News

Ontario Church Signals Intent to Disaffiliate From Denomination

Maranatha Christian Reformed Church, Belleville, Ontario, has served notice that it intends to disaffiliate from the denomination, rather than comply with the request of Classis Quinte (its regional group of churches) that it apply special discipline to depose its pastor, Rev. John Visser. (See previous article.)

Only a local church council may apply discipline to its pastor.

Classis Quinte made the request at its May 10 meeting after receiving the report of a team that assessed the situation of Maranatha. The report of that assessment team included concerns regarding the principles and practices of the healing ministry of Maranatha.

A $1 million lawsuit had also been brought against Visser, Maranatha CRC, Classes Quinte and Eastern Canada, and the Christian Reformed Church in North America in the fall of 2008, alleging that Visser abused his position of influence, trust, and authority in a counseling relationship to further his own business interests. The lawsuit was dropped in the fall of 2010.

Classis Quinte met in special session again June 2 to hear Maranatha’s response to its May 10 request. After delegates heard presentations by the council, staff, and concerned members of Maranatha, and by members of the independent assessment team, it upheld its May 10 requests.

During the summer months the classical ministries committee of Classis Quinte will meet with Maranatha CRC.

About the Author

Brenda Visser is the Banner's regional news correspondent for classis Eastern Canada.

See comments (50)

Comments

One more thing for us all to consider. Appoximately 265 adult members have left Maranatha since this issue began.......food for thought.

Perhaps we could consider that hundreds of families have left Maranatha due to the issues that forced Classis to act. Many still live with the hurt caused by this rogue pastor and his council.

Perhaps someone should ask Pastor Visser how many of his council members or their spouses have been through his councelling therapy. The manipulation of people, primarily women, in the church is widespread and a key part of the evidence that abuse of power is occurring there. The majority of his supporters have gone through this process.

Perhaps it is innacurate to say Ontario Church to leave denomination. It has yet to be seen if John Visser has enough support to pull off his plan. I doubt it will be as cut and dried as the whole Church following him. He has less support on this issue than his followers would lead us to believe.

We are talking about one million dollars coerced from the congregation for a failing printing business owned by the pastor. The CEO of the new company formed with the congregants money is one of the counsellors on staff at the church in order to hide the assets of the pastor from bankrupcy proceedings leveled against him....is the picture getting clearer?

I wonder what the purpose of an article like this is, it is brief and gives cause for many assumptions. Many comments have been written and removed because they will cause more harm than good. And I ask myself what does God require from me in all of this. More and more as I read Scripture I am directed to the sinfulness of my own heart and how much I deserve the penalty of death because apart from Christ's sacrifice I could never come into the presence of a Holy God. Christ gave it all, He deserved nothing of what He received from sinful man, He was mocked and ridiculed and He did not cry out in defense. Do we as His people understand the depth of what He did for us. I think that if we did our actions towards our fellow brothers/sisters in Christ would be much different. I urge you to read Scripture...what does God require of us, how does He expect us to treat one another. He knew there would be many disputes among His children and so much was written about how we as the Church were to interact with one another. At the end of time it is me who stands before God and I am accountable for how I have treated my brother/sister in Christ. I can not stand there and say well he/she did this to me and so that's why I behaved the way I did. God is interested in the purity of my heart. So I urge each one of us to read Scripture, to examine our hearts in light of it. Remember the Church is the bride of Christ and the world is watching.

Thank you for your response. My heart has grieved as I hear the comments, assumptions even mockery in this story. We must not contribute to what is not ours comment on. Let's pray fervently and ask that God continue to guide us, give us wisdom and act with integrity.

These latest two comments are very refreshing - thank you. If more people were willing to approach this situation with grace and an honest attempt to understand the real truth, a lot of hurt could be avoided.

I invite people interested in finding more out about Maranatha to visit our web page at: www.maranatha-church.com

If you would like to see exactly what our heart is all about, please watch our profession of faith service from just last Sunday: http://bit.ly/j5nS2k

Please pray for grace for all sides, but most importantly that God's light will expose the darkness and that, as He has promised, the darkness will not overcome it.

I am certainly in the minority on this and never speak out, but when a classis makes a decision and then upholds that decision we need to be listening. We make a big deal about God working and moving in our church by His Spirit. Well, the classis is the gathering place of the office-bearers and we trust the Spirit to work in and through those who represent Christ. How easily it seems we are ready to toss that aside as if God is not working there, but only here. If we are willing to shed off our accountability and covenant with the CRC, then I fear we are sinning against our own selves and our sister churches. This is how secularism works in our world--just leave if you don't like it.

A second point, we also need to admit that accountability is lacking in our healing ministries. Confidentiality is lacking too. How many of us have been told little thises and thats about so-and-so from the loose lips of our Director of Restoration Ministries. Even some staff colleagues are concerned about confidentiality issues and integrity. Ask the director of the Friendship Circle or the Director of Children and hear their distrust because of all the things they have heard but never should have.

I love our church and our pastor. But we are deceiving ourselves by fighting classis when we should be asking what truth there is in all of this. Another example, classis is concerned with proper training and credentialling of our Restoration Ministries staff--valid point. What are we doing about it? Nothing, because our Restoration Ministries Staff is was previously counselled by our pastor and healed by him...again the small circle is preserved...they very circle that causes so many concerns.

I grief for where we have come as a church, in the name of healing the broken. I wonder if we are allowing more breaking in our healing.

I am not from the Christian Reformed Church. In our church, a local congregation must surrender its assists to the denomination if it leaves. How does that work in the Christian Reformed.

I am not from the Christian Reformed Church. In our church, a local congregation must surrender its assets to the denomination if it leaves. How does that work in the Christian Reformed.

It's fascinating to read ALL the previous perspectives on this issue (even the ones that have been removed). Unfortunately, the Banner article only gives a shallow summary of years of miscommunication and misinterpretation between two increasingly polarized and hurting groups of people in this particular church community.

It's so unfortunate to see this issue tear this particular church community apart, and all it seems to come down to is money, mistakes made with it, and the miscommunication that followed...so should any of us be surprised?

I agree with the earlier post from Concerned, that the article is a sensitive one and offers no clear picture, which only inflames more misunderstanding. However, this might actually be the first productive communication that is actually happening. Productive in that some real reasons for the hurt are being expressed in a non face-to-face, safer environment, or so it seems.

An earlier post mentions Visser's "dangerous theories," of which I ask, what are these? Can a ministry that helps people heal their past hurts be a dangerous theory if this is what Jesus calls all of us to be as followers of Him? Helping people with hurts is a very messy business, and I'm pretty sure the good samaritan wasn't a trained counsellor. Sometimes picking someone up and helping them out requires immediate action, without waiting for denominational approval, other times it requires planning, especially in terms of long-term care. It seems like Maranatha has followed the guidelines and has gone above and beyond in this manner.

However, the opinion was also expressed that a lack of responses and communication from Maranatha (pastor and council) about the complaints (financial and counseling) are a major concern.

So what have the responses been thus far from Maranatha/Visser/Council? If the impression is that there is stonewalling and keeping in the dark, why would that be if there has been a full disclosure of financial events or documentation, or has there never been? And if silence was intended, is the implication that the leadership's decisions be followed with blind trust and no accountability? Has intention ever been expressed (especially in light of a suspicious-looking transfer of ownership and in light of a business venture initiated in a church), and if a mistake occurred, has forgiveness ever been asked for?

If not, then I can understand Truth's interpretation of the intention, since a signal of non-communication is usually construed as guilt. For examples of stonewalling we need to look no further than a number of fallen pastors, failed financial institutions, and some former Presidents and politicians, all of who stonewalled in different ways...see the assumption and implication? If there's nothing to hide, then why hide it? It would be an extremely poorly thought out move to remain silent about facts that aren't true, and during times of crisis, increased (not decreased) frequency of communication is even more crucial.

It would be sad if all it took to avoid this mess was some simple communication earlier on in the process, leaving no one to stew about or conjure up intentions that have never been accepted or denied.

In the coming days I suppose it's coming to a place where every member has to decide, is Maranatha Church's Pastor/Council/Staff intent to harm or to heal?

Unfortunately it looks like Classis believes the former, perhaps being convinced of it by members who could only assume that the intention was to harm, due to lack of being convinced otherwise.

Thank you for your comments "Objective member". It is unfortunate that the truth in this matter is perceived as innapropriate and blocked from view. I can only say that each time specific truth has been spoken on this issue, regardless of the venue, it has been met with political maneuvering. As believers, we have ample ammunition to justify our positions on anything if we wish. For example, today we will hear how the Lord separates the wheat from the chaff from the pulpit at Maranatha. I wonder what the self serving spin will be on that today? At a time in the history of our church, when many voices need to be heard, we will hear the perspective of one man using scripture to his own ends. This has been a ongoing theme in our Church. I think we have heard plenty from the staff of Maranatha as they give no voice to their concerned members. They have stonewalled and ignored them for a dozen years or more. From the "sanitized for your protection" responses received from council, to the hand at the throat "cut them off" signals given to the chair by the pastor when detractors speak at congregational meetings. The moment that a concerned member manages to shout loud enough to be heard, they are labeled using psychology speak as "having issues they refuse to deal with" or some other such nonsense. I do believe that at it's essense, the leadership has been well meaning in the past for the most part. I see a cornered animal now. One that will overstep any moral line to see it's programs continue. We must not confuse the issues here by making it all a "Mom and apple pie" thing. It is good that we pray, forgive, bless each other, etc. There are God glorifying ends that can be met by speaking truth that hurts as well. After all, our saviors work encompassed all of these things.

The birds are singing this morning and it is a beautiful day. Everything is so nice. Peace and good will to all.....maybe you can leave that comment on?

I have never seen so many comments removed "in accordance to policy." The only comments remaining are in support of this church. Could it be that some are offended by opposing arguements? Since when does it hurt to be critical of oneself or ones organization?

As an ex-member, we've seen this coming in the tea leaves for quite some time.

I am certainly in the minority on this and never speak out, but when a classis makes a decision and then upholds that decision we need to be listening. We make a big deal about God working and moving in our church by His Spirit. Well, the classis is the gathering place of the office-bearers and we trust the Spirit to work in and through those who represent Christ. How easily it seems we are ready to toss that aside as if God is not working there, but only here. If we are willing to shed off our accountability and covenant with the CRC, then I fear we are sinning against our own selves and our sister churches. This is how secularism works in our world--just leave if you don't like it.

A second point, we also need to admit that accountability is lacking in our healing ministries. Confidentiality is lacking too. How many of us have been told little thises and thats about so-and-so from somebody who should have never shared confidential information.

I love our church and our pastor. But we are deceiving ourselves by fighting classis when we should be asking what truth there is in all of this. Another example, classis is concerned with proper training and credentialling of our Restoration Ministries staff--valid point. What are we doing about it?

I grief for where we have come as a church. In the name of healing the broken, I wonder if we are allowing more breaking in our healing.

Approx 265 members have left this church in the last 10-15 years. Very sad indeed. Some have found new churches, some are still hopeful that change will come and that they can once again attend Maranatha. Sadder still are the ones who left and feel that they may never go to church again. They find it hard to believe that they can ever trust in a organized church.
I'am thankful that Classis Quinte made the dicision to depose John Visser. It personally makes me trust in the CRC denomination and the structures it has put in to place to keep it's churches safe places of worship. I know that this will be hard on the Maranatha church, I believe John Visser has been there for about twenty five years, he will be missed by many.
But, all in all when John Visser leaves, our Heavenly Father will not.

I disagree completely. I have little trust in Classis Quinte for the way they've handled the whole process. It appears that no matter what it said, their main goal is to see Pastor John Visser out and will go to great lengths to do so. Their hearts have been hardened and I wonder they feel they will have accomplished by diposing the pastor and shutting down a flourishing and obviously blessed ministry. I am embarrassed that I have been a member of a church government that behaves this way.

It is being said that 265 people have left Maranatha over the last 15 years. Many people do leave - some say the music is too loud; some say it isn't rocky enough. Some move away; some don't resonate with the vision of the church and find one that suits them better. Some battle it out with Council over varying issues, including the direction of the Healing Ministry, and leave when they can't convince Council to see it their way.

Just before this Classis decision first broke, we had our largest Good Friday/Easter Sunday services ever, with about 1400 people between the two services.

Even IF the number of 265 over 15 years is accurate, that equals less than 18 people leaving a year, or about 2% turn over per year. How do other CRC churches compare, I wonder?

My heart is saddened by some of what I read. I am not against people having differing opinions but it is the manner in which we voice them and where we voice them. I ask people and myself included to examine our hearts and motives and question whether our Lord and Saviour would be pleased and glorified by our actions. I am deeply grieved foremost because the Bride of our Saviour is being trampled in all of this.

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple."

Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation and thus the temple of the living God. For me personally I take this very seriously, God will judge my actions towards my fellow brother or sister in Christ. Christ bled and suffered on that cross for all of us and so each one of us is precious in His sight and God forbid I trample on one of His children whether by word or action.

A quick comment on the issue that seems to be missed by many, regarding CRC Church Order and the unprecedented miss-use of Classis Quinte's authority in this case.

A Classis only has the authority to request a Church Council to do something. That is how the CRC Church Structure is organized - horizontally, not vertically. It has no specific power to enforce that request. However, Classis Quinte has threatened to remove all Council members that refuse their "request" - not much of a request then, is it?

Like I said, this action is unprecedented - especially with regard to a congregation solidly behind their pastor, and a Council united behind their pastor and the Church's Ministries. I invite CRC scholars to show me a comparable instance in the history of the CRC, because I can't find one.

We love Maranatha and it's leaders. Our hearts resenate with the healing ministry. We support them fully, come what may...

Fact: the vision of the Maranatha community includes a restorative healing ministry.
Fact: a large majority of the Maranatha congregation support their staff and council, sharing the vision of church leadership.
Fact: the vision of the Maranatha community does not resonate with the CRC and Classis Quinte.
Solution: the CRC and Classis Quinte would do well if they simply blessed Maranatha, releasing the church from the denomination rather than causing so much destruction by attempting to mold this congregation back into a traditional CRC mold.

A quick comment on the issue that seems to be missed by many, this war of words between Classis Quinte and Maranatha Council is dwarfing a larger issue regarding the restoration ministries at Maranatha. Its too bad that a conflict over ecclesiastical authority is shadowing the issues of accountability structure, proper training and credentialling, openness and transparency, etc. Our church has its struggles, just as all do. What can we learn? Is it time to demand proper certification of our restoration ministry staff? Is it time to take some stalk of ourselves. Maybe we should focus as much energy in introspection as we are in fighting the elders and ministers of Classis Quinte (who are duly ordained and installed representatives of Christ). We are arrogant to think our church work is better, more holy, or closer to God's will than that of Classis Quinte. Let's clean up our own house, before blaming others for our predicament. I grief for where we have come as a church. In the name of healing the broken, I wonder if we are allowing more breaking in our healing.

fact - Maranatha's implementation of its Restoration Ministry is damaging people.

fact - Classis Quinte has a responsibility to protect people from harm at the hand of churches and ministers under its charge.

fact - Maranatha is fighting that due authority and is acting in rebellion against the CRC's duly ordained, God-given authority.

I grew up in Maranatha. I go there when ever I visit my hometown. I am close friends with some of the members and staff at Maranatha. My heart in is that place.

But let me issue a word of warning. I know things about many people I should never know. Sitting at Denny's or over a coffee or at a backyard BBQ, I have been told things and heard talk of things that should be absolutely confidential between councillor and councillee. That's not right, imho.

I too have heard many things I should not/need not to know. But I also know that it was the counsellee themself is sharing personal information to people they presumably trust. I'm just saying that before we jump to conclusions, that its the counsellor breaking confidentiality, we should consider all the people that that person has shared this information with at any given time, before, during or after their counselling experience.

In the interest of clarity, what I have heard about people is directly from the horses mouth--so to speak. In social settings, some staff just don't have very good boundaries. Its something Maranatha needs to face.

But granted....the rumour mill has many sources....including both councillor and councillee.

I grew up in Maranatha but am not there anymore -- and therefore know much more about its past, than what is going on at present.

What scares me about this impending 'divorce' is, "What happens next?"

What will happen to the new congregation when Pastor John retires in a few years? Who will be the voice of God to a group of people who only follow one person?

What will happen to the people that stay with the CRC and suddenly have a huge new building AND a huge mortgage?

The denomination has its weaknesses, but in its strong traditions and foundations, it also has the strength and fortitude to carry the church through the next generation.

I wish there could be unity. Not blind-sheep, don't rock the boat acceptance -- but a corporate group of Christians each personally finding the voice of God and heading in that direction as a unified body.

Each individual will be held accountable by God at the end. Take council from a friend, family member or other respected person -- but in the end, each person has to ask what direction God is leading them in.

I grew up in Maranatha but am not there anymore -- and therefore know much more about its past, than what is going on at present.

What scares me about this impending 'divorce' is, "What happens next?"

What will happen to the new congregation when Pastor John retires in a few years? Who will be the voice of God to a group of people who only follow one person?

What will happen to the people that stay with the CRC and suddenly have a huge new building AND a huge mortgage?

The denomination has its weaknesses, but in its strong traditions and foundations, it also has the strength and fortitude to carry the church through the next generation.

I wish there could be unity. Not blind-sheep, don't rock the boat acceptance -- but a corporate group of Christians each personally finding the voice of God and heading in that direction as a unified body.

Each individual will be held accountable by God at the end. Take council from a friend, family member or other respected person -- but in the end, each person has to ask what direction God is leading them in.

fact - Maranatha's implementation of its Restoration Ministry is HELPING people.

fact - Classis Quinte has disregarded its responsibility and opted rather to fail in following its own protocol and due process in favour of the concerned members without even allowing Maranatha council and staff to share their perspective.

fact - Maranatha takes issue with that authority because Classis Quinte has recommended the deposition of its senior pastor on grounds that have been clearly proven to be untrue, and because Classis Quinte has recommended the suspension of its Restoration Ministry staff with NO GROUNDS given! Why suspend staff for no reason??? ... Makes little sense.

Fact - if you don't like the ministry of Maranatha, you are free to worship elsewhere, and allow the Maranatha community to be free to worship in peace as well.

Solution - people need to stop attacking Maranatha and allow them to function as a God honouring church outside the CRC denomination.

I find this Banner news article misleading, and its title overly sensational. The congregation at Maranatha Church is Belleville has not voted--not even entertained a recommendation--to disaffiliate with the CRC. Yes, the church's council has sent communication to Classis Quinte that one of its responses to the demands of classis is to move on from the CRC. However, there has been no formal discussion, motion, recommendation or vote as such by the church. Publishing the content of this news article has enflamed an already delicate situation and has misrepresented the facts on the ground as they actually are. A retraction by the Banner and by the author, correcting is misstatements would be in good order.

Since there seems, understandably, to be a lot of interest in this story, I want to urge readers to dig deeper to find out more about the motivations behind the Ministries at Maranatha. There is a ton of info at the church's website, but this clip specifically will give you a really good flavor of who we are and why do what we do:

http://www.maranatha-church.com/Media/Sermons/SpecialProfessionOfFaith05...

God is alive at Maranatha, in spite of what others would have you believe.

It's very sad to see the CRC at both the classis and synod levels do nothing but put down and destroy others. Our denomination is on the road to extinction and this is one good way to accelerate it. Regardless of counselling techniqes and other factors, the real test is whether the Holy Spirit is transforming lives and Jesus Christ is lifted up in this church. I urge this classis to stop wasting time on booting out pastors and get on with the task of building up churches. I urge the members of Maranatha to do likewise.

I am viewing from the outside. I am not part of this classis or this church. I don't know the pastor involved. I don't know anything about this situation.

What I do know is what I see here in these comments. Both sides of this issue are talking about Christ and about the Holy Spirit, but the way you speak to one another is not Christ-like and Spirit-filled.

Some commenters want us to look at Maranatha church, at how God is alive in that church. Yet some of its members (as identified in their postings) are communicating in ways and saying things that reflect none of that God-aliveness.

This is my view from the outside. If things are so godly at Maranatha, why are its supporters not speaking the truth in love? Reading what I have read, I would have serous reservations about visiting that church--its members seem just too harsh.

I pray that God will bless Maranatha church, Rev. Visser, the council and staff, the members, Classis Quinte and us all.

I am still wondering about my earlier question. Does anyone know?

"I am not from the Christian Reformed Church. In our church, a local congregation must surrender its assets to the denomination if it leaves. How does that work in the Christian Reformed."

In regards to church assets -- see the CRC church order:

http://www.crcna.org/site_uploads/uploads/resources/2010_churchorder.pdf

p. 66, section D -- clearly states that the property belongs to CRC members -- and if they split into two CRC groups, the assets would be divided between the two churches. If a group chose to leave the CRC, they forfeit all property, etc.

...if a group 'chooses' to leave the CRC, they forfeit all property, etc. (sorry, typo in my previous post...)

I agree with David's analysis, the article is inflammatory, but there is still time, which gives us hope to possibly clean and clear this up before some major decisions are made.

So here's what I feel is the bottom line... the healing ministry at Maranatha, with all it's positives and negatives, would have never been an issue if it hadn't been for an investment opportunity in a printing company that failed.

Had the printing company made money hand over fist rather than going bankrupt, would anyone be accusing the healing ministry for convincing them to invest in a business?

So let's take a look at the real reasons for the chasm. At the core is the belief that the healing ministry is being used as a vehicle for manipulating people, primarily for the purpose of extracting money. Would a healing ministry be so vilified if it didn't involve financial implications? I find that highly unlikely and earlier posts (some hidden now) are extremely informative in that regard.

So why is this the belief? I believe it's due to the lack of authentic and honest communication and disclosure, a silence which initially had the intention of 'protecting the flock', but has unfortunately only led to wild and damaging speculation, as well as conjecture about intentions and perceptions.

Let's be honest with ourselves, a complete honest and transparent financial disclosure of the printing company failure has never been made, including the details and reasons why a suspicious transfer of ownership occurred, despite the fact that the deal was presented to the church community at large and were all participants in one degree or another (at least now we all are).

Again, if there are no financial improprieties, then why wouldn't these be disclosed, especially at the precipice of a church split and for the sake of saving the ministry, if this was all that was required to do so? By and large, even if an impropriety is discovered, couldn't we as a congregation be trusted to extend forgiveness? If the fear was that we'd be asked to leave the denomination, aren't we in the same place now anyways? So why not disclose this asap?

Another possible reason... as unfortunately demonstrated again today, Maranatha Council continues to offer information and explanations which lack visible leadership, transparency and authenticity, and only bolster the belief that there is indeed something to hide and that intentional stonewalling is occurring. They are all well intentioned people as individuals, but they're failing to realize as a group that the loud and clear call to lead and communicate transparently and without fear, isn't only from those in direct opposition, but also from a growing number of congregants and staff, who are only hearing from one side at this point. It's only serving to alienate and place doubt in a lot of those whose true desire is to be active participants and supporters of the ministry, but are met with silence.

We as a community are facing a historic disaffiliation decision and all Council can muster is a “check your bulletin for details.” It's baffling to me why Council doesn't understand the implications of this lack of communication course of action, but maybe because their jobs aren't on the line?

Like David said in his post, there is still time, and my hope and prayer is that some of these core issues and misconceptions can be cleared up once and for all, otherwise we're doomed to repeat the same mistakes again, even as a non-CRC church.

Interesting points brought up by Objective Member.

I agree that increased transparency would be most helpful in these types of situations. If everyone knew exactly what goes on in every situation, wild speculation and rumor-mongering would be redundant and therefore cease.

Here's the irony - the SINGLE charge that Pastor Visser (and by extension Maranatha Church) has been convicted on, is a charge of revealing confidential information to a 5 person investigative committee. (How you can breach confidentiality while defending oneself to a private investigative committee is a whole other question that the Supreme Court of Canada agrees with Maranatha on, but regardless...)

Imagine what would have happened if Council shared even this little bit of information with the whole church!

There is a constant struggle in any organization to be as transparent and accountable with its members as possible, yet while maintaining the trust and confidentiality of those same members. It is not an easy balance, and, unfortunately, sometimes failures will occur on either side of the scale.

The resulting question is: What level of responsibility do members have to show grace to Council in this struggle, and to firmly resist the temptation to spread gossip and speculation?

This post will be in 2 parts due to length.
The web of speculation that surrounds this whole issue is unfortunate.
I know that the leadership at Maranatha cannot, and will not, defend themselves in detail due to the fact that in doing so they would violate the code of privacy they adhere to as counsellors and pastors. They have spoken up enough, as has church council (who are elected by the church members to represent them), in that they have found and declared that the accusations toward Pastor Visser, the staff, council and certain church members of Maranatha are untrue. In my experience, defending oneself against an accuser that is determined to have their way usually leads to argument and more damage. As followers of Christ we need to take to heart both His example and His instruction. He was silent before His accusers, and, we are to pray for those in authority over us, so that we may lead peaceable lives.
A few things in particular stand out about this unfortunate situation: 1) As soon as Maranatha began to experience renewal, the voice of accusation became louder. 2) As soon as MCRC moved to it's new building, they were slapped with a lawsuit. 3) When it became obvious that the accusers could not win the lawsuit, they found another way to try to remove the pastor – announcing their intentions after a record-breaking weekend (attendance) at Maranatha. This is a spiritual battle, brothers and sisters. Speaking of sisters, I noticed someone made a comment in regards to Maranatha leadership “manipulating women”, that comment, my friend, whoever you are, will only serve to potentially silence the voices of women – as any who speak will risk the label of “a manipulated woman”, thus nullifying what they have to say. Discern the spirits. God does not muzzle women, on the contrary, He is raising “Deborahs, Esthers, and Annas” in this hour. In regards to the numbers that have left Maranatha, they need to be in context, they don't mean much when presented alone and only serve to appear to support someone's argument. The truth is, the church has grown, during one year alone, the year of the move to the new location, over 100 new people started attending, and many more since. One of the reasons for the move in the first place was that the place was busting at the seams, even with 3 services provided each Sunday. My intention here is not to minimize someone's personal pain, but to shed light on some “coincidences” that are telling of something of greater scope that is going on. Remembering that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual principalities and powers in heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:11-13). Historically, revivals are birthed with stigma... I am seeing this pattern emerge here as well.

This is part two:
The fruit of the Maranatha community is beautiful and this trickles from the top down. I have seen and experienced many different congregations and denominations due to the nature of our family's employer and I have seen what a self-seeking spirit in leadership can do in a congregation. I can whole-heartedly assure you that this is not the case with this beautiful church (Maranatha) or it's leadership. I am sorry for the obvious pain some concerned members feel, however, I believe this has to do with a lot more than meets the eye. If indeed there is just cause to persecute the leadership of this church, does God need your help? I think not. If, however, God has in mind to increase His kingdom through this particular church and it's leadership (CRC or not), you will not be able to stop it. I believe the following scripture may speak to us all:
Romans 12:9-21 'Love in Action' 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.
 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. 
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e] 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
God's will be done, His Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven.

I am not associated with Maranatha church. What I do know is that the holy spirit has been really moving in this congregation. It clearly is a "successful" church with its amazing growth in attendees, the largest alpha program in the CRC, wonderful spirit-filled worship, a beautiful new church building that is the envy of many, and powerful renewal meetings held a few years ago. As seems to be the trend in the CRC, when a church is this successful and under a holy spirit movement, forces emerge from within the denomination to try and "straighten it out" Look at the negative reaction of many CRC members to the Toronto Airport Church, yet they draw more people to one conference than the total of CRC worshippers in Ontario. The same thing happened in Grand Rapids some years ago when Sunshine Church experienced phenomeonal spiritual and numerical growth. For those hurting in some way in this congregation, swallow your pride, seek a path of reconciliation, and contribute to building up the church of Jesus Christ. The same goes for those that are accused of causing the hurtand for Classis Quinte. There are already enough forces outside the church attempting to bring it down.Let the spirit flow.

I think God can speak to people in many different venues. Maranatha reaches a lot of people that would fall through the cracks in more traditional churches.

There are others that grew up in the CRC, have no issues and just want to go to church for a time of worship involving the Holy Spirit, fantastic Fred Riemersma style music, fellowship over a cup of coffee and some solid doctrine.

I don't think God will close the gates to either group. Even though the two groups may not be on the same page, God is bigger -- and can be glorified by both types of worship.

I do remember when some of my friends started leaving the church to worship elsewhere -- the reaction of those left behind was that the deserters 'had issues', 'were lost', 'couldn't submit to authority', etc. etc. The comments reeked strongly of tunnel vision -- our way, or the highway! That is not the message of the Bible. I think God is present in many Quinte area churches of many denominations.

When it comes to the issue of bringing a failing business before the congregation for a bailout ... I get spooked. There are other members of the church, besides the pastor, that have had businesses go through very hard times...or even fail. Shouldn't they have been allowed to solicit investors through the church as well?

'Submission to authority' needs to followed consistently all the way up the ladder. The members submit to council, council to the pastor, the pastor to Classis and the Classis to Synod. We have to make sure there is not a breakdown of structure as we look at the issues.

It's amazing to see God at work in Maranatha. Take for instance the past profession of faith service. Incredible testimonies of how the Lord worked in each person's life to bring healing in areas that needed to be healed. The stories told are a powerful testimony to the work that is being done through the church by the Lord, and the fruit that HE is producing there.

see for yourself:

http://www.maranatha-church.com/Media/Sermons/SpecialProfessionOfFaith05...

Let us please refrain from presenting speculation, rumours and assumption as truth, that is irresponsible. If you are not sure of the facts on such a sensitive and serious topic please resist the temptation to comment.

Here stand two sides, each certain they are standing up for truth. And each side does indeed have truth on its side, at least in part. As well as hurt, anger, and great sadness. Friendships, families, and community are being split in two. Accusations and insinuations are being thrown on both sides. The vilification of individuals is happening on both sides. It's incredibly sad. And it's incredibly shaming.

But where do you go from here? How do you ever move on from this place? How do you ever heal a division that is at its root a question of trust and trustworthiness? Probably there should be some sort of acceptance of responsibility on both sides. It could well be that Classis overstepped its reach (at least from the evidence presented here.) And it would probably be very good and healthy for the Healing Ministry at Maranatha to seriously re-examine itself and hold itself to standards that not only meet but surpass the standards of the secular world.

Are people brought to Jesus and healed and restored through the ministry at Maranatha? Without a doubt. There are many, many who will testify to that. Are there people who have been hurt and further broken by some of the failings of this healing ministry? Most definitely.

Maranatha Belleville is not the first church to go through this type of community division. And sadly, it won't be the last. Will there ever be a time when egos, hurt, pain and anger can be set aside, and the Lion can lie down with the Lamb?

A quick point with regard to an issue that "different strokes" brought up as well as others previously, even though it was not mentioned once in any of the Classis dealings:

Pastor Visser only ever asked for prayer for his sons' business difficulties from the pulpit. A number of members of the congregation wanted to know if there was any additional help they could possibly provide and those members organized an investment meeting. This meeting was announced in church by the organizers, but was held at the business, and Pastor Visser did not speak.

Pastor Visser's son specifically cautioned at the meeting NOT to invest out of feeling of loyalty or love for Pastor Visser, but to treat it as a traditional investment opportunity.

While it can be debated as whether this ultimately ended up being a good idea, let's debate it with the correct facts on how it happened and the correct motivations that were behind it.

Exactly Maranatha Member and Wanderer, let's flush out the facts, throw them all out on the table and all of us pledge to own up to our part of the problem, ask for forgiveness, forgive each other, agree to disagree, or whatever it takes to get it all out.

Only then can the gossip, backroom deals and misconceptions be out once and for all. This minor blemish has turned into full-blown cancer in our community and unless we all attack it with everything we've got, the gossip and slander is going to eat a great number of us alive.

The Maranatha community is worth fighting for, as a great number of people have commented on, and as many of the opponents still or once believed. I hope and pray Council leads us in that charge.

We can't ignore the dragon in the room, lest it burn us alive while we're trying to pet it.

To clarify "worth fighting for"...

This doesn't mean fighting each other for the church, it means we all need to man up and fight for the truth, even if it means we have to face our deepest hurts in the process.

Sure Jesus was silent when it was necessary, but he sure was vocal when it was necessary too. And when it comes to seeking truth and protecting the bride of Christ, warriors are needed, not passive men.

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