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And the Patriarch Fell

The church is no man's possession.
—Charles Wellington

The scene is burned into my mind forever. On a cold January day in Kansas, the fifty members of our church had gathered inside our toasty building for the annual business meeting.

What we had feared and tried to forestall for nearly a year suddenly exploded. The church patriarch, a heavyset redhead in his upper fifties, attacked me with angry words, plowing through the feelings of the congregation like a state truck clearing a lightly snow-covered highway.

One woman couldn't take it any longer, and she tearfully confronted him—"You shouldn't speak that way to our pastor."

The patriarch thundered out of the church. A stunned congregation sat praying, crying, shaking their heads in disbelief. But somehow we have stayed together to tell about it.

In the aftermath, my wife and I spent hours thinking back over the past twelve months to see how it had happened and if we could have handled it differently.

Clues from history


One year before—actually ...

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