44. Beware un-Scriptural Church Meetings
7th January 1999
The opening statement was made:
Richard Lewis : Can I welcome you, in the name of Christ, to this meeting. It is a meeting that will be set in a context of worship, because we are in the presence of God who has called the church into being in the first place. Those of you who are wondering who I am - my name is Richard Lewis, I'm the General Secretary of the Baptist Association in this area. I've been invited by the deacons of the church, in consultation with the Area Superintendent, and in consultation with the pastor, that I should chair this time which we have together. We're going to set it in the context of worship - you have a sort of agenda before you. And when it comes to the introduction, that will be from me. We will invite David, or Zoë, I don't want them both to do it - unless they operate on a 'double act', uh, to come and if they wish to say anything other than is written down, to say it! Right? Soon as I realise that anybody is talking about something they've put down, I will turn the microphone off! OK! Let's be quite clear - where we're going and how we're going to operate, tonight. When it comes to the open forum anybody who wishes to speak is asked to come to one of the two stand mikes. You will be given a maximum of five minutes! After three minutes I will tell you: 'You have two minutes to go!' And we'll operate the same policy - if you go on after five minutes, then I shall turn the microphone off! It's quite easy! OK?
Note: all comments made retrospectively in this text (between speeches made by those present) will be in these 'square brackets', [ ] and in this Times New Roman font.
[I could have really incensed the meeting from the beginning by pointing out that this very make-up was un-Scriptural! Where is Scriptural support for the presence of the 'General Secretary of the Baptist Association in this area' or the involvement of the 'Area Superintendent, Peter Manson' to be found? Are these men re-mustering as apostles? The Baptist Union of Great Britain has long gone off the rails, becoming possibly the first Baptist group in the world (in 1997) to appoint a woman as ''Area Superintendent', a position which is seen as "a pastor to pastors." They appointed Pat Took as 'superintendent' for London, who since 1985 had pastored the Cann Hall Baptist Church in Leytonstone, London. This is a sad departure from the Word of God. The Bible plainly says that a woman cannot teach nor usurp authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11-15). None of the apostles were women. As for the pastor, one of the qualifications is that he be the "husband of one wife," a qualification Pat Took definitely cannot fulfill. It is a serious matter to disobey the Word of God - but apparently not in the Baptist Union. The attitude of the Spirit-filled man of God is expressed in Psalm 119:128: "Therefore I esteem ALL thy precepts concerning ALL things to be right; and I hate EVERY false way." The Apostle Paul instructed the preacher Timothy to keep the apostolic instruction in every detail: "That thou keep this commandment WITHOUT SPOT, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Timothy 6:14).
Those who ignore the Word of God in simple matters will ignore it in important matters as well. King Saul thought it was an insignificant matter that he had failed in certain details of God's commandment. He was told to utterly destroy the Amalekites, men, women, and livestock. Saul did destroy the Amalekites, apart from another small oversight in leaving their King Agag alive, but he failed to destroy all of the livestock. This is what God thought of Saul's minor disobedience:
"And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king" (1 Samuel 15:21-23).
Is God a respecter of persons? Has He changed His mind about obedience to the details of His Word? How, then, can He overlook the open disobedience in this dispensation?
The position of "area superintendent" is not a scriptural position even for a man. The churches founded by the Lord's Apostles were independent and autonomous under their one Head, Jesus Christ, and they did not have area superintendents. The establishment of such unbiblical positions in the second and third centuries was the first step toward the formation of the apostate Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox "churches."
Despite all my misgivings about remaining in the Baptist Union, we had to see this matter through to the end for the sake of weaker members of the body.]
Richard Lewis: I spent yesterday with your pastor - part of yesterday. He is here because I have encouraged him to be here. It is right that he is here. And, towards the end, Roger will have an opportunity to respond if he so wishes - to what has gone on here tonight and to other things. This meeting is going to start in a minute with worship. This meeting will finish at half-past nine. OK? If we haven't done it by half-past nine, it means you have to come back and do it again. But I think, by half-past nine, we will have done what we need to do and we will have enough for us to go away and reflect on what has been said, and suggested in this period. So we come into the presence of God. Words from the Old Testament:
Do not forget My teaching, but keep My commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many days and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you. Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favour and a good name in the sight of God and the people. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him. And he will make your paths straight.
Familiar words from the book of Proverbs [3:1-6]. Directed to a church as it meets in session this evening. And we're gong to worship Christ as Head of the Church - 474, Baptist Praise and Worship. We declare at the beginning; 'Christ is made the Sure Foundation, Christ the Head and Cornerstone'. Let's stand and worship God together . . . .(hymn then prayer time)
Richard Lewis: We read from the Book of Proverbs at the beginning. It has been my custom in the pastoral ministry, to have always had the Word open before us when we have met as a church, as a fellowship of believers, in an act of worship that contains some business. So the Word is before us again, today. Calling us to trust in Him with our hearts, and allowing Him to direct our thoughts and our actions, as we meet together.
I want to just - at this stage - do a brief introduction. I want to assure you that the Area Superintendent, Peter Manson, is at home this evening. He had cleared his diary. Peter is not here by his own choice because of his long-standing connections with the fellowship. It's not that he's not interested. I do not want you to get that feeling at all. But he was of a mind that, because he was close to many of you over the years, that it was not right for him to be in the chair for this meeting. He and I have been in contact a number of times over it as you would expect and we are of one mind on this. So, he may not say it the way I say it, but we speak together and he does wish it to be known that he is thinking and praying for us as we meet together.
The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the implications of a letter that was sent to Roger and at the same time to the whole membership of the church. I have to say at this moment that I believe that that was un-Scriptural. I believe that the way that we operate our Baptist policy is such that if someone has a grievance, they should take it first to the person with a witness, if that doesn't work they take it then to the leaders of the church who are the deacons who you - God - has appointed by His church. And that is the way that it should have been done. It hasn't been done and we have to deal with that. That's the reason for the meeting this evening. But I do not think that it's been done properly. I'll say that publicly and you're at liberty to disagree with me, but not from the microphone. It should have gone first to the church secretary and then to the deacons, and if the person or people who are not satisfied then they have the right to request, as many of you did following the letter, this extraordinary church meeting. Now I don't wish to rehearse chapter and verse but, if someone wants me to, I will do at the close of the meeting. This is a meeting to discuss and consider what is written in the letter - the deacons have responded to the church. I have not received any notification from anybody that they wish to challenge the letter that was sent by the deacons to every church member. Therefore, it is not my intention tonight to deal with any issues to do with heresy. The deacons have made a statement on that and I understand, Howard [addressing Howard Bowen, the church secretary], there has been no comeback on it. So, for me, the issues tonight are nothing to do with the heresy which is written within - the claim of heresy which is written about - but the other issues that are there. They are pastoral issues.
[Having made a statement that claims that the Scriptural guidelines clearly show we should have gone to Roger privately to air our grievances, and then taken the path detailed in Matthew 18:15-17 if we received no satisfaction from that action, we should ask why the church is not following Scripture, but calling a 'Special Meeting' which over-rides Scripture?! Lewis fails to differentiate between doctrinal error and 'a grievance' yet states that 'this is the way we operate our Baptist policy.' He is also ignorant of the fact that we had taken our complaint about doctrinal aberrations to Wheelhouse directly - and he brushed them off with un-Scriptural replies as indicated elsewhere in the text- and also to representatives of the deacons the previous summer - at their invitation! So he is also ignorant of the fact that we did take it 'to the leaders of the church …(who he claims) are the deacons who you - God - has appointed by His church.' It was then in their jurisdiction, in whatever capacity they saw that to be, but they did nothing to prevent Wheelhouse from continuing in the same mode - as the evidence from Wheelhouse's own mouth and the mouths of witnesses proves (see later evidence). He is also incorrect when he states: 'And that is the way that it should have been done. It hasn't been done and we have to deal with that. That's the reason for the meeting this evening. But I do not think that it's been done properly.' We specifically asked, in our covering letter (see Page 7; Section 38) to the church members, for them to request this 'extraordinary church meeting' and that is why this meeting was held, not because it was called by others in response to our letter. Lewis also seems to be ignorant of this fact! It is also a disgrace that he reveals his bias when he admits that he 'spent yesterday with your pastor - part of yesterday.' Did he really think it was Scriptural for a man leading this meeting and clearly giving it direction, or trying to bias the meeting in a direction that he thought fit - as I emphasise in a minute, to spend even part of the previous days with one of the parties involved in what was essentially a court case? Incredibly he says of this other party, Wheelhouse: 'He is here because I have encouraged him to be here. It is right that he is here. And, towards the end, Roger will have an opportunity to respond if he so wishes - to what has gone on here tonight and to other things.' Of course it is right for him to be there - did Lewis really think that there was any other option but for Wheelhouse to be present! When Lewis gave his opinion of the letter he then stated: 'I'll say that publicly and you're at liberty to disagree with me, but not from the microphone.' Again, did he seriously think that no one was Scripturally allowed to question his interpretation of the events before they had even been examined? Did he really think he would be able to get away with this un-Scriptural behaviour? We will see, shortly, that Lewis was not true to his promise here: 'Now I don't wish to rehearse chapter and verse but, if someone wants me to, I will do at the close of the meeting'. At the end of the meeting he failed to live up to these words just as he failed to follow through his other 'promises' regarding the un-Scriptural way the meeting would be run from the beginning of this debacle.
45. Beware those who try and whitewash the truth
Richard Lewis : I think that having read the letter - that there are times when we who are ministers may use words which in hindsight we may not wish to use again - incorrectly, but unless you want your minister to stand there with a piece of paper in his hand and read it word for word, then, you know, you must be open to that. The extracts of the text which I have seen do not lead me to believe that your pastor is a heretic, and that's a view expressed by the Superintendent as well. The deacons have an opportunity at this meeting to speak as they feel led, O.K. They are not speaking corporately. If they wish to speak, they will do what everyone else does - they will come to the microphone and do so. There is no party line on this. Let me remind you that the deacons have considered the serious charges and 'believe that Roger does not deliberately preach heresy and desires to serve the Lord in all things.' The time is 19.49. You have an hour and ten minutes. O.K. David? Or Zoë, I don't mind. Do you wish to come and make any observations? Please? Following that will be an opportunity for others of you to come and to speak as you feel led.
[At this point my wife, Zoë, pulled at my arm as I stood up to make an opening statement. She made it clear to me that she was not going to speak because she knew the matter was not going to be dealt with fairly by the Baptist Union and their representative, Richard Lewis, had already shown his bias. When Lewis stated: 'The extracts of the text which I have seen do not lead me to believe that your pastor is a heretic, and that's a view expressed by the Superintendent as well', he is making a judgement ahead of the evidence. This is obviously un-Scriptural. There was clearly no indication of any kind that the deacons letter had to be responded to in order to ensure that the heresy issue would be dealt with as well as the abusive and un-Scriptural behaviour of Roger Wheelhouse. Richard Lewis was also pinning his judgement of the letter on a single Scripture: Matthew 18:15-17 and this is also inadvisable. No major doctrine is ever be based on one Scripture - unless you are like the Mormons, and then you take 1 Corinthians 15:29 and start baptising for the dead - on the misinterpretation of one Scripture. I did not intend to deal with Matthew 18 - which has to do with personal sin against a brother - until the end of the meeting - if there was time. But in the meantime it would act as an excellent catalyst to fuel the tempers of Roger and his supporters!]
46. Beware the man who does not rely on the Bible to support his motives and decisions
David Williams: Could you, for a start, please clarify for us what this five minutes per speaker actually means?
Richard Lewis: Yes. I think what we actually want to do is to give as many people an opportunity to speak if they so wish. And, it is my judgement, that if you can't say it in five minutes the, er, you know . . . .
David Williams: Could you prove that to us from Scripture?
Richard Lewis : Well, no! I don't need to!
David Williams : Yes, you do!
Richard Lewis : I don't need to prove that... I don't need to prove that from Scripture - if we're going to have that sort of debate now this meeting will stop. I mean I am quite clear on this - I have taken advice from people. I . . .I . .. I am concerned that as many people as possible have an opportunity to speak, O.K. The only way I can do that is to actually ask you to observe some sort of time restriction, O.K. Unless you want to stay here until midnight. Now I'm quite happy to stay here till midnight, but I'm sure others aren't, O.K. And if you want to test the meeting I'm happy to test the meeting. But I'm not here to debate scripture in terms of time and all the rest of it.
[Lewis seriously thought he could Scripturally stop the meeting over this point? Who had he taken advice from? And how typical of the Baptist Union representative that he would refuse to debate the Scriptural view! Clearly, Scriptural arguments would carry little weight with this man. We will see later how this indolent view of Scripture is held throughout and beyond this meeting.]
David Williams : Would you say then that it's also Scriptural for you to stand up and actually make a statement, more or less bringing an emphasis and a conclusion to these matters, before anyone has even spoken?
Richard Lewis : Well, I've not brought a conclusion to anything. I have offered you some advice. If you wish to reject my advice, you're entitled to do so. The church meeting is always entitled to have the final say in these matters. And I'm happy, as I am on any other occasion, to be led by a church meeting. I have no conclusions on this - save that the deacons have responded to some of the things you wrote in the letter, and, having done that, there has been no recourse, I understand, to the deacons to say 'we do not accept your judgement on this matter'. That's the way it should have been done if you disagreed with it, O.K. That's the way our Baptist church life operates. Quite clearly.
David Williams : I don't find it clear anywhere, that it is written down that we should actually - sorry can you not hear? (to the assembly - pause while microphones adjusted)
[My own letter to the church secretary also made it clear that the whole matter of the letter to Wheelhouse would be dealt with at this Church Meeting:
6th December 1998
with regard to the matter of the leadership of Calvary Baptist Church - as detailed in my recent letter - we wish to request an emergency Church Meeting to deal with this matter.
Yours in His Name
[Emphasis added afterwards!]
Richard Lewis : Can you hear me? O.K. - right.
David Williams : I don't find that it is actually written down - that we should actually have a responding letter - that was not actually from Roger Wheelhouse. That actually then draws a conclusion, and therefore we are not allowed to speak on that matter. I don't find that Scriptural in any way at all!
Richard Lewis : All right deal with it another way. You've taken issue with that. I will ask the church: 'Do you wish to debate the subject of heresy contained within the letter issued to you by David and Zoë Williams?'
47. Beware pre-emptive strikes by the deceived!
[The loud discussion from the assembly interrupted the meeting here and Richard Lewis then allowed the Toronto-damaged 'wailing' deacon, Peter Smith, to take the microphone with a cursory, 'Is that all right, David?' Before I had time to respond he began his prepared speech and so I took a back seat to discuss with Zoë whether it really was worth continuing! (Proverbs 29:20): Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.]
Peter Smith (deacon) : I have been a deacon for the last 12 years serving in three different churches. When I came to the church on the morning after receiving David and Zoë's letter, I was quite angry and very emotional. However, throughout the week I spent many hours searching the Scriptures and praying through this letter. Two things stood out very clearly - the letter was backed throughout with Scripture and, secondly, there seemed to be a lack of love and compassion within it. When I found out that it had gone to every member of the church I had to ask myself this question: Why was it sent out in this way? For I read in Scriptures, and it's already been mentioned, in Matthew 18:15-17: 'If any brother sins against you, go to him privately and confront him with his fault. If he listens and confesses it, you have won back a brother. But if not, then take one or two others with you and go back to him again, proving everything you say by these witnesses. If he still refuses to listen then take your case to the church; and if the church's verdict favours you, but he won't accept it, then the church should excommunicate him.' This is God's Word, to the church, on how we should go about such things. When we follow God's directions, He will bless us abundantly. But if we refuse to follow His ways, in all things, then we shouldn't expect blessings. I say this because the letter was awash with God's Word. And yet the way in which the letter was sent out to members does not follow God's direct teaching. I therefore ask you all to consider whether, as a church [sic]- should be discussing such a letter that has come about in this way. If you feel that we should continue with this discussion of the letter then, as a deacon who represents you, then I cannot stand with you in this. However, if you feel that the letter should not be discussed, then Matthew's gospel clearly shows us how we should continue this meeting.
If you have followed the examples of verses 15 and 16 then what you have to say tonight, I believe will be honoured by God. Verse 15: 'If any brother sins against you go to him privately, and confront him with his fault. If he listens and confesses it, you have won back a brother.' And verse 16: But if not, then take one or two others with you and go back to him again, proving everything you say by these witnesses.'
If you have done this, and bring your grievances tonight, then I believe you will only bring dishonour - sorry - let me read that again. If you have not done this and bring your grievances tonight, then I believe you will only bring dishonour to God in what you share.
So we must decide - do we accept the letter with all its implications or do we reject the letter and discuss the grievances of those who have followed our Lord's teaching. That's all I have to say.
48. Beware responding to a fool's agenda and his timing
(Proverbs 26:4) Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him. 5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.
[When Peter said he 'was quite angry and very emotional' he was not telling the truth. He was furious - and wore his feelings on his 'black as thunder' face on the morning he described! When he stated that: 'Two things stood out very clearly - the letter was backed throughout with Scripture and, secondly, there seemed to be a lack of love and compassion within it' he needs to read the letter to Wheelhouse as well as the accompanying letter (and consider the Scriptural examples given from Galatians 2 and 1 Corinthians 5-6) which we sent to all members. He also needs to consider the Scriptural definition of love examined later. When he asks: 'Why was it sent out in this way?' he should consider the evidence in the letter and of the later witnesses concerning the 'gagging' and manipulation of the deacons and others in private. These facts answer these questions and none of this proved possible in a public meeting of this nature because of the ignorance and manipulation of Scripture used by the fellowship and the Baptist union representative, Richard Lewis. Peter showed his motives when he stated: 'Do we reject the letter and discuss the grievances of those who have followed our Lord's teaching.' Does he seriously think any orthodox believer in history would have refused to listen to the evidence of a witness in 'court' simply because they had not followed the exactly prescribed route? The truth is the truth is the truth when evidence is concerned. We were not going to be side-tracked by arguing about 'what is God's truth' when Scripture had already been disregarded and innocent victims are being trampled on by evil men! Peter even managed to make the words 'awash with God's Word' sound like a sneer. Regarding his quoting of Matthew 18:15-17 and the 'many hours' he claims he spent 'searching the Scriptures' - we will answer that later and comment also on the general ignorance of Luke 17:3-4 and other passages. It is strange how people who call themselves Christians become as selective as the cults when it is time to be bring the facts out into the open - and it speaks volumes about the state of the church in Britain today!]