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May142018

Communications Director, Greg Somerville, Exalts Covenant Life Pastors but Censors Criticism in “Miracle Territory” 

Greg Somerville is a Covenant Life pastor and the Communications Director.  He manages the blog.  Last Tuesday, he posted May 6 – "Miracle Territory”.  That is a reference to Sunday, May 6 when the pastors announced they had reversed their April 26 decision to fire lead pastor, P.J. Smyth and “confessed how their actions had caused pain and confusion for the church and the Smyth family.” 

This public “repentance” came under extreme duress as vocal members supportive of Smyth confronted the pastors for “the impact on the church body, the lack of transparency in the proceedings, and the lack of any congregational voice in the proceedings.”  The Financial Advisory Committee, comprised of four businessmen, also warned the pastors that without Smyth, CLC would close in under a year due to a loss of income.      

Somerville posted eight quotes on the CLC blog, all favorable to the pastors.  This quote summarizes his exaltation of the pastors. “They [visitors] would have witnessed the humility and openness of leaders that is so rare and a desire for those leaders to put the good of the people above their own agendas.”  Or this comment, “I am very proud of the Elders who are willing to set aside their differences for the Church and the Gospel sake.” 

For the last six months, the pastors (also called elders) have had growing conflicts and serious disagreements with P.J. Smyth.  So much so, that at least 12 of the 17 pastors decided to fire him on April 26.  It was only under pressure from members supportive of Smyth, that some pastors reversed themselves and rescinded the decision on May 6.  I don’t know how many but enough to meet 67% threshold required in the church constitution.      

There are other members, however, who are not happy about the reversal.  They want to see Smyth removed because they have serious concerns for his character.  One member wrote, “Many of us have serious reservations about PJ’s character, while others think he is the man.” 

Members have likewise lost confidence in the pastors.  One put it this way.  “It’s disturbing if CLC’s remaining elders are continuing the SGM pattern of letting disagreements simmer privately until they boil over.”  Even the executive pastor, Mark Mitchell said, “There is a serious lack of confidence in the pastors right now, we understand that.”  

Somerville also allowed four comments.  One positive. Two he claims were neutral.  And finally, one negative after all the positive ones.  Here it is.  I’ve added notes and comments. 

Mike and Diane Alexander on May 10, 2018 

Proverbs 18: 13 says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” 

Guys [the pastors], we feel all decisions right or wrong were made with hearing one side.  Cheers that followed the popular vote announcement [reversing the firing] even after we were instructed of a “no outburst” request was disrespectful and disobedient.  And to have 1 representation only on the stage [Travis Earles] speaking for the “people”?  Our views weren’t heard or even welcomed.  Then to NOT squelch those outbursts started an avalanche of a one sidedness trajectory.  The other side needs to be heard.  These emails replies and comments in the Quick Read this week about Sunday’s meeting only emphasizes this scale finger-tipping, one sidedness.  

Comment: Those members who believed Smyth should not be lead pastor were not included in the discussions about reversing the decision to fire him.  Nor were they represented, or their views presented, in the Sunday, May 6 meeting.   Instead, Travis Earles, who was “shocked and angry” that Smyth was fired, was given the stage to convey his views.  It was a one-sided presentation. 

At the beginning of the meeting, Mark Mitchell asked the church “to refrain from outbursts or expressions, to keep things peaceful and the atmosphere loving.”  In other words, no expressions of approval or disapproval out of respect for differing positions.  When Mitchell announced the elders had reversed the decision to “part ways” with Symth, many of those approving of Smyth applauded and stood in ovation.  Those opposed to Smyth were sinned against by those for Smyth.  It went uncorrected by Mitchell.       

The Alexander’s “views weren’t heard or even welcomed” leading up to the reversal.  Only those members who wanted Symth to be retained were part of the process. 

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Our cry to be heard is the process and it’s disregard to the Constitution.  Why all of the sudden does the Financial Committee have so much power and weight to sway decisions in the 11th hour?  It appears as though decisions were made out of guilt and emotions.  The original decision [to fire Smyth] divided the Church, and now to not seek due process [to rehire Smyth] not including the Body, divides us more. 

Comment: The Financial Advisory Committee, comprised of four businessman, were against Smyth’s termination arguing the church would close in less than a year due to a loss of income from members leaving.  It was a pragmatic argument.  

“It appears” the decision to keep Smyth, if he wants to stay, was made out of “guilt and emotions.”  I infer this to mean the pastors reversed themselves because they felt guilty for the longstanding unresolved conflict and how they fired Smyth without church involvement.  And out of emotions like the fear of further opposition by members and anxiety regarding the survival of CLC.  The reversal was a capitulation.  It was not due to a change of thinking regarding Smyth’s fitness.  

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Moving forward, how do we make as big or bigger decisions?  If a new Constitution now adapts itself to mold to agendas, a slippery slope begins.  Why was over 2 years invested in writing the constitution only to “forget” about it. 

Comment: Smyth wants to change the Constitution and Bylaws of Covenant Life Church, so he has more power and authority to execute his agenda.  That is one of the serious disagreements with the pastors.  They don’t agree with his polity on governance as a team of elders.  

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So let’s not leave out those that didn’t stand and cheer.  One man or one team of men should not have the power to dismantle our Church.  A process, a practiced Constitution, and a well informed and unified Church Body is what succeeds.  Please hear our voices and stick to the hard work put into our Constitution.  Without it we fail together as a Church.  

Comment: It’s good to know there are members who “didn’t stand and cheer” because they have serious concerns for Smyth’s character and fear he will “dismantle” the church’s constitution rather than follow it. 

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This comment is NOT in any way a means to volunteer to be a mouth piece for the “other view”.  We do not wish to participate in any private or public voicing.  We have talked to our Pastor, as many have, and now have aired our view.  So please honor our privacy and not seek continued talks.  We hope those reading this will be understanding and loving.  If we lose friends over this, then God is protecting us.  If love and grace are sought, then may God be glorified as He is worthy. 

Comment: The Alexander’s took the time to air their view about Somerville’s one sided “Miracle Territory” blog post.  Soon after he allowed their comment, however, Sommerville removed it.  The opposing view was quickly censored.     

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Thank you to all involved and for at least this platform to be heard.  May the completed work on the Cross be our focus and get back to sincerely worshipping Him, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who is worthy.  All glory to Him for loving us and dying for us who needed saving from our sins and rising up giving us, yes, giving us, eternal life with him.  What a great Savior we serve, pray to, and worship.  Amen. 

Comment: “This platform to be heard” was shorted lived.  It was the only quote or comment removed. 

Mike and Diane Alexander 

Before it was removed, Somerville posted his own comment.  “Commspec” means Communications Specialist. 

commspec on May 10, 2018

Dear CLC Family,

At the time I compiled and posted this blog with member comments from May 6, I had only received emails expressing positive reactions to Sunday’s service.  I have since become aware of emails (and comments) expressing a negative reaction.  I am sorry if this post gave the impression that church members are unanimous in their support for any one position. 

In order to maintain a sense of balance and to honor both perspectives, I am including one positive comment, one negative comment, and a couple of neutral comments.  Because this public blog does not seem well-suited for a member debate, I don’t intend to publish additional comments here. 

With respect,

Greg Somerville
Communications Director 

Within an hour or two, Somerville removed the Alexander comment and edited his own comment.  He removed what I have lined out and he added “for the diversity and wisdom of our members.”  So much for “a sense of balance and to honor both perspectives.” 

commspec on May 10, 2018 

Dear CLC Family, 

At the time I compiled and posted this blog with member comments from May 6, I had only received emails expressing positive reactions to Sunday’s service.  I have since become aware of emails (and comments) expressing a negative reaction.  I am sorry if this post gave the impression that church members are unanimous in their support for any one position. 

In order to maintain a sense of balance and to honor both perspectives, I am including one positive comment, one negative comment, and a couple of neutral comments.  Because this public blog does not seem well-suited for a member debate, I don’t intend to publish additional comments here. 

With respect [added] for the diversity and wisdom of our members

Greg Somerville
Communications Director

The removal of the comment contributed to the feeling that dissenting members were being censored.  As a result, those opposed to Symth have become more vocal.  This is reflected in Mark Mitchell’s update from last Friday (May 11).

“Over 70 members have submitted comments and questions for the elders since Monday.  It’s evident that there are sharply differing perspectives and concerns.  We are going to need some time to give these the thoughtful consideration they deserve.  Also, we want to give members one more week to submit input before we decide, with the help of the Advisory Committee, the best time and format for addressing the issues you have raised.” 

Yesterday, a reliable source posted this comment about the latest developments at Covenant Life Church. 

BoughtTheField says:
May 13, 2018 at 8:45 pm 

The situation at CLC is becoming an even bigger deal. 

There have already been many small meetings of members planning to force this crisis to a conclusion. A large congregational meeting could be organized by the members without the permission of elders.  There are many unconfirmed rumors of various unpaid elders and paid pastors resigning.  PJ was present this Sunday without preaching, but several pastors and elders were notably absent.

A week ago, Greg Somerville was heralding “Miracle Territory.”

“What happened this Sunday, May 6, was a miraculous display of God’s mercy toward his people.  Elders shared openly and thoroughly.  They confessed how their actions had caused pain and confusion for the church and the Smyth family.  Their repentance was met with forgiveness.  Elders and members demonstrated mutual respect and affection for each other.” 

To this he added selective quotes including phrases like “holy moment,” “a miracle occurred on stage at CLC,” “an eleventh-hour intervention by the Holy Spirit,” “an amazing turn around,” “Sunday was like a dream,” “a spirit of revival in the room,” “miracles happening in our midst as our hearts were broken,” “absolutely blown away,” “excited for the future,”  “a palpable excitement to re-engage,” “utterly marvelous to behold,” “a powerful demonstration of transparency and humility,” “we have been in miracle territory.” 

Yet the supposed miracle came about because P.J. Smyth and the pastors were caught in their sin.   The conflicts and disagreements with each other were hidden from the church for months.  All the while, they were pretending to be united.  That is, until the disagreements culminated in a decision to fire Smyth.  Understandably, all this offended the church.  

When people are exposed, humiliated, under pressure to “repent,” and facing severe consequences; you often get superficial acknowledgements of wrong doing.  Somerville can exalt himself and the pastors, but I find it self-serving and self-exalting.  Rather than an emotional on-stage response, I await a deep transformation of character that expresses self-initiated “humility and openness.” 

“We have been in miracle territory” when P.J. Smyth acknowledges his lying about his father, the pastors acknowledge their cover up of his lying, the pastors answers to Rachael Denhollander; and the pastors address the scandalous “independent investigation” of sex abuse by Lars Liebeler, to mention a few.   Until then, there is no true repentance.  

The “Independent” Investigation of Sexual Abuse at Covenant Life Church Didn’t Include Talking to the Victims of Abuse – Incredulously, Executive Pastor Mark Mitchell Says Exclusion Was Due to “Limited Finances”  
Saturday, April 28, 2018 at 1:50PM
 
P.J. Smyth & Mark Mitchell Refuse to Answer Question at Members’ Meeting About Reliable Witnesses Calling P.J. a Liar for Denying Knowledge of Father’s Violent Beating of Boys
Thursday, April 5, 2018 at 5:38PM
 
New & Indisputable Evidence Proves P.J. Smyth Knew All About Father’s Violent Beating of Boys – He & Pastors Continue to Deceive Covenant Life Church Despite My Appeals
Friday, March 2, 2018 at 2:40PM
 
C.J. Mahaney, Covenant Life Church & the Conspiracy to Cover-up the Sexual Abuse of Children
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 12:42PM

I suspect, Somerville was under pressure to remove the comment by the Alexanders.  He was not under pressure to include all the laudatory quotes and comments about the pastors.    

"The situation at CLC is becoming an even bigger deal."  Yes, it is.  Bo Lotinsky, my college roommate, best man in my wedding, former Executive Director for SGM, non-staff pastor, and Chairman of the Covenant Life Board of Directors, has just resigned (at least as a pastor).    

Dave Brewer, a staff pastor, is also leaving in June for a new job.  Greg Somerville is leaving in August to start a business (so I am told). 

In 2014, CLC had 21 full-time pastors.  They will be down to seven and I doubt that is the end of the exodus.  In addition, Smyth wants to remove at least 4 non-staff pastors if he gets his way.

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