Should The Potters Field Survivors Sue PFM?

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29 Responses

  1. “Potters Field Ministries is not a church, it is that modern hybrid, the “parachurch” ministry.

    It is not even under the authority of a church.”

    Exactly. Two more points:

    Mud man was a secular job.

    One could say that by retaining counsel, that the Rozells are the ones violating biblical principles of resolving conflicts between believers.

  2. Michael says:

    TNV…yes.
    I was pressed for time, but I should have also noted that these outfits are run as businesses, not as churches…

  3. Not an Attorney says:

    Based on the Rozell’s response or lack thereof, PFM/Mudman and related entities do not represent the work of God in the context of 1Cor6:1-8. The Rozells have not demonstrated any evidence of repentance or reconciliation but rather only “damage control” with their counsel’s press releases. Their behavior only reinforces the idea that if things were reversed, they would have no problem suing or quieting a person thru a SLAPP lawsuit, thus 1Cor6 shouldn’t even be a consideration point in this matter. The very fact that PFM leadership was unable to handle this in a Christ honoring matter means that it now inevitably has to be decided by heathen judges or by out of court settlements.

    It is interesting why the aggrieved PFM workers haven’t consulted with a California based law firm as they would have higher odds of a successful suit and settlement award against PFM under California Law. The fact an entity doesn’t have to be based in California and still be held liable for wrongdoing makes a lawsuit and punitive damages against PFM and the Rozells a real possibility. Possible violations of CA law could range from unfair competition, wage and hour/labor law, health and safety, non profit, and so on.

    The above is simply for informational purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice. If you need legal advice make sure to consult with a licensed attorney preferably based in California.

  4. Jeff Sheckstein says:

    “Between brothers” and “against one another” is clearly speaking to people suing other people…here Christians.

    PFM is a legal entity, not a person in the strictest legal sense. I have absolutely no reservation bringing a lawsuit against a church, as opposed to individuals, so long as first an effort has been made under Matthew 18 to remedy the conflict and address the damages suffered.

    Since it is likely that the valuable assets in this situation are titled in PFM, that is where you go anyways.

    From another perspective, those who allegedly suffer from cult-like treatment and experiences, as I have experienced, typically are highly ambivalent about confronting the offending party or entity and when they become determined to seek compensation, it is well after the statute of limitations has passed.

  5. Michael says:

    Jeff, I’m going to add this to the article as soon as I get home. Thank you for that clarity…

  6. Em says:

    i may have mentioned this before, if so… forgive me
    there was an instance where our next door neighbors, Christians, tore down our fence without saying a word to us. I spoke to them about it, pointing out that the houses were new when we moved in and that our fence had gone up using the surveyor’s markers. Their response was, in essence, you are a liar the people we bought from (a used car salesman) told us that you had put up the fence on their property (they previous owners knew better and thanked us at the time for giving them a little extra property – we put it up one foot inside the boundary line)…
    So?
    So we thought about getting a surveyor out – costly – just to prove to our Christian neighbors that we’d told the truth and that they were wrong and force them to tear down their new fence. We finally decided that, no, they were fellow Believers and, no matter what they thought of us, a quarrel to reclaim one foot of property down the boundary was unseemly.
    I think had the previous owners done this, we would have just torn down their fence, pounded our posts back in and restrung our fence. The previous owner was into witchcraft and we didn’t owe them the time of day.
    If there is anything to be gained, including exposing publicly these PFM operators who have besmirched (like that one?) the name of Christ Jesus, i cannot see that taking them to task in court is ungodly…. at least that is how it looks from up here in the mountains on a foggy, foggy wet day 🙂

  7. Eric says:

    I disagree on the first point, but agree on the other two.

    I think the 1 Cor principle applies regardless of what organisations are involved or which churches the people belong to.

    If I were defrauded by a brother in good standing in a church and could sort it out 1-to-1, I might approach his pastor, who might turn out to be a mediator. (I admit I get around amongst church leaders more than the average layperson). If the pastor agrees with what happens, the pastor will want the brother to repent (for his own Christian walk). If he doesn’t, well he’s not going to be excommunicated but may at least be “not quite in good standing” – known by his church family to be in the wrong in some way.

    Although there is no formal line of accountability here, the question then is what churches are the ‘defendants’ relationally connected to, where do any financial support or recruits come from? We would want a leader who could not only listen to ‘plaintiffs’ and bring defendants to the table, but if defendants are clearly in the wrong, they should be able to say – even though there’s no ecclesial authority, they can at least say – “We recognise that these guys have hurt God’s people. They haven’t apologised nor taken seriously what they’ve done. They are not worthy of the Church’s further support.”

    And McCoy seems to have started as some sort of mediator, but has he had anything to say? It would be nice to have that previously neutral party who has “heard the case” go on to say “They haven’t acted like a Christian in this matter, they still are not; you therefore don’t need to treat them like one”.

  8. JesusFreak says:

    Em,

    It must have been a struggle to let go in that situation. I think you and I agree on the spirit behind the scripture passage – that we are to avoid legal conflicts as a way to show how Christ works in us to be ‘different’ from the world.

    Michael,

    I hope you are okay with healthy disagreement. We are not promised justice in this earthly life, only suffering. This is coming from someone who is (transparently) struggling with finding a way to ‘love’ the Rozelles not only based on some personal situations but also based on the stories I’ve read here. (And I did read them all).

    But struggle I must.

    Side note: I find it interesting that 4 verses after the Matthew 18 Correction passage, we find this:

    21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

    22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”

    Nowhere in those two verses does it demand that the sinner repent, confess, or ask for forgiveness first…

  9. Steve says:

    The only authority they have is to remove you from the CCA database and rescind their approval…which they’ve done.
    ___________________________________
    Regarding the first point, it’s not really authority we need, it is influence. The same influence that gave power to this mess which which we know was CC and Don McClure need to more than just distance themselves. They gave birth to it from their marketing, to their theology of no accountability to their annual endorsement of the potterfield show. They have ended the endorsement and the heavy marketing of PFM but the undergirded theology of Moses model, one man show celebrity pastor and so on hasn’t changed a wink. So to at least prevent another GFA or PFM from popping up, they need to address this ecclesiastical problem or own these messes instead of just walking away

  10. Michael says:

    JesusFreak,

    Forgiving someone does not remove either the consequences of sin or the biblical standards of leadership.
    We are not promised justice, but we are called to pursue it, especially in the church.

  11. Xenia says:

    Em made the right choice about the fence.

    From this small example of Christian piety, a larger application can be made.

    Hanging onto hurts and grievances will only make people sick. Even if you win some form of justice for yourselves you might find the victory to be hollow.

  12. Michael says:

    Xenia,

    I would respectfully disagree.
    Piety that leaves people crushed and confused with the expectation to act as if they’re not is far more dangerous.
    This scandal, (along with all the other abuse in the universal church) seems to say that God is on the side of the abusers and there are no standards for those who procure a job in leadership.
    There is constant pressure on the abused to conform…the abusers, not so much.

  13. Xenia says:

    Michael, I do not think we will ever agree on this topic.

  14. Michael says:

    Xenia,

    and that’s ok… 🙂

  15. JesusFreak says:

    I think you are right, Michael.

    Pursue it in the church. Not the secular courts.

    I realize this is a painful ideal. The lack of formal denominational CC structure (because of the individual franchise model) makes it even more difficult.

    Taking the issue “to the church” in this case requires more innovative solutions. But it has to come from those actually wronged, not those of us who hurt for them and desire justice.

    Random curiosity: did anyone else notice that the lawyer statement says “the Rozells have always been paid ONLY a salary annually determined by the Board of Directors”- as if to absolve them of any salary wrongdoing – without mentioning that Mike and Pam apparently make up 1/3 of the board (per Michael’s investigation)? Do they recuse themselves during those discussions?

  16. Michael says:

    There is no place in the church to pursue it.
    That’s why the abuse across the board in evangelicalism flourishes…because there is no place yet we demand that these issues only be addressed in the non existent place …

  17. Duane Arnold says:

    It seems to me that a few matters are being conflated here… Firstly, working conditions, hours and payment for work (and the added on “volunteer” time) are all matters of state law and, therefore, violations have a proper place for adjudication. Merely identifying oneself as a Christian does not excuse one from such adjudication. I assume, for instance, that the believers reading this pay taxes, try to obey the traffic laws, etc. When pulled over for speeding, I’ve not yet tried saying, “Officer, are you a Christian…”

    Secondly, while we know of abuse that has taken place, we do not know as of yet the full extent of what has taken place. There are now laws in certain states that take into account certain abusive situations in churches that church leaders are required to report.

    Finally, financial and/or not-for-profit board irregularities are also monitored by the state by law. The fiduciary responsibilities of a board remain the same… whether they identify as Christians or not.

    PFM is not exempt from any of the above…

  18. Michael says:

    Thank you, Duane…

  19. JesusFreak says:

    Some counterpoints to Duane:

    To the first point: legal, civil remedies clearly existed in Paul’s time as well. And yet he essentially says “don’t go there”.

    Second point: your speeding analogy is invalid because in that case you are the one doing the ‘sinning’, not the one being sinned against.

    Third point: see the first point.

  20. Duane Arnold says:

    JF

    The remedies I pointed towards are, in the main, criminal rather than civil… and my speeding analogy (while valid) is a small attempt at humor.

  21. JeffSheckstein says:

    Duane

    Not to be too disagreeable Duane (especially given my regard for you based upon your articles and comments on this blog), but states and their respective attorney generals commit absolutely zero oversight and resources to oversight of non-profits in their states. Neither does the IRS. As such, there is no inquiry and ensuing accountability to boards of non profits and they know it.

    Moreover, I do believe most states even impose”fiduciary “ responsibilities on board members of non profits, which is the highest legal standard imposed on such entities. Typically, a board member, who is not paid for performing in this capacity, need only act in a “reasonable” manner…a far lower standard of oversight. At least that is the way it was in CA as of 15 years ago. Given this standard, it is highly unlikely a non profit board member of a church would ever be personally at risk financially for what may amount to egregious decision making. Therefore, these members are free to allow the abuses many times found in the church, be it leadership behavior, compensation, etc.

    Xenia. Thank you for your thoughts and reluctance to take legal matters into the courts. That sort of thinking Financially drove me from the practice of being a “Christian” lawyer, and returned me to the business world where I belonged. Thank you…thank you…thank you. LOL.

  22. JesusFreak says:

    Duane, are you certain that the issues in play are criminal in the state of Montana?

    I am no lawyer and I do understand that some jurisdictions include criminal penalties for things like wage or hostile work environment issues, but quick research suggests that Montana is not one of them.

  23. Duane Arnold says:

    Jeff

    ” Therefore, these members are free to allow the abuses many times found in the church, be it leadership behavior, compensation, etc.”

    Having served on not-for-profit boards for years, I’m VERY aware of the lack of enforcement and the lax interpretation of fiduciary responsibility. Nevertheless, it is the law (to, as you point out, a greater or lesser extent) and I’ve noticed that when the laws are enforced, it is usually in connection with an abuse situation coming to light – think Michigan State, U of Penn, several RCC dioceses, etc. From what I’ve seen, the laws are there for a purpose, even when they are often ignored by boards. (BTW, I was surprised that even HOA boards have a fiduciary responsibility that from time to time have been the subject of litigation, but my guess is that it is owing to home values!)

  24. Anonymouse says:

    “Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers ,but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?“

    This part keeps me awake at night, particularly the first part; it involves discernment and a generous heart towards believers of different churches/traditions most of the time, I would think.

    There’s a great book and ministry called the Peacemakers who sat down with me and a party there was open conflict with. It was quite unfruitful. But it brought clarity on each of our positions.

    Sadly, it confirmed what a Christian lawyer told
    me:
    “People rarely change their opinion of someone. Even when they lose in court, they will blame luck, the judge, the jury, or something else. Once their mind is made up, they won’t reconsider no matter what the facts are.
    May this change in every believer’s heart!
    We all know people (including ourselves?) that have concrete believes about others: thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.

  25. Steve says:

    Duane, did you mean Penn State? You said U of Penn and it threw me off. As a graduate from Penn State, the Paterno and Jerry Sandusky scandal sickened me.

  26. Duane Arnold says:

    Steve,

    Yes, I meant Penn State…

  27. Tober Mory says:

    Court of law doesnt care about your Bible verses. Nor does it actually care about what you think. Bring to it substantial evidence and maybe something will happen.

  28. The Roselle won’t be sued, but the organization PFM in whatever form is left.

    Not to go off on a tangent, but when my then not quite 3 year old daughter indicated that her uncle muff be molesting her, I didn’t confront him, I went to the police station to make a report and secular authorities handled it. It was the hardest thing I ever did on many levels because I loved the kid. I found out later that her mom had previously gone to her mother over some things both kids had said and grandma dismissed it all.

    Yes, I forgive my ex BIL, but boundaries are in place. Cops descending upon their home made the point. Family failed. The church family failed here, though Don finally stepped in, but there is still no accountability. Secular authorities can do God’s justice upon earth. This isn’t a case of a property violation between Christian neighbors looking bad in small claims court, it’s so much bigger. It’s a violation of hearts and souls.

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