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Breached Contracts: YOU CAN SEE THE EVIDENCE YOURSELF

Imagine yourself receiving this letter dated July 18, 2012.  It is not from your boss.  It arrives to you strictly via email.

The letter refers to a “list of protocols” that you have never seen. You are going to be fired if you do not sign this letter [click below] within nine days.

July 18, 2012 Catch-22 letter from Dr. Dummer

The letter breaches your double employment contract. You do not tell Dr. Dummer because his letter says he instructs you not to converse with him or correspond with Provost Clark. The letter says you are asked to sign “without any contrary indication.”

Here you are, the only woman theologian perhaps in U.S. history to be hired to serve as dean of a conservative seminary.  You are the first female to graduate with a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (1996).  This is not your first time to be framed.  You were fired on-the-spot on June 22, 2011 by SU President Larry McKinney right after you led a team that broke three all-time high record in 34 years in Simpson’s seminary called A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary.

Your supervisor, Provost Clark, features your unprecedented success in a full-page article in Simpson’s Gateway magazine that is published in early June 2012.

Three weeks later on June 22, 2012 you blow the whistle internally to Simpson leaders because two different board members have tipped you in to the truth about the “lie” that top people at SU are covering up.  Your boss has known about it since January 2012; he was so scandalized that he told you to look into it and find out for yourself, so you did.

For five months you have tried to persuade the current board chair to make things right by informing the community of the truth.  In fact, on March 27, 2012 you wrote a whistle-blowing email to five or six people, including Provost Clark, the current board chair, and Dr. Dummer.  But your email was met with silence.  Not one person wrote you back or even acknowledged the existence of your communique.

So in June 2012 when you blew the whistle again, you decided to make it harder to ignore.

Well, guess what?  This time you aren’t ignored.  

Instead, you are framed.  You are outrageously scapegoated.  Alone you stand accused of twelve different counts of “insubordination.” 

You notice right away that your accuser, Dr. Dummer, apparently does not realize that after nine of those alleged violations, Simpson University rewarded you a renewed “continuous contract” (Cf. Faculty Handbook p. 11 B.4.5.) and also a salary raise.    

In the accusatory letter of July 18, 2012 that threatens you to “sign on” in agreement to nonnegotiable terms that contradict the terms of your negotiated contracts or else be fired, Dr. Dummer indicts you for your March 27, 2012 email that under oath he admits he never read.  

You are falsely accused of having been “insubordinate” in Spring 2012 on Feb 5, Feb 21, March 4, March 15, March 17, March 18, March 22, March 23, and March 27. Yet nobody accuses you of “insubordination” until Dr. Dummer does suddenly on July 18, 2012.

Vividly you remember that evidence shows that none other than Robin Dummer signed your continuous contract on behalf of Provost Clark who is your boss.   

You yourself signed the contract on March 30, 2012.  

Continuous Contract 2012

As Providence would have it, you yourself took the initiative to attach an addendum to your contract.  In it, Dr. Dummer confirms on April 2, 2012 that “contracts belong to Dr. Clark as authorized by the Board of Trustees.”    

Contract 2012 LetterYour supervisor, Dr. Clark, returns to work after in April 2012 as planned.  He tells you on May 23, 2012 “not to believe it” if anyone tries to tell you that he is no longer your boss.  Dr. Clark expresses worry about Simpson not paying his health  bill.  He tells you that President McKinney and the H.R. Director came to his house to talk to him about his health insurance. 

You know that your boss is facing his own squeeze.  He is a tormented man. 

You also see that University officials do not defer to evidence or truth.  That is precisely why you blew the whistle.

So now you face a choice.  It’s July 2012:  your boss is not in the picture although he is still employed and still carrying the title of “Provost of Simpson University.”  You are on your own, relying on God. 

Here’s your situation: 

If you sign the July 18, 2012 Catch-22 letter from Dr. Dummer, you lose your contractual rights.  If you don’t, you lose your job for not signing. 

If you email Dr. Dummer to acknowledge receipt of the letter as he asked you to, you have “arguably” just “conversed” with him and thereby violated Stipulation 7 and also his instruction not to respond to him before signing.  If you do not email Dr. Dummer back to acknowledge receipt of the letter, you have violated his instructions as well.

With the help of “legal counsel,” Dr. Dummer has you trapped in a Catch-22.   

You decide not to sign.  You ask God to expose Simpson’s decision to deprive you of due process.  Due process, at the minimum, requires Simpson University to give you a meaningful opportunity to respond to these unfounded allegations, but you are not afforded any such opportunity at all. 

You are, in effect, institutionally gagged.  

Only by way of this letter does Dr. Dummer accuse you.   Facelessly he operates online.

On July 27, 2012, you are fired via email by faceless Dr. Dummer who says he is “Acting Provost.”  It’s true that Provost Clark is out-of-the-office on sick leave, trying to recover at home from major surgery due to cancer.  Provost Clark says he got cancer from all the stress of all these lies.  But it is not true that Dr. Dummer has the authority of Provost Clark.  Provost Clark does not retire until December 2012.  Under oath two Simpson officials verify that undeniable fact.

To say the least, it seems surreal that this firing is your second termination.  Two summers in a row you were falsely accused and fired in conspicuous disregard of your contractually spelled out provision of “due process” found on p. 25 of the Faculty Handbook.

Your Reinstatement Contract was violated too, especially with regard to #4.

Reinstatement Provisions Contract

In submission to advice, you wait.  You also look for a lawyer to represent your case.  Finding the right lawyer is not easy.  This is employment case, yet you do not have an employment lawyer.  The one lawyer in town you had hoped to hire who is a Christian is said to be unavailable because that lawyer has instead become a judge.   

Contractually there is no hurry, so approximately six weeks later you decide to act.  You do all four rounds of Matthew 18:15-17 with eight Simpson officials, none of whom will engage you.  For the first time in your life, you feel the weighty pain that comes with Jesus’ instruction to treat the other party as unbelievers.  

It’s September 2012.  You ask Dr. Dummer for a Matthew 18:15-17 conversation who defers you to H.R. as if Christianity were corporate.  The H.R. Director has already said that Matthew 18:15-17 cannot be used in the workplace.  You remember that Provost Clark in a meeting months ago likewise told about twenty-eight (28) Simpson faculty and staff that Matthew 18:15-17 does “not” apply “to the workplace” at Simpson University because Simpson “is not a church.”  You find this disconcerting because the Simpson Faculty Handbook says on page 27 to use Matthew 18:15-17 as a first step in the Faculty Grievances Policy.

You study I Corinthians 6 regarding lawsuits, a passage about brothers and sisters in Christ not suing one another over “trivial” claims.  You and your spouse both realize that I Corinthians 6 does not address the subject of suing an IRS-designated “religious corporation” or individuals who are playing a corporate role.  

You write each of the twenty or so members of the SU board, asking them for governance integrity.  Only two write back:  1) SU President McKinney asks you to tell “your lawyer” to talk to Simpson’s lawyer, even though Larry McKinney does not check to see if you have yet hired a lawyer to represent you or not; 2) The Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination president (who serves on the SU board ex-officio) informs you that “Simpson University” is “subject to its Board of Trustees, not to the C&MA.

SU faculty and staff members are urging you to sue.  More than once you hear the cry, “Your lawsuit is the only hope for Simpson.”  How else can the school be delivered from a board that violates some of its own employment contracts?  

On Oct 2, 2012 you file a lawsuit.  Repeatedly you have been told that Simpson University has violated other contracts and also been sued before, but the Minutes of a Faculty Meeting in late 2012 say that President McKinney reported in his official role that this lawsuit is the “first.”  

It is now mid-November 2012.  You sit in your lawyer’s office, and he shows you what Simpson produces as “evidence” of the “list of protocols” that Dr. Dummer says you were given by Provost Clark.  You shake your head in disbelief:  The so-called document underlying the false accusations is neither addressed to you nor emailed to you.  Moreover, it is not dated and not signed.  Nor is it presented on Simpson letterhead.  You personally believe it was marked on sometime around July 2012 when Dr. Dummer said he met with Provost Clark.  By the way, quite relevant to the story is that Provost Clark had an enormous hospital bill that you assume was paid by Simpson’s health insurance.  

Below is the “smoking gun” evidence that Simpson pretends to have (as Simpson spends eight years so far trying to keep the evidence away from the eyes of the judge):

Supposed List of Protocols

In attempt to resolve the matter, you offer to settle for less than half of what you believe Simpson owes you with regard to the full value of your contracts.  Simpson declines.

Around Christmas time you offer to settle for less than 10% of what you believe is owed you given the longevity of your “continuous” contract.   You keep the offer on the table for seven weeks.  Simpson gives your lawyer the silent treatment. 

It’s January 2013.  You ask the court to compel Simpson University to use its own religious grievances policy.  The court does not find a way to do so legally.

Simpson University, as a religious corporation, disregards its own religious policy.

In Feb 2013 Simpson appeals to Religious Defenses, citing First Amendment religious freedom as a way to shield Defendants from accountability.  When the faculty finds out about this tactic, they exercise faculty governance and officially vote “No Confidence” in President McKinney, saying this:

We, the faculty, wish to express to the Board Of Trustees that we have no confidence in President Larry McKinney to fulfill the University’s contractual agreements with us, including our Handbook, a document we consider morally binding on all parties who approved it.  We also express herewith our resolute belief that, aside from any and all legal arguments adduced to justify it, a breach of contract amounts to a breach of covenantal trust between the University and its faculty, posing in turn an extreme danger to the moral character and confidence of the entire university community.

Soon after the “No Confidence” vote, President McKinney suddenly “retires.”  Board Chair Betty Dean is careful to tell the community at Simpson that the former president was not asked by the board to retire.  Larry McKinney moves away.  He disappears.  The SU board replaces him by naming Dr. Dummer as Interim President.

On May 2, 2013, under oath, Interim President Dummer admits that he never even asked if you ever received the “list of protocols.”  He admits a number of things that confirm that Simpson breached both of your contracts.  

Pertinent is the point that Dr. Dummer repeatedly states that “the insubordination” provided “the grounds” for the “stipulations,” but that the termination happened because you did not agree to sign on to “obey” his stipulations.  (See Dummer Deposition.)  

Not signing on to “proposed stipulations” is not a contractual cause for termination. 

Despite the obvious breaches, Simpson wins in June 2014 in Shasta Superior Court on account of its appeal to Religious Defenses.  

In September 2014, you appeal the district court’s ruling because you want Shasta County to weigh the evidence that the judge has never seen because Simpson is winning so far by covering up the evidence.  Religious Defenses are being used to hide the shameful story of what happened.  

Around August 2015, the Simpson Board names Dr. Dummer as the new president. 

In June 2016, the SU faculty votes “No Confidence” in President Dummer.  The faculty also votes “No Confidence” in the Executive Committee of the Simpson Board led by Board Chair Betty Dean. 

In 2017, Simpson’s accrediting agency, WASC, puts Simpson University on probation status.   

All this time you have been waiting to appeal your case in Sacramento.

On September 18, 2018, you argue your case yourself before three justices in the lofty, wooden room of the Third District Court of Appeal in state court in California.  You are not a lawyer, but by God’s grace, you come up with a formidable argument and prepare, prepare, prepare your presentation.  

Arguing in court against Simpson’s lawyer who used to be in-house counsel for Stanford University is an experience you never dreamed you’d have.  But it is now part of your testimony.  

On September 25, 2018, the Court of Appeal in Sacramento announces that you prevailed regarding your contract. The Published Appellate Opinion narrows the contract case down to the question of whether or not you received that “list of protocols.”

Simpson University (SU) hires another new president.  In January 2019, you reach out to him to see if he might be open to settle and work things out outside of court.  He defers instead to Simpson’s lawyer.  The fact is now on the table that Simpson’s insurance company is “the controlling entity.”  A secular insurance company is making the decisions for the religious entity.

You ponder and think way back to August 2011 when Simpson’s former Board Chair, Mr. Dyk, admitted that the Simpson board failed to follow the special grievance process that it chose to use after your first firing.  You feel like you’re in a Kafka novel because the SU Board of 2011 further breached by depriving you of due process even more.  You feel especially disillusioned by Chairman Dyk’s remark:  “Sometimes you have to put money above God.”   

Mr. Dyk was the Chairman who uttered what Provost Clark called “the biggest lie in this story.”  That was the lie of the Simpson University Board’s Ad Hoc Grievance vote when five persons from the SU board processed your July 2011 grievance filed against President McKinney.   Whereas the Ad Hoc grievance committee vote was 5-0 to reinstate you, the vote was falsely announced to the Simpson University community personally by Chairman Dyk and repeatedly by President McKinney as 5-0 to “uphold the termination.”

Yes, that’s right.  The SU Board Chair and the SU President announced the exact opposite of the truth of the Ad Hoc grievance vote of July 2011.  See why Provost Clark called that “the biggest lie in this story“?   It certainly wasn’t the only lie.  It was just the biggest. 

It was also a secret lie.  The Simpson University faculty had no idea of it when they produced the Faculty Report on October 14, 2011.  

The truth of the “biggest lie” was leaked at a coffee shop by Simpson’s Board Chair Betty Dean who replaced Chairman Dyk.  

How can Simpson flourish when a lie like that is allowed to kill the soul of the University?    

In order to stand, a lie that big must be propped up.  And the thing that props up lies is other lies.  Lies are weaklings; they can’t stand up on their own.  Once a big lie is told, the only way to get rid of it is to confess it and tell the truth.  If the lie is not displaced by truth, that lie will require countless more lies or perhaps Religious Defenses to cover it up.  

Now you recall January 2012.  This was when Provost Clark adamantly urges you to “ask Betty Dean” about the Ad Hoc grievance vote.  You do, and you are shocked by her reply.  The two pastors flanking you are equally dumbfounded.

From February 2012 into June 2012, you ask for the truth to be announced.  During these five months, you wait for the SU Board to clean up the mess they made.  

But the mess is not cleaned up.  

On June 22, 2012, the anniversary of your first firing, you decide to share the truth to SU leaders internally.  You do this via email because it’s the only venue that you have.  You pray with all your heart that all will repent.  You long for revival at Simpson University.  You yearn for renewal in Christian higher education.

But what happens instead is that “the biggest lie in this story” is a lie so allergic to the light of gospel truth that apparently it prompted Board Chair Betty Dean to bypass President McKinney and directly prod Dr. Dummer to do what he did that led to the lawsuit itself.

Under oath Dr. Dummer said he knew nothing about the terms of Dr. Sumner’s reinstatement, and nothing about the Faculty Report, and nothing about the list of provisions from Provost Clark called “ACTION ITEMS.”   See below:

Provisions from Provost Clark

Imagine this being you.  Let’s back up again.  It’s November 2011.  You’re still reeling from having been fired in the summer of 2011 by Simpson’s president who blatantly breached your contract.  Upon your reinstatement, presumably as consolation, you receive a list of provisions from your “exclusive supervisor,” Provost Clark.  Provost Clark cannot bear to hear your testimony.  When you try to describe what you have suffered, he interrupts you and says that he knows you’ve been “through hell.” 

With a surge of resolve to “do better,” Provost Clark apologizes to you in person for having failed to stand up for truth in 2011.  

Fast-forward once again to July 2012.  Now Dr. Dummer is falsely accusing you of violating a “list of  protocols.”  You were given provisions, not protocols.  But Dr. Dummer isn’t open to hearing you tell him that.  Dr. Dummer is on his way to becoming the next SU president; he does not have time to deal with truth.

So in October 2012, you sue. 

Fast-forward seven years to July 2019.  Simpson’s lawyer deposes you with disrespectful questions one after the other.  In total, you have been deposed for 28.5 hours (not counting breaks).  

The lawsuit continues and you work assiduously as a pro per litigant (doing your own lawyering yourself).  You reach for the stars and try to move the court in Shasta County to decide the case beforehand (through summary judgment) and end the case without ever going to trial. Simpson’s defense is to craft a revision of the story that is so crafty that you can hardly stop praying for them.    

On November 4, 2019, you lose your long-shot motion in court. 

However, you do not lose the case.  Nor are you alone now because four faculty members from Simpson University–all men of moral courage–stand with you in the lawsuit in support of the integrity of Simpson employment contracts.  All four vie for justice unto God. 

You ache, but you take heart, knowing God.  You also remember that the Appellate Court rightly recognized that the “list of protocols” lies at the base of this dispute.  The temporary problem is that the Appellate Court’s knowledge is not yet shared by the trial court in Shasta County — because the trial has been delayed for so long.

Now it’s 2020. 

Guess what Simpson does once again?  They bifurcate the trial and try yet again to throw it out of court — despite the Appellate Court ruling — by appealing yet again to Religious Defenses.

It occurs to you that Simpson is trying to tucker you out, deplete you of all your money, basically do anything other than tell the truth.  You realize that your Lord is disciplining your character again and again and again, teaching you to be humble, afflicting you with the gift of being more truthful yourself, so that you do not too highly of yourself.

Layer after layer of repentance in your heart has been happening for all these years.

You hire a lawyer again in late 2019.

Now Covid-19 sets in.

The trial is delayed three times.

On August 3, 2020, the court plans to set a new trial date.  

God is your Only Hope.   So you bet on God.

Whatever Is Mentionable Is Manageable

If you have not yet seen the movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks who plays Fred Rogers, I simply urge you to take time to watch it from start to finish at least once. The movie is about the impact that Mr. Rogers had on those who knew him and about his philosophy of life. Actor Tom Hanks does such a superb job in bringing forth the goodness of the message of the film that this movie now ranks among my all-time favorites.

In one part of the story, Mr. Rogers is helping his friends cope with the reality of death. Knowing that death is a grave subject that people often opt to ignore, he says to a whole family of friends:

“Death is human, and anything human is mentionable, and whatever is mentionable is manageable.”

This triply compound statement is profound. Talking together, sharing together out loud, looking at reality, facing the truth together is human. Therefore mentionable. And with the help of God and each other, everything human that we mention thereby becomes manageable for us all.

Conversely, when a family or a church or a workplace community loses its humanity by losing the inner strength to face the truth, the truth becomes taboo. Unmentionable. The end result, of course, is that any member who tries to help the larger group face reality becomes the black sheep of the family, the outcast, the pariah, or perhaps the unwanted, stoned prophet.

Not too long ago a disoriented, middle-aged father told me that when his college-aged son committed suicide by way of desperate, jilted gunshots, his elderly father (the son’s grandfather) offered nothing more to his son (the son’s father) than this laconic reply: “Just don’t think about it.”

The very family that could not talk about the tragedy of the son’s death was at once the very family that the son himself could not talk to.

Apparently, the son believed his worst pain was unmentionable. Thus the worst pain of the son became unmanageble. It then became intolerable such that the silent son took his own life unnecessarily.

Similarly, institutions, being comprised of human beings, can likewise lose sight of their humanity. They can sin their way into refusing to be truthful enough to mention their worst pain. Once they decide to avoid the truth, they make their hidden problems unmentionable. That is why their problems become unmanageable until finally the institution self-destructs. Even Christian organizations such as Christian universities can become so invested in keeping shameful secrets that eventually they commit institutional suicide.

Mr. Rogers, who was a Christian, indeed, a pastor, understood that people’s problems are actually manageable if only we can find the strength to confess the honest truth. To be human is to tell the naked truth. It is not coincidental that truthful Jesus (Who never lied) was physically stripped naked on the cross.

Nailed to a cross, Jesus took the trouble, while gasping for breath, to speak what surely no one else would mention.

Vulnerably, He confessed, “I thirst.”

Protectively He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son,” and to young apostle John, “Behold, your mother!”

Desperately He groaned, quoting Psalm 22: “My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

Jesus advocated for us all, saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Biblically we know that all the sins of the world fell upon Jesus Who knew no sin.

There is nothing secret about Jesus’ death. He hung on a cross in public for every naked eye to see.

When the repentant thief hanging next to Him on an adjacent criminal cross cried out to Him in faith, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom,” Jesus promised him individually, “Truly, I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.”

Finally, Jesus declared, “It is finished . . . Father, into Your Hands I commit My Spirit.”

For Jesus, the Perfect Human, there was no unmentionable taboo of hidden truth. Jesus–Who is The Truth– was so truthful that every sinner’s problems became manageable for Him as He sacrificially hung on the cross and died on behalf of every human.

Jesus conquered Death by paying the steep price of Life with His own blood.

So you see, Mr. Rogers had it right. But Mr. Rogers didn’t say it as clearly as the apostle John did in the New Testament Book of I John 1:9: “If we mention/confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This is as true for institutions as it is for individuals and families.

The only thing that makes life manageable into eternity is mentioning our sin honestly to God Who cleanses us with the precious blood of Jesus. To mention our own sin is to break the world’s taboo that causes us to hide and self-destruct.

This Easter may we rejoice that Jesus conquered Death by rising from the dead! He is risen! There is no need at all for anyone to tell lies because Jesus Christ the Truth sets us free be so truthful that together with God’s help we can manage any problem, no matter how shameful it might be.

In Christ all our problems are absorbed in Jesus’ final victory.

That is why, no matter where you live, it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Will Christian Organizations Become the Least Safe Place for Christian Women to Work?

One big consequence of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is that God said to the serpent who willfully deceived Eve: “I will put enmity between you and the woman” (Genesis 3:15).

Enmity is hostility. Malevolence. War.

Spiritual warfare is a constant insofar as our adversary, “the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8). But there is also something distinctive about Satan’s hate for women. Because Jesus our Lord and Savior was “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4), there seems to be demonic envy toward the woman.

Church history regards Jesus’ mother, Mary, as the Second Eve.

The First Eve fell into temptation. The Second Eve resisted the temptation to doubt that she, as a virgin, could by the Holy Spirit conceive of the God-Child Who was God Himself in the flesh (John 1:1, 14; Luke 1:26-38).

Mary and Eve are genealogically the mother and ultimate grandmother of Jesus.

Volumes of theology would have to be written in order to fill the gap between God’s curse of “enmity” between the serpent and Eve and God’s grace in the motherhood of Mary and Eve. Far more would be needed to explain in detail how God’s grace reaches women despite this “enmity.” But if I may leap over that huge gap, I think the serpent’s “enmity” is playing out especially in Christian organizations now that the law protects women.

If you look at court cases of those who testify as having been mistreated in their employment within Christian organizations, most of the plaintiffs are women. Historically these cases are recent because it was not until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that women in society became a protected class. Very few women were hired to work for pay in Christian churches and organizations until the 1970’s and afterward.

I see it as “enmity” that when the law at last gave women special protections in the workplace, Religious Defenses made those protections largely irrelevant.

Let me share a few stories:

  • In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on McClure v. Salvation Army. In short, Billie McClure sued the Salvation Army after she was fired in the wake of her complaint that women officers systematically were paid less than equally ranked officers who were men, and that women also received fewer benefits than men. Verdict: McClure lost the case. The Court said Title VII, which is the law that would have provided Billie McClure her legal rights, did not apply because the Salvation Army is a church. My Observation: Churches are free to pay women less than they pay men, even though God’s law forbids partiality. My Advice: Women, since we are also free to negotiate the terms of what salary we agree to work for, be careful not to undersell yourself.
  • In 2006, a federal appellate court decided Petruska v. Gannon University. The story here is that when Lynette Petruska in 1999 became the chaplain at Gannon University, a Catholic School in Pennsylvania, there was trouble in the president’s office. You see, the president was apparently caught having an affair with a subordinate such that in the year 2000, the president “resigned.” Not long after that, another woman complained that he, the former president, had for a number of years sexually harassed her. Chaplain Petruska approached the problem as a good chaplain would do, but Gannon University, according to the papers in the lawsuit, preferred to be untruthful about the situation and wanted to look good to its accreditor. Chaplain Petruska (who happened to have a law degree) boldly stood for the need for better policies, so Gannon demoted her and thereby set her up to win a settlement in the lawsuit that resulted. Verdict: Gannon University appealed to Religious Defenses and evaded accountability on most of Petruska’s claims, but not on her contract claims. My Observation: The Catholic constituency of Gannon University did not require officials to repent. My Advice: Obey the Book of Proverbs; do not be naive: most religious corporations are overseen by people (sometimes 20 to 40 board members) who think it is their job to prioritize money for the sake of the mission. They do not soberly see that when money is the number one driver, mammon is the god being served (Mathew 6:24).
  • In 2014, after Melissa Galetti, a principal of a Seventh Day Adventist school in New Mexico, complained that her supervisor, Mr. Reeve, had sexually harassed her, she apparently was fired in retaliation. Verdict: The school appealed to Religious Defenses, but regarding Galetti’s contract claim, thankfully it lost. My Observation: Any board that protects a wayward president is a board that is extremely unlikely to honor the written terms of its own contracts. It’s crazy but it makes sense: If you support a wayward president, you simply have to close your eyes to truth. Once you close your eyes to the truth, you cannot see truth, even about your commitments in your own contracts–because if you saw that truth, you would accidentally see the truth about the president as well. My Advice: If you decide to sue a religious organization for violating its own policies, be prepared to lose your lawsuit at the local district level. You will almost surely need a higher court. But hang in there. If you can afford the time and weather the grueling path of holding a Christian entity accountable, you will salt at least one part of the earth.

Final Comments: Notice that none of the women, as described above, prevailed in the Christian community. Two out of three won in court, but the Christian organization stood against them.

No wonder so many millennials and Generation Z have no desire to be part of the church.

If Christian organizations offer no protections for Christian women who are mistreated among the ranks, why would anyone feel safe in such a place?

Official Faculty Report from Simpson University

                                          Report from the Simpson University Faculty                                            regarding the termination of Dr. Sarah Sumner

October 14, 2011

Introduction:

On June 30, 2011, the President of Simpson University, Dr. Larry McKinney, terminated the employment of Dr. Sarah Sumner, the Dean of the A. W. Tozer Theological Seminary, Simpson University, Redding, CA. Questions immediately arose as to the legality of this termination with respect to Dr. Sumner’s status as a contracted faculty member as well as to the wisdom of the action in light of Dr. Sumner’s performance as Dean during her tenure. The Faculty President, Dr. Paul Jones, and the Chair of the Faculty Personnel Committee, Dr. Jack Painter, expressed concerns in the weeks following the termination, but received no sufficient response to the concerns. These concerns carried forward throughout July and August. Multiple faculty members have made individual appeals to Dr. McKinney to reconsider his decision, in addition to appeals made in group settings, to no avail. On August 31, 2011, the Simpson University Faculty tasked the Faculty Personnel Committee with investigating, seeking counsel, reporting findings and making recommendations with respect to this issue. The following is the report of findings and recommendations from the Faculty. We have desired earnestly in this report to be both respectful and truthful in our language with regard to the parties involved and prayerfully hope for a resolution that in every respect is in keeping with the Simpson University Values and the Simpson University mission to be a Christ-centered university.

After a month of examining a variety of documentation and interviewing numerous individuals informed with the facts of the situation, the Faculty brings the following findings and recommendations with respect to the termination of Dr. Sumner on June 30, 2011.

Findings:

  1. Full-time faculty at Simpson University are employed via contracts, which supersede at-will employment of the California Labor Code. Further our contracts specifically state that our employment status is governed by the Faculty Handbook. As employees at a Christian university, we also expect that our contracts are seen as more than mere agreements, but documents of trust that express the relationship between the faculty member and the institution in line with the Simpson Values included with our contracts each year. Dr. Sumner was employed as Administrative Faculty with the rank of full professor with a continuing contract subject to all the rights, responsibilities and protections of the contract and the Faculty Handbook; she signed and submitted the July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012 continuation of the contract on March 30, 2011.
  2. At Simpson University, per signed contracts stating that the Faculty Handbook governs faculty employment, the stated supervisor with the authority to dismiss a faculty member is the Provost of the University. In this instance, Dr. Clark, the Provost, adamantly disagreed with the actions of Dr. McKinney to terminate Dr. Sumner. Furthermore, Dr. Clark advised Dr. McKinney prior to the termination that his actions were hasty, in violation of the Faculty Handbook, and outside of the agreed upon chain of command protocol. Dr. Clark has maintained his stance relative to this action in the intervening months in numerous venues. Our finding is that the action of Dr. McKinney was premeditated with full knowledge of the violations he was undertaking. Dr. McKinney admitted before the entirety of the Simpson staff and faculty on August 26, 2011, that he violated procedure and bypassed Dr. Clark as Provost in carrying out this action. The Board of Trustees also agree that Dr. McKinney violated process by placing a letter of reprimand in his employment file. In our view, this admission in itself is reason to reverse the dismissal and to reinstate Dr. Sumner.
  3. McKinney maintains that the cause for termination was insubordination, though in the Simpson community meeting with Board chairman Dale Dyk on August 25, Mr. Dyk stated that Dr. Sumner was not fired for insubordination. There are clear discrepancies regarding cause for termination. Our findings suggest that Dr. Sumner never willfully disobeyed a directive of Dr. Clark or of Dr. McKinney as per the definition of insubordination in the Faculty Handbook; indeed, in our estimation, she never disobeyed any directive. Dr. Clark affirmed this conclusion both prior to and since Dr. Sumner’s termination. While there is evidence of disagreements between Dr. Sumner and Dr. McKinney, neither the disagreements nor any action of Dr. Sumner ever rose to the level of insubordination; at most the disagreements were honest dialogue which faculty members are used to engaging in, whether at the curricular or the institutional level, and fit fully within our understanding of academic freedom. Thus there are no grounds for the charge of insubordination.                                                                                   A.  When considering documents and testimony dating back to August of 2010, the evidence suggests several other conclusions.
    • With just over a year in the deanship, Dr. Sumner’s job performance was stellar. In 16 months, she moved Tozer Seminary from a perpetual drain on the Simpson budget to making a profit, while expanding the offerings and reach of the Seminary. Furthermore she created vision and excitement over the future growth and impact of Tozer Seminary. Indeed, Dr. Sumner took seriously and exemplified the elements of the Simpson Values statement: Supremacy of Jesus Christ, Intentional Dynamic Growth and Development, Integrity, Community, Innovation, Service, and Stewardship. Dr. McKinney himself acknowledged Dr. Sumner’s effectiveness both before and after the termination.
    • There are reports from multiple sources that Dr. McKinney showed regular and systematic disregard and dismissiveness of Dr. Sumner as she attempted to fulfill her duties to build Tozer Seminary.
    • In the months prior to the termination, no formal notice of any untoward behavior was ever communicated to Dr. Sumner or documented in a way which was acknowledged by Dr. Sumner as such. The “warning letter” of June 6 was never placed in her personnel file, nor was a copy given to the interim HR Director.                                                                                                                                                                 B. In April 2011, Dr. Sumner envisioned and proposed a “Tozer Cost Center” as an avenue for the seminary to expand both academically and financially. The proposal was developed in response to a request of Dr. Clark. There was no attempt on Dr. Sumner’s part to go around the President. In fact, along with Dr. Clark, Dr. McKinney was the first person she actually presented the proposal to in late April; he received both the oral version and the written version without comment. When Dr. McKinney rejected the proposal, Dr. Sumner accepted the decision and only discussed it again at the behest of Dr. McKinney himself. She was then accused of insubordination for discussing the proposal with the President and Board chairman.
  4. In a case where Dr. Clark might find an individual fulfilling the requirement for “termination with cause” (such as insubordination) the Faculty Handbook calls for “due process.” In this instance, Dr. McKinney followed no due process and subsequently admitted as much before the entire Simpson community and before the Simpson faculty.   A.  The letter of warning outlining the perceived insubordinate behavior that was sent on June 6, 2011, should have included specific steps for remediation, and a specified remediation period during which the faculty member would show evidence of no further offense. Further, the warning letter should have been officially acknowledged as such by Dr. Sumner and placed in her official personnel file. Neither occurred. Instead, Dr. McKinney apparently relied on notes he had made in a personal file he had kept on Dr. Sumner since October 2010. Dr. Sumner was never given the opportunity to read or respond to the contents of this file, which was said to support her “termination with cause.”  B. McKinney informed Dr. Sumner sixteen days after the unofficial warning of   June 6 that she could resign or be fired (on June 22, 2011). In those sixteen days, Dr. Sumner did nothing to further the perceived insubordination stated in the warning letter. Furthermore, the meeting in which she was informed of her firing was actually called by Dr. Sumner and was specifically understood by her and Dr. Clark to be a “listening” meeting. Instead, Dr. McKinney brought in the interim HR Director and at the end of the meeting informed Dr. Sumner of his decision to terminate her. The presence of the interim HR Director was an indication that the decision to terminate had already been made prior to this meeting.   C.  Nothing in the personnel file of Dr. Sumner states a cause for her termination. This lack of stated cause suggests she was summarily fired.  McKinney admitted on multiple occasions that he did not follow the process as outlined in the Faculty Handbook.
  5. In making the decision, Dr. McKinney did not follow the counsel of his community advisors, who were either opposed to the actions, or urging caution. Rather, he relied on the counsel of the University lawyer regarding his legal position in initiating termination and subsequently used this “legal counsel” to defer questions related to his action, continually referring to the legality of his position. In our opinion the action was taken because Dr. McKinney “felt” that he could not work with Dr. Sumner and had held this position since the Fall of 2010.
  6. Sumner was never allowed to make an appeal/grievance prior to the termination. Because the President was the one who fired her, Dr. Sumner had no recourse at all except for a grievance procedure put in place several years ago that had been pulled from the Faculty Handbook, but still in force. The process itself seemed clear enough, but in fact Mr. Dyke, the Board chair, said in several venues that the grievance procedure was not followed exactly but that he did “the best he could;” in fact the process appears to have been favorable to Dr. McKinney in every respect. As part of this process, Dr. McKinney accessed Dr. Sumner’s emails subsequent to the termination and distributed selected e-mails to the Board-composed grievance committee and other individuals in order to validate his case for her termination. Though access to e-mails was perhaps technically legal, the actions of Dr. McKinney in obtaining, reading, and using e-mail communications of Dr. Sumner to justify the previous action of her termination was unethical and unjust. The faculty has expected that our e-mail correspondence with students, colleagues and others is confidential and never had any indication of a policy to the contrary. Furthermore, Dr. Sumner never had the opportunity to examine and explain emails in the context in which they were written. The secret use of the e-mails to uphold the termination is a serious breach of integrity in our estimation and the absolute opposite of due process.
  7. The final decision of Dr. McKinney demonstrated disregard for the impact of this action on Simpson, Tozer, the Redding community, the C&MA constituency and many other stakeholders, not to mention the accrediting body of the institution. This action has already had a major impact on how Simpson University and Tozer Seminary are viewed by students, staff, faculty and many external stakeholders. Despite his reasons for undertaking his actions, Dr. McKinney has repeatedly used poor judgment with regard to this situation, a judgment he seems unwilling to reconsider despite numerous requests to do so.

Summary Conclusions:

  1. The process for the termination of Dr. Sarah Sumner was flawed and in our estimation constitutes an abuse of office with regard to the power of the president.
  2. The contract of Dr. Sarah Sumner was violated in both letter and spirit. Not only was due process not followed in a contractual sense, but Matthew 18, referenced in the Faculty Handbook, was ignored in a spiritual sense. As a result, shared trust between the Faculty and the President has been severely compromised as to whether the institution takes seriously its agreements with faculty regarding contracts and to whether the Faculty has any ability to speak into Simpson’s governance and future direction.
  3. Sumner’s reputation has been severely compromised without justification because of this action and as a result the action also depreciates the reputation of the Faculty, Tozer Seminary and Simpson University.
  4. Clark as University Provost was summarily passed over in this decision, despite his objections to such decision, in violation of the stated lines of authority in the institution and specifically in the Faculty Handbook. This violation speaks to the larger issue of the role of the Provost at Simpson University and to the limits of presidential authority.
  5. The gathering, distribution and examination of Dr. Sumner’s e-mails by Dr. McKinney is morally indefensible. In our view, the privacy and freedom of speech of Dr. Sumner and all of those with whom she communicated were violated in seeking justifications for the termination after the fact.

Recommendations:

The Faculty intends this report to be received by the Board of Trustees as a statement of our extreme disappointment and dissatisfaction with the way this decision was made and with the questionable actions used to maintain the decision.

  1. The Faculty recommends that the board act immediately to retroactively reverse Dr. Sumner’s termination by restoring her to her previously held position as the Dean of the A. W. Tozer Theological Seminary in accordance with the contract signed by Dr. Sumner and Simpson University in March 2011.
  2. The Faculty recommends that the board act to empower Dr. Clark to function in every way as the Provost of the University, not merely as a VP in charge of academic programs.
  3. The Faculty in conjunction with others in the university, should develop an electronic communications policy at Simpson University which takes into account our Christian values, basic trust and privacy, freedom of speech and academic freedom.

Respectfully submitted to the Simpson University Board of Trustees by formal vote of the Faculty.

 

 

When Broken Boards Are Made of Nice People

Dear Friends,

A couple of nights ago my husband met a Simpson board member at Bible Study Fellowship for men.  What Providence for the two of them to meet!  My husband Jim said it was wonderful that he and the board member related to each other as brothers in the Lord in that venue.  We thank God for that.

In effect, Jim’s main comment after interacting with the Simpson board member was that Jim could better see how people in the community might be slow to believe that such a nice person could be a member of a broken board.  Therefore, in this blog I want to make the point that the problem with broken boards in Christian organizations has nothing at all to do with how nice board members may seem.

Perhaps a helpful way to begin to explain this in more detail is by rattling off a number of my personal beliefs based on research and observational truths:

a.  Most board members of Christian organizations (whether church elders or trustees) are people of goodwill who sit on the board in order to support the senior pastor or president or the overall cause of the organization—instead of sitting on the board to do the board’s governance role.

b.  Very few board members of Christian organizations know what the board’s role is.

c.  Since most board members in Christian organizations have no idea of what their responsibility is, they don’t feel responsible to nurture the integrity of the organization’s soul.

d.  Most board members of Christian organizations mistakenly think they have no power to effect any change on the board.  They think their duty is to “be one” with the board and not assert their own best thinking.

e.  Most Christian board members unquestioningly submit to the authority of the president or senior pastor (i.e, CEO) without realizing they that themselves are legally responsible to supervise the CEO.

f.  Most Christian board members have never been trained to hold the president (or senior pastor who may also be the board chair) accountable to run the nonprofit organization (or church) by the holy standards of Christianity.

g.  Most board members in Christian organizations have no idea of how to operate Christianly themselves.  (That’s why Right On Mission offers a Governance Credential.)

h.  Most board members for Christian organizations are completely unapprised of the board’s three D’s:  Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty, and Duty of Obedience.

i.  Most board members of Christian organizations do not know that their duty to keep the organization on mission cannot be delegated to the president or staff or to a secular lawyer or insurance company who handles their liability.

j.  Very few board members–especially Christian board members–realize that they themselves, as persons, are personally responsible to make sure the organization follows all relevant federal and state laws.

k.  Very few board members have ever been taught that their “Duty of Obedience” requires them to submit to their own policies.

At Simpson University, it was an “undisputed fact” in my lawsuit that Simpson University regularly violates its written policy to enroll professing Christians only into its traditional undergraduate programs.

In summary, the problem of broken boards has nothing to do with a lack of nice people serving as Christian board members.  Nice people are nice to be with, but niceness is not enough to make a well-meaning Christian a competent board member.  Just as a brain surgeon might be a nice person, but tragically incompetent, the same holds true for board members.  When board members are incompetent, everyone involved in the Christian organization stands at risk of experiencing loss.

Lord, I pray, please help us to raise up competent board members in every church and  Christian organization.  I pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen

Don’t Worry As You Age Because . . .

I read an article yesterday in the New York Times about a man who is 107 who works full-time, 40 hours a week, cutting hair.  He is the world’s oldest barber.

Out of curiosity, I explored a little further and learned that the oldest living persons on the planet right now are 116 years old, born in 1903.  Two are from Japan; one is from Italy.  All three are women, which is striking to me since the oldest ones in the Bible were men:   Methuselah, Jared, Noah, Adam.

Some people just keep living–long before they die.  Take my family, for instance:

  • My great grandmother lived to be 99.  She had all her own teeth at age 88 and died three weeks shy of 100 years old.
  • My maternal grandparents lived to be 94 and 95.
  • My paternal aunt is almost 89.  She got a new boyfriend back when she was 80.

Have you ever paused to wonder if you are going to become a centenarian or a supercentenarian (older than 110)?  If you are in your 70’s you seriously might have thirty years to go.  If you are in your 50’s, your journey on this earth might only be half-completed.

Granted, these days it is relatively rare to survive for a full century, but recent history shows that over a decade ago in 2008, Hallmark sold 80,000 birthday cards for people celebrating their 100th, and that counts only for America.

Robotics, along with meds, could extend human life to age 200.  Check out the Methuselah Foundation that intends to make 90 “the new 50” by 2030.

Imagine people having great grandchildren (at age 67), and great-great (at age 93), and great-great-great (at age 120), and great-great-great-great (at age 147), and great-great-great-great-great (at age 173) and great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren (at age 200).

Someone should invent new vocabulary for all this “greatness” before it happens.

But will it happen?

In Genesis 6–before Noah’s ark and the flood– the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with humankind forever, because he is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty.”

Ponder this:  Before the flood, God said the new normal lifespan would be 120 years.  Yet Noah, due to God’s grace, lived to be 950.

Now consider what was written generations later in Psalm 90:

For all our days have declined in Thy fury; we have finished our years like a sigh.  As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow.  For soon it is gone, and we fly away.  Who understands Thy fury, according to the fear that is due Thee?  So teach us to number our days that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.

Human lifespans have regressed from Adam’s 930 years to pre-flood 120 years to the Psalms’-estimated 70 or 80 years down to Jesus’ mere 33 years.  Unborn human lives  of all the persons who are aborted have tragic life expectancies of four or five weeks in the womb.

No wonder the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Yet God — in all His fury — is greater than sin and death.

God found a way to conquer sin and death by becoming flesh miraculously (John 1:14) and becoming sin miraculously (II Corinthians 5:21), and dying on the cross “for sins once for all, the Just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God” (I Peter 3:18) by the power of His Resurrection and Ascension (Ephesians 1:18-21: II Timothy 3:16).

Jesus Christ, the Son of God — Who is God (John 1:1)–died for us.  In Romans 5, we hear the good news:

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 

Don’t worry as you age because God will create again!  In Isaiah 65, God says this:

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth . . . no longer will there be an infant who lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out his or her days . . . For as the lifetime of a tree, so shall be the days of My people.  

God assures us that although the wicked sprout up quickly, they will wither like grass (Psalm 37:1-2).  But those who give themselves to Christ shall be clothed in Jesus’ righteousness (Romans 3:22; II Corinthians 5:21; I John 1:9).

As for those of us who reach old age and maybe even live to be a 100 or 200, if we put on Christ and live for God, then it is ours to believe with splendid confidence the promises in Psalm 92:

The righteous person will flourish like the palm tree.  That person will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.  Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.  They will still yield fruit in old age.   They shall be full of sap and very green to declare that the Lord is upright.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petition Denied: CA Supreme Court Says “No”

Dear Friends,

Yesterday in the quiet of our home, Jim and I opened a letter from the California Supreme Court which, to my surprise, heralded the news:   Simpson’s petition for review was denied.  The CA Supreme Court said “no” to Simpson’s attempt to  use Religious Defenses to hide the breaches of my Simpson employment contracts.

Wow, it is finished.  At least this part of the lawsuit is now over.

To explain:  After the Appellate Court in Sacramento told Simpson University in September 2018 that it must comply with the terms of the employment contract that it drafted, Simpson’s secular lawyer asked a higher court– the California Supreme Court — to adjudicate the case.  But the highest court in our state said, “No.”

What that means now is that religious corporations such as Simpson University are subject to contract law in California.  Of course, Christian organizations historically always been bound to contract law in America.  Never have the courts told religious entities that it is okay for them to break their own contracts.

Why then would Simpson try to become an exception?  Because there is an enormous temptation for religious organizations to use their religious freedom as covering for which to hide their sins.

In my story, Simpson University’s lawyer attempted to hide the breaches to my contracts behind a vain appeal to Religious Defenses.  For six years Simpson avoided accountability by producing lots of paperwork and presenting it to the court in effort to make the argument that Simpson is a sovereign entity that cannot be held accountable by the courts.

Question:  Can Simpson University cut employment contracts to unsuspecting people like me, then breach the terms of the contract without having to pay any consequences for doing wrong?

Answer:  The appellate court said “no.”  The Appellate Court said Simpson “circumscribed its own conduct” when it entered into the contract.  The Appellate Court said it does not violate Simpson’ religious freedom for Simpson to be held to fulfill the terms of the contract that Simpson wrote for its own benefit.

That part of the verdict is very good news for all want integrity in the church.

But alas, the Appellate Court’s verdict ended with mixed results:

1.  The Court did not hold Simpson accountable for my tort claims.  Because the defamation promulgated by Simpson University officials pertained to my employment at a religious corporation, the court let Simpson off the hook.  What this means is that religious employers in the State of California can falsely accuse a religious employee and probably get away with it if they appeal to Religious Defenses.  You see, courts presume “good faith” from religious corporations no matter what.

2. But as I just said, the Appellate Courts confirmed that employment contracts cut in religious corporations still count as contracts that are subject to contract law in California.

In my case, the moment of truth came when three appellate justices asked Simpson’s secular lawyer point-blank if there was “anything religious” about my case.  Twice he gave a wordy non-answer, but when the justices pressed him firmly a third time, God gave him the grace to say, “No.”

The Presence of God was palpable in the appellate courtroom that day in Sacramento.  Eleven of my friends (including my husband Jim) were in the room praying and supporting me as the hearing unfolded.  Thus I believe the Lord providentially hemmed in Simpson’s lawyer and freed him to speak truth.  To witness his admission was stunning because for six consecutive years, Simpson’s lawyer had been saying over and over and over that everything about my case was “religious.”

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

I will never forget that turning point.  It was September 18, 2018.  I came to court without a lawyer, and Simpson’s lawyer came without a client.  Like the Willow Creek board who leaned entirely on its lawyer during the Bill Hybels’ scandal, the Simpson board leaned entirely upon its lawyer too.

3.  God has been using this whole ordeal to buffet and shape my character.  Providence has invited me into a New Testament-like story with Simpson’s secular lawyer coming at me hard with accusation after accusation while refusing to admit that Simpson University breached my contract.  Episode by episode in this lawsuit, I get to practice trusting God.

4.  As for forgiveness, I am learning what forgiveness really is.  To forgive means “to let go” of hard feelings / not be bitter / do not try to avenge.  It means wish your enemies well — indeed, love them — and earnestly pray for them with goodwill.  For years I have prayed by name with sincerity and heartfelt detail for every perpetrator in this saga.  Christ commands us to forgive.  But Jesus does not command us to enable.  Forgiveness is not enablement.  Whereas enablement fuels sin and allows it to continue, forgiveness calls sin “sin” and seeks restoration for the sinner.  My way of seeking restoration for the Simpson University Board is by asking the God-given, Romans 13 court to hold it accountable.

5.  I myself cannot stop the Simpson Board from breaching employees’ contracts and violating its own policies and failing to hold the University in trust.  But the Romans 13 government can stop them all.  As a citizen of California, I, like Paul, can appeal to Caesar.  (See Acts 25:9-12.)

God knows that my prayer is for Simpson University to be reborn.  I would like to see a new model of Christian higher education.  My hope against hope is for Simpson to have a Saul-Paul conversion.

With God, all things are possible.

In closing, I will say that throughout this whole ordeal, I have visited and revisited Revelation 2, a stern, soul-saving warning that helps me to remember my First Love.

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:

‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.

But I have this against you, that you have left your First Love.  Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.

Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’

Gender and the “Authentic Self”

Dear Friends,

Over the holidays I started reading Nancy Pearcey’s new book, Love Thy Body, which has lots to do with the subject of men and women.

My first comment about the book is to say how heartened I am by the compassion Pearcey expresses for all who disregard their own body, or betray its natural function, or consider it a problem, not a gift.  Writing as a former agnostic, Pearcey personally understands how easy it is to fall prey to philosophical assumptions that clash with biblical truth and denigrate the value of the human body.  The whole tone of Pearcey’s treatise is gentle, forthright, and benevolent.  Simultaneously, it is loaded with intellectual content and sound theological teaching that clarifies the underlying issues that make gender and sexuality so confusing in our day.

In this blog I want to ponder a small portion of Pearcey’s discussion of the “authentic self.”  This section pierced me for a reason I will soon explain.

To begin, Pearcey recounts that a few years ago, Facebook announced that its users can identify themselves from among fifty different genders.  FB said it did this so that users could express their “true, authentic self.”

But as Pearcey plainly states, there are “not fifty biological sexes.”  There are only two:  male and female.  Male gender accords with a male body, and female gender accords with a female body.  Other genders are located in people’s feelings, not their bodies.

If we think through this, many questions soon arise:  What then, does this mean for the human body?  If someone’s chosen gender does not match their physical body, does that make their body irrelevant?  Or an object of disdain?  Or a piece of sexual putty that can surgically be transformed into any of these fifty different genders?  If we introduce gender options, must we do away with traditional categories of male and female?  Given all the disparity between gender and biology, is there even such a thing as a man or a woman?

Mind you:  I am not asking questions that arise from Scripture.  I am raising questions that logically surface when people assume there are fifty different genders (at the minimum) to identify themselves with.

When I saw that Pearcey alludes to a volume authored by a woman named Virginia Mollencott, I was halted by a poignant memory.

Flashback with me to 1998 when I attended a women’s conference at Harvard University and there saw for myself how pained a woman can be when she has an obvious preaching gift coupled with a troubled childhood and a deep misunderstanding of the gospel which she earnestly believes she learned at church.

Bear with me as I try to explain.

The volume Pearcey mentions that was written by Mollencott is ominously titled, Omnigender.  Rather than quoting from it, Pearcey quotes a line excerpted from a book review of it.  The reviewer of the book, highlighting Mollencott’s support for women’s ordination, says this:

“Arguments against women’s ordination need wholesale revamping since we do not know for sure now what a woman is.”

Apparently the argument against having only two genders — male and female  — serves as a polemic against the idea of having only one gender be eligible for ordination.

In other words, the idea of “omnigender” pertains to the issue of women’s ordination, not just sexuality and sexual orientation.

Now let me share some background information.  I met Virginia Mollencott in 1998 and heard her preach, and, believe me, her delivery is excellent.  She stood out, in my opinion, as by far the best speaker at the Harvard women’s conference.

Here’s what else I remember:  Her natural voice resonates; it is strong and low alto, not weak or high pitched.  As to her body, she is very overweight, not petite or model thin.  On the day I saw her, she wore a man’s three-piece suit and black tie as did her female partner.  Both dressed as men, yet the conference was exclusively for women.

Back in 1998 when I saw her, Dr. Mollencott, who holds a Ph.D. in English from New York University, had not yet written about the concept of omnigender, but she did openly say that she saw herself “as a man in a woman’s body.”

After her keynote address, I bee-lined up to her, acknowledged her intellect, praised her speaking ability and asked her what she was called when she was a girl.  She told me, “Ginny.”  Then tenderly I asked if I could touch her.  She nodded, yes, that I could.  So I cupped my hands on her face and beamed to her the love that I immensely felt for her and said, “Ginny, you’re a girl!  You’re so smart and pretty, and you have a fantastic speaker’s voice.  I’m so, so sorry that you were not encouraged in the church to use your formidable gifts.”

In response, she looked at me with a countenance of childlike vulnerability and astonishment and trust.  And though we had just met, she immediately started telling me about her childhood, about her ponytailed hair, and how she was molested, then sent off to boarding school since what happened to her was shameful in her Plymouth Brethren family and local church.  She also told me she was soon going public with her testimony, and that it was no longer private.

If ever there was a time that I doubled over in compassion, it was then.  In fact, I have never quite recovered from the knowledge of what she went through and the failure of the Christian community to care for a little girl.

When Ginny was only six, she wept in Sunday School after hearing about the bloody crucifixion of Jesus.  She said the grown-ups were amused by her tears; by contrast, she was nonplussed by their dry eyes.  When she grew up, she became an active advisor to the committee of translators for the NIV Bible.  After that, when she came out as being a lesbian, she said she wanted to live responsibly in a covenant relationship and be true in her commitment to her partner.

It is relevant to note that Virginia Mollencott has a very high view of what it means to be created in the image of God.  So high that she says we do “not need to be cleansed” by the blood of Jesus.  You see, her legalistic background distorted the gospel by saying that  people are something worse than sinners.  Ginny said she was taught that she is “evil.”

As to why and how a person as capable as Virginia Mollencott could eventually come to believe that gender is so fluid that it is basically “up for grabs,” as Pearcey puts it, the reasons relate to more than mere biology.

What I am trying to say is that people’s sense of “authentic self” is intertwined not only with philosophical underpinnings, but also with their pain and lived experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The G2 Summit Helped Me Say #MeToo

Dear Friends,

I just read the Christianity Today article about the G2 Summit of Friday December 13, 2018 hosted by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College (my alma mater) on the timely topic:   Responding to Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Violence.  It was the first interdenominational gathering to address the problem of abusive power figures in evangelicalism since the #MeToo Movement began.

Simply seeing a few excerpts from the G2 speakers newly salves my soul.  Speakers such as Ed Stetzer, Beth Moore, Nancy Beach, Max Lucado all stood up and talked about the severity of unchecked power abuses in Christian institutions.   They spoke about the need for Christian communities to prevent this type of evil and help those who are hit by it.  Oh my stars.  I did not expect to experience any such level of validation from a general session of prominent people of “my tribe.”  Although none of the keynotes are apprised of events I have endured, somehow, for the first time, I see a glimmer of light that maybe, just maybe, a segment of conservative evangelicals might take note of power abuses that have scandalized me for seven years.

I have never cast my Simpson saga as a #MeToo story.  But now, at last, I see that’s what it is.  Just saying that feels redemptive.  (Thank you, G2.)

I also realize now that telling my Part 1 and Part 2 #MeToo testimony about Bill Hybels seemed #MeToo-ish because it included physical impropriety on Bill’s part.  Although my plight at Simpson likewise entails elements of sexual harassment, overall, it didn’t seem like a #MeToo thing because those particular elements paled in my mind compared to my bewilderment at the spider web of lies that Simpson wove around me to entrap me.

At the G2 Summit, Nancy Beach put words to the organizational dynamic that fosters such a toxic work environment:  “an inner circle of leaders” who are “complicit in enabling the primary leader’s bad behavior” because they themselves, as members of an elite group, directly benefit from the top leader’s power.

In other words, when an organization is ill, there’s a built-in disincentive for people at the top to tell the truth about its sickness.  In an abusive situation, telling the truth amounts to losing personal status.  That’s why those who benefit from the system the most usually refuse to listen to the truth, much less make things right.

Ironically, from the outside it appears to naive onlookers that the abusive organization is all the more credible since a whole posse of internal leaders are quick to say, as Willow Creek did, that everything’s fine inside the organization (except for the noisy static of those darn prophets and whistleblowers).  This dynamic, too, makes it really tough on whoever is attempting to help the cancerous entity recover from undermining itself and self-destructing.

Another aspect of the problem is that whoever exposes the problem appears to be the problem in the eyes of everyone bowing to the system.

To make matters worse, if you stand your ground and hold the guilty accountable, you will likely be accused of “not forgiving” the perpetrator.  How quickly Christians forget that forgiveness does not require enablement.  It is not God’s way to say that evildoers should be forgiven, and enabled, and funded to continue their same patterns of abuse.

Part of our service as Christians is to stop the abuse.  I Corinthians 5:13 says to “remove the wicked person” from among you.  Remove them, so they might possibly get well.  Remove them, so they don’t poison the entire organization.  Remove them, so that victims are restored, not scapegoated and blamed and further exploited.

The Bible says, remove the wicked person.  The perpetrator.

When organizational systems are not busted and cleaned out, the entity – being ill – projectile vomits out anyone who threatens the perpetuity of the abuse.  Abuse cannot stand to be eliminated.  Therefore, no trace of accountability can be found in such a system.  Indeed, every arm and appendage becomes apparatus for sustaining the very problems that accountability processes were originally designed to resolve.

At the G2 Summit, Max Lucado said, “If the structure of your church does not have pastoral accountability, you need to question the structure of that church.”

To that I would add, if the structure lacks effective internal accountability, then it needs to be held in check by external accountability.

Abusive systems do not self-correct.  They can’t because they’re too sick to.   Power must be applied to overthrow the dysfunction that is suffocating the ministry.   Raw power is needed, and that is okay because “power belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11).

Yes, the power of prayer is essential.  Yes, the power of the Holy Spirit is primary and works miracles.  But more often than not, healing a sick ministry run by abusive leaders takes power in the form of a court:

  • the court of public opinion via the newspapers (which is how the Willow Creek scandal gave way to its apparent course of healing);
  • or the state or federal courts (sponsored by the Romans 13 government);
  • or the most benevolent court of a genuinely Christian community that acts out of love for God and neighbor and stops the abuse by pressuring the ministry’s top leaders either to repent or resign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sad, Sad Story About the Breakdown of Religion in a Religious Corporation in Redding

Dear Friends,

The plot is thickening.

Before I explain, I want to reiterate that my intention here is to share my Simpson story in an interesting, educational, motivating way that prompts revival.

Right now, in my assessment, the underlying root of Simpson’s legal argument inadvertently suggests that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution not only gives religious organizations the religious freedom to select their own ministers, but also gives them a license to mistreat those ministers with impunity.

Consider the situation afresh:  In 2009 I was hired by Simpson University to serve as its dean of A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary.  In April 2011, the team I led broke three all-time-high records in 34 years.  In June 2011 I was fired on-the-spot and my employment contract breached suddenly by the university president.

What was the Simpson board to do?

  • Fire the president and go through all the work of hiring a new leader for the school?
  • Require the president to confess and ask everyone to forgive him, then move on?
  • Admit that the board itself was inexcusably remiss for allowing the president to break state law?
  • Resign from the board en toto as the Willow Creek board recently did?

I know firsthand that Simpson’s board chair at the time had no hope.  Slouched in his chair with his hand on his forehead, former Chairman Dyk who was sitting next to me, said with exasperation, “I’m hopeless.”

Hopelessness led the Simpson board yet further into sin.

The Simpson board could have told the president that he had 3 days in which to implement a win-win solution.  Likewise, the board could have called me in, along with the faculty president, and other goodwill leaders, including competent consultants, and had all of us together craft a win-win plan.

The Simpson Board, however, supported the president–at the expense of supporting the University.

Simpson’s problems therefore festered.  Next thing you know, the new Simpson Board Chair was involved in a shameful cover-up.

As for the faculty, good things happened in that realm.  The full Simpson faculty rallied in defense of my Simpson employment contract — because their contracts were so similar to mine.  The faculty, moreover, formally decided to conduct an independent investigation.  Remarkably, faculty members used their own personal money to hire a lawyer outside of Simpson and its lawyer.  The faculty hired competent counsel that they felt they could trust.

Then the Faculty produced a Report, and Paul R. Jones Jr. who served as faculty president, read this Report to the Simpson Board.  Not long after that, the Simpson Board reinstated me on November 30, 2011.

One might think that things got better after that, but instead, things got way worse.

Upon my return, I became a walking symbol of the failure of the Simpson Board.  Had officials at Simpson been open and admitted their past mistakes, I believe the school could have been healed.

But instead what happened next was that I became aware of shocking aspects of corruption, and once I found out–because a Simpson board member told me–that same board member turned against me.

Here’s the short of it:  In late January 2012, the new Simpson board chair (Betty M. Dean) told me and the two male pastors (Tom Mount and Chris Reyes) who served as my protectors that way back in July 2011, when I filed a formal grievance against the university president, the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee of the SU Board had voted 5-0 “to reinstate” me.  This came to me and the pastors as a shock.  We were dumbfounded because the 2011 board chair, Mr. Dyk, and President McKinney had formally announced over and over again in microphoned meetings to the SU workforce of about 180+ people that the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee of the SU Board had voted 5-0 “to uphold the termination.”  In other words, Board Chair Dyk officially had announced the exact opposite of the truth.

So now the truth was out — because Board Chair Betty Dean let us know.

In my naivete, I thought truth had triumphed.  I thought Betty Dean was going to let the whole campus know what she let Tom, Chris, and I know.  But that is not what happened.

What happened instead is that the truth stayed buried until I myself let it be known.

After waiting all the way from late January 2012 through late June 2012 for the Simpson Board to finally tell the truth, and having them instead stonewall me and stonewall students and stonewall various pastors and professors, I decided at last to blow the whistle internally to Simpson University’s top leaders.

Next thing you know, I was illegally fired again in July 2012, this time via email by Associate Provost Dummer, who was not my boss, soon after he got a phone call from Board Chair Betty Dean.

Question:  Who can hold the Board Chair accountable?

Answer:  The Simpson Board, but will the Board believe the truth?  I have no idea if the board members at Simpson are all aware of the truth.

So I wrote the board members a letter, but all of them stonewalled me, except for President McKinney who told me to please contract Simpson’s lawyer.  And except for the denominational president (Christian & Missionary Alliance — C&MA) who told me that “Simpson University” is “subject to its board of trustees, and not to the C&MA.

So Simpson faculty leaders urged me to file a lawsuit against Simpson.

Before suing, I tried in vain to have Matthew 18 conversations with eight different Simpson authority figures.  My lawyer in 2012 even asked Shasta County Superior Court to compel the University to apply its own religious grievance policy to my case since Matthew 18:15-18 was part of my contract.  But Simpson would not budge.

Question:  Why would a religious entity not use its own religious policy?

Answer:  Because Simpson’s religious policy has a built-in mechanism that allows for the truth to be made known.

So Simpson refused to engage its policy.

Here’s the tragic irony:  When Simpson’s lawyer told the court that Simpson preferred to litigate, Simpson inadvertently said to the court that it has the religious freedom to not use its religious policy.

Fast forward:  In June 2014, Simpson won the case at a local level with their appeal to Religious Defenses such that all the breaches to my Simpson employment contract remained hidden.

But!  In September 2014, I appealed that decision, and in September 2018, the Third District Appellate Court in Sacramento reversed the decision and sent my contract case back to Shasta County.

About ten days later Simpson asked the California Supreme Court to overturn the appellate court’s decision on my contract claims, but CA Supreme Court declined to hear the case at all.

So now the case is back in Shasta County.  Trial is currently set for Feb 4, 2020.

Thanksgiving: The Fire Did Not Destroy All of Paradise

It’s almost Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. A quiet time for giving thanks to God.

In the maze of life, the strange wandering we all do, there are such perplexities as the Camp Fire that, as it turns out, did not destroy all of Paradise.

Consider this excerpt from another blog I found:

The randomness of the fire was also seen on Academy Drive where the Paradise Adventist Academy School was standing but the church, basically across the street, was gone.
. . . . .
Clark Road was hit hard, as Ace Rentals, Calvary Baptist Church, which houses Achieve Charter High School were all destroyed by the fire, but across the street, Taco Bell and the Laundromat was standing.   The new Immediate Care burned down, but the Paradise Performing Arts Center appeared to avoid damage.   Safeway’s shopping center was completely destroyed, but the Napa Auto Store stood, as did the Rite Aide on Clark and Elliott. However the ARCO store was burned to the ground.
. . . . .
The Kentucky Fried Chicken on Bille Road was taken by the blaze as was Sam’s Liquor and the Salvation Army store, but the Paradise Postal Office, Paradise Alliance Church, First Baptist Church, the Kmart Shopping Center, Dollar General, and UPS Store were still there as was Scott Lotter’s movie theater.

Note:  Paradise  Alliance Church is where we hosted a course for Right On Mission last year.

Many people from Paradise are clinging to Psalm 88.  Trusting God more than ever, even now.

As I reflect, with a sigh in the form of an exhale, my heart sings because the best things in life are so good:

  • The amazement that we are all created in God’s image:  we get to love.
  • The ability to know, understand, think, ponder, and be in awe:  we get to worship.
  • The comfort of friendship, family, and camaraderie:  we are in this together.
  • The joy of children:  listening to a 2 year old laugh and playing with little ones.
  • The beauty of the earth:  the fragrance of rain, bright colors, mountains, stars.
  • The pleasures of taking in fresh air, savory food, and hearing music.
  • The triumphant sense of achievement when we surmount what daunts us.
  • The capacity to care:  to cry, grieve, mourn, celebrate, and cherish.
  • The power of the cross, the power to rise again.

I could go on and on.

Paradise.  Though it be lost, it can be refound.  There is always hope with Jesus Who rose from the grave, having obliterated the certificate of debt against us and disarmed evil authorities.  In Christ, we are set free to count our blessings, even after the fire.

 

 

 

 

 

The Nation’s Deadliest Fire in a Century

Dear Friends,

The Camp Fire that burned up the beautiful town of Paradise (population 27,000) near Chico (about 80 miles southeast of Redding) now ranks as the deadliest fire that the United States of America has suffered in a century.

To give you some perspective, the second worst fire in California history killed 29 people (the Griffith Park fire in Los Angeles).  By contrast, the Camp Fire has killed over three times (3x) that many, and possibly over two hundred times (200x) that many.

So far, sixty-three (63) identified people are dead, and 631 more in Butte County are missing.

Trained dogs are sniffing around for human remains.

Lord, we pray for Your help . . . 

Paradise residents are being told that they will not be able to enter back into their own geographical area for at least six months.  The fire is still burning; it’s only 40% contained as of tonight, Thursday night on November 15th – which marks the eighth day since the Camp Fire began last week.  This fire has injured at least three firefighters and burned more than 10,000 structures — with most of those structures being homes.

The fire’s reach right now is an area twice the size of the city of San Francisco.  They call it the “Camp” fire because it started near Camp Creek Road and Highway 70 in the Feather River Canyon.

If, from far away, you want to place your heart against the heartbeat of the people who were trapped and attacked and whiplashed by this fire, you can listen to 911 calls that came in, one after the other, for about three minutes right here.

Oh, Lord, help us to pray . . . for 631 missing people . . . for all those who have lost loved ones, for the fire fighters, for all the people who need medicine, for displaced families, for those immobilized in total shock, for all the pastors, for broken relationships to be healed by common devastation, for resources to pour in, for decision-makers, for Governor Brown, for everyone in need, for the salvation of every soul, for Your peace in every heart, for doctors, nurses, insurance agents, for leaders to unite communities, for Your Spirit to hover over and comfort all who are crying out to the living God . . . we pray.  Help us to pray.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen

 

Paradise Lost: New Worst Fire Ever in CA Still Burning

Dear Friends,

Until now, I have been too numb, too shocked, to write about the Camp Fire, the most devastating fire that California has ever seen. On Thursday November 8, 2018, this speed-fire — within eight hours–engulfed, gulped down, and swallowed whole the 27,000 population, beautiful town called Paradise, which lies about 90 miles away from us here in Redding.

Imagine what it was like for Paradise residents who were awakened at 6:30 am by a roaring, thunderous sound, which was hellfire, loud fire, liquid fire flaming as a flash flood, spilling out on them so suddenly and rapidly that 23 people (so far) were tragically killed by it.

The frantic warning to townsfolk was, “Get out!”  Still in their pajamas, they had to get out right away.

But there aren’t many roads to Paradise.

The road I’m most familiar with is a fifteen minute drive that was jammed up so much with heavy traffic and heavy hearts that it took six hours for many people to forge through it.

The fire raced ahead so fast that it advanced forward by 80 football fields every minute. As you will soon see if you look at the video footage (link below), haunted, ravenous fire burned visibly on both sides of the road.

Here‘s what people went through, trying to escape.  (Unfortunately, it is preceded by an advertisement that pays no deference to the pillaging, raving flames.)

More fires are expected to devour more of California this year and next — and into the unfolding next decade.

Lord, how can we pray for the firefighters, the decision-makers, the families, the residents, the homeowners, the survivors of dead loved ones?  How do you hold a funeral for a lost town?  People’s familiar setting, their sense of place, their sense of home has been charred. 

Teach us in this, Lord.  Help us to number our days (Psalm 90).  Grant us soft hearts to pray for comfort, peace, rest, and restoration for all the victims of this menacing, murderous fire.  We pray for all the workers, the volunteers, the civic officers, and all the spiritual leaders serving in this dark hour of an eerie doom’s day.   

Please sustain everyone related to the Paradise Alliance Church where we held class for Right On Mission last year.  Help them, God.  Help us to do our part to help folks recover. 

Lord, we dread the thought:  How much fire is on the way, scheduled for next year?  Sober us, dear God.  Help us to be sober and stop sinning (I Corinthian 15:34).  Make us a people who pray (II Chronicles 7:14).    

We pray for everyone right now in the flames in Ventura County and for all along the coast inhaling blackened smoke. 

And, oh for all of us, to bow down to Jesus Christ, the Lord of all, who has overcome the world and reconciled creation back to God (John 16:33; Colossians 1). 

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

 

 

 

Part 1: Is it Masculine for a Woman to Be Like Jesus?

In the twentieth century, one of my favorite writers, Dorothy Sayers, wrote a now-famous little treatise titled, “Are Women Human?”  Today I’d like to ask a more twenty-first century question:

Is it masculine for a woman to be like Jesus?

When recently my husband attended a men’s event at church, he came home with an adult-conversion-lament (Jim was 37 when he came to Christ) about the emphasis in men’s ministries on “manhood.”  Having excelled at worldly manhood back in his heathen days, Jim Sumner knows firsthand how hollow “manhood” is.  It is emptiness.

Jim won’t tell you this, but he was Prom King in high school and Greek King in college and professionally pursued in his twenties to be a model on account of his Hollywood good looks.  Jim is muscle-bound and hirsute (i.e. hairy from head to toe) but has the clean-shaven look of an athletic Marlboro Man.  Throngs of women have swooned over him and begged for his autograph.  He is a super cool Michael Jackson dancer with God-given, natural stage presence.  He has won first place in dance contests, yet by nature, he’s reserved, an unassuming Clark Kent, who, at once, is both a ladies man and a man’s man.

To give you some idea of how people talk to Jim, our African friend in Malawi named Yobe (pronounced Yoe Bay’) freely said to Jim without a trace of jealousy, “Jim, you are so handsome. Your jawline is so manly.”

It’s always nice to hear a genuine compliment, but Jim has had his fill of worldly manhood.  Being manly did not connect him to the Father.

By this, I hope you see that the notable lack of emphasis typically placed on Jesus Christ in Christian men’s groups predictably send Jim into a swirl of masculine grief.  When Jim came home and told me about the men’s event, the first thing that he said was that the men talked again about manhood instead of focusing on what it means–for men and women alike–to follow Christ.

This topic, of course, piqued my interest because (as some of you know) I have so far written two books on the intensely relevant subject of men and women in the church.

From Jim’s report of the men’s event, it turned out that the event did include a portion of time for Jesus.  Indeed, the pastor said the purpose for talking mostly about manhood (e.g., sports, hunting/fishing, and anything rough and tumble) was to steer the conversation towards Jesus.

Had this event been an evangelistic effort of outreach to non-Christian men in society, it might have made more sense as to why the main subject was manhood.  But since the event was meant for believers, Jim left it feeling dissatisfied and discouraged.  Not that anyone at the church lacked good intentions.  What they lacked is good theology.  Therefore, when the men’s group finally got to the part about Jesus, everything they said about how men as men should imitate our Lord applied just as well to women

Below are 7 church teachings that men hear about being men (minus what I say afterwards in parentheses):

  1.  Men should be strong in the Lord. (So should women.  Think Mary, Jesus’ mother.)
  2.  Men should be courageous.  (Women as well.  Example:  Queen Esther.)
  3.  Men are warriors. (Women are too.  Consider Deborah and Jael.)
  4.  Men need to listen to God. (Same with women.  That’s why Mary sat at Jesus’ feet.)
  5.  Men should be holy. (So should women.  Leviticus has laws for sanctifying women.)
  6.  Men should be truthful.  (Women too.  God struck Sapphira dead when she lied.)
  7.  Men should study God’s Word. (Women should too.  Remember Priscilla.)

Almost needless to say, all seven of these standards are good teachings that speak to men about being good men.  But none of them have a thing to do with manhood that excludes womanhood.

Why, then, is it that men’s ministries, generally speaking, do not openly inform men that Christian men and women are doing the same thing when it comes to the matter of both of them learning to be like Christ?

I think Jim’s prophetic lament is that “manhood” tends to separate men and women and also subtly (or not so subtly) cause men to think too highly of their maleness.

What do you think?

  • Does men’s maleness make men more like Jesus than any woman ever could be?
  • Do Christian women become more male when they attempt to be like Jesus?
  • If so, then does that mean it is masculine for a woman to be like Jesus?

In my book, Men and Women in the  ChurchI dive down into the depths of questions like these because that is where confusion lies, not only in the culture, but also in the church.

I encourage you to invite another person in the faith to read this blog and engage in thoughtful conversation with you, so that together you and a friend (or small group) can mutually be sharpened and therefore better prepared to help others (including Christians) truly hear the gospel and not be off-put with Almighty God on account of sexuality or sex roles or sex or gender or gender confusion or gender jealousy.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

 

 

 

I Corinthians 13 — Something to Memorize

One of the many blessings of my childhood is that Mrs. Hill, my Sunday School teacher for fourth grade, challenged us kids to memorize I Corinthians 13, which I did.   I’ve gotten rusty on it though, so I want to memorize it again.  The first time I did so was with The Living Bible translation.  This time I want to do so from the NASB (New American Standard Bible).

What version do you prefer to memorize it in?  Are you up for doing this with me?

I Corinthians 13

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

And I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have  all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant; does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth:  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

But if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child.  When I became an adult, I did away with childish things.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.

But now abide faith, hope, and love — these three.

But the greatest of these is love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Happened To Me At Simpson: Listen to Hope Podcast #5

Friends,

This is God’s timing.  Just this morning, a podcast telling my story was released.

After you hear Lina Abujamra’s Hope Podcast Episode 5, you may wonder where things stand in the Simpson saga right now, today.

So let me try to explain.  Most private colleges and universities in America were founded as Christian institutions.  But over time, they secularized as status, money, power became the lived priorities of the board.

Little did I know that when I took a job at Simpson University in January 2010, the forces of secularization had already pulled the board into significant mission drift.

To the shock of my thick layers of naivete, when the president of the school willfully violated Simpson policy by violating my contract, the board stood with the president while I myself was urged by a number of key constituents, please, to stay at the school while the SU faculty united to confront the wayward board.  When approximately one year later,  the Simpson board allowed my contracts to be breached yet again, a number of key constituents urged me this time to file a lawsuit.

After praying, seeking counsel, and studying I Corinthians 6, my husband and I decided that suing was the right course of action.  If you heard all the details, perhaps you would agree with our decision.

Soon after I filed a lawsuit against Simpson University on October 2, 2012, Simpson’s insurance lawyer appealed to Religious Defenses in attempt to get my case thrown out of court.  The irony of this story is that Simpson tried to use its religious freedom to establish Simpson’s “right” not to exercise SU’s religion.

Usually it’s the plaintiff who refuses to submit to religious policies.  But in my case, Simpson is the party who is choosing to rely on their secular insurance company as opposed to their own religious grievance policy.

Although Simpson’s policy is to exercise Matthew 18:15-17, Simpson’s Chief Academic Office (the Provost) and Simpson’s H.R. Director both said that Matthew 18:15-17 “applies to the church,” and since “Simpson is not a church,” they said, then Matthew 18:15-17 does not apply to the SU workplace.

On the one hand, the religious corporation said the religious policy does not apply to the religious workplace.  But Simpson’s lawyer, on the other hand, said that Simpson can appeal to Religious Defenses. To appeal to Religious Defenses means that Simpson is ruled by religion, not the courts.

But in this case, Simpson has been trying to not be ruled either by religion or the courts.

At the same time, Simpson University’s #1 stated Value is “The Supremacy of Jesus Christ.” Yet heeding the words of Christ in Matthew 18:15-17 is something that Simpson officials refuse to do.

No one with power in the religious corporation expressed any willingness to stand up for what is right in truth.  As a result, I simply had no venue in Simpson University for voicing a response to Simpson’s false accusations.

But God gave me a venue through prayer to plead my cause to Him.

By God’s grace, the Lord positioned me to become my own lawyer and stand in the wooden courtroom in Sacramento at the Third District Court Of Appeal before three Justices (Blease, Butz, and Renner) and argue my case myself.

I am not a lawyer, but I stood up and argued as a very prepared non-lawyer who bet on God and counted on God’s power to be perfected in my vulnerable weakness.

Let me try to say this in gospel language:  In a way, when Simpson breached my contract and hid their violations, Simpson University killed its own contracts; therefore both of my Simpson contracts sat there dead.  But after I appealed, God resurrected them.

I will close on a personal note.  Going through this trial of being in such conflict with a secularizing school is something God is using to transform me.  It has grown my faith because I believe that God Who delivered King David through every tribulation will, likewise, in due time, deliver me.  

Psalm 34, a Psalm of David:

1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
3 O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

4 I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.

8 O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
9 O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.
11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are [d]crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones,
Not one of them is broken.
21 Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

California Holds Religious Organizations Accountable For Employment Contracts, But Not …

Dear Friends,

In this post-Christian, post- Hosanna-Tabor society a very important question emerges:  Where does religious freedom begin and end for religious organizations and their employees?  Do employees who work for ministries have any civil rights?  Do their employment contracts count?  Can they be lied about — with impunity — on corporate microphones?  Can ministers be discriminated against in a way that is demonstrably unbiblical?

Answer:  It depends on where you live.

In Kentucky, employment contracts are legally enforceable as the Kirby court made plain in 2014.  Jimmy Kirby, an African American, sued Lexington Theological Seminary for racial discrimination and for breaching his contract for tenure.  Kirby lost at the trial court level, and he told me he lost “in eight minutes” at the appellate level, but won 7-0 at the Kentucky Supreme Court after Harvard Law School trained, Amos Jones, stepped in to argue his case at the highest level.  To be clear, Kirby won his contract claims.  He lost on his discrimination claims.

This past Tuesday, September 18th, 2018, the Third District Court of Appeals in Sacramento published an opinion in Sumner v. Simpson that establishes the legal viability of employment contracts in religious corporations  in California.  That means employment contracts at institutions such as Fuller Seminary, Biola University, Simpson University, Azusa Pacific University, World Vision International, denominational headquarters, local churches, etc. are real contracts.  In California it is still illegal for a Christian corporation to break promises it makes through its employment contracts.

Bottom line:  Religious employers in California cannot willy-nilly treat contracted employees as at-will employees without paying a steep price.

However:   The Appellate Court dismissed my tort claims which means that California courts (at least so far) are not going to stop religious corporations from acting tortiously.  If you are legally seen as a “minister,” your religious employer in California can invade your privacy, treat you with malice, falsely accuse you, defame you publicly, and probably get away with it by appealing to First Amendment religious freedom.

Dear Lord, we pray for integrity in the land.  Oh, for revival in Jesus’ Name, Amen

How Could Anybody Sue A Christian School?

Not all lawsuits are the same.  Some are potshot attacks hurled by activists who plot against practicing Christians such as Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who was minding his own business, found himself being targeted by the Colorado government on account of his Christian belief in traditional marriage.  By contrast, other lawsuits are legitimate cries for help to the Romans 13 government that God Himself established for the purpose of mitigating evil.

I believe it was right, for example, when Catholic families sued Catholic bishops who refused to stop Catholic priests from abusing Catholic children.  As grievous as it may be to resort to filing a lawsuit, sometimes doing so is the best biblical option.  That’s why I don’t think it’s wrong to seek help from the courts, for instance, when denominational executives intentionally steer churches away from the the Great Commission in effort to seize church assets in the process.  I believe that when a professing Christian board refuses to submit to its own contractual agreements, accountability is probably needed from the courts.

Sure, a grieved party can just let go — with knowledge that yet more children are going to be sexually abused, and that additional church assets will hostilely be seized, and that parties to other contracts are likely to be illegally ripped off.  But since letting go in these cases harms people and sometimes devastates people for years, I believe that victims are biblically permitted to seek justice from the courts.

What do you think, dear reader?  Do you know what Scripture says?

Lamentations 3:35-36 says this:  “To deprive a person justice in the Presence of the Most High, and to defraud a person of his/her lawsuit, of these things the Lord does not approve.”

Do you think Scripture says that believers are forbidden to ask the courts to defend the vulnerable if the Defendants in the case profess to be Christians? 

I Corinthians 6:1-10 instructs us not to sue a “brother/sister,”  but I Corinthians 6 says nothing against believers suing professing Christian corporations.  The context of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth in the first century pertains to rich Christians suing poor Christians in trivial matters that require “the smallest law courts” (I Corinthians 6:2).  The context in Corinthians says nothing at all about stopping multi-million-dollar professing Christian corporations from breaching employment contracts that they themselves voluntarily drafted and issued in effort to induce workers to become their employees.  Nor does I Corinthians 6 forbid believers from suing someone whom Jesus says to treat “as a pagan and a taxgatherer” (Matthew 18:15-17).

Here today in this blog, we’re talking about mega-matters, not trivial matters.  We’re talking about otherwise powerless plaintiffs suing powerful corporations that are shielded by insurance policies.

Sadly, sometimes the people we thought were our brothers and sisters conduct themselves as “pagans and tax gatherers” by letting a secular insurance company be their voice in court.

Of course, God alone knows who is truly born again and alive in His Spirit.  I cannot say definitively whether the board members at Simpson are true Christians or not.  What I can do, however, is “treat”them as unbelievers because they “refuse to listen” (Matthew 18:15-17), not only to me, but to many others who respectfully have confronted them and begged them to honor Simpson contracts.

In August 2012, I reached out individually to each and every member of the Simpson University board.  I notified each one of them approximately five weeks before I sued.  Each one of them was apprised that Dr. Dummer breached my contract when he fired me (via email) in July 2012 and violated numerous aspects of my contracts.  Because then-President Larry McKinney had violated my express employment contract the year before, each board member already knew that I had been mistreated.  I say this with confidence because the Simpson board itself formally reprimanded President McKinney in 2011.

However, the same Simpson board that allowed the Simpson president in 2011 to break California Law, Simpson policy, and my contract allowed the same thing again in 2012.

Here’s a copy of the letter I sent to Simpson board members on August 29, 2012.

Upon receiving my August 29th letter requesting “governance integrity,” then-Simpson President, Larry McKinney, directed me–in an official letter–to Simpson’s lawyer.

None of the Simpson board members would talk to me as a Christian.  All instead relied on Simpson’s San Francisco lawyer whom I believe was assigned to them through Simpson’s insurance company.

No board member heeded Jesus’ instruction about lawsuits in Matthew 5:23-26.  Jesus says folks at Simpson are “first” to “be reconciled” with me, the grieved party, and to “make friends” with me “quickly” so that they may not be delivered “to the judge.”

Please pray for decision makers at Simpson University because they are covering up the truth instead of being freed by the greater truth of the gospel.

Can a Christian Institution Take God’s Name in Vain?

What do you think?  Should employment contracts count as legally viable contracts in Christian organizations?

Would you want to sign a contract to work at a Christian ministry and then later be told, “Oh, this written contract only serves to say that you, as an employee, have to abide by its elaborate terms.  This document called a ‘contract’  that both parties signed does not function as a contract because this is a Christian organization.”

What?

Do you think it is Christian for Christian employers to cut contracts, but then later say that the contract does not count?

Should a Christian entity be able to un-contract their own contracts if ever the entity’s authority figures decide to violate the contract’s terms?

Right now, in Shasta County in California, any religious institution can totally disregard its own employment contract issued to a ministry worker– all in the name of religious freedom.

What therefore lies at stake–at the mega-macro-level — is the integrity of all Christian organizations.  What also lies at stake is the validity of employment contracts in Christian institutions.  Are contracts cut to ministers legal or not?   Do they mean anything or not?

As I type, Simpson University is saying that because it is “Christian,” and affiliated with the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination, Simpson can therefore break its promises made in the form of employment contracts that Simpson cuts for its workers who do ministry.

This is a treacherous dynamic.  I believe it amounts to nothing less than breaking the Third Commandment.

The Third (3rd) of the Ten Commandments is not to take God’s Name in vain.  Yes, this commandment means do not turn God’s Name into a cuss word.  But more importantly, it means”  Do not do evil and say that what you’re doing is of God.

To use God’s Name to justify corruption is a major sin that comes with unavoidable punishment.  Here’s what the Bible says:

You shall not take the Name of the Lord Your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His Name in vain (Exodus 20:7).

I fear for positional leaders at Simpson University — because the school has denied that it did any wrongdoing at all.

This lapse of integrity at Simpson is not good for Christian higher education.  Nor is it good for the church.  Nor is it good for our country.

You may have heard the the saying, “So goes California, so goes the nation.”  If employment contracts in Simpson University mean nothing before the court, then it could soon well be that no written contracts issued by Christian churches or religious organizations are going to mean anything legally.  To erode the validity of a contract is to erode trust in society.

I-5 closed again, but Fire is 24% Contained

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Current Situation (as of 9/13, 6 p.m.): 

59,915 Acres
24% Contained
3,264 Personnel
17 Structures Destroyed

9/13 Evening Summary:
Today, firefighters had success in constructing fireline directly along the fire’s perimeter along the northern, western, and southern edges of the fire. Aircraft assisted with fire activity on the west side of Interstate 5. The fire passed through unburned fuels within containment lines on the northeastern area of the fire between Gibson and Sims Roads. Interstate 5 closed temporarily and re-opened to traffic in both directions around 6 p.m

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Caltrans District 2

@CaltransD2

EMERGENCY CLOSURE: I-5 is currently closed NB at Dog Creek Rd and SB at Mott Rd due to a flare up of the near Gibson Rd. No ETO at this time. Please avoid the area.