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Thursday
Jun072018

P.J. Smyth to Announce this Sunday Whether He Is Leaving or Staying as Lead Pastor of Covenant Life Church

Here is the latest on P.J. Smyth.  This Sunday, he will announce his decision about whether is leaving or staying at Covenant Life Church.  The first piece of information regarding his “status” is an email update from Saturday.  The second is a Question and Answer post on the CLC blog from Tuesday.  I’ve added comments. 

From: Covenant Life Church <mmitchell@covlife.org>
Date: Sat June 2, 2018 at 6:14 PM
To: [CLC Members]
Subject: Update 

Tomorrow and Next Steps 

Dear Church, 

Psalm 145:4 says, “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”  This morning I attended the Family Schools Program (FSP) graduation and witnessed nine young men and women turn their tassels to celebrate the blissful end of one season and the adventurous beginning of another.  It was a joy to not only celebrate the diligence of these students and the dedication of their parents, but also to hear Greg Somerville commend God’s goodness, the power of perspective, and the preeminence of love to this next generation. 

We send our hearty congratulations to these young men and women and our faith-filled prayers to the Lord for his continued blessing on their lives! 

Covenant Life School will be having their graduation ceremony this upcoming Saturday. I look forward to celebrating this moment again! 

For the rest of this update I want to touch on PJ’s status, questions members have submitted, and our plans for tomorrow. 

PJ’s Status 

As a reminder, the Board of Elders established an Advisory Committee (AC) “to help PJ Smyth determine whether he can re-engage as Lead Elder of Covenant Life Church, and what Board configuration would best facilitate that purpose.”  To this end, on Thursday, May 24, the AC sent several recommendations for the Board of Elders to consider.  We met this past Thursday (May 31) to consider those recommendations and have sent our responses back to the AC. 

Comment: It should not be up to P.J. to determine whether he can re-engage.  It should be up to the elders and church whether he can stay.  These back and forth “recommendations” are part of the negotiating process going on behind the scenes.  P.J. wants more authority and that will necessitate changes to the Church Constitution. 

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The next step is for a few of the elders to meet with PJ and the AC next week for further dialogue.  Afterwards, PJ intends to finalize his decision, so it can be communicated to the church on Sunday, June 10.  Our current plan is to devote the majority of that meeting to sharing this decision and any relevant details that surround it. 

Comment: Will the elders give away everything but the kitchen sink this week?  Or will they stand strong regarding the serious disagreements they have had with P.J.?  In the end, I think they will give P.J. what he wants.  That way, they aren’t to blame if CLC collapses under P.J.’s leadership.  The elders also plan to share “any relevant details.”  Of course, they decide what is relevant (i.e. self-serving).    

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I want to thank you for your patience and your continued prayers as we’ve engaged in this process.  We continue to ask the Lord that his will would be done and that he would give us grace to trust and follow him regardless of the outcome.  I’ve found the following prayer from God’s Word to be helpful: 

Comment: God’s sovereign will cannot be thwarted but his revealed will taught in the Bible can be transgressed.  The Lord holds us accountable to the latter.  P.J. observed his father’s crimes in Zimbabwe (e.g. the violent physical assault of boys) but sought to   protect his father from prosecution, etc.  He lied to CLC about his knowledge of his father’s crimes.  Read New & Indisputable Evidence Proves P.J. Smyth Knew All About Father’s Violent Beating of Boys – He & Pastors Continue to Deceive Covenant Life Church Despite My Appeals.  He should have been removed as lead pastor for this reason.  That is God’s will in Scripture.  There will be problems whether P.J. stays or leaves.    

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“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12). 

I invite you to join me in praying this prayer for our congregation. 

Comment: The CLC elders have not lived worthy of their calling for a long time.  Their leadership has been characterized by cowardice, corruption, and compromise. That includes the scandalous “independent investigation” done by Lars Liebeler.  Read The “Independent” Investigation of Sexual Abuse at Covenant Life Church Didn’t Include Talking to the Victims of Abuse – Incredulously, Executive Pastor Mark Mitchell Says Exclusion Was Due to “Limited Finances”.  As a result, the Lord Jesus Christ has been reproached, not glorified.  I would love to see Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians fulfilled but that won’t happen until the elders address the sinful ways in which they have led for many years.  I’d recommend James 4:7-10 as a prayer guide. 

Submitted Questions 

A number of you have submitted a variety of questions about this situation to the elders.  We’ve responded to some of you directly and we are preparing an FAQ with answers to other common questions.  Those will be made available in the Quick Read next week on Tuesday. 

Tomorrow 

We have the privilege of hearing John Leconte preach from John 4-5 on the healing of an official’s son.  May the Spirit open our eyes to Jesus’ awesome and unchanged power and authority in our lives.  See you then, Mark. 

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This next update is found on the Covenant Life blog.  I’ve added comments. 

Lead Pastor Status FAQs
Date: June 5, 2018
Author: Elders 

These FAQs were developed from member feedback received as of May 25, 2018.  Additional questions will either be addressed as updates to this FAQ or in a members meeting context. 

Comment: Many of the most important questions are not addressed in this FAQs.  For example, why did P.J brazenly lie and deceive CLC when he denied all knowledge of any allegations against his father involving voyeurism, exhibitionism, and sexual sadism.  P.J. was fully aware of these charges.  And the follow-up.  Why did the CLC elders cover up for P.J. when they discovered he knew all about his father’s perversity and criminal behavior.  This flagrant deception must be addressed and acknowledged. 

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PJ’s Status 

Is PJ still employed by CLC? 

Yes.  PJ’s employment was never terminated. 

Comment: He continues to receive full pay and benefits. 

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Is PJ still the Lead Pastor (LP)? 

PJ has not been functioning as LP since the elders decided to part ways on April 21.  He has been carefully considering whether to re-engage as LP since the elders rescinded that decision on May 3. 

Comment: There were 18 elders including P.J. on April 21 and May 3.  A two-thirds majority (67%) decision was necessary to “part ways.”  At a meeting on May 15, members asked to know where the individual elders stood on the issues related to P.J.  They refused to answer, and this upset a lot people in attendance. 

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Has PJ made his final decision whether to stay as LP? 

PJ will come to a final decision by Sunday June 10. 

Comment: The elders decided to part ways with P.J.  Then they rescinded their decision and put P.J. in charge of his own destiny.  That is not leadership.  How do allow someone to determine if he “reengages” as the leader pastor when you decided he should be removed as the lead pastor after six months of serious conflict and disagreement. 

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Will there be any congregational involvement? 

If PJ decides to re-engage as LP, he and a smaller group of elders (i.e. an interim board) will be presented to the congregation for affirmation. 

Comment: P.J. has wanted to remove some of the elders and choose some of his own.  Under the Church Constitution he does not have the authority to do so.  This is one of the issues over which there has been conflict.  It appears P.J. has gotten his way and the elders will put whatever “interim board” he wants to the congregation for “affirmation” – an empty gesture of congregational involvement.  Two elders have already resigned –   Bo Lotinsky (Chairman of the Elder Board) and David Brown.  I suspect the interim board will lead to a puppet board later.       

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Role of the Advisory Committee (AC) 

What is the Advisory Committee doing? 

The elders tasked this group, as stated in their charter, “to help PJ determine whether he can re engage as Lead Elder of Covenant Life Church, and what Board configuration would best facilitate that purpose.” To this end, the AC has spent significant time in dialogue with PJ and the other elders and made a number of  recommendations. 

Comment: Translation: P.J. will re-engage if he gets the Board configuration he wants.  Bottom line – P.J. wants more power and authority.  That was the fundamental issue over which the elders disagreed with him during the months long conflict. 

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Who is on Advisory Committee? 

Myung Yi, Travis Earles, Michael Winn, Ed Stockton, and Jim Wilson.

Who selected them? 

The elders, including PJ. 

Was Board of Elders (BoE) unanimously supportive of their selection? 

Yes. 

What qualifies them? 

Committee members have proven their leadership expertise in other church contexts and were commended by the BOE for their initiative, maturity, and wisdom.  They were among those who appealed to the elders to reconsider upon hearing of the decision to part ways with PJ.  In part, their initiative qualified them to continue to serve the elders with their counsel.  In addition, they have served in a number of leadership roles in the church.  Myung Yi was vice chairman of the Lead Pastor Search Team and leads a small group.  Travis Earles recently chaired the Local Missions Committee and has served as a small group leader and ministry team leader.  Ed Stockton is the chairman of the board of Covenant Life School.  Jim Wilson serves on the Financial Advisory Committee.  Michael Winn helps to lead the Benevolence Committee and the Greeting Team. 

Comment: “They were among those who appealed to the elders to reconsider upon hearing of the decision to part ways with P.J.”  This is rather explicit.  They all wanted P.J. to stay as lead pastor.  It is not an impartial “advisory committee.”  Myung Yi was vice chairman to Pat Ennis who was chairman.  Pat told me in no uncertain terms that P.J. would fill up CLC and restore it fortunes.  Pat has since left CLC.  This advisory committee should have included individuals that were pro, neutral, and con regarding P.J. 

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Is BOE ceding authority to them? 

The Advisory Committee does not have authority.  They have been tasked to provide counsel and recommendations to PJ and the BoE. 

Comment:  The elders may “have authority” but they are not using it.  It appears they have capitulated to P.J.’s demands and the “counsel and recommendations” of the Advisory Committee.  We will find out on Sunday. 

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Role of the Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) 

What specific concerns did the FAC raise that the BOE didn’t previously consider? 

The FAC raised significant concerns with the elders’ decision making process. Specifically, not inviting their counsel in such an employment decision with such significant financial implications especially given the church’s current financial position - the very counsel they are chartered as a committee to provide the elders. 

Comment: The conflicts were so deep and the disagreement so great, the elders decided they needed to replace P.J.  According to the question above, the elders didn’t even consider the financial impact upon the church.  That is a good thing if your reasons for dismissing a man from ministry are just and compelling.  I believe the men on the FAC should have been informed and persuaded by the elders that the decision was necessary even though it could have “significant financial implications.”  Any church wants to avoid closing its doors, but it can’t try to keep them open through ungodly compromise.  That has been the fundamental problem with the CLC pastors since we met with C.J. (not P.J.) in August 2004.  They failed to hold him accountable as promised.  See Response Regarding Friendship & Doctrine, pages 7-28.    

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Did intervention of the FAC and other lay leaders violate the Constitution? 

No. The FAC simply counseled the elders in accordance with their charter. Any authoritative decisions were made by the elders in accordance with the constitution with no other parties present. 

Comment: The Financial Advisory Committee put huge pressure on the elders to reverse their decision.  They told the elders CLC would collapse and close its doors within a year if P.J. was removed.     

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How and why was the FAC given access to this info before the congregation? 

The FAC was made aware of the elders’ decision on Saturday April 28, the same day an email was sent to the church indicating a significant announcement the next day.  Our standard operating procedure is to review any employment related issues with the Financial Advisory Committee in advance of making final decisions.  In hindsight, the FAC should actually have been brought into these issues earlier than they were. 

Did the elders change their mind because the members of the FAC are some of the biggest financial contributors to the church? 

The elders do not know how much an individual contributes to the church financially, including the members of the FAC.  Their counsel is weighty due to their wisdom and expertise on financial matters and their demonstrated commitment to Christ and Covenant Life Church. 

Comment: The elders changed their mind because they were put under extraordinary pressure by these wealthy and influential men whose concerns were pragmatic.  There is no chance of survival without their support and the support of the five men on the Advisory Committee.    

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Preaching 

Why has PJ not preached since March?

The preaching plan set up several months ago had PJ preaching regularly during the FORTY series in January, February and early March then taking a break for much of March and April.  The preaching schedule basically followed that established plan, with one or two exceptions.  Then in late April and May PJ did not preach in light of the decision to part ways and the process that has followed.

Comment: P.J. last preached 14 weeks ago on March 4. 

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How many times is he expected to preach annually? 

The job description states that the LP will preach between 25-35 times per year. 

Comment: Which is low for lead pastors.  That’s because P.J. plans to travel the world for his Advance movement of churches.  He heads up the organization as the Global Team leader.  For example, the last two weeks he led the UK Elders and Wives gathering on May 25-26 in England and the Leaders That Last conference on May 30-June 2 in South Africa.  P.J. has always planned for CLC to be his base of operations for his global enterprise.   

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What is PJ’s relationship with the Preaching Team? 

PJ has been actively involved in the preaching team throughout his tenure.  He has brought ideas for preaching series to this team for initial feedback before presenting it to the rest of the elders and he has invited the team’s input before and after preaching (as other preachers do). 

Comment: This answer is misleading.  The elders don’t explain the problem many of them had with P.J.’s preaching being too topical rather than expositional.  This was a source of conflict and disagreement.  People have also expressed concern for a lack of exegetical skill and doctrinal depth in P.J.’s preaching. 

I predict P.J. will stay and get his way.  He is like his father, John Smyth, who was a renowned evangelical leader in the United Kingdom, Zimbabwe and South Africa.  P.J. learned the cunning art of deceitful leadership from his perverse father.  In fact, before he was exposed in February 2017, P.J. highly commended his father on the CLC blog as a “primary shaping spiritual influence” who “instilled in him a love for God’s Word and for leadership” even though he knew all the evil his father had committed.