An Open Letter to David Stine

Webster defines conviction as “A firmly held opinion or belief”.  Christianity maintains that convictions can often be God’s way of directing us within His will for our lives.   Christianity maintains lots of things, honor and unity being among them, which means choosing our words with the utmost care when we attempt to ‘speak the truth in love’.  If I’ve learned one thing over this past year, it’s that silence doesn’t serve the greater good.  We absolutely can pray and submit our requests to God, but He has not given us a Spirit of fear to speak out when we see or experience injustice, but one of power, love, and self-control.  It is with that love and self-control that I will attempt to speak my truth, while honoring the lives/work of those whom have influenced it along the way.

Dear David,

God used DC Metro Church powerfully in my life.  It may never have existed without you and Taryn, leaving me eternally grateful…. and yet.   Watching your “Return to Ministry” video on your newly launched website, gave me a visceral reaction.  “Not yet…. not this way”…. It was like an anthem on repeat from the Holy Spirit for the entire 11 minutes as I watched you lay so much of the responsibility for your questionable leadership at the feet of an illness.    Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to hear you’re healing, your marriage is healing, your relationship with your kids is healing.  I forgive you for the dissolution you caused within my beloved community, the ‘collateral damage’ of your illness, but I would be remiss to not call for accountability to the ministry of reconciliation with MANY people that labored alongside and directly under you.  You and I, we don’t need to be reconciled.  Not because there is ill-will, but simply because, in truth, we never had a relationship.   You were not my Pastor, the Body of Christ that you oversaw, some of the leaders within…. They were my Pastor.  They taught, they cared for and corrected, they oversaw the reconciliation of my marriage.   God is always at work within His churches, no matter the leadership structure…. it is the divine beauty of His power when people gather in His name.

Personally, for me, the temptation was strong early on to idolize you and Taryn.  God knew. I needed to see HIM, meet HIM, and to do that I needed to recognize the frailty of man, susceptible to the temptation of power & prestige.  It honestly confused me for awhile, watching how negligent you appeared to be with the very lives of people I loved, as a PASTOR, why wasn’t GOD stepping in???   However, I realized it was God’s goodness, in His mercy He sent SO. MANY. people along the way trying to correct, and highlight destructive behaviors…. I believe He was hoping you would repent, humble yourself and seek forgiveness.  However, God is not a man, that He can be mocked.  Ultimately it was His justice that revealed His sovereignty in all things to me.  His Grace and Mercy are legendary, but I would caution against returning to ministry without first following the precepts He clearly lays out for reconciliation.

You are gifted, I will give you that.  You are persuasive, enigmatic, you have drive, and vision.   Are you humble?  Are you authentic?  Those questions I cannot answer, I did not see those attributes.  I’m not saying they don’t exist, but using social media as a platform to relaunch your ministry, highlighting all your achievements that would not have existed without the hard work of those that built the church, wrote the books, enabled the reach you enjoyed, without reconnecting with them…. it falls flat.

Taryn,

Your authenticity is a gift the world needs.   You brought the one smile I had watching that video, when you likened his behavior to being ‘a butt’ :).   Your inner voice is still a bit kinder than mine, but I’m learning to discern when it’s appropriate… and when… maybe not.   You have been the closest one to him through all of this.  You knew LONG before the rest of us when it was getting bad.  I get that ‘christian world’ is confusing with it’s honor/submission/unity messages, which I can only imagine being on steroids in the role of a ‘Pastor’s Wife’.   It was so brave, what you did in bringing the overseers in, but your silence before that…. It facilitated that void, that darkness, where the enemy had a field day.   Your voice is powerful.  Do not be afraid to use it.  You are powerful and I am praying that as the closest one to him, you will be this barometer as you tentatively re-integrate with the world.  As you said, losing your family would have been the ultimate devastation.  That should remain priority numero uno.   If David struggles to love his wife and kids well, struggles to honor and support, and lay down his life, his desires to promote them/theirs…. it should be that red-flag that maybe “Not yet… Not this way”.

Y’all remain in my prayers… as does our whole ‘community’, though many of us have since moved away.   God has great plans for all of us, and should this note ever find it’s way to you, I pray you receive it with the sincere heart it was written with.  I tried very hard, that the message would not be one of shame/condemnation…. that is not your’s…. we all make mistakes, but a message of caution as you move forward.   God’s best can be a painful…. reconciling my marriage…. painful, but I wouldn’t trade what I have now for anything in the world.    Y’all have loved, and served with some amazing people…. Trust God…. I believe it will all be worth it.

With Love,

Julie

P.S:  To Stovall Weems and the other leadership within the Associated of Related Churches (ARC) – I’m still working on forgiving you.  I do not trust you, nor your very apparent profiting on the brokenness of the humanity you claim to serve.  ALL of this occurred under your ‘oversight’, among a host of other scandals within the other churches under your umbrella.   Wolves in sheep clothing, this is my discernment, and I will caution anyone within my sphere of influence to proceed VERY carefully when interacting with an ARC church.

5 comments

  1. Kimberly Burton says:

    This. Yes. This.

    Thank you, Julie, for in all of your Julie-est ways saying a lot of what has needed to be said publicly. I, literally, just said yesterday (after watching the coming out video) that something has got to be said publicly at this point. It’s just not okay.

    I am not as eloquent and most likely would not have shared as kindly to the public eye – partly because, I did have a relationship with the Stines. It was more personal to me.

    I appreciate you taking a moment to step out and speak up. <3

    And at the end of the day, I am glad that this couple – who I once considered friends and people I chose to serve alongside and under – provided an environment for me to build community with some life-long (even if we don't talk super often) friends. Love you.

  2. Katy T. says:

    I have a lot of feelings about this. (Thanks for bringing it to my attention that there was a video). First off, I am like you. I am very grateful to our 2 years there. My marriage too was healed somewhat and I was as well. Bitterness left me and I became a new person. I will forever be grateful to the people there for that. I always saw PDG more as my pastor and couples like you and those that I still think of as close friends from the small groups I was in (especially girls with swords). I am also grateful to have found out about Regent as I’m very happy with my education there (although I do not fit in) and am glad to finally almost be a psychologist. I would never have found Regent and their APA accredited program if it wasn’t for DC metro.

    In general, this is one of the problems with the majority of non-denominational churches. There is very little oversight which is why I am still a fan of major denominations and more liturgical churches, although I currently attend an ACTS 29 church (which is a whole story in itself of why I would ever attend an ACTS 29 church, but God is funny like that). As I’m an ordained elder in the PCUSA, this was always hard for me. Also, having worked a lot in the office/tried to get hired, and saw how insular it was (only friends were allowed in the inner circle, or hired, or were leaders etc.) never sat well with me. I always joked that I was not hipster enough to work there anyway. I was way more qualified than many who were hired, but I worked for free, sometimes 30 hours a week, partially because I was lonely and had no friends outside of church, and partially because one of my main spiritual gifts is administration.

    I also wish this video was more honest about what happened and I think more time should likely have passed before stepping back into ministry. I think a video is fine in this day in age, I am glad to see somewhat of what was happening from them. I’m sorry, but Graves disease does not account for what happened. Some of the “offness” or not being himself makes sense, but it does not make sense. Having a husband who basically had the same symptoms due to thyroid cancer and having a thyroidectomy and a whole slew of complications still 2 years later does not make sense. I wonder how many people will see through that as well.

    Overall, I hope he has changed. I really can’t judge where his heart is at now. I know God will take care of it either way so I’m not worried. I’m more irritated that some of the stuff that we know about (silly Virginia Beach community knows things that I didn’t even want to know) has really turned Andrew sour again on church and Christians (the election and current climate doesn’t help either). All in all, we will likely no longer attend large churches. We did here for awhile and never sat well with us. And we are not looking at large churches when we move this summer.

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. I always love reading them, I rarely comment but I always read them. 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    Julie, Kimberly and Katy,

    Your posts captured much of what I have been feeling. Started going to DC Metro because my teenage kids liked it. I immediately noticed the “lighter” version of the Prosperity Gospel repackaged for a younger generation and the seeker-friendly “disco ball” ambience. I enjoyed David Stine’s sermons. He is an excellent teacher.

    I felt a connection with Pastor David. His sermons really were relevant and his personal stories made him approachable – almost vulnerable. When he said God gave him a vision to start 17 churches in the D.C. area, I believed he was here to stay.

    To attend the church, I overlooked the casualness of what I consider sacred: the “take-it-or-leave-it-catch-it-if-you-can” communion was far different from what the apostle Paul prescribes. Then there was the baptism in the lobby after the service as people are getting their coffee, hanging out or just walking out the door. (Just cannot see John the Baptist that way).

    I read “Contact.” Overall, I liked the content. The writing, however, was sloppy. It made me wonder: if an intelligent and educated minister does not show carefulness with the written word, how much is he taking care with his doctrine? Later, he released another book and appeared on the 700 Club. Pretty cool.

    My alarm bell went into full tilt about a week or so before the big announcement that Pastor David was temporarily stepping down. It was the Bethel Church speaker at the weekend revival. Taryn had recommended his book. I bought two of them, went home and began to read about a subject I know very well.

    There was not much sleeping that night. I began to wonder about Pastor David’s judgement for bringing in a man whose books misused scripture to make very questionable assertions about everything from the nature of God to the spiritual gifts. But when I went online and found another Bethel church minister laying on the graves of C.S. Lewis and Smith Wigglesworth to soak up their anointing (https://staceylacik.com/tag/grave-soaking/), my concern was off the charts. Sounds too occult-like for me.

    We returned the next week to hear Pastor David, but what we got was Stovall Weems explaining that Pastor Dave was sick and needed renewal. My heart ached for he and Taryn, who no doubt worked tirelessly to begin their ministry in the D.C. area. But something was not adding up. What was the “trouble” in the marriage? What was causing burn-out to the point where he had to leave the area to get help? And I must admit, that place of renewal looked better than any vacation I could ever afford.

    Still curious, I checked out Weems and his church-in-a-box ARC churches. At last check, there were 400 so-called “independent” churches with cookie cutter websites answering to Weems and his board. (Demoninations would admire such brand consistency from its congregations.)Then I read about Dino Rizzo, a former pastor of a very larger ARC church who had an affair, disappeared for a while and returned in a new ministry.

    Denominations have more thoughtful processes for such things to help the family and the church. So I wrote my “local” pastor about very specific concerns. He responded that Rizzo was his friend and that he was interested to hear what I thought after I heard Rizzo preach that Sunday. Let’s just say I did not feel any better.

    We hung on for months. My heart still ached for Stine and his family. The silence about Stine, however, was weird, almost cult-like, as if he no longer existed. I asked for an address to send him a card, even a post office box, but no can do. The congregation deserved to know how the Stines were doing. I started to wonder if he would be like Rizzo, who would move to another area of the country and just start over.

    I periodically checked on social media, looking for anything. An encouraging word, that he is feeling better or still needs prayers. Something, anything would have been sufficient. I checked, every so often, to find no updates since the post about a week prior to his stepping down. (It had to do with his excitement about the revival.) For months, if not more than a year, that last update dangled in cyberspace, as if time stood still. There was no public word from Taryn either.

    At church, it looked like a take-over. There was no more talk of Pastor Stine coming back. We were told to welcome a new pastor, a stranger, without even a congregational process. My family and I eventually finally found a much better, doctrinally-sound church. But I felt this nagging lack of closure, like a movie cutting off before the ending.

    Then I noticed, perhaps earlier this year, that he was running some kind of consulting service to pastors (wish I had kept that url). It seemed odd for someone recovering from his own ministry marketing himself as a guide for other pastors.

    And while I cling to the belief that Stine and his wife are sincere, I find I feel like Julie. Forgiving Weems is a work in progress. I also agree with another commenter that Grave’s disease does not explain everything.

    Then today I found his new ministry, among other details, and your blog post. I believe Mr. Stine will do just fine. It appears that he is living a comfortable life at a country club in a million-dollar home, with an enclosed swimming pool, not far from the beach.

    It also seems he is the process of re-branding himself. With his charm, connections and obvious marketing talent, he has a bright future. However, I still think he needs to hire a good copy editor for that website…

    My prayer now is for those hurt by what happened. I pray they do not give up on Jesus, the only truth we can count on. And Katy T., I’ll pray for your husband. As a recovering doubting Thomas, he has my empathy.

    Thanks for allowing me to share my catharsis though I still feel a bit sad.

    Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas!

    Anonymous

  4. I tried and I gave it my best! says:

    Hi. First of all I would like to thank you for your transparency. I stand in agreement with all of you for I unfortunately witnessed people being hurt by the actions of the DCMC leadership and suffered a great deal myself when I attempted to assist the church with corrections. While it is true that David Stein made a lot of decisions that negatively impacted the church, he was not alone for there were others (Pastor David Goochee, Pastor Taryn, Julie Reams, Mary Ruth Goochee, Pastor John (financial director) who were with him daily and went along with his decisions that ultimately painted the wrong picture of Christianity and God’s truth to those were seeking.

    In God’s word he calls us to be accountable to each other–which includes speaking up to those who abuse their positions and for those who don’t have a voice. To be able to serve in a church leadership role is an honor; however honor is diminished the roles are handed to those who will easily turn a blind eye to a clear abuse of power. Signs of David Stein’s downward spiral began not too long after we moved from the theatre into the building that now houses the children’s church (Metro Church). I can vividly remember that his message on Joseph coat was both negative and biblically incorrect and I don’t recall anyone stepping in to stop him. It was painful to listen to him as he continued used God’s podium as his own person platform to take digs at individuals who openly opposed his renditions of God’s truth. As time went on, David Stein’s sermons became less about God’s truth and more about him, his prosperity, his skills as a business man and his opinions wrapped in bible verses. There were many signs that David Stein was changing for the worse and I find it a little hard to believe that those closest to him did not see it coming. I do not mean this as judgment because the judgement seat belongs to God alone. It is my sincere hope those who knowingly backed David Stein’s behavior for the sake of saving their own jobs, positions, spotlights, or friendships fall before God for His forgiveness and grace for it is our job to sharpen one another. (Proverbs 27:17)

Whatcha think???? I'd love to know!