Introduction to “An Open Letter to Pastor Charles Wetherbee.”
Jerry D. Kaifetz, Ph.D., Weatherford, Texas
March 30, 2013
On Saturday November 3, 2012 Pastor Wetherbee came to our house and made it very clear to me that he would rather we found another church. He was my pastor, a close friend and fellow preacher. Gwen and I have not been to Victory since, and we have no intention of ever returning. We were devastated by our pastor’s actions toward us, and also very confused as to the reasons that we have been given for them. This the account of the events of that day, what led to it, and what they have wrought in our lives. This letter is designed to introduce the letter I wrote Pastor Wetherbee concerning these events and others in the church which I am presenting below as an open letter.
We came to Victory badly needing a loving church. Although we were graciously welcomed by the people, that was all overturned for us on November 3rd. In the end, it was made clear to us that we were not welcome at Victory. I am neither naïve nor stupid. I know what Pastor Wetherbee communicated to me on that day in clear and unmistakable terms. For him or anyone else to pretend otherwise is both an insult to my intelligence and a moral travesty of significant proportion for any Christian, let alone a pastor. The following open letter to Pastor Wetherbee is an account of what transpired in that meeting, and my case for the personal responsibility that Pastor Charles Wetherbee bore in the events surrounding his making known to us that it was his desire that we leave Victory Baptist Church. Any denials of that intention by Pastor Wetherbee or anyone else are patently and demonstrably false. I did not misunderstand anything or anyone. I have never been more certain of anything in my life.
The letter that follows was sent by registered mail to Pastor Wetherbee on March 18, 2013. He has not responded, and I do not believe he has any intention of responding. He is the pastor. He is the man who stands in the pulpit. He has total authority at Victory, and I am convinced that he does not believe that any member or former member’s biblical grievances are worthy of holding him accountable in any way. he is, in my opinion (and I hold two degrees in Pastoral Theology) a hireling and a careerist, not a new testament shepherd. This goes for some former staff as well who now see the man as I do. I went from a position of complete faith, love, trust and respect for this man to mistrust, disrespect and a feeling of personal betrayal unprecedented in my thirty years as a Christian; this took place in a matter of fourteen months and culminated on November 3rd, 2012. None of this is imagined or misconstrued in any way. Some have and will call it “gossip,” but when challenged, none of them can define “gossip” biblically or tell me why I am not entitled to take my grievances “to the church,” as I am entitled to do under Matthew 18. Charles Wetherbee would have none of this, hence these actions.
The open letter that follows is being sent to you for the following reasons: It is my attempt following much prayer and counsel with several pastors over a five month period to turn up the light on a man whom I believe has portrayed himself to the church as someone other than whom I have found him to be in my personal and professional judgment as an ordained minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for thirty years.
· I have found a significant number of former church members, including former staff members who have greatly helped to shed light on these sad observations while at Victory and who concur completely that my former, once beloved pastor has and will push anyone under the bus who does not present themselves as 100% supportive and compliant to his authority. The length of one’s friendship, the support that the Wetherbees have received (financial and otherwise) and even family ties have not risen to the level of safeguarding anyone who challenges the authority of Pastor Charles Wetherbe consciously or otherwise. Apparently making constructive suggestions on how to improve the church, having been asked to do so, was seen as a challenge to the pastor’s authority.
· I have written three books on churches and studied church management, church polity and biblical pastoral authority on the highest academic levels, produced blog articles and videos on the subject, and I can unequivocally state that Victory Baptist Church has not and does not reflect the biblical model of New Testament church governance in several important ways. (See the links below)
· I have no present intention of going beyond this letter. My options, however, will remain open. Victory Baptist Church is an Independent New Testament Church, and as such it is not my desire to do anything else other than to present the church with the facts of a very important matter concerning the church’s pastor. What course of action the church decides to take beyond that, if any, in light of the sovereignty of the church, is of little interest to me. What is of interest to me is the truth, and I do not believe that Pastor Wetherbee has presented himself truthfully to Victory Baptist Church, highly skilled and polished as he is in that presentation. Do not be fooled. This man runs the church and has compelling personal incentive to maintain his complete authority in that endeavor. This is the time to examine evidence, not to choose up sides. (Sadly, Baptist churches seem perpetually inclined toward the later.) I have a biblical obligation to “pursue righteousness;” I have studied that term most carefully, and I believe that I am 100% biblically justified in my public efforts to hold Charles Wetherbee and his church accountable to that standard. Not one person from VBC or elsewhere has demonstrated anything to the contrary to me.
· This letter is not an “attack,” as some will surely characterize it. It is not an attempt to “sow discord among the brethren.” It is simply an expression of my right under clear and compelling biblical protocols to challenge another Christian on the basis of my honest perceptions of his biblical qualifications for the office of pastor pursuant to the manner in which he has treated other Christians in the church. Read and you will see, unless you are “a respecter of persons” and place any and all pastoral criticism beyond the scope of acceptable Christian behavior. (This in fact describes Victory Baptist Church quite accurately.) If you are guided by pastoral loyalty rather than biblical admonition, you should stop reading now.
· Over twenty families and members have left the church in the last two years, (2010, 2011) and perhaps as many as thirty. Many have serious issues with Pastor Wetherbee and remain unreconciled with him to this day. This, is in my personal view untenable for any Christian, much less a pastor. God has made it plain to us all that we have been entrusted with “the ministry of reconciliation.” (II Co. 5:18). How shall we reconcile a lost world to the Savior when we fail daily in reconciling with each other? Again, the church is a sovereign body and the ultimate call on this and other issues is yours. God’s agenda for His people is reconciliation. Pastor Wetherbee has rejected that biblical directive here.
Pursuant to having it made plainly known to me that Pastor Wetherbee wanted me out of Victory (I will always maintain that his claims to the contrary are patently and demonstrably false, a part of his ruse to maintain power and protect his lucrative retirement) other things have come to my attention that would have disqualified Pastor Wetherbee as a pastor for me personally. Chief among these is the handling of an alleged adulterous affair by Jason Wetherbee, and Pastor Wetherbee subsequently putting him in the pulpit to preach and on the platform to sing. Following months of research, I have gathered compelling information provided to me by knowledgeable sources close to Jason detailing this issue based on their dealings with the parties involved, including a sermon by Jason referencing this issue repeatedly. I will provide that information only to representative members of the deacon board, should they wish to know for the right reasons. In addition, I have a link to a sermon Jason preached where he clearly and unmistakably blames God for his past. I know this is nearly impossible to believe, but anyone is free to listen for themselves and draw their own conclusions. (Link provided below.)
Since leaving, I have also come to the understanding that the total compensation packages of the pastor and staff are twice the national average for churches the size of Victory. Pastor Wetherbee, from what I have been told by sources close to the church, receives a total compensation package of over $100,000 yearly. I know the hours he keeps, because we are neighbors. They are not impressive. I believe that the pastor should be the hardest working man in any church. From what I have seen, the opposite of that is far closer to the truth. This man comes and goes as he pleases and takes a vacation every few weeks. I do not believe that any pastor should live far above the lifestyle of church members. The office of pastor was never intended by God to enable a lavish lifestyle for any man, or to enrich those holding that office. I have been in his home many times and can attest to that lifestyle and personal schedule. Once again, this is the church’s call, of course. The staff receives exceedingly generous compensation packages as well (like the pastor, around twice the national average.) They have much to risk by giving any credibility to a position such as mine regarding their boss, and as such I do not expect a fair and biblical arbitration of from them. That is human nature. I support that view by simply pointing out that they have been part and parcel of my shunning (a practice that absent biblical ground as in my case is patently contrary to the Bible) since leaving the church (Galatians 6:1). It is human nature for people to protect their livelihood. The high salaries of the church pastoral staff has a lot to do with the heavy emphasis on stewardship, which at Victory is FAR out of all proportion that Bible establishes for this concept. Look for yourselves. The missions and educational emphases of the church remain commendable, even though they give a mere $100 a month to the missionaries they support.
Then there was the inexplicable issue of the Jewish Heritage Ministry at Victory. As most of you know I was born and raised in the Jewish faith. I was Bar Mitzvah’d on September 2, 1961 at Temple Beth Israel and trained by a great Rabbi, Rabbi Sol Oster. I studied Hebrew and Judaism for many years. I have been to Israel. I looked forward to having a meaningful role in this ministry at Victory. I soon became puzzled to hear that in all the years of this ministry at the church, there had not been ONE convert! I have always been a results oriented person, and so I came to the belief that one of the reasons God had led me to Victory was to network with the Jewish community in Ft. Worth and bring some of these people into the orbit of the church through the Jewish ministry. Instead, I found that the leadership of the group was perfectly content to be 100% fruitless year after year after year and to use me to “put a Jewish faith on the ministry(their words).” I spoke at a few of these meetings and tried to bring the Spirit of God to bear on the status quo with some impassioned preaching, which I was pleased to find very well received by the people. My efforts, however, were ultimately seen as meddling. I was viewed as not being a “team player,” and ultimately a very critical and demeaning letter was sent to me condemning my spirit and my contributions to the group by a member of the church staff. I thought that without a doubt, Pastor Wetherbee would share my view and ask me how we could get Jewish converts. He did not. Instead he came down squarely in favor of the fruitless status quo and told me that like the church itself , the Jewish Ministry was “not a good fit for you.” I was dumbfounded. I have always had a passion for witnessing to Jews. I AM a Jew. Jews relate to other Jews and greatly value formal education, so the fact that there happens to be a “Ph.D.” after my name has always given me opportunity and credibility in witnessing to Jews. I have spent many years honing a Gospel presentation just for Jews. It works! You can see it on my YouTube channel. Sadly, none of that mattered. My crime was being unwilling to accept fruitlessness and that was seen as an unacceptable challenge to the status quo at Victory, and apparently to Wetherbee’s authority and control . I have found this to be the GREAT sin at Victory Baptist Church. Pastor Wetherbee told me to my face once: “The men in my pulpit have to reflect me.” (I was always under the impression that a man in the pulpit was supposed to reflect Jesus Christ.)
I am also the author of a successful book for Christian teens: “World Class Truth—Bible Principles in Sports and Adventure.”(See video link below) I was a professional skier before coming to Christ in 1983 and raced all over the world. I competed for 15 years as an amateur and three years as a professional. I trained with several national teams in Europe as well as top professionals under Henri Duvilar. This part of my life along with this book has led to success in reaching Christian young people since it was first published in 1989. After fourteen months at Victory, I was at a loss to understand why this successful book was not used in the youth ministry of the church. Neither was I able to come to an understanding as to why I was not ever used in that ministry. I have never seen the inside of the youth building. I have a good track record with Christian youth and once was featured in a national youth conference with 3,000 teens in attendance.
The other issue that I have with Pastor Wetherbee concerns a phrase that I have heard him use again and again. It is a phrase that I had never heard before coming from a pastor. I have even heard it in the expression of his prayers. He often prays for “the liberty to preach.” I was very confused when I first heard him use that term. I honestly did not know what he meant, so I asked him. What he told me stopped me in my tracks: he said it was all about the church “allowing” him to preach on subjects that may be offensive or challenging to some of them. I was stunned! I didn’t remember Elijah ever praying that prayer, or John the Baptist, or Daniel, or Jeremiah, or Isaiah. I simply didn’t know what to say. Only the respect I had for his office and our personal friendship kept me from saying what was burning in my heart: “Maybe you ought to just have the courage preach against all sins and worry about pleasing God instead of ruffling feathers in the church.”
I have nothing to hide in all of this. My life is an open book, literally thirteen of them. I was committed to conducting myself in a Christ-honoring way at Victory since we joined the first Sunday we came in September of 2011, and in fact since I was saved in 1983. I believe that my conduct, service, and participation as a church member were without reproach, something that the pastor confirmed to me when he visited me that Saturday, November 3rd. You will see much of this in the open letter letting him know how Gwen and I have been devastated by his actions toward us, and how this experience has impacted us in such a profound and painful way to the point of even our health being affected for a time. We never expected this from our church, and I certainly never, ever, ever expected that from a man whom I considered to be such a close and trusted friend and fellow preacher.
Now Pastor Wetherbee has said from the pulpit, I am told, that “there are two sides to every story.” In the context of that expression, it is clear that he was speaking of me. If he has a side to this story that is different from what I have attributed to him, I believe that I am entitled to hear it. I think that the enclosed letter of recommendation that he wrote for me days before the Nov. 3rd incident attests to my standing with him, with the church, and with the Lord Jesus Christ. (See link below) I believe that as a Christian, I have the right to defend my name. I also am not naive enough to fail to understand that when I do, he and probably his staff will paint me as a person “sowing discord among the brethren.” When a pastor paints a church member in this way, that has always meant to me that the individual is being labeled intentionally for less than honorable or biblical purposes. Other common, defensive and unsupportable labels often used are, “bitter,” “angry,” and the like. No man can look into my heart. If anyone could, they would see no bitterness or anger there; just a desire to shine the light of Jesus Christ and bring out His truth. Please do not listen to gossip about me. If you Google my name, you will find many hours of reading and viewing available to you that will allow you to decide for yourself who I am. There is no lack of information about me all over the Internet.
This letter is then about one thing: shining the light and letting the light reveal what is there. It is written from a very sincere heart in the spirit of truth and rests upon the foundation Matthew 18: the Christian’s right to “take it to the church.” I am 100% certain that one of two things will now happen: either my shunning by Victory Baptist Church will continue, or I will be labeled, vilified and personal motives will be attributed to me that nobody but God and I could possibly know; probably all of the above. My conscience is clear and my motives are pure. This church dynamic is something that is often subtly expressed by experienced pastors unused to being challenged: “Pray for Brother Kaifetz. He has had problems in churches before . . . . etc. etc.” For the record, I have challenged the very worst of sins and their cover-up in several churches: adultery, fornication, homosexuality, incest, child molestation, brawling, the public betrayal of pastoral confidentiality, embezzlement, child rape, participation in pornography, Christians going to court against one another, and even murder, just to name a few. I have never apologized for my actions, and I never will. This has not, however, stopped some pastors from attempting to marginalize me to justify themselves. If your pastor chooses to ally himself with those men, as Charles Wetherbee has done, that is their choice. That is a dark place to live.
Pastor Wetherbee has been around long enough to know how to deal with this letter. He will likely make this a referendum about himself and play on the sympathies and loyalty of the church. By that I mean that he will exaggerate and recast my charges against him to be a complete personal indictment. People in the position in which he will find himself will defend themselves against charges that have not been made and characterize the rest of them as an “attack” by a “disgruntled” former church member. He will deny everything that I have said, and try to make the issue about me while obscuring the facts under a swirl of emotions as he solicits the sympathy and support of the church. Often others join in and publicly support the man accused under a flood of praise that is only designed to obscure the individual charges that I do not believe he can meet head on. He may also try to ignore the entire matter.
If you choose to read what follows, I hope that you will do so in the spirit of honesty, not being a respecter of persons, and hopefully trusting in the honesty of my motives until they are openly proven to be untrustworthy. I love the Lord Jesus Christ with every fiber of my being, and have dedicated thirty years of my life to the study of His word, His church, and to winning precious souls to Jesus Christ. My testimony has gone all over the world, and I am still blessed and inexpressibly honored to be sharing it in churches and with many thousands of people around the world every month. I have taught my personal method and style of soul winning to over a thousand pastors, something I was never asked to do at Victory.
If you are of the belief that loyalty to your pastor precludes any criticism directed toward him or the church, then the open letter below is NOT for you. You should not read it. Feel free to give your pastor whatever authority over you he desires to have, regardless of what you decide to call it. Let him think for you.
Thank you, some of you, for your love and friendship in our fourteen months at Victory. Gwen and I know that we still have a few friends there who have not been a part of our shunning, and who have reached out to us through this painful and confusing episode in our lives. We are doing much better now. God has blessed us in many, many ways, and we thank Him often from a heart overflowing with inexpressible gratitude and love. God has seen fit in His great mercy and outpouring of divine grace to always compensate us for the many hurtful things that have come into our lives over the years at the hands of Christians and churches. No amount of thanks toward God expressed often and with tears can adequately express how blessed we feel today. Sadly, this has all come about not through our pastor, but in spite of him; not through our church but in spite of our church. Three area pastors and their churches have reached out to us in the last few months and been used of God in our healing. God is good. We will never attend a corporate church again, but God is using us in ways that are pervasive and powerful. We are in the midst of GENUINE revival and reaching upwards of 10,000 people a month beyond that.
Links & References:
Pastor Wetherbee’s letter of recommendation:
Video on Pastoral Authority:
World Class Truth
Video on “How to Disagree in Church:”
Blog articles on Pastoral Authority:
YouTube Video “Profaned Pulpit:”
Profaned Pulpit on Amazon Books
My Testimony on Unshackled:
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brc0rrQ87KM
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LR2d5YEO8vQ
CERTIFIED MAIL: No. 7011 0470 0003 0770 4052
Dr. Jerry Kaifetz
March 18, 2013
I am providing you with this letter in order to establish exactly what I have against you (“thy brother hath ought against thee;”) and to give you the opportunity to address these issues and give an account for you actions with respect to us leaving Victory Baptist Church and your role in that event. These are the facts concerning the deterioration and ultimate collapse of our relationship. You and I are unreconciled, yet several times each week you stand in a pulpit and present yourself as a man who leads a church commissioned by God as a “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). You pray often in spite of God’s injunction against your prayers when you have unresolved issues with another brother concerning which you have not sought redress.
More for the record than for any other reason, I will here set in order the issues that I have against you, and the details of your failure as the pastor of a New testament church. It is unlikely that you will accept this, but my cause against you is biblical and not personal. I will make that case here for you now in a clear, factual, biblical and objective manner based on the Matthew 18 principle in our Bibles. I do this this in spite of the fact that I have never know you to follow this important scriptural protocol for dealing with conflict among Christians in church, especially the many, many conflicts in which you have been personally involved. You have consistently wielded unilateral, political church influence to frame the dozens of instances of good people leaving Victory Baptist Church and failed to honor the biblical protocols for dealing with interpersonal issues with these church members. (Some 20+ families in recent months alone.)
Please understand as well that as Christians, we are impinged upon by God to not come to Him in prayer with unresolved conflict with another Christian looming in the background of our lives (See Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew 5 at the conclusion of this letter.)
Let us understand as well that every Christian is solidly within his or her rights to lay claim to the directive of Matthew 18. I am choosing here in accord to that biblical protocol to come to you first, but I in no way have any intention to take the Matthew 18 option off the table, nor should I. For now, that decision is more in your hands than mine. You have undoubtedly been able to handle situations such as ours in the past through a political process within the church over which you have maintained 100% control, thereby presenting your version alone. I have heard some of these stories from another perspective, and that picture has at times not been a flattering one to you, let alone a reflection of an honest presentation on your part. My belief is that God wants all Christians to be accountable, especially Christian leaders. You would be quite wrong to view this as a threat, although I do not personally believe that you know of any other way to view anyone who disagrees with you. That is just the kind of pastor that I have sadly come to believe you are. Those who support your style of church governance are most always those who have the most to gain.
I have decided upon six individuals to whom I will go for advice and perspective in this matter of my issues with you. Two are out of state and four are local. Most are pastors. I will take what they have to say seriously, although I require from them a solid, detailed and specific biblical underpinning for their positions, regardless of what they may be. Please understand that I will do anything and everything necessary to assure that when God looks upon our broken relationship that He will understand that I have done everything within my power to seek and achieve the reconciliation and the peace that He has made abundantly clear that He desires (II Co. 5:18). There is no bitterness on my part, no desire to “sow discord among the brethren,” and no desire to do anything other than to give an accurate account of what I have seen transpire between us and can fully document. This effort will not fail for a lack of effort on my part. I am fully within the dictates of Scripture here, but I will remain open to any well supported thoughts to the contrary.
We had come to VBC as visitors for around 15 years. We had been making regular visits to the area during those years to visit family. We had come out of the most abusive church in the history of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Movement, First Baptist Church of Hammond. Three books, two documentaries, and countless published articles, indictments, convictions and prison sentences bear testimony to this.
It was always refreshing to come to Weatherford and visit Victory. We had immense faith in Victory, in the leadership, and in the people. We had been at ground zero of a historic war in Fundamentalism, as you well know. My wife had been experiencing nightmares for 24 years as a result of the abuse, control, manipulation and life-crushing expectations of Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches. Here is a partial list of what we have endured in churches since 1989:
· My second pastor of seven years had an affair with his secretary and was devoid of any aspect of a marital relationship with his wife for twenty-five years. Neither loved the other. His name was Jack Hyles.
· My favorite professor in Bible college is serving a life sentence in a Tennessee prison for indescribable physical and sexual abuse of his adopted daughter. So is his wife. His name is Joe Combs.
· A deacon in a former church was convicted of child molestation in the church. That church stood by him in spite of his conviction and imprisonment, refusing all support for the victim or her family. He was kept on the deacon board and the Board of Trustees of the church’s schools the whole time he was in prison. That Deacon was A.V. Ballenger.
· In my next church, the pastor’s son was arrested on a sex charge with an underage girl. When I went to the pastor with another man and put the son’s police report on his desk, we were thrown out of the church. The son’s name was Andy Beith. The pastor was his father, William Beith who himself would later be arrested on sex charges making the front page of the paper. That same man was later confronted leaving an X-rated movie theater by a local evangelist.
· One pastor of mine was arrested for soliciting a male undercover policeman for oral sex in a public park.
· In one church to which we belonged, the pastor’s son became the principal of the church’s Christian School, and in that capacity kidnapped an eleven year old female student and fled. He was captured by the FBI many states away and arrested, convicted of sex crimes, and sentenced to fifteen years in federal prison.
· One former church had a full-length documentary produced by a major television network detailing their legacy of abuse and cultish nature. That film was called “Preying From the Pulpit.”
· Another pastor of mine was featured nationally in a documentary on the ABC 20/20 Program dedicated to abusive pastors. This was the second pastor from that church to be featured on a national broadcast on the topic of abuse in the church. His name was Jack Schaap. The previous pastor, Jack Hyles, was featured on the network news show, “A Current Affair” where he was interviewed by Maury Pauvich after the disclosure of a well known affair.
· Yet another pastor of mine was excommunicated from the church he had founded and sacrificed to build when he chose to expose an adulterous member of the staff. The man leading that charge was the new pastor, Phillip Owens of Santee, California, the former pastor’s son.
· This son had a brother who was also a pastor, Paul Owens of Ramona, California. When his pastor-father came to him to ask him why he supported his brother in excommunicating his father, this retired eighty year old pastor was physically assaulted by his son in the son’s church after a Sunday service.
· One of my former pastor’s grown sons was known to advertise in a porn magazine for group sex involving with his wife. These ads included photos of his wife performing sex acts. That man was Dave Hyles.
· One associate pastor in a large church we were in had an adulterous affair with my best friend’s wife. He was sent off to another church in another state, where he did the same thing. He then left for yet another state to pastor where he has continued this lifestyle, which I believe continues to this day almost thirty years later.
· Several teachers in the Bible college I attended were caught in affairs. None were dismissed or underwent church disciple in any way. When their wives came to the pastor for counseling, they were all asked the same question: “What do you suppose you did to drive your husband to that?”
· A woman came to me in 2010 and told me that in her Sunday School class in which she taught the wives of staff men in a large church, 90% came to her and told her that their husbands had had affairs.
· Another pastor came to my door late one night as I was in my living room with several of my close friends from his church. Behind him was a line of over twenty deacons lined up to the sidewalk. The pastor told me that he had heard that my friends and I were there to talk about the church and that they wanted to know what was being said, demanding to be let in.
· One Sunday in another church we attended, a knock-down, drag-out brawl erupted during the auditorium Sunday School class between the pastor and his son-in-law after the son-in-law called his wife “a whore” in front of her father. The men in the class had to separate the two bloodied men.
· We left two other churches over less egregious matters involving simply the clear domination of church politics over principles of righteousness and biblical church polity.
When we came to Victory in September of 2011, our faith in the church had already been established. This was in itself a miracle of inexpressible proportion. I drew immeasurable comfort from you the day that you said to me that you felt a duty to show us that Victory could be an experience of healing and comfort for Gwen and for me in atmosphere of love. Those words of yours were refreshing waters on parched ground. Fourteen months later, you had not only failed to deliver on that promise personally and as a church, but you had added abuse, disrespect, injury, pain and betrayal of trust on a level that Gwen and I had never before known in spite of our tragic church experiences of 22 years. This inexpressibly painful episode, engineered and carried out by you, left us crushed, and for the first time, our health began to be affected. We considered giving up on church altogether. It is truly a miracle of the Lord that we have not.
We had sold our home in Indiana and moved to Weatherford, principally to be a part of Victory Baptist Church. We had a sizable property which was difficult to sell in the market of that time. Wanting more and more to be a part of Victory, we made the decision to leave a six figure sum on the table in order to make possible the relocation of a thousand miles to Weatherford. We joined Victory the first Sunday we were there. We felt on that day as if we were in the epicenter of God’s will for our lives. Again and again and again I was told by you, the entire church staff, and many others that Victory was going to be a wonderful church home and that there was every intention for me to be greatly used there. You yourself told me repeatedly that you were only waiting for us to finish the process of settling in so that I could be free to concentrate on being greatly used by the church. That never came to pass. The reasons that personally gave me when questioned as to why were the following:
· “You have too much energy.”
· “The people here will never accept you.”
· “The men in my pulpit have to reflect me.”
· “Brother Kaifetz, you are a race horse, and you can’t hook a race horse up to a plow.” (Bro. Stewart)
We bought a house on the same street as you and Shelley, just a few doors down. I personally believed this to be providential. We began to enjoy the church greatly. My wife and I had not been in church together in a long time. I had all but stopped going, maintaining only my bare responsibility as a Christian to “not [permanently] forsake” assembling myself with other Christians (Hebrews 10:25, implications of Greek tense added) .
You and I became very good friends. We rode motorcycles together most every week. We were in your home regularly and you in ours. I felt like I had been greatly blessed to have found not just a wonderful pastor, but a very dear friend and fellow preacher as well. Again, and again, and again, I was told how wonderful it was to have us at Victory and how much I would be used of God there. Brother Stuart regularly chimed in on a weekly basis with that refrain, as did Bro. Hamilton. This was repeated to me often throughout late 2011 and well into 2012.
You asked me to give my testimony in the church’s biggest event of the year, the Stewardship Banquet just a month or so after our arrival. You and countless others related to me that I had done an excellent job. I was later asked to speak in the Jewish Heritage Group, the High School Chapel, the grade school chapel, a men’s Breakfast and on at least two occasions you asked me to teach your auditorium Sunday School Class in your absence. In each and every case, the many comments that you and I both heard went substantially beyond a simply modest and courteous praise.
Before long, I began to get restless in what had seemed to be my ongoing church role as a pew-warmer. I also began to observe that the steady diet of devotional preaching at Victory was not feeding me, my wife, or other seasoned Christians who pointed out to me that they sure would like to see less of it and more expository preaching with core Bible teaching and not just biblical flavoring.
Once on a motorcycle ride to Granbury, you asked me if there was anything that I saw in the church that I thought could be improved. We had only been there a few months, and so I declined to answer. Nearly a year later I asked you if I could have a conversation with you. I did this for three reasons: 1.) I thought that the door was still open to answer the question that you had asked me in Granbury; 2.) I had heard you lament on several occasions that the church’s response to invitations was disappointing; 3.) I knew exactly why people were not responding to invitations as a pastor would want.
I had already had one conversation with Bro. Stewart in which I had let him know that God had not called me to warm a pew, and that after fourteen months of it, I was beginning to experience some frustration. His response was , “Brother Kaifetz, you are a racehorse! We can’t hook a racehorse up to a plow!” I left with the feeling that I was in the middle of a political game and that what I was getting was church tactics and not honest answers of transparency from those from whom I expected candor and straight answers. I began to strongly suspect that there were personal reasons why you did not want to use me at Victory. Today, I have no doubt as to the accuracy of that initial assumption. My conclusions beyond those estimations would not be personally flattering to you.
Soon I invited you over and we discussed invitations. I told you that in my opinion, invitations that are far too general always elicit a lower level of response. I had written down the phrase of invitation that you had used the last five services: “If God has spoken to you somewhere along the way, you come.” I tried as respectfully as I knew how to share with you that in every Bible College and seminary class that I had ever had, including on the doctoral level, that preachers were always taught to make their invitations specific and focused. I could tell that my advice, put as humbly and respectfully as I possibly knew how, much prayed over, and coming from a friend, fellow-preacher, and a man whom you knew appreciated and respected you, was falling on deaf ears. The meeting ended on what I consider to be a tense note in spite of my having done everything that I new how to do to keep from having that happen. I could see that you were not a man who was in the habit of taking advice seriously from anyone. Others who knew you and have worked for you would later echo that sentiment.
That week, I realized that I would not be able to be faithful to my calling from God while a member of Victory Baptist Church. I also you knew that this was your clear and orchestrated intention. My testimony on the Unshackled Radio Program had been heard in 37 countries by as many as three million people and translated into a number of other languages, yet it was never shared with the people at Victory. I am the author of twelve books, three with major publishers, yet for over a year, none of my books were ever mentioned, promoted, or made available in the church bookstore. I was academically qualified, with a B.S. and a Th.M. in Pastoral Theology, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy in Religion, yet never asked to teach anywhere.
Then I wrote another book while at Victory: “Profaned Pulpit—The Jack Schaap Story.” I pointed out to you that you were in close association with men who had wholeheartedly supported this inexpressibly corrupt and immoral megachurch pastor, Jack Schaap for years. These men had preached at Victory. They taught Victory’s preachers in training. You had gone to these men’s conferences where Jack Schaap was heralded in spite of his heretical and blasphemous teachings (the Lord’s Supper is having sex with Jesus, family demons cause men to be adulterous, etc.). I felt led of the Lord to make reference to this kind of thing in my book, although out of respect for you, I chose not to name the names of your culpable associates. Again, out of respect for my you, I gave you a pre-publication edition of the book and asked you to read it. You read it in less than day and then we met for dinner at The Mesquite Pit. You told me you thought it was “a good book.” You even suggested that I add another chapter to warn good churches on how to avoid becoming like First Baptist Church of Hammond. I did just that. Unfortunately, this book in fact scared you. I have not a shred of doubt concerning that conclusion; it has been reinforced by people who know you and have worked with you in the ministry. Your style of church management and polity has, I am so sorry to say, elements of commonality with what I have described in my books on churches as a “vertical church polity;” that is, from the pulpit down with no consideration of anyone’s Christian liberty to disagree with you without consequence.
If you will read the reviews of “Profaned Pulpit” on Amazon Books by pastors and victims of those abuses, you will see that this book has been blessed of God. Now, brother, your positive comments notwithstanding, it is my considered opinion that you were were ultimately very uncomfortable and even threatened with the publication of this book and that it was instrumental in paving the way for me to be ushered out of Victory Baptist Church. I have not the slightest doubt as to the accuracy of that statement. That was your intention and your doing.
You then wrote me a glowing letter of recommendation upon my request . I reasoned that if I was not going to be used at Victory (and it was abundantly and powerfully clear to me that I was not), then I wanted at least to get out to other churches in order to be faithful to my calling of God to preach the Gospel of Christ and to edify believers through sound doctrine and good, expository Bible preaching. The letter that you wrote on my behalf, as you know, was an unconditional endorsement. That letter will forever keep you from pointing to any shortcoming you may claim to have perceived as the basis of keeping me out of the pulpit at Victory Baptist Church. I am including a copy of that letter as a reminder of your unconditional endorsement just days before our leaving.
The following week I again asked you once again to drop by. You came over and we sat down on our back patio. As you sat reclined in a patio chair, never removing your dark aviator-style sunglasses, what transpired in that meeting ended my friendship with you and led my wife and I to leave Victory Baptist Church. This was a devastating experience for us that led to a major fracture in my relationship with Gwen’s family. You will never know the distress that this has brought to Gwen, nor do I believe that even something like rises for you above the dictates of church politics. I just don’t think that you care. Your actions have made that plain. I have learned that I am not the first close friend and brother in Christ who has been severed from your life and become the victim of your style of pastoral management and church leadership.
Then the subject of xxxxxxxxxxxx came up. Gwen and I could not listen to Bro. xxxxxxxxxxxxx preach. He was what thousands of IFB abuse survivors call a “trigger.” Gwen had decided to trust me and the faith that I had developed in you in the year that we had been at Victory. That was anything but an easy task for her. People with our background will have a visceral and tremendously unsettling response to a man like xxxxxxxxxxxx who exhibits inn the pulpit what we have come to call the “Fundamentalist Swagger.” I had put it to you in another way before, saying, “Once you have been in a train wreck, there is no such things as an enjoyable train ride.” You told me that you understood. As I listened to xxxxxxxxxxxxxx, far too many of these distasteful and unsettling memories of the “Fundamentalist Swagger” surfaced for me. I can only thank God that Gwen was in the nursery that service. She would have surely been greatly unsettled once again by this style of preaching and its total absence of humility.
That day on our patio, however, you made some demands of me that did not reflect anything resembling the understanding you had promised earlier. You said this to me: “I can’t have someone in church who is going to question my authority. I asked him [xxxxxxxxx] to preach, and I will probably do it again.” I was plainly and expressly told that to be a member of the church, or at least to be used there, I could not exercise my right to not support any preacher whom my pastor put in the pulpit, and that the impact on me and my wife were for you inconsequential. You made abundantly clear that I HAD to be there when he was brought to the pulpit. That was wholly unacceptable to me as a Christian and a member of a New Testament Church. That for me violated my Christian liberty, and was an unacceptable intrusion on my God-given duty to protect my wife. That was sadly of no concern to you whatsoever, and you made that plain. I only wanted her nightmares to end and to feel loved and secure in her new church. That seemed not to matter to you, no matter how I tried to get you to see our position and to understand the abuses we had faced in so many previous churches. In the end, you only heaped on more abuse.
I could not imagine my pastor saying anything to me that I would consider as biblically and personally unacceptable as this demand of unfettered support and loyalty that you had just made known to me was a requirement for being used at Victory. But you were not through. You then added the following: “The men in my pulpit have to reflect ME!” I was dumbfounded. I had spent hundreds of hours with you in the last fourteen months. I had befriended you as I had no brother in Christ in decades. I had spent several hundred dollars on a rare 1611 KJV Bible manuscript of the Romans chapter eight page to give you as a Christmas present in 2011. I had spend untold hours helping you around your house with all manner of projects and improvements that you lacked the skills to undertake. We had taken you out to dinner with your wife many times. I had tried in vain to influence you to eat in a more healthy manner and to think about a program of exercise, even inviting you to work out with me each week. You declined repeatedly, much to my disappointment, and your wife’s as well. In an instant, I saw that our friendship and your divinely ordained responsibilities to me as my shepherd and pastor and friend would take an immediate back seat to the dictates of church politics as an expression of your personal agenda for the church. I was dumbfounded. I had trusted, and I had once again seen that trust shattered and betrayed, this time in an even far greater way than all of the previous times because of the trust, friendship and love that I had extended to you. It has been months now, and Gwen and I are still devastated by our experience at Victory. We can only thank God for the small number people from Victory who have reached out, and for the local pastors who know our story through whom we have been blessed since being pushed out of Victory by you. For the most part, the traditional and well known Baptist practice of “shunning” has sadly been a reality for us since leaving the church.
You would think that we had reached the low point of our relationship with you and that things could not possibly get any worse. You would be wrong. I decided to ask you one last question that day on our patio: “You would rather I just left Victory Baptist Church now, wouldn’t you? Of all the things, words, expressions, and disappointment that reared their ugly head in the course of our time together that day, nothing for me will ever rise to the stunning level of offense that was inflicted by your response to that question. I want to be EXCEEDINGLY careful to be fair to the you in describing this. I want to make no assumptions, add no embellishments or frame this in anything other than a perfectly honest and detailed context. I also want to make it clear that I am not accusing you of verbally expressing the answer. All that being said, you made your answer as clear as if you had written a detailed answer in large, bold capital letters above your notarized signature.
When I asked you, Charles Wetherbee, if you would rather I left Victory Baptist Church, you did the following:
· You continued to lean far back in your chair.
· You had been slouched down low the whole time, never removing your dark green, aviator style sunglasses.
· Your hands were folded on your stomach.
· You then turned your wrists and extended your hands outward, keeping your elbows at your side.
· Your demonstrated a slight grin.
· You then noticeably shrugged your shoulders while showing the palms of your hands and then turned them upwards while still shrugging your shoulders.
Your body language was excruciatingly clear! (I hope that you will not further insult my intelligence by continuing to deny the obvious here.) It was then that I knew that there was nothing left to salvage in my relationship with my pastor or my church. Nevertheless, in my confusion, I thought I would still give it a try, as I had had so much faith in the church, and especially in you. We had made many friends there, or so we thought. Shelley and Gwen, as you know, were very close. Then my wife reminded me of two things, (something that in these situations usually works the other way around): 1.) It would be a major and untenable compromise to stay in a church I no longer believed in (a church where the pastor had made it abundantly clear to me that he did not want me there); 2.) The people there whom I thought were my friends would drop me like a hot potato the second I left. (This has turned out to be quite true with the exception of a small handful of people.) This is always the case in every Baptist Church. Baptists employ the same shunning dynamics as the Amish. The difference is that the Amish are honest enough to call it what it is, “shunning” and to tell the victim to their face. Baptists shun most everyone who leaves their church, and their code of silence and isolation toward those leaving precludes entirely any biblical foundation on which such action is supposed to be founded for Christians. In every Baptist church that I have ever been in, church politics and loyalty to the institution or its leader will always, always, always rise to a higher level than Scripture. (One member of V.B.C. did make a very misguided and unsound attempt to justify my shunning from a biblical perspective with some ridiculously general Scriptures, and one staff member wrote me a demeaning personal e-mail.) Everyone else just put it into practice.
In my fourteen months at Victory Baptist Church, as I patiently and anxiously awaited the opportunity to be faithful to my calling of God to minister to Christians, to preach the Word of God, and to put my shoulder to the wheel of church ministry, I made many, many suggestions concerning what I was able to contribute to the church. I will present here a partial list:
· I volunteered to be a substitute Sunday School Teacher. No response.
· I had taught a 16 week Creation Science Course in other churches that had always been very successful and resulted in much church growth. (I had been trained under Henry Morris at the institute for Creation Research.) I volunteered to teach that course at Victory. No response.
· I suggested a “Creation Minute” before every Wednesday or Sunday evening service, in which a list of meaningful and crucial issues concerning Creation would be addressed in 2-3 minutes. No response.
· I offered to lead a field trip in the local area to show people escarpments common to the local geology and to explain the important connection they have to the Genesis Flood. No response.
· I asked if my testimony featured as a radio drama on the Unshackled Radio Program could be played for the church on a Sunday evening. No response.
· I asked if I could be considered at some future point for a Sunday School class. No response.
· I asked if I could share my testimony with the youth group. No response.
· I was asked on a visit to VBC years ago to explain the SEO (search engine optimization) program that my company had implemented resulting in 1,700% growth in sales the first year. I did a presentation for the entire staff, telling them that the church website was a static “catalogue” website and had no traffic. I explained to them how my company had moved from page 25 of Google to page one, and the enormity of what that could mean if a church decided to take the steps that lead there. More recently I showed them the visible results of these efforts on my main ministry site showing over 15,000 hits in one month, and 1,000 of those people listening to my Unshackled testimony. No response.
· I suggested that the church set up a video studio to record the testimonies of church members for inclusion into a separate website that could be promoted locally the way I have done with my site, and how the same powerful results could be achieved. No response.
· I suggested a booth at First Mondays where I would deliver talks on Creation vs. Evolution and challenge the people to bring their best questions and their validations for Evolution. I have never failed to draw a crowd in doing this. This often draws substantial numbers of people, many of who will come to a church teaching on this subject. These are very often people who would not otherwise come to any church for whom Creation provides a valid path to faith. I have never seen less than 20% growth in these programs. No response.
· I have a close friend who is an attorney and a noted Christian author. His name is Voyle Glover. He wrote a book on how to protect a church from child predators. I offered the book to Pastor Wetherbee to read on several occasions. I also told him Mr. Glover would come to Victory if invited. No church is immune from these scandals, and pre-emptive measures and policies offer a tremendous legal bulwark if scandal comes. No response.
· I offered to provide some information on the dynamic and illuminating “Hydroplate Theory” that explains the science and dynamics of the Genesis Flood on a level that nothing ever has in Christian history. No response.
So you see, it became obvious to me that I was not going to be used at Victory. It is of course the pastor’s prerogative to use whom he chooses. My problem lies in the fact that there was never the slightest reason presented to me why there was obviously an orchestrated effort to keep me from fulfilling my calling from God in my church. I was qualified, trained, experienced, called, highly motivated and leading a separated Christian life that was for all intents and purposes beyond any reproach that had come my way from anyone in my church or beyond for thirty years. If there was a valid obstacle to my being used at Victory, it was never once made known to me. I have been in a wonderful Christian marriage for almost thirty years, had raised two children whose lives shined for the Lord. I had taught hundreds if not thousands of churches my evangelism course. (Never was I asked to do this at Victory.) Further, you well knew that I had always given God the fullest measure of praise and honor for the multitude of blessings in my life. We both know that neither you nor anyone in the church ever brought anything in my life contrary to that spirit in me to my attention.
After examining all the possible reasons for my having been sidelined, some reasons did begin to emerge through my counseling and discussions with other pastors. Even though there was a consistent thread throughout what these men shared with me, I will refrain from going into these reasons here as I understand that my framing of this subject is based on circumstantial elements, and this letter is not about personally diminishing you, other than what I believe is warranted in your role as pastor.
So I am giving you the opportunity to pursue a biblical resolution to our conflict. That is your personal choice. Personally, I don’t believe that you can be comfortable in dealing with these issues face to face with anyone with an open Bible between the two parties. I would welcome being proven wrong.
I have a great deal more that could be brought out. I have spent several months in the process of investigation, research and documentation using the considerable resources that are available to me. (I believe that you lied to the church about Jason’s adultery and put him in the pulpit at Victory after that offense.) That being said, I absolutely respect the sovereignty of the New testament Church. My intentions are honorable, sincere, as impersonal as one can from a human perspective make them, and most of all, they are biblical to a “T.” I challenge you or anyone to prove the contrary. I do not seek to make or impose any decision for you or for the church, now or in the future. What I do seek is accountability, respect and integrity. That has and will continue to be a matter of serious prayer for me. As you know, I am very, very bullish on accountability.
Many people have left Victory, and you have not had any difficulty in presenting these accounts to the church in a manner that suits your needs best. My belief is that in the end, God reveals to the world who people are. There is nothing veiled here. I hope you will not do me the further injustice of characterizing me as someone who has an axe to grind, or who has made a threat to you or the church. That characterization will not prevail. I promise you that. In the end, the believer’s right to claim his or her rights under Matthew 18 will prevail for any determined and sincere Christian who will not be marginalized or misrepresented. I reiterate once again: this is not a threat of any kind. It is simply a statement of fact. This is 2013, not 1990.
I now give you the opportunity to establish a path for reconciliation. I will only offer you this once. I have an inexpressibly strong belief that Christian leaders should be accountable for their actions. I am giving you the courtesy of coming to you first in the sincere hope that you will accept that opportunity. If you choose instead to misrepresent my motives or mischaracterize the biblical foundation of my actions as expressed in this letter, you will not succeed in that endeavor. I hope and I will be praying that you do not make the mistake of responding in that spirit. I have every intention of holding you accountable for the way in which you have treated me and my family. I have the resources, experience, and ability to do this on any level that I deem to be appropriate and just before God. The venue of choice and method is for now in your hands. If you choose to respond in a biblical way and leave behind the tactics of political church politics and manipulation, then there will in all probability be an honorable and just conclusion to these matters.
There is a path here that honors God. I hope and pray that together, we can find that path.
Matthew Henry on Matthew 5:21
IV. From all this it is here inferred, that we ought carefully to preserve Christian love and peace with our brethren, and that if at any time a breach happens, we should labour for a reconciliation, by confessing our fault, humbling ourselves to our brother, begging his pardon, and making restitution, or offering satisfaction for wrong done in word or deed, according as the nature of the thing is; and that we should do this quickly for two reasons:
1. Because, till this be done, we are utterly unfit for communion with God in holy ordinances, v. 23, 24. The case supposed is, “That thy brother have somewhat against thee,’’ that thou has injured and offended him, either really or in his apprehension; if thou are the party offended, there needs not this delay; if thou have aught against thy brother, make short work of it; no more is to be done but to forgive him (Mk. 11:25), and forgive the injury; but if the quarrel began on thy side, and the fault was either at first or afterwards thine, so that thy brother has a controversy with thee, go and be reconciled to him before thou offer thy gift at the altar, before thou approach solemnly to God in the gospel-services of prayer and praise, hearing the word or the sacraments. Note, (1.) When we are addressing ourselves to any religious exercises, it is good for us to take that occasion of serious reflection and self-examination: there are many things to be remembered, when we bring our gift to the altar, and this among the rest, whether our brother hath aught against us; then, if ever, we are disposed to be serious, and therefore should then call ourselves to an account. (2.) Religious exercises are not acceptable to God, if they are performed when we are in wrath; envy, malice, and uncharitableness, are sins so displeasing to God, that nothing pleases him which comes from a heart wherein they are predominant, 1 Tim. 2:8. Prayers made in wrath are written in gall, Isa. 1:15; 58:4. (3.) Love or charity is so much better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifice, that God will have reconciliation made with an offended brother before the gift be offered; he is content to stay for the gift, rather than have it offered while we are under guilt and engaged in a quarrel. (4.) Though we are unfitted for communion with God, by a continual quarrel with a brother, yet that can be no excuse for the omission or neglect of our duty: “Leave there thy gift before the altar, lest otherwise, when thou has gone away, thou be tempted not to come again.’’ Many give this as a reason why they do not come to church or to the communion, because they are at variance with some neighbour; and whose fault is that? One sin will never excuse another, but will rather double the guilt. Want of charity cannot justify the want of piety. The difficulty is easily got over; those who have wronged us, we must forgive; and those whom we have wronged, we must make satisfaction to, or at least make a tender of it, and desire a renewal of the friendship, so that if reconciliation be not made, it may not be our fault; and then come, come and welcome, come and offer thy gift, and it shall be accepted. Therefore we must not let the sun go down upon our wrath any day, because we must go to prayer before we go to sleep; much less let the sun rise upon our wrath on a sabbath-day, because it is a day of prayer.1
1Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.