Can It Be Fixed?
The million$ question: is it possible to 'fix' that which has occurred at Fairfield Uniting Church?
To be able to do that – 'fix' Fairfield Uniting Church – one first needs to define the 'problem(s)', who is behind the 'problem(s)' and (probably, the most difficult part) what might be driving them?
Before tackling those three questions let's recap. In an earlier post I argued the reason Fairfield Uniting is as it is – an irreverent mess – is because it is in the best interests of the Elders and Church Councillors that it remain so. To change or 'fix' Fairfield Uniting does mean the Elders and Church Councillors consider, in their minds, they are going to 'loose' something!
How did Fairfield Uniting Church get into the terrible state it is? Rev. Lunney said, on one occasion, if people would read their bibles the 'problems' would not exist. I responded along the lines, those causing the 'problems' know their bibles; reading is one thing applying is quite another. Application means following what God and Jesus expect us all to do in fulfilling the mission of a Christian Church; that is what is NOT being done at Fairfield Uniting!
Additionally, and also in an earlier post, I made the statement, “Fairfield Uniting's leaders, long ago, 'lost the plot'; Fairfield Uniting is most definitely about them and NOT Jesus and that must change!” That remains the case (aofn). God and Christ Jesus need to be brought back into the centre of Fairfield Uniting Church, which includes, making sure God and Jesus form the centre of every action, decision and comment made by the Elders and Church Councillors.
What might be driving them? I'll address that as a question first, because, at the time of writing this post, despite the protracted length of time involved and, number of people involved, the answer to that question I – surprisingly - may not have; but on the other hand I 'think' it can be worked out.
The reason I do not have a concrete answer is simply because the 'problem(s)', some of which appear on the surface to exist between me and the Fairfield Uniting Elders and Church Councillors have never been defined. The Elders and Church Councillors have been, for years, accusing me, of being the 'problem', using broad statements like - “your working against us”. When asked how or why they have refused to say. Not only have they refused to say, they have also refused to discuss – 'me the problem' – with me. That's right, Fairfield Uniting's Elders and Church Councillors have NEVER taken the opportunities provided (by me) to discuss the 'problem(s), nor have they attempted, in any manner, to create or encourage me to discuss what it is they believe I have and are doing 'wrong'. You know, its a process called counselling; the sort of thing you would expect Elders and Church Councillors to be able to do?
That very failing, the failing to discuss issues, has in itself become one of the major, if not the main issue/problem. Talking through and or discussing 'issues/differences', in a church environment, is a 'God given right' you might have thought. I am sure it is in many churches but, not at Fairfield Uniting. So what question(s) might, not wanting to talk/discuss raise? Well, time and repeated attempts to do so, has given me a good insight as to why and, it distils down to a very simple premise. The Elders and Church Councillors, of Fairfield Uniting, simple believe they are completely above being questioned by me (or any other person for that matter). They all believe I have absolutely NO rights, NONE; one Church Councillor has said as much to my face!
Rights aside, what question(s) does not wanting to talk/discuss a church member's 'conduct' – with the person - raise about the Elders and Church Councillors? Is choosing NOT to discuss a church member's challenging (sometimes referred to as disruptive) conduct an appropriate position for Elders and Church Councillors to take? If so when and how? Are the Elders and Church Councillors acting responsibly? Are they carrying out their responsibilities as defined in our biblical teachings and as they are laid out in the Uniting Church rules?
The answer to the first question - in the last paragraph – is, MANY. The answers to the remaining questions is a resounding NO therefore NEVER, NO & NO.
So, amongst the many questions their (Elder/Church Councillors) conduct raises, if following the teachings of Christ, if executing their roles in accordance with that which is outlined in the Uniting Church in Australia rules, is not what they are wanting to do; the most pressing question may be, what do they see is their role, as Elders and Church Councillors, in Fairfield Uniting Church?
If the Elders and Church Councillors are choosing to ignore the fundamentals of Christianity in following Christ teaching, and the requirements of the Uniting Church in Australia; then just what is their role as Elders and Church Councillors in Fairfield Uniting Church?
Answer; not known.
Why, then, bother to wear the mantle of leadership at all?
Answer: POWER & CONTROL; it's the only sensible conclusion based on what I witness: POWER & CONTROL of the congregation; POWER & CONTROL over individual congregational members (in what they can say and do) and, POWER & CONTROL over the property and assets of the Uniting Church as entrusted, by the wider church, to the Fairfield Uniting Church Congregation!
To repeat the question, what might be driving the Elder and Church Councillors actions?
Answer: personal POWER & CONTROL!
The evidence abounds and it is ALL confirmed by their actions. Not tabling substance or evidence to support their accusations of 'wrong doing' and or disruption; then refusing to discuss the 'issues' raised. Offend and bully congregational members to 'encourage' them to walk away. Elders and Church Councillors strip volunteers of their roles: for the sole purpose of ensuring the person understands they are no longer welcome – by the Elders and Church Councillors of Fairfield Uniting Church; those members then feel compelled to walk away and leave the Fairfield Uniting Church. Embroil and use other un-thinking congregational members to encourage and support the ostracising of target individual congregational members. Actively seek to remove both congregational members and clergy who dare challenge their goal for total CONTROL! The evidence is plain to see by any person who might choose to take even a cursory look at the past and recent history of the administration issues, congregational and clergy loses at Fairfield Uniting Church.
So I started with three (3) overarching statements/questions: “one first needs to define the 'problem(s)'?, who is behind the 'problem(s)' and (probably, the most difficult part) what might be driving them?”. Having concluded CONTROL and POWER addresses the last of the three questions let’s now move (backwards) and tackle the second question, “who is behind the 'problem(s)'?”.
Who? There are those who would say all the ‘problems’ of Fairfield Uniting Church are caused by me and me alone. I did feel, for a period, I was an integral part of Fairfield Uniting's 'problems'. I no longer do, and have covered this situation in earlier posts. I drawing my conclusion based on knowing if I was the 'problem' what evidence could the Elders and Church Councillors show, to demonstrate they had made every or any effort to counsel, support and or address why they perceive me as being the ‘problem/issue’ in Fairfield Uniting Church.
The truth is, the Elders and Church Councillors have absolutely NOTHING to show which would support their accusations. They have not even come close to fulfilling the requirements and responsibilities relating to the positions held as outlined in the Uniting Church ‘rules’ and or the teachings of Christ. In failing at a fundamental level the Elders and Church Councillors have tagged themselves as ‘the who’ behind Fairfield Uniting Church’s ‘problems/issues’. They and they alone must now carry the full responsibility.
Who? David & Patricia Tweed, Talanoa, & Ma’ata Solifoni and Noi Lertsinpakdee are the main players. Those individuals form the current ‘rogue’ Fairfield Uniting Church Council who MUST bear the entire responsibility for the appalling ‘recent’ events which now define Fairfield Uniting Church as a disappointingly irreverent and fallen place of worship.
Two of my questions have now been addressed. From what I have recorded in this post and the others within this blog we see D.&P Tweed, T., L. & M. Solifoni and N. Lertsinpakdee are the persons responsible for the dictatorial control and, it can easily be said, 100% of the nastiness, un-pleasantness, irreverence and loses of generations of congregational members. Their drive, for POWER as individuals, to selfishly CONTROL Fairfield Uniting’s property, Worship services & congregational members, in preference to administering church affairs on the congregation’s behalf, is a key driver*.
The last of my three statements/questions; “one first needs to define the 'problem(s)'.
*In stating POWER and CONTROL are the key drivers of the Elders and Church Councillors it is only a small step to make to then understand it is the Elders and Church Councillors drive for POWER and CONTROL as also being ‘the problem(s)’. It is oversimplifying to a degree, but POWER & CONTROL does underline what I see as ‘a major problem/issue’.
To continue, a wee bit more focused – on the individuals – behind the overarching goal for POWER and CONTROL.
There is a litany of issues which have accumulated over the years in relation to D. Tweed (which are well known to many in Fairfield Uniting – past and present and to Presbytery). Much has been either ignored or simply counteracted by conscientious, gracious congregational members. Many of whom have left because ‘it’ just became too much to bear. But the issues which surround D. Tweed’s exertion of CONTROL, have been magnified – (in 'recent' times) - by his personal effect/attacks (on me, my family and a great number of other congregational members; including his OWN family members), are not the only problems. The merging of the desire to CONTROL by the Tweeds has been aligned with a similar intent of the Solifonis. The ‘problems’ experienced at Fairfield Uniting have been further enhanced by the introduction, by the Solifonis, of a particular ‘family issue’. An 'issue' T. & L. Solifoni seem to, on the one hand claim is of nobody else’s business and yet, on the other hand have made it EVERYBODY’S issue, at Fairfield Uniting, by their own actions. The Solifoni’s family issue is a root cause of the bullying, the physical and verbal attacks (some now recorded in this blog) on me and my family.
That said why do I seem to be a focus? As these blog postings mention and allude too, I am not the only person who has 'run foul' of the Elders and Church Councillors; there are many others including clergy. What probably stands proud – in 'recent' times - is that I have 'pushed back' and, challenged Elders and Church Councillors actions, to such a degree I am seen as a threat to their POWER and CONTROL end game. My belief the congregation's welfare and opinions, as a whole, is of more 'importance' than those who choose to dictate, is seen as a threat. It simple does not figure in their POWER and CONTROL quest I, or the congregation, should have any say in what does or does not happen at Fairfield Uniting Church.
So, we are closer to understanding what are 'the real problems/issues' at Fairfield Uniting. But, why has it been so difficult for me as a person? Firstly, I am going to zero in on the 'friction' which appears to exist between David Tweed (an Elder) and me. This will reveal two very significant points. The most important being, remember, D. Tweed is an Elder of Fairfield Uniting and Chairman of the Church Council. The second point being, the 'friction' (which by definition involves at least two bodies) is the creation of, and is perpetuated solely by D. Tweed.
Put bluntly, D. Tweed is - when it comes to particular issues – extremely dogmatic. His aggressiveness blossoms when 'questioned' about something he believes should be done in a particular or 'his way'. For me – in a community or congregational sense – that single minded approach is likely to always cause problems. Every person has a different approach, or view, of a particular problem or issue; however, should another person's view differ from that of D. Tweed, and the alternate view is voiced, trouble is sure to follow! That has been a feature of Fairfield Uniting since its earlier Methodist days.
So let's take a quick tour of what may have brought me into 'recent' - (recent being a relative term and for the sake of brevity ;-) I will be using 2009 as the start point) - conflict with D. Tweed; which, in turn, led to me choosing not worship at Fairfield Uniting for a period of time. This will also provide an insight as to why 'solutions to problems/issues' are so difficult when D. Tweed is involved.
There was an issue which arose some time back relating to a particular member of the clergy. Comments were made, about the individual, which I (and others) found very disturbing and offensive. Offensive because they had no substance and, partly because they truly challenged freedom of speech within and outside Fairfield Uniting Church. They were statements and instructions a church leader should NOT have made privately let alone to the congregation.
When I approached D. Tweed, in relation to that which was said, expecting to be able to discuss it; imagine my surprise when D. Tweed immediately launched a vitriolic attack, not only on the person previously mentioned but on me and my character as well! D. Tweed's character attack on me was very personal and indicated I had caused much trouble too and in the church. What was significant, at the time and subsequently, is what D. Tweed was indicating, or alluding too, was simply not true.
Indeed when asked, at the time (and subsequently a number of times), to qualify his comments he WOULD NOT. To this day that remains the situation: D. Tweed refuses (“I will never give you an answer to your questions!”) to justify his assertions of my 'wrong doing'. Whatever is going on in the mind of D. Tweed there is no doubt he is harbouring distorted thoughts which influence his questionable decisions and actions.
There you have it, in a 'nut shell', almost the ultimate problem for any concerned person. I said earlier an insight as to why 'problems' are what they are and have become, at Fairfield Uniting, would be forthcoming and there it is. D. Tweed leads the Church Councillors in 'throwing mud' at perceived threats and at no stage are they prepared, to consider the contradiction of their actions, to alter course or to discuss, why!
It is worth understanding I did stop worshipping at Fairfield Uniting for a period of time as a direct result of D. Tweed's actions and continuing refusal to accept his responsibilities as an Elder and to conduct himself accordingly. It is also worth adding here, when I returned to worship at Fairfield Uniting – the direct result of the efforts of several people – I was NOT welcomed back by the leaders. Yet another contradiction?
My family and extended family continued to worship at Fairfield Uniting which allowed me to remain 'attached' as it were and to gauge whether or not my self-imposed exile improved 'church' for those who I had been told I had caused trouble; the truth is it did not. In the period I was 'away' I was able to look very closely at what I thought I may have done to 'cause the trouble' and, watching was continuing to occur, concluded I was not the problem D. Tweed believed I was. It was at this time I also concluded it was simply because I would NOT let D.Tweed's appalling behaviour go un-challenged that was the 'cause' of his angst. It also is why he cannot discuss or justify his attacks and accusations; because that would mean he would have to question or change his actions and, he is simply NOT prepared or man enough to do so!
But how far was this fellow, and Fairfield Uniting Church Councillors, prepared to go in attacking me as a person; well 'all the way' at it turned out.
D. Tweed often referred to me as a “person of not good standing”; this statement he used both to my face and when speaking of me with others, including presbytery's secretary, Mr. J. Cutts. The statement is a curious, an 'old world', expression but its use was intentional and used to insult. D. Tweed used the statement as a weapon and as a shield. As a shield, to justify his REFUSAL to accept his responsibility as an Elder. As a weapon, it was effectively used to deliberately prevent Fairfield Uniting's congregation's right to call a special congregational meeting.
D. Tweed and the entire Church Council called my character into question for the sole purpose of thwarting the democratic rights and voice of the then Fairfield Uniting congregation. That dictatorial act was achieved with the Presbytery's assistance. Presbytery swallowed 'hook line and sinker' D. Tweed's assertion my character was not good leaving J. Cutts with a belief my membership of the Uniting Church was in doubt. How do I know that; because J. Cutts asked me (personally) to write a letter to Fairfield Uniting's Church Council to have my membership clarified and or confirmed.
I was not happy to write the letter as I saw it (and that turned out to be correct) was nothing more than a smoke screen; a fabrication of D. Tweed and Fairfield Uniting Church Councillors to allow them to justify not doing what the Uniting Church Rules required them to do and, up until now they have got away with it.
For those of you who know the 'rules' you will know there is a procedure laid out to discipline Uniting Church members and at NO stage have those rules or procedures been followed by the Fairfield Uniting Elders and Church Councillors nor by Presbytery and Mr. J Cutts. To this day those procedure have still NOT been applied or followed; the reasons for must now be obvious to you the reader.
To follow the disciplinary procedures requires counselling 'of the person'. Counselling requires discussion: as I have outlined D. Tweed, as an Elder, and the ENTIRE Fairfield Uniting Church Council are REFUSING to discuss anything with me! That situation should be of grave concern to the entire membership and leadership of the Uniting Church in Australia: but I don't think any could care less!
Can Fairfield Uniting be fixed?**
I started with three components in a statement which are also question;
One). First define the 'problem(s)': In the main, whilst there are many issues, the 'problem' at Fairfield Uniting is the Elders and Church Councillors. Central to them being the 'problem' is their inability to accept and carry-out their responsibilities as leaders, as defined in the Uniting church in Australia rules;
Two). Who is behind the 'problem(s)'?; self-evident. The Fairfield Uniting Elders and Church Councillors are a 'rogue' Church Council. It would appear inconceivable leaders in the Uniting Church in Australia could act as they do at Fairfield Uniting, but they do and will continue to do so until the congregation, with the support of the wider Uniting Church, bring them to account;
Three). What might be driving them? POWER and CONTROL. Nothing more and nothing less. Fairfield Uniting Church's Elders and Church Councillors want to totally CONTROL all aspects of the Fairfield Uniting Church. They believe it is only they who can and should decide what occurs at Fairfield Uniting Church and what clergy and congregational members can say and do. This is of course totally at odds with the requirements and teaching of the Uniting Church in Australia but, it is what they are currently doing with the tacit support of the congregation, and the leaders of Presbytery, Synod and The Assembly.
**So I return to the question; Can Fairfield Uniting be fixed?
YES, with GOD's help/guidance. Which does, of course, mean D. & P Tweed (Elders), T. & M. Solifoni and N. Lertsinpakdee are going to need to, firstly, listen to what God wants of them, then do the un-thinkable; accept their responsibility and their role in all that has 'gone wrong' at Fairfield Uniting Church. They must stop their vindictive behaviour, apologise and accept the inevitable in line with what I put forward at a meeting with them and Presbytery.
Then and only then will Fairfield Uniting Church be able to be said to be a place of true worship, reverence and of peace. Only then will Fairfield Uniting become, once again, a place my entire family, and those who have been forced to leave, would want to once again worship within.
A conclusion of sorts but I have not finished this post;
The direct interaction between D. Tweed and me I have outlined as an example of the 'problems/issues' at Fairfield Uniting. Earlier in this post I stated issues experienced by the Solifoni family had combined with the existing 'D. Tweed based' issues and that needs clarification. The full details of their issues I will leave to another time but suffice to say the reason their issues have wrought the havoc, within Fairfield Uniting, they have distils to a relatively simple premise.
The handling of the Solifoni 'family issue' was completely mis-handled right from the start. It was handled incorrectly by the Solifoni parents and by the Elders. To the best of my determination and as a result of a statement made by D. Tweed (Elder) there was no intention nor attempt made by the (current) Elders of Fairfield Uniting to counsel and or assist in what was becoming a very serious issue with wider implications for several families and Fairfield Uniting Church. Not to get involved was flawed thinking and a fundamental failing by the Elders, D. & P Tweed. There was much more they should have done to ensure what has happened did not!
However, whilst I believe they, as Elders, 'dropped the ball quite badly' I am also aware of the Solifoni 'resistance'. As previously mentioned, there appears to be a belief their problems are not the business of the church, and yet by their own actions, bullying and abuse, of church members, they have ensured it is the business of Fairfield Uniting Church. It is simply NOT possible for them to say it is not: this is a critical point, for if, their issue is not the Church's', then their angst directed towards me and my family simply would not exist!
“Then their angst directed towards me and my family simply would not exist!” If that were so then there was never any reason to bully, abuse and attack me, my family and extended family. Equally there would never have been the situation nor the material available for me to write much of what I have written in these post. So why have the Solifoni's continued to rail against me and all who they see I represent? Because it suits their pursuit of POWER and CONTROL.
To even consider talking about their 'supposed' disappointment would mean, as it does for D. & P Tweed, facing some un-palatable truths about themselves. Which in turn, would mean they would no longer be able to blame others for their failing and shortcomings; they would have to face the bare fact they have made some very big mistakes! Mistakes which will take a long time to fix and, as I can speak from experience, will mean their family will NEVER be as it may have been or what they would have wished for. The Solifonis' should be prayed for of that there is no doubt; equally of no doubt is the fact, they could have and should have, availed themselves of the help being offered.
They made the choice to take a very narrow view of 'their' issue and refused that which was being offered. It's was a choice not an imposition the Solifonis' needed to make; they made an un-wise choice, one I do not agree with, but it has been accepted. Problem is, not content with making the choice to refuse help, the Solifonis' then chose to heap the blame, un-justifiably, on to others. Most notably me!
T. Solifoni asked me, to my face, to step into the situation he faced, and when I had done some preliminary work he then roundly rebuffed my request for 'his side of the story' claiming, through another person, my involvement was offensive. Then through that same third party issued an instruction which, had I have done, was morally in-defensible and would have all but broken the law! Since then, even when given additional opportunities to discuss and or help, he continues to refuse to talk.
Time, in these situations, is a tool which one can use to assess different approaches, scenarios and possible outcomes. Time, in relation to the Solifoni issue, has given me an insight into the inflexible thought processes being applied by these people and it leads me yet again to conclude CONTROL and POWER, this time over an individual, is at its heart. To consider there may be an alternative does not figure on the 'Solifoni radar', because it does NOT fit their ultimate goals. They cannot bear the thought they may have to share in another person's life in preference to CONTROLLING it! Sad, and true, a situation crying out for prayer and support but.....
So it is quite easy now to see why Fairfield Uniting's Church Council has become, as I put it, a 'rogue' council. You have the desire to CONTROL and DICTATE permeating the entire Church Council membership. With differing underlying causes and motives but, when they perceive there is a 'common enemy' they have chosen to 'protect' their CONTROL and POWER by closing ranks to bolster their indefensible positions in preference to performing the duties their positions, and the rules, require them to do. In taking this treacherous path they have chosen to abdicate their responsibilities as Elders and Church Councillors but, want to retain the positions and titles. A hypocritical stance, in the true sense!
**So, yet again, I return to the question; Can Fairfield Uniting be fixed?
YES, with GOD's help/guidance. Which does, of course, mean D. & P Tweed (Elders), T. & M. Solifoni and N. Lertsinpakdee are going to need to, firstly, listen to what God wants of them, then do the un-thinkable; accept their responsibility and their role in all that has 'gone wrong' at Fairfield Uniting. They must stop their vindictive behaviour, apologise and accept the inevitable in line with what I have previously put forward at a meeting with them and Presbytery.
Then and only then will Fairfield Uniting Church be able to be said to be a place of true worship, reverence and of peace. Only then will Fairfield Uniting become, once again, a place my entire family, and those who have been forced to leave, would want to once again worship within.
Not a conclusion either, but a 'road map of sorts' with one confronting consideration to follow;
For me the most confronting piece of sadness Fairfield Uniting Church represents is one which no gracious, self-respecting or competent Elder or Church Councillor could possibly want as a display of their leadership capabilities. There are Fairfield Uniting members and family members of the Fairfield Uniting Church's Elders and Church Councillors who are not worshipping at Fairfield Uniting because of their actions and they know full well why. There are also those who continue to worship at Fairfield Uniting Church who are far from 'happy' with the situation they find themselves; again the Elder and Church Councillors know why and are the central cause.
To know those situations exist and to be not actively working to rectify them demonstrates very loudly just how much of the 'problem' Fairfield Uniting Church is, is of the Elders and Church Councillors creation. They are, in the main, the problem! Their ill-considered drive for CONTROL and POWER has destroyed their love and compassion for the church; from their point of view there must appear no good reason to make Fairfield Uniting Church one which welcomes all in the name of Christ.
I conclude with the following tease, a question and an answer;
If you want to see a prime example of exactly how Fairfield Uniting's Elders and Church Councillors perceive Fairfield Uniting Church, within the community of Fairfield, with your eyes wide open, take a look at what is handed out each week. Do you see what I see?
Can Fairfield Uniting Church be 'fixed'?
YES, if God and our Saviour Christ are re-instated at the centre of Fairfield Uniting Church.