Open Letter Symbol

 

This is the “Open Letter from the Elders, 6-23-15” broken down into statements and analyzed by a former elder with more than 20 years with FCCF and a former FCCF Pastor.

 

An Open Letter from First Christian Elders

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Claim:  We're blessed. First Christian Church of Florissant is an amazing
multi-generational, multi-ethnic family.  We joyfully celebrate a 57
year legacy of ministry built on honoring Jesus Christ through
compassionately living in the world. We have served thousands of
families and been recognized nationally for the strength of our
diversity. Like every family, our Church family has moments when our
strength is tested.
Truth:True

Claim:This is one of those moments. In January, 2014 two former First Christian
Church families were told for the first time by their now grown sons
that they had been sexually abused in 2007 by Brandon Milburn, then a
full-time student at St. Louis Christian College and a part-time Church
employee. These families did the right thing, the difficult thing. They
stood strong in their test, reported this horrible crime to
authorities, and sought counseling.
Truth:TRUE

Claim:A year-long open investigation invited any other victims to come forward
Truth:MISREPRESENTATION:
Investigation was conducted by St. Louis County Police.  FCCF
intentionally did not investigate, as stated numerous times by Steve
and elders in public settings, based upon the advice of Southeast
Christian Church in Louisville, Brandon Milburn’s home church, where
his mother was employed.

Claim:and led to a guilty plea and a sentence to 25 years in prison. While this
abuse did not occur in Church facilities or at our programs, we hurt
when others do. The actions of one had a ripple effect of hurt to many
through his violation of trust.
Truth:TRUE

Claim:Because we are a place of healing, First Christian provides two professional
counseling resources available for victims of Milburn's abuse.
Truth:DISINFORMATION:
Counseling for victims was only confirmed at the June 7, 2015 worship
services in statement read by Stanley DuBose, nearly 18 months after
Brandon Milburn was arrested, and only as a result of consistent
pressure by Dr. Lay, Dawn Varvil and RestoreFCCF.

Cliam:Disturbing methods. Since the February, 2015 sentencing, First
Christian Church has been harassed and slandered by false claims that
Church leaders knew of the sexual abuse and criminally failed to report
it.
Truth:FALSE:  Questions were raised to Church leaders numerous times with no
response.  This is not harassment.  The claims are that Church leaders
had been alerted and warned of deviant sexual behavior by Brandon
Milburn in late 2011 and February 2012 by two separate witnesses.  It
was never claimed that Church leaders were aware of the 2007 crimes BM
was arrested for.  These claims are not slander.

Cliam:This is simply not true.
TruthFALSE

ClaimThese unsubstantiated claims ...
Truth:FALSE:  These claims of deviant sexual behavior were substantiated by numerous witnesses.

Claim:were repeatedly promoted in the unfiltered platform of social media,
Truth:FALSE.  No unsubstantiated claims were promoted on social media.

Claim:on fake Facebook accounts,
Truth:Annie Shankin - a lone anonymous FB account …?

Claim:in phone calls
Truth:FALSE:  Who was making mass phone calls?  

Claim:and emails sourced through the unauthorized use of Church databases,
Truth:What constitutes “unauthorized” use?  What are the rules of use?  Are there any posted rules?
Claim:in issuing demands for the resignation of leaders
Truth:FALSE:  Our letter “requested” that the elders consider our “request.” 
Only upon failure to respond appropriately to our request, was our
request then elevated to a “demand.”

Clail:and seeking supporters
Truth:TRUE

Claim:who might disrupt worship services.
Truth:FALSE
No attempt has ever been made to elicit strife or disrupt worship
services or any other activity or program at the church.

Claim:Critics do share a valuable role suggesting the need for improvements.
Truth:Huh…..?  If this statement is meant like it reads, this would be true.  Does it refer to members of FCCF?

Claim:However, some opportunistically choose destructive methods...
Truth:FALSE:  There have been no “destructive methods.”  We have repeatedly
asked questions of our leaders, who have persisted in resisting any
attempt to respond or even reply in an open setting where candor could
be established.  Does “destructive methods” include asking questions in
a calm demeanor…?

Claim:testing great cities,
Truth:What is this…?

Claim: testing law enforcement,
Truth:What is this…?

Claim:testing best of class organizations,
Truth:What is this…?

Claim:schools,
Truth:What is this…?

Claim:and even effective churches.
Truth:MISDIRECT:  Effective churches employ procedures and practices to
minimize eventualities like FCCF has been through.  But, all churches
need wise leaders and members who lean on the Holy Spirit to reveal
unbiblical doctrines being promoted or sin within leadership.

Claim:A line must be drawn. These methods do not belong in our Church family.
Truth:MISDIRECT
Effective churches employ procedures and practices to minimize
eventualities like FCCF has been through.  But, all churches need
wise leaders and members who lean on the Holy Spirit to reveal
unbiblical doctrines being promoted or sin within leadership.

Claim:Patient leadership. As elders, we have worked in unity over the last months to protect
Truth:To “shield”

Claim:and clear First Christian's name legally and through law enforcement.
Truth:FALSE:  Without illegal or malicious or disruptive actions, or
unsubstantiated claims, legal action was uncalled for.  Biblically,
legal action was unwise and inappropriate.  Law enforcement actions
were unleashed on members of the church based upon lies and
misrepresentations of the Church leadership and Sr. Pastor.

Claim:Based on the clear evidence,
Truth:FALSE:  All evidence clearly reveals lack of truthfulness by Church
leadership, misdirection, misrepresentations, false testimony, etc.

Claim:we've sought retractions, not financial penalties.
Truth:FALSE:  Legal action, law suits, sought monetary penalties.  Court records are public documents, and this can easily be proven. The lawsuit demanded $25,000 in compensatory and unspecified punitive damages.

Claim:After pursuing options that enabled us to name accusers and present affidavits and evidence that could be substantiated in court, the
eldership decided to voluntarily drop civil actions and enlist assistance from two respected Christian mediators.
Truth:FALSE:  “Assistance” was solicited and coordinated by others, including MM & GV, definitely not the elders.  Only after this mediation coordinated by others, did the Sr. Minister elect to withdraw his law suits, but not permanently.

Claim:Our intent - to give our critics yet additional opportunities to reconcile.
Truth:FALSE:  Since the elders were mildly forced into mediation, there was no “…intent to give…opportunities to reconcile.”

Claim:Regretfully
Truth:TRUE

Claim:those seeking to blame us and incite outrage prefer to continue spreading wholly false accusations.
Truth:False!  False!  False!  False!  Since when is outrage against sin a bad
thing…?  AND, the false accusations have been spread by the Church leadership.

Claim:Standing strong. Upon the counsel of our mediator,
Truth:FALSE: I suspect that this is “not exactly” what was meant by the counsel of the mediator (which they didn’t want…..) to leave the church with all of these false and misdirecting positions.

Claim:we are persuaded that the best course of action for the First Christian Church family NOW is to refocus our energies exclusively on moving forward with our ministry and mission. With your support and encouragement, First Christian Church will only intensify our
commitment to stand strong, becoming an even more compassionate community resource. We're thankful that this amazing family continues to grow in faith, welcoming first-time guests and each week celebrating new committed followers of Christ. We began June with more than 500 kids and volunteers in Vacation Bible School. Our Celebrate Recovery is an ongoing ministry of support. While we will always have a tear in our eye for those wronged by heinous actions, our focus is and will be resolutely on the greater things that bring us together... one faith, in one Lord, and one message of God's love and grace that can bring
healing in any life.
Truth:This will have to be a “wait and see” deal.  This would mean in its
plain language that no further reprisals would be perpetrated against any of the “truthers.”

ClaimBetter not bitter. First Christian Church of Florissant is listening, learning and loving, determined to be better, not bitter. Our core values determine that we will go forward, empowered by God's grace to be a place where Christ comes first, where the lost are found, where the Word is heard, where care is shared, and where our world is changed. In this time of testing, First Christian is standing strong.
Truth:Sin is a reproach to any people.  The Holy Spirit’s leading in our church will be reduced until sin is acknowledged and removed.  

We invite you to stand with us.
 
The Eldership of First Christian Church of Florissant
 
Keith Vehlewald, chairman of elders
Stanley DuBose, vice chairman
Bob Dees, secretary
Eugene Storjohann, treasurer
Steve Wingfield, Senior Pastor
Bob Farmer, Jr. Executive Pastor

Actual email sent from elders to church members