By Miguel Navrot
Copyright © 2006 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
A group that met
with the Calvary Chapel board of directors on Thursday sought the
resignations of chairman and founder Skip Heitzig and other
out-of-state board members.
Letters and statements submitted Saturday to the
Journal shed more light on the continuing struggle over control of one
of Albuquerque's biggest churches.
The plea for local control comes from former Public
Service Company of New Mexico chief John Ackerman and five other
signatories of two letters dated March 2, one to the board and one to
According to church officials, Ackerman gave a
presentation Thursday to the board and submitted the letters at that
time. Ackerman and the others who signed the letters could not be
reached for comment Saturday.
According to a statement Saturday from Calvary,
neither Heitzig nor any other board member plans to resign. Along with
seeking Heitzig's resignation, the letters had called for all
out-of-state board members to withdraw.
Calvary's statement further announced that a new,
additional board member, Michael Rosenblum of Albuquerque, was
unanimously voted in during the Thursday meeting.
In 2004, Heitzig left the Albuquerque church he
founded for a sister congregation in Ocean Hills, Calif. Since then, he
has remained as board chairman of the local operation.
On Feb. 19, Senior Pastor Pete Nelson, whom Heitzig
had picked as a successor, announced his sudden resignation. In his
resignation letter, Nelson detailed a longstanding power struggle with
Heitzig over control and leadership of Calvary and expressed concern
that Heitzig was using Calvary Albuquerque's assets to build a national
The letter to the board from Ackerman and others
called Nelson's resignation "indicative of larger governance problems"
"Fiscal accountability to the body is virtually
non-existent," the letter states, accusing board members of
"unacceptable conflicts of interest" regarding past financial
decisions, including a severance package given to Heitzig.
Heitzig's 2004 departure included a severance
package totaling nearly half a million dollars in money, cars and
Ackerman and the others, in the message to Heitzig,
asked the Calvary Albuquerque founder to sever his ties with the local
church and resume his work at the Ocean Hills operation.
"We propose that you simply return to your original
calling. You were called to California in late 2003, you told us that
from the pulpit," the letter states, later adding:
"Skip, it is our fervent hope that you will resign
with dignity. ... You resigned from the Calvary Albuquerque pulpit to
leave for Ocean Hills Church. That is simply what we are asking for
A release from Calvary Associate Pastor Chip Lusko
dismissed the March 2 letters as "an ultimatum by (a) small group"
containing "many false accusations and misstatements."
"Additionally, the leadership of Calvary observed
that demands of this nature are not in keeping with the biblical steps
of resolving conflict, because they include a process and not an
ultimatum," the release states.
The Calvary board Saturday also took issue with
concerns raised in 2004 by former board member Greg Zanetti, a
brigadier general with the New Mexico National Guard.
The letter was made public last week, and Zanetti
cited a December 2003 meeting among board members and others in an
extravagant hotel in Huntington Beach, Calif., where rooms cost $400 to
$600 a night.
Saturday's statement from Calvary quotes Heitzig as
saying the hotel was chosen as a "secure location" in response to
"death threats to Franklin Graham," the son of renowned evangelist the
Rev. Billy Graham. Franklin Graham, who oversees a North Carolina-based
international relief ministry, is a former Calvary Chapel board member.
"I agreed to the location because of my concern for
him," Heitzig said in the statement, "and to cooperate with request for
a secure location."
Heitzig, in the statement, also distanced himself
from the board's severance package, saying he was not present when the
board took up the matter. He added that the church's budget has been
audited independently for the past decade and that a public report is
In the statement, Heitzig is also quoted as saying
that "he will conduct an in-depth interview with the Albuquerque
Journal on Monday, March 6th, and that a written response will also be
issued on Monday."
The 14,000-member church is also planning a
question-and-answer meeting for its members. No date was announced.
Besides Heitzig and Rosenblum, board members are
John Fidel, Paul Scozzafava, Gino Geraci, Paul Saber and Raul Ries.