SUMMATION OF INFORMATION RELATING TO APOLOGETICS PRESS SCANDAL
The information that follows is primarily from four brethren (one who had a grandson in the AP interns program and the other three who participated in the discussions and deliberations with the AP Board [and have seen all of the documentation] concerning the future of brother Bert Thompson and of AP itself) during the week of May 22, 2005, in Montgomery, AL, and from the “Information Packet” AP mailed to past and present contributors on June 2. The summation of these sources of information is in the interest of separating facts from rumors. I fear that the “Information Packets” sent out by AP principals will incite more rumors and raise more questions than they will answer, answers to which brethren who have supported this work are surely entitled. This packet would perhaps have better served AP had the documents been more forthright and straightforward in their “explanations.” It attempts to “sugar coat” a grievous situation that is hardly sweet from any angle. Faithful brethren are willing to forgive, but they will not take kindly to being dealt with in a secretive manner, especially about a work they have been supporting financially. The irony of the matter is that the nature of brother Thompson’s “personal sin” had already become widely known before the “Information Packets” were ever prepared and mailed. The documents in the packet will therefore be somewhat anticlimactic.
I have known brother Thompson for twenty-three years. We have spoken on the same lectureships. Our publications company likely sold thousands of dollars worth of AP books through the years. I have admired his scholarship, his ability, and his accomplishments. I have attended Bert’s seminars. I have learned from him. I will continue to learn from him through the books he has written. I certainly am not his enemy and it brings me only profound sorrow to learn of his “personal sins.” I have been praying and will continue to pray for him and his family.
Nor am I the enemy of Apologetics Press. Without question, this vital work needs to continue and grow. I would rejoice to be able to endorse and encourage it without reservation, as I was able to do for many years. I deeply regret that, however, under its present leadership, I cannot do so.
Phone Call from Darrell Conley on May 26
I received my first information of these matters from Darrell Conley, who had a grandson (18 years old) in the AP intern program, when he called me the morning of May 26. He told me the following:
1. Bert had been unmasked as a homosexual, who had been practicing such for “over twenty years” and that he had been removed from AP.
2. The elders at West Palm Beach, Florida, AP’s overseeing congregation, had summarily flown his (Darrell’s) grandson and another intern who were in Montgomery at the time, to West Palm Beach, and told them what had been discovered about Bert.
3. Brad Harrub had left AP a few weeks before this time.
4. Homosexual charges had been brought against Bert about two years ago, but the accuser was a drug addict who was not a Christian. Brad Harrub defended Bert on that occasion (doubtless in all innocence), and since the accuser had little credibility, the matter “blew over.”
Phone Call to Dan Jenkins on May 26
I immediately tried to reach Brad Harrub, but was unable to do so. I then called and talked to Dan Jenkins (preacher at W. Palm Beach). He had just returned from Montgomery and the meetings concerning AP the night before, but he would hardly tell me anything. He would not even confirm that Bert was a homosexual. He said that a statement would be issued indicating that Bert had been guilty of “personal sins” or some similar explanation. He stated that Bert had made a public confession of sin, this was now behind him, and our concern should now be to “help him get to Heaven.” He did confirm that Bert had been removed by the AP Board, and could never have anything to do with AP henceforth.
Phone Calls to and from Frank Chesser on May 26 and 27
I next tried to reach Frank Chesser (preacher at Panama St. in Montgomery, AL, where most of the AP staff were/are members), but could not do so on May 26, leaving him a voice mail message. He returned my call on May 27. When I told him what I had called about, he became very defensive, asking, “Why do you want to know this information?” I assured him that it was not my intent to publicize it in THE GOSPEL JOURNAL, which he seemed to assume was my motivation. I told him I knew that I would be getting calls and messages from others, and I wanted to be able to separate fact from fiction. However, my reassurance made little difference.
My conversation with Frank was also extremely unproductive, as had been the conversation with Dan Jenkins. This was especially strange, in light of the fact that on May 25 he had openly divulged considerable information to Marvin Weir in a phone call, of which Marvin had already told me. This was stranger still, in that Frank and I have known each other for several years, but he had never met Marvin. Obviously, something had changed his mind about discussing this situation in the span of 48 hours. Like Dan, he would not even confirm that Bert's sin was homosexual behavior. He indicated the following:
1. An explanation letter announcing Bert’s departure from AP would be sent to all financial contributors, referring merely to "personal sins" Bert had committed. I told him I would like to receive the letter, but he said he had no control over the mailing list.
2. He specifically denied that any felony criminal charges had been or would be filed involving minors, in answer to my question about same.
I inferred from Frank’s comments that Brad Harrub would be brought back and would perhaps be given the directorship of AP, which Frank apparently favored. He strangely went out of his way to put a very optimistic spin on the future of AP, and said (more than once) that he believed “the providence of God was at work” in all of this, more so than he had ever seen in his life as a preacher. When I asked him what he meant by that, and he said he did not want to elaborate. I told him that I could not be quite that optimistic. I pointed out that Bert hurt AP in the first place by hiring Dave Miller with all of his baggage, and that now this latest development would certainly not help matters. (He made no response at all to comments about Dave Miller.) At the time we were talking, of course, Dave Miller had not been installed as “Interim Executive Director,” which he now has, so they've really “stepped in it” now, in my judgment.
Most of the questions I asked, he deflected with an "I don't want to say," or "I don't want to go there." He said I already knew more than his grown son does about the situation, and that he has determined to take all of the details he knows to the grave with him because revelation of them would "not help anybody." These statements made me think that the details must be very bad, indeed. If Frank, Dan Jenkins, the AP board, or the W. Palm Beach elders think that the statement that Bert’s removal was for "personal sins" is going to take care of this matter in the minds of brethren, I fear that they are in for a rude awakening.
Conversation with Wayne Jackson on June 2
The third man on the “inside” with whom I have talked is Wayne Jackson, who has provided some solid, first-hand information. Wayne called me the morning of June 2 about another matter, and when we had finished with that subject, I referred to the tragedy at AP and how it must grieve him, especially. He seemed to want to talk, did not avoid a single question, volunteered some details, and confirmed and/or gave me the following information in answer to my questions (note: these are not direct quotes from Wayne, but summaries in my words of notes I took on our conversation):
1. Although he parted company with Bert and AP in 1998, because of his part in founding AP and having been associated with it for almost twenty years, the AP board asked him to come to Montgomery for consultation last week. He was there for five days in their discussions.
2. As a result of these consultations and discussions concerning evidence of Bert’s sinful behavior, he was dismissed on May 24.
3. Wayne confirmed that he had suspicions about some of Bert’s personal behavior when he parted company with him in 1998, but nothing concrete enough to tell others. He left specifically because of (a) Bert's controlling personality, (b) his wanting to use Wayne's name while giving him no voice in AP's operation, and (c) his plagiarism of material Wayne had written.
4. The Eastern Meadows Church in Montgomery withdrew its sponsorship of AP in 2003 because of accusations concerning Bert's homosexual behavior (likely, related to or provoked by the aforementioned incident Darrell Conley relayed, in which Brad Harrub defended Bert).
5. When I asked, in light of these accusations, why the W. Palm Beach, FL, elders accepted AP’s oversight, Wayne said, “You know Bert. He can put a good research paper together and is a good talker. They allowed Bert to talk his way out of the accusations and accepted AP's oversight.”
6. Brad Harrub (AP senior staff member) confronted Bert about 7 weeks earlier (mid to late April) (a) over the huge indebtedness Bert had accrued for AP, (b) over his alleged mishandling of funds, plus (c) his objection to some facet (Wayne didn’t elaborate) of the intern program. Bert summarily fired Brad.
7. Bert has had homosexual partners since at least 1985. Wayne told me he had received an e-mail message only the day before our conversation from the earliest of Bert’s partners who has thus far come forward, confirming the 1985 date.
8. Bert's youngest known partner thus far was 16 at the time, which age, by Alabama law, allows one to engage in "consensual sex," which prevents Bert from being charged with a felony count of sex with a child.
9. None of the AP interns has thus far accused Bert of advances toward them.
10. AP has canceled the intern program.
11. Wayne's evaluation of this mess: "It will prove to be the greatest scandal in the church in my lifetime.”
The items listed
above I trust as absolutely factual because they came from a credible witness
who was in on all of the consultations and has seen all of the documentation
thus far regarding Bert and the AP crisis.
Other Information and Sources
From other sources I have been told the following (confirmed or not confirmed, as noted):
1. Dave Miller has been named "Interim Executive Director" (confirmed on the AP Website and by letter in “explanation” packet, as of 6/6/05; see below).
2. Dave Miller is one of three AP Board Members (AP Website).
3. Sister Thompson has sued Bert for divorce (various sources).
4. Bert responded to the invitation at Panama St. in Montgomery (where Frank Chesser preaches and where most of the AP staff were/are members) on May 25 (confirmed by Frank Chesser). I do not know what Bert confessed.
5. AP mailed “Explanation” packets on June 2, and at least some received them on June 6. The packets contained four documents, consisting of three letters and a “Statement of Support.”
a) The first letter, dated May 31, was an “Open Letter to Contributors and Friends of Apologetics Press” from the Palm Beach Lakes elders, West Palm Beach, FL, AP’s overseeing congregation. This letter announced its support of the AP Board “when they terminated Dr. Bert’s association with AP.” It stated that he had “struggled with long-term, deep-seated personal sins in his life which made this action necessary.” It also said (as noted above), that he has confessed his sins (for which we rejoice, it should go without saying). The second paragraph assumes that brother Thompson has enemies who will rejoice and delight in and gloat over this “terrible tragedy.” While none should be interested in exacting “a pound of flesh,” surprisingly, the letter seems to seek compassion for the sinner more so than for those against whom he sinned. This letter also announced that the AP Board has named Dave Miller as the “Interim Executive Director.” The letter asked for increased “financial and moral support” “for the next two years then make an evaluation.”
b) The second letter, dated May 25, was from brother Thompson, titled “An Open Letter to the Brotherhood.” He said: “For some time now, I have been struggling with some personal sins in my life,” which made it obvious that he was no longer the “best choice to lead the work forward for the next quarter century.” He boasted of assembling the “finest staff in the brotherhood” and urged the continuation of financial support for AP.
c) The third letter, undated, was from brother Dave Miller. It was on a new AP letterhead, which lists him simply as “Executive Director” (rather than “interim Executive Director” as the Palm Beach Lakes elders had called him in their letter and as he identified himself after his signature at the close of the letter). His first paragraph expresses regret over the departure of brother Thompson from AP and spends considerable time praising him. It closes with a reference to his succumbing to “personal sin.” After a second paragraph touting the excellence of AP staff, plans, and work, the remainder of the letter is basically a financial appeal, admitting that for months AP had been engaging in “deficit spending.” Strangely, brother Harrub’s name appears on the new AP letterhead, although (as referenced earlier) Bert had dismissed him from AP several weeks earlier. Neither his dismissal nor his reinstatement are mentioned in any letters.
d) The fourth document, titled “Statement of Support,” also undated, carries the following header: “We, the undersigned, wish to announce that we have complete confidence that Apologetics Press is on a firm footing that will insure its continued work of excellence. We commend AP to the brotherhood and recommend that it continue to be the recipient of financial and moral support.” It was “signed” by sixty men.
June 8, 2005