Facebook Open LetterThis is the open letter to Steve Wingfield posted on Facebook March 20, 2015. This letter may have sparked a lawsuit by Steve Wingfield and First Christian Church of Florissant.

Title:  An Open Letter to Steve Wingfield

March 20, 2015 at 9:57pm

Dear Steve,

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I hate conflict. I don’t like to discuss difficult topics, and especially not publicly. Anyone reading this needs to know that I have written these thoughts down because I felt like I HAD to; because I felt truly convicted to do so. I also need you to know that my motivation in writing is not vindictive or mean-spirited. I have a twenty-year history with the Wingfield family and deeply care for each one of them. Charles sat in my living room when I was just a kid and explained the plan of salvation to my mom and I. Beth was my high school BASICS director. You conducted my uncle’s funeral and visited me in the hospital after my son was born.

I am writing publicly to you, Steve, because I have some things that I must say to you and I feel that if I were to do so privately you would ignore or dismiss me, as you have done to others in the recent past. What I want to communicate most clearly is this:

You, Steve, are not fit to be lead pastor of the First Christian Church of Florissant and you need to turn in your resignation as soon as possible.

This has been my position for many years but I did not feel the need to speak about it publicly because it mostly affected Titus and me and other staff members. However, recent events have made me decide that I MUST speak up. I know that I am no longer a member at First Christian so you may be tempted to dismiss my words, therefore I’d like to make it clear: Titus resigned from First Christian only because he could no longer work under your poor leadership. If it were not for you, it is very likely we would still be serving at that church today. I care deeply about FCCF and feel an obligation to speak up for those who are unable to speak up for themselves.

Since Brandon Milburn was arrested in February 2014 I have waited for you, Steve, to take strong leadership in helping this faith community to heal from this traumatic reality. Granted, I do not have the knowledge of all that you have said or done in the last year regarding this situation, but I do know that it has not been enough.

Most disturbing is the fact that in 2012 you were made aware by a concerned adult that Brandon was having an inappropriate relationship with a teenage boy and this adult was very confident that Brandon was abusing this boy. Your response to this adult was basically – That’s not true, you’re crazy for even suggesting that (I’m paraphrasing here. You failed in that moment. Not only should you have believed this concerned adult, but you also should have gotten on the phone and reported these allegations to the authorities. You did neither. After Brandon was arrested you failed again. The first phone call you should have made after learning of his arrest was to that concerned adult that had previously come to you with concerns of abuse. But you did not do that- and to this day you still have not reached out to that concerned adult or to that teenage boy. You have failed both of them.

What makes this even worse is that this is not the first time you have mishandled situations such as these. Many years ago another young man was found to have inappropriately touched a younger boy. These two situations are not identical but your responses are eerily similar. In the name of “protecting” this young man you managed to keep this situation from the public. However honorable you might have thought that was, the fact is a victim was silenced at your request.  To me,this shows a clear pattern that when something of this nature comes to your attention your initial reaction is to keep it quiet and to do as little possible in order to preserve yours and/or the church’s reputation. In considering these two situations, I conclude your actions have proven you to be untrustworthy when it comes to serious circumstances such as abuse. As a result, if another similar situation were to come to your attention in the future, I have absolutely ZERO confidence that you would handle it appropriately.

It is unacceptable for a lead pastor to be untrustworthy when it comes to handling serious situations such as abuse.

There are many other ways that you failed to be a suitable leader not only regarding Brandon’s situation, but also at many other times throughout the years. You have lied to people about my husband and the reasons he resigned. You have used the pulpit and your sermons to passive aggressively chastise your staff for disagreeing with you. You have stubbornly resisted to listen to members of your congregation that had concerns regarding the turnover of staff members.  For all these things I chose not to speak up, but this time is different. This time I am speaking up not for my husband’s reputation, but for the victims and the young people who have been hurt and to whom you have failed to effectively minister, which is your job. I know that I have little to gain and much to lose by speaking up like this, but your lack of leadership in this is a much bigger deal than I think you realize. This is not something that can easily be forgotten in a few weeks or months. This is the culmination of a history of consistent leadership failures. For these reasons,the right thing for you to do is to resign. Will it be difficult? Yes. Will it be painful? Yes. Will the church struggle as a result? Yes. But you are simply not fit for this position- you never were and you still are not. If you truly love the church as much as you claim you will do what is right and step down.

Kari Benton

***** Due to threats of legal action made by Steve Wingfield’s lawyer and the leadership at First Christian, I would like to clarify that the above statements are my beliefs. I believe them to be true and have taken steps to confirm their truthfulness. Again, the above statements are MY personal beliefs. ******

 

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