By Ben Coffman (Chairman of Elder Team)
June 16, 2018
Twenty years. We celebrated a milestone anniversary this year as a church, and while some may view this series of articles by The Morning Sun as, at the very least, a ‘black eye’ for Grace Church. I don’t. God’s mercy is allowing us to revisit our history in a way that would be difficult without the perspective of those interviewed in the Morning Sun. To reiterate Barry’s earlier statement to Sara, Rod, Kary, and Zach, we are all truly sorry for your experience at Grace, and are determined that our next 20 years will tell a much different story. We are still absorbing the impact of your experiences, and desire to talk with you more about them to bring healing. Please forgive us. Although we deem the personal and heart issues as having primary importance in this situation, the fast pace of new Morning Sun articles necessitates a prompt follow up regarding these other issues as well. A few of the inaccuracies, though relatively minor, appear to suggest questionable intent on the part of the church, particularly its leaders. We’ve included some context for the June 16th article below that may be helpful in bringing some further clarity to some of the issues addressed in today’s article. While four of our families do live in the same area, we all moved in over the course of 14 years and under varying circumstances, not all of them “lucky”. For example, my story involves a house fire. Jason’s involves a long-time family friend. We’d love to share our individual stories with anyone who is interested. Barry’s family was the first to move into the area, but due to increasing ministry in Myanmar, he didn’t want to create a burden for the church or his surviving family in the event that something happened to him while ministering there. The church purchased 911 Glen from the Flanders for the principal amount remaining on their mortgage in 2014. In order to be exceedingly above reproach in the matter the Flanders donated their equity to the church. Although Barry is no longer in debt for the house, he also no longer owns the equity. The church now has the loan ($72,000) and equity ($150,000) for the parsonage, and since 2014, Barry’s salary has been reduced by the amount of the mortgage payments. The $57,500 for ministry buildings in 2017 was used for repair, maintenance, and renovations for the church’s four properties (including significant upgrades/repairs to HVAC equipment at our 1217 S. Mission Street building). As we’ve sought the Lord over the years, Grace Church has attempted to sell the Ward Theater, the donated home on Crawford Road, and the house on Glen Avenue. While we feel there is value in correcting these inaccuracies, the pain that some former members still feel from their time at Grace is of paramount importance to us. As God leads and as circumstances allow, we will continue to do what we can to try to bring healing into these lives.