Copyright © 2006 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
Skip Heitzig told the Journal on Monday that he has no plans to step down from the board of directors at Calvary Chapel of Albuquerque, which he continues to chair two years after taking a job as senior pastor of a California church.
But Heitzig declined to say whether he plans to return to the Albuquerque megachurch as its senior pastor.
"I plan to do what everybody else is doing and that is pray," he told the Journal in a telephone interview Monday. "I'm concerned for Calvary Albuquerque, and I want to pray with them and be available during this crisis, but a lot of those things depend on the pastoral staff and then the board."
It was Heitzig's first interview since Senior Pastor Pete Nelson shocked the congregation with his resignation Feb. 19.
Since then, the controversy has grown as details became public concerning a power struggle between Heitzig and Nelson, his handpicked successor, over control of the 14,000-member church.
Heitzig also said talks are under way to expand Calvary's board with more local members— a demand that has surfaced in the past week.
Four board members live outside New Mexico— a point of contention among church members seeking changes in the way Calvary is governed.
The board was recently expanded to seven members.
A group of church members on Thursday met with the board and called for the resignation of Heitzig and all other out-of-state board members.
They also called for sweeping changes that would force church leaders to be more open with the congregation about finances and personnel decisions.
Heitzig, who founded Calvary as a small Bible study group 25 years ago, left the church in early 2004.
Nelson, in the draft of a resignation letter obtained by the Journal, contended that Heitzig remained in control of Calvary and never allowed him to fully exercise his duties as senior pastor. He said it was his understanding that Heitzig would remain on the board for only a year during a transition period.
Nelson also questioned whether Heitzig was using Calvary Albuquerque to fund a national ministry based in California.
Heitzig said in the interview Monday that he takes partial responsibility for Nelson's resignation and recent problems at Calvary.
"It's like in a marriage— there's more than one person, and both people in a marriage problem have their share and have their part," he said. "But as the one who started the church and founded the church ... I wrote Pete a letter, and I told him that your success would be my success, and your failure would be my failure. So I'm willing to take responsibility for that.
"And in rectifying it, that's what we're doing now," he said.
"It's a process; it's not a light switch. We go through a process of healing and then a process of understanding and a process of moving forward."
Heitzig said the plan was for him to remain on the board for at least a year, then re-evaluate Nelson's performance.
Following Nelson's resignation, a letter written by former Calvary board member Greg Zanetti in 2004 became public. It raised many of the same concerns as Nelson's.
Zanetti told the Journal he was forced to resign from the board after he submitted the letter to church leaders.
The group that met with the board included some former board members, including John Ackerman, ex-chief of Public Service Company of New Mexico.
In a letter to the board, the group said fiscal accountability was "virtually non-existent" and cited several areas of concern involving financial matters. They also wrote that there was little, if any, local oversight.
The board currently consists of Heitzig, John Fidel, Gino Geraci, Raul Ries, Paul Saber, Paul Scozzafava and Michael Rosenblum. Fidel and Rosenblum live in Albuquerque, Scozzafava lives in Santa Fe and the rest live out of state.
More local board members are being sought, Heitzig said Monday, but "you don't want to react, you want to respond— you want to get the right kind of people, and you just don't want to put people on because somebody says you need more."
Heitzig said the board is "still praying and considering what (Ackerman's group) said. It would be arrogant for us to not consider what is being said by anyone."
He said all members of the current board have asked that he remain.
"I plan to help as long as my help is needed, and I'm actually furthering the process," Heitzig said.
The board will continue to meet to discuss a variety of topics, Heitzig said, including who will be the new senior pastor and the amount of Nelson's severance.
See the Journal for more of the interview with Calvary Albuquerque founder and former senior pastor Skip Heitzig.