Christian Assemblies International: Apologising for the Past and Looking to the Future
Christian Assemblies International
PO Box 1023
COFFS HARBOUR NSW 2450
Coffs Harbour, 24th February 2019
Dear former members of Christian Assemblies International, Pentecostal Revival Centres and Pfingsten Erweckungsbewegung,
This letter is written with the aim of reaching out to as many former assembly members as possible by admitting doctrinal mistakes, acknowledging hurt, asking for forgiveness and opening the door for respectful communication.
Our names are Lars and Fraser. We joined the Christian Assemblies in 1996 and 1998 respectively. Towards the end of 2018 the church's leadership was entrusted to us along with a group of pastors and elders. Since then we have been seeking the Lord about a way forward for the future. We aim to have a completely new start as a church, under new leadership, but feel we can only do this once we have addressed our past and started to reach out to those who have left.
Many of you will know that the year of 2006 marked the beginning of a large number of people leaving the assembly, following serious allegations against our founding pastor. This eventually led to Scott being charged with a number of offences in 2009. Scott's deteriorating state of health resulted in him being declared medically unfit to stand trial though and in 2015, after prolonged illness, Scott passed away.
We have recorded a video message for the benefit of all members past and present, which you can find at https://vimeo.com/315211552/cebead0a1b or by going on to vimeo.com and searching for “Christian Assemblies International”. A script of the video is included further below. We ask that you take 20 minutes to view the message if possible. Please accept our apologies for largely reading from notes, but it was important to us not to change anything of the matters we intended to bring across.
Please note that the video does not address every part of our church's history and cannot be considered as a complete list of issues and situations that were not handled correctly in the past. Neither will this letter be able to cover every single issue or experience you personally might have had as part of the church. Rather, this letter is an effort to reach out to those who have been part of us in the past and feel they were not treated properly. It does matter to us that you feel this way. We desire for those hurts to be healed and if you believe that talking to us can be of any help, we will very gladly do that. We promise we will listen openly without judgment.
In talking to people who have left us, we have encountered a huge variety of opinions and experiences. Some former members largely remember the good times we had together in the church, whereas others consider their experience as a time of abuse. Some remember and have experienced Pastor Scott as someone who cared for people and wanted to do the Lord’s work, whereas others consider him as a demon-possessed, evil person, who only set up the church to indulge in his lusts. Then there are many opinions in between.
In response to the video, quite a few people have pointed out they feel that Pastor Scott gets away too lightly in our announcement. Considering the wide range of experiences people had in the assembly - we completely acknowledge and understand this perception.
There is no doubt that different viewpoints exist for genuine reasons. It is not our intention to try to present the past more positively than it was, or to sway you in any direction. Everybody had their own experiences; we simply aim to reach out to you if you are hurt and apologise for any wrongdoing. We are ready to listen, and we want to do so with genuine compassion. At the same time, we would like to continue on a journey of correcting the things that were not right in the past and feel like we are making good progress. We believe our assembly now is already very different to what it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago, but we will keep seeking the Lord to find out if there are any more changes necessary.
In addition to the video, there are a number of issues and changes we would like to mention.
Firstly, whilst we feel that the assembly has done a lot of good and helped many of its members over the years, we also believe that the emphasis on works was too strong, leaving many people in doubt of their salvation or thinking they would never be able to please God. We would like to make it clear that salvation is a free gift and cannot be earned by our own efforts. We can only accept it, as the Scriptures below show:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
"Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:"
"Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace."
Secondly, the video includes no discussion of our assembly properties and their ongoing use. We are very much aware that countless hours of work and many sacrifices have gone into the renovation and establishing of church properties in the past, and that quite a few people were employed to maintain these places at the time when many left in 2006. Former as well as current members have rightly said that too much time, money and focus was spent on the properties.
Our approach to work on the properties has changed drastically over the last few years. We use the PHQ land near Coffs Harbour for many Christian activities. We have established camping grounds and accommodation both for people to have a holiday break and for folk to stay longer term at minimum cost to help them get back on their feet financially. It has also become a place where drug or alcohol addicts can live with us and get their feet back on the ground, and more than one person has been saved following a stay with us. We regularly hold church events and camps here and it has been a huge blessing for many in more recent years.
In a similar way Douglas House in Scotland is a place of many blessings, where we serve the community through a tea-room, offer the hall for community activities to the public and of course use the hall for many of our bigger gatherings, something that is greatly appreciated by the brethren there. Douglas House 1 serves as a place where young or newer Christians can live together and help and encourage each other on their Christian journey and we feel very blessed to have this place.
It is clear to us that all properties and assets provided by the Lord need to be used for His purposes. This continues to be our aim, which we humbly pursue with both carefulness and all due respect and gratitude for the immense effort many people have invested in this area over many years.
We regret that many of you who have worked very hard on these properties cannot enjoy the benefits in a way the current assembly members regularly do, especially as some of you now regret the time and effort you invested into these projects. As a matter of fact, your work contributions should have been totally voluntary. We are sorry if this was not the case in the past and sincerely apologise.
Thirdly and before closing, there is one important matter we would like to mention. Since the early days of our assemblies it was taught that if you were to leave the assembly you would not be saved (unless a letter of recommendation was given to you). This was sometimes taught directly and at other times implied, but either way the message that you cannot leave this church and still be a true Christian was clearly brought across. We no longer believe this doctrine to be true, and it was wrong for our assembly to preach it.
When people become Christians, they belong to and are joined to Christ Himself, and are baptised into His body (2 CORINTHIANS 11:2, 1 CORINTHIANS 12:13). Normally they become members of a local church at the same time, which helps them to become disciples according to MATTHEW 28:19, 20. We now understand that God can move someone from one church to another and we would like to ensure that you are not under condemnation if you are still following God with your whole heart. We want to encourage everyone to have a living relationship with Jesus Christ and be in a place of good Christian fellowship, wherever that may be. If you are no longer actively following Jesus, we are also willing to talk and see if we can be of any help.
Finally, we have one request of you and that is that you please forward this letter to anyone who has ever been part of our assembly and you have contact details for. We intend for this message to be spread far and wide, in order to help the healing of hurts that have occurred.
Thank you for passing this on. You can reach us by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning +61 490 510 106 (Lars) or +44 79 215 77 229 (Fraser). We genuinely look forward to hearing from you.
For those without internet access, please find a transcript of the video message below.
Love in Christ,
Lars & Fraser