Nuts & Bolts.....
In the previous post I highlighted the role Mrs. Solifoni played in forcing Judith out of the Fairfield Uniting Congregation. I mentioned Ruth without detailing the circumstances of her removal and, generally outlined how their plight has been exacerbated by the complicity of the entire church council and the failure/refusal of those, with the moral authority to do so, to support Judith and Ruth, to intervene and stop what has been happening and, rectify and reconcile that which has happened. That remains so to this date!
I also quoted the following question, “are you not now prepared to accept the Uniting Church in Australia is broken, not just in Fairfield but throughout?” It was one I have been asked and my reply is that Fairfield Uniting Church is certainly broken. However, as to whether or not the Uniting Church in Australia is broken, I said, I was going to draw on you, the readers, for the answer. In part you each have gone part way to helping me do so; but the jobs not finished.
With this post I urge reference to the the National Church Life Survey (NCLS) 12 Core Qualities of Church Life as crucial for Congregational vitality and growth. I would expect those points to be part of the Life and Witness Consultation if conducted. I am also going to pose several questions which “could be asked of the leadership team of the congregation during the consultation” as they are each very relevant questions to pose to the Elders and Church Councillors of Fairfield Uniting Church*. I am also going to highlight three “issues” which, from my point of view, need to be addressed before any realistic CHRIST focused outcomes can be reached.
*Starting with the “Life and Witness Consultation” questions to the Elders and Church Councillors;
Q1.) “Over what things has your congregation grieved in the past five years? How was that grief handled?”
Ans. This blog details just a small portion of that which has “grieved” Fairfield Uniting's congregation. “How was that grief handled?” Very poorly to the point of being discriminatory.
Q2.) “Have any issues divided your congregation in the past five years? How have anger and disputes been handled in these situations?”
Ans. YES (quite) a few! “How have anger and disputes been handled in these situations?” With a “kill messenger” un-truthful ethos employing deception, verbal abuse and physical intimation being some of primary weapons of choice.
Q3.) “What style of leadership is present in this place?”;
Ans. One devoid of the acceptance of a CHRIST centred Pastoral care responsibility, Dictatorial, deceitful, secretive and abusive.....etc.
;-) a supplementary question might be, “What is your view of the Presbytery and how can the Presbytery be more effectively involved in your congregation?”
Ans. I can only :-) & laugh loudly whilst speculating how Fairfield Uniting Church Elders and Church Councillors would answer that question. My response would be considerably different to theirs.
“are you not now prepared to accept the Uniting Church in Australia is broken, not just in Fairfield but throughout?” The facts supporting my answers to questions 1 to 3 define a simple conclusion; Fairfield Uniting Church is broken!
Three issues distilled;
1) The “problem(s)” which appear to divide Mr. D. Tweed and me.
2) The “problem” Mr. & Mrs. Solifoni seem to have with me.
3) The “problems” relating to Church Governance (and me).
Kill the messenger;
It is fair to say “me” is the focus of items 1&2 and the person who has focused on item 3 in the preceding list. Each has been covered in some way, previously, within this blog. In expanding on each of those items I am going to show – in part - how they link together to create the spiritually evil black hole Fairfield Uniting has become. Equally it MUST be understood Fairfield Uniting can never be “fixed” until sensible and suitable solutions to those three items is sought and achieved. Failure to do so will mean, no matter what good may come out of, Fairfield Uniting Church will be be forever tainted and, there is very little time left to prevent an adverse outcome!
To understand item 1, “The problem(s) which appear to divide Mr. D. Tweed and me.”, requires decades of knowledge, impracticable to document herein (that's for the book). I will start by saying Mr. D. Tweed (Elder) is an autocrat. Predominately, he takes no account of other people's wishes or opinions; unless they coincide with his own and, he is domineering to the point of obsession. Not traits one would expect to be able to easily define or see in action in a spiritual leader let alone being a good fit for the role of Elder in the Uniting Church in Australia. It becomes a (real) issue when those traits are exercised in an offensive manner. Challenging (face to face, on the side or in any manner) Mr. D. Tweed's actions has an effect similar to using a flint; sparks fly. Those sparks are, in the main, Mr. D. Tweed's; he is not a man to be challenged nor questioned of that, I have be reminded of, on many occasions. Herein lays the root cause of what appears to divide Mr. D. Tweed and me.
Now over relatively simple issues like copyright - when it became an “issue” and a discussion several years ago – Mr. D. Tweed's take was “we can copy what ever we like” and, “it should not apply to the church”. Now we all know what is the correct thing to do, and what we were being asked to do, and that was raised, but Mr. Tweed was not going to listen; he knows what's best and right and that was that! Not a difficult issue, just an obstinate attitude to be “won-over” with fact. but, there are issues which are far more critical; by definition more difficult and more important they be resolved correctly, quickly.
Two issues, one an incident involving a child and the other a Minister. Now in both these cases Mr. D. Tweed made some seriously bad calls. The first of those two being a particularly difficult situation, which was correctly handle by those who “stepped up to the plate” to do so. The ramifications, for those who did the correct thing though, were horrendous and, it was Mr. D. Tweed who led and complained vengefully about the action those good people took, why? What or who was he trying to protect?
Second: As a member, and as a congregation, we still don't know (fully) why but Mr. D. Tweed, for reasons best known to him, took a dislike to the minister of the day and, wanted him gone! What got my direct attention were announcements Mr. D. Tweed made, to the congregation, during the morning service, which related to the Minister in question. His comments were both of a derogatory nature and came with instructions to the congregation which were, without any doubt, out of place and character for any spiritual leader (Elder). Now, after the service and on our own I raised, with Mr. Tweed, what he had said – sparks flew immediately. Now, what with all that had happened, in the decades preceding that incident this one seemed to be the catalyst which brought all of D. Tweeds wrath to the surface. He made some extraordinary personal accusations about the Minister and me. He accused me of “conspiring” with the minister, of causing the church a lot of trouble, of offending “many” and of “costing the church a lot of money”. To say I was taken aback would be an understatement, but it gets worse. Having said what he had just said, when I asked him (on that and at every other opportunity) to justify his statements, with details and or facts, he refused and, continues to do so! That his accusations were complete fabrications does not seem to matter to Mr. Tweed.
Despite trying on several occasions I was unable to get Mr. Tweed to discuss his accusations and comments calmly and as a result I resorted to writing. Below, with salutation etc. removed, are two of those letters;
29 Nov' 2009 - It was ironic because that number of years is all but equal for us both in that yours was for a particular service and mine because that is the time I have also been a worshipper at the same church and; while your congratulations were in order little did anyone know that the selfsame person had in the last week chosen to launch a personal attack on me for reasons I do not know or understand.
So with this note I am giving you the opportunity to document, by return, an outline as to why I have, in your words, ‘caused the church a lot of trouble’.
I if have caused trouble I believe I have a right to know why, be given a right of reply and the opportunity to rectify what I have done and; as a leader – and the one who leveled the accusation - in our church you must give me that opportunity.
As the ‘problem(s)’ seems to have existed for a long period I can see little reason why I will not receive the details of my indiscretions promptly and as requested.
9 Dec' 2009 - During the conversation there were veiled references to two areas that may have been of concern but as they were only brief references it has not been possible to guess as to why they should have been of any ‘trouble’
Following the conversation I requested I be supplied an outline and details of just what I had done so as to be able to ‘rectify’ the problem. That reply, I am told, I am not to receive.
It must be understood I have never knowingly done anything to deliberately ‘hurt’ the church or any member of the congregation and, it has caused me much angst to be told that I have; to be then denied an explanation has increased my concern, made me feel extremely guilty, and brought me to this point.
To this day (years later as you can see), Mr. D. Tweed has never, never, never been prepared to talk through, justify and or validate any of his accusations or statements. They were and are false. His refusals clearly show the character of the man and how long he is prepared to maintain his unjustifiable rage, multiplying and adding to it to the point – one Sunday - he ordered me out of the church, on the floor of the church, in front of other members of the congregation and publicly questioned my character :-(
Yes, from my perspective, item 1) can be easily solved. I argue Mr. Tweed's accusations and comments, about me, always were entirely false and without justification. So all that needs to be done is for Presbytery, the Life and Witness Consultation panel, or anybody else (think Rev. Choi and Rev. Kava) to ask Mr. D. Tweed to document his original accusations so it would be possible for me address them. If he cannot/will not do so, then it goes without saying his role as an Elder/Spiritual leader is seriously compromised and he should apologise, in person, and to the entire Congregation and should disqualify himself from his leadership roles!
Item 2). “The problem Mr. & Mrs. Solifoni seem to have with me.” Like all problems this one is multi-faceted but it is possible to distil out one particular issue which is, for the Solifoni's only, a sticking point. I say for the “Solifoni's only” because it is a problem wholly of their creation which they have imposed on the entire congregation. But they choose, for entirely selfish reasons** to, not only blame others, but to use their failings as a reason to bully others (see following paragraph) as I describe in the previous post;
“Why Judith was targeted. The whole story is long and convoluted: suffice to say, within this post, the Solifoni family is a disturbed and estranged family and, because of a particular situation relating to a family member, choosing to go their own way, the Solifoni parents and other family members, have chosen to divest themselves of and, to shift the blame, for that persons choice, to others in the Congregation; bullying chosen individuals until they walk away from the Church.”
For me this issue is the most important, the most damaging and, the one item of the three which MUST be satisfactorily and FULLY resolved. Why? Simple because it is about a fractured family unit.
** I mentioned earlier the Solifoni family chooses for selfish reasons to blame others for their failings and this is entirely the case. They have refused the help offered, have maintained it's not the church's business whilst at the same time using it as a Povai to bash those they select to blame. At the same time both Mr. and Mrs. Solifoni have not been backwards in spreading their distorted version of the “truth” as a deliberate strategy to divert scrutiny of an environment which may well reveal components of abuse within the family.
Now you have seen detailed how devastating was Mrs. Solifoni's abuse of Judith. What Judith has directly endured is much less than that which has been hurled at me; and there is a specific reason; dare I raise it? Well why not, it is important and it is embedded in differing cultures. You see, it would appear, I am being held responsible, by the Solifoni family, for failing to comply with their idea of how their child (a young person) should behave. Indeed the Solifoni's believe they have the right to force me to accept cultural norms which are not mine and, if I complied with their demands, in all probability would be seen, here in Australia, as illegal***.
Now let me quote, an excerpt, from a (confidential) letter I wrote to the Mr. & Mrs. Solifoni shortly after Mr. Solifoni vehemently accused me of wrong doing and told me in very straight language I should do exactly as he wanted. He believes I have an obligation, to him, to intervene in what has occurred in another family in relation to the decision his child (a young adult) had made. As disturbing as that thought was/is I considered it important enough to open a dialogue with those concerned (the other family) and the following letter (to the Solifoni's) was a result of what was revealed.
In the letter (dated 1 Oct'2013) I wrote;
“(two names) have no illusions as to why what has happened has and the impact. Equally it is my understanding considerable effort has been made to discuss, address and, maybe solve, the problems presented, with you, to no avail.
Name’s (young adult) decision, I have no doubt, is difficult to accept. However it is important to look closely at Name's concerns and work toward finding common ground. Doing so, will provide you the opportunity to demonstrate why the values you hold as being worthy are of similar worth to Name.
Family challenges such as you face often have multiple causes and until these are fully understood and discussed, by each party, a clear path to any form of reconciliation will remain elusive.
That said, as I indicated in our conversation, if I was to get involved, I would only do so as a neutral party and to this end, if I am to contribute positively, I ask you take the time to provide me a candid account of the issues, as you see them and, how you believe those issues should be addressed.
Please understand it is my fervent wish the current situation between yourselves and Name should not only be addressed but solved and solved harmoniously very quickly. Personal experience has taught me it is difficult for all involved but the one thing I do know, it is of paramount importance it be solved and the time to do so is short.
If I can assist and, it remains your wish I should, then please take the time to respond as requested.
If you no longer want me to participate, please tell me so and, do not feel I will be offended in any way; this must be your decision. If not me though, I would urge you both not continue down your current path and hope you, urgently, seek the assistance of a person, in whom you can trust, who will council you wisely.”
Thinking about this letter makes me emotional, reading it again brings tears to my eyes. Knowing what I know it is impossible not to feel terribly sad for the Solifoni family. That said, there can be no reason/excuse proffered to support how they have used their situation to wreak havoc, as they have, in Fairfield Uniting Church.
This was an emailed reply (admonishment) I received from another Solifoni family member; not from Mr. or Mrs Solifoni but one of their children, it reads;
“I would firstly like to express my great disappointment in the nature and the content of the letter you have sent. As a parent or as a man that has gone through raising a family, I would of expected to see more wisdom and a greater sense of counselling from you instead of this! Secondly, I have read your letter,.....? I would like to request that you withhold any further letters or conversations to my parents as your "neutral" stance is one that is quite biased and well ill informed. This matter concerns my family and names only! And does not require any further intervention. We still await a positive opportunity to discuss the matter with our 'title of name' and we will hopefully get this opportunity soon If you would like to assist in any way, shape or form, then please contact names and have them send name back to us so we can have a family meeting to discuss this whole series of unfortunate events. In the interest of the Church and my family, I expect that you will respect our wishes as this is the best outcome for all.” ***I mentioned what I was being asked to do by Mr. Solifoni was in all probability illegal and it is right there for all to see; “ send name back to us”. I ask you, the reader – considering the person involved has removed themselves from an environment of concern - to whom am I responsible and whose interest should I consider first? Should I have complied with the instruction how was I to know the outcome could have been anything but adverse. To be asked to do what I was, came from a person with a particular point of view. To ask is not wrong in itself but, to expect that I would “send” a person into a potentially hostile environment is anything but reasonable, it is ludicrous and illegal! Now a few additional points relating to my letter to Mr. & Mrs. Solifoni – it was clearly marked confidential and sealed. It was neither Mr. or Mrs. Solifoni who replied but one of their children who stated he would return the letter? Why would you want to return the letter? I remained suspicious. Some time later, I asked Rev. Lunney to ask Mr. Solifoni had he seen the letter. The reply was NO! However a subsequent meeting with Rev. Lunney revealed a change; now, Mr. Solifoni had seen the letter, found it offensive and, remained adamant in his refusal to discuss the issue further with me. Rev. Lunney, in defending Mr. Solifoni's position simply stated it was a “cultural thing!”. Let's get real folks! So, on the one hand, me and my family are to take the blame and responsibility for the Solifoni families dysfunction but we cannot help or discuss the problem with them in any meaningful manner. Their family failings are being used as an abusive weapon (unjustifiably) against Judith and I. We get forced out of the church we have grown up in and the current Fairfield Uniting Church/Congregation and many in the wider church sit by and watch it happen; REFUSING TO GET INVOLVED, EVEN WHEN ASKED! CHRISTians? WHY ARE JUDITH & I BEING PUNISHED AS WE ARE? My letter to the Solifoni's was the direct result of Mr. Solifoni's instruction I should intervene in a particular manner (against my better judgement). My letter was not offensive (****) and it is difficult to see how, when he had told me to do so, that my actions, offering and suggestions (given I have first hand experience) were anything but reasonable. ****However, if you look at the situation from the Solifoni point of view; that being they believe they have the right to instruct me to “send” a person back into a situation they were escaping; I guess you may see my offer to help from a knowledge base as offensive. If you do then you need to seriously question your CHRISTianity, your principles, ethics and your role in Australian society! From another perspective, if you are a CHRISTian and understand the importance of supporting others in need and, continue to remain inactive now and, still refuse to help, then same applies, you need to seriously question your CHRISTianity, your principles, ethics, your role in Australian society and the question, is the Uniting Church in Australia broken? “are you not now prepared to accept the Uniting Church in Australia is broken, not just in Fairfield but throughout?”
So, in concluding Item 2) - “The problem Mr. & Mrs. Solifoni seem to have with me.” - for the moment, is, in the main, all to do with them and (listen Mr. J. Cutts – Secretary of Presbytery) it is a problem for the Church! Mr. & Mrs. Solifoni's “problem” can be fixed if they truly want that to happen. But what I know, for sure now, is it will not happen whilst they continue down the treacherous path they are going. They MUST accept the full responsibility for the outcome as it stands! The Solifoni's have set-out to hurt our family and, whilst they have wreaked havoc they have have in not broken it – quite the reverse. However, they have irreparably damaged their personal reputations as parents, as individuals and as church leaders (should disqualify themselves from holding office) and, if they do not face-up to that which they have done then it will go with them to their collective graves – then to be held to account by the only one who can justifiably do so!
Which leaves us Item 3, “The problems relating to Church Governance (and me).” Honestly the problems relating to Church Governance at Fairfield Uniting Church are numerous and range over a wide number of issues. But, out of Items 1 to 3 they are the easier to fix. The Congregation and the Church Council simple need to read, understand, follow and implement the rules of the Uniting Church in Australia as they are laid-out for all to see. “Blind Freddy” could do it so why is it not done? Well. The first thing to understand is that Mr. D. Tweed (Elder) Chairs the Church Council and I have already detailed his autocratic style. Mrs. (D). Tweed is Secretary and two other councillors are Mr. Solifoni (yes the same) and a daughter Ms. M. Solifoni. Is there a picture emerging here*****? If you have pieced together my epistles and understood what I have said, even if you find it hard to believe, you must understand Governance of Fairfield Uniting Church is being dictated by the same individuals who are wreaking havoc, abusing, intimidating and forcing long standing Congregational members to leave? They have gone rogue and despite that evidence, in one of my earlier dealings, about our issues, with Mr J. Cutts, Secretary of Presbytery (and Rev. Lunney), he said, “we will continue to work with the elected Church Council”. What that means is he is prepared to “leave the foxes in charge of the hen house”. That intransigence has led to the treatment of Judith, and, her and others being treated as collateral damage and seemingly of no consequence to Fairfield Uniting and its Congregation: therefore of no consequence to Presbytery and, by extension of no consequence to the Uniting Church in Australia! Think I’m being harsh? Stick your head up (comment below or email) and tell me so, I'll will listen carefully. But you better have a pretty good argument because what your are going to be trying to prevent is me answering Yes to both parts of the following (recurring) question; “are you not now prepared to accept the Uniting Church in Australia is broken, not just in Fairfield but throughout?” So what sort of things happen at Fairfield Uniting Church that would demonstrate Church Governance is an issue? (How long is a piece of string?) The short answer is just about anything you might choose to look into; Lets start with the fact the Church Councillors believe they can run the Fairfield Uniting Church as they see fit; the Congregation should simply fall into line! Interesting. Election of officers outside the stipulated rules and the purler self elected Elders. Namely Mr. & Ms. Solifoni – oh dear, and done with legal advise I'll tip ;-) They know what best for every one else just look at the way they decide who can say what. That they decide who can attend church or not. At the way they tell other people to order estranged family members around......etc. I could go on and on and on and.......... ***** As a next step in understanding how to fix Church Governance is to accept as a fact the current Elders and Church Councillors are not about growing and nurturing a CHRISTian community. They are not about growing and nurturing the Congregation in the ways of Christ with Grace; they are all about POWER. POWER and CONTROL. POWER and CONTROL over everything to do with Fairfield Uniting Church. POWER and CONTROL over every individual who attends and where they can and can't park in the street and, who they can talk too and what about..... Again I could go on and on......... If CHRIST returned tomorrow..........? I started the section relating to Item 3 indicating it was the easiest of the three item to fix; and it is. You see once Items 1 &2, are correctly addressed the outcome will lead to a rectification of Church governance. It is so obvious it seems odd to even have to say so. The flip side though, if Items 1&2 are left ignored and unresolved; if it is thought re-training - the foxes to manage the hen house - is what should be first tackled then that would be a very foolish first step! Indeed that is what we are actually witnessing, and is taking place right now and, already it is possible to see it failing. A Life and Witness Consultation conducted at Fairfield, if it is going to happen (?), is going to need to tackle, and resolve properly & completely, all of the above plus some and much sooner than is being suggested. You all owe it to Judith, Ruth, many others and my (very young) grandchildren, who were also forced out of the Fairfield Uniting Church by the actions Mr. & Mrs. Tweed (Elders), Mr. & Ms. Solifoni (self elected Elders) & Mrs. Solifoni. “are you not now prepared to accept the Uniting Church in Australia is broken, not just in Fairfield but throughout?” Yes or No its still you call – GET INVOLVED!