Founding pastor removed from the ministry he loved
Letter From Pastor Danny and Wendy Hodges To Calvary Chapel St. Pete Pastors And Staff
06/21/2017 Last Updated
Danny and Wendy Hodges have resigned from Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg. They sent this letter, June 20th, 2017 to every Pastor, Elder and Staff member stating their discontinuance of the PastorServe mediation. In this letter they shared their reasoning behind the decision.
To the Board, Staff & Elders of CCSP:
On Friday afternoon, June 16, PastorServe communicated to me the Board’s direction to give them an “all in or all out” decision concerning our participation in the PastorServe plan no later than noon (EST) Tuesday, June 20, 2017.
With shoulder surgery scheduled for Monday morning, June 19, we realized it was imperative that we reach a decision and put it in writing prior to that time.
Due to different work schedules, it wasn’t until this evening that we were able to sit down with all our children (and FaceTime Tanner) to discuss our decision and review with them this letter.
With their full knowledge, consent, and support, we submit to you the following.
This is a very difficult letter to write, but after much fervent prayer in seeking God’s will, my wife and I agree that we can no longer continue with the PastorServe plan. Furthermore, Wendy and I believe the time has come that we must leave the fellowship of Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg.
The following is a summary of our reasons behind this heartwrenching decision:
· The deep divide that exists between myself and some of my former fellow pastors. I was not aware there existed a divide, but six months ago it became painfully clear. Some of the division, I am told, was caused during the years I experienced what for lack of a better term is ministry “burnout.” Pastor Chuck Smith would often say he did not understand burnout, so no CC pastor I know would ever even come close to admitting such a thing, including me. But it happened to me. I am deeply sorry for any hurt I caused my fellow pastors during that time, and ask that you forgive me. My wife can verify that gradually over time the constant pressures from decades of ministry had a progressive negative impact on me emotionally, mentally and physically. Yet with her help, we took decisive steps that enabled me to recover. January 2016 marked the start of significant positive change for me and my entire family. The Lord not only restored my health and family relationships, He also renewed my passion, zeal, and vision for ministry.
· The charge of disqualification. Despite my season of burnout, I have done nothing worthy of disqualification from pastoral ministry. I have attached a letter from Pastor Don McClure sent to some CCSP leaders this past March, and I pray it adds a bit of integrity to this statement. I left Don’s email in its raw form in order for you to know that it has not been altered in any way. My initial reason for stepping down as senior pastor was because fellow pastors said reconciliation was not possible for them as long as I was the senior pastor. But after stepping down, no one was willing to sit and talk on a personal level.
· Multiple accusations against me that are inaccurate, exaggerated, or completely false. I have tried to own my failures and the mistakes I have made, but some of the things being presented as fact are shocking to my entire family. These have been stated as truth, even though they have never been verified, nor have my wife and I had an opportunity to respond to the charges. Yet judgments have been rendered without charges being thoroughly investigated and the truth determined (Deut. 19:15-20).
· The Calvary board’s unwillingness to allow or even consult with the Calvary Chapel Association (CCA) in dealing with these matters. From the beginning, I have repeatedly recommended that the CCA be brought in to deal with these issues. Key council members on the CCA including Don McClure, Joe Focht, Sandy Adams, and Malcolm Wild have repeatedly offered to help, even fly here at their own expense. But the board chose not to consult with any of them. This is highly disturbing since the CCA is the one entity to whom we as a local church should be accountable. These are men of tremendous spiritual integrity and decades of pastoral ministry experience. They also love this flock. When Don McClure was in town a few months ago, Art Dykstra urged the board to at least sit down and talk with him, but to no avail.
· Outsourcing the attempt to settle these issues to a ministry that does not reflect the values and beliefs of a Calvary Chapel church, not to mention the financial cost of doing so (potentially over $100,000). The leadership of the CCA has offered to assist at no cost whatsoever to the church.
· The unbiblical manner in which this situation has been handled. Passages like I Tim. 5:19, Matt. 5:23-25, 18:15-17, Heb. 12:15, Deut. 19:15-20, Prov. 18:17, and Gal. 6:1-2 have been either ignored or side-stepped until a future “right time” (i.e. according to the PastorServe plan). In Matt. 5 & 18 Jesus stresses urgency in settling conflict quickly, something the PastorServe plan has yet to address. It has already been six months, and the longer we wait the worse things get. In our view, church by-laws and PastorServe methods have taken precedence over biblical truth and directives. In the meantime, the enemy is having a heyday with the sheep of this congregation.
· The lack of desire or intention among a majority of the pastoral staff, and at least certain board members, to see me restored as senior pastor. It is clear to me that even if I was restored to the staff of CCSP, it will not be in the position that God has called me to. Some who attended the May 15 leaders’ meeting reported that when pastors and two Board members were asked to show by raised hand who wanted to see me return as senior pastor, none responded. No response was a revealing response.
· A shift away from Calvary Chapel distinctives. I have serious concerns about the direction/position of some key Calvary Chapel pastors and leaders away from the core values and doctrinal positions that define a Calvary Chapel church. Also, it is my suspicion that even now, with the guidance of PastorServe, current church by-laws are being altered, and it is possible that when completed, the new by-laws will resemble those of a particular denomination, and Calvary distinctives will be done away with.
· The false impression being presented by the leadership that I need rest, healing, etc. For the past year and a half, I have never felt healthier, been closer to the Lord, nor had more vision and passion for ministry. Yes, a few years ago I hit a wall, I lost my passion and vision. But I have had the most significant revival of my entire life and believe my best days of pastoral ministry lie ahead.
We agonize to have to send this letter, but the time has come. As the spiritual father of this church, I have a responsibility before God to take a stand. I initially agreed to submit to the PastorServe plan, believing this would perhaps be a path back to the responsibilities the Lord called me to for this local church 34 years ago. But it has now become evident that PastorServe is not that path at all.
Wendy and I are stepping away from CCSP completely, and we feel the Lord is directing us to make a fresh start. We have counted the cost, accepted the sacrifice, and look forward to a new venture in faith.
I still desire forgiveness and reconciliation between me and any other Calvary pastors or leaders, and I am willing to sit down and talk anytime in a personal setting according to Matthew 18:15.
Pastor Danny & Wendy Hodges
LETTER FROM DON MCCLURE ON MARCH 13. Amazingly the board and pastors had an offer from Godly men to help us, and they turned it down.
Dear Dave, Danny, Art, Joe and the Board of Calvary Chapel of St Petersburg
I have struggled for weeks whether to get involved with the matters at St. Pete and having struggled and prayed, I have decided I need to at the very least send you my observations. I want to say that I have not been asked by anyone to get involved at all from either side of this. But, because of my care for you all and the church I have felt compelled of the Lord to share my heart in the burden you all are carrying as well.
As you probably know, I have been with Calvary Chapel since 1971 when there was just one church. Today, we have approximately 1600 ministries around the world. You also know that I have worked extensively with the churches since the beginning. For years I oversaw CCOF (Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowships) and when the ministry was restructured a number of years ago by Chuck Smith and renamed CCA (Calvary Chapel Association) and Chuck Smith set up a Leadership Council of men that had been with him many years, I was asked to be the Administrator of the Council. And for over 45 years I have sat in on many church leadership struggles. Many times there was a wonderful work of restoration within the leadership and, unfortunately, at times when the Scripture called for it, I was asked to sit in judgment with the leaders and see a man removed from ministry. My heart is still sad over those times and the suffering it brought upon a fellowship that sometimes resulted in major splits. Thus, I do not take these times lightly at all. They weigh heavily upon me.
In looking over the situation at CCSP there are a number of issues that concern me greatly. And here they are;
In my travels to the churches (I travel over 10,000 a month. Over 2 million miles with American and 1.5 million with Delta). These travels have me spending great amounts of time with pastors and their assistants. I find out a lot just spending time with assistants as often I am there speaking while the senior pastors is on a journey. Virtually all of the assistants I spend time with are men that hold their pastor in high regard and are very supportive. I observed just the opposite with Bob Cory. He always seemed to hold himself as Danny’s equal and often his critic. Years ago I spoke to Danny about this and was very concerned that he had an assistant who so openly criticized and undermined Danny. I felt that Danny should deal with it, but, to my observation, nothing changed.
I am not sure how much Bob Cory is still connected and involved in the current matters, but, I feel that a spirit in which he operated is very much in play on the current matters.
A number of weeks ago, I sat with Dave Dodge at the hotel that I was staying at while working with Danny on a senior pastors conference. I sat and listened to Dave for 45-60 minutes with few interruptions (except for clarity) as he listed complaint after complaint concerning Danny. He was as prepared as a good prosecutor with his case. It was well laid out and was obviously the result of a number of conversations that he had experienced with others.
As I listened to accusation after accusation I was carefully listening for Biblical accusations and any matter for which a pastor Scripturally has removed himself from ministry. And I found none at all. Absolutely none. When I asked Dave as an assistant about his role with Danny through all this time, Dave said that he had “failed Danny as an accountability partner” and it was clear that Dave seemed to see his role as an observer and felt no deep responsibility to Danny to take matters to him as an assistant, let alone a friend. I was amazed that he felt little sorrow for his failure in a sin of “omission” to a pastor and brother, while feeling strongly about Danny failures.
When I offered to get involved and hold Danny accountable, Dave had no response at all; absolutely none at all. May I say that through the years there have been times when pastors have had struggles and their leadership has contacted us asking for our help with their pastors and all though this experience no request has been made. After offering my help I was told that the leaders were not interested in it because “I was Danny’s friend and thus not a balanced observer.” To that I say, that such a thought is absolutely true. I am a dear friend of Danny for many years, and of the leaders at CCSP and the church and the body of Christ and would do everything in my power to see the Lord heal this for His glory. What else should the leadership want? There are a number of other godly pastors who are strong leaders with leadership gifts and capacities to help and there is no interest. It appears that Cory, and a few others want to sit in judgment on one side and are determined that Danny have no advocates with him. May I say that none of us are men that live outside the Scripture or reject or neglect its truth for the sake of a friend. And it is unfair to have such a thought of us. I have been working with these very matters with churches for forty years.
Matthew 18:15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’
17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
This a another huge glaring matter. There should be no confusion over this matter. I listening to Dave and Art and Danny, it is clear that this simple, powerful and critical truth has been neglected and rejected and it has taken a terrible toll on the leaders. They all should know better. How many homes, marriages, families and churches have been ruined because we fail to go to someone and speak the truth (as we believe it) in love. This should not be understated by any leader involved in this.
As a personal note, a number of years ago a dear friend and fellow pastor of a large Calvary Chapel (Steve Mays) had a complaint about Chuck Smith that he shared with another pastor (L. E. Romaine). Romaine immediately walked Steve into Chuck’s office, sat the two of them down and said “Chuck, Steve has a problem with you” and Romaine walked out and left the two alone. And the result was a great “life lesson” that we all need to know.
Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:
15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
When Matthew 18 is not followed by the leaders, and peace is not biblically pursued and holiness before the Lord is ignored, a “root of bitterness” starts under the daily behavior and one day it “springs up, causing great trouble and many become defiled” with matters that godly men should have simply solved between themselves as they held up each others hands.
I want to make it clear as well that I sense that Dave laid out all of the accusations and I believe that Danny has a great responsibility to deal with the matters. We have spoken extensively about this. When I look at the foundation of our identity in Christ, our role in ministry as leaders of His church and the behavior that we are to all exhibit, I see no reason that this cannot be healed and the entire church rejoice over it. To that end I offer my help to spend whatever time with the leaders that all may restored. That is what the gospel is all about. That is what “the body and the blood of Jesus” is all about. That is Calvary…
I cannot help but see that the enemy has come and been able to sow seeds of ill will, bitterness, confusion and exhaustion when I look at some of the staff. When I passed through the office and said “hello” to Joe Seddio, Joe’s eyes were downcast and hit me a tired. I am sure many are. Please remember that you are not fighting flesh and blood. If you fight that way, we all lose.
I am aware that Danny has sent confusing signals to the staff as to his desire for his son in the ministry and that has added to the problem and insecurity with some of the pastors. I have not looked at your by-laws and constitution, but, most Calvary Chapel’s leave the role of the senior pastor in the hands of the Board of Elders.
I am sure that in times past, you all remember being drawn together to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and there are great memories. It seems the enemy has stolen that memory and replaced it with a hopelessness of real reconciliation. May I remind you all that you are preachers and teachers of the gospel. I am praying that the Holy Spirit touches and refreshes and restores.
Eph 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
May I also offer my help if the men that you have called in to counsel the leadership on this would like my input as Calvary Chapel Association.
I am praying for you all
Your friend and brother
An upcoming prayer meeting for pastor Danny is scheduled for 06/23/17 @ Lake Seminole Park at 7:00 PM. Further info and map is Here in this blog post. Everyone is requested to attend 😉
CCSP has announced a special meeting this Sunday 06/25 @ 12:30 PM to discuss the Hodges official resignation letter. This was 1st mentioned 03/21 during the evening service, and on their Facebook page. It has not been announced on the church’s official website. Further info is here.