Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Announcements... or Whatever

This thread has gotten too long for those who are "still stuck with dial-up," so please, if you would, go to the "New Financial Thread" above to continue the current discussion. Thanks for your cooperation!

Originally I wrote: This thread is, as the name implies, a place for announcements rather than in depth discussions.

Note regarding Richard Emerson's comment from 2:06 a.m., November 3, 2006:

Mr. Emerson wrote me this afternoon and requested I remove his comment because he'd lost his password and couldn't log in. I honored his request. However, his edited version of those comments is in letter form

If you have something you'd like to have included here, rather than put it in a comment in this thread, please place the information in a comment and leave it in the "Suggestion Box" thread. That way I can add links and edit as needed and post it "on the front page" in this thread.

So much for that idea. Now that there don't seem to be any announcements, at least not any that have been dropped in the Suggestion Box, I've just changed the title to reflect the fact that discussions are indeed taking place here.

That's all. Continue on now...

Psst! Please come in here to tell people if they don't like it to leave.

It seems there are a few people who, instead of trying to follow the topics offered for discussion, are choosing to instead make sometimes long-winded and often disparaging comments of the "if you don't like it, leave" variety. Requests to keep things civil and respectful are being ignored. Therefore, in the interest of fairness and openness, this thread is now available for anyone who wants to leave such a message. Any further messages of that flavor left in other threads will be copied and moved to this thread, and the original will be deleted.

There are some who want to come here and have legitimate, civil discussions of issues facing Bellevue and the church in general, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to do so with all the off-topic comments scattered throughout this forum. So please feel free to use this thread to offer your unsolicited advice.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation!

Monday, October 30, 2006

What Would You Do?

Okay, here's one from the Suggestion Box...

If a respected staff member came to you with information and claimed to have documents that could hurt the office of the pastor, what would you do?

Please, try to separate the question from Mark Sharpe & Co., Dr. Gaines, and Bellevue and think in generalities.

1. Could you in good conscience keep it to yourself?

2. What steps would you take to try to resolve the issue?

3. How many months should you try to resolve the issue if there's no cooperation from the pastor?

4. Would Matthew 18 apply in a case like this? If so, and you attempted to follow Matthew 18 and got all the way to the step where you needed to take your issue before the church, how would you go about doing that?

5. What if you had a job in the secular world and a respected colleague came to you with information and documents about your boss that could hurt the company? Would you handle that situation any differently?

Again, regardless of your opinions about the current situation at Bellevue, try to think of a general situation without considering specific personalities and think about what you would do. We should all seek to know what Jesus would do, but what do you think Jesus would do?

Thanks to "eccl.7:25" for this topic suggestion.

Purpose Driven?

This seems to be a recurring theme in the comments -- that Bellevue may be moving toward a Purpose Driven model. Please comment on anything you perceive being related to the PDC movement in this thread.

1. Do you think Bellevue is moving in this direction? Why or why not? If so, does this concern you?

2. Have you read The Purpose Driven Life? If so, what did you think about it?

3. Has your Bible Fellowship Class or other group done a study of the PDL? If so, what are your thoughts about it?

4. Do you see this movement and its wide appeal across denominational lines as evidence of the "one world church" the Bible tells us will emerge in the latter days?

These are some links from my personal list, but there are many other sources for information on this topic.

Letter to editor of the Americus Times-Recorder (two pages long).

Reply to above.

Are Rick Warren's Teachings at Bellevue Baptist?

Berean's PDL Discernment Tool

Book review -- Transitioning

Church Growth Movement (multiple articles).

Change Dividing Southern Baptist Mega-Church thread pertaining to Bellevue.

Lighthouse Trails Research Project

One Man's Purpose-Driven Journal

Spirit-Led or Purpose Driven?

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

The Purpose-Driven Pastor discussion.

Transitioning an established church.

Signs of the church growth movement.

Please remember to keep your comments civil and respectful and reflective of the Christians we are. We don't have to agree, but we don't have to be disagreeable either.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Prayer is the Key

This was placed in the Suggestion Box by "prayerwarrior." I think it deserves top billing.

"I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men;" I Timothy 2:1

The following prayer guide would be wonderful to use at such a time as this as we pray for Bellevue:


Acknowledge God's sovereignty and praise Him.

Thank Him for guidance and the opportunity to promote healing.

What is God wanting to teach through the situation?

Ask God:

1) For the Holy Spirit to convict those who have done wrong.
2) To have the right words and attitude when talking with those involved.
3) To give you His love for the person(s) involved.
4) For humility in dealing with the problem.
5) For all involved to know the truth.
6) How to handle the situation His way and the courage to do it.

Pray against:

Blindness to sin
Distortion of the truth
Disunity among believers
Unwillingness to hear truth or inaccurate hearing
Cold/closed/hard hearts
Destructive protectiveness

May we all remember that prayer is the key to everything in life. Pray that God grant us strength and wisdom in this and every situation.

Another prayer to consider, this one from "1cor13"...

Dear God help us to be kind, tenderhearted, and loving with those whom we disagree with (Ephesians 4:32). Help us to be merciful with those who have wronged us (Matthew 5:7), for we know that we all deserve hell, but thankfully you don't give us what we deserve in Jesus Christ. (Romans 6:23) Help us to see clearly our own sin in a disagreement (Matthew 7:1-2), especially when passions stir our flesh. Guard our conversation that it be filled with grace and edifying to the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:29) Keep us from demanding justice when we ourselves need new mercies each day. (Matthew 18:30) Help us to be patient with each other as you have been infinitely patient with us. Help us to not keep a record of wrongs (I Corinthians 13), as a gracious expression of love. Dear Lord, keep our disagreements with people from turning to hatred of them. (I John 3:14) For we know that Christ loves sinners so much that he shed his blood for them.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Some Bellevue members have stated that they're taking the money they normally would give to the church and giving it to other Christian organizations or setting it aside until things at Bellevue blow over, so to speak.

Have you changed your tithing habits because of all this? If so, and only to the extent you wish to share, to what sorts of causes are you now giving?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Financial Issues

Links to 3 articles on this subject can be found here.

A simplified definition would be the transferring of a Church asset to an insider for less than fair market value where "insiders" are defined as "pastors, ministers, board members, officers, and employees."

It is alleged impropriety of this nature that Mark Sharpe claims to have knowledge of. Specifically, he claims that current and former staff members with whom he had a close working relationship have claimed to have proof of such occurrences and have confided this information in him, but they will not come forward with that proof until the appropriate protections are in place. They reportedly have been willing to do so all along, but Dr. Gaines and other staff members have refused to meet with them under these conditions.

1. Should Mark Sharpe and these individuals be granted the opportunity to present any evidence they might have with the protections requested in place?

2. Should a preacher and other staff have church credit cards? Why or why not? Should there be accountability to the membership for the use of these cards? Should the receipts be available for review at any time? What if there are allegations of misuse? Who should be able to review them?

3. Use of a church credit card for personal expenditures, even when those charges are reimbursed to the church, is considered "co-mingling of funds." Aside from any legal ramifications, is this proper?

4. The more openness and transparency there is by the staff regarding the stewardship of money, the fewer questions there will be. How much transparency do you think is necessary?

Use this thread to discuss any matters related to financial concerns at Bellevue.

Communications Committee Revisited

Has anyone submitted a question to the new Communications Committee and received a response? If so,

1. What was your question?

2. What type(s) of responses did you receive?

3. Do you think the committee has been given the information necessary to answer your questions?

4. There was a check box on the form that you could check to request a meeting with the committee. Did you do this? If so, have you been invited to meet with them?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What Do You Tell the Children?

Someone asked about resources which might give insight into how to explain all this to children.

Anyone have any ideas?

1. Have your children asked you about the situation at Bellevue?

2. Have you heard your children and their friends discussing it?

3. Have you discussed any of this with your children? If so, how did you explain it?

Is Bellevue a Part-time Job for Dr. Gaines?

This was the question posed on the savingbellevue site. This is a list of his known speaking dates for the next few months. There may be more, but this is all the person who researched this could find right now. He has already been away on Wednesday evenings for other speaking engagements, including 9/25 to 9/27 at Second Baptist Union City, and a Thursday morning, October 12th, at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has already had a two-week personal vacation. With most jobs one has to be employed for one year before receiving a vacation.

He told us in the 9/24 "information meeting" that he needed Wednesday nights off from preaching for committee meetings and such so he could devote other nights to family activities. There was no mention of revivals or other speaking engagements.

So... what do you think?

1. Should family activities (i.e. volleyball games, etc.) take preference over being in church on Wednesday evenings, especially if you're the pastor of the church?

2. Is it okay for a pastor to be away from the pulpit for more than say, 2 or 3 Sundays in a year (in addition to a regular vacation), and not reimburse the church for his replacement? Do you consider this "double dipping"?

3. Do you think "family activities" is the real reason he's gone so much and doesn't preach on Wednesday nights? Did you find his explanation to be completely truthful and acceptable?

4. Does Bellevue need a preacher more than a pastor? Of course, we need both, but the whole package isn't that easy to find. So if you had a choice... which would you choose?

5. Would you like to see Dr. Gaines delegate less and take a more active and personal role in ministering to his flock?

6. Why was he so "pooped" (his word) that he needed another associate pastor in the form of David Coombs? Dr. Rogers was a much older man and didn't have to hire another associate. Should the church have voted on hiring another high-level pastor considering the high-level salary such a position must command?

Welcome to the "New" BBC Open Forum

Recently a concerned, anonymous Bellevue member created a blog called BBC Open Forum to serve as a continuation of the Commercial Appeal comments section which appeared along with the two articles about the current situation at Bellevue. (See first thread in this blog for links to those articles.) It was begun as a place for people to comment on and discuss the issues addressed in the CA articles. For reasons known only to himself, this person has decided to remove his blog which also shuts down the discussion forum.

Therefore, this blog, the New BBC Open Forum, has been created to continue to serve the same purpose as the original BBC Open Forum, that is, a place where those concerned about the Bellevue situation can come to comment and exchange ideas in a respectful, Christian spirit.

The rules are as follows:

1. You can remain anonymous by using a screen name, but you must register. No "anonymous" comments allowed. It just gets too confusing otherwise.

2. Comments will not be moderated at this time, BUT if any comment contains profanity or is judged by me to cross the line (and I think most of us know where that line is), it will be deleted. Sorry if that doesn't sound "fair" to some, but I'm ultimately responsible for this little corner of the 'net now, so please don't make me have to go there. With very few exceptions, people in the BBC Open Forum have conducted themselves in an appropriate manner, and I trust everyone will continue to do so. While we haven't always agreed, most haven't been disageeable. To paraphrase something BBC Open Forum said, remember that whatever you write here will be seen by the world, so choose your words carefully and set the right tone.

3. Threads and the accompanying comments from the original BBC Open Forum have been transferred to this forum, and new threads will be added from time to time. The comments from the original BBC Open Forum threads will all be posted together in the first comment in each transferred thread. Comments can then be continued from there.

4. Anyone who wishes to begin a discussion of a new topic is invited to post a suggestion in the "Suggestion Box" thread created solely for that purpose or to PM me at the e-mail address in my profile. Please do not use this thread for any other purpose such as to tell me to "shut down this blog," etc. It is intended for new topic suggestions only.

I have posted comments in various threads on the BBC Open Forum site as "notastepfordsheep," and while like everyone else, I have my personal opinions about things, I will always endeavor to keep my personal feelings separate from my hosting of this forum. My purpose in continuing this blog is not to push my ideas to the forefront but merely to provide a place for the original BBC Open Forum to continue. I want this to be a place that can be fair and balanced to everyone. Please bear with me while I "learn the ropes," as I'm new to this blogging stuff!

The End of a Brief Era -- Original BBC Open Forum Says Goodbye

From the original BBC Open Forum:

I have been invited to move along and am accepting the invitation to do so.

I plan to delete this site at some point soon in the future. If you want to copy & paste all this stuff to a new site you have my permission (not that you need it). Should anyone wish to begin a new blog to continue the conversation that is easily done through the blogger site and it is free. If you wish you may set up your site and post a link in the comment section of this thread pointing people there.

Not that it matters but I don’t much care about credit cards or the fence. It is listening to the words on tape and the Holy Land trip business that bother me. Those are not allegations, they are just the way it is. The words from the heart and the set up of the trip are well documented. Decide for yourself and stay or leave as you see fit. I already have. Some may cheer and some may be disappointed by this. Perhaps no one will give a hoot.

I don’t feel very good about much of what has happened and I don’t see a “winner” coming out of this. Well, God always wins in the end but you know what I mean. Anyway, I just can’t hang around here or any other BBC site because it is starting to impact my personal walk a little too much. Maybe that is selfish, I don't know. Moving on may not be the right thing to do, but it seems right to me.

Please don't respond to me in the comments. I won't be reading them.

I don’t know what else to say. I’ll let my last words to you be my personal favorite Bible verse which is John 16:33.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

posted by BBC Open Forum at 11:10 AM on Oct 24 2006

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Suggestion Box for New Topics

Please post your suggestions for new topic threads in the comments section of this thread. Not every suggestion will necessarily result in a new thread, but I'll try to include as many topics as may be relevant.

Are Holy Land Tours a Shearing of the Sheep?

From the original BBC Open Forum:

Are Pastors acting as tour hosts making large amounts of money off Holy Land and other travel tour trips?

I always assumed the Pastor and his wife traveled for free on these trips and the participants paid extra to cover this. It never occured to me that Clergy (it is not just the Baptists) may be making tens of thousands of dollars per trip. Now if all of this extra markup and income for the tour host has been fully disclosed then the sheep were knowingly fleeced I suppose. But if people unknowingly lined the pockets of a tour host it stikes me as stealing. If it is disclosed that the host got a free trip, but not that he also got a fat check then that too is stealing.

It is using your position and influence to secretly line your pockets off your congregation.

Do a Google search on "Holy Land Tours Host benefits" and you can quickly see this is a common practice among Holy Land Tour companies. Some offer one free trip (or cash payout) for each three trips purchased while other tour operators ask that you call them for information.

Holy Land Tours used to mention they will issue the host an IRS form 1099, which means at least some hosts are taking money in lieu of giving tickets away to "worthy guests." Holy Land Tours offers a 1 free tour for 5, 10, 15 benefit. Apparently it is up to the Pastor to decide how badly to shear his sheep. Interestingly, the link to that information, "Host a Group & Earn Free Travel," no longer works. Perhaps the sheep were getting wise to what's happening.

Ed Hill Tours, Inc. explains the tour host benefits on their about us page.

"Ed Hill Tours offers you One Free Tour for every five full-paying passengers you enroll and up to $450 (depending on the tour cost) for each full-paying passenger not used toward a free tour. You will be paid all earned benefits prior to departure on all passengers who have paid in full for the tour including any optional programs."

Interestingly Ed Hill Tours has had people ask them about how cheap their trips are.

"We've have (sic) actually had people question how our tours could offer so much when they see many tours priced at hundreds of dollars more than ours."

Could the answer be that other hosts are even greedier than Ed Hill hosts?

IGM Tours says on their web site,

"The price of a tour is affected by departure date (winter season is the least expensive), hotel quality, meal plan, choice of airline, single or multiple destinations, group size, religious holidays, and the selected host benefits.

It appears to be standard practice.

I ask you, if you were organizing a trip for your family and friends or even for your company at work, would you gouge them? How can any minister even contemplate doing something like this even if there is full disclosure? We are talking about a potential overcharge of $37,000, which could balloon to $50,000. Remember, this is just ONE trip. The host and wife travelling for free is understandable. Beyond that why not give the participants a price break as more people sign up? What ever happened to volume discounts as more people signed up?

A quick Google shows this is a pervasive problem in the "Holy Land" tour business. What a shame for all that have secretly fleeced their flocks.

Update: I should have mentioned this post is about more than just what is going on at BBC, and that a deacon of Bellevue has informed us in a prior thread comment section (see comment posted 8:25 PM, October 19, 2006) that Dr. Gaines "assured me that he will in no way be pocketing any money from this trip." I take this to mean Dr. Gaines will not keep any cash for himself as a result of this surcharge. This much money deserves a full accounting and disclosure from the travel company that details exactly who got what. A person not pocketing any money will have no problem releasing a full accounting.

posted by BBC Open Forum at 12:53 PM on Oct 22 2006

Update 2: Dehoney Travel Letter listing host benefits

A Joking Matter?

From the original BBC Open Forum:

Dr. Gaines 9-25-06 in Union city - one day after the information meeting. Listen.

We sat everybody down, said 'This is not a business meeting. It's an information meeting.' What that meant is we're gonna talk. Heh heh. But you're not. Heh heh heh heh. {audience laughs} Amen, huh? Ha ha. I didn't just fall off the cabbage truck. Amen. I'm not... ha ha. I've been around this for a long time. Amen." {audience laughs}

Did the Pastor belittle members of his congregation?

Is it acceptable to joke like this?

Are concerns which have been expressed to the staff being taken seriously?

Is this no big deal?

If you wish to offer an opinion on this thread please remember that regardless of your point of view, you can be polite and respectful towards others.

posted by BBC Open Forum at 1:51 PM on Oct 20 2006

Communications Committee Formed

From the original BBC Open Forum:

Post your thoughts and suggestions on how the committee should organize and present information. Questions that you think the committee should address can also be posted.

An ad hoc Communications Committee of 10 deacons and two staff members has been formed to address issues and answer questions from the church family. This committee was recommended by the deacon officers, approved by the Pastor, affirmed by the deacon body, and presented to the church family last Sunday (October 8th) following the evening Worship Service. This committee is currently organizing and in the near future will present information on how it will function.

If you wish to offer an opinion please remember that regardless of your point of view, you can be polite and respectful towards others.

UPDATE: This is a transcript of the 9-24-06 information meeting (with commentary by James Sundquist).

UPDATE 2: Please read the important comment posted 8:25 PM, October 19, 2006 by a Deacon regarding the trip and extra money before you post any comments on this particular issue. Thanks.

posted by BBC Open Forum at 6:48 AM on Oct 19 2006

Didn't I Tick You Guys Off?

From the original BBC Open Forum:

YouTube has the video if you missed it.

Pastor Gaines' response from the information meeting is quite long and will be posted in the comments.

If you wish to offer an opinion please remember that regardless of your point of view, you can be polite and respectful towards others.

posted by BBC Open Forum at 6:17 AM on Oct 17 2006

We were told by Brother Steve to watch the whole video so as to hear his remarks in context. So judge for yourself. Entitled Steve Gaines Resignation Service at Gardendale First Baptist Church, July 10, 2005 PM, copies are available in the Bellevue Library.

The Fence

From the original BBC Open Forum:

The Fence.

What do you think about it?

posted by BBC Open Forum at 5:47 PM on Oct 16 2006

The Manning/Weatherwax Letters

From the original BBC Open Forum:

The Weatherwax Letter.

What do you think about it?

posted by BBC Open Forum at 3:09 PM on Oct 16 2006

To put everything in the proper context, all six exchanges between Mr. Manning and Mr. Weatherwax are here.

The Pemberton Letter

From the original BBC Open Forum:

The Pemberton Letter.

What do you think about it?

posted by BBC Open Forum at 3:07 PM on Oct 16 2006

Threats of Lawsuits?

From the original BBC Open Forum:

Deacon threatens legal action

"I'm not sure if there is any legal consequence to making my personal e-mail address available to the public, but I am willing to find out. I would appreciate it if you would remove the e-mail addresses from your site."

Well, you can sue anyone for anything. Remember the lady that spilled coffee in her lap & then sued McDonalds for making their coffee too hot? The deacon probably won't win his lawsuit, but I think he definitely will lose some respect. I find it interesting – well a bit shocking really – that a deacon would threaten litigation over something like this. Does the deacon have a right to be annoyed? Sure. But threats to sue the guy right out of the box? Seems a little heavy handed to me when maybe an appeal to have his email address removed might have sufficed.

I think it was totally improper for savingbellevue.com to post all of the the deacon email addresses. I also think the letter from this deacon (assuming it is a legit letter) including not too subtle threats is also improper.

Sentence two in the deacon email above is fine, sentence one went a bit too far.

Disagree? Comments are open. Set me straight.

Update 1: Hmm. This sounds like a threat also.

Do you not copy me on your further emails ... I told you earlier to stop emailing me and now you are harassing me. Continue, and I will take action against you.

Update 2: Now this and this strike the right chord.

Thank you for your e-mail. As a deacon I am a servant of the Lord and His church. This makes me your servant as well. If you would like, I would be honored to meet with the two of you, either in your home or at a place of your choosing, to discuss whatever concerns you have.

Thanks for your excellent letter…your concern is shared by many and there will be no resolution until both sides have the opportunity to speak!

I suppose a good rule for life is that you should assume whatever you write in an email will be forwarded to the world, so chose your words carefully and set the right tone. Mean what you say and say what you mean.

posted by BBC Open Forum at 1:22 PM on Oct 14 2006

Gremillion letter and additional deacon responses

Commercial Appeal Poll Results & Comments

On October 5, 2006, an article dealing with the situation at Bellevue appeared in the Commercial Appeal.

A reader poll accompanied this article which asked the question, "Ex-deacon accuses the new Bellevue pastor of misleading church and misusing finances. Is he correct?" As of this writing, 10-24-06, 1635 people have voted, and the results are as follows:

(1) Yes 56.6% (925)

(2) No 29.6% (484)

(3) Undecided 13.8% (226)

Rather than reprint all the comments here, you can read them yourself by clicking here.

A follow-up article appeared the following day.