The Calvary Chapel Chronicles
“We all have stories.
Everybody knew. Nobody knew. Everybody was talking. Nobody spoke.
The old man had become an icon, a yet to be beatified saint who was beloved by both the masses and those who he had provided opportunity for as anointed, designated little replicas of himself. A movement had been spawned through his efforts and the efforts of another who was neither spoken of or beatified. The “other one” was both gay and reckless, full of both the Spirit and unholy passions. Such stories were not to be repeated, such men were not to be remembered. The old man was “Papa” and “Pastor” to thousands upon thousands and had been so for over forty years. He too was full of the Spirit…and had, at least once, fallen to his own unholy passions.
The masses knew nothing of this terrible secret, but it had a life and voice of it’s own. It would often speak to the old man that it had neither gone away, nor been forgotten. Those who had been there, been around the throne in the beginning when the Spirit did it’s first work knew…and the secret would remind the old man that they did. The children, of course, knew, and they never let him forget. He never did, and never could.
The secret was the true ruler of the ever growing realm. When one of his anointed men would fall to their own desires they would remind Papa gently of his own fall with the expectation that they too would receive the mercy that had been given him. The secret was also helpful in securing loans from the old mans mothership…loans with easy terms and occasional forgiveness. The children would invoke the secret to begin their own ventures with his money and some would still be trying to acquire more of it even after he was dead. The secret drove the man and the movement for decades and it still rules today, even though most are unaware of it’s existence or power. The key to the power of the secret was of it’s own nature. If many knew, or God forbid the public found it out, the secret would lose the power it granted those in the know to use it for the own ends. If the old man were to be sprung from the captivity of his self imposed prison by the truth, he might expose everyone the secret had granted clemency to. Worse, the cash flow would dry up…both from the true believers that supported them and from the old mans loan fund. A new rule must be made, a new custom enforced. It would come to be known as the “no talk” rule.”
That was to be my way of informing the world that Chuck Smith had (at least one) moral failure in his past.
The story of Calvary Chapel cannot be told without both acknowledging this and acknowledging that the attempt to keep it secret colored the ecclesiology, doctrine, and history of the movement.
Smith told Christianity Today in 2007:
“Smith says he practices restoration and that pastors who have been restored to ministry after sexual sin have gone on to run successful ministries. “If they repent, we do seek to restore in a spirit of meekness, considering ourselves lest we be tempted,” Smith says. “We feel that we have a biblical basis [for doing so].”
If pastors repent and enter counseling, Smith says, they should not be forced to leave the pulpit permanently. “I can tell you of many ministers, great ministers, whom we’ve been in the process of helping restore, and fortunately the problems never became public and so people are not even aware of them. I feel that that’s an honor to God.”
He spoke from his own experience…
The emphasis on the “no talk” rule, the “Moses Model”, and the implied threat of judgment if one were to “touch God’s anointed”… all were standard evangelical fare placed on steroids to try to dissipate the dark cloud that never brought forth rain.
All of these set a standard for the first and second generations of CC pastors who knew of that fall, many of whom did not have the measure of the Spirit that Smith possessed despite his past.
The behaviors became part of the Calvary Chapel DNA even for those with nothing to hide.
They persist to this day.
This report should not be construed as an attack on Smith…it’s simply part of the historical record that must be recognized.
No one paid for covering this sin like Smith himself…he was often afraid of exposure and people used knowledge of his past to manipulate and coerce him to do things that benefitted themselves.
It is simply critical to know in order to understand why so many things were handled as they were.
There will be those who demand proof of such an allegation as if adultery were recorded by its participants in legal journals.
There is none of that, there are only the testimonies of dozens of people for almost two decades to me, people who still occupy positions of authority in both sides of the split movement.
The details have disappeared in the mists of time and fading memory, but the truth still impacts the group to this very day in ways we’ll explore in later articles.
There is another thing which cannot be overlooked or minimized…that being that despite what is known about Chuck Smith, he was God’s chosen man to lead this revival and the institution that arose out of it.
God is not afraid of paradox or paradoxical people…they are what He has to work with…