The Florida Times Union (Jacksonville's local newspaper) today is running an article entitled "What Would Jesus Blog" on religious blogs featuring quotes about Mac Brunson and this blog. What impeccable timing, given that Brunson and his discipline committee issued trespass warnings just last week on the eve of Thanksgiving to a long-time member of the church and his wife that the church is accusing of running the blog (click here to view the trespass warnings issued by the church and click here to read the article).
I'm sure many of you reading this article right now have read Jeff Brumley's article. The article says that this blog is critical of Brunson's salary and the decision to start a school, as though these are the only issues at our church. Oh if that were true! But unfortunately for our church, those are not the main issues. Not only has the church just last week decided to issue trespass warnings against a man and his wife that are accused of owning this blog, but there is a whole slew of concerns at our church that do NOT have anything to do with starting a school or the pastor's salary.
Jeff Brumley has always been very fair to FBC Jacksonville and has written excellent pieces on Jerry Vines, Homer Lindsay, Jr., and FBC Jax in general. But I think Jeff was just too soft in this article, mischaracterizing the concerns of the bloggers about FBC Jacksonville and Mac Brunson. And too bad he couldn't do some last minute updates to discuss in his article why Mac's discipline committee issued trespass warnings against the man and his wife accused of owning this blog. Also too late to make Jeff's article: Jeff's Catholic readers might be interested in knowing that Mac Brunson's right-hand man at FBC Jax has a series of blog articles on the church website stating that Catholic priests are "cult leaders", and the Catholic Church is a "cult". This church blog from Mac's right hand man also declares that those who voted for Obama need to repent of their "sin".
But in the event that Brumley's article does generate traffic to this particular blog (although Jeff doesn't include its name or web address in his article), I want to make sure that any new readers understand fully why this blog exists. Jeff is wrong, it is not about Mac's salary and the church's decision to start a school. Why did this blog start, and why is it still up and running with a vast readership? Why are the people running this blog and posting on this blog mostly anonymous? And just what are the issues at FBC Jax that this blog has dealt with for over a year?
Firstly, why the blog? This blog was not set up to "throw stones" at the FBC Jax or Mac Brunson. It was established after Mac Brunson for about a year was found to have engaged in several very questionable activities in his first year and a half as pastor of FBC Jax. All of these were ignored by Jeff Brumley in the article. The purpose of the blog was to attempt to hold the leadership accountable for questionable actions since Mac Brunson arrived, and to inform church members of the same in light of the absence of information coming from the church leadership. The blog contains video and audio clips of things Mac himself has said. If you browse the past articles of this blog you might be shocked at what you hear coming out of the FBC Jax pulpit these days.
Now, what were the questionable activities over which this blog was started? Since Jeff didn't include these in his article, and apparently didn't ask Mac Brunson about them, here they are for Brumley's readers:
1. Just a few weeks after his arrival in Jacksonville, Mac Brunson accepted a land gift worth $300,000 in Deerwood Country Club. This is a matter of public record and can be found on the city property appraisor's website. The gift was given for "love and affection" by developer J.D. Collins, a member of FBC Jacksonville. This raises serious ethical questions. Was the gift a pre-arranged gift as condition of him coming to Jacksonville, or just a spontaneous gift from the giver? Was the relocation package offered by the church revised when it became known that a member had directly given a large gift to the pastor for his home? What are the ethics of a pastor of a large church who presumably is paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the church in salary and benefits and housing allowance, then accepting a land gift FROM ONE OF THE CHURCH DONORS? This would be considered unethical in almost any other corporation or non-profit organization, yet its tolerated in our church. What was Mac's response to his church about this? Nothing, other than this past summer to say in a sermon: "I'm paying for that house...and the last time I checked, the United States Government said I could live anywhere I wanted."
2. About a year and a half after Mac was given the gift by J.D. Collins, Mac Brunson aired a professionally done "video testimony" highlighting the home building business of the sons of J.D. Collins - RIGHT SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS SERMON. I call that "quid pro quo". Never has a video testimony highlighting a member's business been aired in the middle of a preacher's sermon. What a coincidence that the first one was for the sons of a man who gifted Mac Brunson $300,000.
3. One of the most egregious acts that this blog was critical of was the manner by which the church bylaws were significantly changed in 2007. The pastor and his trustees were completely silent with regard to the bylaw changes and they called for a vote knowing hardly anyone in the congregation knew of the changes. No words of explanation AT ALL were given prior to the vote in November 2007. One of the changes was to form a discipline committee. Not one single, solitary word of explanation from the pastor.
4. The blog has called into question the issue of "nepotism" at our church. Since they arrived in Jacksonville, Mac's son is employed at the church, and Mac has said that his wife also is working with him at the church. The son's title has varied and we're unsure what the latest title is. But both positions were newly created positions (they are not listed on the church website) and both of these new positions were filled by the pastor's family. That is called "nepotism". The dangers of nepotism to an organization are well documented.
5. Mac Brunson lived nearly a year rent-free in a million dollar, ocean-front condo offered by one of the church members while he waited for his million dollar home to be built on the $300,000 land donated by a church member. Was Brunson's relocation package altered in light of him receiving this free rent? Did the church pay him for relocation expenses that were not incurred?
6. Mac Brunson took time off from his preaching duties, at his own admission, for the purpose of finishing his book manuscript "A Pastor's Guidebook". In this Guidebook, Mac Brunson cautions pastors against accepting gifts, and cautions them against living in "executive homes" and driving expensive cars....the things Mac himself did when he came here to Jacksonville.
7. Mac said things very critical and hurtful about his congregation when preaching out of town. He did not defend his church against allegations made in his presence about our church by one Paige Patterson, president of the SWBTS. Mac called our church a "hotbed of legalism" while he preached in North Carolina, and said that we "have a list of rules but hardly anyone has a real relationship with Jesus Christ." The blog called on Mac to either explain these remarks or apologize.
8. This blog was very critical of the decision of our church leaders to take over 3000 precious square feet of our newest building, the Children's Building and Welcome Center, and spent $100,000 to renovate it and create a pastor's suite for Mac Brunson and his wife and secretary and dogs. The blog pointed out the carlessness in doing this BEFORE Brunson ever arrived and had a chance to assess our facility needs.
9. Brunson allowed "influential deacons" to utilize our church facilities to host a "Time to Stand for Israel" night November 8, 2007, to raise funds for an Israeli hospital where state-funded abortions are conducted.
10. Brunson has allowed our Pastor's Conference to be converted into a marketing fund raiser, selling advertising space and charging $750 for ministries to have a display table at the conference, and selling "promotional packages" that include advertisements on the church image screens and access to the pulpit.
11. Mac Brunson told a blatant lie about Dr. Sheri Klouda, a former Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary professor who lost her job at the hands of seminary president Paige Patterson for being a woman "teaching men" contrary to scripture. This was a very public and controversial topic in Southern Baptist life the last two years, and Brunson brought our church into it and brought it onto this blog when he used OUR CHURCH PULPIT to spread a lie about a woman whom he pastored in Dallas when her world was turned upside down by Paige Patterson. Brunson said in a sermon that Dr. Klouda admitted in testimony that her lawsuit violated scriptural precepts, when she said nothing of the sort. This was a shameless attempt by Mac to use his power and influence and OUR CHURCH NAME to help cast his friend Paige Patterson in a positive light, and to further kick Sheri Klouda more than she already had been. Worse than all of that, Mac has never publicly apologized to his church for spreading this lie about Dr. Sheri Klouda. This blog served as a place for Sheri Klouda to tell HER side of the story and refute Mac's lie and others told about her by supporters of Paige Patterson.
12. Mac held a special offering on Easter Sunday 2008 to raise money to again put himself on nationwide TV...then five months later asked for another special offering to raise $1 million for "emergency repairs" to our facility that we had know about for some time but failed to budget for. In the most cold manner possible, Mac demanded that we fork over $1 million in two weeks else our decades of debt-free financing would be broken. Mac couldn't even manage to stay for the entire service where the $1 million was to be raised, as he left the service before it concluded early for his European vacation - taken with the head of our finance committee to tour Italy.
There are many other things that have been discussed in this blog, these are just 12 of them. And none of them have to do with Mac's salary or the decision to start a school.
Regarding the anonymity issue: Anonymity has nothing to do with cowardice as proclaimed by many of the Watchdog critics. Anonymity is desired in discussing these topics for reasons of safety from crazy church people, to be blunt. In a church the size of FBC Jacksonville, people who dare to raise questions or call into question the wisdom of the leaders are subject to intense hatred and scorn from a certain portion of the congregation. There are some nuts in any church who simply won't put up with anyone being critical of the pastor or lay leaders and will seek to silence critics by any means possible. They will seek to do harm to the reputation of critics, possibly even physical harm. The events of the past week where the discipline committee of the church, once it was made aware of the identity of an accused blogger, decided as their FIRST action to issue trespass warnings against the blogger and his wife! Are you an accused blogger? You are banned from the property. Kid singing in church Wednesday? Doesn't matter, banned from the property. So if there is any question as to why anonymity is preferred, the events of the past week make it abundantly clear.
This blog has had quite a readership in its year and a half of existence, and this can be attributed not to the credibility of the posters (they are anonymous!), but mostly due to the lack of answers and explanations from the church leadership themselves on these issues! Like it or not, this blog HAS been a site where information and analysis and discussion of church matters has taken place amongst like-minded people. Not the forum that the church prefers because they have no control over its content, but the church has to deal with this form of communication. Time to get get "cutting edge" as Mac Brunson likes to say. Mac could make this blog irrelevant in one Sunday night business meeting by giving answers and explanations for his actions since arriving at Jax.
So let the detractors of the Watchdog make the issue his anonymity. Let the press make the issue being "throwing of stones" to hurt churches and using technology to harm the church by lying about the church. The issue of this blog is MAC BRUNSON and the lay leaders of our church and the abuses that have occured at FBC Jacksonville - the latest being the issuance of trespass warnings to people they suspect of blogging.
Too bad there were no bloggers when Darrell Gilyard and Bob Gray were committing their abuses at their churches.