Yet another painful Calvary Chapel story

When I first saw this story, I blanked out and said to myself, “Surely this must be a follow-up story on that San Bernardino Sun item that Ted Olsen at the Christianity Today blog wrote up. It must be strange for the Los Angeles Times to have to chase a story like that.”

Then I noticed that the names were all different, even though some of the facts and themes about the Calvary Chapel world seemed somewhat similar. This is, in fact, a whole new story full of all kinds of painful twists and turns for the charismatic superstar Chuck Smith and the 1,100 or so independent congregations that grew out of his Jesus People revivals so long ago in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

So is there is some kind of virus making the rounds these days in the world of hyper-independent charismatic superchurches in Southern California? What is the bigger story here, something deeper than all the painful human details of “he said,” “they said,” “he denied”?

Here is where reporters Roy Rivenburg (a friend of mine, I should note) and Donna Horowitz begin to focus on a larger question: What kind of oversight exists in all of these independent congregations, which operate from sea to shining sea as one of the most powerful change elements in modern American Protestantism? Who is supposed to come to the aid of Pastor Joe Sabolick and his estranged older brother, Pastor George Sabolick, and all of the sheep who are loyal to one or the other? Who is in charge?

That would seem to be the police, the lawyers and, like it or not, Chuck Smith. Is that the reality woven into this sad tale?

. . . Smith didn’t let his protege entirely off the hook. Sabolick showed “perhaps a carelessness in finances,” Smith said. He cited two examples: In one, Sabolick used a church credit card to buy boots and clothes for a visiting Australian singer whose shoes were held together with duct tape.

In another, while trying to help a young girl, he “gave her things and it was misinterpreted as a romantic gesture. Joe is a very giving person, but you’ve got to keep better records on spending.”

Sabolick’s touchy-feely manner didn’t help, Smith said. When asked if he advised Sabolick to curb displays of physical affection, Smith replied: “Oh my, yes. Billy Graham says don’t touch the money and don’t touch the girls.”

But Smith saw no reason to bar Sabolick from the ministry. In recent weeks, the Calvary patriarch has tried to broker a settlement of the lawsuit. The only sticking point Smith sees is calculating how much the Laguna church owes Sabolick for severance pay and unreturned personal items versus how much Joe owes the church for funds borrowed for “some projects,” Smith said.

But hammering out a compromise might not be so simple, despite Smith’s hopes.

Millions of Americans love their totally independent congregations that form around charismatic leaders who can unleash fire in the pulpit. But if things go wrong, what then? This is the upside-down, mirror-image story to the Roman Catholic scandals, where people are turning up the heat — rightly so — on the bishops. Well, what do you do when you have no bishops?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://blog.jlleblanc.com Joseph LeBlanc

    “Well, what do you do when you have no bishops?”

    From what I’ve seen, you usually head down the road a few miles and start up another church.

  • Stephen A.

    Having no denominational accountability is the downside of these independent churches.

    When I was attending a Presbyterian church years ago, it was somehow comforting to know the minister’s salary was set by, and his job depended on, the Deacons. And we all knew his salary. It was public knowledge.

    I asked my fundamentalist friends at the time and they had no idea how much thier pastors made, or how many “gifts” they were given by congregants. Apparently, that’s a problem.

    Developing systems of accountability would be a good idea for these folks, too.

  • http://www.kennypearce.net Kenny Pearce

    Your trackback ignores me (no error message), so I’m posting this link to my response directly:

    On the Independence of Calvary Chapel Congregations

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2 Douglas LeBlanc

    Thanks for mentioning the Trackback problem, Kenny, and I’m glad you’ve posted your link here.

    We’ll try to figure out whether there’s some technical solution to the problem you encountered.

  • http://n/a ah

    I’m a hiring consultant who “does” personality tests, and temperament/inclination is one big factor here. Take a Myers Briggs “N” for “big picture,” “F” for “feeling,” and “P” for spontaneous and a bit cluttered, into a realm that requires caution, records, and accounting ["S"/facts "T"/thinking and"J"/orderly strongly preferred], and the expectations are unrealistic.

    Combine this with a bit of messianic secrecy and control-freak, so that no one else with a complementary set of skills has equal access to information and policy, and eventually things fall apart, even without guilty goings-on.

    Especially with.

    Same syndrome is pervasive in “community-based” not-for-profits.

    May be naivete, more often too stingy to hire somebody and too impatient to interface with them and submit to procedure.

  • Patty Keyes

    Christians love to go to see a charismatic leader, but if there isn’t any accountability within the church, then sooner or later, they’ll find a reason to leave. In my experience, there are three types of Leavers: 1. the guy who gets offended by another attendee’s personality, and whether from lack of reconciliation tools, or cowardice, leaves to attend a “better” church. 2. the gal who gets wind of scandal and “can’t worship with a bunch of sinners, and a leadership who lies”, because she can’t ‘get into the feeling’ of worship if there are known sinners around. But she can gossip about it when she’s gone! 3. People who leave because when the inevitable arises (“where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there will be conflict!”) they don’t have any sense of responsibility to reach the immediate neighborhood. Missions to them is all happening overseas. The idea that their own integrity before their community counts for a great deal is foreign.

    The idea that in situations like this someone should come clean publically is just not conceivable, and since they don’t care to maintain a consistent witness within that particular neighborhood (they probably commuted 10 miles anyway), leaving has no consequences to their minds. Even though the people that live in the immediate neighborhood are left with a sorry image of Christ—a sorry example of love and forgiveness, of truth and justice, when none of these things are the outcome of a church conflict.

    We are all to have a ministry of reconciliation. ALL OF US. Our personal testimony has no value without the positive approval of the rest of our local faith body. It is how we live together in love and peace that compels the unsaved to say there is a God. Breaking fellowship is to me the gravest sin, and the ugliest mar to Christ’s face as he looks upon the unsaved community.

    More info? see http://www.hispeace.org

  • Stephen A.

    To me, if church leadership is acting irresponsibly and is not being held to account by a ruling body that is itself accountable to the congregation (and perhaps to a denomination with guidelines for congregations) then the “leavers” have a duty to leave, not seek reconciliation with the unaccountable leaders.

    It seems likely that remaining after one realizes there’s a serious problem in the congregation could result in empowering those leaders to go on to become more controlling and destructive to the spiritual and mental health of the flock.

    When a Fundie friend told me “Pastor Jim” got a brand new Cadillac as a ‘gift’ from the congregation, and that they all felt pressured to donate money for this ‘gift’ by his other family members who ran the church, I was glad to hear this friend and many others left that church and formed their own, even if that caused ‘conflict’ and ‘broke fellowship.’

    Living together in peace and love is great. Being spiritually or materially exploited is not and I can’t see that as God’s will.

  • Rodney

    This is very sad, but the issue seems to be one of 2 things. Either the board of Elder was out of order in what they did to the pastor or the pastor himself was not willing to submit to the Board of Elders authority, But to say that the church does not have a system of accountability (or check and balances), Is unfair.

  • Stephen A.

    If they have an established system of accountability, it seems that it failed here, and from the article, the impression is given that this church is very much run by it’s Leader, who can let someone “off the hook” or “bar them” from the ministry by his words alone.

    Maybe the article wasn’t accurate, though. Educate us.

  • Angela Ruelas

    I think it’s time the TRUTH come out. I know the Sabolick’s personally, Joe, Janelle, Cloe and Annie. Also the Sisco’s-Jim, Jacquelyn, Josh and Bridgette. They are the most sincere and Godly people you will ever met. Maybe God chose Pastor Joe to be His mouth piece and speak the truth. That is what God would want don’t you think? It’s time.

  • http://getreligion.org John Sisco

    I try to read as much as I can of any related comments or stories to this unfortunate event. I thank you all for discussing this. Though I trust my brother and his family, I need to listen to both sides to truly understand the situation and assist in any manner I can, first and foremost through prayer. My brother and I have discussed my position in this matter since I have many friends in ministry who come to me (because they think I can help my brother better) to “inform me of what truly happened”. I trust my brother because I know his character and ministry, but God tells me in Proverbs 18:17 to get both sides of the story.

    First, I must correct the person who stated that a Cadillac was received. Very humorous. I know this person thought they were being helpful, but please refrain from rumors until they can be substantiated. Otherwise, a person becomes as guilty as those that spread false claims of adultery and pedophilia (Now both parties involved in the suit have claimed these accusations were false. I was at the CCLaguna service when the interim pastor, Dennis Davenport of CC High Desert, stated this to the congregation in, as I recall, September 2004. He admonished the congregation to stop spreading these false rumors.) No car, or large gift was ever given to my brother or his family. Sure,typical birthday, Christmas, or graduation gifts were given, but nothing that you or I would judge as exceptional or out of the ordinary.

    Second, I need to stay impartial and read the reviews of others. Even though my own brother and his family are being unjustly attacked, I must listen to all information that can be collaborated as factual. To date, most people who have come to me telling me “what I know that you don’t know is…” has been generated through a rumor mill. When I asked them to ask their source of the information’s merit, it soon was apparent the information provided could not be substantiated and was not factual. They soon apologized for their errors. So I beseech all of you, please refrain from supporting the enemy in his work, use truth to expose the enemy’s work. Build-up the body of believers, even those who have erred against the Sabolick’s and Sisco’s.

    Thank you,

    John

  • http://SiscoKidJimisafriendofmine Greg Cantrell

    “Can’t we all just get along”? God is in control.

  • James

    I attended Joe’s first service at Calvary Marin and one of the most amazing comments he made was how hot the female worship leader was in front of the entire congregation and in front of his family and the Sisco’s. Great way to start a new relationship. Of course, at the time, no one at Marin knew anything about what was going on at CC Laguna. But when I read the story about the lawsuit, I wasn’t surprised due to his inappropriate comments about the worship leader and other comments about “nobody better touch my wife.” (Not to mention the positive confession nonsense). The Calvary “denomination” is imploding, weighed down by its own self-importance. The third generation pastors are out of control. Isn’t it time someone mentioned something? Many 3rd generation Calvary pastors simply want to build a “wood/hay/stubble” empire and be a rock star, not a feeder of the flock. Just ask the sheep.

  • http://www.getreligion.org John Sisco

    Bear with me if you will. In response to James posting on September 18, I would agree if any pastor made such a comment as stated by James it would be inappropriate. I will look into this further to see if this claim of James is an accurate account – can you provide a timeframe or even date? The first time Joe spoke was the Spring of ’05 and as the pastor there in June ’05 as I understand. I suspect that there may be a recorded tape of his teaching that could substantiate this. Could it have been taken out of context or did Joe use poor discernment and the word “hot”? James, did you discuss this with Joe as required by us all (Ezekial 33:7-9, Phil 2:4, 2 Thess 3)? If you did, I would agree you then have merit to inform others of this inappropriate behavior in its proper forum (1 Tim 5:19-21), otherwise, if I may, I believe we (the body) should not be making certain claims that do not lend to help resolve the problems that currently exist. We then become guilty of gossip and misjudgment (John 7:24, James 4:11-12). Some may say let this go, but I feel burdened that Joe should be informed if inappropriate comments had occurred (where is the verse “avoid the appearance of evil”?).

    I will also look into the claims of the positive confession doctrine. I know that this was one of the claims that the CCLaguna staff stated. Are there any statements that you recall that led you to make such as claim? This is important because I agree it is damaging doctrine.

    Finally, with regards to claiming the Calvary “denomination” is imploding due to its own self-importance, I humbly disagree. Yes, there are going to be “Judases” in the Church (Matthew 24:30, John 6:70-71), so we need to act in a godly manner to either correct or expose these problems in a Biblical manner (1 Tim 5:19-20, Eph 5:8-12). I am sure we all know of many problems with all denominations, but let us not forget all the good the Calvary denomination have done through the gracious hand of our loving Savior and Father (John 15:16-17). St. Augustine’s comments come to mind, “In the essentials let there be unity, in the non-essentials let there be liberty, but in all things let there be charity (or love)”.

  • http://www.getreligion.org John Sisco

    As a follow-up, I investigated if Pastor Joe used “hot” when referring to the singer and in what context. I also provided my brother with the link to this blog so he had the full context of the what may have occurred. He indicated that he did recall the message. Joe’s comment was in reference to the worship and the person’s gift of song, not appearance. My brother mentioned that the context of Joe’s comment “was said in a cutting edge edifying manner towards her worship, just like we might say to a pastor ‘Awesome message’ to build-up.” He also said Joe was praising the entire worship band as well. There were none to date that have come forward with a similar claim that Joe’s message or comments were inappropriate. Nonetheless, if a person was offended by a statement, it should be appropriately dealt with in a Biblical manner. So James, we should discuss any offense first with the person who offends us, rather than discuss it with the world first. Fortunately, our God is bigger than our mistakes. Remember, we are called to show mercy.

    In regards to the “positive confession” doctrine, I encourage you to share examples otherwise once again it is all rumors. In the messages of Joe that I have heard, there never was any positive confession, or a hint of it. If the date that this happened was April 24, 2005 (Joe’s first message), I will see if they have a tape of it and listen to it. Also we should all heed some of what Patty Keyes wrote on August 24 in her response to this blog. As mentioned earlier, claims that Joe’s ministry is supporting this type of doctrine were made but no one has presented any proof. Very similar to so many other rumors related to this incident which have been created to try to destroy families, people, and ministry – which unfortunately hurts not only the individuals but the body of Christ as well.

  • James

    Keep drinking the kool-aid — the “context” mentioned above is simply not what was said — I don’t need you to believe anything; God saw it. He’ll deal with it all.

  • http://www.getreligion.org John Sisco

    Either I am missing something here, but it sounds as if I offended you as I read your response. Please let me know, that was not my intention. I agree He will deal with it all. If the “context” is not correct, then God’s word is that you are a responsible party to help make things right. That is the beauty of His plan; He chooses to use us in matters such as these. Dwell and pray on that, He has allowed you to hear something that may not have been proper for a pastor to say. God’s word tells us what we are to do, so now the responsibility lies with you, me, and others that are near to the matter. Apparently you are near to the matter, otherwise you would not have written your first comment.

    As far as the “Kool-aid” comment with the implied tone, was that truly necessary as a Christian? I know you don’t need me to believe you, but I want to know the truth of the matter as much as you.

  • James

    John — in light of your concerns above, it is right and good to take “positive confession” off the table for this discussion because I do not have a transcript

    I am sorry if you interpreted my implied tone to insinuate that you think that I was offended by you — I am offended by the mess the Nicolaitans have created here — it grieves my heart — in my opinion what we are all witnessing is a predictable response by Jesus’ sheep to a lot of backdoor decision-making that had little to do with their well-being — the consequences indicate that the right decisions were not made, but there is no ownership of these mistakes and no mercy shown to the sheep

    As for confrontation, I am confident that most of the parties involved have internet access and computers paid for by their respective churches and are fully aware of the comments and concerns here and are free to comment (except it’s tough to comment when you are in the midst of a lawsuit and depositions, so I guess that’s out) — indeed, dialog here is more productive than most places because of your family ties and the expectation that those in-the-know will be kept up to date (as you previously mentioned providing your brother with a link to this blog) — not all messages need be in the first person when it is clear that such a message would be an exercise in futility (ex. Jesus called Herod a fox without telling him directly, but plainly anticipated his comments would be communicated to him) — ask your brother if Joe did or did not say during that first Marin service (on tape?) that dissenters/troublemakers or some other iteration would not be tolerated (now I see why he said that, with all the trouble at Laguna) — couple that declaration with the pastoral privilege and perceived cronyism enjoyed in the Calvary system and the answer to your confrontation concerns is found in Proverbs and the Gospels (or as would be answered in today’s lingo, “yeah, right . . .”) — I am simply one of maybe 50-100-150 people who heard and saw what I saw; your brother’s comments point out that I was true in my representation of the event

    To quell any concerns you might have that I take offense with you, please understand that I do not even know you and am not responding or commenting directly to you personally; I am simply replying to printed words and ideas that appear on a computer monitor — I truly appreciate your comments, you are directly in the middle of a very tough situation and it may be difficult for you to see this from an objective perspective (I didn’t say you weren’t attempting to do so, or that you weren’t successfully doing so, but that it would be difficult) — you need to pray diligently that your objectivity is not compromised, for your own sake and in your counsel of others — I will pray the same

    It’s just such a shame that these festering issues surrounding the corporate structure of Calvary have now officially eclipsed the “teaching of the Word simply”

  • http://www.getreligion.org John Sisco

    Hey James, thanks for the comments. I agree with you stating that there was a lot of backdoor decision-making. Yes, much of this would have been avoided if dealt with properly, i.e., Matthew 18:15. Instead, those literally in the “backroom” using non-Biblical methods faulted to act; this lack of action sowed and nurtured, this is my opinion, a poor decision – the fruits of which were loose tongues that severely wounded the spirit and reputation of a pastor, a church, a church system, a godly man, a godly woman, and a godly little girl. And let us not forget about the Body.

    With regards to utilizing this blog to create dialogue, I agree again, this is a productive way to discuss the church issues and accounts regarding this dastardly incident and how it affects the Body. It only occurred to me to seek out what was being said on the internet since during my travels for work, I had met two different people, on separate trips, within 2 months of each other who had brought this matter up during our conversation (we had struck up spiritual conversation while waiting on the tarmac). I thought it was only fair to inform the other party before they proceeded with the topic further of my relation to the incident. As one would suspect there were various versions of what was occurring; thus, my current involvement with this blog.

    I will not comment much on the statement that pastoral privileges and perceived cronyism is enjoyed by the Calvary system except to say, I have seen these aspects with all types of denominations. It is a valuable statement that has been said if a person finds the perfect church, they should not join it because it will not be perfect anymore. I can also bear witness to Kenny Pearce’s succinct piece on the Calvary system (see the link in his comment posted August 23, 2005). The Calvary system has a structure similar to the original form of Church government according to Halley’s Bible Handbook, 24th ed., Church History: Original Form of Church Government, page 767. Briefly, it states the churches were independent of each other, but shepherded by a board of pastors. The main leader eventually was referred to as the Bishop. So we can say, yes, the Calvary system has Bishops.

    Thankfully, I was saved through the work of the Holy Spirit in Calvary’s functional and systematic teaching of God’s word. I have also been humbled by my own spoken comments regarding other churches or followings. In a Bible study at work, I was amazed at listening how some were saved (e.g., one Jewish friend informed me how he was saved by watching the televised teachings of Dr. Gene Scott). Dr. Scott’s teachings had intersected the path of righteousness at which my friend was saved. He only followed Dr. Gene Scott momentarily after being saved. He spiritually returned to the cross-roads where he was saved and then continued along the path of righteousness with a new church. Now these words do not mean I am supporting any doctrine that mentions the name of Jesus, but I am stating that I have witnessed God’s amazing grace in many ways. But once a person is saved, he must pick up his cross daily, and follow Christ – not man. We are allowed to condemn the actions of a man, but not condemn a man for his actions. That is left to the Judge.

    Yes, it is difficult to be objective and neutral in this situation, and I am not saying I am doing a good job with it. My hopes and prayers are that what I bring to this dialogue is factual information that bears witness to the truth. What most everyone here has brought to this dialogue is instrumental to me, strengthening my faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and I thank you all. There is so much more I can say but I will not because, as a stated before, the first to present his case seems right, until another comes along to set the story straight (Proverbs 18:17). If I can not collaborate or substantiate the information, I refrain from sharing it. The old man in me tries so often to resurrect itself, and believe me it is difficult when I hear what is said from both sides on this matter, whether through my brother’s testimony, articles, or some other party. This matter is literally just a type of Kora’s rebellion (Numbers 16) when others want to take over a ministry, and the papers have reported that it stems from financial improprieties (which I believe are true, but their degree of maliciousness, I am waiting like us all to here). A hint in agreement to your reference of the Nicolaitans.

    Finally, (yes, I know I am long winded, but like I said, this helps me grow and I hope it helps others as well), to cut to the chase, should Joe still be in the pulpit? My vote is yes. A group of pastors also have said yes (I have a copy of the letter that was sent out by Chuck Smith with regards to an investigation of a few, if I may say, ‘bishops’ and Chuck that Joe was improperly disqualified as the pastor of CC Laguna). Once again, there appears to be financial improprieties, but we do not exactly know what that is, so I will not go there until God reveals that to us. Our God is a God of restoration (Amen!). If He is not, then what should we say about Abraham (the lying and deception to King Abimelech), Isaac (the lying and deception to King Abimelech as well), Moses (the killing of an Egyptian), and David (adultery and murder)? Should our Lord have kicked them out of His plan for what has been recorded? The book of 2 Corinthians talks about those in ministry and being hit from every side, but still pressing on and being commended by God to be in ministry.

    When I read in Revelations 3:5, I see the beauty in this verse. We all start with our names written in the Book of Life. We all have an equal chance with God (though some of our trials appear different, God knows what we can handle – 1 Corinthians 10:12-13). It is only at a time in our life, or at our death, that our name may be blotted out (i.e., blaspheming against the witness of the Holy Spirit). Examples that come to mind are King Ahab and Queen Jezebel while still alive, prophecies of damnation were said against them, Judas had a time in his life when Satan entered his heart, Pharaoh was hardened in his heart, etc.). So I do not see God finished with Joe or his ministry, the Calvary Chapel system, or my brother, his family, and their ministry – and I am not saying anyone implied any of them are condemned. I am only trying to state that God is faithful to complete the good work that He started in each of us, but we must allow Him to do His work and not hinder it. Until then, may we all find the God’s blessings in all of our trials and triumphs! God, please bring us all to confess our sins and let Job Chapter 42:10-17 rain down on this situation, in your Sons glorious and holy name. Amen!

  • Scott Mahathey

    My experience with the several Calvary pastors I have known has gradually given me reason be be concerned about Calvary Pastors as a whole: There seems to be little acountabilty for these men. Most board members and even elders sometimes do not even attend their appointed churches, neither do they even seem to have regular, formal board meetings. The elders do not really challenge pastors and tend to allow most things a pastor wants to do. There is little day to day oversight (by elders or board) of church activity at Calvary’s. But mostly what I now see among most Calvary pastors is an aire of arrogance, imperialism and sense of unacountability that feeds accusations of spiritual and financial abuse. It pervades the Calvary movement.

    I write as one who has known nothing else really but Calvary Chapel. I was saved in one and have served in many and varied capacities of ministry within them. I have moved so may times in my career that I have been a part of several Calvaries. I write out of concern because I love my church and the teaching it stands for, and I pray that Calvary Chapels will continue to be effective in reaching the world with the Gospel.

    For years, Jesus’ teachings of empathy, compassion and longsuffering in Sermon on the Mount was a primary source for most of the pastoral training on leadership, through publications like The Jesus Style. But in the past 20 years there has been a shift to the book of Nehemiah as a primary source for pastoral leadership training within Calvary. Only trouble is, Nehemiah was not a pastor, and in my opinion, too many Calvary pastors have adopted the attitude that they need to slap people around and pull their hair, so to speak, as Nehemiah did. It is a pastor’s responsibility sometimes to reprove. But Nehemiah was a great adminisrator and overseer, definitely not a pastor.

    Moreover, I see that the regional Calvary Leadership through CCOF is ineffective at settling disputes within and amongst Calvary Chapels: at most they can only revoke a pastor’s Calvary affiliation, but have no authority over the internal problems of a church.

    I have sometimes considered over the years what type of church government is best, and I have concluded that no style is without its problems. They all rely upon the integrity, transparency, faithfulness and humility of those in power. I emplore all who read this: Please keep your concerns about church leadership in front of your pastor and elders to keep them safe from the pitfalls of power. They may think you are complaining and ask why you just don’t go somewhere else (or ‘vote with your feet’). Don’t let them get away with that cop-out comment. They are acountable to you too, as well as to the Lord. Ask them about their comments from the pupit; ask them if they spent money a certain way and ask them to justify that; ask them about rumors you hear. A honest pastor should welcome your questions and challenges because he wants to remain pure and humble before God and men. If they are wrong, you have the reponsibility to reprove them. YOU have the responsibility. An honest pastor will be willing to confess his sins, even from the pulpit.

    Having said all that, I have personally known Joe and Jannelle Sabolick for 20 years and even had business dealings with Joe a long time ago. I never experienced anything to give me pause. I now live in the middle of the continent and have had very little contact with them recently but can vouch for their love of God and desire to serve Him. If they have blown it they can be forgiven, whether they should remain in ministry I think should depend on whether they see their sin and are repentant. If Joe has an issue with money, then perhaps he can remain as pastor and delegate financial authority, and in that way remain accountable to the Lord and His Church.

  • calvarywatch

    Los Angeles Times, Nov. 2, 2005

    Pastor Drops Lawsuit Against His Ex-Church
    By Roy Rivenburg, Times Staff Writer

    A fired Orange County pastor who sued his former church and older brother for libel and wrongful termination has dropped his lawsuit, court officials said.

    Pastor Joe Sabolick filed a $15-million suit in July against Calvary Chapel of Laguna Beach, alleging that church officials had falsely accused him of pedophilia, adultery and embezzlement.

    But last week, after meeting with pastors from other Calvary Chapels — including the movement’s founder, Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa — Sabolick agreed to withdraw his lawsuit.

    The dispute originated in August 2004, when Sabolick and Assistant Pastor Jim Sisco were removed by Calvary Laguna’s church board.

    Church officials, including Sabolick’s older brother, George, alleged that Sabolick had misused church money, had strayed from Calvary theology and was “fixated” on Sisco’s wife and daughter.

    Subsequent rumors of sexual misconduct spurred Laguna Beach police and outside clergy to look into the matter and declare the sex allegations unsubstantiated.

    Sabolick and Sisco eventually found new jobs overseeing a Calvary Chapel in Marin County, then jointly sued their old church, which denied the allegations. Smith, Sabolick and other parties involved didn’t return calls seeking comment.

  • Mary

    Please-
    Who are you kidding here?
    Anyone who knows Joe Sabolick, especially from way back in the day- knows this used car salesman hasn’t changed much. Ask those of us who have known him as a teenager in Rialto. Amazingly, God can use anyone and anything- he’ll use a rock, or a donkey for that matter. But no one is perfect. Of course one is worthy of forgiveness and mercy but whithout true repentance, there can be no forgiveness. Are you listening Joey?

  • jonathan west

    And everyone wonders why most kids of college age leave the church during the time when they most need it – I am 25 – I have gone camping with the Sabolick family back in the day (close friends with my parents) – They are great people and truly love the Lord – Having been through a couple Calvary church splits personally ( the whole reason my family is back in Southern California is due to a church split ) it is no wonder that most of my peers do not respect or value church leadership all that much – Now the diserepect is not do to the teacher at the pulpit it is primarily due to the lack of cohesion and backstabbing that infiltrates the church body – I am now attending RockHarbor in Costa Mesa ( which has already had a publized affair scandal – that was true ) – and I am finally beginning to trust my pastor Mike Erre – I trust him because he EXTREMELY HONEST AND STRAIGHT FORWARD – He puts all subjects out on the table and he is real – The youth today are attracted towards pastors that are REAL (especially within the materialistic and fake confines of Orange County ) – We are not attracted to how “cool” a church looks but rather how REAL – a pastor is – I have been through 3 Calvary Church splits and all they do is reiterate that although there are good intentions all around – THERE IS A LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY AND THERE IS A REAL CRONISM THAT EXISTS –
    Now on the other hand Calvary has great intetions and without growing up in Calvary I would not be where I am today – but I will not go back – I hate to say it but the people that are most affected by these church splits are the youth – All of you that are older are already a bit jaded to church politics – but we as the future of the church are now EXTREMELY SKEPTICAL OF ALL CHURCH STRUCTURE BECAUSE OF YOU – it is kind of like when you find out your parents aren’t perfect and in all reality they might just have been terrible parents but you did not know it until you left them – that is how many youth see the church today – Regarding the Sabolick situation – I think it is sad – I throw my hands up and say “well – here we go again” nothing like a little more scandal in the church to warm my heart up =
    Jonathan West – 25 years old – the future of the church – I live in Orange County -

  • Valishia

    God is faithful.

    1. To bring the sin out into the public eye. 2. To forgive those that are willing to truly humble themselves, confess the sin and repent.
    3. To restore the lives of those that have been broken.

    Like I said God is faithful. Just sit back and watch.

  • http://www.highchairtheology.blogspot.com Jodi

    From the other side:
    My husband and I are former Calvary chaple missionairies. Needless to say we understand how the church runs. Well, now we are conservative Presbyterians…what a journey that has been! What a change!
    I think Calvary Chapels majorly set themselves up for more than just “he said” “She said” lawsuits. There is little accountability, not only with the pastors but with the whole church. I know their motives are (for the most part) pure and seeking to know the Lord’s will, however, there seem to be no safegaurds…no authority. What prevents a church from “Hearing the voice of God” (another topic in and of itself) and running away with some crazy doctrine?
    Another danger: raising up too young. Calvary pastors don’t have the burden of going through schooling as many denominations do. However, with this comes many young, vibrant, pastors with little to no experience. Aren’t there warnings of raising up too young? Warnings of pride? Perhaps this is being manifest in some of these situations?
    I apppreciate Calvary Chaples and recognize them as brothers and sisters with passion for Christian service. I only pray they see some of the dangers in how their church is run.

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