AN ACCOUNT OF MY ATTEMPTS TO FOLLOW MATTHEW 18
IN REGARDS TO VARIOUS ISSUES & CONFLICTS WITH J. McCOTTER
AND THE LEADERSHIP OF THE AMES FELLOWSHIP CHURCH
Early in association with Jim I detected that he had a very weak accounting system. He was not really commended by the Brethren nor was he in mutual submission to other older brothers in the movement. This troubled me and I had a number of talks with Jim about the issue. In fact I have a letter from Jim in which he tries to explain to whom he is in submission. (See letter)
John Williams notified me that Jim had called him requesting him to take over the Cornerstone Bible Studies because I was allowing various other Christians to teach and Jim did not agree with some of these Christians teachings. The major issue was the doctrine of eternal security. Eternal security, however was never taught, one way or another, by these Wesleyan-type Christian men. I was quite shocked by this revelation for a number of reasons. First, if Jim had indeed called John, then why hadn't he approached me first about these concerns? Second, if Jim hadn't called John, then why was John telling me this false story? To resolve the matter I called together John, Jim McCotter (& a number of other men - Dave Gumlia, Mike Keator, Ray Williams...) At this meeting John restated his allegations that Jim had called him about taking over the Bible studies. Jim was silent for quite a while. He finally turned to a verse in I Corin. that stated something to the effect that although acknowledging no guilt he did not presume innocence. I Cor. 4:4er, Jim said because there were no witnesses to John's charge, it couldn't be settled from his Biblical perspective. Later that evening, John took me aside privately & re-asserted his allegations that Jim had made the phone call. From that point on--John W. withdrew his support from Jim and The "Blitz Movement."
I had increasingly become concerned that Jim's promotion of his Bible study tapes was growing more self-centered. Finally, I called Jim, in the presence of Bob Bury, on one occasion, and on another occasion in the presence of my wife, and firmly warned, if not rebuked Jim, for his increasing tendency to exalt himself. Jim seemed to have received my reproof in a most encouraging fashion and I assumed that was the end of the matter. However, history shows that, in fact, there was no change. kquote>
4. Summer of 1974 - Albuquerque, New MexicoBoth Bill Taylor and I questioned Jim about the Biblical veracity of Jim's teaching about the "vision" (reaching the world) and apostleship. I felt that Jim responded very well and that the needed balance in teaching would occur from that point on. However, Jim, in fact, viewed the meeting as very devisive and the proof of this was that a few months later Jim invited all the other elders up to Ames to begin a church planting team in the South and purposely did not invite Bill T. This Jim told me personally. I was very surprised because I felt the Albuquerque time was a healthy discussion where needed balance was being introduced into the group. (Apparently Jim invited me because he felt I could be easily swayed to submit to his view of the vision) - I'm not really sure why I got invited...?)
5. Summer of 1977. Glenwood Springs, New MexicoI talked to Jim personally regarding his harshness, over-control and repeated corrections and elaborations on Dave Munday's presentation concerning our plans for Today's Student newspaper. Jim continued in this same vein and I asked Herschel Martindale to go with me and talk to Jim. Herschel refused saying it was a personal thing between me and Jim. In the fall of 1977, at the Today's Student writer's conference, Jim still continued to interrupt, over-control and show a patronizing type attitude toward many of the speakers. By this time though I was so confused and afraid (thinking that it was perhaps my problem and not Jim's). I now in reflection realize that that time with Herschel was very detrimental in my ability to confront Jim about an ever increasing number of problems regarding his conduct and teaching.
6. 1977 - 1978It was during this year, while my wife and I lived in Ames, Iowa, that I confronted Jim and the elders there repeatedly, at least 7 times! Some of these times I talked to Jim privately about the issues; at other times I spoke out publically in the elders and deacons meetings about the issues. What were the issues?
a. The first one was the denial that we (i.e., the ISU Bible Studies) were the ones responsible for going through the dorms and inviting people to form dorm Bible Studies - of which, one of us (i.e., ISU Bible Study members) would be a leader. I felt this was clearly deceptive but my repeated attempts to address the issue was met with "you don't really understand..."
b. Another issue was the elders allegation that they did not control a number of campus and off-campus organizations such as "ISU Bible Studies, Communications Forum, Theos, and a number of organizations relating to the newspapers (Life Herald, Today's Student) and printing thereof. In fact, Jim actually called the Church together a number of times in the newspaper printing warehouse where he said there was no relationship between these organizations. This was clearly false, misleading and deceptive. Because none of the organizations would have been founded without Jim's ideas and direction. They were not started by other groups. The members of those organizations would not be allowed within, unless Jim had granted his approval and the decisions of the organizations were directed entirely by the counsel of the elders for the express purpose of promoting the aims and goals of their vision to reach the world for Christ.
c. The elders maintained that there was no formal relationship between ISU Bible Studies and the Ames Fellowship Church. This assertion by the elders was false and misleading. The elders chose who would be the campus leader of ISU Bible Studies. And indeed no one could be in good standing with Ames F. Church unless they regularly attended the ISU Bible Studies. In fact the campus Bible Studies were the teaching arm of Ames Fellowship Church. Further, Ames Fellowship Church was not an official organization. There was nothing in writing anywhere concerning the chartering of Ames Fellowship Church. It merely existed as a label to try to separate various aspects of the work conducted by the elders.
d. Jim and the other elders taught that all brothers were to become elders. Again I confronted the elders and deacons a number of times in the brothers' meetings about these issues. Confusion arose about "elder" as being an office or gifted person and "elder" as being an "older Christian". The argument was that since we are all to mature in the Lord or get older in the Lord then we are all to become elders. The problems there are four fold:
1) equivocation of the Biblical team elder i.e., elder as "older Christian" and elder as gifted and/or officer in the Church.
2) denial of other roles in the body besides elder - are evangelists, prophets, teachers, those with gifts of helps all necessarily elders? I don't think so.
3) that those who as not elders are not mature, that they are still young or still carnal - this puts undo emphasis on a sanctification experience after salvation. It puts more emphasis on growth rather than present position in Christ. It separates those spiritual from non-spiritual - i.e., non-elders. It tends to divide the body of Christ. It is an indirect weakening of the emphasis on justification by faith and the priesthood of all believers.
4) that it puts the role of women in a confusing light. Men are to aspire to be elders. What are women to aspire to be? To be mature. If so, that is the goal of all Christians. There is no women's position of elder in GCI. Thus, I feel the teaching set up artificial goal or growth distinctions between men and women.
5) The undo emphasis on the Great Commission as the central commendment of the New Testament. Critism of this teaching are found elsewhere. I shall not elaborate on that here.
6) The strategy as the missing element in the modern church. Acts 1:8, Romans 15:19, Acts 26:19, II Car. 10:12-16 were used as foundation verses to teach that the early church expanded by a "spiraling out" strategy. That faith and giftedness grew as a of how many works a person had started since they left their home base "Jerusalem" and began spiraling out until they reached the uttermost parts of the world. What were some problems with such teaching:
a) No where are such historical patterns commended as principles, b) if they were principles or commands then all Christians should move to Jerusalem and start there, c) If Jerusalem was where you were saved then GCI would have no practical basis for their strategy and GCI would have to teach that all Christians must move back to where they were saved and then start growing from there. In practice, "Jerusalem", became where one got involved with GCI. That was stretching the principle - even if such a principle existed. Further, Paul said he was not to build upon anyone elses foundation or to go where Christ was already named. Yet, GCI works with these already saved, i.e., builds on other foundations and goes where Christ has already been proclaimed. If such a principle existed it is not followed by GCI, yet GCI constantly teaches that Paul is to be our example!
7) Other concerns: Undo emphasis on exhortation vs. encouragement - lack of doctrinal teaching and overemphasis on duty and practice. These concerns were raised so many times I can't remember.
The responses to my concerns in Ames were:
a) If I took the beam out of my own eye, I would no longer see the elders teachings and practices as an area to be concerned about.
b) I was told I was proud and did not have a humble spirit.
c) That in specific relationship to the interrelationship of the organization and the ISU Bible Studies affair, the elders clearly held to a doctrine that justified their behavior. I shall call it a"doctrine of deception." On a number of times, they defended these actions by the following verses:
1) "Be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves." Thus their action was to be understood as "wisdom."
2) "God's wisdom is vindicated by its children" Thus the "wisdom" of their actions would be shown by its outcome. Ironically the outcome was a series of newspaper articles exposing the practices: that continue to this day (see current articles in Maryland paper and Washington Post) Another outcome was that some of the Ames leadership and the newspaper operation made a hasty exit to California to avoid the heat from the newspaper articles and the local uproar.
3) The use of Bible verses to justify deception. Verses commonly used were: Exodus 5:1-7, I Sam. 16:1-5, John 7:1-10.
Of course, I could not accept such a teaching and contacted the Bill Gothard Institute, my elders in Kansas City, Scott Jones and Tony Castro of Ames. Tony and I tried to meet with Jim alone - he refused and instead called all the deacons and elders together. Instead of us talking to them, they preached at us. Nevertheless, we presented our points and they defended their views. I felt there would be a follow up to this meeting when I was to meet with the Kansas City elders and Ames elders. However, Jim swayed the Kansas City elders and my ability to gather witnesses to confront these errors was thwarted.
The end result was I was to "step down from all leadership and remain in Ames."
During this period a number of people including Scott Jones repeatedly confronted the leadership about the same issues.
I told the elders that my conscience would be violated if I stayed. The night before I left I talked with Jim one more time about many of these issues. He seemed to listen and I left Ames feeling that something may change. However, I still could not stay because some fundamental problems in their teachings and practices were never recognized and changed. Although I hoped for some change the forthcoming years only proved that their teachings and practices about deception, elders, of the vision, and reaching the world did not change but remained steadfast in the face of still dozens more who tried to confront such practices.
Paul R. Martin
August 28, 1986
* Scott Jones is now a missionary in Brazil where he teaches a seminary there.
** Tony Castro is now a professor at Gordon College.