Back from Vacation

by

I have spent the past two hours reading the blog.  I had tried to keep up with the posts that were coming to my email site on my cell phone and thought I was getting all the messages,  but I find here that much dialogue has taken place that, mercifully, was not on my email site. 

We have had a good time on a week of vacation…45th reunion of my ’62 class at Oklahoma Baptist University; visiting with friends at our former church, FBC, Enid, Oklahoma, enjoying greatly the worship and preaching; admiring the recent remodeling of the 80 year old church buildings; relaxing at the Grand Lake of the Cherokees, visiting the tribal headquarters of the Osage in Pawhuska and finding out why they held up statehood for Oklahoma until they could get satisfaction regarding the treaty they had with the government…we were there on November 16th which was the centennial holiday for the whole state…the Osage Nation wasn’t celebrating…watched my nephew in an exciting 8 man football game at Pond Creek; and sat by my sister in her church on Sunday morning.  So it was a good time for us.

I regret that I have not been able to respond more quickly and helpfully during this time.  Your comments and interactions have been interesting to read.  I am going to try to answer the questions that I have listed from a review of the blogs…if I overlook one, I am counting on you to ask it again and remind me.

I realize that several of you have copied your blogs to my email site.  I am going to try to answer them here rather than a personal response to each blog.  But if there is a question that you want to ask of me that you don’t want on the blog, please indicate that when you email me so I can respond there.  The last thing I want to do is ignore someone or fail to be responsive…so if this blog does not cover everything, please press me again on the matter.

Let me express appreciation to my staff for trying to keep up with this during my time away.  I have read Paul Atkinson’s comments and appreciate what he has brought to our church starting efforts.  I also want to say, “thank you,” to Ron Gunter, our COO for the past two years, for leading the effort to review our church starting policies and procedures and getting them to the place they are now.  We have elevated to policy status the bulk of our church starting procedures and they have been approved by the Executive Board and cannot be changed without Board approval. 

I noticed that Paul Atkinson invited everyone to consider starting a new church and I want to echo that call.  There are 10-11 million people in Texas who do not claim any church relationship.  The need is vast…24 states, the last I checked, do not have as many people living in them as we have unchurched people in Texas!

Working the process with our church starters will do more to alleviate your concerns about the integrity of the process than anything anyone can say, I suspect.  They are all very aware of the challenge we have to rebuild confidence and trust in our procedures.  Many people in Texas live in areas where it may seem the last thing needed is another Baptist church, although new churches are needed for pockets of people in places that are often overlooked.  But in other places in Texas the population is exploding and it is diverse and the need for new churches seems overwhelming. 

Pray for our church starters, for pastors who have a vision for new churches, for our Mission Funding Group as they help us be both effective and accountable.

Now to the questions:

Did I offer money to Jon Becker to get him to move FBC, McAllen back to the BGCT?    No, absolutely not.  While I obviously would be glad to have the support and involvement of any of the churches which left the BGCT for the other convention, I, nor any of our staff, would ever offer funds or funding to anyone to “bring a church back.” 

Regarding the character of FBC, Weslaco:    I appreciate Manuel’s comments regarding his great appreciation for his church.  I have celebrated across the last few years the growth and vitality of the church.  Though, I do not know the people or leaders in the church, it is my impression that they felt they were adding another service, a third worship service, to accomodate the growing congregation.  Jon explained to our church starter, and he had a well written document outlining the philosophy of “starting a church within a healthy church” in which he cited the success of this model in some other places, that he would like to start the new church as “The Family Fellowship,” and it would meet in the church building at the 9:30 a.m. time.  As best I can tell, the church starter thought that this was a strategy adopted by the church or, at least, the missions committee. 

What was not understood was that the church body, and apparently not the deacons or the missions committee, ever discussed that strategy of “starting a new church within a healthy church.” 

Furthermore, it was never the plan for the monies allocated to the church to be used to pay Jon Becker.  It was assumed by our church starting people that Jon was being paid by the church in the manner customary to Baptist churches.  The reports turned into our offices never showed that the mission support dollars were being used to pay a salary to Jon.

Jon Becker came to my office in September of 2005 and asked for a one time gift to help the three church starts by FBC, Weslaco make the transition through his anticipated departure to FBC, McAllen.  He indicated that the situation was critical.  I had no idea that he was talking about money that would be paid to him. 

I took him to our church starting office and asked them to talk to him and evaluate the need.  I left him there to talk with the church starting leader (who no longer works for the convention, but was and is a faithful and sincere Christian) and the decision was made to give FBC, Weslaco another $5,000 to help make that transition.  I don’t believe that our church starting leader knew that 2800 of the 5,000 dollars would go to pay a salary to Jon.  I believe he thought that it was a good and wise investment to help the new church starts continue.  At that time there was no reason not to believe the pastor’s word about the matter.  In case you are wondering…my door is open to pastors, mission organizations, associations, institutions and many other people have come to me to see what the convention could do to assist them in worthy endeavors.  I have taken those requests to others on our staff to see what their counsel would be and where we could help, many times we could and many times not, we have tried to do our best to pray for and where possible and appropriate offer financial assistance.

The two Hispanic congregations are still in operation and we trust will both grow into full orbed churches.  The Family Fellowship was discontinued a few months after Jon left Weslaco to go to McAllen.

It is my clear understanding that FBC, Weslaco wants to put all this behind them, help the two Hispanic congregations continue to develop, and return the $26,500 that our records show was given to the church to fund the Family Fellowship “start up.”  It is my understanding that Jon Becker has returned $30,000 to the church with an apology for his actions.  It is also my understanding that the deacons and the church are seeking to act as redemptively as they know how to do in restoring Jon to a place of wholeness in their congregation.  We should all pray for them in that process.

Someone asked if Jon ever offered to apologize to the BGCT for his actions.  He has been repentant in his conversations with our representatives.  He offered to come to the annual meeting in Amarillo and address the convention.  We did not feel that was the right thing to do, since we were still working on details with the church and trying to make sure all the facts and details were in place.

Obviously, the tone of some of the blogs has been to suggest that as the Executive Director I allowed all this to take place.  In the sense that the buck always stops at the CEO’s desk, I take that responsibility.  Some suggested that I resign last year when the information from the Valley investigation was released.  I did not do so for these reasons:

First, the investigation by the independent legal team did not point blame at my office and indicated that our church starters, although not following procedures, did not steal or misappropriate funds.  There was no indication that anyone on the BGCT staff profited financially from any of the matters involved.

Second, it was and remains clear to me that I had the responsibility to make sure the problems were addressed and resolved, that a new process be developed, and trust restored.  I believe the actions of our staff and Executive Board have affirmed that that decision was right.  Not one thing has been “swept under any rug.”  I don’t know of any denominational entity that has ever produced as thorough a report and been more open in discussing it in a public forum, including open Executive Board meetings, than the BGCT has been in this matter.

Even though we (the Executive Board and I)  have been accused of not taking prosecution of those who apparently took money under false pretenses seriously, we have gone to the Valley and spoken with the three pastors, had prayer with them and asked for the restoration of funds.  We have spoken with the leaders of all three churches where these men are or were pastors, and I admire and appreciate each of the churches and their people.  They have been hurt by all this, but they have continued to serve God and to grow and I applaud them.

We turned over all the investigative materials to the proper authorities in Brownsville, Tx. in December of 2005.  We have followed legal counsel since that time in our actions with them.  They know we want them to proceed with their investigation.  We have been ready to go and visit personally with them at any time.  We have given regular updates to the Executive Board, including our attorney from the Valley who spoke to the Executive Board in its last meeting and gave a full report which was reported in the Standard.

We have rebuilt good relationships with the Association…in fact, we will be going to McAllen for our annual meeting in 2010…we have done what we can to encourage the churches affected by all this.

Hopefully, this has  been of some help.  I will try to stay involved on a regular basis through the holidays and December.  I have a lot of other things I want to talk about, but I am willing to try to respond as long as is needed in these matters.

This week in the Standard, I will share a word about the great gift gratitude is to the human heart.  I am grateful for you and for our work together.  Let’s keep talking and keep praying for one another.

CRW

24 Responses to “Back from Vacation”

  1. David Lowrie Says:

    Charles,

    I commend you for your frank and straightforward approach to these critical and delicate situations. In the smoke of these scandals often our vision has been clouded. Too often in times like these we wound each other with “friendly fire”.

    It seems clear that many may disagree with you about how you have handled these matters, but I appreciate your openness about your recent actions and motivations. Using a football illustration, it is often much easier to know what to do when you are sitting safe in the stands and not being chased by a nasty middle linebacker. Monday morning quarterback has its place in terms of learning from our experiences, but not in terms of assessing blame.

    In the book “Good to Great” Jim Collins noted that great companies set up “red flag” mechanisms in their systems so when problems arise everyone is empowered to speak up and to speak out. This speaks to the nature of our Kingdom. We are the body of Christ and our lives are interconnected with each other. We need each other, and we need to listen to each other.

    Collins also noted that when things go terribly wrong great companies do internal autopsies of what happened “without assessing blame”. We would be wise to learn from these examples from the business world since we are committed to a higher calling–KINGDOM Business.

    I believe if we keep talking to each other rather than about each other we will find our way toward the trust and synergy we long for.

    David Lowrie

  2. VB Says:

    Dr. Wade:
    Thank you very much for your honest answers. You have made clear some things that I had great concern about regarding Jon Becker/Welsaco/McAllen/BGCT.
    Have a Happy Thanksgiving.
    God bless.

  3. Ken Coffee Says:

    Chaarles, I add my word of commendation to you for your frank and honest answers. Some of the questioners will never be satisfied, but you have delivered your soul with your responses. Thank you for this blog. It is a great way to communciate with Texas Baptists.

  4. spiritualsamurai Says:

    Dr. Wade,

    Thank you for answering. May I ask for clarification about the statement that there was no indication that someone in the building had profited from ValleyGate. Is it not true that E.B. Brooks refused to allow his financial records to be examined and is it not also true that he signed a non-disclosure with the BGCT and that has protected him?

  5. spiritualsamurai Says:

    I am sorry, one more thing. From what you have stated, has the BGCT asked for a local criminal investigation (the Wesleco police department) to see if a crime was committed? Would this not be the responsible thing to do?

  6. Lee Says:

    Thank you for this explanation. I believe it answers a lot of questions. I wouldn’t expect that someone coming in from one of the churches would ever be deceitful or deliberately misrepresent their needs or intentions. That’s very disappointing and sad.

    I think, in the sense that the buck stops at your desk, there is a perception that your open door, thus your recommendation, may have helped Jon Becker get past the usual screens that are normally present in the process of aquiring these kinds of funds, and that the friendship you had with him may have helped him avoid the normal approval process. Can you elaborate a bit further on the process by which FBC Weslaco was approved for the additional funding?

  7. Brady Says:

    Dr. Wade,

    I appreciate your answering the question I asked. That’s all I ever wanted to hear in the first place. I heard from Jon’s own mouth that you were giving him money to bring them back into the BGCT so I was interested in your response.

    I tend to believe your answer by the way.

  8. michael bell Says:

    Dr. Wade,
    Please know that your characteristic openness and your willingness to be transparent are much appreciated. Thank you for your caring responses to knotty, potentially divisive issues.
    By the way, it’s good to hear that you and yours had a wonderful vacation. Blessings!

    In One Peace,
    michael

  9. Charles Wade Says:

    At the end of the day, I pray for all of you God’s blessing and peace. I appreciate your comments and am glad to have given some further information and reassurance as to our work.

    I have no knowledge of EB Brooks’ personal books. I do know that the church starting books were looked at by the investigating teams and they made no accusation against EB or any of the church starters. EB had retired before the matters in the Valley came to light. He had given over all direction to church starting through Abe Zabaneh who took his place in leading church starting after EB became director of church missions and evangelism on my Leadership Team.

    The agreement with EB was a standard agreement signed by all employees when they retire or resign and it protects the convention from former employees seeking to damage the convention and its work and it protects former employees from disparaging remarks by the convention or its representatives. It is a standard kind of agreement and it promotes civility and graciousness between all parties.

    Again, I repeat, there was never any suggestion by the investigators that EB or any other employee of the BGCT had profited from our church starting efforts.

    I regret that the attempts to start new churches among Hispanics were not monitored more carefully and that evaluations of our procedures were not implemented much sooner. All of those shortcomings have now been addressed and Texas Baptists can be sure that out of this disappointing and difficult time has come a much better process and, in due time, I pray we will be able to focus all our efforts and attention on finding the best way to train new leaders and start new churches for the salvation of people and unto the Glory of God.

    As to the Weslaco Police…all of this information is public knowledge and has been fully reported in the papers there. It is our opinion that any further actions should be and are in the hands of FBC, Weslaco. They know better than anyone the situation, they are better able than anyone else to decide what further steps need to be taken.

    As for me, I am praying that God will bless the church and their ministries and I also pray for Jon Becker and his family that God will be merciful to them.

    I also pray for the other three pastors who were involved in the problems discovered by our investigation. Prosecution is now in the hands of the authorities, so I and all of us are presented with the opportunity to pray for them that where restitution can be made it will be, where repentance and renewal can come to pass it will, that God’s justice will be worked out, and that their families and their churches will find blessing and grace in the midst of all the hurt and embarrassment they have gone through.

    So I end as I began…praying for them and for all of you who have responded to the blog today.

    Pray for my family as we all gather over the next few days for Thanksgiving and I will be praying for yours as well.

    Thanksgiving is best expressed in thanksliving.

    We are loved.

    CRW

  10. spiritualsamurai Says:

    Dr. Wade,

    I must disagree. The BGCT is the entity Jon defrauded. Was Jon not sent money that come from Texas Baptist Churches? Why do you feel FBC Weslaco should act? However, if they know that they are the ones who must act then I believe they will.

    I also must disagree with you about E.B. Brooks. The investigative report (the full copy at the Baptist Standard that I am not allowed to make copies of, by your direction I believe) states that E.B. was not cooperative and so no determination of his true involvement could be made.

    Can you shed light in this?

  11. VB Says:

    I would be inclined to agree. Weslaco’s financial statements do not show the BGCT grant money going into their accounts. You said earlier that reports submitted to the BGCT (from Jon?) did not reflect that he was receiving this money. Therefore it seems that the money somehow went from the BGCT offices to Jon’s accounts without ever stopping in the middle at the Weslaco First’s accounts. If someone takes money from the hand of a bank customer who intends to deposit it into the bank, the theft was directed at the customer, not the bank. The money that Pastor Becker took wasn’t Weslaco’s, it was the Baptists of Texas’. This is another reason that it is confusing that they should be expected to be part of his returning it to the BGCT. Why wouldn’t he just return it to the BGCT instead of going through Weslaco?

  12. VB Says:

    Clarification: “I would tend to agree” with samurai.

  13. Charles Wade Says:

    This will be my last blog until at least Friday…maybe Monday. I hope all of you have family to be with the next few days.

    Paul Atkinson just called me to alert me to the last two comments since I had turned off my computer. I appreciate Paul’s attention to these matters and his energetic and skilled leadership of our church starting team.

    Brethren, we sent no money to Jon Becker according to our records. All the money we sent was sent to the church, FBC, Weslaco. It was our understanding from the church starter who was working with Jon that the monies we were sending were being used to provide budget support for the three new missions. Our records show that Jon reported no salary supplement for the Family Fellowship congregation, therefore there was no way for us to know that the financial secretary was being instructed, we presume by Jon Becker, to write a check each month to him for what he apparently was calling a “salary supplement” or a mission pastor salary. We do not know how they handled that internally.

    We fund our new church starts through the sponsoring church, or in some cases, through the new mission if they have a separate bank account and a “treasurer” who is not also the pastor.

    That is why the offended party is the church. (Of course, when BGCT monies are misused it is all of us, all the churches and individuals who have given through the CP and Mary Hill Davis and in other generous ways that have been wounded…but we certainly do not intend any action against the church because we believe they did not know of the misrepresentation and misuse of the money that was going on.) Certainly, the BGCT church starting funds were not being used in the way we understood they were to be used and that is why we are pleased that the church is planning to return that money…$26,500 is what we show we provided for the Family Fellowship…so that we can use that money in the Valley to fund church starting efforts there.

    We, too, believe in FBC, Weslaco and are confident they will know how to handle these matters internally.

    In regard to the report of the investigators…it is still available out of our offices and from the Baptist Standard offices. Anyone can go and study them as carefully as they would like to do so. I believe any reasonable person would understand why our legal counsel advised us not to allow them to be copied since it would be far too easy for some to quote comments out of context and to otherwise misrepresent the material. Having the papers available in these two places gives ample opportunity for the entire report to be studied.

    I repeat that there was no accusation made by the investigators that anyone on our staff received monetary advantage from the problems we had in the church starting efforts in the Valley. One can continue to make accusations and insinuations without any kind of evidence, but that does seem counter productive and perhaps even malicious.

    I have asked Paul Atkinson to review what I have just written and add anything he considers pertinent. If I have in any way overlooked anything or misspoken on any detail, I have asked him to make the correction in his response.

    CRW

  14. Paul Atkinson Says:

    I would agree with what Dr.Wade has said… All the checks were payable to FBC, Weslaco and on the memo line it was stated “for The Family Fellowship”. Please remember that we discovered later this was a slogan for FBC, Weslaco “The Family Fellowship of First, Weslaco”… So this was assumed by us to be a new church start, but by FBC Weslaco it was assumed to be another name for their church. We also received monthly reports from “The Family Church” which was required to send the checks.

    I would also like to expand something that was also talked about on sending checks to the new church…

    “in some cases, through the new mission if they have a separate bank account and a “treasurer” who is not also the pastor.”

    That was true then… but now in the new process it is a little more involved than that… in addition to what Dr. Wade states, all the signers of the covenant must also agree to the change and the sponsor church be the one to make the request with a compelling reason why this would be the best way to handle the checks and then it must be approved by the peer review group and signed off by me.

    I hope this helps…
    Peace to all,
    Paul

  15. Brady Says:

    Paul,

    Its just a shame that all this wasn’t in effect when Jon and Otto were doing their things. Jon’s deal was bad but nothing compared to what Otto pulled off. Seems like people are shifting their focus too much to Jon when they should be demanding a lot more from the investigation of Otto. $26,000 pales in comparison to $1.3 millon.

    I really appreciate all of your responses but I still have an uneasy feeling that someone at the Baptist Building knew a lot more about Otto’s situation that we are hearing. When I read that EB Brooks was uncooperative with investigators I think that would be a good place to start looking.

    Keep up the good work–I think you are making some much-needed changes.

  16. Paul Atkinson Says:

    I understand your feelings… Wish I could do more… It’s my responsiblity to try and lead us to a new future that will put us in a place that pleases Christ in the way we work together… Keep praying… and communicating with us… we can get through this together. Thanks for the encouragement.

    Have a Great Thanks Giving,
    Remember, Jesus Loves you So Much!!!
    Paul

  17. Brady Says:

    Paul,

    I don’t know you personally but I already like you! Would you be interested in being the new Executive Director?? Maybe with someone like you at the helm the fiasco in the Valley never would have happened.

  18. spiritualsamurai Says:

    Dr. Wade hope you and your family had a good Thanksgiving,

    But there as still so many unanswered questions.

    If I can produce a page from the report (not taken out of context) that indicates (by the investigators) that E.B. Brooks was less than cooperative will you allow it to be published?

    If no one in the building profited from ValleyGate, then why were Abe Zabaneh and David Gale let go (fired)? I too believe David Gale worked with E.B. in helping Otto, but did Abe Zabanah?

    Also, were non-disclosure statements used by the BGCT before you became executive director?

  19. spiritualsamurai Says:

    I am so sorry Ferrel and Dr. Wade,

    I no this is your blog and there are others who have questions, but this one has bothered me all week, once the investigation was again brought up.

    Dr. Wade, How was E.B. Brooks able to keep you in the dark about Otto for at least three years with so many people asking questions?

    Please forgive me (and this is sincere) for strongly implying that I felt the memo in which my name was mentions was written by you. I was wrong, very very wrong on this one. But in that memo, Ellis Orasco’s name was mentioned. Did he ever talk to you about Otto and what Ellis knew about what was happening in the Valley? You cannot speak for Ellis, but do you remember his speaking to you?

    Thank you…

  20. David B Says:

    Charles,

    Thank you for your frank and rapid responds. Just a note to let you know that you are in my prayers each and every day. I am so glad that you were able to enjoy a few days of vacation and refreshment. You not only deserved them but needed them. God’s best to you.

  21. Brady Says:

    Maybe I am naive but I think I have a solution for what ails us in the BGCT, SBC, and all other areas of life… JUST TELL THE TRUTH.

    If Otto had told the truth (when asked), he never would have been able to steal $1.3 million from the BGCT.

    If Jon had told the truth (when asked), there wouldn’t be the money missing from his church and the BGCT.

    If everyone had told the truth at the Baptist Building (when asked), then the investigation would be complete and in actuality, wouldn’t have been needed at all.

    As we seek to resolve all of these issues, just think of how refreshing it would be if BAPTIST PASTORS would just tell the truth when asked.

  22. VB Says:

    Ferrell:

    The first week of October you posted here that the audit people told you that the audit would be complete on the Weslaco matter within 45 days. Do you know if the audit is complete and what the outcome was? Are Dr Wade’s responses here the result of that audit? Will there be an “official” report?

  23. BT Says:

    in regards to Brady’s comments on the 22nd of November….

    Here we go again, trying to compartmentalize Sin. We should be appalled over the FACT that someone has taken money, NOT the amount that was taken. God sent His Son to die for the Fact that we had sin in our lives, not by the amount. How our generation has become so dissensitized, I will never know. How we deem our sins by sugar-coating the name, ie alternative lifestyle, little white lie, etc. What happened here was that ALL of these men have stolen money, no matter how much the amount

  24. Brady Says:

    True and all of them (including anyone in the Baptist Building who helped) should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Hopefully financial restitution would be made but I highly doubt that that will ever happen.

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