Monday, January 24, 2011

A Brief Defense of Pastor Brian Schwertley against the Lies, Slander and Gossip of and Dr. Frank Smith: Part 2

A Brief Defense of Pastor Brian Schwertley against the Lies, Slander and Gossip of and Dr. Frank Smith: Part 2

by Brian Schwertley

Part 2 Section:
The Involvement of Dr. Frank Smith

The Involvement of Dr. Frank Smith

            We now come to the point of the story where Dr. Frank Smith and the Sheboygan session became involved and, in our opinion, aggravated the situation and emboldened the Brown’s in their rebellious course of action. How this occurred was through explicit violations of Matthew 18:15ff, 1 Timothy 5:19 and Proverbs 18:13.

            After Mr. Brown was in contact with Mrs. Brown and decided that he needed to defend her actions and protect her from church discipline, he began to speak to Dr. Frank Smith and over time there were meetings between Mr. and Mrs. Brown, Dr. Frank Smith and the session of the Sheboygan church. At these meetings, Mr. and Mrs. Brown made a number of serious accusations against Rev. Schwertley and Elder Tauts. These accusations contain falsehoods, fabrications, gross exaggerations and distortions of events. The gist of these meetings was that: (1) The session at Manawa had an ax to grind against Mrs. Brown and was essentially out to get her. Therefore, the Sheboygan session (i.e. Frank Smith) needed to get involved to protect Mrs. Brown from injustice and abuse. Some of these false accusations are still being spread abroad to this day. (2) Brian Schwertley is a mean and unloving pastor who has done all sorts of bad things and really just has a grudge against Mrs. Brown. Mr. Brown’s tactic was essentially twofold at this point. He wanted everyone to think that his wife and her behavior were not the real problem. The real problem was abuse by the leadership of the Manawa church. In addition, he wanted people to think that Rev. Schwertley was a great enemy of Mrs. Brown and thus the church discipline and the session’s refusal to remove the charges was unjust because it was simply some kind of vendetta.[1] Mr. Brown wanted to change the history of what really happened in order to justify their rejection of the authority of the Manawa session. Mr. Brown’s version of reality on this matter is a complete fabrication. (Note, after Mrs. Brown left her husband she never attended the Manawa church again. She never moved back into the family home in Manawa with her husband. She has never acknowledged that leaving her husband was a sin. In fact, she asserts that it was a good thing. In addition, she has never come before the church to declare her repentance. In order to get his wife back, Mr. Brown took up his wife’s wicked cause and set out to blame the Manawa session and Rev. Schwertley for her actions.)

            Before I proceed with how Dr. Frank Smith listened to, received and acted upon the false accusations by the Browns against Rev. Schwertley and Elder Tauts, I would like to discuss how the accusations of the Brown’s should have been handled according to the clear teaching of the Word of God. This point is crucial because if the Bible had been followed, the Brown’s may have been willing to repent or at least stop spreading lies about their pastor and session.

            The Bible is clear and specific with regard to how Christians and churches are to handle accusations of sin. In the case of private sins or alleged private offenses (which was the weapon of the Brown’s, Frank Smith, Fred Fleming, et al against Pastor Schwertley), the Bible has certain rules that God commands us to obey. For example, Matthew 18:15ff. establishes the principle that private sins are to be dealt with privately and in person (“Go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone”). The purpose of the imperative from the lips of our Lord is rather obvious. It is designed to do a number of things. First, it preserves the reputations of both parties involved. If the accused is guilty, he is given the opportunity to repent and keep the matter private. If the accuser has made a mistake or is guilty of a legalistic or unscriptural ethical standard, then his error can also be kept private. Second, if this command is obeyed, it keeps gossip and slander from spilling over into the whole church. (Gossip refers to unconstrained reports about people, while slander refers to false and damaging information.) Many church splits can be traced to a violation of Matthew 18:15ff. and many godly men have had their reputations dragged through the mud by people who do not follow this passage. Third, the peace of the church is preserved. Fourth, it keeps professing Christians from bringing reproach on the name of Christ. Fifth, it leads to biblical reconciliation and the corporate sanctification of the church.

            Once the one on one private process has taken place, then and only then, a secondary witness or witnesses (“take with thee one or two more,” v. 16) are to come as witnesses to the process of nouethetic confrontation and they will serve as witnesses if the matter goes to the church session (i.e. the local body of elders). These witnesses may discover that the charge was valid and encourage the person to repent or they may ascertain that the charge is without sufficient evidence or frivolous. Only after this secondary step has been completed and the person in question refuses to repent, does the matter go before the church court. Even if this third step is necessary, the matter is still an issue for the local congregation to handle. It is not to go to other churches or the presbytery (the pastors and elders from many churches in a geographical area) unless the person is convicted of a scandalous sin or the person appeals to the presbytery.[2] This procedure, commanded by Christ Himself, raises a question. Was it biblical for Mr. and Mrs. Brown to refuse to accuse Rev. Schwertley privately of offenses to his face; and, instead, gossip and make all sorts of accusations behind his back? The answer to this question is obvious. It was totally unscriptural and wicked. This behavior raises another question. Were Mr. and Mrs. Brown really concerned for Pastor Schwertley’s spiritual welfare and the welfare of the congregation at Manawa? No. According to Scripture, they were not. Gossip and slander behind a person’s back is done out of hatred and anger and serves no useful purpose other than to attempt to destroy a person’s reputation and in the Brown’s case justify their sinful course of action.[3]        

            In addition, was it biblical or morally appropriate for Dr. Frank Smith and the session at Sheboygan to listen to, receive and act upon the Brown’s gossip, slander and accusations? No. It was positively wicked. By refusing to insist that biblical procedure be meticulously followed; by listening to the Brown’s accusations and then coming to the Brown’s defense as if they were seriously wronged, Dr. Frank Smith and the Sheboygan session encouraged their sinful behavior and participated in their sins.

            Another important passage which is specifically designed to protect pastors and elders from slanderous charges and false accusations is 1 Timothy 5:19-20, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.” This passage is specifically designed by the Holy Spirit to protect elders or ministers from attacks by unsound professing Christians, malicious enemies and unrepentant church members who are seeking to escape church discipline. As Calvin says, “This is a necessary remedy against the malice of men; for none are more liable to slanders and calumnies than godly teachers…[and] wicked men seize many occasions for finding fault with them.”[4]

            The word translated “receive” (paradechomai) means “entertain,” “accept” or “acknowledge.” People and church courts are not to listen to or discuss or even acknowledge such accusations. They are to be immediately rejected. Paul alludes to Deuteronomy 19:15 in the sense that charges or accusations are not even to be received unless there is testimony by two or three witnesses who present a united, credible account regarding the same alleged sin. Unlike Matthew 18:16, which is referring to the reconciliation process, 1 Tim. 5:19 is saying that an elder cannot even be accused or taken before an ecclesiastical court unless there are two credible witnesses to the same sin. Therefore, Paul, writing by divine inspiration, disallows an individual church member from attempting to destroy a pastor’s reputation and ministry by making accusations concerning actions that were not witnessed by another member of the church. Anyone who has served in the ministry sees the great wisdom of this emphatic imperative (Paul uses a double negative, ektos ei me). Sometimes when a person is disciplined or when the pastor teaches something that rubs an individual the wrong way, he or she will gossip and even spread slander about the pastor. Once again, we emphasize that 1 Timothy 5:19 means that if there are not two credible witnesses to the same sin, the accusation must not even be taken up or entertained. In other words, there is not even to be a trial, let alone a conviction. Moreover, the accuser should be rebuked and forced to cease making such unsubstantiated attacks.

            By way of application, the accusers in a sense go on trial before charges are even made. The witnesses in essence are the only prosecutors. The witnesses must be questioned and if their testimony disagrees in any of the particulars it cannot be accepted. If a witness has been found to be lying in any part of his testimony, then his testimony cannot be accepted. If the witnesses are not church members, are apostate, or are walking disorderly, their testimony cannot be accepted. The biblical standards of justice in ecclesiastical cases are very strict. “This process may consist of two or three witnesses bringing an accusation, but normally it would consist of two or three witnesses verifying an accusation that may come from only one individual before it is considered further.”[5] 

            Given all this inspired, authoritative teaching, what should Dr. Frank Smith have done when Mr. Brown starting making all sorts of accusations against Rev. Schwertley and Elder Tauts? First, since none of the accusations involved public sins, he should have inquired whether or not Matthew 18:15ff. had been followed. Since it was not followed, Mr. Brown should have been instructed not to spread his accusations to others, but rather to follow our Lord’s teaching on this matter. Second, since accusations were made against a pastor and an elder, Dr. Frank Smith should have instructed Mr. Brown to get at least two independent, credible witnesses and present his case to the church session in Manawa. If he was not satisfied that he was treated fairly, justly or biblically by the session, then he would have every right to appeal to the presbytery. Instead of following Scripture, Dr. Frank Smith and the Sheboygan session entertained information that was false, exaggerated, defective and partial and proceeded as if this information were true. Consequently, they participated in the destruction (or at least the attempted destruction) of an innocent minister’s reputation. This is a very serious offense. If proper procedures had been followed, it would have been relatively easy to prove that the Brown’s were being dishonest and were simply attempting to escape church discipline.[6]


[1] This false version of events is set forth on Fred Fleming’s website: “It is my understanding that the Manawa session did meet with the Brown’s for the purposes of knowing the progress of the reconciliation of their marriage, and for Beverly and Brian to be reconciled. Though I do not know the details, I am aware that Brian refused to acknowledge any wrong doing in regards to personal matters between him and Beverly and any wrong doing in regards to disciplinary procedures by the session. Therefore, there was no reconciliation between Brian and Beverly. Lastly, the progress made in the Brown’s marriage was not acceptable by Brian and the other elder, Olev Tauts. Without any explanation, the Brown’s were dropped from the membership roll the following month.” This session meeting was set up by Marty Waltho after he had completely accepted Jim Brown’s version of reality. Regarding the statement of reconciliation between Mrs. Brown and Pastor Schwertley, it is important to note that: (1) Mrs. Brown had not accused Rev. Schwertley of any sins to his face at this point, nor had she accused him of any sins to the session. (2) When asked point blank if Rev. Schwertley had sinned against her she said “no.” She was only willing to say that Rev. Schwertley was a terrible pastor. (3) The so-called “progress” in their marriage was completely unacceptable to Rev. Schwertley and Elder Olev Tauts because: a) She was unwilling to acknowledge her sin. She claimed that she was taking a little vacation and that leaving her husband was good for their marriage; b) Mrs. Brown at this time was still maintaining a separate residence away from her husband; c) Mrs. Brown was willing to take her husband back only on her terms, which we regarded as unscriptural; d) Mrs. Brown had not returned to church and was unwilling to make a public confession of her sin. Fred apparently believes that if we ignore sin long enough, we can pretend it never happened.
                Fred’s statement that the Brown’s were dropped from the membership rolls the following month without any explanation is completely untrue. The Brown’s were removed from the rolls in August 2005 for the following reasons: (1) Mrs. Brown stopped attending church in February 2005. Mr. Brown attended only twice since April 2005. (2) The Brown’s stopped tithing in April 2005. (3) They told members of the session they were never coming back to Manawa. (4) They rejected the authority of the session and were spreading false accusations about the pastor and session of the church. (5) Mr. Brown was observed doing yard work on the Sabbath on more than one occasion and did not attend church even though he lived less than 2 miles from the meeting place. The insinuation that removing the Brown’s from the rolls of the church was arbitrary or unjustified is absurd.
[2] It is important to keep in mind that the two or more witnesses are only witnesses to the reconciliation process, not the original accusation. Therefore, if a matter boils down to one man’s word against another and there is no additional evidence or proof, there can be no conviction or discipline. To do so would be an explicit contradiction of Deuteronomy 19:15, which says that no one is to be tried or convicted on the basis of one witness alone. Therefore, one could say that Jesus was applying Deut. 19:15 to situations in a new or unique manner. (Given the explicit teaching of Deut. 19:15ff., it is almost certain that Matthew 18:15ff. presupposes that the guilty party admits his guilt to some degree, but is unwilling to repent or reconcile. For if the accused completely denied the accusation and there is no other evidence, it would be wrong to try that person in a church court. It would turn the original meaning and intent of Deut. 19:5 upside down. Thus, Calvin asserts that when an accusation is brought and the accused completely lies about it, the matter must be dropped because it cannot be proven according to lawful biblical procedures [read Calvin’s commentary on Matthew 18]).
[3] Mr. Brown’s only attempt to follow Matthew 18:15ff. occurred in January 2006. This is about nine months after Mr. Brown stopped tithing and for all intents and purposes stopped attending our church. This is four months after he was removed from the roll of the church for non-tithing, non-attendance and rejecting the authority of the session. Now keep in mind that for nine months Mr. Brown has been slandering Rev. Schwertley to several people and accusing him of all sorts of terrible things. Was this confrontation over any of the things that Mr. Brown had been spreading abroad for nine months? No. He sent an e-mail accusing Rev. Schwertley of slandering his wife at a church get-together in December 2005. This e-mail had a deadline of midnight of the same day to respond; or, he would regard the first step of Matthew 18:15ff. to have been fulfilled. Regarding this supposed use of Matthew 18:15ff., note the following.
                First, Mr. Brown knew where I lived and had my phone number. Sending a nasty e-mail does not fulfill the face to face requirement of Matthew 18:15. Second, neither Mr. Brown nor his wife heard the supposed remarks. They were no longer part of our church. Jim’s charge was based on hearsay from Fred Fleming, a non-church member. Rev. Schwertley nor anyone else at this church get-together has any idea what Fred Fleming is talking about. Since Fred Fleming is not a church member and is walking disorderly, he cannot bring charges. Third, since both Mr. Brown and his wife are apostates that we regard as outside the visible church, they cannot bring charges (regarding their supposed reinstatement by the C.R.P.C., see section on Dr. Frank Smith below). Fourth, refusing to address the accused in person and setting an arbitrary deadline is cowardly and unbiblical. Fifth, it is telling that the slanders of the previous nine months were ignored in favor of a frivolous, unwitnessed, unsubstantiated, unprovable vapor. Clearly, Mr. Brown has an axe to grind against those who expect wives to repent of scandalous sinful behavior.  
[4] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus and Philemon (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980), 140.
[5] George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 25. Matthew Henry notes that not only must there be 2 or 3 independent credible witnesses, but they must give their testimony in the presence of the accused. He writes, “This accusation is not to be received unless supported by two or three credible witnesses; and the accusation must be received before them, that is, the accused must have the accusers face to face, because the reputation of a minister is, in a particular manner, a tender thing; and therefore, before any thing be done in the least to blemish that reputation, great care should be taken that the thing alleged against him be well proved, that he be not reproached upon an uncertain surmise” (A Commentary on the Whole Bible [McLean, VA: MacDonald, n. d.], 6:825).
[6] We would do well to discuss some of the accusations made by Mr. and Mrs. Brown (some of these lies have been repeated on Fred Fleming’s website). (1) Mrs. Brown accused Rev. Schwertley of making lewd comments about women’s backsides in front of her and her daughters. Regarding this accusation, note the following. a) It is a bold-faced lie. b) Rev. Schwertley first heard this accusation in the early summer of 2006, not from Mrs. Brown but from Frank Smith. The comments were supposedly made in the summer of 2004, about two years prior. If these comments were made, then Mrs. Brown could have said something to Rev. Schwertley or at least gone to the session at the time the comments were allegedly made. Sitting on this supposed event for years and saying nothing and then spreading it abroad to total strangers is unscriptural and unloving to say the least. The Bible teaches that offenses are either to be forgiven and forgotten (covered over in love) or dealt with immediately. To save up an offense to be used as ammunition against someone years down the road is wicked. To make up an offense out of thin air is even worse. (2) Mr. Brown has repeatedly stated that Rev. Schwertley refused to help his family with counseling. This also is a blatant misrepresentation of the truth. The truth is that the Brown’s were strongly encouraged to undergo nouethetic counseling with the pastor and an elder. A few counseling sessions even occurred in 2004. The Brown’s did not continue the counseling because Mrs. Brown hated it and Mr. Brown was unwilling to press the issue. The reality is that Mrs. Brown was unwilling to face her sinful habits and deal with them and Mr. Brown was unwilling to insist on repentance because he was afraid his wife would leave him. After Mr. Brown made progress in being more active as the covenant head of the household, this is what happened. (3) One of Mr. Brown’s arguments as to why he needed to leave our church and why his wife was justified in leaving him was that he had a pornography problem and the elders at Manawa refused to help him with this problem. This statement, like the others, is not true at all. Both Rev. Schwertley and Elder Tauts had been told of a pornography problem, but when Mr. Brown was repeatedly asked how things were going, his answer was that he had sincerely repented and had not relapsed. If Mr. Brown did have a continuing problem with pornography, he did not receive additional counsel because he was lying about the situation and claiming his repentance was sincere and solid when it really was not. In addition, Mrs. Brown never claimed she left because Mr. Brown was viewing pornography. The incident that caused her to leave was her husband’s insistence that she attend a Calvinistic or Reformed women’s Bible study instead of an Arminian women’s Bible study. Moreover, if Mr. Brown was viewing pornography and his wife was aware of continuing problems, there are scriptural ways to proceed, such as Mt. 18:15ff., biblical counseling, discipline if necessary and so on. One should only leave a spouse who claims to be a Christian if it is the only viable biblical option, after all avenues of discipline have been exhausted. (Mr. Brown’s story as to why his wife left him evolved and changed over time. First, he said it was over a women’s Bible study. This story is probably what really occurred in that Mr. and Mrs. Brown were arguing about this issue and Mr. Brown was making frequent phone calls at that time asking for advice on what to do. Second, after he decided to justify his wife’s rebellion to get her back, he said it was because of his pornography problem. When his inconsistencies on this issue were pointed out, then he argued she was justified in leaving because of “verbal abuse.” It ought to be rather obvious by now that Mr. Brown has a problem obeying the ninth commandment.) If Dr. Frank Smith had done some research and not simply accepted the lies and slander of the Brown’s at face value, then he could have avoided becoming the chief advocate for the Brown’s rebellious behavior and rejection of lawful authority. (4) Another false accusation spread abroad by Mr. Brown was that Rev. Schwertley told him to divorce his wife. Pastor Schwertley’s instruction to Mr. Brown regarding his situation (given in the presence of two elders) was as follows: “If your wife refuses to repent and is eventually excommunicated for desertion, then you can lawfully divorce her, or you can wait things out and continue to seek reconciliation. The choice will be up to you.” (5) Mr. Brown has spread the untruth that with regard to the session’s decision to bar his wife from the Lord’s table it was “a rush to judgment.” Given the public nature of the sin and the gravity of the sin involved, Mr. Brown’s assertion is absurd. In addition, after three hours of careful deliberation, the Manawa session, including Marty Waltho (who would later become an apologist for Mr. and Mrs. Brown’s rebellion), voted for this action unanimously. Moreover, Mr. Brown, at the time the vote was taken was asked whether or not he agreed with the session. He said that he agreed with this decision. (6) Another blatant falsehood first spread by Mr. Brown (and then propagated by Mr. Brown’s supporters [e.g., Fred Fleming, Frank Smith, Marty Waltho]) is that the session at Manawa (especially Rev. Schwertley) is guilty of an abuse of ecclesiastical power. This accusation, like the preceding ones, is totally false. Every decision the session made with regard to the Brown’s situation was based squarely on the teaching of Scripture. If we violated Scripture in any way, we are open to biblical argumentation as to how we supposedly violated Scripture. It is important to note that as of January 2011, Rev. Schwertley has not received any biblical argumentation at all—none. Moreover, when the people spreading lies and slander about Rev. Schwertley have been asked, “What specific sins did Rev. Schwertley commit?” the answers have been so general as to be worthless in guiding a supposed offender to repentance. For example, “Pastor Schwertley was unloving to the Brown’s” or “Pastor Schwertley was not nice to the Brown’s.” Matthew 18:15ff. and 1Tim. 5:19 require specificity. God’s law is specific. If sins were committed, what were they? What Scripture passages do you appeal to, to justify your accusation? How is disciplining a woman for a gross violation of Scripture unloving or not nice or harsh? These false accusers would do well to consider the inspired wisdom of Solomon: “The compassion of the wicked is cruel” (Pr. 12:10). I do not know of anyone or any family that has benefited from antinomianism.       


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