Ontario Church Signals Intent to Disaffiliate From Denomination

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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

Public Debate? Accusations and defense? Who would look forward to that? A chance to put down and vilify others? Learn all about everyone's dirty laundry?? I would hope that the church and staff would not be for such a thing! Perhaps what should have been set up as part of the healing ministry should have been a forum made up of professionals to which people could appeal when they felt an injustice was done. Privately. Confidentially. With no ties to Council, no ties to the healing ministry staff, no ties to businesses within the congregation. Impartial, honest and fair. People who have nothing to protect (ie. positions, callings etc.) I do not believe that people in positions of "healing" would want to cause further harm to anyone.
Also, my understanding is that the Concerned Members did not bring their own "injustices" or "personal pain" as accusations. The Committee report is quite clear that the Concerned Members concerns are about power imbalances, Labelling and diagnosing, confidentiality, conflict resolution mechanisms and Accountability. All of these were raised as a potential for harm. Is it time for a review of the policies in the Living in Community? Are they really working?

I think that its false to say the building (in fact all assets) would stay with Maranatha. The CRC order (and precedence) is clear that all assets of a church leaving the CRC without the blessing of their classis would forfeit their assets to classis. Even civil law at this point, would side with church order. Its happened in other scenarios.

Now to the question of the mortgage, perhaps classis would see fit to offer a reluctant blessing to maranatha leaving the CRC--that would seem to make the most sense. But nothing has made much sense, yet. So I'm not optimistic.

But be warned--we will not automatically keep our building and assets.

One more thought. If the scenario plays out that a group of "concerned" people or simply some loyalists to the CRC wish not to leave the CRC, church order is even clearer at this point that the assets of the church remain with this loyalist group and those wishing to leave would have to move onward.

That gets back to my original question. What might we do? Rent a gym? Rent some commercial space.

This is all rubber-hits-the road stuff. When we leave, we better be ready for the consequences. And assuming it takes a few years to figure it all out, we'll also be looking for a new pastor (as our will be retiring at some point).

Attn: Maranatha Member, The concerns I am referring to are the reports by the church visitors, assessment team, CMC and the classis motion for council to depose John Visser, as well as Maranatha Councils response to those reports. The concerned members have been quite clear with council,church visitors, assessment team and classis that personal painfull stories will not be shared in an unsafe environment. As was mentioned earlier by another posting, the situation at Maranatha is now in the hands of Classis and council. The concerned members feel that they have done all they could do in bringing forward the serious issues (at their parel) that need addressing and it is now up to the rest of the congregation and those who are in authority to do with it what they deem is fair, just and God honouring.

Marnatha Member..Your devotion to John is great, that is quite obvious. Many of the concerned members once held John in high regard as well. They have had the courage to step back and look in from the outside, wiegh the facts and draw their own conclusions. Unbiased by their devotion to him. I believe that many people feel they have been heard because of John I believe many people have told John and staff shameful and painful things about themselves. These people now feel they have a connection with John and a obligation towards him.
Many people will have to sacrifice their jobs and places of high esteem in the church. This will be difficult.
I challenge you to step back and look in with an unbiased heart.

As one outside looking in and as one with some expertise in this area, 'Building?' is correct in her/his assessment of the situation with regard to the building and assets. If Maranatha wholesale leaves the CRC without the blessing of classis, their assets will revert to the classis--church law and civil law will back that up.

One would hope classis has the good sense to provide its "reluctant blessing" to this process, but it is not required to.

The second scenario is also correct. If a group of maranatha members wishes not to go with the majority who vote to leave. Classis is within their right (some may say obligation) to declare the group who remains the CRC church in Belleville and award the assets of the church to them. That would be more cut & dry.

"Maranatha Member", it serves nobody for you to argue church polity with me. I am simply trying to bring some clarity to this situation from the perspective of church order.

You say: "The committee members themselves acknowledge that Classis did not have the authority to depose Pastor Visser." That is splitting hairs. While the classis does not have the direct authority to depose Pastor Visser, it has both direct and appellate authority over the council. Perhaps this authority has not been applied as it is here or for many decades or only a few times, but that does not negate the reality that Classis Quinte has the authority to do what it has done...to require the Maranatha Council to depose its minister.

Please hear me -- I am not making value judgements. Maybe Classis Quinte made an error. Maybe Maranatha is in error. Regardless, Classis Quinte has not overstepped its proper authority.

Regarding the property issue, I agree with you Reformed Theologian and this viewpoint is clearly stated in the most recent versions of the articles of incorporation.

But couldn't this depend on whether or not Maranatha CRC signed an amendment to the original articles of incorporation?

I'm not entirely sure about this, and maybe yourself or someone with more knowledge about these things could offer their wisdom, but I don't think property was held by the denomination in the case of a secession or disaffiliation, until an amendment occurred a decade or two ago.

I just remember reading something about this a while ago and it's starting to sound familiar.

There might have been an amendment to the original document and Maranatha might not have chosen to sign the amendment for the new building.

"Reformed Theologian" - This all sounds very complicated. I agree with "Objective Member" that a top-down structure would be much simpler - especially because when push comes to shove that is what it appears to be.

Here are two questions for you, since you are removed from the emotions of these issues, and have some expertise:
1. Is there any type of defined criteria for when Classis can depose a Council? ie. If Classis decides that a speeding ticket is bad enough, can they order a deposition?
2. Since Council is on record as strenuously disagreeing with the Classis decision, what approach should they take next to best be heard?

As for the building issue - since it was just built and there is a substantial mortgage, it can't be that hard to sort it out - if there is a large enough group left after all this chaos to actually want it at all. I guess Classis is on the hook for the mortgage if no one wants it then?

My answer to your second question Maranatha Member is: Hold a Congregational Meeting!

Some CRC Synod decisions as they pertain to property ownership:

Before 1970 - seceding churches had to leave property with the denomination

1970 - seceding churches kept property

1997 to present - group loyal to the CRC retains property, or if no loyal group is found, denomination is on the hook for the mortgage but property can be sold (Classis decides, or Synod upon appeal) to satisfy the debt

Maranatha was established in 1953, but may have had to sign new articles of incorporation or an amendment with the new building.

"Imperfect but Saved" - I agree with you that a meeting is important. But Council does need to bring some clear options to the congregation, as I don't think a repeat of the last meeting is going to help anyone. That's why I ask the question of what those options should look like.

I would like to comment on the last installment by Maranatha Member. Your comment shows you how far apart some of us are on these issues. I think there was a very large group at the last congregational meeting that went home feeling that finally we had broken the ice on this huge issue. It was a breath of fresh air for me quite frankly. Confrontation combined with meaningful discussion can be very healthy and is a neccessary part of living in community.
In regards to the building, the mortgage of 2m on the building is actually a liability not an asset and furthermore, carrying 2m would not be difficult with a fraction of the current membership if we make some adjustments to the staff roster. I say all this but qualify it with this statement; The least important things in all of this are things!!!
The Concerned Members specifically came together to address issues of policy. They pointed out things that needed to be changed in order that there were no suicides, broken marriages, family splits or emotional damage caused by the counselling ministry at Maranatha. How can that be a bad thing???????
Our leaders have found a solution to ensure that our congregation and visitors to our Church are not exposed to this sort of harm in the future. This solution was arrived at after years of stonewalling and avoidence by staff and council, I know, I saw it happening. All the political maneuvering by leadership has only exaserbated the problem.
Please quit skirting around the issue and lets deal with the actual problem....who gets the building suggests we will be splitting. It is a little early in the process to prepare for that. Any Unrepentant Church leader who would jeoprodize their own congregation to remain in control and continue with his/her agenda needs to be removed.

truth...it is Jesus who is the way the TRUTH and the life and no one comes to the Father but through Him. Not all that you speak/write is truth. In some of your writings I hear bitterness, sarcasm and rebellion. I would challenge you as I challenge myself to be careful that a root of bitterness does not grow in your heart. Regardless of our disagreements or ways of seeing this situation we are commanded by Jesus in John 13:34,35 "to love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." In order to live as Christ I must continually check my heart and measure it against Scripture and how Christ calls me to live, regardless of circumstance or situation. As far as I can see in Scripture Christ does not give a reason in which we should not act/speak in love and respect of one another.

Saved by Grace Too - I do not think it is appropriate to single out a particular person or group and accuse them of being particularly bitter, sarcastic or rebellious. There have been are plenty of posts on BOTH sides of the issues that are questionable in that regard. Thankfully, the worst comments have been removed in accordance with the Banner’s commenting policy.

That said, I agree with your statements about the need for speaking the truth in love and not allowing bitterness to rule our conversations. The issues at hand are indeed serious and divisive. However, all of us need to guard our hearts when engaging in conflict. Offense is a snare that gives Satan a foothold.

While the rest of you are spending your days writing about thisissue on the internet, are your staff and pastors actively ministering the world for the gospels sake? right here, today. Are they at work? Are you writing from your work places (if so shameon you!)

If half of you (on both sides) spent half as much energy on complaining and throwing stones and instead put youreffort into worrying about the state of the unsaved, the kingdom could come back tomorrow.

World Vision. Human Trafficking. Missions. Homeless shelters. food banks. After school programs. Prison ministry. Ministyries within our own denomination: http://www.crcna.org/pages/agencies_about.cfm#

Go outside and serve the Lord.
You are doing no good here.

In response to comment from A Leduc. We are spending a few minutes per week writing comments about a story that has offered some hope to hurting people. Hope that dangerous counselling methods will stopped by an organization that governs our local Church. This sounds like a rather virtuous pastime to me. Regarding your curse. I will not accept the shame you wish to place on me. Furthermore, could it not be possible that I am retired, self employed, on a break....none of your business. I believe I am serving the Lord in this capacity. Please be more sensitive to other peoples autonomy

Hard to imagine agreeing with "truth" on anything, but, frankly, how we spend our time isn't any of Mr. Leduc's business.

However, "truth" says he is concerned about hurting people, but he defines them very differently than I do.

I am concerned about the 150+ hurting people currently being helped by the Healing Ministry at Maranatha in a daily, concrete, and significant way. If the advice of the committee had been followed, all of those hurting people would be immediately abandoned, as there is NO provision made for their care at all in the committee report.

Thankfully for those hurting people, Maranatha Council is strong enough to stand up to the misguided motivations and politics of some of these Concerned Members. Just because "truth" doesn't understand or believe in the ministry, doesn't justify him trying to kill it.

Regarding people being helped/harmed by the Maranatha Healing/Counseling ministry...

I think it would be good for anyone who wants to judge for themselves how the ministry meets/misses the CRC guidelines for Ministerial and Counseling Relationships to check out this link:
http://www.crcna.org/pages/safechurch_teams.cfm

In particular the Word doc titled:
Guidelines for Ministerial and Counseling Relationships

The guideline presented seems fair, reasonable and necessary and I would think any denomination would have a similar type of guideline in place.

I can't imagine why, if these types of guidelines are followed, there would be any issue with the healing/counseling ministry at Maranatha.

Dear Maranatha Member, I submit the following;
150+ clients helped daily
Eight hours of work per day
Four councillors
37.5+ visits per day/councillor doing "concrete and significant work"
12.8- minutes per visit.
If this is true then we have more of a problem than we realize.
I think you exaggerated.
Please speak truth.
Here is an interesting video for you to watch, www.youtube.com/watch?v=K79ZhPUHFvQ
This is a real and dangerous threat to the well being of our membership due to the athiestic source of the theories you espouse and lack of training and accountability for councillors in this ministry. Your arguments are beginning to seem rather desperate.
I have no political or financial connection to this ministry. Please reflect for a moment if, perhaps, you do? I would submit that perhaps you could start an outside agency with your own money and with you liable for the fallout that may arise? These are my concerns.

I did not say 150 people were "seen" per day, so please don't try and accuse me of exaggerating. But yes, my understanding is that there are more than 150 people currently being helped in various ways, each and every day, and in practical ways.

If you don't know how many people are being helped by this ministry, then you haven't talked with the right people, and are following a destructive agenda without even knowing what the collateral damage will be.

It IS a desperate situation for those that would be directly affected by what you are trying to do. Oh, and if you think Maranatha staff are only on call for 8 hours a day, then you really don't understand the process at all. This is not clinical psychotherapy - it is an integrated discipleship program, and it's really not that spooky or complicated.

I'll respond to your YouTube link once I've had a chance to look at it.

Maranatha is a fantastic asset to the community. In fact I would have to say that every Church in town is an asset to our community and all serve individuals as we do. The unique thing in our situation is that we have accepted the use of psychological tecniques in our service to people in our community. We have done so without taking the appropriate steps to ensure that the counsellors are equipped. Our own church outline of the healing ministry says that certification is not a neccessary requirement. Maranatha Member, I am sure your intentions are good, I am sure you have seen some successes in this arena, that said, you cannot any longer ignore the implications of unregulated use of psychological theories in our Church. It is just not done and for good reason. The 150 people you speak of would find help and comfort and support in a Church that did not have psychological healing in it's repetoire. The Church has functioned for 2000 years without it. You are not a neccessary ingredient of the Lords healing agenda. There are others who can assume this work in a healthy, effective and God Glorifying way if you will not. I have spoken to many who have attempted to communicate this fact to leadership at Maranatha. People from inside the Church and from other Churches. I must tell you that there is a consistant thread from most of these people, Maranatha Leadership communicate a spiritual arrogance in their dealings with complainants, concerned members, their own membership and other Churches in the denomination. This arrogance is glaringly obvious to those who have come up against it. It is a stronghold that is keeping us from moving through this issue in a healthy way. The thought that we are "the way the truth and the life" is idolatry in its most wicked form. Please hear us. There are options, good and healthy ones. You just refuse to listen.

eph 4v29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Gal 5v19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

"truth" - we can go around in circles forever. You show me your Christian experts who believe that prayer is all Christians should ever do, and I can find plenty that support Maranatha's methods. Neither of us will prove our position nor convince each other.

The fact that you and others are critics of Maranatha doesn't in and of itself mean anything. I'm sure the harsh critics in the CRC at the beginning of Billy Graham's ministry were well-intentioned as well. And as I'm sure we will both agree at this point; well-intentioned and dead wrong.

The true test, according to scripture, is in the fruit. Maranatha has countless examples of changed lives through the work of Jesus. So far, all you and the committee report have offered is unsubstantiated and unspecific "concerns". No one is saying concerns shouldn't be examined, but you prune that tree, not cut it down.

All this is very frightening but did you hear about the lady that got burned by hot coffee from McDonalds and had to sue them and they still serve millions of coffees to unsuspecting customers. Now we hear hundreds of people are still getting help from this church with all these terrible rumours going around! Wow. People should use common sense.

Good morning Gentlemen,
Here we are, all arguing opinions and facts and judging harshly in the name of our LORD.

These matters are very weighty and King Solomon might be called back to find a solution. One says that the church and staff are good and help many another says their work it is not safe and people in danger. Another says he is sure of knowing the real truth just as his brother would say he knows all. Like Solomon you feel you all do the LORD's work here to judge and be right.

My father had a good saying for times like this he said als alle gekken konden vliegen hadden we een permanente zonsverduistering. English says if all we fools could fly, the sun would be eclipsed foreverI pray our good and righteous Father would judge this matter for us. We are just men. and yes, women too maybe. No offend meant.

This morning I read comments from truth and from Maranatha member and I laugh for at least you agree on one thing, even if it is that you do not like my comment!
Best is good to see how many young people now are looking at CRC policy and regulation!

The Maranatha is one of our sisters and we will must pray for her.

I like the McDonalds analogy from concerned.

Another good saying in this case: Caveat Emptor

The purchaser is responsible for checking whether the goods suit his/her needs, or in other words buyer be aware of what you're buying.

However, a warning label or waiver should be in place so that the buyer or client is aware of the type of counseling being given (or in the case of McDonalds, the coffee is extremely hot). I think Maranatha does this now, but didn't used to, and I think the staff has recognized that a good description of the type of counseling being provided is necessary, even if it was under pressure from others.

Whatever the case, everyone is free to choose whether to accept this type of counseling or not. Just because one might not agree with it, or was burned by it, doesn't mean one is justified in taking it out.

I think it is very sad that John Visser has not resigned. When there has been so many negatives about his ministry I would think it would be in the churches and attendees best interest if he left . It is so sad that the situation has now been in the local newspaper and the world can see that Christians cannot get along any better than the people of the world. To me it seems that the other 3 on staff don't make their own decisions. I gather they are control by the boss, the pastor.
I think it is very risky for the staff to counsel when they are untrained. Playing with people's minds isn't professional. In this day and age people come whith very deeply rooted and complex issues. Also I understand that the government is going to demand counsellors to have more training. I think that is a good thing for both the counsellor and client.
Visser is aware of the unrest in the church.
Why does he think he should stay when laws have been broken.
The lack of confidentiality is enough to remove him from office. I know of no other job the person would have a second chance. This has become such a sad sad situation with no one the winner. This must break God's heart.

God doesn't call the qualified- He qualifies the called:
1 Corinthians 7:17- " Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches."
Many men of the bible did not have the qualifications that man thought they should have (Moses, David, Peter, etc.) but God called them to do something and they learned to lean on HIM and draw strength and ability from HIM. We are not called to serve man, but to serve God and have Him work through us.

In response to 'anonymous' and the comment that "God does not call the qualifed - He qualifies the called".

I hope you aren't referring to the healing ministry!! I can put band aids on my kids' wounds, but I am not qualified to do open heart surgery. I can build a tree fort, but it would not be safe to permanently move my family into it. I can tell Bible stories to my children, but I don't have the theological background to become a CRC minister (...unless it's in Maranatha :) I can listen to a friend's problems, but not attempt to readjust their personality and childhood development issues.

God equips me for the tasks He's set before me, but it would be irresponsible to assume "I can do all things". That is really pulling scripture out of context and putting others at peril.

I don't think that "Anonymous" is saying that unqualified people should be doing heart surgery; obviously we shouldn't be doing more than we are equipped for.

I want to thank "truth" for linking these videos yesterday. As I was going through them, there is a very interesting argument made that if there should be any psychological counselling done at all in the world, it should be done in the church. They go on to talk about studies that have proven that there is no tangible difference in results between qualified and "unqualified" counsellors.

Watch this: http://bit.ly/kNX13a

Remember this came from "truth"! I'll write later about the rest of their theories that you don't actually need psychology but just prayer.

Maranatha church is not defined by the healing ministry.
The church will go on without this ministry and it will continue to serve the community in wonderful ways, it always has.
It is almost like the healing ministry has become the golden calf.

I think the longer these issues take the more fragmented the church would become. "If Visser would resign then he could leave and the church could have a new pastor and/pastors. I think it would begin the healing process. New blood and new ideas can be considered. People in places of responsibility are bound to receive discipline from time to time. The longer Visser stays the longer the issues will churn. Visser has had this vision on how to conduct a healing ministry. Maybe this is as far as God wants him to do here. If he left graciously then he is free to persue his vision and the local church would be free to move on also. I would hate to see the pastor lose his pension and right to preach in a CRC church.

It occurred to me that pehaps a congregational meeting without the staff present would be a wise move for this congregation. Really, the staff is hired to serve the congregation. If there is a problem that involves them, we may be wise to call a meeting without them present in order that we can speak freely with one another, after all, in the end, staff will come and go but the congregation is here to stay, regardless of the mess that is left. The same is true for council. They are elected to serve us as a congregation. We need an opportunity to speak without the pressure to please those whose jobs are at risk and focus out attention on the issues that divide us as a group of people in Belleville. There may be some divides between us but I still feel, as many do, that this is my family, for good or for bad and I would prefer to keep them united. Just a thought....

Those of us in the concerned members group as well as the church visitors who have tried to have meetings with council with out staff present know that it will be a cold place in the HE double hockey sticks before John Visser will allow HIS council to have that kind of freedom! Unfortunately, John Visser has somehow gained so much power and control in this church that what the congregation thinks means nothing to him. His agenda is gospel. The gospel according to John Visser sounds so much like the gospel according to Jesus Christ, but if you listen closely you will find that based on scripture, Johns gospel is based on humanistic philosophies. It takes a knowledgable, highly educated individual to discern the difference. Buyer beware.

A meeting without staff would be healthy. Council? How were they elected? I think all council members were pre-screened to tow the 'part line' before they were put on the ballot for vote.

I think that until there is a resolution, 23121002274725 recommendations to depose Pastor Visser should be temporarily implemented and a new council should be voted in by names submitted by valid members of the congregation ...not subjected to the scrutiny of current Maranatha authorities but cleared by Classis.

There is so much pressure to conform that many members have not given voice to their own thoughts for years. People are afraid to say what they believe and be thrown in with 'a camp of dissenters'.

There is room in the middle. "...these are the things I am uncomfortable with...and these are the things that I think work..."

Please relieve Pastor Visser of his duties until this is resolved. it would speak highly in his favor because he's following all the models of authority that he's been preaching about over all these years.

I don't know where that long 14 digit number came from. I didn't key it in and it was not meant for sarcastic emphasis...

I was asked to find people to translate one of Visser's books After getting the ones he needed he informed me that there would be no renumeration . I don't think this is fair. This work was for his own personal gain and not for the church. For me he wanted me to make the calls and to find out when they would be finished. I don't think it was mine to do . I felt controlled by him, I think there should be more separation between what is church business and his own personal business. I felt that the ones doing the translation were being used

As long as the tail continues to be allowed to wag the dog there will never be a congregational meeting without staff present. The only chance the general membership will have to stand up for what they believe is when we have the meeting, sometime this summer, that decides our fate as a congregation. Being silent will no longer be an option. Being afraid of John Visser and councils reaction towards you is how they have gotten this church to the precipace we now find ourselves on. It is emotional blackmail and it has worked.I believe that we should all show up for that meeting and vote the way our hearts are telling us. It is the only way council and John Visser will be forced to listen. If they choose to part ways than let them go. They can choose to come back if they finally see what a lot of us have seen for years.

I share a different point of view than many that have been posting comments on this site.

One person says that they healing ministry in an Idol and the other says that it is a calling. The different opinions can be argued around in circles forever.

I believe that it is a calling and the leadership are following after what God has showed them. If you don't agree, why would you stay at the Church? If your heart doesn't resinate with the heart of the leadership, why would you stay? You are free to go, be blessed, and find a Church where your heart is on the same page with the leaders.

Personally, i see good fruit from the Healing Ministry all around. I see good fruit in the lives of the leadership. Are they perfect? No, of course not and we shouldn't put anyone on a pedestal. We all make mistakes.

At Maranatha, I see that people are valued, invested in and cared for. I thank God for my Pastor and those that lead beside him.

Please unqoute me if i'm wrong as "preached" in a budget sermon once at Maranatha and the #'s were put on the large screen in front of the church for all to see:

"over 200 members have not given anything (as record in the collection plate)... there are over 200 free loaders in this congregation..."

That was the final straw for me.

As a member, i was embarrassed. We've are being led a stray and it's been going on for a long time. Elder members have left, others are questioning, and unfortunately new members know no difference...

Please unqoute me if i'm wrong as "preached" in a budget sermon once at Maranatha and the #'s were put on the large screen in front of the church for all to see:

"over 200 members have not given anything (as record in the collection plate)... there are over 200 free loaders in this congregation..."

That was the final straw for me.

As a member, i was embarrassed. We've are being led a stray and it's been going on for a long time. Elder members have left, others are questioning, and unfortunately new members know no difference...

I would agree that the ministry does bring fruit. There is absolutely no denying that. But when it also brings pain or causes people (and not just 2 or 3) to bring forward concerns, I would question whether or not it could be made better in some way. Of course the leadership isn’t perfect and we should not expect them to be- that is unrealistic and sets them up for failure. The ministry is not perfect either, though, as a construction of imperfect people, and I think we should constantly be striving to make it as effective as it can be and to keep people on both sides of the ministry (leaders and those being ministered to) as safe as possible. I think that was the intention of many of the concerned members in the first place. There seemed to be concerns with things that are a part of the ministry that have the potential to put people at risk. This does not mean that everyone is necessarily going to get hurt or that the ministry is not a calling on our church or that the leadership that put it in place was malicious, it just means that we might need to examine the inner-workings of the ministry itself to assess the risk. God desires us to step into our callings responsibly and I think that part of that is a continual reassessment of what we are doing and discerning if it can be done more effectively. I definitely do not want to see the ministry discarded, but I also don't want people to be hurt by it, if it can be avoided.

Thank you for your constructive comment "121212" - If someone brings forward a concern, rest assured that Council does deal with it. They deal with it by looking at it from all perspectives and getting the full story - much like a good parent would. The same cannot be said for the committee, classis or church visitors, unfortunately.

Many concerns raised over the years have resulted in tweaks or changes to the way things are done in many aspects of church life, including the Healing Ministry. As you said, no one at Maranatha pretends they are perfect or have the answers to everything, although fortunately Jesus does. But, it's important to remember that not all concerns are valid or possible to fulfill. (You can't make the worship music both louder and softer, for instance.)

Please also remember that people by definition are hurting when they come to the Healing Ministry, the same as when you go to a medical doctor. If, after the doctor is done with you, you are still hurting or are even worse, you can't automatically assume that the doctor did something wrong. Especially if you didn't take the doctor's advice.

Dear Maranatha Member, Two Comments:
1)On what basis do you make the comment that Classis, church visitors, assessment committee have not been diligent in looking at both sides of this story. Council,staff and concerned members have been given ample oppurtunity to tell their side of the storey.
2)Going to a doctor to heal your physical pain is the right thing to do. They have qualifications to do their jobs. According to the pamphlet on healing given to the membership some time ago our staff is essentially saying the same thing as " If you have a broken leg come and see me, I had a broken leg once, so I am qualified to help you. This is OK as long as you inform the person up front that you have no degrees, just life experience. Than its buyer beware.

You beat me to it "common sense". I wrote virtually the same letter. Well spoken.
I am absolutely aghast at what "Maranatha Member" is saying. Please leave your closed social circle and speak to brothers or sisters who have concerns. You will see that you are just regurgitating the company line and you are not speaking unbiased truth.
For the sake of this community, please take the time to check out both sides of the story. I am tempted to remove your comment because it is so innapropriate and wholly untrue.

You beat me to it "common sense". I wrote virtually the same letter. Well spoken.
I am absolutely aghast at what "Maranatha Member" is saying. Please leave your closed social circle and speak to brothers or sisters who have concerns. You will see that you are just regurgitating the company line and you are not speaking unbiased truth.
For the sake of this community, please take the time to check out both sides of the story. I am tempted to remove your comment because it is so innapropriate and wholly untrue.

Let me get this straight - you guys are advocating a congregational meeting WITHOUT staff present and you are accusing ME of not listening to both sides of the story?!?

Until you bring concrete accusations about Pastor Visser/staff into the light of day in a forum where the other side of the story can be told, you are the one guilty of bias or deception or both.

Classis tried to suspend Maranatha staff members without listing any charges against them nor ever even discussing anything with them!

You cannot condemn someone or something in this country without first registering a complaint and secondly, facing the accused. Except in the CRC apparently.

Maranatha member,
Just asking you to clarify your comments. I do not understand why you believe Council and Staff have not been heard. Classis overeacted at the first Classis meeting in Bloomfield, however they called the second meeting (after pressure from council under threat of disafilliation)to make all kinds of time for council and staff to clarify and tell their side. They had lots of time to prepare and still the Classis upheld its original decision. They did so because the policy and practices currently in effect at Maranatha allow for conflicts of interest as well as breach of confidentiallity. Just because council and staff believe they are in the right does not make it so. Changes for the sake of safety for the counsellor and the counsellee need to be made in the counselling ministry at Maranatha. That is clear to everyone except staff and council. Integrity in a counselling relationship is everything. If you are in a position to be counselled at Maranatha, you must be told what is about to take place and that the people you are being counselled by have no legal qualifications to deal with diagnosing any form of mental illness. Classis has made it clear to council and staff that what they are practicing breaches almost every tenit of safe counselling practices in a church ministry. Many have been helped as you have stated, however you refuse to see that many have also been hurt. These people have no safe unbiased vehicle they can use to bring forward their complaints. Many have confronted Pastor John and then left Maranatha because they felt unheard. With no other avenue available they went to the church visitors who tried to mediate the situation and got absolutely no where. They in turn went to classis and so on. At every turn normal, educated people came to the same conclusion as the concerned members when they were given all the facts and heard all sides. This is the truth. What is it that stops you from accepting that council and staff are in breach of their responsibilty to every member of the congregation. To say "If you do not like what staff and council are doing, just leave! is not the answer. To accept the decision of Classis, the authority structure placed over council and staff by God in His church (just as John preached a couple of months ago) and to repent and ask for forgiveness. That is the right thing to do. Until that occurs, nothing will be resolved and we will continue in this war of words. There is a way that seemeth right unto a man but the end thereof is death.

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