I have not been able to rid myself of the idea that Pastor Michael Dunlap was not sent to Avondale United Methodist Church to rescue the church but dissolve it. He may have balanced the church budget, but at the expense of every pastoral sentiment. He certainly needs a refresher course on pastoral counselling and having a pastoral heart.
I do not come to the above statement lightly. It cuts cross-grain with one of my key guiding principles, the compassion principle. Simply stated, if someone does something that doesn’t seem compassionate to you, it most likely was intended to be compassionate, but differences of perspective make it hard for me to see, so I should give all effort to understanding it and benefit of the doubt to the other person.
It chagrins me to say this, but I have done my due diligence with Pastor Dunlap, and there is no compassion there. I haven’t missed it, it just isn’t there. Whether he was sent to close the church or to save it, that is still uncertain, and a more complicated question.
But there must be something besides shepherding a flock of sheep, because he has absolutely no pastoral heart and skill.
I mean, unless berating the person who comes to you for pastoral counselling is what they teach in seminary these days.
Going hand in hand with this is to not solve problems but find other people to blame.
I mean, to be quite open, some of the people reading this well know that Pastor Michael Dunlap and I don’t see eye to eye on some things. Dunlap is having a problem over my interrupting his (note, he calls it “his” service, more on that later). My reply, which he is choosing to ignore and suppress, is that the interruption is his fault, because for nine months I had been warning him about an issue that should have been his responsibility as pastor, a responsibility he chose to ignore. It is the pastor’s responsibility to ensure that the church auditorium is more than an auditorium, that is a sanctuary, a place of safety. I told him it was not safe for me to attend services, because he wasn’t keeping the church a safe place. He did nothing.
And when I did attend church, and the actions of others around me proved my point, that the place wasn’t safe, wasn’t a sanctuary, rather than try to finally correct the issue, he tried to kill the messenger. Instead of protecting the sheep he became one more wolf tearing at the flock.
And he is not alone in this. I have not yet determined whether he is orchestrating and leading his co-conspirators down the path they follow, or whether they are leading him and go there willingly.
What I do know is that Judy Everly, Judy Jensen, and Elizabeth Boman, later joined by Paster Dunlap that Sunday, agreed that they would help me. They would help me by using their resources to find me an advocate to guide me through the civil rights and church safety issues that I was encountering. Nothing was mentioned at that meeting about problems between me and the church, and I apologized to Rev. Dunlap if the intensity of my convictions had come across somewhat belligerent to him as the intensity of how he stated his positions to me seemed obviously belligerent. I exercised my compassion principle and assured him I knew he meant them all for good.
When we got back together for a phone conference on Thursday, nothing was mentioned about the advocate. There was a list of things I was expected to do, mental health professionals I was expected to see. I needed to do this and let them know I had done it before I could come back to the church. I looked over the list and said “I have already done, and am continuing to do all the things on your list, so I can come back right now. But since you have a different list of providers, I will go to all of them see if they can provide any additional insight, just to show my sincerity and intent to keep everything clear.
I was a fool to agree to this an attempt to sound reasonable. I keep on forgetting that when there is a issue to be resolved I cannot get the other party to take any steps closer to understanding me by agreeing to cooperate on one of their issues. It just teaches them that their issues trump mine and that mine aren’t important.
Which is what they did. Ignoring the person you are counselling and focusing on getting your own greedy needs met must be a new pastoral counseling prinicple. At least it is in the school of pastoral counseling that Rev. Dunlap is promoting.
From Sun up to past Sun Down I visited everyone they requested me to, and let them know it was done, just as we had agreed. And on Friday morning I received a letter that they had composed right after the conference call on Thursday. The letter lied, deceived, and was coercive. It showed they didn’t listen to what was said, but made up, out of whole cloth, responses I was supposed to have said, and recorded it as if I had said it.
My seeking treatment and their taking my word for its completion was turned into “and provide current documentation of this treatment.” I had asked them for help with someone who was violating my civil rights through attempting to access my HIPAA information, and instead they required me to give them even greater access to my medically private information than that other person had done. I insisted on getting a non-disclosure agreement from them first, a request that they didn’t even acknowledge.
My apology if my intensity had come across as belligerent was turned into an acknowledgement that I had engaged in inappropriate behavior:
1)disruptive outburst and behavior in worship on Sunday, Aug. 21 2022
2) repeatedly sending messages to staff and church members that are disturbing to recipients
3)Engaging in behaviors considered threatening to several different church attendees.
I knew what was meant by the first item, but it was never mentioned as disruptive during the phone call. And items 2 and 3 weren’t even discussed or mentioned, so there I have no idea what events are being talked about, and so could have in no was admitted wrong to something I didn’t even know existed. I had explained clearly to all four of them the actions of several different church attendees that had been threatening my safety for nine months, but no one ever detailed what actions of mine were deemed threatening by others.
And since they were never mentioned to me, the cabal of four conveniently didn’t have to list or review the items with me, so we could see their merit or lack thereof. The items I mentioned were clearly detailed and backed up as clear and present threats to my physical safety. They operated under no such limitations of truth and fact.
In total disregard of our discussion, they required me to get mental health treatment, and ignored all the factual statements I had provided about my past and currently ongoing use of mental health professionals. “It is paramount that you continue to seek mental health support” makes it sound like they were coming up with some great new advice, when they were actually taking credit for my work and denying it to me.
The letter is riddled with the sort of errors made by the legal novice. They “Required” me to do this and that. Arrogantly ordering me around in total disregard of my civil rights, which they have no respect for. When asked a follow up question Rev. Dunlap explained that his lawyer had ordered him to do so. If so, he has a very poor and arrogant lawyer. Neither a lawyer nor the church can “require” me to do anything. They can “request’ but not “require.’
They then proved that those rainbow pride flags and tie dye signs they keep putting outside are total lies. I was no longer welcome at the church for a list of functions way to long to give any more validity to by listing. And the list of actions I was not allowed to take was a list of items I had not done nor would do, but listing them that way was innuendo enough for them to suggest without saying that I have. and/or might willing do them.
(Note, the Innuendo Pastoral Counseling class has been renumbered from 201 to 106 because it has been found more foundational to the curriculum than previously thoughct.)
Hopefully some of you that know me are. somewhat surprised by the ascerbic nature of my comments. Just be aware I am still holding back quite a lot. I’ve held back since I was 11 years old when I made the decision that this is not the sort of person that I wanted to be on a regular basis but I realized the Lord has given me the capability and at this point when people won’t listen to kind and calm reason it’s the only and kind of weapon I’ve got left to help bring them back to the compassion that the Lord intends for them. My Lord prefers a more compassionate win-win outlook from me.
But since the church is no longer his, but Dunlap’s, I am allowed a different latitude. After all, this is not the open table of the Wesley’s, but the closed table of the Pharisees.