque. He said, "Jim, I hope the older brothers never leave Jim [McCotter] for he needs them to keep him in balance." In spite of this warning, the Madison outreach was Jim's brother Bill's last affiliation with the Blitz, and in fact it probably marks the last real involvement with the Blitz of any of the brothers from Colorado - only a small handful attended the Knoxville conference the following summer. And as a matter of fact, "older brothers" have continued to part with Jim right down to the present time.
 This outreach had been the "brain-child" of Charles Childers of Madison, Wis. However, when things actually got under way in Kansas City, Jim McCotter took full command of the operation, shunting Charlie and his plans to one side.
 Brian Catalano (Tucson), Dennis Clark (Houston, at that time), Larry Clemente (Ames), Dave Gumlia (Kansas City), Rick Harvey (Norman, Okla.), Rob Irvine (Guelph, Ont.), Gary Kellogg (Ames), Herschel Martindale (Houston), Mike Royal (Warsaw/Winona Lake, Ind.), and Steve Schonberg (Lawrence, Kan.), in addition to Mike Keator.
 During this meeting Jim called Jim Schooler in Albuquerque to ask about a conversation the latter had had the previous month with Eugene Pressman in Columbia, Mo. Jim S. had been concerned that Eugene did not participate in the G.O.P. Convention outreach in Kansas City, so before heading back to Albuquerque he and Dave Reyes drove over to Columbia to see him. During their conversation Eugene suggested that the Blitz had become a denomination no less than any other grouping of churches. Jim Schooler took issue with this, saying that because the Blitz groups all use the same guide book, the Bible, they sometimes follow the same sort of activities, but they were definitely not a denomination. Eugene went on to mention that Bill Taylor had recently been in Columbia and had gone through the New Testament with him and Lynn Reed, another local leader. Jim then asked Eugene if he felt this way about the Blitz before Bill's visit, but he didn't respond. Jim McCotter then used this testimony as evidence of "faction" against Bill Taylor. (See also page 76.)
 Later, in talking with Jim Schooler in Albuquerque, Brian Catalano said the whole thing was carried out like a well-planned maneuver, and that Jim McCotter had organized everything. However, the last time Jim McCotter talked with Jim Schooler (March 1977) he claimed not to have had anything to do with it, that it was strictly a Columbus action.
 At the elders conference in Albuquerque during August 1974, Herschel again voiced concern to Jim Schooler, telling him that Jim McCotter had been teaching on apostleship. Jim Schooler replied, "Herschel, there is no such thing as apostles today." Herschel said he knew that, but Jim had already taught it in Ames.
 1 Sam. 22:1 & 2: "So David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brothers and all his father's household heard of it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented, gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Now there were about four hundred men with him."
 See 1 Cor. 5 for the Apostle Paul's instructions in this regard.
 The last sentence in 1 Cor. 5:13 ("Remove the wicked man from among yourselves") is a virtual quote from several passages in the Old Testament. Eight times in the book of Deuteronomy alone (13:5; 17:7, 12; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21, 24; and 24:7) the expression "so shall you purge the evil from among you" is used to refer to judgment enacted against various offenders, the facts of whose offenses, be it noted, are public knowledge, or have been attested by two or three witnesses (with specifics), or have been investigated thoroughly by impartial judges.
 Mike also said, "If he approaches you on the street, obey the Scripture - 'turn away,' 'have nothing to do with.' If he follows you, run away. If he runs after you, keep running away. If he tackles you [laughter in the audience] - and I'm not… this is possible - get away."
 This was before Bill Taylor used the term - and the two men had had no contact with one another. (See page 63.)
 I later learned that Jim McCotter had persuaded Brian Catalano and George Even (the elders in Tucson at the time) to conduct this outreach. In December of this year Brian went to see Jim Schooler in Albuquerque, saying he really had to talk to Jim McCotter about the latter's "pushing his way over" him and George concerning the Tempe affair. And the following April Brian addressed the believers in Tucson and Tempe, confessing that the Tempe operation was a "sin" and that he had launched the outreach as something of a conditioned reflex without praying. Eventually almost everyone who had stayed behind in Tempe returned to Tucson, admitting that the entire affair was rather a failure.
 The Tucson fellowship at this time was beginning to evolve into a position of greater balance. During the summer months, while many were away in Tempe, Dan Gill was teaching on the grace of God in order to provide a counter-weight to a heavy dose of the law laid on the members by Brian Catalano during the spring and prior to the Tempe outreach. A year later Brian confessed the Tempe outreach to have been a "sin," and he himself became very subdued, allowing Dan to do most of the teaching. By the summer of 1978 the fellowship in Tucson had become much more tolerant of diversity within the body than it had ever been before, but most of the "diverse" people had already left.
Sometime in the fall of 1978 Todd Mills spoke to Brian again. Todd reported to me that they "had a very sincere chat in which [Brian] confessed many past corporate sins (which he seemed to be taking responsibility for), and he said he had been praying for me and others to return." Towards the end of January 1979 Brian and family left Tucson, leaving Dan Gill and George Even as elders there. He relocated to Austin, Tex., whence Herschel Martindale had moved some months earlier. Eventually, Brian and family left the Blitz altogether.
From later reports I received, Tucson became a much more even-keeled assembly - the leaders were more patient and loving, more sensitive to the Holy Spirit's guidance, less taken by human methods. There was more liberty for individuals to exercise their spiritual gifts, less striving after uniformity. There were still inhibitions hanging on from former days, but the leaders were working hard to overcome them. (See also "Winds of Change," page 132.) A few years later, however, I learned that Dan Gill, then the main elder or pastor, had taken the church out of the Blitz and was moving it in the direction of the controversial "Word-Faith Movement."
 The Solid Rock Fellowship is now known as Linworth Road Community Church, having relocated several miles north of the Ohio State University campus. There is still a campus branch, however.
 "Go," The Cry from Eternity, a 36-page booklet by Henry Hintermeister of Houston, but representing the beliefs of the Blitz leadership, taught that the Great Commission commands every believer to go to other countries with the gospel - in fact, following the logic of the argument presented by the author, every believer must go to every country! (Hintermeister left the movement in 1980, and has repudiated this assertion.)
 Ironically, about the same time as this meeting was taking place in Albuquerque, Jim McCotter, Herschel Martindale, and Dennis Clark were in Madison, Wis., forcing Charles Childers out of the Blitz church there on the popular charge of faction! Charlie soon left Wisconsin and moved to Dallas, Tex.
 This and other quotes from this meeting are transcribed from an audiotape in my possession.
 A more unlikely candidate for such a villainous role could scarcely be imagined. Kandy, even according to Danny Groveman at this June 18th meeting, "is a sweet sister - she's gentle and has a heart of compassion and caring for people."
 At this point I offer the following sample of the type of "communication" that took place during the June 18th meeting. Danny Groveman said (quoted verbatim from tape):
Now, when Kandy was in Iowa she got several letters from different saints, and we don't… we haven't been able to establish how many letters she had gotten (Kandy indicated that there had been several at least, and we don't know how many that means) but that the nature of these letters as she received them communicated to her that, uh, that Jay had been dealt with as a factious person, and that it was very, uh, damaging to his, uh, integrity, and she didn't understand it, because when she was in Iowa she called, uh, a person that, that knew these, uh, saints that, that he was going to be with, and from this person's testimony, uh, he said they're good, they're really good brothers and sisters (okay); and so rightly, and understandably so, it was confusing to Kandy why it had been shared with her that, uh, Jay was dangerous and that these peo… these, uh, saints were dangerous. What had been shared with us, - they were dangerous, and they were factious, but that, that Jay had been, uh… that it was… that that was what was communicated - that it was, uh, that the danger was that there were certain things that led us to believe that there was danger, and there were things, uh, I don't think it nec… it would be necessary to go into in detail at this point. If anybody has any questions about why we said that, we could go more fully into it; but, uh, at that point questions came into Kandy's mind as to why it was shared differently, and it seemed from the letters (and I don't know if there were any phone calls or not) but that, that to her Jay was dealt with unfairly in the meeting.
Any questions, indeed! This is a classic example of obfuscatory verbosity as Danny struggled to say something, anything, to calm the assembly.
 In the June 18th meeting one reason given for this dichotomy was that "We hadn't yet gotten together on the Sunday before the Monday night meeting to decide what needed to be shared, what should be shared, and how it should be shared.' " It was also stated that there were other, private reasons for this.
 See pages 115f.
 In the May 14th meeting concerning Jay the elders publicly declared that it was not necessarily wrong to leave the church.
 In the June 18th meeting Danny said, "We don't know (because we weren't in on the conversations, and they, obviously, weren't here to check with) how much collusion and interacting and supportive communication there was from one another to one another, but the evidence, taken in total, seems to be that there was some, that there's basis to say there was some. To know the order that it happened or who initiated it, uh, we don't know. We do know specific things that Kandy did share in specific situations with specific people that had specific results, and, uh, that is the only thing that we can act upon."
 In the June 18th meeting Danny stated, "There wasn't a willing, listening spirit [on Kandy's part]. There was a resistance to us on the basis (and this was said to us) that we believe that everybody that leaves is factious, that everybody that leaves is in sin; and there were things that were said of an accusatory nature. I don't believe that, in itself, was necessarily bad, because I had, in a sense, elicited these things from Kandy, because I was saying I was Rick's representative."
 Again during the June 18th meeting Danny said, "I was just really grieved at that point, and I really firmly, and very strongly, rebuked Kandy for that, and stressed my grief at that."
 On Saturday morning, June 2, while Kandy was talking with Rick on the phone, he kept yelling at his small daughter to be quiet. Finally he explained to Kandy that he couldn't get her quiet because Mary was listening in on their conversation on another phone and thus was unable to control their little girl. He then spoke to Mary over the phone, asking her to try to quiet their daughter. Then Kandy said, "Oh, hi, Mary!" but Mary didn't respond.
 The Riddles were an older couple in Norman against whom Kandy had been warned about four and a half years earlier, because they held some different convictions from the Blitz - for this reason they were considered "old wineskins."
 In the June 18th meeting Danny stated that Sandra "warned Kandy again for faction. It was a difficult phone call." In fact, however, Sandra denied that she thought Kandy was factious.
 A couple of months after Kandy's discipline Susan Johnston confronted Rick Harvey about the injustice of the affair. He denied having had anything to do with it, and told her she would have to speak with Danny and Jerry.
 Sometime soon after the Michigan elders conference the Norman elders and other leaders stood before the church and publicly confessed to having "lorded it over the saints"!
 A few years later, Jerry and Pearl MacDonald also came to realize the gross injustices that had been carried out by Blitz leaders in the name of God (and which Jerry himself had participated in in this case) and had left the movement. During a gathering of former members of the Blitz/GCI in Norman, Okla., in 1985 Jerry publicly apologized to Kandy and Jay(who had been married in the meantime) for his role in their unbiblical excommunications.
 Out of 63 commentators and Greek scholars 56 regard the factious man as one who is contentious and divisive over doctrinal issues; only 7 view the faction as not necessarily involving doctrine. The more specific breakdown was as follows: 30 consider the man factious regarding false doctrine; 12 describe him as a contentious sectary seeking to gather followers to himself and/or even setting up his own church; 14 say simply that he is contentious regarding doctrine; and 7 that he is contentious, but not regarding doctrine.
 Somewhat naively, by his own admission.
 1990 population was 88.
 See page 142f.
 William Kelly, commentary on 2 John 10. Kelly was claimed as a prime source in support of the SRF's action against Bill Taylor.
 Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, one-volume edition, commentary on 3 John 8, p. 1509.