Monday, August 25, 2008

Will we learn from Pastor Michael Guglielmucci’s fall?

Michael GuglielmucciTaken from here

The Christian newswires are abuzz today, because a big earthquake hit Melbourne with its epicentre down at Planetshakers. Michael Guglielmucci confessed that his battle with terminal cancer has all been a lie. Alun Davies immediately suspended his ministerial credentials.

Now begins a long and painful exercise of self-examination. And I’m not talking about Michael… that goes without saying. I’m talking about Planetshakers and about the AOG. The obvious question is this: How could no-one have known? Not even family! What kind of “system” can promote someone to such a place of influence and yet can fail to enforce a regime of accountability and scrutiny?

The thing about the Christian church in general, and Pentecostalism in particular, is that its history is littered with stories of fallen heroes. And this is not something to speak of lightly. It is very very painful stuff from which people never fully recover. People trust religious leaders like they trust very few other people and when one falls, it leaves a deep and very painful wound that will always leave a scar.

I know of a brilliant “man of God” who after decades cannot return to the congregation from which he was expelled for a matter of sexual indiscretion. Time heals a wound, but it doesn’t restore trust… not fully.

In a place like Planetshakers this kind of catastrophe will impact different people in different ways. For some it will not challenge just their trust in leadership… it will challenge their spirituality, their faith. That’s just what happens.

But see, the thing is… we KNOW that’s what happens. It’s happened many times before! And it will happen again.

So why don’t we learn from the massive damage of past leadership failures, and expect (and demand) a level of accountability and transparency from our leaders? I simple ask this: How many church leaders in this country — and in Pentecostalism in particular — have explicit structures of accountability and transparency in their lives and ministries so that it would be extremely extremely hard for them to get away with immoral behaviour for any length of time?

To leaders who resist these kinds of structures and strictures, I’d say… tough! It’s a very high call, so deal with it. It’s the price you pay to honour God and to honour the seriousness of your position of influence and leadership.

We’ve had too much spiritual abuse. Too many (especially young) people have been burned beyond recognition. Surely the least we can do is wise up to what’s going on here! And not to make too fine a point of it, I find it is almost a feature of Pentecostalism that the more senior a leader becomes, the more unconstrained his movements become; the more unaccountable we allow him to be.

Why did Michael not feel safe enough to confess his fraud to an intimate friend and co-leader, ages ago? Why did he find himself promoted to senior leadership, all the while carrying this deep inner turmoil, that never came out?

The answers to these questions should be none of our business. But they are when they spill out and hurt so many people. And spare a thought (and prayer) for the Guglielmucci family. Hurt indeed.

Never mind cancer of the human body. There is a cancer of the Body of Christ here and it’s called leadership. Even in Pentecostalism we are far more man-centric than Spirit-centric. We place so much on human leadership and so little on Spirit-leadership, and this sort of debacle is the fruit of it.

And lest you think it has anything to do with the size of a church, it doesn’t. Homechurch or Megachurch… leadership abuse and failure hurts people just as much in either case.

I, for one, have so much respect for Ps Danny, Michael’s dad. I can’t imagine his and his family’s pain right now. I’ll be praying for them.

Meanwhile, I hope the shockwaves of this earthquake lead to better “construction methods” in the structures of church leadership, designed to make sure it’s much much harder for a leader to fall like this again.

Will we learn from Pastor Mike’s fall?

Another blog to read here...

And the release of statement by Pastor Danny Guglielmucci, Mike's father:

THE father of fallen pastor Michael Guglielmucci, Danny, read this brief statement to a packed congregation to explain his son's actions.

"Today is a very sad day for our family and church family.

For many years our son, Michael has suffered from unexplained illnesses. We have been worried as we have seen him suffer and spend periods of time in hospital.

Two years ago our lives were totally turned around by the sad news of our sons' cancer diagnosis. The love and support shown by our local church and all of our many friends around the world helped us get through a very difficult situation.

During the last two years we have experienced the favor of God, his love and grace, and also the constant pain of the possibility of losing a son.

On Tuesday 12th of August we received a call to come and meet with Mike and Amanda but weren't ready for what we were about to hear. Mike began to share how he has lived a lie for the last 16 years of his life because of addictive behavior he couldn't break free from.

He loved God and would throw himself into prayer, worship, and serving God with full energy and enthusiasm but still couldn't break free.

In September in 2006, Mike had an accident and went to hospital. It was at this time, because of his torment of living a double life, Mike thought he could escape the pain by creating a diversion from his addiction to adult pornography, so he created the cancer scenario.

The pain of this addiction was so deep that he started something he couldn't stop and proceeded on a downward spiral that led to him experiencing pain and suffering that resulted in constant vomiting and many other symptoms of a genuine sufferer.

Sharonne and I witnessed these episodes and pained and wept over his suffering. Michael wrote the song Healer because he wanted God to set him free from his addiction but hid it behind the lie of a fabricated illness.

Once he had started down this track he felt he couldn't stop so he continued to act out this sickness, feeling he had gone too deep into the lie.

I can't begin to tell you how much this is hurting us on the inside. A few weeks ago Mike had a dream of Jesus on the cross looking down on him saying, 'the truth will set you free' and so he decided to confess and bring everything out into the open.

I immediately contacted our National Executive and submitted to their advice and council. Church, our family needs your prayers at this time. We are so, so sorry to bring you into this.

I have lead you with openness and integrity and declare that we have not lived a lie before you. We fully understand the questions, shock, disbelief and even anger you may feel over this announcement. Please pray for us and we will pray for you.

Michael is struggling with a different kind of illness and is receiving professional help and will do so as long as is needed. On the council and advice of our executive and board, after our up and coming Edge conference, we will take time to be with Mike and get him all the professional and spiritual help he needs to come to full recovery.

We have an amazing team. Thank you, executive, board, staff and church, for your love and support. We will do what is right before God and man and see this situation turned around for the glory of God. We love you. "


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