Anatomy of a Church Split Part 4, Visually Impaired Version

Part 4: My Testimony as a Member of Arab First Baptist; Full Disclosure

Version for the Visually Impaired

I had a request to make a version of this part available for the visually impaired. I’ve typed out the portions that were uploaded images. Now, the article can be pulled up via Internet Explorer. On the upper, right hand side of the browser, click the blue “A.” A voice will read the text. You can change the voice of the reader by selecting “voice options,” also in the upper right hand side of your browser. This is the only way currently available to me to do that, so I hope this helps.


What follows is my personal testimony, interspersed with my commentary, of the events occurring at Arab First Baptist beginning on Wednesday, August 10, 2022 and continuing to the time of this writing. Testimony from Jack Dixon regarding her experiences beginning in November of 2022 are also presented. This testimony includes the evidence that I possess to corroborate my story. I have blacked out all names with the exception of mine, my son’s, Jack’s, and David Kizziah’s. However, where necessary for the understanding of the narrative, I have labeled the position of the party involved.


August – September 2022:


After the Wednesday night Bible study on August 10,2022, my 17 year-old son, Kane, found a box of books against the wall in the youth room and asked the youth pastor what they were and if he could have a look. The youth pastor explained that they were the books David had chosen to use as the curriculum for the upcoming youth semester and readily passed him a copy. The book was Wayne Grudem’s Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know.

Knowing that Wayne Grudem is Calvinist, Kane asked if he could take a book home to look over. The youth pastor had no problem with this.

Wayne Grudem is a well-known and highly respected Calvinist theologian. I personally hold him in high regard and agree with numerous stances that he takes, with the exception, of course, of his staunch Calvinism. In the “Preface to the First Edition,” Grudem states:

“This book is a summary of twenty basic beliefs that every Christian should know.”

“It is a condensed version of my book Bible Doctrine (528 pages), and that itself is a condensed version of my Systematic Theology (1,290 pages). My son Elliot Grudem, an MDiv graduate from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, has done an excellent job in saving the most essential sections from those earlier books…”

After looking the book over himself, Kane brought the book to me on that same Wednesday night. He explained that this book was intended as curriculum for the upcoming youth semester and told me that he thought I should have a look, adding that he didn’t think I’d be happy about it. I recognized Grudem immediately, but since the title seemed to indicate that this was simply a teaching on twenty beliefs that are basic for every Christian to know I was not alarmed. That changed when I realized that this book was actually a condensed version of his systematic theology, and that the twenty “basic beliefs” included several explicitly Calvinist distinctives such as the Calvinist version of election and predestination; irresistible grace, including a break-down of the “general” versus “effective” Gospel call; compatibilism presented as the “Biblical” definition of free will; regeneration preceding faith; and original sin as inherited guilt. This list is by no means exhaustive.

In all honestly, I was shocked and more than a little confused. The youth pastor seemed to be completely fine with this text, yet I was all but certain that he was not a proponent of Calvinism. I also believed that the majority of the youth parents were not Calvinist. Historically, Arab First Baptist has been a non-Calvinist church, though I was aware that there were a few Calvinist or Calvinist leaning members. The following day, August 11th, I sent the email below to the youth pastor.

Hi (Youth Pastor)!

Kane brought home a book last night that he said you were considering to use as a teaching tool this year regarding beliefs basic to the Christian faith. After looking through it, I hope that you’ll re-consider. Reviewing the book myself, I discovered that several of the beliefs posited as “basic” are in fact distinctly and specifically Calvinist. These include, but may not be limited to:

– original sin as inherited guilt

– Calvinist definition of “election”

– “compatibilism” presented as the “Biblical” definition of free will

– the Calvinist doctrine of Irresistible Grace and peculiarly Calvinist differentiation between what they call “effectual” versus “general” calling

– the claim that regeneration precedes faith

These are in no way “basic” beliefs to either the Baptist denomination or the Christian faith as a whole.

Based on the portions that I have examined, it would be putting it mildly to say that I would be alarmed if this text were to be presented to my children in the context of Sunday School instruction as a reliable description of “basic Christian beliefs.” The book is undeniably, and apparently unabashedly, presenting a very high-Calvinist interpretation of Scripture as “basic” to Christian belief. I would expect a book authored by a Calvinist systematic theologian such as Wayne Grudem to include some Calvinist leaning. However, I am extremely disconcerted that a book with the alleged purpose of summarizing basic Christian beliefs would read like an apologetic for one small branch of Reformed theology, especially since Reformed theology as a whole is quite a small corner of Christianity to begin with.

I have included a Word document detailing specific quotes with page numbers cited, as well as non-Calvinist scholarly sources detailing the fact that these views are not germane to Christianity as a whole- not by a long shot.

I appreciate your consideration in this matter.


Tiffany Denham


I did not receive a reply from the youth pastor. However, Pastor David Kizziah sent me the reply below on Friday, August 12th.




I hope this note finds you well today.

[The Youth Pastor] passed along your email to me and I thought it appropriate for me to take a first pass at responding.

First, let me thank you for emailing your concerns and commend you for seeking to be a good Berean (Acts 17:11)! May your tribe increase. I am so thankful for the Lord’s work through His Spirit in our lives when we come to the Scriptures in a humble posture, seeking to be shaped by His truth. As we think deeply, He grants understanding (2 Tim.2:7). I know that is what we are all seeking to do on a daily basis that we might be transformed more into the image of Jesus and used more for His glory.

Second, I want you to know that [the youth pastor] and I worked together in prayerfully selecting what we thought would be the best curriculum to serve our teachers in this next season of teaching. We landed on the Grudem book as a result of that process. The book is to serve as an aide primarily for the teacher who will distill the truths therein. And while it is true that the students will not necessarily walk through the book having their own copy, I would not hesitate to give a copy to those desiring one.

I do not mean that to come across as harsh or dismissive to your concerns. Rather, I wanted to state up front my heartfelt and earnest commendation of this work, while at the same time inviting you into a conversation with [the youth pastor] and myself over your concerns.

Wayne Grudem is highly respected in all Evangelical circles (including Southern Baptist) and has proven the authenticity of his scholarship by the well attested Christ like life he has lived for almost 75 years. A few times in your letter you make reference to Grudem being in a small isolated camp of Christendom, when in fact he occupies a honored place in the Evangelical world (that is, unless you classify all Evangelicals as a small corner. In that case, I must insist that we get in that corner and stay there.)

I can almost guarantee that you would find Grudem’s systematic theology book (from which this book is a condensing of) in 90% of current Evangelical Seminaries. Frankly, I do not know if there is another contemporary scholar in the same ball park when it comes to widespread theological influence. Grudem’s work has certainly done much to help shape my own understanding of the Scriptures.

If it is Calvinism that is specifically the issue, can I ask why? I almost feel, when reading your letter, that if I were replace Calvinism with the word “heresy” I would have taken away the same meaning. Is this how you feel, namely, that Calvinism is heresy? Is Reformed theology false doctrine? Surely, this is not what you mean is it? If so, I need to say that within our own convention, The Southern Baptist Convention, there have always been two streams [ a Reformed (Charleston based) and an Arminian (Sandy Creek) base]. In fact the first endorsement of this book comes from Al Mohler, who is the president of the flagship seminary (Southern Seminary) of our convention. In that endorsement Mohler both affirms Grudem as a teacher and this book as a true guide to “basic” beliefs.

Unfortunately, there has often been found harsh, hypocritical, non-Christ-like and authoritarian types in the church who like to masquerade in the garb of what they call “Calvinism” or “Reformed theology” or the “Doctrines of Grace.” I have run into some of those. Frankly, it is nauseating. That is one reason I tend to eschew such labels. But, there is a Biblical, Christ loving, mission minded, evangelistically zealous, hot-hearted for the kingdom kind of Calvinsm. And I think Grudem is of that camp.

Have you had a past, painful experience running into those in this camp?

Let me say that I go with Grudem on every point you raised (original sin, election, compatibalistic view of free will, calling, and regeneration). I would be happy to speak those more throughly in writing if you like. And yet, even if someone walks away with a different position on one of these issues, say free will, that is okay. That is our hope for our students.

How do I articulate what the Bible teaches about free will? Original sin? Etc…. This is our hope for our students. That is what is “basic”.

Will there be disagreements about some of the finer nuances? Sure, but lets work that out on the anvil of discussion and good hermeneutics.

Would you be willing to have further face to face dialogue on this? Would you like a more through response to your concerns in writing? I would be happy to accommodate in either way.

I do not, however, think this book dangerous. In fact, I think it will be extremely helpful as we walk through the word together this year.

I hope this comes across with the compassion that is sincerely in my heart as I type. I would love to dialogue further on this at your convenience.

May the Lord bless you,

David Kizziah


As you can see, the tone is direct, yet friendly and respectful. Notice that I have outlined in red where David readily told me that he agrees with Grudem on every Calvinist point of contention I raised. I understand his following statement (“How do I articulate what the Bible teaches about free will? Original sin? Etc… This is our hope for our students. This is what is ‘basic.’”) to mean that it is his hope to teach the Calvinist view of free will, original sin, etc to the youth as doctrines that are “basic” to Christianity.

However, he also follows that by indicating that the youth will be able to “work that out on the anvil” of discussion and good hermeneutics. I was both encouraged and troubled by that last statement. On the one hand, I was happy that Kane would be allowed to question these teachings and explain the non-Calvinist interpretations of key Scriptures, which was something I felt reasonably confident in his ability to do. On the other hand, I was uncomfortable that this scenario could potentially come across as my 17-year old being pitted against authority.


That same day, I sent the following reply to David.


Hi David!

I really appreciate your thoughtful and quick response, and your openness to dialogue.

First, I’d like to clear up a misunderstanding regarding my opinion of Wayne Grudem. I too hold him high regard. In fact, I find myself staunchly in his camp with respect to his view of the Trinity, which aligns more closely with the Eastern Orthodox view as opposed to the more Western concept. He has caught a lot of heat for his stance in Evangelical circles, but I agree with him that the view he ascribes to is the more faithful to the Biblical text. When I said that I expected the book to have a Calvinist leaning when I saw that he was the author, I didn’t mean that in a disparaging way. I just literally meant that I expected a Calvinist leaning simply because he is a Calvinist systematic theologian.

I also didn’t mean my statement that Calvinism in particular (and Grudem by extension) is a small corner of Christendom pejoratively. Rather, my point was that this book presents the beliefs within as “basic” Christian belief, yet a very large part of Christendom rejects several of the beliefs described. Protestantism as a whole is only 1/3 of Christendom. Not all Protestants consider themselves “Reformed,” and not all “Reformed” are Calvinist. This is what I meant by describing Calvinists as a corner of a corner of Christendom. Again, for me, the issue is presenting beliefs that are restricted to this small portion of Christendom as “basic.” If we were attending a Presbyterian or specifically Reformed Baptist church, I would fully expect that these beliefs may be presented as basic beliefs. However, it has always been my understanding that First Baptist Arab includes varying (to an extent) views with respect to soteriology. So, as I mentioned in my email to Trent, I would not expect explicitly Calvinist soteriology to be presented to my children in the context of Sunday School instruction as a description of “basic Christian beliefs.”

Yes, Calvinism is specifically the issue. I certainly do not believe Calvinism is heretical, and I certainly do not believe that Reformed theology is false doctrine. I wouldn’t consider the term “Calvinist” to be synonymous with the term “Reformed.” After all, Arminians are Reformed and I can align with quite a lot of Arminian theology. I have not really had a “bad” experience with Calvinism. (Though I am acutely aware that there are some that are atrocious, as you mentioned. I think you can find those individuals in any system.) In fact, when I began to study the Bible in earnest several years ago I was drawn to it (although I wouldn’t have known what the term “Calvinist” meant at the time). I was primarily attracted to Calvinist theologians particularly due to their tendency to really “go deep” into Scripture. As a system, it really appealed to me because I tend to be analytical and there were answers within a very cohesive and logical system, with a focus on Scripture as ultimate authority. It is undeniable that if one conducts an internet search on almost any topic, the first several results will be Calvinist ministries. I suppose you could say that continuing to read Calvinists and growing in my knowledge of the Bible is ultimately what changed my mind. As I think I mentioned to you once before, I was raised in a cult (Worldwide Church of God), and I am particularly sensitive to the fact that once one accepts a specific system, and then accepts Scripture as interpreted through that system, it becomes virtually impossible to “see” it any other way. There were so many Scriptures that I noticed I was having to treat in a distressingly familiar way to the way I had previously had to treat Scripture when I was reading with my “Worldwide Church of God glasses” on. Additionally, I was becoming aware that an entire overarching theme of the Bible, specifically the theme of God repeatedly exhorting individuals to choose between “2 ways” (the way of life or the way of death), was essentially turned into a disingenuous “choice” on Calvinism. In my view, Calvinism cannot avoid the consequence of turning God into the author of sin and evil, and ultimately impugns the character of God (or at least the character that God has revealed to us in Scripture). So, I began to search out alternative exegetical possibilities to the passages that I had believed were “clearly Calvinist,” and the rest is history. I firmly believe other views are more faithful to Scripture.

When you say: “How do I articulate what the Bible teaches about free will? Original sin? Etc… This is our hope for our students. That is what is ‘basic.'” I’m not sure exactly what you mean. If what you mean by that is that the view presented in the book, the Calvinist view, is “basic,” and that is what will be presented to the students, then that is begging the question. Lots of parents of First Baptist youth do not consider the Calvinist view of those issues “basic” to their respective views. If what you mean by that is that the students should be theologically literate enough to be able to articulate a Calvinist view of those concepts in addition to various non-Calvinist views of those concepts, then I would be in wholehearted agreement. I welcome working it out on “the anvil of discussion.” I just sincerely desire that there be someone capable of articulating the views. To that end, there is a recently published Evangelical response to the increasing presence of Calvinism that could assist in presenting the other side(s) of the aisle: Calvinism: A Biblical and Theological Critique, edited by David L. Allen and Steve W. Lemke. Alternatively, perhaps a systematic theology text authored by a non-Calvinist could be provided as a reference to whoever is presenting the issues. There are several options listed in the “Books for Further Reading” section of Grudem’s book.

I don’t think this book is in any way dangerous. I just think it’s an incredibly one-sided presentation of certain basics. You are always very sincere and compassionate and I hope that I have responded in the same way. I’d be happy to discuss this further either in person or via email, whichever is more convenient for you.

Respectfully and sincerely,

Tiffany Denham


My tone is very friendly and respectful, and I obviously hold a high view of his character. I answered his questions clearly, and clarified that I have not personally had any negative experiences with Calvinism.

At this time I did reach out to my friend Jack Dixon, who was a youth leader, because I wanted to have at least one person that was aware of the situation other than just David, myself, and my son. I brought her the book, showed her my email correspondence with the youth pastor and David, as well as the Word document I attached to my original email to the youth pastor. I didn’t think that she and her family were Calvinist, and I wanted to show her what was planned for the upcoming semester. I told her that David and I would be scheduling a meeting. In later correspondence we set a meeting time for the following Thursday, August 18th, at 10:30 am.

The tone of our meeting was also friendly. I re-stated much of what is in the email above. He was nothing but genial and forthcoming in explaining his doctrinal views to me, confirming that they are in alignment with what Grudem presents in the text he selected for the youth. I explained that I had become aware from his sermons that he was Calvinist shortly after he arrived. I told him that during the time when we were searching for a pastor, I had asked the Associate Pastor (who had since moved on to a different congregation) what he thought the odds were that a Calvinist pastor would be hired, and that he told me he didn’t think that was likely considering our history as a non-Calvinist congregation. However, I told him that I was content to remain, despite the fact that I did not support the use of the Grudem text as a curriculum for the youth.

He asked me once again if I had had bad experiences with Calvinists or Calvinism in my past. I reiterated to him that I had not personally had any negative experiences with Calvinists or Calvinism. I expressed to him that I did not think it was fair to the non-Calvinist youth leaders to expect them to teach Calvinist doctrine. He indicated that they’d be free to teach the lessons as they liked. I told him that I thought this might put them in an uncomfortable position, and I also told him that I was concerned that some of them might not be equipped to articulate non-Calvinist interpretations of the passages the book presents Calvinistically. I asked if he would consider supplying a non-Calvinist resource of his choosing alongside the Grudem text. He declined to do so.

He did express his desire for us all to be unified in our diversity. The meeting lasted for about an hour, and at the end David asserted that he would not consider pulling the text, or supplying a non-Calvinist resource. However, he asked me if there was some other measure that would allow me to leave the meeting satisfied. I asked if he would at least make the youth parents aware that the curriculum is Calvinist so that they could prepare responses to give their children, rather than being taken completely off guard. He said that he did not want to use the word “Calvinist,” because he considered it to be inflammatory. However, he said that he would tell the youth parents that the curriculum was “Reformed.” He confirmed to me at that time that he uses the two terms synonymously.

It did bother me that he was unwilling to even consider supplying a non-Calvinist text despite the fact that he acknowledged that the majority of the youth leaders and parents are not Calvinist. Despite that, David was never rude or angry during the meeting. I was at least relieved that he had agreed to make the parents aware that it was a “Reformed” text, although I was concerned that some parents might not know what that meant. Honestly, I hoped this measure would be enough to cause other parents to voice the same concerns that I had, and perhaps we could get a non-Calvinist resource added to the curriculum. Overall, I would say that I left the meeting uneasy, but not yet concerned about his character.

On August 23rd, the youth pastor sent the following email to the youth parents in announcement of the upcoming semester.


Hey guys,

It’s been a great start to the semester. Teleios officially started last week and we kicked off our new pod system. We have nine pods with an average of 5-6 students per pod. These pods have up to three adult leaders who lead the group in Bible study, discussion, and prayer on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. Greg Ogden writes, “Disciples cannot be mass produced but are the product of intimate and personal investment.” We hope and pray by shrinking the number of students in each of our small groups, we enhance the intentionality, thoughtfulness, and personal investment of our small group leaders for each of their students. Our goal is to make a permanent influence founded on “deep and indestructible convictions” in the minds of a few, not to make superficial impressions on the many (A.B. Bruce).

I also wanted to take a moment to highlight the curriculum we are implementing this semester. During Sunday school, our teachers are using Wayne Grudem’s Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know. For the past four years, we have been using an application-based curriculum during the Sunday school hour. We are making a (temporary) shift on Sunday mornings from application-based lessons to theology development. Grudem has 20 basic beliefs/principles in his book and we will study each one. I will be giving our teachers scriptures to use for each belief/principle and, within the context of their small group, our students will use a common framework to dissect the verse(s). Our teachers have copies of the book and will use them as a supplemental tool to help teach the principles/beliefs. We have extra copies of the book in the youth room if you would to read through one.

On Wednesdays, we are starting a series called “Anonymous Letters.” Students submitted anonymous letters two weeks ago describing personal and spiritual struggles. I will be addressing some of those struggles from the platform and in the context of the pods. We will use Psalm 23 as our text for the next 3-4 weeks. I want us to suck all the marrow out of Psalm 23 and lean into its practical application. My prayer is it will transform us from the inside out so in moments of anxiety and depression (both of which were indicated frequently in the letters) we consciously and instinctually proclaim the words of David, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.”

Thank you for entrusting [my wife] and me with your children.

In Christ,

[Youth Pastor]


I was upset. Although the name of the book was included, there was no mention that it was a Reformed text, which was the one thing David had told me that he would do. I also noticed that some of the youth parents had been left off the email list, and that of those left off, some were individuals I knew to be non-Calvinist. I am not saying that I believe this was intentional. I’m just stating that these parents did not get the heads up that I had been promised they would get.

Most youth parents have absolutely no idea who Wayne Grudem is, much less than he is Calvinist. Furthermore, the title seems to indicate that the book is a primer on basic Christian beliefs. I doubted that this would raise red flags for anyone.  As parents, we trust the Pastor and the Youth Pastor to provide materials that we would find acceptable. In the context of our historically non-Calvinist church, not a single one of us would expect our youth program to be teaching Calvinism 101 as basic Christian doctrine.

I wasn’t sure what to do. In hindsight, I should have gone back to him and asked him why he didn’t disclose that the book is Reformed as he had agreed to do. But I didn’t. Instead, I reached out to a deacon that I respected, and that Kane particularly looked up to. Kane told me that this deacon had given a presentation at some point in the past detailing why he disagreed with Calvinism. He has a child in the youth program, so I believed that he was a good choice. He also happened to be one of the youth parents that was left off the announcement email recipient list. I sent him the email below on August 25th.


Hey [Deacon]!

I noticed you weren’t on the list of people that got this email so I wanted to forward it to you and give you a little private head’s up regarding the book that they’re using as curriculum for the youth this semester. Even though it says it’s “basic” Christian beliefs, it is actually a condensed version of Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology book. It explicitly teaches full-on Calvinist doctrine: unconditional election with the Calvinist definition of election, irresistible grace, Calvinist version of perseverance of the saints, Calvinist version of total depravity, compatibilism, etc. Limited atonement isn’t laid out explicitly, but it’s implied. Kane mentioned that you had given a presentation to the youth last year explaining your disagreement with multiple aspects of TULIP, so if you still feel that way I thought you might want to be aware. I only know because Kane happened to see the books in a box a few weeks ago and asked [the youth pastor] if he could bring one home.

As far as I’m aware, the book is not endorsed by any non-Calvinist theologian. I’ve spoken with Bro. David personally, but this is the book he wants to use and he says the kids will be welcome to debate the issues. Hope you don’t take this as me being divisive or secretive. That’s not my intent. It’s mainly just that I would want to know if the situation were reversed so I could get prepared to do some extra teaching with my kids. 🙂

– Tiffany


He replied to me that day with the email below.



Thank you for reaching out to me on this.  I had almost forgotten having this discussion with Kane, but yes, I do recall.   I’m at work right now in the middle of our every day chaos.  Let me digest this later tonight and think about this.  I don’t take this as being secretive or divisive at all.  As a deacon, I take responsibility to listen to the members of the church and ensure we are addressing promptly and properly.  I’ve not been privy to any of the discussions that led to these curriculum decision as I’ve stepped back from teaching in the youth ministry for the last year…but these youth matters are still very important to me.  So again, let me digest tonight and I’ll get back to you.


Hope you all are doing well and I miss getting to interact w/ Kane weekly.





I didn’t hear back from him for quite some time, but I had also told him there was no rush, and that I had mainly wanted to make him aware.

In the interim, I had decided to let some of the parents that I knew for sure were not Calvinist know about the book, which had already begun to be taught by this time. I agonized over whether or not this was the right thing to do, but I truly felt like I had been painted into a corner. If the situation were reversed and I was a non-Calvinist parent who had no idea that my child was being taught Calvinist doctrine as basic Christianity, I would certainly want to know, if for no other reason than to allow me to have my own conversations with my kids about the topic.

This amounted to 2 parents at the time. I just hadn’t had conversations with the others that would indicate to me where they stood.  I mentioned it (very awkwardly) to the children’s minister’s wife in between Wednesday night children’s service activities.  I was certain that they weren’t Calvinist, but her response made me think perhaps they were okay with the material (they have kids in youth too). I didn’t say anything else to her about it. I now know that she really didn’t pick up on exactly what it was I was telling her. I had been super awkward about it. No to mention the fact that I had brought it up when there were quite a lot of distractions going on around us. I told one other parent, who was also displeased, and asked me to keep her updated on the reply from the leadership I had reached out to.

In the meantime, the book was being used for the curriculum, and Kane would report to me what he had said at each meeting and how it was received. It wasn’t a great situation, but so far nothing earth shattering had occurred.

On September 14th, I received the following reply from the deacon I had made aware of the situation.


Hey Tiffany,

Just checking in to see how Youth has been going with Kane and the literature.  I’ve been reading and giving it thought, but I confess that I’ve not been able to convince myself one way or the other on how some of these basic doctrinal beliefs should best be taught to kids, and honestly I think it depends on the spiritual maturity of the child.  Knowing most of the youth, I think Kane is one of the few who could intelligently articulate and defend his beliefs on the calvanistic/Arminianistic spectrum.  Whether they truly comprehend it or not, doesn’t change the fact that our method of teaching it does probably influence them in some way.  But I certainly can’t say with any conviction that I know what is right.  I guess I would lean towards using material (on either side) that presents the concepts clearly and in an age appropriate manner to facilitate discussion.  If you know of literature that presents a comparison and boundaries of the concepts on the spectrum, please do recommend them.   Personally my kids still haven’t shown the maturity to dive in this deep so I’ve not had the joy of having these discussions yet with them.  🙂 (I’m just happy to [my son] to take a bath and brush his teeth lol).  I do continue to watch and observe the direction of the SBC with respect to this.

So again, thank you for raising this up.  I will also continue to represent this as a topic with our deacons and ministerial staff.

Tell Kane hello and look forward to seeing you all soon!



I was encouraged that he said he would be bringing this to the attention of the deacons and ministerial staff. However, I never heard anything else about that. I replied to him with the email below on September 21st.


Hey [Deacon]!

Well, I meant to reply last week and just realized that I completely forgot. Sorry about that!

So far it’s going okay with Kane. As you mentioned, he can pretty much hold his own. Plus, he loves to talk theology with me, so odds are if something comes up, we get to have a good conversation about it. That’s why I’m a little more concerned about this book from Ella’s standpoint. She doesn’t have the interest Kane does, so she is much more likely to just take what she hears described as basic Christian truth and never say anything else to me about it. It’s convenient to me now that I know what is being said since Kane is hearing the same. So, I can talk to her about it a little (at least until she begins to glaze over, lol!). I completely agree with you when you say the teaching method likely does influence them in some way despite whether they are actually comprehending it fully or not.

I also agree that I would prefer we use material that presents the basics clearly in a way that they can understand, and ideally even provokes discussion. The hairy part of the issue is that so much of the “basics” presented in the book they’re using is explicit Calvinism. From my understanding, [the Youth Pastor] originally wanted to use C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity.” I think that’s a fabulous idea since it doesn’t incorporate things that aren’t actually basic to Christianity and make the claim that they are (as the Grudem book does). However, David was opposed to that book. I’m assuming this is likely because Lewis is explicitly non-Calvinist, especially in his putting forward the “man’s free will” defense in response to the question of evil, which is a big part of the book. From his point of view, I’m sure he cringes at using “Mere Christianity” as a teaching text for the youth for essentially the same reasons I cringe that Grudem’s text is being used.

Since there are both Calvinist and non-Calvinist individuals at our church, in a perfect world I’d love to see our youth program ensure that the youth are given both sides of the coin. Otherwise, either side of the aisle is likely to feel as if there is some indoctrination going on. There are plenty of non-Calvinist systematic theology texts and Grudem’s book even lists many of them in the back. It seems like a good idea to me to utilize one of those texts alongside the Grudem book so that a non-Calvinist perspective on the points Grudem lists as basic can be given. Of course, one down side to this approach is that it is asking a lot of study out of the volunteers who teach, and I know many may simply not have the time to invest.

To be completely honest, as much as I agree with David that the kids need to know basics, I don’t know that I even agree that a systematic theology text is the best avenue to achieve that. For one, the material can be very dry. It’s hard enough for an adult to make it through a systematic theology text. Now, presenting two sides (Calvinist vs non-Calvinist) may very well spice up the discussions. I think that would be great, but others may not agree with me on that since those debates can indeed get heated. Second, I’ve already seen an example of this approach backfiring. For example, in one of the first lessons Kane’s group was discussing what it means that God is “unchanging,” since that is one of the characteristics listed in the text. Kane asked how God could be considered “unchanging” in the scenario where Jesus went from not having a human nature (pre-incarnation) to having a human nature (post-incarnation). [Youth leader 1] replied that he really thought more of Jesus as a “manifestation.” Kane, recognizing that this sounded uncomfortably close to denying Christ’s humanity (which I’m sure [youth leader 1] didn’t intend, he was just trying to defend the book’s position off the cuff), was going to respond, but [youth leader 2] shut down the discussion at that point. My concern is for the other kids listening in who didn’t have explained to them that Jesus was most definitely not just a manifestation, but truly man and truly God, which is necessary for the doctrine of the atonement.

Personally, I tend toward the view that a class teaching the kids how to defend the historical grounds for Jesus and His resurrection would be more desirable since that is, in fact, what our faith rises or falls on. Credo Courses has a really affordable class taught by Dr. Gary Habermas that was one of the most fascinating and faith-affirming classes I think I have ever taken. At the end of that class, any student would feel confident in their believe that the Biblical account of Jesus’s death and resurrection did actually occur (even from an intellectual standpoint), and confident in their ability to give a compelling defense of this belief to a non-believer. Another option that would be great for the kids at some point is the newly released, free 6- lesson course explaining what a biblical worldview is. Apologist Alisa Childers recently did an interview with the guy who does the Barna surveys, and he was discussing the recent survey results revealing that only 9% of church-goers actually have a biblical worldview. This would be amazing since I know we have at least one youth member who comes from a non-Christian background, so a Biblical worldview is foreign to her in many ways. Here’s the link to that:

Summit Ministries’ newest discipleship resource Now We Live: How Your Faith Can Transform a Broken World Press Release…

I am so appreciative of your willingness to discuss these issues and for your representation to the other deacons and staff. I know SBC is currently trending in the Calvinist direction (historically it rises up strong then fades out in cycles), so I guess the non-Calvinists among us are likely in for what we would consider exasperating times.




November 2022:

The Sunday School Lesson

This is the month that everything went south. The lesson in the curriculum on election was coming up, and the youth pastor reached out to David to ask him to come give a “two views” style lesson in which he would give both the Calvinist and non-Calvinist views of election like he had done for some of the youth the year before. The youth pastor told Kane that he thought he would be pleased, because David had agreed to present both views of election in the upcoming lesson. Kane was encouraged by this news. I told my friend, the children’s minister’s wife, what Kane had been told so they’d be aware.

On November 6th, David gave the presentation to the youth during Sunday School. He did not give two views; he gave only the Calvinist view. There was a lot of confusion. The youth pastor had not been present, however there were a few youth leaders in attendance, one of which was Jack Dixon. Below is a picture that Kane took of the white board that David used in teaching the lesson.

Picture description:

The words “Order of Salvation” are written at the top of the board in black. Below that is written: 1. Election; 2. Gospel Call; 3. Regeneration; 4. Conversion; 5. Justification; 6. Adoption; 7. Sanctification; 8. Perseverance; 9. Death; and 10. Glorification.

To the left of this list, there is a large umbrella drawn in red ink. Inside the dome of the umbrella the words “Sovereign will” are written. Just outside of the dome of the red umbrella, the words “all things” are written. Underneath the dome of the umbrella, alongside the handle, the words “free will” are written. Below the umbrella’s handle, the word “Foreknowledge” is written.

To the right of the Order of Salvation list, the word “Author” is written in red. Beneath that, the word “Character” is written in red. Immediately to the right of the word “Author,” the word “decree” is written in black. Immediately to the right of the word “Character,” the word “desire” is written in black.

Directly underneath this, the words “Deut 29:29” are written in red. Just below, and slightly to the left of this the words “Eph 2:8-9” are written.


If you are unfamiliar with Calvinism, you may need to refer to Part 2 of this series in order to get a better understanding of what is being taught on this board. David has listed the Calvinist order of salvation, which places God’s choice of the “elect” first. According to Calvinism, He chose the “elect” before Creation, not based on anything He foreknew about any individual. Calvinists don’t like to use the word “arbitrary” to describe the choice, but it does get the point across accurately nonetheless.

After that comes the Gospel call. If you are elect, your Gospel call will be what is called “effective,” meaning He will regenerate you, thus enabling and ensuring that you will respond in faith/repentance/belief, and be saved . If you are non-elect, the Gospel call you receive is what Calvinists refer to as “general.” God will not regenerate you, and you will not be able to even desire to have faith, repent, or believe, so your call will not be “effective,” and you will not be saved.

The umbrella of “sovereign will” over “free will” denotes the Calvinist definition of both God’s sovereign will and man’s free will. Calvinists view God’s sovereign will as equivalent with exhaustive divine determinism (though many don’t like to use the word “determinism”). Instead of defining free will in the libertarian sense (one can choose to do or not do a particular proposition, i.e., choose to either accept or reject the Gospel), they define it in the compatibilistic sense (you’re “free” because you choose to do what you want to do; however, you cannot want to accept the Gospel unless you have been regenerated).

Kane explained to me that David opened the lesson by citing Deuteronomy 29:29 which reads:

“29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (ESV)

Calvinists cite this verse as corroboration that some of the ways God interacts with us are mysterious and difficult to understand. Kane says he used the example of the Trinity (i.e., it’s difficult to understand how God can be both 1 and 3, but we know it’s true). In my opinion, this is an unconvincing argument. It’s perfectly reasonable to accept that my finite mind is not capable of grasping the details of the metaphysical existence of the Creator of the universe. It’s not reasonable to convince myself to accept two mutually exclusive truths as true at the same time and call it a “mystery.” Especially, when there are valid reasons not to accept that those two mutually exclusive truths are simultaneously true. As Calvinist Paul Helm has cautioned, that “could be license to accept nonsense.”

Kane says that David then began to go through the usual Calvinist proof texts: Ephesians 1:11, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 8, etc. During this time, Kane says that David explicitly taught exhaustive divine determinism and compatibilist free will (but neither by name). Next, Kane says that he explained that God has decrees and He has desires. You can see those two words written on the white board. (see the Calvinist view of the two wills of God in Part 2).

Somewhere around this point, Kane tells me that he raised his hand to counter some of the points David was giving with a non-Calvinist perspective. He said he literally only got one word out: “Well,” before David stopped him and asked him to hold all questions until the end, after which Kane did not speak or raise his hand again until the end.

Kane says at that point, David “strongly implied” that some people disagree with this theology for emotional rather than rational reasons, and that some consider it “unfair.” To illustrate all of this, David gave the common Calvinist analogy of God as author and humans as characters. He gave two examples here: one of Star Wars and one of Harry Potter.

With regard to Star Wars, he explained that God is analogous with George Lucas. He pre-determined absolutely everything that would occur, down to everything each character is and everything each character does. He then said something to the effect of: But when you’re watching the movie, and Darth Vader does something horrible, who do you blame, Darth Vader or George Lucas?” He answered his own question saying that, of course, we blame Darth Vader! David further explained that as author, God has decrees that will certainly come to pass. However, he also has desires that appear to be contrary to those decrees. For example, God does not desire that Darth Vader be evil and do evil things, however, as author, He has unchangeably decreed that Darth Vader will indeed be and do both.

When David ended his presentation, Kane was allowed to respond. He says that he picked the random starting place of explaining the non-Calvinist interpretation of Romans 8. He says David said that he was unfamiliar with his argument. Kane tells me that David then shut down his questions, saying that it would be better if they continued their discussion in private because Kane was using words that the rest of the room didn’t understand. Kane said he had merely used the word “soteriology,” which he followed by defining as “doctrine of salvation.”

Kane was angry. More than a few kids were completely confused. Some kids and even one of the youth leaders were coming to Jack and asking her all kinds of questions she couldn’t answer at the moment. Apparently they did feel comfortable asking David these questions. Jack has given me permission to supply the text conversation that took place between her and the youth pastor immediately after the meeting.


Youth Pastor: How’d it go?

Jack: Train wreck. David and I discussed him coming back next week to

Youth Pastor: That bad?

Jack: Well it felt like he stepped in a clear pond and the water got murky. After, [one of the youth girls] came up and said, I feel like he’s saying there are people who have no chance at heaven. So I asked David to come and do a Q & A with the kids.

Youth Pastor: That’s great.

Jack: So we need to ask them to write out their questions (so none are felt like their put on the spot. They’re. I have command of the English language, but not my emotions.

Youth Pastor: Was anyone angry during or after?

Jack: I teared up when asking David because I was so worked up about the kids feeling like they couldn’t ask, feeling defeated, and having to wrestle alone…thank God he’s so easy going.

Youth Pastor: Did Kane put him on the spot?

Jack: A little, but not disrespectfully. And they came out ok. Kane is worked up but I went straight to him and told him to cool his jets and let me ask for a 2nd lesson to clear up some things.

Youth Pastor: How’d David handle that?

Jack: Which part? Kane countering his interpretation of scripture or me saying the kids felt like he had made the water murky? He’s David, he handled it with grace.

Youth Pastor: Kane. “’Liked’ He’s David, he handled it with grace.”

Jack: He asked Kane to have a one on one to go through the questions he has.

Youth Pastor: I should have been in there.

Jack: Because Kane is so smart, when he counters it goes over everyone’s head. You’re fine buddy, we can have an AAR after service so I can explain better.

Conversation picks up later:

Jack: You think we can get our teens to work kid care on the 21st so more adults can volunteer?

Youth Pastor: Yes. (Thumbs up)

Jack: What if we had someone like [former Associate Pastor] to come and give a second view. So you’re not pitted against your boss… A friendly in-house discourse…

Youth Pastor: What about Kane?

Jack: My fear is Kane cannot temper the dragon… he gets emotionally driven and will lose witness. We need someone who can speak intelligently and remain unemotional.

Youth Pastor: I’ll have to think through it. I need to hear what David has to say. And also give him the chance to clarify things next Sunday.

Jack: I don’t want David to feel attacked, because that sucks, but the kids deserve to hear the non calvinist view so they realize the importance of digging into the word, and searching out truth. I do not want this to become a divisive topic which pits Christians against each other but we do the kids a disservice if we don’t give them room to learn. I think this is a great way to teach them apologetics, about coming to terms with why they believe what they believe and how to come to those beliefs.

Youth Pastor: I agree. I’m planning on having a conversation with him about it on Tuesday and express all of this to him in an honest and concerned way. Has Tiffany said anything yet?

Jack: She’s not happy, says she will likely ask for a meeting with him.

End of Text Conversation


I want to point out that Jack’s attitude toward David here is certainly one of respect. She says that David handled everything with respect, and she clearly believes that David will agree to come address the youth again to clear up confusion. She also expresses concern that David not “feel attacked.”

There was a church picnic scheduled the evening of November 6th. Kane was still so upset about the day’s events that we didn’t attend. By evening, the children’s minister had also become aware that some children and parents were upset. He approached David at the picnic and encouraged him to clarify to the parents what had happened. David told him that there was no issue; only a couple of people had problems with the lesson.

The following Tuesday, November 8th, the youth pastor meets with David and requests that he come address the youth again, allowing them to ask questions and to clear up the confusion. David told the youth pastor to have the kids submit their questions in writing, then David would provide him with a script of his answers to read to the kids. The youth pastor did not agree to this, and continued to request that David come and address the youth in person. David relented and instructed the youth pastor to have the kids submit their questions in writing.

The next night, at the Wednesday night youth meeting, Jack and the youth pastor encouraged the kids to submit questions. Ultimately, Kane was the only one to submit questions that I am aware of. In my opinion, this was not because the kids didn’t have questions. Jack sure had fielded plenty. Ultimately, David refused to come address the kids again, saying that since only one had submitted a question, he would just meet privately, one-on-one, with any youth who expressed the desire to do so.

At this point, I was beginning to re-consider my view of his character, but I was still admonishing myself to give him the benefit of the doubt wherever possible, and to wait and see how things played out. He had not reached out to me or to my son at any point.

The following Sunday, November 13th, Jack got to church early to speak with David herself. It was not a scheduled meeting. When she went back to see him, the youth pastor was there as well. She expressed that she was disappointed in his handling of this situation so far. She explained that kids were addressing questions to her about his presentation, and that she felt that put her in a bad position. She is not Calvinist, therefore, any explanation that she gave would be from a non-Calvinist point of view. She felt that this placed her in the position of appearing disrespectful of his authority. He replied that he didn’t know what she meant. She answered that the kids had questions, but he would not agree to come answer them personally. He replied that no one had come to him with questions, she appeared to be the only one. Additionally, he told her that if she was feeling this way, he believed that she must be experiencing spiritual conviction over what he had taught during the lesson and that they should have a one-on-one meeting at a later date. This upset her, and she told David that she was not convicted, that she knows what she believes, and that she did not need a one-on-one with him. She added that if people weren’t coming to him with their questions, then it seems that he has an authority issue, not that she had a conviction issue.

At this point, she saw that he was angry. He asked her what she thought should happen? She answered that she believed he should schedule a meeting with the youth and youth parents in order to discuss what happened and clear any confusion. He told her to go find people that wanted to meet and he would do so. She countered that she was not going to allow him to put that task on her, because it would give the impression that she was the one orchestrating this whole thing. She indicated that he and the youth pastor should schedule a meeting and invite the youth and parents. Ultimately, the youth pastor sent out a text to the youth parents with the date, indicating that David wanted to meet with us to clarify recent events. The texts below are from the youth pastor to Jack after the meeting with David described above.

Youth Pastor: Were you happy with the results of meeting with David?

Jack: I felt like he tried to gas light me. If I’m being honest. The whole, “you know, if you’re the only one with questions maybe we should side bar” knowing I am not the only one… Also [a youth leader/parent] sent me questions today that she has and that pissed me off because I don’t understand why people don’t feel like they can ask him…

Youth Pastor: Do you really think he thinks he did present both sides last week?

Jack: If your people are too afraid to question you, that’s an authoritarian issue… He knows he didn’t! Don’t say to me, “I even talked about star wars” WHAT IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY does star wars have to do with salvation. [Youth Pastor], I really held back a lot.

Youth Pastor: I think it’s more complex than just an authoritarian issue.

Jack: I think the whole thing is gross. I think that as the leader he should be actively looking to make his theology known and clear, rather than it just coming up 2 years in and to the kids rather than in the pulpit.

Youth Pastor: Did you catch glimpses of anger in the meeting this morning?

Jack: I am trying to wrap my mind around it and trying to err on the side of grace and understanding but when I ask for clarification for our youth and adult leaders and am met with “you’re probably the only one with questions” it feels like I’m being given the run around. Do I think he’s angry?

Youth Pastor: Yes.

Jack: Do you? I think my perception is based off of my own frustration and don’t want to project.

Youth Pastor: You need to encourage the others to speak up and show up Wednesday night or it will just confirm what he thinks- that you’re the only one with issues.

Jack: I need you to send an email/text to all the youth leaders and parents inviting them to a round table. I cannot be the person initiating. It makes it look as though I’m trying to pick a fight.

Youth Pastor: I’ll take care of it by lunch tomorrow

Jack: Please don’t leave out the [names of three youth parents] or any of our Wed night leaders because there are people who have questions…

Youth Pastor: I won’t. Please encourage Tiffany to be there.

Jack: You couldn’t pay her to miss it.

Youth Pastor: lol

Conversation picks up again on November 15th:

Youth Pastor: How you doing this week? A parent sent me this today. [Screenshot of an article that says:“’One of the concerns is that new graduates from certain Baptist seminaries have been infiltrating churches that are not Calvinist, and not telling the churches or search committees who are not Calvinist,’ Professor Olson said. According to what he has heard, young preachers ‘wait several months and then begin to stock the church library with books’ by Calvinists like John Piper and Mark Driscoll. They hold special classes on Calvinist topics, he said,…”]

Jack: That is a concern I’ve heard too. And the staff has been leaving…I’m still really pissed about him trying to gaslight me

Youth Pastor: Sorry, had a track meeting

Jack: No worries, I was just calling you back.

Youth Pastor: I sent [the chairman of the deacons] the email because he’s the chairman of the deacons, but I do hear he is Calvinist

Jack: He is. I asked [his wife].

Youth Pastor: What does she say about it?

Jack: She tried to send me a power point on it. I wasn’t interested. I know my beliefs [shoulder shrug emoji)

Youth Pastor: So I am afraid he’s going to charm and talk his way around everything. Is Tiffany prepared to ask questions?

Jack: This was before I had talked to David Sunday. Tiffany had asked her to take her concerns to [blacked out name] and then to David, then [blacked out name] said they would pray about it. They ultimately just tried to educate us on Calvinism… I’m really concerned because I feel like I will be the only adult there who was in the Sunday school class and that is going to pit me against him. And he has shown me twice that he isn’t above making me the bad guy.

Youth Pastor: Someone needs to be willing to ask him theological questions to get him to articulate his beliefs. Otherwise, he will avoid saying to the parents the things he said to our youth.

Conversation Paused

It is clear that by this point, I was not the only one questioning David’s behavior. David’s treatment of Jack in the meeting was understandably a turning point for her. A youth parent had even reached out to Jack with suspicions that David could have ulterior motives.  It is also obvious to me that the youth pastor already seems to believe that David will not be forthcoming with the youth parents unless someone is present to ask questions that he can’t skirt. Again, the children’s minister reached out to David to encourage him to address the situation. He was told again that there was no situation.

It should also be noted that when Jack talked to the chairman of the deacon’s wife about this, she sent Jack a PowerPoint presenting the doctrines of TULIP. She and I knew that the chairman of the deacon’s family were Calvinist, because Jack had asked his wife directly at our kids’ robotics tournament earlier that weekend. She replied that they were 4-point Calvinists. This took me a little by surprise since she had not been Calvinist when we attended Tuesday women’s Bible study together in previous years, though I had not discussed the topic with her in quite some time.

She and I talked and both agreed that since there was so much confusion about what Calvinism is, it would be beneficial if we could arrange to have David present the Calvinist view clearly and a respected non-Calvinist pastor present the non-Calvinist view.  After that discussion, the chairman of the deacon’s wife sent that TULIP PowerPoint to another female church member that had been sitting with us during this conversation, and to the children’s minister’s wife. I don’t know who else, if anyone, she sent a presentation to. I did not receive one.

At this point, I started to consider the fact that her husband had been on the pastor search committee. I remembered that she had told me back then that he had been tasked with delivering a presentation to the committee on Calvinism. I do not know if they had already become Calvinist at that time. At this particular time, I still believed that David’s character was such that he surely would have disclosed his doctrinal persuasions to the committee. With the information I had at that time, I made the assumption that the pastor search committee as a whole had known that David was Calvinist and had chosen not to disclose that to all of the deacons or to the congregation. I felt betrayed by this.

The conversation between Jack and the youth pastor continues below.

Youth Pastor: I think there will be a lot more parents in there than what was expected.

Jack: Are you willing to be that person [she was referring to the theoretical person he mentioned that would be willing to ask David theological questions] I hope there are more. I hope more people ask hard questions. I’m so freaking annoyed that when I mentioned an issue it was regarded as if I were someone who cries “the sky is falling” every weekend… I’m annoyed that when a leader [me] said, “Hey, we have a problem” our spiritual head didn’t say, “tell me how I can help” and actually mean it.

Youth Pastor: I think there will be some tough questions. Ultimately, this is my fault for not skipping over the topic. Youth should have never been presented this topic in the first place. I’ve learned my lesson on that.

Jack: You cannot take blame, he told you he would do the same lesson he did for the seniors, he then hoodwinked you. Then we asked for clarification he skirted it. He only caved because I had a come apart. And I bet he’s not thrilled. I am not his favorite person at this time. I don’t care. What does [deacon 1} day about it? [Deacon 2 and his wife?]

Youth Pastor: Deacon 1 thinks he has gotten himself into a mess. I think he wants to hear his defense of what he said to the youth tomorrow night.

Jack: Is [Deacon 1] Calvinist?

Youth Pastor: Heck no. [Deacon 2’s wife] taught Provisionism to her class Sunday morning. She said it’s okay to have different interpretations of scripture.

Jack: I’m hoping more men who are not Calvinist come. I think Tiffany and I are at risk for being painted as shrews. On a happy note and praise…I got accepted to grad school.

Youth Pastor: That’s great! I know there will be some, but I know David won’t get into specifics unless asked. Thoughts?

End of Text Conversation


Here, the youth pastor expresses that he feels guilty, saying that he should’ve skipped the lesson. It should be stated that this fiasco was in no way his fault. This is a curriculum book that his pastor selected for him to use. He should not be in the position of having to censor information from the pastor’s chosen curriculum. Additionally, as Jack points out, David did not teach the lesson the youth pastor asked him to teach. It is also clear to all involved that without Jack’s persistence, David would never have agreed to hold this meeting. In truth, he had intentionally endeavored to avoid it. You can also see that Jack and I are already aware that we are, to some extent, being characterized as disgruntled women causing problems.


The Parent Meeting

The parent meeting was scheduled for November 16th. I had come prepared with my question typed up so I would state it properly, and some rebuttals to a few Calvinist claims in cases I needed them. I also brought my copy of Harwood’s Christian Theology. I felt sufficiently put off by this stage that I intended to be very direct with my question. I knew that most of the parents in the room were not aware of the interactions between myself and David at this point, nor were they aware of Jack’s. Therefore, I believed it was important for me to set my question in the proper context by explaining some of the backstory. I, personally, had no interest at all in discussing Calvinism. I wanted to hear him express actionable intent to facilitate unity in our congregation. So many parents attended that we had to move from the youth room to the much larger fireplace room downstairs.

We had been told previously that the meeting was only for parents, but I brought Kane. There were five deacons in attendance, one of which is also a youth leader. This night is like a blur to me due to the intensity of the emotions, the number of people speaking, and the length of the meeting. It was just a lot of content. I’ve don’t the best I can to recount what happened.

After everyone was seated the chairman of the deacons passed out a copy of the Baptist Faith and Message section on election, which is section V, “God’s Purpose of Grace”.

David then told everyone that he wanted to call this meeting to discuss and clear up any confusion from the lesson he had taught the youth. In actuality, he had been all but forced to have this meeting against his will. He began by giving a vague presentation of the Calvinist view of election, which he referred to as the “Biblical” doctrine of election. Since we had all just been handed a copy of the election section of the Baptist Faith and Message, it seemed clear to me that his intent in this style of presentation was to imply that if anyone disagrees with the doctrine of election as he had just explained it, then they are not in alignment with the Baptist Faith and Message. This is false since numerous non-Calvinist scholars and theologians affirm the Baptist Faith and Message. He used very vague terms and indicated that he thought the kids’ confusion was due to their “misunderstanding” of his lesson, nothing more. He then opened the floor for comments.

I raised my hand and told him that I had a question, but that it wasn’t related to Calvinism as I already understood quite well what Calvinism is. I stated that my question was phrased in a very direct manner, because I felt that was best to get my point across, but that I hoped that it wouldn’t be interpreted as disrespectful since it was certainly not intended to be so. At the time, I didn’t realize that many in the room still did not know that he is Calvinist. In fact, at least one of the deacons that I’m aware of became aware for the first time that evening. I then read aloud the following question, which I have copied and pasted from the same Word document I had typed up for that evening:

“You expressed to me in a private meeting that, despite the fact that our church membership includes individuals who hold to Calvinist doctrines (or, to use the term you prefer, Reformed doctrines, you indicated to me that you use those terms synonymously) and those who do not, it is your desire that we be unified as a church body, being respectful of both historically traditional streams of Baptist belief. When I became aware, sheerly by Kane’s accidental discovery of the box of books the church ordered, that you had selected an explicitly Reformed text as a guide in teaching this semester’s youth program, which was billed to parents as a unit on “basic Christian beliefs,” you declined to accept my suggestion to provide a non-Calvinist text so that both views could be presented to the youth and so that the youth leaders would have a resource to rely upon to accurately articulate non-Calvinist views. It is not only that the Grudem text presents Reformed theology as basic Christian belief. The book goes further by functioning as an apologetic in which dissenting views are presented as inferior or less true to Scripture.  You did agree to inform all youth parents via mass email of the book being used and to directly disclose to them that this book explicitly teaches a Reformed systematic. However, while the email that was sent out did list the name of the book, it did not state in any way that it taught a “Reformed” systematic.  I also noticed that several parents were left off the email list and didn’t receive this information at all. If Kane hadn’t noticed those books and asked if he could take one home, I would have had no idea that he and Ella were about to be taught Reformed doctrine as “basic” Christian beliefs in Sunday School. Despite my efforts to go through the appropriate channels of authority with the goal of informing other parents, most have ultimately been put in the situation of being taken completely by surprise. Additionally, I have noticed that in both terms of the women’s Bible study, a Reformed text was chosen, and no one was informed of this fact. Admittedly, this has altered my initial overall perspective of our meeting and led me to the following question:

In what way are you facilitating unity in practical application by:

1.Intentionally choosing to present explicitly Calvinist doctrine to our youth as “basic” Christian belief, providing solely Calvinist resources while refusing  to provide non-Calvinist resources when requested, and

2.doing so in what appears to be an intentionally secretive manner?

David said a lot of words, but none of them had anything to do with answering any part of my question. He said a lot about what a respected theologian Wayne Grudem is, and how great the women’s Bible study books were. He insinuated that I was saying these materials were authored by individuals who weren’t respected, and went on a long monologue about various respected Calvinists and their deeds. I have no doubt that he knew that was not what I was saying at all.

He said that leaving parents off the email was unintentional. I replied sincerely that I had not intended to suggest that it was intentional, only to note that several had not received it, and were therefore uninformed. He never attempted to explain why the email had not stated that the youth curriculum is Reformed as he had assured me he would do. Overall he seemed to portray a sense of incredulity that anyone would consider any of those things an issue.

He also gave the impression that he didn’t understand what I was asking him. I must not have been the only one who thought so, because two individuals spoke up to re-state to him my question so that he would respond. The first individual was a deacon’s wife and the second was a deacon. Other than this, no other deacon in attendance made any contribution to the discussion the entire evening, except when the chairman of the deacons called the meeting to a close a couple of hours later. David still did not answer the questions after they had been re-stated by the two individuals.

Many parents spoke up expressing their concerns about the confusion their children felt after his lesson. Some mentioned that their children were upset that it sounded like some people never have an opportunity to be saved. He maintained that the kids misunderstood his lesson and reverted to talking about the doctrine of election in such vague, watered down terms that I, to this day, cannot rationally believe he did not intend to be misleading and placating. To me, he seemed downright patronizing.

Kane kept shooting me shocked glances. David had been nothing but forthcoming about his beliefs in our private emails and in our private meeting. It completely took me off guard to hear him be so evasive to this entire group of people who had gathered with the expectation of honestly and transparency. Some were becoming even more confused than they had been when they arrived, and it was written all over their faces. Frankly, I was disgusted with David’s handling of this situation by this juncture.

At some point someone asked a question about man’s responsibility. He replied that, of course, man is fully responsible. I knew that he was using the same vocabulary with a different dictionary, so I spoke up and said so. I stated that he had told me he held to a compatibilist definition of free will when most of the people in the room understand free will in the libertarian sense. I asked to explain what he meant by compatibilist free will. He went on for a bit saying things that had nothing to do with my request. I had no intention of making it easy for him to evade yet another important question, so I interrupted him and began giving the definition of compatibilism. At this point he raised his voice and attempted to cut me off several different times to prevent me from explaining the differing definitions. I defined them anyway.

Then, he asked me why I had “so much angst,” and asked me for the third time since August if I had had a bad experience with Calvinists that caused me to feel this way. I was furious. He knew well the answer to that question. I had answered it with abundant clarity twice before. It is my belief that he asked that question in order to make me appear as if I had irrational feelings toward Calvinists due to some mistreatment in my past.

Another youth parent explained that her daughter struggled with self-esteem issues. She asked David how he would recommend that he council her; how could she assure her daughter that she is valuable in God’s sight based on the view that only some people are “elect?” David went on for some time about God’s love for all. David’s youngest son had recently been born and he discussed how he was comforted about his son’s future. He seemed to me to be phrasing his response in such a way that the parents would be understanding him to say that all parents can indeed ensure their children that they are “elect.”

I spoke up and asked him how in the world he could suggest such a thing to any parent. According to the view he has confirmed to me that he holds, no parent has any reason to automatically assume that their child is elect. The look on his face after this statement was one that I interpreted as genuine shock and confusion. To this day, that is one of the most perplexing memories I have from this meeting. I don’t know if that look was feigned to give the impression that what I had said was ludicrous, or if he had genuinely never considered that one of his children would not be elect.

The youth pastor attempted to take responsibility for the whole ordeal by saying that he should never have asked David to teach the lesson, and that he should have been present. A parent quickly came to his defense, saying that this was not his fault in any way. A youth pastor should be able to have complete trust and faith in his pastor to teach a simple Sunday school lesson.

A couple of parents tried to give David a graceful way to reclaim the evening. One mentioned that she had given a lesson to kids before that they completely misunderstood, and she had to clarify later what she meant. He maintained that the kids had misunderstood, but still did not offer to provide any real clarifying remarks.

Another parent mentioned that if the kids misunderstood, they had all managed to misunderstand in the exact same way. David became quiet, sat on his stool and just listened to all the parents speaking. A deacon’s wife spoke up and said that her son had come home extremely upset after his lesson and told her and her husband that it felt as if there was evil in the room the entire time. One parent after another spoke up. He broke his silence to say that maybe he just wasn’t the right pastor for this church. This seemed a bit melodramatic to me since all he needed to do was apologize, agree to offer additional resources, and call it a day.

Shortly afterward, the chairman of the deacons called an end to the meeting, and went to bat for David in his closing remarks. He said that David had a true heart for missions and that he himself had been to Africa with him. If anyone has ever questioned David’s heart for missions, I am unaware of it. He then said that he had been on the pastor search committee, that he had been the one to ask David “the hard questions,” and that he knew exactly where David stood on doctrinal issues. He said that we should give David some time to consider what had been said and come up with an appropriate response.

The meeting was truly disastrous. Parents were no less confused, nothing about his views had been clarified, and some parents later expressed to me that they felt he had done nothing but be evasive and shift blame to the kids’ “misunderstanding.”

For me, the meeting was a watershed moment. I had entered with serious misgivings about his behavior, but willing to hear him out and give him the benefit of the doubt if he would agree to detail actionable steps to promote unity. A stated assurance of commitment from him to foster unity and trust in light of recent missteps would have been all I needed to hear to put this behind us and move forward. Not only did I not get that, I lost a lot of respect for him.

Going forward, my issues with David no longer centered on his baffling refusal to make parents aware of the Calvinist youth curriculum or supply non-Calvinist resources alongside the Calvinist resources the church was providing.  What had once been isolated incidents that gave me pause, I now viewed as an established pattern of behavior that I recognized from my prior experience as one to distance myself from.


Fallout After the Meeting

 I didn’t know what I was going to do. Jack and I began hearing through the grapevine that we had been responsible for what was being called a “firing squad.” No one at all reached out to me to get any clarification of what had happened. Some women that Jack had considered to be close friends did not reach out at all and appeared to be believing the things that were being said about us without question. It was incredibly hurtful. We said nothing, although we were hearing of texts going around from various people that seemed to serve the purpose of fostering the perception that we had unjustly attacked David and that he was heartbroken. We didn’t defend ourselves. We were still trying to go through proper authorities to address the issues, as we have continued to do this entire time. At no time did David attempt to reach out to me, Kane, or Jack to make anything right.

Also of note, in the weeks preceding his youth lesson and this meeting, there were three new deacons set to be initiated. I know that one of those deacons is Calvinist (he joined our church because he knew David’s views).

** Update in order to correct the following statement from above: “he joined our church because he knew David’s views.” It has come to my attention that this statement is incorrect. This individual has let me know that he did not join AFBC because David held to Reformed doctrines. ***

I am not including that information to disparage that individual at all. He’s a great guy and I have no known reason to hold him in anything other than high regard. If David had a plan to stack the deacon board in order to push through future changes, I have no reason to think this man knew about it. All those initiations were put on hold while deacons met to work out these issues. If these events had occurred even one week later, the composition of the deacon body would have been much different than it is.


The “Choked Up” Sermon

On November 20th David gave a sermon on I Timothy 3, focusing on verses 1-7 which discuss the character requirements for church leadership. At first, I thought maybe he was going to take responsibility and apologize. He did not. From my perspective, with all the events from the last three months combined with the things that I knew were being said about Jack and me, this sermon came across as an attempt to emotionally manipulate those in the congregation who had heard that something was going on, but didn’t have details, which was the vast majority of the congregation.  That sermon may be accessed by selecting the November 20th sermon at the following link. The relevant portion is located at the 33:30 – 36:00 mark.

After church Kane was upset. He runs tech during service, and he was struggling with acting in the capacity of David’s support staff while he was engaging in what we both viewed  as overt emotional manipulation from the pulpit. I began to feel that the authorities may not intervene, and started to feel that we may have to leave the church. I wrote an email to David that day detailing my feelings and the situation I felt I was in, but I didn’t send it.

I did reach out to the chairman of the deacon’s wife. I had not spoken to her since the night of the meeting, and I was devastated to think that she thought that I would attack David in such a way. I knew that she and her husband were completely unaware that I had been talking to David about this since August and that I had reached out to another deacon during that time as well.

The text that I sent to her is below.


Me (Tiffany): Chairman of the deacon’s wife, I wanted to reach out to you, but at the same time I’ve been unsure of what to say. I’ve been both surprised and disappointed to see how the events of the last few weeks have played out. It seems that some people seem to have the impression that I’m largely responsible for what I’ve heard described as a “firing squad” on Wednesday, and that is honestly very hurtful considering the effort I put into explaining the context of my question to Bro. David.

If you’re willing, I’d like to meet with you sometime in person to get your point of view. If you’d rather [your husband] be there also I’d be just fine meeting with you both. For me (obviously I can’t speak for others and I know and respect that others feel differently) most of this has very little to do with Calvinist views vs non-Calvinist views and far more with other actions. I can show you that with my own personal email correspondence with Bro. David.

Chairman of the Deacon’s Wife: Hey! I’m so glad you reached out. I’ve been wanting to sit down and talk with you too. My heart has been so broken over all this. We are currently at my parent’s house and yesterday [my husband] started with flu symptoms and he has continued to decline. We plan to be back in arab on Sunday. Maybe we can meet that afternoon? I do want [my husband] to be there mainly because he was at the meeting Wednesday night and I wasn’t.

Me (Tiffany): I’m just sick over all this too. I hate to hear that about [your husband.] Flu is getting everyone this year. I’ll be praying he gets over it quickly. Sunday afternoon would be fine with me. I was honestly hoping [your husband] would want to meet too for the same reason.

Chairman of the Deacon’s Wife: Thank you and I’ll keep you posted on Sunday but we’ll tentatively plan for that.

Me (Tiffany): Sounds good!

Chairman of the Deacon’s Wife: What time tomorrow works best for you? We can meet right after church or another time. We are going to try to go to Hville and get a Christmas tree and will probably leave here around 3. Marvin’s isn’t selling live trees this year!!

Me (Tiffany): Right after church will be fine with me.

End of Conversation


The Acapella Sermon

Our meeting was scheduled for after church. That day, November 27th, David gave a sermon that I now call the “Acapella Sermon” because he dramatically sings hymns acapella from the pulpit for four minutes straight. If I had harbored any doubt that I may have misjudged David’s character, it evaporated that day. After hearing this sermon, Jack and her family decided they were done. Her husband said he would not return and she called the church office to have her name removed from the role.

If you would like to view that sermon it can be accessed by selecting the November 27, 2022 video at the following link:


Below is a listing of selected content:

32:45- 34:10:

He compares the issues that the church is currently experiencing with a time that his wife misunderstood a comment that he had meant as a compliment. He told her she looked like an elf. In his mind, he meant a Lord of the Rings-type, gloriously beautiful elf, she thought he meant a Keebler elf.

34:12 – 34:51:

“We were using the same vocabulary, but different dictionaries. When you use the same vocabulary, but you have a different lexicon by which to translate those words, let me tell you folks, you are prime for an eruption. […] … it can happen in a local church.”

35:10 -35:38:

He explains that he’s talking about this because this has happened at our church and he’s going to take responsibility for it.

35:40 -36:02:

“A few weeks ago I taught a youth Sunday School class on the Biblical doctrine of election. It was done haphazard. Not enough prep. And it wasn’t the right time. And therefore an eruption happened.”

[In retrospect, I believe the statement in red is the key to understanding what he’s actually saying. I believe, considering what he had been teaching from the pulpit for two years with no push back (see forthcoming part 5 of this series in which I explain with examples from his sermons why it is so difficult for someone who isn’t familiar with Calvinism to pick up on it), that he was confident that it would be fine to proceed with the youth in the manner that he did. He’s not expressing regret for his presentation. He’s saying that he now realizes that he jumped the gun. (See Part 1 which discusses published strategies for covertly reforming churches.]

36:27 -37:52:

“So today I hope to clarify, and I hope for us as a local body, that we can begin to clarify so that the enemy will not get a foothold. […] The confusion erupted and labels were used, terms were used, centering around this doctrine of election. Terms like Calvinism and Arminianism…Well, we’re not gonna do a deep dive into those terms because it’s not helpful, it is not going to help the clarification process.”

[Frankly, clarifying those terms is the only thing that would have been helpful in this process. That is, if your goal is to be clear with the congregation. It is my opinion, which I believe this evidence demonstrates, that he had different goals. He goes on for several minutes saying there are great theologians from both sides and we should all be unified because this is an intramural debate. This would be great if he didn’t follow this statement by asserting that Calvinism is the “Biblical”view. He has an odd strategy for promoting unity. See below.]

39:07 –about 50:00, then picks up again from 1:03:00 – 1:04:30:

He says we need to bring some clarity and the only way to do that is to go to Scripture. He says to get clarity on the doctrine of election, we need to go to the book of Acts chapter 16, which is the story of Lydia.

[This is a Calvinist proof text. The interpretation the he gives is the Calvinist view. Non-Calvinists disagree that this text teaches what David is saying that it teaches, and have their own interpretation which I believe is a much more coherent understanding of the text. The point is, he just spent several minutes telling us this is an intramural debate and that we need to be unified and not argue over secondary issues, only to proceed to “clarify” things to us by explaining that his view is the “Biblical” view of election (and he adds a side of compatibilist free will in there too), which, by default, insinuates that the opposing view is not Biblical. This is not promoting unity. It’s patronizing to those in the audience who understand what he’s actually doing here and it’s gross.]

52:00- about 56:00:

4 minutes of almost constant acapella singing.

1:09:45 -1:10:35:

“Church let’s put the daggers away. […] Let’s leave the Calvary communion table and battle together as a united front in this dark and unsavory world. See, we already saw in Acts 16 the enemy’s attempt to deceive and destroy. You say, what about his attempts to divide? Well, just a very few years later an argument arose in the Philippian church. And there were two women, Euodia and Syntyche, you can read about them in chapter 4. They were the camps. I don’t know. Maybe one was Arminian and one was Calvinist…”

[He might as well have just called out the names “Tiffany and Jack.” That’s the point I believe he intended to get across. Now that you have the full context, you can come to your own conclusions about the actual transparency and intent of David’s message.]


My Private Meeting with the Chairman of the Deacons and His Wife

After church, I met with my friend and her husband in a private room. I told my friend that I had been distressed to think that she might construe the events of the Wednesday night parent meeting as an unprovoked attack on David’s character. After all, she was my very first friend when we moved to Arab, and the reason I had worked up the nerve to join with a body of believers again.

Though I had mentioned at the Wednesday night meeting that David and I had been in conversation months prior, I knew that she and her husband could not understand the weight of it and the reasons that I had come to the conclusions that I had without seeing it with their own eyes. I had brought printed copies of my correspondence with David as well as the correspondence I had with the deacon back in late August/September so that they could see I had reached out to an authority.

They read it all, and I explained that I felt to my core that David’s actions were undeniably wrong. I told them that I knew that they were on the same page with David theologically, but that had nothing to do with the way he was treating me, Kane, Jack, the youth, and frankly the youth parents as well. I also noted that I felt that David’ statement at the end of his sermon that day telling the church to “put the daggers away,” followed by his telling of the story of the two women in the Philippian church who stirred up division, was a not-so-veiled reference to Jack and me.

In all transparency, I was also upset with both my friend and her husband, because I believed at this point that they, along with the rest of the pastor search committee,  had both known that David was Calvinist when he was hired and had intentionally withheld that information. However, I did not bring it up at this meeting.

They expressed sympathy for me, agreeing that David had undeniably handled the situation poorly from the beginning. However, the chairman of the deacons said that he did not intend to involve himself in the situation. They asked if I thought there was any way that I could see myself staying at AFBC if perhaps David offered some kind of apology, and I replied that I just didn’t know at that point. I’d have to give it a lot of thought. It would be hard for me to trust his sincerity.

They both said they wished that our congregation as a whole could better understand what Calvinism is and I agreed with them wholeheartedly. I explained to the chairman of the deacons that another issue I had with David was his lack of clarity about his views from the pulpit. I believed that he had a responsibility to make his beliefs known. The chairman of the deacons told me that if David were to clearly tell the church what he believes from the pulpit, half of the congregation would get up and walk out. This casual statement took me aback, because it seemed clear to me that he didn’t mean that he thought that David should take the necessary steps to be clear. I understood him to mean that David should not do so: an ignorance is bliss sort of situation. There was really nothing left to say. My friend and I both shed tears and hugged.

I didn’t leave the room angry. At the time, I was just sad. It wasn’t until I had time to reflect on the conversation later that I got upset. Based on their statements, I came to the conclusion that they both knew he was intentionally obscuring his beliefs from the pulpit because our church would not accept him otherwise. I also concluded that while they seemed to express sadness that his treatment would likely result in my leaving the church, and while they agreed that his behavior was not appropriate, they were somehow okay with it all and continued to hold him in high regard. Despite all he had done and was continuing to do, they had chosen to support him anyway. I lost a lot of respect for them both that day.

To top off my meeting, I returned home to find Kane still furious from the day’s sermon. He had decided he would no longer support David and officially resigned from the tech team. I know this was hard for him, because being entrusted with this responsibility was very important to him.

Sometime in all these events, the youth pastor was struggling with how to address the issue of his confused youth after the abysmal failure of the parent meeting. David had refused to come back to clarify anything to the youth, and he was left holding the bag. He ended up giving a lesson on the Calvinist versus the non-Calvinist view himself, and apparently without David’s blessing.


I Send David My Email

The “Acapella Sermon,” David’s refusal to take any steps to promote unity, the meeting with the chairman of the deacon’s and his wife, and no indication that David was going to be held to account for any of it. I felt done. I opened the draft of the email I had written thoughtfully and with a clear head the week before, updated it to reflect my thoughts on his message from the pulpit that day, and hit send.


I cannot remember a time when I have been so wrong about someone’s character. I’ve known you were Calvinist since your first month in the pulpit. As I explained to you via email and in our meeting, I was okay with that as long as you made good on your verbally expressed intent to foster unity in our congregation among those with differing views. After all, I have agreed with you every step of the way that soteriological differences are not to be divided over. I thought that you were one of the most genuinely caring, sincere, and humble pastors I had known. What’s more, I would have voted for you every day of the week over the interim non-Calvinist pastor that we sat under for a year before your arrival.


That’s not to say that I didn’t have a nagging unsettled feeling about the fact that my realization of your views meant that our pastor search committee had intentionally decided not to disclose this to the congregation. After all, we members place all our trust in the members of that committee to act on our behalf. It is undeniable at this point (although I was naive not to know this) that there are numerous members of our congregation who would not have granted you an affirming vote had this fact been disclosed them at the outset. It is an abuse of authority and a breach of trust that they failed to make this disclosure. I’ve been appalled to learn over the past couple of weeks that apparently even the deacons were not apprised of this crucial information. This is a breach of trust I cannot fathom, and frankly, an expression of arrogance so repugnant it is difficult for me to dwell on considering the trust and respect I had held for the committee. Any pastor search committee member who intentionally withheld this information implicitly expressed the idea that they knew better than the members themselves what leader was good for them. Furthermore, the only reason this information would have been withheld would be due to fear that the knowledge of it would have prevented you from being affirmed. The only conclusion is that they believed they had the right to act in a parental capacity rather than a representative one. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put my trust in a pastor search committee again.


All that said, I had no idea who you truly were until the Wednesday night meeting. My first clue was when you failed to carry out what you promised to do in our private meeting several weeks ago: make the youth parents aware that the guide book being used was an explicitly Reformed systematic. Even then, I was trying to hold out and give you what benefit of the doubt I could. More clues came when you shut Kane’s questions down in your presentation to the youth on election. [The youth pastor] had asked you to present both Calvinist and non-Calvinist views. I know you prefer the term “Reformed” and lament that you “eschew labels,” but I’m weary of playing your word games. You’ve acknowledged that to you the words “Reformed” and “Calvinist” mean the same, and are accurately descriptive of a set of doctrines you have explicitly affirmed to me that you hold, label eschewing not withstanding.That Sunday you abused your authority, Trent’s trust, and the trust of all youth parents by only presenting the Reformed view. Many teens in that room were completely rocked by your articulation of the Calvinist doctrine of election. Parents faced confused, frantic, and distraught questions that, to them, came from completely out of left field. Of course, if you had ever been transparent about your beliefs to the congregation, this shock would not have been possible. Immediately afterward, Jack came to you in tears asking for you to make clear the confusion you had just sown, which you said you would do in a subsequent meeting with the youth. In the days that followed, Jack and I watched you make multiple attempts to avoid any such clarification or audience with the youth outside of offering to hold private meetings between you and individual kids who had questions. To me, your character was becoming more clear by the day.  If not for Jack’s tenacious persistence on behalf of the youth (which she alone exhibited), Wednesday night’s meeting would have never occurred. At that point I was still naively open to a scenario in which you would set things right and I could continue on under your leadership as I have for the past two years. Your shocking behavior Wednesday night cured any delusion I may have harbored of that outcome.

This is word for word the question that I read aloud at the meeting:

“In what way are you facilitating unity in practical application by: 1) intentionally choosing to present explicitly Calvinist doctrine to our youth as ‘basic’ Christian belief, providing solely Calvinist resources while refusing to provide non-Calvinist resources when requested, and 2) doing so in what appears to be a secretive manner?”

It’s true that your recent actions had inspired enough doubt in me to ensure that I preceded my question with the factual context that led me to ask it, sheerly for the benefit of others who lacked that context. My question may have been surprising to many in the room, but it certainly shouldn’t have been to you. After all, you already knew precisely the nature of my misgivings. We discussed them in depth in our email and in person. But God is my witness, my goal in asking that pointed question was to hear you lay out an action plan (in front of a group rather than just myself privately) for intentionally facilitating unity between the soteriological views represented among our membership that matched the verbal intent you’ve assured me of personally in the past. Had you done so I would have been completely content. Instead, I got a front row seat to witness all my worst fears confirmed. At no point during the meeting did you even come close to agreeing to presenting a non-Calvinist view to the youth, or even to supply youth leaders with non-Calvinist resources so they would be equipped to adequately articulate non-Calvinist Scriptural interpretation. That is when I knew that you had been lying to me all along about your intent to facilitate unity in diversity by any objective standard. They were the words of a calculating politician, not the sincere expressions of a respectable leader. I lost every shred of respect for you I ever had. At this point, it is unrecoverable for me outside of a heartfelt public apology, public clarification of your views without intent to obfuscate, and a 180 degree reversal of your actions.


In Wednesday night’s meeting, you faced a room full of mostly confused parents who could not understand why their kids had left your lesson in a state of utter confusion and distress. Instead of offering complete clarity about your beliefs, which was completely in your power to provide, you engaged in a dizzying back and forth of misleading statements, half truths, outright manipulation, strawman arguments, gaslighting, complete with an attempt to paint me in the light of a rabid anti-Calvinist when I would not be silent in the face of your constant deceptions. The ultimate irony of that is that I may have been one of the few in the room who was actually willing to knowingly sit under the leadership of a Calvinist pastor facilitating unity in diversity. Were your methods fair and transparent, I would have gone to bat for you. When you were asked if you believed in man’s responsibility via free will, you pretended to affirm it, knowing full well that your questioners had libertarian free will in mind, not the compatibilist version of free will that you hold. The difference between the two views are as daylight is to dark, and all Calvinists roundly reject the libertarian definition of free will. You know this full well. Yet, when I attempted to clear the air by explaining the difference, you all but shouted me down in order to prevent me from doing so. You acted as an enemy of clarity and truth, not a champion for it. Theatrically, you asked me if I had been hurt by Calvinists in the past, insinuating that I held irrational angst against the belief system. You insinuated that I had a low view of Calvinist scholars and theologians in general, and considered Calvinist resources to be dangerous or completely without worth. In truth, you had already asked me both of those questions via email correspondence and in our private meeting. You already knew the answers, which are that I have not personally had any negative experiences with Calvinists (until now, ironically) and I greatly value the contributions of many Calvinist scholars and theologians. I had already explained to you in depth that I have respect for the view and that my problem with it is that I do not believe it is Scriptural, which is precisely the view you claim to hold of non-Calvinist soteriology. Therefore, your questions to me were yet another disgraceful attempt to paint me in an inaccurate light solely for your own benefit. This is a miserable Christian witness that any honorable Calvinist would rebuke you for without reservation.

Your last two Sunday sermons truly deserved an Emmy. Last Sunday you broke down in tears. I don’t doubt the emotion you displayed was real, but it certainly wasn’t due to brokenheartedness over failure to act respectably or foster unity because no attempt to rectify those aspects have followed. The message I received loud and clear was that you were just as willing to be theatrical to the whole congregation as you were to those present in the meeting when you feigned ignorance as to whether or not I had been mistreated by Calvinists in my past. There is nothing about that display that I can respect. Today, looking into the faces of your congregation, you admitted that part of the confusion rests in the fact that the same vocabulary is being used, but we have different dictionaries. In that moment, I thought you were about to be clear with the congregation about your beliefs for once. But no. You preached the rest of that sermon using the vocabulary everybody wanted to hear, all the while failing yet again to clue them in on your definitions. You can sing 100 acapella hymns from the pulpit and you will still not obscure the fact that you are manipulating the entire congregation via a combination of charisma, endearing/funny stories, and taking advantage of their ignorance of Calvinist doctrine.


I don’t question that you wholeheartedly believe that Calvinist doctrine aligns with Scripture. I can and do have respect for that. What I cannot and will not respect is your “end justifies the means” methodology to keep your job regardless of the havoc you wreak. It is my firm belief that if you had a shred of integrity, you would clear this tragic confusion rather than using it to salvage your position. Instead, you are sowing division between people who have worshiped together under the same church roof, in some cases generations of families under the Arab First Baptist roof, when a significant number (if not the majority) appear to align far more closely with overall non-Calvinist soteriological views. If you know in your heart that if you were to clearly articulate your views from the pulpit, the majority would demand you leave (or leave themselves), do you really believe you’re fostering unity in diversity? No fool would think so. The kind of unity you’re fostering is superficial at best and at worse outright false. What’s worse? You know it. It’s not just the people you’re manipulating that I’m upset for. Truly I’m also sad and hurt for myself and my family. After my background in a cult, I honestly did not know if I could ever be apart of a church body again. When my family moved here, [Chairman of the deacon’s wife] was my very first friend, and she invited me to AFBC’s Tuesday women’s Bible study. It took a couple of years, but I finally came to feel that I could join with a church body again. Even though my family is not generational, AFB will always have a special place in my heart. It’s the first place I felt I could call home after over 15 years of doing church at home with my kids. Ella and Sam are really too young and immature to understand a lot of this. All they know is that they want to stay at the only church they’ve ever known and be with their friends. So yes, I do resent that you are placing your own desires above the true unity of AFB, not just because you’re achieving your goal by deception, but because my family and I are suffering for it.


As a sister in Christ, I call on you to repent immediately and to place the unity of Arab First Baptist membership above your own desires by explaining all of this in a clear manner and resigning from your position. Perhaps if this is done openly and publicly, the damage to the congregation that you have inflicted thus far could be minimized. I continually pray that the Holy Spirit will move your heart in this matter, and also that He will comfort my heart regardless of the ultimate outcome.
Tiffany Denham


Jack Sends Her Email

A couple of days later, on November 29th, Jack sends her email to David, copies the chairman of the deacons and asks him to distribute it to them as well so that they can see what is going on. The chairman of the deacons does as she asked.


I have struggled with how to start this message, or if I should even bother with it but I decided your knowing why our family has decided to leave AFBC is more important than the discomfort of honesty and transparency. We are devastated with having to make this decision, we are losing our faith family with whom we thought our children would grow up with, people we trust to pour into them, the leader who baptized them, the first friends they made when we moved here; we have not made this decision lightly.

The first issue we have as a family does not even have to do with the fact that you are calculatedly hiding your reformed theology “in plain sight” but rather with your behavior toward me as a leader, a member of your congregation, and an individual. I came to you with the issue of our youth and adult leaders having questions about your presentation, not once but twice, and though you feigned interest the first time you absolutely tried to dismiss me the second via gas lighting; you knew there were individuals with questions, I was not the only person to approach you about them and you said to me, “Jack, if you are the only person with concerns maybe that is something we need to discuss one on one”. David this was extremely patronizing, it showed that you have no reservations dismissing people who serve this Church, who put in blood sweat and tears doing so. Your pride was put above the spiritual needs of individuals who look to you to shepherd us. This act alone is enough to make us question your motives and abilities as a leader. You are an amazing orator, you are charismatic and engaging, I will gladly give you that but sir you have missed the mark on connecting with people who are deeply interested in the spiritual salvation of others. My desire in writing this is not for an apology, your actions have given us a low expectation of truth behind it even if you do provide one, but rather I hope that you’ll take into consideration the way you approach situations and individuals who still hold you in high esteem.

Our second issue is the elephant in the room which you seem to keep putting a rug over and pretending there just happens to be an issue with the floor. David, you have been so cloaked about what you truly believe, you’ve mentioned that you didn’t want to be a “stuck up Calvinist” but then your mentor showed you differently. Well, the issue is that you won’t actually verbalize what it is you believe, your omission is what is causing so much turmoil within the church. You are doing yourself and the rest of the congregation a disservice by hiding behind the curtain.  I cannot fathom why you would want to remain in the dark unless you have some ulterior motive. When other believers of the reformed theology you “have to preach” say things like, “if he told the congregation what it really means then half of the congregation would leave” it sure doesn’t make you or your theology look enticing.

It makes me physically ill to think of how this issue has caused such an upset within the church and you won’t be straight forward about it, you say things like “I taught a lesson upstairs on the biblical principle of election and it wasn’t well thought out” but fail to say, this “election” is a theology based on a man’s perception of the bible (Calvin). You also failed to say, “I plan to make it right by teaching the other theologies that are counter to this one so the youth can discern for themselves.” David, you and your family will eventually move along, you will leave this church forever changed, there are only two outcomes for AFBC that can come of that: thriving and seeking the Lord together or broken and trying to rebuild trust and transparency with one another. You are perpetrating the divisiveness, your desire to save face is placing the spiritual lives of your congregation in a “tizzy”, and for you to imply that those of us who question you in any way are the offending parties is a gross misuse of your position. Our family could take the “easy way out” and just ride out the storm until you take your leave, holding our relationships intact with our faith family, but the truth is we cannot sit and listen to one more of your sermons with your hidden agendas and “different dictionary”, our integrity will not allow us to watch as you claim to want a united church but fail to meet the needs of half your congregation, where you disguise your theology with terms that are palatable for the masses, and when you fall on your charisma to smooth the ruffled feathers of those who are truly seeking to understand exactly what it is you’re trying to get at.

In Christ,

Jack Dixon

I have forwarded this email to the chairman of the deacons and am requesting  the Deacons receive a copy because I know that our family is not the only family leaving AFBC due to this situation. My greatest desire is for there to be full transparency within the Church (Big C and little).

Jacqueline Dixon


Jack also sent a text to the youth pastor requesting that she be allowed to come say goodbye to her youth group.

Jack to Youth Pastor: Can I come in this Wednesday and Sunday?

Youth Pastor: Yes. [thumbs up emoji and sad face with tear emoji) Is Tiffany done too?

Jack: I don’t know. She helps with [husband and wife children’s ministry team]. I’m not sure where she’s at with it.

Conversation pauses, then picks up later:

Youth Pastor: David thinks it’s a bad idea to have you speak tomorrow night and Sunday. I addressed everything Sunday morning and the overall sense is everyone is ready to move past all of this and not bring it up anymore. Having you say goodbye for obvious reasons would be picking at the scab.

Jack: I wasn’t’ going to speak, I just wanted to hug necks. I cannot imagine being so threatened by the presence of a person that I would forbid them to say goodbye to kids they’ve poured into for years and years.

Youth Pastor: At this point it seems he’s encamped in his trench. I replied in disagreement, but he hasn’t responded.

Conversation pauses and picks up again a few days later:

Youth Pastor: Hey, how are you? Would you like to grab some coffee with me tomorrow afternoon? I would like to meet for us to discuss how we can execute a wise goodbye with the girls you’ve poured into.

Jack: I cannot. I am devastated by the fact that I have been discarded by the church as easily as a piece of rubbish…

End of conversation


Frustrated with David’s refusal to allow her to say goodbye to the girls, Jack reaches out to the chairman of the deacons.


Jack to Chairman of the deacons: Chairman of the deacons, I have poured into our kids for years, I specifically told David I never intended to undermine his authority (which is why I asked him originally to clarify his lesson) and now I’m being told I cannot say goodbye to our youth?

I cannot walk away without telling them I love them and am always here for them, it feels like I am being vilified for asking for clarity and being transparent about our leaving.

I am being forced to abandon them without notice. Can I reach out to them individually? Sure. But that’s asking me to creep in the recesses, that’s gross and not how I operate.

Unfortunately I cannot take this up with David because he clearly believes I’m a threat.

The youth deserve better ,and I deserve better, I am not some stranger who waltzed in and wreaked havoc upon them. I have loved them through hurts, prayed over their aches and needs, supported them through ups and downs. Not once, EVER, have I said a negative word about David to them. When they questioned what he was teaching instead of cutting it down I responded with grace, and have always pointed to his authority. This is absolutely one of the most abhorrent things I can possibly imagine coming from someone who is the appointed leader of the church.

Am I emotionally charged in sending this to you? Yes. But please see that it is because I care so deeply about those kids. We are wrecked about losing our faith family, and this is the ultimate slap in the face.

Chairman of the deacons: Hey I am out on calls right now. I didn’t want you thinking I was ignoring you. As soon as I have a minute to sit down and read your text I will get back with you.

Jack: Thanks bud. I seriously hate to have to make you a middle man but I don’t know what else to do.

Chairman of the deacons: Dear sister, I hear you loud and clear and completely understand where you are coming from. Please know how burdened we have been over all of this. I do not have an answer for you at this very moment. I am seeking council with some others in leadership this evening. I will make sure this is discussed and we come up with an answer for you. Please know that, while I am chairman of the deacons, I am not and will not make any decisions solely on my own.

Conversation pauses, then picks up with his response:

Chairman of the deacons: Jac, thank you for your patience with me as I work to get an answer for you. I had a good productive meeting with some church leadership last night. I brought your request and concern to this group of men. The response was unanimous that we understand your feelings of wanting to tell these girls goodbye. However, we are working hard to reconcile the situation in the youth and in our church. We feel that all of this is still too fresh for that to occur during scheduled church times, it will obviously lead to questions and concerns arising again. We fully encourage you to continue to pour into these girls and hope you do that but not during church scheduled times. Please know how much this hurts me to be the one to tell you this and [my wife] and I still hold y’all’s friendship dear.

End of conversation


Jack and I had assumed this group of leaders he was referencing were the deacon body. Jack later discovered that it was not the deacon body. We do not know who comprised this “church leadership” the chairman of the deacons met with to levy this decision.

For Jack, this was a gut punch. She had been the only youth leader to consistently go to bat for the confused, distraught youth with regard to this issue. If not for her sheer persistence, David would never have consented to meet with the youth parents. He had actually tried every avenue possible to avoid it. Jack is the only reason he failed. Let’s not forget, at this time,  Jack and I were the only ones putting ourselves on the line, fighting to get David to take steps toward true unity by calling him out for his refusal to even facilitate the presentation of non-Calvinist views to the youth- the majority position of our church! We were being painted as aggressors and he as the victim. Some people who knew this to be untrue did not speak up to counter the narrative being perpetuated by David and those sympathetic to him. It was truly unbelievable.


David Calls a Meeting with the Children’s Minister

At some point in the previous days, I had become aware that a deacon meeting had been scheduled. David had forwarded them the email I sent him and it is my understanding that many deacons were angry.

Since most of them were completely unaware of my interactions with David since August, and since (to my knowledge) the deacon I reached out to that same month and also spoke with in September did not disclose to the deacon body that I had done so, I was eager for the opportunity to present my side of the story. I still cannot fathom this, but at this point, there were still several who were not aware that David is Calvinist, much less how he had treated Jack and me.

I had tried unsuccessfully the week prior to get an email list of deacons. I didn’t want to reach out to the chairman of the deacons, because I didn’t trust him anymore. I asked the children’s minister if he would present my email correspondence with David to the deacon body if I forwarded it to him along with an explanation of my feelings. He was happy to do so. That email is below.

[Children’s minister],

I hope these emails provide helpful context, and I appreciate you taking the time to consider my concerns.

The first email is the one I sent to [the youth pastor] after Kane found the books that were to be used this semester. In this email I explain that my issue is that this book is being presented to the youth as doctrines that are basic to Christianity (i.e. summarizing the Christian faith) when it is actually a presentation of Calvinism from a Calvinist scholar. It’s a condensed Calvinist systematic theology text book. Many of the doctrines it contains are not considered basic beliefs by many, if not most, Baptists, much less Christianity as a whole.

The second email is David’s response to me after [the youth pastor] forwarded him my email, then my reply to him. In David’s response to me, he seems to have misunderstood my objection to the use of the book as the youth curriculum. He seems to think that I don’t consider Wayne Grudem a respectable scholar. He also asks if my issue is because I consider Calvinism to be heresy or if I have had prior bad experiences with Calvinists. He explicitly states that this book is for the purpose of articulating to the youth what the “Bible teaches” about topics such as free will and original sin. With respect to differences in views, he indicated that the kids will be welcome to “work that out on the anvil of discussion and good hermeneutics.” In my response to David, I clarify that I highly respect Wayne Grudem, that I respect Calvinism even though I disagree with it. I clarify once again that my primary issue is that this text is presenting Calvinist doctrine to the youth as basic Christian doctrine when it is not. I clearly state that I have not personally had any bad experiences with Calvinists. My disagreement with the system is rooted in Bible study and study of alternative theological systems. I also explain that many youth parents are not Calvinist and therefore won’t consider the views in the book basic Christian doctrine. Finally, I request that the youth leaders at least be provided a non-Calvinist systematic theology text or similar so that they can have a resource to help them adequately present a non-Calvinist view of the doctrines presented in the Grudem book where necessary.

A week or so after this email exchange I met with David privately to further discuss the issues. Once again I answered the questions he had asked me in his email. He refused to provide a non-Calvinist text for the youth leaders. However, he did ask what he could do to make me happy outside of providing an additional text. I told him that I would at least like for the parents of the youth to be made aware that a Calvinist text was being used as curriculum this semester. He agreed to send out an email making the parents aware of the book that was being used. However, he did not want to use the word “Calvinist” in explaining the book’s point of view. Instead, he said that he would state that the book was from a “Reformed” perspective. He confirmed to me at this meeting that he uses the terms “Calvinist” and “Reformed” synonymously.

The third email is the email [the youth pastor] sent out announcing to the youth parents the new curriculum. As you can see, while the name of the book and the author is listed, it is not stated in any way that the book is teaching basic Christianity from a “Reformed” perspective as I was assured that it would.

Event 1- The Youth Lesson: [The youth pastor] asks Bro. David to present both Calvinist and non-Calvinist views of election. Instead, he presents only the Calvinist view. Tons of kids are upset. Some parents are upset. Jack Dixon goes to David after the meeting in tears asking him to please come back in another session to address the youth and clear up the confusion. He says he will. Later, he tells [the youth pastor] to gather questions from the youth and he’ll write up responses for [the youth pastor] to give. That plan gets altered to [the youth pastor] taking questions, and David will come answer them in person. That plan gets altered when David says not enough kids submitted questions, so he will not come address them at all. Instead, he offers to meet privately with individual kids. Finally, Jack goes into church early the following Sunday and has an impromptu meeting with both David and [the youth pastor] together asking once again for David to address the youth. He claims he doesn’t know anyone is confused. He tells Jack if she knows people that are confused, to get them together sometime and he’ll address them. She insists that [the youth pastor] send out an email to all youth parents scheduling a meeting in which David will address us all. David finally agrees.

Event 2: The Wednesday Night Meeting: Bro. David begins meeting by having the Baptist Faith and Message section on election passed out to everyone. Then he gives an overview of the Calvinist view of election (which he refers to as the “Biblical view of election”). This strongly implies that if anyone disagrees with the doctrine of election as he has just explained it, then they are not in alignment with the Baptist Faith and Message. This is false since numerous non-Calvinist scholars and theologians affirm the Baptist Faith and Message. Bro. David consistently claims that there has been a “misunderstanding” regarding what the youth have explained to their parents that he said. Bro. David became upset when I pointed out that he’s using a different definition for free will than the one everyone else in the room is using. They have a libertarian view of free will in mind, while he ascribes to the compatibilist view of free will. These views are polar opposites. At no time during the meeting does Bro. David agree to do what I asked once again, which was to present non-Calvinist views to the youth as well, and provide non-Calvinist resources for the youth leaders. In response to my statements and questions in the meeting, Bro. David asked me for a third time if I’d been hurt by Calvinists in my past and insinuated that I didn’t believe that Calvinist scholars are respectable. Since he already knew my response to both of those, it seems that he intended to insinuate that I had irrational or emotional negative views of Calvinism itself rather than address the actual issues I had been raising to him since August.

Continuing Issues:

1. Bro. David has repeatedly been asked to address the youth and clarify his lesson and has continually refused to schedule any such meeting.
2. Bro. David consistently claims that his views are being “misunderstood,” “misrepresented,” and that he eschews labels such as “Calvinist.” However, in his email to me he explicitly confirms that he aligns with Grudem and the text of the book he selected as youth curriculum. His email states: “Let me say that I go with Grudem on every point you raised (original sin, election, compatibilistic view of free will, calling, and regeneration).” The kids only repeated to their parents exactly what the Grudem text teaches. There was no misunderstanding. They heard him loud and clear. Calvinism is merely a term used to describe a particular set of doctrines. Those doctrines are taught in the Grudem text. He agrees that he aligns with the Grudem text.
3. Last Sunday he admitted from the pulpit that a factor contributing to the confusion is that we’re using the same vocabulary, but with different dictionaries. However, he proceeded by failing once again to actually define any terms. He continually stressed that all can come to the Lord, all can believe, it is our responsibility to believe, etc. Ironically, he once again intentionally failed to explain how his own internal dictionary defines that, which is via the compatibilistic definition of free will, as he has confirmed to me in his email. He knows full well most people in the congregation are using the libertarian definition of free will. On the one hand he admits the differences in Calvinist versus non-Calvinist views are sufficiently complicated that scholars and theologians have been debating them for upward of 1500 years. On the other hand, he presents our current church issues as if they are on a par with a Lord of the Rings elf versus Keebler elf kind of misunderstanding. Which is it?
4. Bro. David has yet to agree to present any non-Calvinist view to the youth or provide non-Calvinist resources alongside the Calvinist resources the church provided, even though he claims to respect non-Calvinist views, to hold many other non-Calvinist scholars and theologians in high regard, and to have the intention of facilitating unity between the differing views in our congregation.

Given this pattern of behavior, I cannot in good conscience continue to be a part of First Baptist Arab as long as Bro. David remains its pastor.

Once again, I appreciate your willingness to consider my concerns.

– Tiffany Denham


On November 28th David called the children’s minister in for a meeting to discuss me. The deacon meeting had still not taken place. At that point, the children’s minister had been able to view the evidence that I sent him. He also brought the email that I had sent him to distribute to the deacons for David to view. I had served in the capacity of Sunday school teacher for a few years, and David wanted me out of that position immediately.

David asked the children’s minister what he thought of my email. He answered that he disagreed with my opinion of David’s character, but was on my side of the aisle with regard to the theological aspects. The children’s minister asked David why he did not present both the Calvinist and non-Calvinist views of election as the youth pastor had asked. David told him that he had intended to do that, but that Kane interrupted him so much that he ran out of time.

To this day, this is one of the most repulsive things that I believe David has done. Not only was it a completely different story than he had previously told, it was a blatant lie. He looked his children’s minister in the face and blamed a 17-year old kid for his mistake.

The children’s minister told David that he was not going to tell me that I couldn’t teach, and if David wanted me to be fired that he’d have to instruct him directly to do that. David asked the children’s minister, “Should I just leave?” He replied that that was not a decision he could make for him. David then asked him a few different times something to the effect of, “Are you saying it’s you or me?”

The children’s minister refused to say that. Then, David said that since I had stated in my email to the children’s minister that I could not “in good conscience continue to be a part of First Baptist Arab as long as Bro. David remains its pastor,” he required the children’s minister to tell me that I couldn’t teach. To this day, I believe that the reason David asked the children’s minister more than once in that meeting, “is it me or you?” is that he wanted grounds to fire him. That is my opinion.

Later that day, Jack told me that she had asked the chairman of the deacons to forward her email to the deacon body and that he had. I contacted the children’s minister’s wife and asked if he’d prefer that I do the same so that the responsibility was not on him to distribute my email and forwarded evidence to the deacon body. We agreed that was best. I sent my email to the chairman of the deacons.

He sent me the email below confirming his receipt of all my emails and affirming that he was distributing them to the body. He did not know that the children’s minister was also in possession of the same emails.

Thank you Tiffany, I have received the emails and am in the process of dispersing these to the deacon body.

-Chairman of the deacons



I Reach Out To the Chairman of the Deacon’s Wife Again

With my continuing revelations of David’s character, I was struggling to understand how my friend, the chairman of the deacon’s wife, could continue in her unwavering support of him. I reached out to her again on November 30th. That conversation is below.

Me (Tiffany): Chairman of the deacon’s wife, I’m honestly in a state of shock at the willingness of our church leaders to turn a blind eye to David’s behavior. The entire time David has claimed that the controversy over his youth lesson was primarily due to “misunderstanding.” Sunday he took a partial responsibility by saying that he handled it in the wrong way, or something to that effect.

Did you know that when the children’s minister asked him yesterday why he didn’t teach both views like [the youth pastor] had asked, that he changed his story and said that he was unable to teach both views because Kane would not stop interrupting him and he ran out of time? You can ask anyone who was in attendance and they will tell you this is a blatant lie. Kane raised his hand 1 time during the presentation. David told him to hold questions until the end and he did exactly that. But then at the end his questions were shut down as well.

He has already intentionally misrepresented me, but now he’s blaming my 17 year old son for his mess?!? What if he were misrepresenting you? What if he were doing this to your son? Would you be outraged then? This is not a small matter.

Please help me understand why this is acceptable behavior in a pastor because I just cannot.

Where is the line drawn? What level of moral failing is too much? Yes, I’m emotional right now. But it’s due to my complete inability to comprehend this support and circling of the wagons around a man willing to be so incredibly deceptive. I cannot make sense of it.


Chairman of the deacon’s wife: Hey, thanks for reaching out for clarity. A blind eye has not been turned and leadership is taking this very seriously, I promise. There are meetings in place (some have already occurred) and things are being talked about. Leadership is working with David in hopes to bring reconciliation with the youth.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11

We want to strive for full restoration with everyone. [heart emoji]

Me (Tiffany): Mother to mother, would you be trying to reconcile with this man if he told a leader that [your son] was the reason he didn’t do as the youth pastor asked, and you knew for a fact this was a lie? That [your son] shouldered the blame for preventing him from giving an alternative view which then blew up into this fiasco?

David is not taking responsibility and displaying sincere remorse. He’s doubling down and telling brand new lies on top of his original ones. He is so much worse than I ever dreamed.

How can there ever be reconciliation with the youth, or anyone at all for that matter, when he has shown that he cares so little for them that he did not hesitate to risk potentially destroying Kane’s trust, respect, and maybe even entire faith in church leadership by throwing him under the bus? A 17 year old who has demonstrated nothing but faithful service to this church in all the years he has been here. I wasn’t much younger than him when corruption like this led to my walking away from church for over 15 years.

David has earned nothing but disgrace. Any attempt to restore a relationship with such a man is disgraceful. There is no Christ in any of this.

Chairman of the deacon’s wife: I love you Tiffany. I consider you a friend. I’m so thankful that the LORD brought us together so many years ago at an Upward basketball game. I understand that you are upset and I know that you are hurting. As a mother myself, I can see from your perspective and understand that you and Kane are hurting. However, Tiffany, I urge you not to let bitterness take hold. It breaks my heart that you would say there is no Christ in any of this. Everyday [my husband] and I have prayed, “Lord let us keep our eyes on you!” The prayer of Jehoshaphat is one of my absolute favorites, ‘when I don’t know what to do, keep my eyes on you, Lord.” The Lord has graciously provided scripture for [my husband] and I to meditate on and seek refuge in during this time. I’m truly thankful for this valley because it has brought [my husband] and I closer to the LORD. I know this is true for other leaders in our church as well. They have sought the Lord, “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!” Psalm 119:10 I know this because I can see the fruit from their pursuit of our Holy God. None of this has been taken lightly. God is in the midst, I know because I can feel the Holy Spirit in my bones and so can my husband. I pray that you can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and that you feel HIS comfort and know that God IS in this. I completely understand and accept that you may never see this from my viewpoint, and that will be ok. But I do want reconciliation. Our church leadership wants reconciliation. We don’t want a church split. We want unity in Christ. We want to give David the opportunity to reconcile with the youth, and I do believe that will happen. Tiffany, we (as followers of Christ) want to extend grace and mercy to ALL! God is so loving, compassionate, full of grace and mercy and how can we (or I) not extend those same things to someone else when God showers me EVERYDAY with these wonderful gifts? Truly, friend I urge you not to let this seed of bitterness take root. It is harmful. You and your family are in my prayers and please know that I love you so much and I’m so thankful that God crossed our paths. I hope and pray that you will see my heart.

My response to her was too long for a text, so I emailed it.

[Chairman of the deacon’s wife],

I truly love you too and I consider you my friend. I also consider you to be my sister in Christ. In that capacity I believe it is my Christian duty and responsibility to tell you the truth in love. That’s what I’m about to do, and I hope and pray you receive it in that spirit:

I didn’t say this when we met Sunday because at the time I only wanted to provide evidence for why I have come to the conclusions I have about David’s character. Now I feel it should be said too.

The pastor search committee was wrong to fail to disclose to the deacons or the congregation that David was Calvinist before we voted. As a congregation we placed our trust in them to represent us. Instead of acting in a representative capacity, it appears the committee chose to act in a parental capacity by selecting the pastor they believed would be best for us even though we would have rejected him if we had been informed of his views. [Your husband] admitted as much when he said that if David were to make his beliefs clear to the congregation, half the church would walk out. It’s true that many of them don’t understand Calvinism, but that is still not the pastor search committee’s decision to make FOR them. This was a breach of trust. This breach of trust set the stage for the split that is in the process of occurring. With honesty from the beginning, we wouldn’t even be in this situation.

My feelings about David have absolutely nothing to do with lack of forgiveness, compassion, or mercy. I freely extend all of those to him. However, it is also true that David has yet to take any real measure of responsibility for his actions, has yet to apologize to any he has lied to and/or about, OR promised to proceed differently and with transparency in the future.


Forgiveness, mercy, and compassion are biblical mandates. But none of those biblical definitions require allowing an individual such as David has revealed himself to be to continue his manipulation and abuse, much less actively facilitating his ability to do so. In fact, I believe allowing or facilitating this activity is directly unbiblical because we are to stand for truth and light. And by standing for truth and light I don’t mean vowing allegiance to any particular soteriological system. I mean holding our leaders accountable to the 1 Timothy 3 qualifications for a pastor. There is no definition of “respectable” that includes continued lying and manipulation. I understand that you’re largely in theological agreement with David. That is not at issue. You can agree with his Calvinism all day long without condoning his (as of yet) unrepentant behavior. I understand that he hasn’t lied to or about you or your children. I understand that he hasn’t manipulated your family, because you were already in the position to know his views from the beginning. But have a care for your brothers and sisters in Christ who have suffered and continue to suffer at his hands. There are more than a few of us.

Those of us who have begged him in vain to act in accordance with his words and who insisted on transparency and truth are not responsible for this division. Yet we are being blamed for it.

You say that it hurts you that I’ve said there is no Christ in this because you and [your husband] have prayed continuously and meditated on Scripture. Do you not think the rest of us are doing the same? Do you not see that it is arrogant to assume your actions are inspired by the Holy Spirit but ours are not? The litmus test for what actions are biblical is the Bible itself. Where in the Bible did Jesus instruct His disciples to mislead people about what His truth is because some won’t find it palatable? Where does Jesus misrepresent the character of some in order to gain followers? Paul says unity is to be placed over secondary issues, but where does he say it is to be achieved by manipulation and lies? These are the things I’m seeing from David and those propping him up. This is why I say I see no Christ in it.

I do believe you and [your husband] are doing what you think is right.  I believe I am doing that also.

In Christ,


Chairman of the deacon’s wife: It seems as though we are at an impasse. I’m so sorry that you took my message to imply that you and others were not seeking the Lord. That was not my intention. I hope you can forgive me.

Me (Tiffany): I appreciate you clearing that up and I’m relieved that I misunderstood. I hope you know absolutely none of that was easy for me to say to you, and I hate that you and I have to be on opposite sides of something. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I really do [heart emoji].

Chairman of the deacon’s wife: I completely understand and agree. The feeling goes both ways. Love you too [heart emoji]

End of Conversation


There have been many times in my life that I wish I’d extended more benefit of the doubt. This may be the only time I’ve regretted extending as much as I did. When I discovered later what her husband was in the process of doing that day (and I have no doubt she knew of his plans), I lost the respect I had for them both. The chairman of the deacons did not forward any of the emails to the deacon body. He lied to me. I believe he did so to hide what David had done and the admissions that he had made to me. The chairman of the deacons had no idea that the children’s minister, who is also a deacon, knew that he was supposed to forward that material to the deacon body and that he had come to the meeting with copies of the same material.

Also on November 30th, a church member (I’m not sure who), sent out a mass text inviting the whole church to hold a prayer vigil in the pastor’s yard. The text was addressed to the “church family,” and said that, “Our pastor, his family, and our church need our prayers” followed by a citation of Ephesians 6:17-18. Jack and I were not on the recipient list for that text.

Ironically, a church member who apparently wasn’t “in the know” (a lot of people weren’t at this point) noticed that Jack didn’t get the text and forwarded it to her, no doubt in a well-intended effort to be inclusive. I believe it was clear that whoever planned the vigil intended to portray the pastor as an innocent victim of an attack Jack and I were waging.


The Youth Pastor Reaches Out to Kane

The youth pastor reached out to Kane on November 30th as well. Their conversation is below.

            Youth Pastor: How you doing brother?

Kane: To tell you the truth, I’m exceedingly angry. Not at you. At David and at least a few members of the Pastor Search Committee. Not for his Calvinism. I agree wholeheartedly that this is an in-house discussion. I have a great amount of respect for very many Calvinists. It is David’s conduct that has destroyed my respect I once had for him. Not only did he attempt to surrepititiously conform the church to his own beliefs. That would have been forgivable had he ceased and made things right. But he has lied to me and the whole church multiple times on multiple topics and attempted to manipulate me and the whole church. He has lied about my mother, her intentions, and her character in an attempt to silence and discredit her. And he has now lied about me in an attempt to cover for himself. I cannot continue at a church whose pastor has done these things. With that said, with a heavy heart I must inform you that this Wednesday night and this Sunday will be my last. I will wait until the final decision to pull my name from the church roster, but I will not be returning so long as David remains pastor. I do not make this decision lightly. But I cannot in good conscience remain. My spirit cannot bear it. Again, none of this is directed at you. I truly appreciate what you’ve done and tried to do. And the impact of my years at AFBC and the youth group cannot be overstated. But due to these circumstances, my attendance is untenable. I’ll be there tonight, and I’ll do what I can to help [the youth tech replacement].

Conversation pauses, then Kane sends this a little later:

Kane: I told my mom that this was my plan (to come tonight and help set up [my tech replacement] and she was upset and said I shouldn’t and explained her reasons, though she left me the decision. In light of this, seeing things in a way I had not considered (that setting up a replacement for the place that has pushed me out explicitly or implicitly after my years of devoted service is a slap in the face), I will not be running tech tonight. I may or may not be in attendance.

Youth Pastor: I appreciate all of your years of devoted service. I disagree with you in this one though- it’s punishing the youth for an issue you have with the pastor. It’s like a teacher who punishes and blames the class for one student’s misbehavior. Still love ya though [smiley face emoji].

Conversation Paused

I was upset because the three of us, myself, Jack, and Kane, were the subject of any number of ugly and untrue accusations I had heard floating around the gravevine. Some people that had evidence at that point to know better were leading others to believe that we were attacking David, and that this was primarily a scuffle about secondary theological issues that we had blown into epic proportions .

Kane was being painted by some to be a trouble-maker in youth for simply defending his views, which is something the reader may recall David promised me the youth would be welcome to do in his very first email to me. As far as I could tell, the deacon that I had initially reached out to had not ever breathed a word to anyone letting them know that I did. I now question whether he ever mentioned anything I said to any other deacons like he told me he would do. If he did he must have mentioned to one of the deacons who is of the opinion that questions should be buried, not addressed. I was exceedingly hurt that those who knew better, like the youth pastor, did not appear to be coming to our defense in the slightest.

I felt betrayed. I felt that they had betrayed Kane. I felt that if they couldn’t find they courage to defend the truth, they could find the time to train Kane’s replacement. Probably not my most proud moment. The conversation continues below.

Kane: I must disagree entirely. In what way am I punishing the youth by not doing this, while David is not punishing the youth by disallowing Jack, someone who has spent years with us and has always been there, from saying goodbye? That is not consistent in the slightest. And it is not only David that is the problem. Nor is it just “an issue” that I have with him. It is consistent moral failings that have been made aware to all proper authorities, and they have done nothing.  No, it is not just David. It is every member of the Pastor Search Committee that was aware he was Calvinist and yet did not see fit to disclose that to the congregation, deacons, or Personnel Committee. It is every deacon who supports him or stepped aside to allow him to stay, even after all this has been brought to light. And frankly, it includes you, [youth pastor], though you’re still my brother, for not stepping up and defending Jack, or the youth, or frankly, me. No, I have no guilt in this. It is not I who punish the youth in any way. It is David and all those who support him explicitly and those that laid down and allowed him to continue. As Edmund Burke said, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” No words of mine could describe this situation more aptly.

Youth Pastor: Brother, more has been done by myself to defend you and Jack than you are aware of, in fact, our Sunday school lesson last week was done without his blessing. There have been other things said in private to David throughout this situation that have remained between him and I.

Kane: Truly, I am not trying to punish the youth. I care for them deeply. I am simply hurt right now. There are so many leaders, especially in the youth, that I looked up to and respected. But when I needed them most they were not there for me. But if I have underestimated your support, then I truly apologize, brother.

Youth Pastor: Several people have taken up for you- this includes at the meeting we had last night. [Black out name}, [blacked out name], [blacked out name], and myself to name a few. The assertion that no one stepped up for you is very far from the truth. [Deacon 1] has been defending your mom and Jack to the deacons for the past two days. [Youth leader] and [Deacon 1] did last night and I have to the pastor.

We have some people who will defend the pastor no matter what and we have some in camps who are making the right observations and are fighting for what’s right. The church is truly divided at this point.

But that is in no way your fault or your mom’s fault or Jack’s fault.

Kane: I apologize for making assumptions, and I appreciate your support and the support of any others. In light of this, I will find a day to meet with and train [the tech replacement]. I’ll talk to him to pick the day. I had no intention of punishing the youth. It simply seemed to me, since I am not privy to meetings, that nothing was being done. I apologize sincerely for any wrong assumptions.

Youth Pastor: Kane, you the man. I wasn’t ever try to shame or guilt you into training them. [Youth member] and {youth member} did fine last Wednesday. I just wanted you to know that people had your back.

End of Conversation

This was the first we’d heard that we were being defended by anyone other than the children’s minister.


December 2022 – January 2023:

The Deacon Meeting

The deacons met on Thursday evening, December 1st. Jack and I were both hopeful that once the deacon body was able to see the situation in its entirety, we would be defended, and appropriate actions would be taken. I was waiting on the results of this meeting to decide if I was going to remain at AFBC or leave.

I know that the children’s minister was taken by surprise when he arrived to find that none of the deacons had the materials that the chairman of the deacons told me he had distributed to them. This put the children’s minister in the difficult position of having to relate the information from his own copies that he had brought. I know the meeting was several hours long.


The Verdict?

The morning of December 2nd, Jack and I both received the text below from the chairman of the deacons.

Chairman of the deacons: Good morning. This is [chairman of the deacons]. Last night we had a deacons meeting and please no none of this was taken lightly. Tiffany we do however want to let you know that our deacon body is unanimous in support of David. Are you willing to consider meeting David along with deacon leadership and their wives to work toward reconciliation? We pray that is the case and if so David will be reaching out to you early next week.

We do recognize that the whole situation has been handled poorly.

End of text


I probably don’t have to explain that I was confused, angry and disgusted.  I immediately forwarded my text the children’s minister’s wife. I could not understand how her husband could have put his support behind David with all that he knew. There are a few others in that room I was having trouble reconciling that verdict with as well.

Kane made the comment to me once that every time he thought he had come to rock bottom with respect to his assessment of David’s character, David busted out a jackhammer. That is a completely accurate articulation of my feelings. After all, David knew well what he had done, and he couldn’t even be bothered to reach out to us himself. Instead, he had his chairman of the deacons send a text for him and say that he would be willing to reach out to us IF we agreed to be willing to reconcile.

To me, this expressed a level of arrogance, condescention, and utter disregard for a sister in Christ that would be difficult to match. If any good leader thought that the conclusions I had come to about his character were based on complete misunderstanding, he would not rest until he had exhausted his ability to explain and repair the relationship, regardless of if I was willing to reconcile or not.

David’s character was becoming clearer to me by the day. I truly believe that the chairman of the deacons worded the text this way in hopes that Jack and I would feel so alone, hurt, discouraged, and angry that our departure from AFBC would be certain. To date, I have been presented no evidence to cause me to question that conclusion.

It wasn’t long before the children’s minister’s wife reached out to me and explained that the text was incredibly misleading. Some of the deacons were so concerned that they arranged a meeting for Jack and me to attend at the children’s minister’s house to more clearly convey the feelings of the deacon body. There were three deacons and their wives in attendance at this meeting. The best way that I know to describe this meeting is that these people made us feel that we were wanted, that they cared about us, that we mattered to them, and that the church body was incomplete without us. They let us know that they were not okay with how things had happened, and our valid concerns were not being dismissed. They told us that the number of people who felt that way about us wouldn’t fit in the room we were in. I felt all the emotions, and I’m pretty sure Jack did too. It was the first time in a long time that I hadn’t felt that AFBC considered me and my family completely disposable.

The deacons present explained that they wanted us to continue at AFBC, but at the same time, the deacon body wanted to give David the opportunity to make things right. We discussed Bible verses about forgiveness and extending grace in all circumstances, and it was explained that to go forward we’d need to participate in a reconciliation process with David. The reconciliation process would consist of David owning and apologizing for his errors, and Jack and I apologizing for some things we said in our letters, particularly accusations we had made about his character.

Full transparency: that stipulation gave me pause because I had no reason at that time to believe the conclusions I had come to about his character were incorrect.

It should be pointed out at this juncture, that the entire deacon body was now aware that David is Calvinist. Never once was this considered a reason to demand his departure. Instead, the goal was always to reconcile and move forward.

It had also come to my attention at some point prior to this (I cannot remember when), that the pastor search committee did not, in fact, know that David was Calvinist when they recommended him to the congregation. This came as a surprise to me, but it also cleared up some confusion that I had. I had assumed previously that David had been forthcoming with the pastor search committee. It turns out that that was not an accurate assumption.

I also knew that the chairman of the deacons, who was also on the pastor search committee (though not chairman of the deacons at that time), had known that David was Calvinist. As of this writing, it appears to me that the only member of the pastor search committee that knew David was Calvinist was the chairman of the deacons. If you’ll recall, it was also the chairman of the deacons who went alone to interview David initially, and the one responsible for asking him the “hard questions.” I felt horrible for accusing the pastor search committee as a whole of intentionally withholding that information. I now believe they had that information withheld from them as well.

I did feel convicted that as a Christian, it is my responsibility to extend grace even when it does not appear to be extended in the other direction. Jack felt the same and we agreed to comply with this reconciliation process which involved giving David the benefit of the doubt. Jack and I both expressed that we could do this, but that it would be on a trial basis with the expectation that we would see David act in tangible ways to support unity going forward.  These were viewed as acceptable terms.

As a sidebar, I disclosed to the deacons present at that meeting that the chairman of the deacons had failed to distribute correspondence that I had sent to him for that purpose. They were not happy, and I was asked to forward evidence of this to one of the deacons there, which I did. I have not heard anything come of that to date.


Meetings, Meetings Everywhere

December 1st became the first of MANY deacons meetings. Judging from the frequency and length of the meetings, unanimity was not something easy to achieve.

Throughout this process a deacon (designated as “deacon 2” in the text below) I trust was assigned the role of communicating with me. This man and his wife have truly been a blessing to me. They have gone above and beyond to ensure that my family feels that we are considered valuable members of AFBC and to keep us informed to the best of his ability.

Also of note, on December 10th, David informed the children’s minister that they would not have worship kid’s style for the remainder of the year. (At AFBC, after Sunday school the kids (K5 – 6th grade) come to the sanctuary for announcements and worship. Afterward, the children’s minister and his wife take them back upstairs where he presents a kid’s level sermon of the same text David is preaching to the adults. They return at the end of service. Every 5th Sunday, there is a break from this and the kids sit with their families during service.”


My Reconciliation Meeting

My meeting was scheduled for Monday evening, December 12th, and my husband attended with me. In the days preceding my meeting, I received two bothersome reports. First, the pastor’s son asked Kane at school if we had found another church yet. Second, in the Wednesday night kid’s worship class, the kids had noticed my unexplained absence and asked where I was. David’s daughter answered quickly and confidently that I would not be back. This seemed to indicate to me, based on conversations his children were hearing at home, that David knew the outcome of my reconciliation meeting before I did.

The text detailing the meeting agenda is below.

Deacon 2:

Pre-meeting: telephone call with all parties to setup reconciliation meeting (identify available dates, time, discuss location, and meeting outline.

Date: TBD

Meeting setting: meet with each sister and family individually (Tiffany Denham, then Jack Dixon) on separate occasions. Brother David and [his wife] and the three designated deacon representatives along with their brides…

Meeting location: [Deacon 2 and his wife]’s house (neutral location)

Night of Reconciliation Meeting:

  • Host will welcome guests into the living room [deacon 2 and his wife]
  • Moderator will cover the outline of the meeting [deacon 3]
  • Opening prayer [deacon 2]
  • Encouragement from God’s holy word [deacon 4]
    • God’s word is sufficient- 2 Timothy 3:16-17
    • God’s grace- Matthew 18:21-35
    • Paul’s guidance on unity in Christ- Ephesians 4:1-7
  • Personal testimony of God’s reconciliation [deacon 3]
  • Give the floor to Brother David to speak his words of reconciliation
    • Dismissive/passive in nature
  • Give the floor to Tiffany/Jack to speak their words of reconciliation
    • Letter (accusations of the pastor, pastor search committee, church leadership)
  • Affirmation of reconciliation by both parties involved
    • If not, then start the process over of elaborating on concerns as well as allowing the opposite party to respond
  • Conclusion prayer (join hands with prayer led by [deacon 2’s wife]
  • Welcome the party to break bread in fellowship [deacon 2]

End of text

Everyone went out of their way to make us feel comfortable, despite the fact that this was an unavoidably uncomfortable scenario for every person present. When the floor was opened for David to speak,  he apologized for “being dismissive” of my concerns about the book initially. He also said that he should have pulled the book immediately.

He said that he intended to reach out to Kane and that he’d like to meet with him one-on-one if that was okay with my husband. To date he has never reached out to Kane for any such meeting.

His demeanor did appear to be one of genuine sincerity. I did not discern any hostility.  That was it. He made no apology about anything else.

The floor was opened to me, and I apologized sincerely for falsely accusing the pastor search committee. However, that didn’t really help things because my apology to the committee entailed an explanation that I had realized they weren’t aware because David hadn’t been clear with them. I didn’t mention the chairman of the deacons. This meeting wasn’t about him.

I explained that I knew my letter was hurtful, but that I did not come to any of those conclusions about his character lightly or purely due to emotion, although coming to those conclusions surely involved feeling emotional. I told David that if I was mistaken in my interpretation of any of the events I had listed in my letter, then I was open and willing to hear him explain to me how I had misunderstood and I would offer my wholehearted apology.

What followed were a LOT of words from David.  However, similar to the youth parent meeting, I felt that there was precious little substance in them. One thing he did clarify was that in handing out the Baptist Faith and Message section on election at the outset of the parent meeting, he had not intended to indicate that if we disagreed with his presentation of election that we were not in alignment with the Baptist Faith and Message (as I had interpreted), but to assert that his view could be encompassed under the umbrella of the Baptist Faith and Message as well. This sounded plausible to me, so I apologized for misunderstanding him and accusing him of being misleading there. That was the only event in my letter that he gave any sort of plausible explanation for,  in my opinion. His tone remained friendly throughout.

It was clear that I was expected to apologize for accusing him of being misleading or gaslighting in other instances mentioned, but as I had not been given an explanation for those events, I could not alter my view of them. There was a lot of discussion about my using “labels” such as “Calvinism,” etc. Deacon 3 was particularly concerned with that. To be completely honest, that particularly objection is tiresome and irrelevant to me for reasons I’ve already explained in my email to the deacons. Generally, objections to the “labels” are for public relations reasons, not because they assign views that aren’t accurate. Despite this fact, a lot of time was spent discussing labels.

Deacon 3 told a story about how he had approached a pastor at one point in his life and asked for him to explain the sovereignty of God, which kept jumping out at him in his reading of Scripture. He said the pastor had told him that you can’t speak of that in a Baptist church, “you’ll get run out.” This was appalling to me, and I told him so.

Deacon 3 is also a youth leader. It did not occur to me in the moment, but when I was reflecting on the meeting the next day I realized that he had just perfectly illustrated my argument to David that the youth leaders desperately needed non-Calvinist resources to be able to accurately articulate non-Calvinist views. He had just shown that if a youth asked him to explain the non-Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty, he would be unable to do so.

At one point I explained that I have considerable difficulty with what I view as a lack of transparency about his beliefs with the congregation. Again, David said a lot of words, but nothing of substance. He seemed to be indicating that he was clear with me about his views because he thought we could “talk shop.” However, other people didn’t need to hear things “on that level.” I disagree, mostly because I believe this is insulting to their intelligence. Of course people can understand it if it is explained to them clearly, which as a pastor,  is something he should be capable of doing. Therefore, I couldn’t grant him the acceptance of that explanation that I know he wanted me to give.

Toward the end of the meeting, David began speaking about his choice of book for the youth again. Remember, at the beginning of the meeting he had said he should have pulled it immediately. Now, he said that he still stood behind the book. Then he looked at me directly and said that at some level there needed to be an attitude of submission to his authority as pastor on those matters. This was said with absolutely no tone of malice in his voice, so it took me a bit to process what had been said. My husband looked at me, but David was already continuing on talking about something else. By the time he finished, my brain had moved on.

This was another instance that I was able to see more clearly in retrospect. Not only was it an incredibly tone-deaf thing to say in the context of a meeting in which he was supposed to be apologizing for breaching precisely that trust, he had actually just walked back the only thing he apologized for at the beginning of the meeting!  Furthermore, I had submitted to his authority and said absolutely nothing else until the youth fiasco ensued.

Eventually, someone called a close to the discussion. It was very late and we hadn’t even started eating the meal deacon 2’s wife had prepared. It was agreed that progress had been made, but that we still had work to do. It was clear that David expected more from me, but I felt that I had extended all his responses had allowed me. I did make clear that I was willing to return to church, extending him the benefit of the doubt that things would improve over time. (Prior to this meeting, Jack and I had been told that we could not attend church.)

It should be noted again that David has not reached out to me at all either before or after this meeting. This seems to me to indicate that he has never had any true interest in reconciling with me. I believe he was doing what he had to do to appear “acceptable” to the deacon body.


Jack’s Reconciliation Meeting

Jack’s meeting was far more eventful than mine. Things occurred that were shocking to me, even after all the shocks we seemed to be getting on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. However, that is her testimony to tell.


Events After the Reconciliation Meetings

More and more deacons meetings continue to be held. Despite our cooperation in the reconciliation process, Jack and I were both informed that the deacon body as a whole would not consent to allow us to return to our teaching positions. I was told that while some deacons were happy for us to return to our roles, others were not. They wanted to see us return to church on a regular basis and join an adult Sunday school class.

Jack was told that David desired this because he felt that we had breached his trust. We both thought this was ridiculous. He had been the one to breach our trust, not to mention the trust of every youth parent in the congregation, not the other way around.

Considering the trajectory of Jack’s meeting and several other weighty factors, Jack decided for the final time that she was done. I don’t blame her at all.

On December 24th, David sent out an email letting the church know that he had decided to extend the hiatus for worship kid’s style at least through the first quarter of the New Year. He had not discussed this with the children’s minister at all. It was a unilateral decision. The only notice that the children’s minister was afforded was an email that David sent him a matter of minutes before he sent the announcement out to the congregation. This trial basis of improved behavior was not starting out on a positive note.

At this point I could tell that something had changed within the context of the discussions occurring within the deacon body, because no one had breathed a word of any continued reconciliation meeting on my part. Deacon meetings continued to occur and the results shared with me were typically: hold on; it’s not over.

At the end of January, one of the adult Sunday school classes compiled a 16-question document that they requested David publicly answer. He refused to do so, but said he would speak to individuals one-on-one. Yet another deacon meeting was scheduled for the next Sunday, the 29th.


The Resignation

Sunday, January 29th, David resigned as senior pastor of AFBC. He gave the following reason for his resignation:

“Theological confusion over secondary doctrinal issues has escalated into a situation that makes this move the best for our family and this faith family.  Please hear me clearly: I am neither assigning blame nor seeking to evade any blame that might justly be laid on my doorstep. I am simply trying to state, summarily, the reason for this heart-wrenching decision.”

Even at the bitter end, David seems not to be able to bring himself to perform any action to unify AFBC. To me, his words appear to be crafted with the intent of continuing to sow division with half truths and misleading statements. There is an element of truth in his statement that “theological confusion over secondary doctrinal issues has escalated into a situation that makes this move best for our family and this faith family,” but it obfuscates as much as it reveals, which is par for his course.

He seems to insinuate that he is having to make this “heart-wrenching” decision due to:  1) several individuals being confused about what he believes with regard to secondary issues (i.e., Calvinist, or “Reformed,” as he prefers to call it, doctrine of salvation), and 2) a significant enough number of members of our church being unwilling to accept him as pastor due to those beliefs. The preponderance of evidence that I have provided shows that this is a gross misrepresentation of the nature of the issues.

It is my opinion that David has never been willing to promote unity between the differing views in our church, because his goal has been to “reform” our church. I believe that he has gathered and groomed certain individuals to help him in this endeavor. I believe that once it became clear to him  that he was not going to be able to run out or get rid of the individuals who would hold him accountable in promoting unity rather than continuing his attempt to reform the church via stealth strategies, he decided that it was no longer in his interest to remain here. I do not believe that he ever had any desire or intention whatsoever to reconcile with either Jack or myself. I believe that he intentionally promoted and encouraged a false narrative to be spread about both Jack and me, painting us as aggressors and himself as a victim. I believe he has continued to engage in these reprehensible behaviors despite the fact that he is destroying friendships and dividing our church into feuding factions.

3 Replies to “Anatomy of a Church Split Part 4, Visually Impaired Version”

  1. Gosh Tiffany, I am so sorry you all had to go through this! This type of thing is pretty much why we’re not currently members of a church right now either. I will say though, that in my experience with this idea of calvinism it just keeps getting worse and dividing more and more churches, and even families. I do not see this as a ‘secondary issue’ though. In fact soteriology is basically the #1 issue of orthodoxy and our creeds and needs to be agreed upon in most fellowship contexts (even in book reading, honestly! I’m more careful about what I read now.) Something I’ve noticed in our area is that these ‘reformed’ churches tend to become ESV-only. One church I know of actually has ushers checking peoples Bibles for the ‘proper translation’ at the door! Even for kids Bibles! I find that just insane in a Christian body. Truly, I cannot say how sorry I am you both (and your families) had to go through this, I know it well too. I’m praying for both you & Jack & families, I hope there’s been a lot of healing and good fruit for you all over time! Blessings!

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