Why Steve and Margaret Irons Left the Assembly
(A summary of the following events is included in Nancy N.'s article on The Jesus Movement.)
Needing to be superior?
Or a conscience captive to the Word of God?
Letter of Excommunication
Turmoil and Frustration
Breaking the Will
"Can't Talk" Rule
Decision to Leave
While at UCLA our son Lee became interested in Calvinism, and by the spring of 1989 was freely talking about the "doctrines of grace" with me and his friends. I sensed that Lee was on a collision course with George Geftakys' (and my own) Arminianism. Because I knew nothing about Calvinism, I asked George to talk to Lee.
Instead of having a reasonable discussion with Lee, George came down hard on him. From personal notes that I took in the summer of 1989, George told me that Lee has a need to "look superior" which explains why he was "reading up on Calvinism." And Lee has "a genius for evading responsibility", and is quite aware that he is about to "set the Assembly on fire but cares less about the outcome."
When I walked into his room, he was studying and reading several catechisms of faith. His Bible was not there! The basis of fellowship is not doctrine but life. We are wanting to live a godly life. We never give a catechism or doctrinal creeds to people. We will not allow a special doctrine that causes controversy. We don't approach the Word on the basis of commentaries. Commentaries interject systems of thought. This approach is unspiritual.
I told Lee he can't push his points on brethren. Bill [his friend] doesn't want to be a debater, a 'know it all.' Lee cannot be disruptive. Nor should he rationalize or explain away why he did what he did.
I told him, 'Lee, you are now a man. You must bear the consequences of your behavior. You have a problem, which you must overcome and face. You should want to be a man of God. The servant of the Lord must not strive. He is not to be a novice.'
- 'You have a need to be superior, to have an up-man-ship on others. You need to look superior verbally. You bone up on theories and dogmas, so that you can come up with sophisticated arguments. This is pride and vanity. People will not always be nice to you. You have a need to put others down, not by your own thinking, but by reading books.'
- 'You have a genius for evading responsibility. You look like an innocent bystander. You stand there, flick the ashes, and pretend you are not responsible for the fire, when you know and God knows you caused the fire. You must stop this disguise.' He championed baptismal regeneration. He throws it out in the middle of the meal. [George was referring to the night Lee played the devil's advocate with him in front of the brothers at the dinner table in West Los Angeles on the issue of baptismal regeneration.]
When I told him that, Lee broke down in tears. He saw the kind of man he is going to be. I told him he must speak the truth in love, not be valiant for the truth. I asked him, 'How will he use Greek, as a sword?'
He had the audacity to say he had new revelation to communicate to us Leading Brothers. He is not going to come to us to instruct us! That is arrogance and pride.
Lee actually took all this heart. He wanted to grow in character as well as understanding. I have a letter from Lee dated a year earlier (September 12, 1988) in which he expressed his prayer to God to have more care for others.
The Lord is changing me for the better -- making me a man of God. First of all, He is weighing me down with a greater burden for His work than ever before... This is a fresh perspective for me: before my view of the Work was quite self-oriented. I would only think about what I could do to make myself a better preacher or teacher or Bible scholar.
Now I actually care about my roommate and the leading brethren -- in prayer and earnest supplication. The Lord knows how cold-hearted I am naturally! A bookworm but not a shepherd!
The Lord is also showing me the importance of that apostolic charge: 'Take heed to thyself.' However, the tendency, as I said before, was to take heed to my brains more than to my heart and my will.
While Lee was on the San Diego "Mission and Training Team" with George's son, Tim, Lee wrote me (July 6, 1989) and shared these concerns:
Dad, you have been heavy upon my heart lately and in my prayers. I cannot fully express the reasons, but I know that this time in our lives is laden with implications for time and eternity... These are times of deep, inner suffering for us, but insofar as we stick it out in persevering faith, he will bring us forth as gold that has been tested and approved...
There is so much on my heart but I cannot find the words to say it all exactly. But I want you to know that he is teaching me many wonderful lessons on the team. I am so glad we decided that I should go.
Tim and I have had several excellent discussions in which the issues were clarified. To summarize, I would say that there are two principal points we learned.
The great danger in my case is the inner drive I have to 'blow people out of the water' with arguments. There is a nerve in me that fires up every now and then which would pull out the heavy artillery and blast the theological opponent. I guess I love to fight.
Even more seriously, I think I have entertained the thought of causing division and faction. Dad, let me comfort you with this: I abhor myself for this. I repent, and I hate to think of what I could do if I were to take these things to an extreme... Dad, I feel that God is beginning to deaden and remove that sinful nerve so that the impulse to fight is almost gone. But you must pray for me on this point.
The doctrinal issues I am facing are issues of conscience before God. I am not a Calvinist because I like the controversies it raises. I am a Calvinist because 'my conscience is captive to the Word of God', as Martin Luther said... I am no longer entertaining doubts about these things. I have a deep-seated conviction...
[Tim] has taught me how to discuss our doctrinal differences in an honest yet edifying way without getting one another riled up. His example has won my heart. I see that God wants men of character more than he wants men of intellect. I feel stunted in my growth when it comes to character, integrity, discernment, compassion and all the qualities that are truly Christ-like.
And I also see that these areas need to grow commensurately with the noetic powers, as the author of Hebrews says in 5:11-14. It is very possible that I will reach a plateau in my theological grasp and be unable to progress, until my moral discernment and love for God catch up.
This is part of the frustration I feel. It's like I see this shining, gilded sword of doctrinal understanding, but every time I reach for it, I am too green, and I drop the unwieldy weapon, because my grip is weak. I am unskillful (or inexperienced) in the doctrine concerning righteousness.
Dad, pray for me in this regard, that I will be weighed down with the sense of this grave responsibility and accountability in the stewardship of His Word. I fear my tendency is to be overly scholarly, overly influenced by the opinions of other great men... or Calvin's Institutes (which are nearly revered as an appendix to the Bible in some circles).
As you can see, Lee appreciated his discussions with Tim, and Tim commended Lee on his growth in character. He wrote this note to Lee.
Our talk this morning greatly encouraged my heart. I believe the Lord is moving in your life to get this behavior [of humility]. I also think we hit on something key in how argument can bring out in you some things you need to be careful of.
And at the end of the team, Tim wrote again,
From your application last Tuesday, the Lord encouraged me. He showed me that He is faithful to teach us and guide us. I believe you are seeing some good things or maybe seeing them clearly. Remember what the Lord has shown you: good and bad about yourself.
When I showed Lee's letter to George, he reacted to Lee's confession of thinking to cause division. George began working on me to convince me that Lee's problem was not doctrinal but in his character. He dragged up a sin Lee had committed and repented of several years before, which apparently only George knew about. George used that to try and convince me that Lee had a serious "moral defect." And, of course, George made me responsible, because I failed to sternly rebuke my son. "You didn't let Lee face the cross in his life. You allowed Lee to make alibis for his obnoxious behavior."
Because of my concern for Lee, I pressured Lee to drop out of UCLA for the fall quarter of 1989 and come home. At George's urging, I threatened to withdraw my financial support to Lee if he balked at the idea. Lee suspended his studies at UCLA and came to Fullerton. George preferred that Lee drop out of UCLA for at least a year and that Lee live with Dan Notti. So Lee moved into Dan's home after the Mission and Training Team.
The situation went from bad to worse when Lee moved into Dan's home. Before Lee moved in, Dan told Lee that he was not to have any theology books in the house. Lee could only use one translation of the Bible and read only George's books. Before Lee moved in, George told Dan that Lee's problem was not theological, but "moral defilement." Dan used this on Lee one night while in an argument with Lee over predestination. He said "Your doctrine is not the issue. The real issue is much deeper. You have some moral defilement in your life and whenever you get the victory, doctrine will no longer be an issue."
On another occasion, Dan found Lee preparing his chapter summary from a Greek New Testament. This was taken as a brazen act of disobedience to the rule of only one translation. When Dan confronted Lee, Lee was to chose between two explanations for his behavior: either Lee had lied to Dan when he agreed to having only one translation, or Lee was rebelling. Lee wrangled with Dan about his choices for several hours. Dan got tired of this and so gave Lee until midnight to decide, otherwise he could just get out. Just before midnight, Lee chose rebellion as his reason for studying the Greek New Testament. The next day Lee obediently washed all the windows in the house and wrote a paper on rebellion for his "consequences".
Finally, Lee did not want to go witnessing with the rest of Dan's house, because he didn't want to invite them to the meetings to be exposed to George's false teachings. He was threatened with expulsion from the house if he did not conform. At this point, I couldn't let him move in with me, because that would be not standing with Dan who was making an issue of his refusal to go witnessing with the house. So on Labor Day weekend, 1989, Lee moved out to stay temporarily with a friend who had been his teacher in high school. He planned to move back to UCLA to live with Danny Dixon, a friend and Church of Christ campus minister, who offered him free rent for awhile, since I had withdrawn all financial support.
He attended two of the fall seminar lectures and never returned because George mocked Calvinism from the platform. After one of the meetings, I asked George to stop his caricatures because Lee was offended. George denied that he was mocking Calvinism. He then turned on me for defending my son. About the same time George gave me and the Leading Brothers copies of Pinnock's book Unlimited Grace and later, The Grace of God and The Will of Man, A Case for Arminianism. He wanted us to accept the teaching that God operates under the limitations of man's free will.
The weekend after the seminar, (Saturday evening, September 9, 1989), Lee set up a time with George hoping to address his concern that George de-valued the Work of Christ on the cross for the believer's justification by his teaching that some Christians (those who do not persevere) will be punished for their sins.
From the moment Lee stepped into George's study, with Jim Hayman also present, Lee never got a word in edge-wise. George immediately sat him down and told him it was his chance to tell him what he thought of him. He called Lee "a name‑dropper" to make himself look like he was well read on theology.
Lee had "a defiled conscience" because he would not look directly at him. Lee was "factious" and leaving fellowship would prove it. George called him "a born loser" and "your kind comes a dime a dozen."
Lee was "not a serious seeker after truth" and could not have possibly been acting from true convictions because he was now living with "an unsaved man" (the teacher is an active member of Rose Drive Friends Church) and was about to live with a "heretic" "for the basest of reasons: monetary."
After this last demeaning remark, Lee quietly said, "I have no problem with that, since I've been living with false teachers all my life." When Jim asked what he meant, Lee made it clear he was referring to George and the Leading Brothers. At this point George abruptly stood up, told Lee to decide by tomorrow if he wanted to stay in fellowship.
Lee called George a false teacher because although George teaches that we begin the Christian life through the gospel message of faith alone, George stresses again and again that we enter into all the privileges of salvation by devout effort (a works-based salvation).
"Liberty, adoption, destiny, inheritance, and glorification all speak of something beyond forgiveness of sins, as great as that is. These greater privileges of the Christian life demand serious commitment and love for the Lord Jesus Christ." [p. 36, The Glorious Liberty of the Sons of God]
George speaks of learning to follow "ascending steps," pulling ourselves up "a heavenly ladder," [p. 15, Stages on the Journey] getting involved "in corporate, overcoming relationships in a local Assembly," [p. 84, Royal Overcomers] and having "serious commitment and love" in order to participate in a fuller salvation. This is another gospel and brings George under Paul's severe censure of Galatians 1:6-8.
Lee's grasp of this issue, based on his earnest study of Reformed theology, firmly underlay his statement about George. George's ultimatum Saturday night crystallized his decision to leave. Sunday morning, September 10th, just before worship, Lee reported his decision to Jim and Mark. He left courteously, not "defiantly" as even George expressed to me months later.
That evening George met with all the Leading Brothers from both Assemblies in Placentia and Fullerton. George needing to justify to everyone what he was about to do, made the following remarks about Lee. As he talked, I slumped down on the bench ashamed and stunned.
Lee is making this a doctrinal issue. We never made that an issue. We always talked about his behavior and that he would be put out of the home if he did not turn around. Lee's attitude has become adversarial, hostile, and argumentative. He puts people down. At the dinner table in West L.A., Lee was the champion of baptismal regeneration. He threw it out in the middle of the meal. I told Lee to cool it. He laughed. He is proud and arrogant.
He was involved in immoral behavior in West L.A. and denied it. He doesn't admit to anything until you catch him at it or prove it to him. He finally admitted to it and wept about it.
Of late Lee is getting worse, more inflexible. He resorted to deceitfulness. He lacks integrity. You can't trust him. He twists words.
He wrote a letter that he considered causing division in the Assembly. His behavior is arrogant, obnoxious, and prideful. I asked him, 'Do you agree you are this?' He says, 'Yes.'
To show you Lee's deception, he kept saying, 'What about my behavior?' I showed him 4 times. Lee is not listening. I told him, 'How can you say you are not deceived, when you refused to go on an outreach and left Dan's house?'
Is he leaving the Assembly over conscience? I asked him how can he live with an unsaved man and with a heretic for the basest of reasons -- monetary. Then he got nasty, 'You are false teachers.' I demanded an apology.
I told him that Brother Simo Ralevic of Yugoslavia is a five-point Calvinist* and yet he invites me and commends me as a man of God. These brethren would rebuke you to your face. Until you apologized, they would not have anything to do with you.
Lee then apologized. Lee has a big, fresh mouth. He told Jim Hayman that we teach heresy here.
As a side note, on December 23, 1989, when George returned from his European and African journey, he told the Workesr, "Simo Ralevic is amending his theology. He doesn't believe in limited atonement [one of the five points of Calvinism]. He is seeing new things and appreciates the magazines and books," [referring to George's books and the Torch and Testimony magazine.]
After giving the Leading Brothers a run down of Lee's "pride," "arrogance" and "obnoxious" behavior, George called Frances, his secretary, to receive a dictation. I quote the letter in its entirety. It is addressed to Lee, but the letter is obviously written with a larger audience in mind.
To Lee I.:
"...not gainsaying; not robbing [their masters], but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the teaching which [is] of our Saviour God in all things." (Titus 2:10 Darby).
By these credentials let it be known that Lee I., who has been a brother in fellowship since his youth in the local Assembly in Fullerton, California has been engaged in very disorderly and ungodly behavior, which we have had with great sadness of heart to continually address with him over a period of about the last two and a half years. This has included immoral behavior.
Over this period of time, instead of being entreatable, he has been in general with the Lord's people increasingly adversarial, argumentative and hostile. We continually have had to exhort him about his pride and arrogance and obnoxious behavior which, incidentally, he has agreed to all of these charges concerning himself. We have become very dismayed with his foolish and unsubstantiated accusations against brethren which, when called to his attention, he has not been able to confirm with facts the statements he makes. At no time has the discussion of any of the brethren with Lee been about doctrinal issues. He has indicated by letter in the past that he has seriously thought of bringing division in the Assembly over doctrinal issues which has been a cause of real dismay that he would entertain such considerations.
We call these issues to public acknowledgment with real burden of heart; trusting that Lee Irons upon serious consideration will come to repentance in light of this behavior.
"(As for) a man who is factious -- a heretical sectarian and cause of divisions -- after admonishing him a first and second time reject (him from your fellowship and have nothing more to do with him). Well aware that such a person has utterly changed -- is perverted and corrupted; he goes on sinning (though) he is convicted of guilt and self-condemned" (Titus 3:10-11, Amplified Bible.)
"Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." (I Tim. 3:6-7)
"This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." (II Co. 13:1)
The signatures of nine Leading Brothers, including my own, are at the bottom of the letter. I signed the letter as a rebuke to my son.
Actually, it wasn't clear what the letter was for until Tim asked George that same night if the letter was a letter of excommunication. From notes I took at that meeting (September 10, 1989), George gave the following explanation for the letter.
Lee can't pick off the brothers in the Assembly. He is to leave them alone. Nor is he to say anything bad about the brothers and Assembly. If he does I will blow the whistle about his immoral behavior and expose him.
He is to stay out of the Bible Study in West Los Angeles. Brothers Bill W. and Dave K. are on to him. They don't agree with him.
He promised us he wouldn't go to the Bible Study or speak against the brothers. Lee is disorderly and high handed.
We will write this letter, acknowledging what his behavior has been. He is to repent of it. It will only be read to the Assembly if he behaves disorderly.
This, in George's own words, is the reason for the letter and explains why it was not read immediately to the Assembly in Fullerton on Lee's departure. It would be publicly read as a letter of excommunication if Lee attempted to disaffect or influence brethren in the Assembly.
The words "immoral behavior" were necessary to achieve George's purpose. This was underscored by the fact that when Tim questioned him on what possible bearing that had on Lee's argumentative conduct, George insisted on keeping these words in the letter. They were calculated to disgrace Lee in order to shut him up. If Lee could be labeled as "immoral," "argumentative," and even "divisive," then people would shun him and Lee's influence on them would stop.
If people searched through their own personal acquaintance and relationship with Lee, they would not have described him as "adversarial," "hostile," or "obnoxious." Certainly, he was not "divisive." But because Brother George said it was so, and Brother George is the "Lord's servant" and a "man of God," his character evaluation prevailed.
While George was on his fall journey in 1989, I was in turmoil about Lee's separation from the Assembly and George's threat to excommunicate Lee. At one prayer meeting, Tim publicly prayed for my son, Lee, about how he was "in great darkness" and "not walking with the Lord." I was shocked by his prayer, so right after he finished, I prayed, publicly contradicting his prayer. This, of course, concerned the brothers because I was not "standing in unity" with the brethren, so at a leading brother's meeting they talked to me about it. When I raised my concerns about the purpose for which the letter was used (Lee called it "blackmail", I told them), they urged me to take the matter up with George when he returned.
Finally, the time came when I could meet with George. I wrote in my planner on January 7, 1990 what I would have to do.
What am I learning? I have a responsibility to take the initiative, go to George alone, and talk to him about my issues with him. I have too often retreated into myself. I am obligated to deal with the pain others are experiencing.
I need to confront my brother, if I have a problem, or feel hurt, or am misunderstood. I have to speak up when I see injustices done.
I have been a coward and have feared to be demeaned, put down, misunderstood, or argued with. I must hold my ground in all good conscience before God, lest I become false to my integrity. I have decided not to capitulate so easily. This I have confessed to the Lord. I have not defended the cause of the poor, the distressed, and those who have been hurt by gossip, false assumptions, and prejudgments.
I have felt unqualified to do so. I felt no good, stupid, helpless. I must be able to affirm from careful examination of the issues and the Scripture that this is what God wants, rather than be pressured to conform to others. This will preserve my nobility, rather than destroy it.
As a free individual before God I am accountable before God for my own decisions and actions.
It was Sunday evening January 14th, 1990, when George and I met at a restaurant in Whittier. I pulled out my notes outlining my concerns about George's false charges against Lee. I barely got started when George had me put my notes back in my coat pocket. He refused to discuss the letter with me, telling me I could only talk about it with all the Leading Brothers present. He did not want to make it "a personal issue." After my determined resolve to confront George alone, he defeated me. I was so grieved I could hardly eat my dinner.
In coming first to George I believe I was following the Lord's instruction, "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you" (Matt.18:15). George assassinated Lee's character simply because he asked questions and sought to know the Truth. He threatened to shame him publicly by reading a letter of excommunication should Lee "bad mouth" him or the brethren.
I felt betrayed. I trusted George to give solid help to my son, instead he falsely accused Lee of being divisive, arrogant, and argumentative. He then forces him out of the fellowship in which he was nurtured. George wronged my son and I wanted him to hear me out and apologize.
It was not too long after, that I told George at a meeting between George, Betty, my wife and I that "I reserved the right to have a difference of opinion with him." He jumped up and told me we had never had that in this place before and that we weren't going to start now. He asked me what I was going to do about I Cor. 1:10, because I was "breaking the unity."
On February 14th, 1990, George began to discipline me. He had Mark Miller call me to tell me that he was going to give the prayer requests at the all night of prayer instead of me. I called George for an explanation. He told me he was looking out for my best interest since I was in such an emotional state.
He then told me that Lee "left with a defiant attitude." When I challenged him on Lee's defiant attitude, George said, "Lee was under discipline" and that he would "like to see Lee get right with the Lord."
That was the first time I heard George state that Lee was under Assembly discipline (in other words excommunicated). This surprised me because the letter had not been read and I knew Lee was attending Grace Community Church in Sun Valley at the time and even discipling students at UCLA, so I asked George, "Then is he not right with the Lord?" George answered, "He has done things that he has to get right with his brethren."
Even though I didn't agree that Lee was not right with the Lord, when George restated it in this way, I was given some hope that I could at least get Lee to right things with the brethren. I knew Lee would never agree to going back into fellowship in the Assembly, but I had hoped to settle the upheaval of Lee's leaving and his remarks to George.
Actually, as I would soon learn, I was going at it from the wrong direction. It was George who needed to repent of what he had done to Lee. I was trying to get Lee to work it out with George. The whole approach was doomed to failure. I didn't realize that George didn't want Lee around. He knew Lee would never agree to the false charges in the letter. Only if Lee meekly and willingly accepted George's teachings would George have him back. George was not interested in settling differences, or seeking reconciliation. He just didn't want Lee around.
At any rate, I told George that Lee was writing him a letter. George replied, "A letter is insufficient, he must get in contact with his brethren." George wanted Lee to meet with the brethren to see if he had stopped objecting and challenging George's teachings and actions.
Lee was visiting us on the weekend of February 16-18th, 1990. It was an opportunity to get him to meet with George. So Friday after the all night of prayer, I begged George to meet with Lee. George put me off by saying, "We will talk to Lee whenever it is convenient for us. If it's convenient for us to meet with him next week that's when we'll talk." George did not understand the anguish of my heart. I was amazed at George's unwillingness to meet with my son.
Lee got in touch with Mark Miller on Saturday and arranged for a meeting Sunday evening. Even though I was not invited, my hopes were high that Lee would be reconciled to the brothers. The brothers (Mark Miller, Jim Hayman, and Dan Notti) came to my home to pick up Lee in Mark's van. George was not present, but clearly he told the brothers ahead of time that there was to be no compromising with Lee and that Lee was to repent of everything in the letter, because when Lee stepped into the van, Mark said, "We will go talk if you want to repent of everything in the letter."
Lee was ready and willing to repent of calling the Leading Brothers false teachers but when he asked for an explanation of the allegations in the letter, the brothers refused to discuss it. To them, discussing specifics and evidences for the allegations was "plea bargaining", even though, they admitted that Lee had repented of all the particular instances of Lee's wrong doing.
What they were after was to get Lee to repent of being "proud" and "arrogant" -- attitudinal sins. When Lee asked what behavior of his demonstrated these attitudes, they said that many brothers could give examples, and again refused to give any specific examples. When Lee asked if his behavior that evening was one of pride and arrogance, they said it was not.
This went on for over an hour in front of my home with the motor running for most of that time and Mark taking his foot off the brake and jerking the van, saying, "I'm holding the brake until you repent. When you say you want to repent of everything in the letter, then we can go talk." Lee's repentance was not seriously received. There was no reconciliation.
Lee left the brothers frustrated and rushed upstairs in the house weeping. Lee had come to the brothers open for discussion, expectant and hopeful. The brothers were not there to make peace, but to get Lee to acknowledge that all of George's actions toward him were deserved and of God. Lee could not do that, and who could have?
Mark Miller described the outcome of the meeting to me a few days later.
"Things didn't go very well. We did not see a desire to repent. He wanted to discuss the details of his time with George and Jim. He didn't want to address the issues in the letter. The issue is his character. He is proud and arrogant. Repentance is a change in life; it is not apologizing or being sorry. There is no change in his life. We did not see an attitude of repentance.
Lee tries to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor. Lee wants to play the attorney. Partial clearing of himself is not enough; it must be complete clearing of himself. When we asked him if he thought the letter was blackmail, he struggled to say it was not. When we asked him if he agreed with the letter, he said, 'No.' No more discussion was needed from that point on."
Mark was ignoring George's behavior and making Lee the problem from beginning to end. In Mark's thinking, George's motives were pure and his actions good. The brothers didn't see that George was culpable for what happened.
I attended my last prayer meeting on Thursday night, February 22nd. Right after the time of pre-prayer, George looked at Mark and said, "You're giving the prayer requests tonight, right?" When he said that I felt stripped and useless, so I moved my books to sit with the humble saints and away from the Leading Brothers sitting up front. The next day I met with Jim Hayman for several hours. I'm sure now that George put him up to this.
Jim wanted to know if I was going to stand with the brethren. "This is the pressing issue for the brothers [meaning George] right now, not Lee." I told him I did not agree with what George did to Lee and what the brothers did in the van. From notes I took in my conversation with Jim Hayman on Feb. 23, 1990), he said,
We did not say that repentance meant that Lee had to be broken in mind and will. We said that Lee needed to repent of an underlying behavioral pattern of argumentation, arrogance, and divisiveness. All the specific instances display these tendencies in Lee. Lee wants to take one or two instances, ask for forgiveness, but the real underlying problem is left un-repented of. It reduces a felony to a misdemeanor.
Jim is very good at restating things so that they sound good. However, the "underlying behavioral pattern" implies specific acts of "argumentation," "arrogance," or "divisiveness." And Lee did repent of the ones he knew about.
Then Jim says, "It is not my place to rebuke an elder. However, you, Steve, need to repent of digging up iniquity. This is a device of the enemy." I was "digging up iniquity" against George simply because I was pointing out George's actions as unworthy of a servant of the Lord and that George was at fault. For that I was to be rebuked.
On Saturday, February 24th, I left George a message that I was not coming to the Workesr' meeting. Later that day, I telephoned Ralph Wong, an elder at Grace Community Church. We talked about Scriptural discipline as it related to my son. He said,
We are not to judge motives. Discipline or rebuke is required for overt, specific instances of wrong-doing. If a person has a critical spirit (an "attitude" problem), there must be observed behavior tied to the attitude. We don't hang someone on things that are not observable. The instances of behavior are cataloged before taking disciplinary action.
He asked me if each of the judgments and contributions of the elders and Leading Brothers were independent. He also asked if there was any provision for rebuking George. I gave him a negative answers to both questions. He told me to carefully consider the Biblical principles involved before making my decision and that once I determined to leave, to accept the consequences. He didn't think I would be allowed to leave graciously.
I decided to leave. I got along great with George as long as I supported him and stood behind his decisions. But when I began to question his integrity and actions, and my loyalty to him wavered, I met resistance. Instead of listening to my concerns, he made me the problem. There was no avenue for me to present my concerns. As long as George was in control, I would be blocked.
Before I had an opportunity to speak to the brethren about my decision, Lee wrote a letter to his friend, Bill, who was still in the Assembly, supposing that Bill would receive it after the weekend and my meeting with the brothers on Sunday. However, Bill received the letter on Saturday and on Sunday showed it to the Leading Brothers.
In the letter, Lee made reference to an "ensuing carnage," "the stew has been brewing" and was "about to boil over and affect everyone", and "the whole house" was going to go "up in smoke". Lee was referring to my leaving the Assembly, and its devastating results, and was hoping to coax Bill out of the Assembly after finding out on Sunday that I was leaving.
When I met with the brothers on Sunday, George had Lee's letter in his hand and interpreted Lee's inflammatory expressions as evidence that he was about to cause serious division in the Assembly.
Hearing my decision to leave, George suggested instead that I step down as an elder. But I had made up my mind. I mailed my letter of departure on Monday, February 26th.
When those who were close to me started taking sides, I realized the danger of a real Assembly split. I didn't want that, so on Wednesday morning I called George and Mark to say I was not leaving after all. George assured me that I was going to be able to share my heart with him. This raised my hopes that I might get him to listen to me. I wanted to come to the Wednesday night Bible study and Thursday prayer meeting, but George discouraged me and my family from coming out. Little did I realize what was ahead.
On Wednesday night everyone was told to be sure to be present at the Thursday prayer meeting because something important was going to be announced. Thursday night George made the pronouncements of Lee's excommunication and my failure to stand with the brothers regarding Lee's discipline.
George also read my letter of departure and some excerpts from letters I had written him on his fall journey. George made it appear that I was in full agreement with the letter of excommunication, since I signed it. However, this was not true. I signed the letter because at the time I wanted "to stand in unity" with his judgment. This was a value George had deeply impressed on me for years. Also, I feared he would shame me and call me "weak" if I failed to rebuke my son.
Thursday night George told everyone that I was a failure as a father and servant of the Lord, and that as far as he was concerned he was going on with the Lord even though I had failed. Later I discovered that George had even sent letters to the Midwest Workers' meetings telling of my failure. Making all this public contradicted our private conversation on the phone Wednesday morning.
But, no matter, George achieved his purpose. He had an explanation for my leaving. Because Lee turned out so badly, I couldn't handle it emotionally, and so left in shame as a failure. It was not necessary to give the real reasons for my leaving.
On Saturday afternoon, the time Mark Miller arranged with me to meet with the brothers, I was surprised to find a stream of brothers walking up the street to George's home. George had convened brothers from Fullerton, West L.A., and Placentia. When I saw them, panic set in (I was already wavering on whether or not I should go in) and I called to Albert to tell George that this was nothing but a "power play". I didn't expect him to treat me this way. His actions again contradicted his offer on Wednesday to listen to my concerns. I drove down the street to the nearest phone and called his home. I got Betty, asked for George, and got Jim instead, and arranged another meeting for Sunday night with only four brothers to be present.
That same evening I called George again and asked him why he was hiding behind the brothers. He put me off and told me he didn't want to make this a personal issue. "I would get my chance to talk on Sunday night."
By the time Sunday came around, I had definitely made up my mind to leave. George's jolting actions of the past week (reading the letters to everyone, telling them that I had failed as a father and servant of the Lord, and convening all the brothers when I was expecting to meet with him alone) settled the issue for me. I had enough of George's blocking me from raising my concerns.
Sunday evening (March 4, 1990) I met with Tim, Dan, Jim, Mark, and George. When I asked George to explain his actions, George said he had no recourse but to read the letters because I was vacillating and I had failed to produce a letter of apology. I never understood I was to write any such letter before I met with them.
When Mark called me on Thursday afternoon to tell me about the Saturday meeting and to confirm my desire to come back, he asked me if I had sent "the letter." I thought he meant my letter of departure, not a letter of apology. I was surprised they hadn't received it, so I told Mark I would deliver the letter of departure to George that evening. I had written a second letter expressing my decision to stay and weather out the abuse we had received. Because I wanted all the Leading Brothers to receive the second letter that evening I hand-carried it to their homes. (Remember, I was told not to come to the prayer meeting.)
I went first to George's home, rang the doorbell, and because no one answered I assumed Betty was busy and couldn't get to the door. So I just left the letter in the front door jamb. George was the only one to get a copy of my first letter of departure and my second letter. All the other brothers (Jim, Dan, Mark, and Tim) received just my second letter. At Jim's home I could hear Cheryl reading stories to her kids, so instead of disturbing her, I just left the letter in the screen door and went on. Nobody was home at the other places; they were all at the prayer meeting. The next day, George told Beth A. that I was emotionally unstable and even malicious because I sneaked around in the dark delivering the letters.
On that last Sunday evening with the brothers, George justified his verbal abuse toward me and my family by saying that he was being faithful in telling me the truth: I was weak, Lee was arrogant and obnoxious, and Margaret was a "channeler of evil" because she disaffected me.
His parting shot to me was that I would turn out to be a man who disguised himself with his lips, but in his heart harbored hatred (Proverbs 26:24). I was "a worthless shepherd" in deserting the flock and that my right arm of service for the Lord would wither up (Zechariah 11:17). I remained silent through all this.
When he finished, I said my goodbyes, embracing each one of them. My purpose in coming that night was to leave as peacefully and graciously as I could.
Since I left, George continues to refuse to discuss these issues with me personally. George will not allow any decision, statement, or action of his to be questioned for error or misjudgment.
When I wrote a personal letter to him asking him to consider my reasons for thinking that he wronged my son, he sent back a letter via the Assembly “correspondent” Mark Miller. There he stated that he would not discuss anything with me apart from the Leading Brothers. Then he quoted Scripture verses implying that I was doing the Work of the devil and walking in darkness.
Later I sent copies of my story to the Leading Brothers asking them to comment on my perceptions of what happened. I received no response from them.
* December, 2009: It has come to our attention that Simo Ralevic was a Baptist, not a five point Calvinist, as GG falsely asserted.