By Barry Flanders
June 16, 2018
The following is a response from Grace Church’s pastor, Barry Flanders, to those interviewed by the Morning Sun.
To Sara Weller-Evenden, Rodney Green, Zack Cahalan and Cary Kattelus;
I am sorry to each of you. Regretfully, I do not remember the specific situations you address (from the mid-2000’s) in the Morning Sun interview. I want to be clear; I believe you. And further, I do not agree with either the specific direction you were given, nor the harsh spirit in which such direction was given. Many years removed from the situation, I am truly heart-broken, saddened and, if I’m honest, very frustrated at the ridiculousness of what you had to go through. I want to say again, I am sorry, and I ask that you would please forgive me and those of us who were responsible during that time period in our Church history, particularly if any of those are still active in our current ministry.
Ultimately, though, I am the one truly responsible. As one of the founding pastor’s of Grace Church, I remember the days in our church when I promoted such striving to do ministry in ways that required such commitments that other important commitments were sacrificed, and I take a heightened responsibility for what happened. Our desire for a number of years now (over a decade) is to root out any remnants of such striving, the so-called commitment of our ‘Young Church’ days. I myself am at one of those ‘other important commitments’ which one of you was asked to miss for the sake of doing ministry. I am writing this from my home state of NY where I am attending my nephew’s wedding. I am so sorry to those of you who were in any way pressured to miss such commitments. If you would like to communicate further, please reach out to me and contact me personally, or just stop in at the church building on Mission Street. I would like to hear from you further, perhaps explaining some of the changes we have been making the last 10 years, and offer my heart-felt apology in person.
I’ve included an email below that I sent on November 10, 2017, while I was overseas in Myanmar, to someone here at Grace who was asking my advice about a job opportunity. I share it with you just to give you a sense of our continuing efforts to be certain that folks here at Grace Church understand the ‘grace’ that is theirs to make decisions and determine their commitments.
XXXXXX,I wanted to be sure and let you know the following:I think its healthy that you consider your decisions with those you are in close relationship and with those who have developed some sort of spiritual equity/authority in your life, and others who have significantly invested in your life (i.e., parents, professors, bosses, friends, etc.). To be clear, though, remember that any person who is a child of God has the authority to make decisions as they feel led, even if it’s in opposition to the leading of spiritual authorities (incl. me or other elders) and other authorities (parents, bosses, even the government if it is asking you to do something significant against your conscience). You are free and have individual soul liberty to make big and small decisions before the Lord without feeling any undue burden even from those good and godly authorities who may try and guide you. That’s it. I think you knew all this, but I wrote it out nonetheless. I will be praying for you!Barry
Pastor Barry Flanders