The course of true love never did run smooth — especially when the love affair is one between a fundamentalist church and their powerful and charismatic politician pastor. And therein hangs a tale…
Chuck Baldwin has been featured previously on SFL as we relayed the story of his sudden move from Pensacola to the Mountains of Montana to be the “tip of the spear” in the fight against the oncoming “fight between Big-Government globalists and freedom-loving, independent-minded patriots.” I guess everybody needs a hobby.
What wasn’t clear until recently was exactly how Chuck planned to fund this new venture in the mountain states after retiring as the pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church. But some documents recently came to my notice which show that Chuck’s plan was to use a retirement fund from his old church in the amount of about $52,000 per year for thirty years, a total value of over 1.5 million dollars.
But beyond the fact that there was a retirement fund set up for Chuck, the remainder of the story breaks down into finger-pointing as two different perspectives on the purpose behind this retirement payout emerge. The new pastor of Crossroads Baptist and new board of trustees claim in a written statement that Chuck basically hoodwinked the church into an agreement that they never fully understood and that he left the church in a financial wreck as a result of his sudden and unexpected departure to Montana. In short, it’s alleged that he took the money and ran. Chuck for his part claims that his planned retirement was a completely above-board affair that the board of trustees insisted he take the money and he merely went along with what their wishes.
It is worth noting that according to the church’s income spreadsheet, Chuck was paid about three-quarters of a million dollars in the four years preceding his departure — including a $175,000 payment made in 2009 by the church to buy Montana property. Apparently, Chuck had been planning to leave for the mountains for quite some time before his actual announcement in August of 2010. It is also of some interest that the church alleges that over $118,000 of “administrative expenses” that Chuck spent in the last four years as pastor were so ill-documented that the church was forced to issue a 1099 to Chuck for those funds as income.
But beyond the many questions surrounding exactly what happened with the financial situation at Crossroads Baptist, there is a larger story here that is of much more interest to those of us who have been in fundamentalist churches led by charismatic and powerful men. The question that I ask myself as I read through Chuck’s eight pages of flaming retort to the charges leveled against him is “how does a man of God react to conflict?” Does he start out with telling them that if it were not for him they wouldn’t even have a church? Does he rant and rail? Does he launch personal attacks on the man whom he hand-picked to lead the church he left?
My own personal favorite excerpt from Chuck’s letter is the portion where he tells everyone that his wife never entered the church office except to “clean my bathroom or throw out trash.” Not content to leave it there he then insists that she wouldn’t even know what financial records “looked like.” It’s also fun to see him refer to the current pastor of Crossroads repeatedly as “Mr. Nichols” in a group where that is the gravest of disrespects to a pastor. Stay classy, Chuck.
Not to be outdone, Chuck’s son and son-in-law wrote their own twenty page response to Crossroads’s Baptist’s resolution wherein they call on God to judge those who oppose Chuck and then proceed with reams of self-justification. It is interesting that these very men who apparently were part of the board that insisted that Chuck must take these retirement funds from Crossroads also left Crossroads with Chuck to move to Montana. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that score.
It’s anyone’s guess as to which bits of spin from each side of this situation nearest reflects the truth of what happened. I certainly don’t know. But what we can say with some certainty based on Chuck’s response is that when you cross a powerful self-made leader in fundamentalism you can expect that a display of deep humility and humanity will not likely be the result. One wonders what Jesus would have done.