Confessions of an Excommunicant

Yup. It’s true. In 2009, I was “disfellowshipped” from New Covenant Fellowship in Manassas, Virginia – and in an odd sort of way I felt deeply honored!

I first posted this for a few months on my old blog in 2009, but decided to dust it off and make it public once again under its original publication date. Fortunately, it migrated over – with its original publication date and original comments still preserved – when I set up this new blog in late 2009.

I’m re-posting my story because many others have experienced similar fates as they try to deal with abusive leaders who hide their leadership sins behind a wall of unaccountability and by intimidating – and then expelling – all voices of integrity from their church.

I hope my experience encourages others to have the courage to raise legitimate concerns under Biblical procedures, even if it means being kicked out of your church. Stand firm, because there is life after “excommunication”!

The problems I encountered began innocently enough in 2008 when I approached the pastors (who also serve as the sole elders) at New Covenant Fellowship about incorporating into the church some ministries I supported or otherwise led. They agreed.

Legal and Ethical StandardsI’m an attorney who’s done some non-profit and church related legal work, as well as lots of corporate work. I also have held many leadership positions in local churches, as well as various other ministries and charities, over the last several decades. As such, I have a pretty good grasp on relevant legal and ethical issues involving churches and other religious tax-exempt entities.

With my legal background, I thought I might be able to help move things along. So I innocently asked to see the church’s constitution, bylaws and other legal documents in order to recommend the best way to proceed.

For the next several months the senior pastor, who helped start the church over twenty years previously, kept putting me off and stalling. In fact, I subsequently discovered, he was providing me with outright misleading responses to my several inquiries. I was mystified and couldn’t figure out why he was stonewalling me on implementing a decision the full pastor’s board had approved, so I finally started checking into things on my own.

What I discovered totally shocked me. I learned that New Covenant Fellowship apparently had never been legally constituted, and by all indications, had filed false certifications to obtain its tax exempt status with the IRS and also to allow tax deductions for tithes and offerings it received. More than twenty years after the church was founded, there still were no founding documents – no constitution, no bylaws, no criteria for selecting or serving as an elder or pastor, no membership standards or procedures – nothing, nada, zip!

When I went to the senior pastor to ask about this, he admitted that he knew about the problems despite his previously misleading and evasive answers. In fact, he acknowledged, he had known about the need to correct these glaring deficiencies for many years, but just never bothered to get around to it. (See my comment on Legal Requirements for Unincorporated Churches in Virginia, which includes quotes from relevant emails in which the founding pastor confirms that the church lacks the required organizational documents and acknowledges that the problem needs to be addressed – which has yet to occur. Those emails are wholly inconsistent with his new-found claims that all is OK with the church’s legal bona fides.)

MI-144-0001I quietly communicated my findings to the other pastors (while discretely refraining from discussing them with anyone else).

They too were shocked.

Much to my surprise, the senior pastor had kept them also in the dark on the apparent lack of any legal status for the church. The senior pastor responded to our concern by saying he’d get things fixed.

In response, I simply asked to be kept appraised of any steps actually taken to make the New Covenant Fellowship legal so I could then move forward with bringing some of my own ministry activities – which did have proper legal status – under the church.

More than six months later, I’m still waiting, without success, to hear whether he’s resolved the church’s considerable and substantial legal problems.

One fallout from this discovery was my concern over the legality of a deduction on my tax return for a very large donation I had made to New Covenant Fellowship in 2007.

That donation was for the sole, expressly-designated purpose of making improvements to the physical appearance of the church’s sanctuary and entrances (which, to put it charitably, had looked very shabby and uninviting for new visitors ever since I’d been part of the church).

I discussed my desire to make that designated contribution with the senior pastor, and then wrote out the check and put the designation in writing. He gladly accepted my donation, under the express conditions of my written designation.

In addition to my new-found worry about the propriety of my subsequent tax deduction, I was growing increasingly concerned because nothing of any significance had been done to spruce up the church over the intervening year and a half.

When I asked for an update on how the money I’d given had been spent, I got no responses and the same pattern of stonewalling began – just like when I asked about the legal status of the church.

Finally, the senior pastor (whom I originally gave the money to) told me that he didn’t think the church had any obligation to use the money for the express, written purpose for which he’d accepted it – but he wouldn’t give me any more specifics.

Regardless, it was clear that the funds had not been used for their designated purpose, as evidenced by the lack of any improvements to the church sanctuary and entrances over the intervening year and a half.

I finally asked one of the other pastors what happened to the donation I gave the senior pastor. He said he didn’t know and, in fact, acted befuddled over my questions because, he informed me, that was the first he had heard of the donation – even though he was on the elder’s board.

This was very strange, because it was a very substantial amount of money.

So again, I started doing some quiet research and again was shocked. I learned, and then confirmed with multiple independent sources, that the senior pastor for several years had been (and still was) taking a very substantial, full salary and benefits package from the church – totaling well into six figures per year without the knowledge of the full elder’s board.

I have no problem with, and actually encourage, paying an elder, as Paul instructs in I Tim. 5:17-18, when he in fact is devoting his time vocationally to the church – which Paul in that same passage sets forth as the sole criteria for such pay.

In this case, however, the founding elder for several years had not been actually working for the church. Instead, he had taken a position and was working nearly full time with an unrelated organization. He was still taking, however, the same very generous full-time salary and benefits package from the church that he had been earning when he actually worked for the church years earlier.

101281-73The facts indicated that this elder had been filling his pockets with the hard-earned tithes and offerings of the congregation over the previous several years – to the tune of nearly a million dollars over the previous several years – while not actually working vocationally for the church or otherwise being very engaged in ministry at the church.

The sum total of his involvement appeared to be occasionally preaching on Sunday (maybe once a month, at most) some very basic sermons that certainly took little time to prepare, meeting with the worship team, occasionally leading worship himself, and doing some very occasional counseling sessions.

This also did not square with the facts.

When I was considering joining the church and first met back in the summer of 2007 with the senior pastor at a local diner for breakfast to learn more about New Covenant Fellowship, he brought up the fact that he was working for elsewhere for an unrelated non-profit organization.

I thought little of it, but in the course of our conversation he said that he was averaging about four days a week devoted to that job – which is certainly consistent with what I witnessed over the intervening two years. I asked him how he was able to live on any income from that, given that nonreligious non-profits are notoriously underfunded. He said he received no salary from them, but was being paid by the church.

At the time, this struck me as odd but that’s as far as it went. I then personally observed that he was working around four days per week – despite now telling the church that it was no more than 20 hours per week – for that unrelated organization. (I often sent men I was mentoring, upon their release from the local jail, to work under him as volunteers at that organization.)

Regardless, what he told me then and what I personally observed is wholly inconsistent with his new-found claim that he needed that job to supplement his “meager” salary from the church and that the amount of time he devoted to that outside job was very limited.

In essence, the facts strongly suggested that the senior pastor was fleecing the flock: While acting as though he was entitled to live high off the tithes and offerings of his people – which they earned through hard work in difficult times – he appeared unwilling to engage in any comparable hard work on their behalf.

In response to my inquiries, the pastors called a meeting of the church to preemptively refute my concerns – even though I had only voiced those concerns privately to them – while refusing to meet with me in private or to then allow me to attend that public meeting.

At the public meeting, they stated that the founding pastor was earning a “salary” (they were very careful to use that term and to avoid the term “compensation”) of $80,000 per year.

But what they did not tell the people, thus perpetuating a deliberate deception, was that his “salary” is less than half of the senior pastor’s total compensation package – as can be confirmed by anyone who demands to see and carefully review the church’s full financial reports (even though they were not generally made available to the church).

Thus, that pastor was receiving an obscene amount of total compensation that is more than double what the remaining elders had been willing to admit – totaling over $200,000 per year – even though the church musters less than 50 people most Sunday mornings (down from over 2,000 just a few years earlier due in large part to issues of integrity involving this same pastor), and even though he’s been working nearly full time for another, unrelated organization.

I also learned that the one pastor (out of the then four) who in fact was working vocationally for the church, and who more than anyone else was keeping the struggling church alive by being engaged in the lives of the people and spending nearly every waking minute sacrificially ministering to them (to his considerable detriment health wise), was being paid less than subsistence wages. His total wages for full time service to the church were only about a tenth of what the senior pastor – who was not working for the church – was taking.

To add insult to injury, that other pastor never complained but took the injustice graciously – even though he was not even allowed to enjoy the same generous benefits that the disengaged senior pastor lined up for himself. Thus, the senior pastor essentially was living off the hard work and dedication of this other pastor, who could barely meet his own basic needs or the needs of his own family.

This situation clearly violated the prohibition in scripture on “muzzling the ox that treads the grain” – which Paul expressly says happens, in I Tim. 5:18, when an elder is denied fair wages and others unjustly profit from his hard work.

On top of all this, I also started seeing – and confirmed with independent sources – ongoing, disturbing moral lapses of a substantial and disqualifying nature by the senior pastor, which involve reoccurring issues of dishonesty and also lack of integrity regarding other aspects of the church’s finances.

As I learned more, I also discovered that these and other repeated problems with the senior pastor contributed to the church shrinking over the years from more than two thousand to barely fifty people on Sunday mornings. Unfortunately, when I joined the church in mid-2007, I didn’t know its history of wave after wave of people leaving because of these reoccurring but unresolved problems.

I struggled over what to do with the information that had come to me and been conformed – even though I had approached things innocently and without the least desire to dig up dirt.

After much prayer, I decided to approach the senior pastor in private to raise my concerns and ask if what I had learned was true.

I sent him a polite yet very specific private email laying out those concerns and asked to meet with him. I had no desire to embarrass him or raise my concerns elsewhere, but simply wanted to be faithful in walking through the steps outlined by Jesus in Matthew 18.

Under that procedure, you should first go to an offending brother in private. If he refuses to hear you, then you should take one or two others. If he still refuses to repent or resolve your concerns, then you are to take him before the whole congregation.

That founding pastor responded in writing that he would NOT meet with me to address my concerns, and furthermore stated that as an elder he was exempt and not subject to the procedures of Matthew 18.

In an email to me on April 6, 2009 (just two days after I had approached him with my email that outlined my specific concerns and questions), he stated: “I respectfully disagree with your assumption that the issues which you presented are Matthew 18 issues. I do not view the things which you listed as matters of my personal sin, but rather a difference between your perspective and mine. Therefore your invoking Matthew 18 is invalid and, because of this, I do not agree to a private meeting with you to discuss these issues.”

I was shocked that he viewed himself exempt from a Biblically-mandated procedure for resolving concerns between brothers. When I saw him in church the next Sunday, I approached him and politely asked him again, in person, if he’d meet with me. His direct and angry response was: “No, not on those issues I’m not.”

I then asked if he would meet with me in the presence of one or two others. He shook his head no, then abruptly turned his back on me and walked away.

After being rebuffed by the senior pastor, I went to a neutral pastor in private for advice on how to handle my concerns, given the senior pastor’s refusal to meet or even address the facts I had assembled.

Unbeknown and totally 60985-23independent of me, he indicated – without going into specifics – that he too had been seeing and learning about the same things I had discovered concerning the improprieties and financial irregularities of the senior pastor.

He asked me to stand down on my concerns because he had independently started to raise and address those sins and improprieties internally with the other elders – including the financial issues and moral lapses, as well as several other issues of grave mutual concern.

I agreed to stand down and let the process play out within the eldership, and for several months waited and kept my peace on any specifics.

Unfortunately, that other pastor was rebuffed by the senior pastor and met with no success in addressing the increasingly growing problems that where then starting to become more widely known – wholly independent of us – within New Covenant Fellowship and the broader Christian community.

51045-36The senior pastor then launched a preemptive strike to silence my potentially dissenting voice by sending out a grossly false email to the whole church saying I had withdrawn as a member and claiming that the elders had confirmed that decision with me.

No such thing had happened, and his email was a total fabrication. I simply had previously communicated my intent to withdraw from ministries that were under that elder’s oversight because of repeatedly false and grossly misleading information he had given out, going back over a year, on matters that were essential to the health of those ministries.

The senior pastor also signed the email on behalf of the full eldership, even though he had not cleared it with all of the elders and there was fierce opposition within the eldership.

Soon after that false email was sent out, the neutral pastor was forced to step down from the eldership and take a sabbatical from church governance issues.

After failing to see any resolution over the intervening months on that neutral elder’s attempt to resolve things internally within the eldership, and after seeing him finally step down from the eldership, I sent an email to the remaining elders.

That email reiterating the facts (which to this day remain undisputed and unresolved by the senior pastor), once again expressed my concerns.

My email also documented how I had faithfully tried to follow the procedures of Matthew 18, and how at least one former elder had likewise followed separate procedures by bringing the issues before all the elders.

Both of us, however, had been stonewalled and there still was no substantive resolution. In fact, there had never been any dispute by the remaining elders over the accuracy of our independent but similar findings. Why then, I asked in the email, had they failed to act to protect the church and what were their intentions?

91334-30I also asked, honestly but directly, if they thought everything had been done properly regarding the senior pastor’s salary and benefits. If so, then why weren’t they willing to disclose to the whole church the salary and benefits package, and the nearly million dollars apparently taken from the church by the senior elder while he was working nearly full time for another, unrelated organization?

I furthermore asked if they would be willing to tell the church what the other elder, who was working more than full time but being paid less than subsistence wages, was making in salary and benefits so the congregation could compare the two and determine if the discrepancy was appropriate?

Finally, I asked why nothing had been done about the reoccurring, apparently disqualifying moral lapses which they knew about, and as to which there did not seem to be any factual dispute?

In response, I received a short email from the remaining elders – after the one dissenting elder had been removed and silenced – labeled “Final Response”. It said I no longer was welcome at the church, while yet again refusing to address the facts or the substance of my concerns and refusing to meet with me.

It’s often said that there are two sides to every story. No doubt that’s true. I guess, having tried to walk in integrity and having sought resolution on substantial issues of apparent sin and impropriety with a pastor/elder, I would have liked to have heard the other side of the story. Instead, starting in 2008 and through the present (mid-2009), I received nothing but stonewalling and a total, absolute refusal to address what, so far, remain undisputed facts.

So that’s it. I’ve been essentially excommunicated from New Covenant Fellowship without ever having the chance to discuss my concerns with the senior pastor and without ever having received any substantive response from the two remaining elders.

I’m posting this blog to bear witness and warn others, as per Paul’s instruction in 1 Tim. 5:19-20, which says: “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.”

Here, the relevant facts are confirmed by multiple sources – including the words of some of the elders as documented at the end of this blog.

Once such allegations are confirmed, Paul then commands:  “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”

I have never done anything like this before and I’ve always been a peaceful and active participant in the life of the Church. In fact, the church I had been with for over 12 years before New Covenant Fellowship even bestowed the  “Volunteer of the Year” award on me – out of a congregation of nearly 2,000!

This fact remains: The remaining elders simply refused time and again to meet with me or others, despite numerous requests, or to respond substantively to my several written communications.

When one of the elders also tried – independent of me – to raise issues of substantial sins and improprieties within their ranks, they yet again rejected all attempts to bring correction and restoration.

After that elder finally was forced to step down and they then felt emboldened enough to meet with me, they requested that I reiterate in writing once again my questions and concerns. I did so in a polite but specific manner, but they responded in writing by getting huffy and stating that they were offended that I dared ask questions that challenged them. They also canceled the private meeting which I asked for and they previously committed to, said they would NOT ever meet with me, and said that I was no longer welcome at the church – for the sole reason (and this is the only “charge” they ever laid before me) that I had dared raise questions about them in the email that they requested and that I then sent to them in private.

They then sent out a mass email, without telling me or even providing me with the courtesy of seeing a copy, which announced to members of New Covenant Fellowship and to many people outside the church that they were calling a meeting to rebut the various issues – all of which I had been trying to raise with them in private.

I was shocked that they were now going public in an aggressive attack mode against me personally. When I asked to attend that public meeting so there could be open dialog and so the issues could be properly presented to the whole church, they responded by saying I would be escorted out if I showed up.

Because they have now publicly attacked the validity of my concerns (which I had previously only raised in private), while denying me the right accorded by scripture in Matt. 18 to come before the whole congregation in response, I reluctantly decided to respond in public via this account of the facts.

To my remaining friends at New Covenant Fellowship, I urge you to insist on answers and to require that the elders finally come clean on what’s been happening within their ranks. Biblically, you have this right. No pastor is above Scripture or above accountability to the whole congregation or even one of its members.

~ Jim

Related articles


In response to some private inquiries, I’ve added two comments below that address some follow-up issues.

The first is on Legal Standards for Salaries and Compensation.

The second is on Legal Requirements for Unincorporated Churches in Virginia, which also includes quotes from relevant emails confirming that New Covenant Fellowship lacks the required organizational documents and that the elders have acknowledge this fact.

11 responses


    In response to some private inquiries, here’s some relevant information.

    Under Virginia law, a church does not have to incorporate. Rather, it has the option of being an “unincorporated association” with trustees appointed, pursuant to its constitution and bylaws, by the local court to own property and enter into contracts on its behalf.

    There’s a good document that explains some of the basic issues by an attorney who specializes in church law. Its titled LEGAL AND TAX ISSUES RELATED TO CONSTITUTING A CHURCH IN VIRGINIA: Court Appointed Trustees in Lieu of Incorporation and can be accessed online at

    As to unincorporated churches in Virginia, it says:

    “A church utilizing the practices and polity outlined in its constitution and bylaws elects its trustees (usually no fewer than 3). The church then registers its trustees with the clerk of the circuit court for the jurisdiction where the church is located by taking a copy of the church’s constitution and bylaws, the minutes from the meeting in which these trustees were elected, and a list of the trustees including their addresses, etc. to the clerk. The trustees are “appointed” and this action is duly entered into the clerk’s records. If and when the trustees are changed the church should provide an updated list of trustees to the clerk of the circuit court.”

    Essentially, without some kind of organizing documents that spell out the parameters of the unincorporated church, the church does NOT exist – instead, it is simply some individuals meeting together solely as separate individuals. Moreover, all of the “members” are personally liable for any obligations and judgments against the “church”. For example, if one of the elders says something libelous on behalf of the church or in his official capacity at the church, or a person falls down the steps in the church building, all of the church’s “members” would be personally liable for any judgment if someone then sues the church.

    Bottom line: It is basic corporate law 101 that an unincorporated association ONLY EXISTS and can only ACT pursuant to its organizational documents. It’s the organizational documents that define and provide legal status for any unincorporated church.

    On whether the church properly obtained it’s tax exampt status, the IRS requires that a church designate on any application what form of legal entity it is. If “unincorporated association” or something to that effect was designated, that would have been a false certification because the church never met the requirements for being an unincorporated assocation. Furthermore, to qualify as a tax exempt entity, the Virginia State Bar states:

    Since most religious bodies are tax exempt entities, the form of entity they adopt will probably not be a major consideration regarding tax issues. However, in its articles of incorporation and corporate documents, the religious body should be careful to ensure that these documents comply with the IRS’s requirements for tax exempt organizations. (See )

    The church has been operating without such organizational documents. Whether you call them the constitution and bylaws, the charter, the articles of organization or any other name, it doesn’t matter — they simply haven’t existed at the church. Don’t let them tell you otherwise!

    On Feb. 9, 2009, I emailed the church secretary and asked:

    “I’d like to get a set of [the church’s] legal documents, such as the bylaws and any articles of incorporation. Can you copy those for me and let me know when I can swing by sometime this week to pick them up?”

    On Feb. 17, 2009, the senior pastor emailed back:

    “We do not have these documents …. However this is something we ought to talk about. Thanks Jim for the nudge. I will let you know if you can help us with this. You offered before and I appreciate it. I will let you know.”

    I was shocked, so I followed up that same day in an email to the senior pastor:

    “Do you have any organizational or governing documents? Even unincorporated associations typically have bylaws. For example, what defines the structure of the church and the elder’s board, as well as the roles, responsibilities and rules under which both operate? Are those documents, assuming they exist, available for review?”

    I received no response, so I asked the senior pastor in person the following Sunday at church for clarification. Although I asked innocently, he was very put off that I was still asking. Here’s my subsequent email to him on Feb. 22, 2009:

    “I am following up on our discussion today after church, where you stated several times that there were no organizational documents of any kind regarding [the church]. Your rationale for this was twofold: (1) The church simply follows the Bible, and (2) when [the church] started, incorporation was not required.

    As I stated to you, I understand fully that the church was not required to be incorporated back when it started. The law allowing church incorporation in Virginia was not available until 2002, following a court ruling.

    Regardless, as I tried to explain, it is basic law (and as an attorney with twenty years of corporate law experience, I think I have some grasp on these issues and it is frustrating that you seem to brush me off on this), that even an unincorporated association must have bylaws or some other documentation that defines it’s status, structure, rules and procedures.

    In Virginia, even unincorporated churches are EXPRESSLY REQUIRED BY LAW to have these documents. Otherwise, it does not exist (at least, as a matter of law). In Virginia, an unincorporated church is required, under the practices and polity outlined in its constitution and bylaws, to elect trustees (usually no fewer than 3). The church then must register its trustees with the clerk of the circuit court for the jurisdiction where the church is located (in this case, Prince William County) by taking a copy of the church’s constitution and bylaws, the minutes from the meeting in which these trustees were elected, and a list of the trustees including their addresses, etc. to the clerk. The trustees are then “appointed” and this action is duly entered into the clerk’s records. If and when the trustees are changed the church must provide an updated list of trustees to the clerk of the circuit court.

    I hereby reiterate my request for a copy of [the church’s] constitution and bylaws, and organizational minutes. I need these for the reasons I explained to you this morning, and I have a limited window of opportunity to nail down some of the issues regarding the interface between some of the ministries I’m involved with and [the church].

    If these can’t be produced because they don’t exist, then [the church] does not exist as a matter of law and you have a whole host of problems that go way beyond any concerns I’ve raised to date.”

    The senior pastor acknowledged that there were legitimate issues regarding the church’s legal status in an email back to me on Feb. 24th. As he stated:

    I talked to the other pastors last week about this issue and we have already agreed to re-visit this issue. I have initiated a couple of different avenues of inquiry that I think will help us to make an informed decision…. We are pursuing this and we appreciate your input. Your question about this has been one of the things that have encouraged us to re-visit the issue. I am sorry if this hinders any of your plans and projections.

    To this date, there has been no refuting by any of the elders the facts as I uncovered them, or my conclusions about the illegality of the church’s status. Nor has there been, to the best of my knowledge, any action so far to actually fix these problems and establish the church’s legal bona fides.

    I hope this helps answer any questions.



    In response to some questions, I pass along the following for everyone’s careful consideration:

    I’m an attorney who’s done non-profit law to some extent, and who has served on the board of many non-profit organizations and also as an employee (in the past) of a religious non-profit. As such, I can confidently state that it is clearly contrary to applicable legal standards for any officer or employee of a 501(c)(3) tax exempt charity to receive more compensation than is typical for others in the region doing comparable jobs for comparable organizations. Otherwise, it is considered self-serving and it is illegal, and among many other consequences places the tax exempt status of the organization at risk — in addition to possible legal action by the government against the self-serving recipient of those funds. Look, for example, at the ongoing public investigation by the U.S. Senate into self-serving conduct by several televangelists.

    Under no scenario that I know of can anyone possibly demonstrate that a compensation package of nearly a quarter million dollars per year – taken from the hard work and tithes of the people – is justified under comparable comparisons given the so-far undisputed facts here. This is even more true given the limited extent and nature of any church related work actually performed by the founding elder. (For example, compare the senior pastor’s compensation to what he himself deemed appropriate compensation for the other pastor who was on salary. That other pastor’s salary was less than subsistence wages and excluded the generous benefits the senior pastor paid himself from church funds, even though the other pastor did multiple times the work and was much, much more engaged in vocational ministry at the church).

    This dichotomy between the senior pastor’s compensation and comparable comparisons is especially stark here, because the senior pastor has been working for an unrelated organization on nearly a full-time basis. This has been going on for at least several years. Yet during that time he has been pulling a very, very generous salary and gold-plated benefits package from the church of nearly a quarter million dollars annually, while not actually doing much vocational work at the church itself.

    If the remaining elders think that this compensation is reasonable, then I challenge them to come clean and make full disclosure to the congregation – including the size of the total compensation (including benefits) and an explanation of how in their views it was and remains reasonable in light of comparable salaries for comparable work by other pastors. For example, what is the typical salary in the area for a pastor who works a nearly full time job for another, unrelated organization?

    The senior pastor’s compensation also may be appropriately compared, under this legal test, with the compensation (including benefits) paid to the other, former pastor at the church — who was actually working more than full time for the church during the same period — as a baseline comparison.

    The elders, to the extent they have been knowingly complicit in any fleecing of the flock, may face legal liability. What I don’t know is whether the IRS standards apply here, given that the church has never obtained its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status or otherwise become a legally constituted church. (I’m coming to realize that this has been very convenient for the senior pastor — who was the one who dropped the ball on resolving problems with the church’s legal status and didn’t bother for many years to correct the known problems. It draws into question why he failed to disclose those legal problems for so long to me and also to the full eldership).

    I urge the remaining elders, for their own personal protection, to ascertain what the legal standards might be and to find out if any violation of those standards happened on their watch. (And please, don’t use the local attorney you’ve used in the past – he’s a nice guy and a brother and does good work as a local general practitioner, but as a fellow attorney I have seen that he’s way over his head on church governance and legal status issues. I’d be happy once again to refer you to an attorney who actually has expertise on these kinds of issues!)

    If the remaining elders believe they can establish that the compensation package received by the senior pastor is commensurate with salaries and benefits paid to others who are disengaged and working essentially full time for an unrelated organization, then all should be OK. Otherwise, I urge the church for its own protection to do what it can to show that it tried to correct things.

    Some final issues:

    Even if the IRS regulations at 501(c)(3) are not binding on the church because the senior pastor failed to establish it’s legal standing (both as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt entity and as an incorporated or even as an unincorporated church under Virginia law), why would the elders now act in a way that is below what even the world and the unsaved require?

    Don’t the elders have an obligation to be above reproach and not sink to depths that even the reprobate acknowledge are wrong when it comes to prohibitions on self-serving compensation?

    I urge folks not to accept generalities. Ask specific questions and expect specific answers.

    Above all, consider why any information that the elders might finally be willing to provide was not forthcoming to me, and others, who quietly and privately raised legitimate concerns and questions — only to be met with total stonewalling and outright bullying by elders who should be accountable and transparent to all members of the church.

    Finally: Are they exempt and above the mandates of Matt. 18 for resolving disputes and maintaining peace in the church by not having, as they claimed in writing to me, to hear another brother one-on-one or seek to privately resolve his concerns?


  3. Jim – Is this church part of any larger association, network or denomination? If so, I think you would be justified in appealing to them. It sounds like you have done everything else you could do biblically and legally.

    If there is no accountability outside the dysfunctional leadership, then the question arises why not? If that is the case then it seems to me that a fundamental error was made a long time ago and you and the church are reaping the results of that error now.


  4. Unfortunately, the remaining elders recognize nothing and no one to whom they are externally accountable. If they did, I would have been able to invoke (and would have invoked) the mandates of I Tim. 5. In that passage, Paul instructs Timothy — as a traveling apostolic ministry who was external to the local church — on how to handle allegations against a local elder.

    I really wish we had that option here. It would have made a big difference, because the facts were never disputed. It’s just that the remaining elders decided to circle the wagons around the offending elder and protect him, rather than protect the church. In essense, they put their personal relationships and comfort zones with each other above the welfare of the congregation.


  5. This is not a time to grieve. It is a time when God is purifying His church for the warfare that lies ahead. Get the records out in the open, repent and do what needs to be done to get it right. Thank God that He does not leave us in sin and error, whether entered into innocently or through malicious deception. Let’s welcome those He uses to expose the little foxes that destroy the vines! Financial records should be an open book to insure integrity and accountability and I would not join myself to any congregation that withheld them. Thank you, Jim, for your persistence even while you were going through the difficult healing of a very debilitating disease. God will provide for those who have been denied the provision and leadership that was intended to nurish and encourage them into greater productivity in proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom and I, for one, am excited over the church that He is bringing forth without spot or wrinkle. To the elders, I say “Come on guys. Humble yourselves and get it right. Lead in righteousness or get out of the way so that others who are willing, able and called can serve in your place!


  6. Jim… now after you walked thru Matthew 18…. talk to IRS about it. Maybe then the elders would cooperate more and provide information on “The facts indicated that this elder had been filling his pockets with the hard-earned tithes and offerings of his congregation over the previous several years — to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not more)))”.

    If you will help to shut down that illegal operation, you would not hurt the body of Christ! You will build it up!


  7. Yes! In fact, the expressions of support and affirmations of friendship have been touching. There are relationships that have formed at New Covenant Fellowship that will last a lifetime.

    My concern is solely with the elders, not the people. Most folks had no idea what was going on, although the first-hand accounts I’ve been receiving of bullying and other longstanding problems by the one elder have been astounding. One wonders how this sort of thing could have gone on for so long.

    I’ve also learned that this is not the first time that allegations of financial improprieties by that elder have been raised against him. However, in years past when similar facts surfaced, he was able to successfully bully the dissenters and drive them away so that things could be swept under the rug. There is a clear pattern here, but this time he miscalculated my willingness to be bullied!

    I would have kept quiet on the abuses but for the fact that folks at NCF need to know what is going on so they can make informed decisions about their own money and commitments. Also, before I posted the blog, the elders called for a private meeting with the congregation, with me excluded, to try to spin things and apparently keep the deceptions going unchallenged.


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