Thursday, March 29, 2007

Programming notes

1) For the next several days, my presence here will be infrequent at best, as our moving process has begun. Apologies in advance if I don't respond or post much until some time next week.

2) The Memphis Passion Play will be at Bellevue from Friday, March 30th to Wednesday, April 4th. Make plans now to attend!


Monday, March 26, 2007

Post-game analysis

Bill Buckner.

Chris Webber.

Jean Van de Velde.

These three athletes have one thing in common: Each had the opportunity to achieve, yet wasted that opportunity in memorable fashion. (And as I'm not a fan of the word "choke," I will refrain from using it in the balance of this article. Let's put you--or me--in their situations, and see if you--or I--could have done better.)

For Mr. Buckner, an otherwise tremendous baseball career was forever asterisked by his role in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, when he allowed a ground ball from Mookie Wilson to trickle between his legs. Mr. Buckner's error gave Mr. Wilson's New York Mets the win and forced Game 7, which the Mets won.

Mr. Webber, a standout collegiate and professional basketball player, made one of the most colossal mental errors in the history of basketball: calling a timeout in the waning moments of his Michigan squad's 1993 NCAA championship game against North Carolina. Had Michigan had any timeouts remaining, it would've been a good idea; since they did not, the resulting technical foul gave North Carolina the ball and the championship.

And then there is the case of Mr. Van de Velde. While I saw all these events live, on television, this is the one that is most vivid in my mind. Perhaps it is because there's no Red Sox bullpen to blame, or because a moment's distraction in a basketball game is something I can relate to. Perhaps because I enjoy golf so much, or perhaps because it happened nearly in slow-motion. In any event...

At the 1999 British Open, Mr. Van de Velde went to the 18th hole with a commanding lead. All he had to do was nudge the ball down the fairway, and he would have won his first major championship; but, like a hacker on a driving-range tee, he pulled his driver from his bag. Seven shots later, after finding the rough, the sand, the grandstands, and the water, Mr. Van de Velde ended his round in a three-way tie for the lead--and lost the ensuing playoff to the dumbstruck Paul Lawrie.

Now what does all that prologue have to do with yesterday's business meeting at Bellevue?

It's simple: The Bellevue contrarians pulled a Buckner, to use the vernacular. They Webbered their opportunity. They Van de Velded.

They seriously, seriously Van de Velded.

From what I understand, the contrarian game plan for the business meeting was not followed, whatever it was supposed to be. And from what I knew, the contrarian group's performance didn't catch anyone in Bellevue leadership by surprise.

A motion to keep the television cameras from "scanning" the congregation? A motion for a secret ballot? Please. It's one thing to hide behind pseudonyms while posting anti-Bellevue epithets on the Internet, but wanting the luxury of hiding during a church business meeting is absurd. What was next? A motion to allow contrarians to address the congregation from behind a curtain? While scrambling their voices? If you don't have the courage of your convictions when you have the opportunity to (literally) stand up and be counted, I would encourage you to reevaluate just whether you hold a conviction--or a grudge.

Which reminds me of a suggestion for the next business meeting: If my failing memory serves, people speaking at a microphone are supposed to identify themselves. This did not happen yesterday, and should not happen in the future. (And I understand that the meeting was adjourned with a motion on the floor, but adjourned to when? If the next business meeting won't be within the next ninety days, it's a moot point as I understand it, but some clarification would do wonders.)

There were actually (gasp!) some good things presented, such as a call to codify conflict-of-interest procedures in committee selection, but those measured proposals were in the minority, particularly when it comes to the recipient of the First Annual Van de Velde Award.

And the winner? The action that equated to pulling a driver from the bag when only a long iron was needed? To going for the green instead of chipping out of the rough? To firing an approach shot into the water?

This year's winner was the absurd, well-nigh-antagonistic notion of trying to force the congregation to vote on two disparate matters with one vote, particularly since the Bellevue leadership offered to have both measures considered separately. A quarterly business meeting just like what we had yesterday? Fine, let's talk about it, and vote on it. A resolution against sexual immorality? My, but that's a novel concept--is there anyone at Bellevue Baptist Church who thinks it's a bad idea to be against sexual sin, much less sin of any type? Obviously, no.

Attempting to force Bellevue into quarterly business meetings by the "two-pronged" approach, attaching it to a motion no member would consider opposing, was too clever by half. It precipitated a quick end to the business meeting, and squelched the single opportunity the contrarians had to legitimately speak to the membership.

In short, you folks blew it.

Over and over again.

(A note to Josh Manning, since you don't make an e-mail address available: You insulted everyone who had anything to do with yesterday's meeting with the aw-shucks comment "I wish I had shaved this morning, but I had zero intention of speaking when I left the house this morning." You made sure you were in Memphis for the business meeting, and you just happened to have a prepared motion with you, but you had no intention of speaking? Nonsense. That disparity flushed any credibility you might have had.)

And what's the rest of the talk in the anti-Bellevue locker room? Why, let's check some more highlights:

"Mr. Angel.... I hope you are reading this! Do you understand how hard it is going to be to sit in that bema seat when you get to heaven? Answer for your decisions! I know Joyce Rogers would like to hear your 'real' explanation for calling to adjourn the meeting! I guess you guys were beginning to feel the heat! I wouldn't want to be you, that has to answer for all those your turned away from the truth yesterday dear sir!"

"they will never give you the tools needed to reach the 3,000 Bellevue members. But, I am sure the media would."

"It reminds me of the jews lining up and going to the slaughter in Germany..a real tragedy!!"

"I am praying that God will remove SG by whatever means necessary if the members will not do so as they ought."

Does that last one sound like a veiled wish (with rather a "Malcolm X" flavor to it) for Steve Gaines' death? It's not the only one. Here's one with a different flavor--this one wielding the Bible as a baseball bat:

"I hope all of you see the parallel between Steve Gaines and company of false prophets saying good things are happening to BBC and Hananiah's false prophesy that good things were going to happen to Israel. Here is the account:


"[17] So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month."

Let's have a couple more glittering highlights:

"We love you, CW and JM. We RESPECT both of you for your love for The LORD Jesus and for your love for The Word and for your love for His Church. It is for this love, however, that both of you meet the conditions of a wolf, his hirelings, and his lukewarm and compromising audience for hatred and punishment at BBC (and also by a handful that blog here). After all, the one they serve (satan himself) hates both of you, is burning in jealousy towards you".

"You REALLY dislike Josh. And it is obvious why. He has done nothing but rip the veil from the putrid decay that has begun to eat away at our church and you want it to stay covered."

"AS YOU SAW with your own eyes, MANY of the members of Bellevue are 100% behind Brother Steve and the leadership and are thrilled with the direction Bellevue is going. REPLY: Yes, there were TOO MANY, members that were affirmative for leadership & SG. If you were honest with yourself and others you would admit that the vast majority of the membership is clueless as to the many "issues" surrounding leadership & SG. They were voting blindly and clueless, voting without knowledge is dangerous."

"Once we were 'one in the bonds of love'. Now we are 'one in the bonds of love only if you agree with me and show blind faith in leadership'."

"And this Sunday, important business is cut-off by Miller after -- yeah -- 45 minutes, after more than an hour of "Celebration" filibuster."

To recap the post-game anti-Bellevue chatter:

Church is a "filibuster."

Most in the Bellevue membership are idiots.

The business meeting was the equivalent of the Holocaust.

Neither the pastor nor anyone in Bellevue leadership can possibly be a Christian, because the pastor and church leadership all serve Satan.

If the church doesn't do as the contrarians wish, Pastor Gaines should die.

Obscene. Is it any wonder what precipitated the "anti-Bellevue" label for that group?

To the folks in that group: I love you all with the love of Christ, and challenge you out of compassion. For months I have pleaded with you to stop attempting to bludgeon those with whom you disagree. I was confident the day would come when you would have the chance to air those of your objections that are legitimate, and your negativity and hate-mongering would only work at cross purposes with the presentation of any serious concerns. I was hoping you'd take the opportunity given to you to voice your concerns in a measured, responsible way. You didn't. Instead, you've chosen to further antagonize those who aren't in lockstep agreement with you.

This has to stop. You injure yourselves with your behavior, and contribute nothing to the distribution of the Gospel. If you have concerns about Bellevue, lay them at Jesus' feet as you would any other concerns, and leave them there. Is God deaf to the petitions of His children? Will He not move as He sees fit for our benefit and for His glory?

The Easter season is a time when the unsaved are more open to the message of Christ than they might be otherwise. Please, I beg you: Take the energy you invest in negativity and contention, and reinvest it in the only thing that has eternal consequences--sharing the love of Jesus as He gives you the chance.


EDITED TO ADD (AS IF THIS ARTICLE WASN'T LONG ENOUGH): I see that the Closed Forum is open enough to continue to allow more obscenity, in the form of another post that lusts for the death of Pastor Gaines. I'll be interested in seeing whether or not that post (along with the others) are condemned and eliminated, or even complained about, or if there's even a mild objection.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Carnations for a friend

A little over a year ago, my family lost a friend.

He was the kind of friend you tell stories about, smiling and laughing as one gentle anecdote tumbles into another. He was the kind of friend you watch, and learn from even when he isn't trying to teach you anything. He was the kind of person who challenges you, even telling you things you don't want to hear so that you can be a better friend to others.

It was a sudden thing when he passed, and every friend he had found a different way to mourn. Some are still mourning today. You never know whose thoughts are where, though. My eight-year-old daughter, out of her own sweet spirit, asked if she could place some flowers on his grave; quietly, I agreed, and today the beautiful floral arrangement on our friend's grave has, slipped into one side of the vase, the addition of three yellow carnations.

As we walked away from the gravesite, my daughter matter-of-factly said she looked forward to seeing him again, and that she knew our friend was happy in Heaven. If it's possible, though, this afternoon he was just a little bit happier.


Monday, March 12, 2007


There are some who suggest that there are certain sins from which one cannot be healed--some, even, who are ostensibly members of Bellevue. For them, and for everyone else, this article should be of interest.


Friday, March 09, 2007

With one hand tied

(Note: Please don't miss the "Edited To Add" at the end of this post.)

As those of us who are members of Bellevue Baptist Church look forward to a congregational meeting Sunday morning, March 25th, the unfortunate shrillness of the anti-Bellevue opposition has increased. They're louder, all right, but they're still not saying much that's substantial--and the things of substance they do say get drowned out by the noises surrounding their favorite sport, attempted character assassination.

That's what separates the anti-Bellevue types from those, concerned by some recent events in Bellevue's leadership, who want to see issues addressed yet seem able to air their concerns without insisting Pastor Gaines isn't really a Christian, but a willing servant of Satan. The latter group desires comity, reconciliation, and healing; the former group desires power, and the only way available to them is to tear down Bellevue as much as possible, and restructure it in a way that benefits them.

After months of attempting to dissuade a cluster of these people away from their bitter, slanderous remarks, I've been asked not to address them any more. Oddly, their moderator (as well as other participants) seems to miss the irony of a site supposedly dedicated to "comment and exchange ideas in a respectful, Christian spirit" limiting comment, censoring ideas, and encouraging disrespect to any who would dare disagree with the prevailing mindset. Here are some of my most recent submissions, so you can see just what terrible, terrible things I wrote:

Post One:

Truth Rules said...

I have been following your posts for quit some time. I must say that you state your opinions in a such a way that your opponents are unable to refute most of your facts. But I've noticed that rather than refute facts with a counter argument they change the direction of the debate. That seems to be problematic for anyone searching for truth. Keep up the good work. There are many of us who enjoy your posts.

I appreciate your kind words. And I'm glad you have also noticed that instead of answering simple questions or engaging in discussion, some find it easier to just lie about me, and lie about what I say. I asked a boatload of questions, and I don't recall seeing one person among the "regulars" attempt to continue the discussion.

No one can point to a personal attack that's ever come from my direction, yet we read nonsense about how I allegedly "don't want to discuss anything in a civil (or civilized) manner" when the people tossing those same allegations can't even brook an opposing viewpoint without throwing bombs.

You "regulars" will have an opportunity, from what I gather, to speak up in public. I seriously doubt you'll behave then as you do now--but who knows? As I've said several times now, we have serious concerns at Bellevue which require serious and sober discussion and debate. If you're not up to the task, there's no shame in admitting it; however, believing that the bile and invective that flows so freely from the keyboards of the "regulars" is either serious or sober is self-deception. You folks still have a couple of weeks to compose yourselves, but if this is it, there's a problem.

"Why do you even bother with those people, Mike?" When a day goes by without that question, I'm surprised--but when I'm asked, the answer is a simple one: Because I love "those people," and I believe you have legitimate questions, legitimate concerns, and legitimate pain.

The way you're doing things now doesn't help you. All I do is try to get you to realize that.

Truth Rules said...
Brady, thank you for posting. I made my first post on this blog today as well. I usually post on some other blogs but have read this one for months. It is hard to understand how these who profess Christ's love in their hearts can be so anger with anyone who says anything positive about our church.

There are a number of "regulars" here who have, sadly, a vested interest in Bellevue's implosion. Some are angry, some are bitter, some are wounded, and all have reasons to ask questions. Those reasons, however, do not--cannot--justify the months and months of personal attacks against those with whom you disagree in both Bellevue's leadership and laity.

And if memory serves, I've read some remarks about whether or not I ever object to Bellevue's leadership as strenuously as I do to the behavior here. To be blunt, I don't have to--they don't threaten me, attack me, or circumvent my questions.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress. :)


Post Two:

New BBC Open Forum said...

"Banned" is such an ugly word, but as long as he's just trying to keep things stirred up, you could say that. Mike hasn't always done that,

Mike doesn't do it at all, actually. (Grr... I hate it when I refer to myself in the third person.) Again, why is asking questions such a terrible thing?

so let's not go so far as to say it's permanent, just that he needs to stop heaping pain and derision on the people who post here. Tim just summed it up well in his last comment. Not everything that's said here has to be confronted.

You must be joking.

Read back at what's been sent my way for having the temerity to ask questions. Then, tell me with a straight face that you're not playing favorites with your "regulars."

And what makes anyone think he or she has the right to come here just to disrupt? I don't post on the Bratton Blog because I have nothing to say there. Actually, I could have thought of several things back when I read it regularly, but I didn't because it would have just been argumentative, and the moderator probably wouldn't have let it through anyway.

Presumption, ma'am. The only things I blow off are things with obscene or otherwise offensive language.

Or if he did, he'd have tried to pick it apart like a day-old Thanksgiving turkey carcass.

Then don't serve up day-old Thanksgiving turkey. :)

I don't need that here, and I don't need to go anywhere else for it. But if that's all Mike wants to do, he should [go].

So, let me understand. You and yours want a place where you can post anything you like, of any length and on any topic, without people disagreeing with you?

Then here's a tip: Rename this place. As has been otherwise noted, people who aren't members of Bellevue are as much a part of your core group as people who are, so the idea that this is a "BBC Forum" is out. And as for it being "Open," well, that doesn't match up with your desire for exclusivity, does it?


We are confronted with a problem that's all too common in modern society: The need for sober-minded people to address wrong behavior with "one hand tied behind our backs," so to speak. When one of the little "Open Forum" clique questions the salvation of someone with whom they disagree, it would be simple to suggest that the people making such spurious remarks might want to make sure of their own salvation before they question others' relationship with Christ. It would be simple, but it would be wrong.

No one but God can see into the spirit of a person; no one but God can make the call so many Forum denizens make with ease. But ask those folks to stop, and they'll make you their next target. The same pattern holds with any of their behaviors, such as gossip, misuse of Scripture, the aforementioned character assassination attempts, even the refusal to sign their names to their attacks. It is a problem the Bellevue administration has been faced with, and on a smaller scale, it is a problem I've had to address for a number of months.

Oddly enough, it's an answer to prayer to find I've been relieved of the opportunity to speak the truth in love on that particular site, though I understand that what I write here won't miss their sight. Bitterness is such a pervasive element of that cadre's existence that it will be a welcome respite to not wade in it on a regular basis. Now, there is the temptation to take a cue from the "Open Forum" regulars and post there under a pseudonym, but it is a temptation that is easily dismissed. Speaking your mind while claiming your statements will be a crucial part of Bellevue's healing, while tossing bombs from the bushes is the tactic of those who wish only harm on Bellevue and her congregation.

Consequently, those of us who address the anti-Bellevue folks do so at a disadvantage from the start. That is, depending on how you define "disadvantage." We may not have as many options available, but that's all right, because (to coin a phrase) it's not about us.


EDITED TO ADD: In perusing the Formerly-Open Forum, I came across this unfortunate, yet typical post. Quoting thusly and like so:

I spent the last few minutes looking for the last post I read from Mike Bratton. It is in response to Former Pastors respectful written, heartfelt concerns he addressed to BBC administration.

If I may ask, "A former pastor," why are you a former pastor, rather than a current pastor?


9:30 AM, March 05, 2007

You and I have respectfully disagreed with each other, and that's how it should be done.
Mike's post above was just an example of how he treated many people on this blog- he got personal and ugly if he didn't agree with what someone said.

The technical term for such a response is "grasping at straws." Had "Amy," the individual who refers to my question as "personal and ugly" actually asked me why I asked the question, she would've learned something. One of my oldest and best friends is a man who is also a "former pastor." I wanted to know what circumstances had transpired in that poster's life to bring him to the place where he was today, since I'm sympathetic to the things that brought my friend to be in that same category.

But in the toxic environment of the Formerly-Open Forum, any question posed by the "enemy" is automatically hostile, and any action of an "ally" is either applauded or excused.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Lengthy, ponder-worthy question

If your group's said to be all about integrity, yet it commits copyright violation after copyright violation (even after the copyright holder says "Um, would you mind not violating our copyright?"), then what's your group really all about?