The following is a draft of the letter of resignation sent by Pastor
Pete Nelson to the Calvary Chapel leadership, dated Feb. 8, 2006.
Dear Calvary Albuquerque Leadership,
As we are well under way on a new year and the end of two
years of my serving as Senior Pastor in Albuquerque, I need to seek
your counsel on the future of the church. I want to be honest and
forthright in order to bring about the best in God's purposes for
Calvary Albuquerque ("CA"). My desire is to speak the truth in love,
that we may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ.
When I was first asked by Skip Heitzig to become Senior
Pastor of CA in October 2003, he indicated that he had been sensing for
some time a call by God to leave Albuquerque, pursue ministry in
Southern California, assist Chuck Smith at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa,
and be close to his mother. After pursuing another pastoral position in
Southern California, Skip was presented with the opportunity to take
the Ocean Hills Community Church Senior Pastor position in late 2003.
At the time he decided to accept the Ocean Hills position,
Skip called to give me a formal invitation to assume the role of Senior
Pastor at CA.
Accepting the position of CA's Senior Pastor was a very
difficult decision to make with many facets involved for consideration.
In favor of this decision were the strong previous ties with the
fellowship in Albuquerque where I had come to faith in Christ and
served on staff for several years as Youth Pastor and my long time
relationship with Skip as a mentor and pastor. On the other hand, at
the same time I was being groomed for and preparing to eventually
assume the Senior Pastor role at a large church in Denver. There were
also strong ties in Denver with Tom Stipe, our friends, family, and the
work that we had poured ourselves into up to that point.
After careful consideration of Skip's commitments to us
regarding the way the transition would be handled and much prayer
seeking the Lord's will, Angie and I responded with both excitement and
humility to the opportunity presented to assume the role of Senior
Pastor at CA. On the basis of Skip's clear assurances that as the new
Senior Pastor, I would serve in this role under the long established
powers and responsibilities established in the church By-Laws (to lead
the church, chair its Board of Directors and to appoint Board Directors
charged with carrying out the long established and time-honored vision
for the church). Angie and I decided that I would resign my position at
Crossroads Church of Denver and we would sell our home and move our
family to Albuquerque to embrace the body of CA and assume leadership
of the church's ongoing Biblical mission.
At CA's December 1, 2003 Board meeting, Skip formally
announced his plans to leave CA effective almost immediately and
announced to the Board that he has chosen me to succeed him as Senior
Pastor of CA. This transition plan was unanimously approved by the full
Board and I was asked to immediately relocate to Albuquerque and assume
the role of Senior Pastor.
During 2003 holiday services, Skip announced his departure
and I was introduced as CA's new Senior Pastor.
Under my leadership, CA was to remain an autonomous church
in Albuquerque with local church government as required by the church's
governing By-Laws. It was also understood that I would serve in
accordance with the church's core values that were distinctive to
Calvary Chapel laid down through Skip's past leadership. These core
values include strong emphasis on expository teaching of the
Scriptures, discipleship through home fellowships, pioneering mission
works, media ministry and training men for church planting. Having
served within the Calvary Chapel system for many years as a pastor, I
was well acquainted with the well-established practices of governance
associated with Calvary Chapel, as well as these important core values.
Before accepting the Senior Pastor role in December 2003,
I asked Skip how I should plan to transition the Board of Directors to
members of my choice. Skip requested that he would like to stay on for
a year to help smooth transition, but that I should immediately appoint
the rest of the Board with whomever I wished. I began seeking the
Lord's direction for new members according to Biblical standards based
upon Skip's clear direction.
On March 17, 2004, I sent a letter to the Board asking it
to approve 3 new additional Board members of my choice in accordance
with the church's Director appointment powers vested in the Senior
Pastor. Skip refused this transition. Skip's stated reasoning was that
it had always been his intention that the current Board membership
would remain intact without adding any new Board members for a period
of at least one year and that he would then evaluate the need for
change. Skip indicated that he had recently held a Board meeting with
non-local Board members only and that they had voted affirmatively in
support of his new viewpoint regarding the Board's composition.
In addition, during the official March 25, 2004 Board
meeting. Skip proposed to transfer CA's radio station assets to a new
company that he controlled. All non-Albuquerque directors voted in
favor of the proposal. I, along with another Albuquerque Board member,
voted against this proposal. We were both well aware that the radio
stations were very valuable CA assets. Further, it was my understanding
that these radio station assets serve as collateral under a bond
indenture of CA and could not be transferred to Skip's company or
another entity without breaching the CA covenants under the debt
In a phone call the next day, Skip announced to me that I
had "failed the test" by my negative vote on this matter and was now
"on probation" in my role as Senior Pastor of the church. I was also
told that I had been removed from the Board of Directors of the church
for the same reason. At a later date, Skip reconsidered this "removal"
and indicated that I remained on the Board of Directors. The long
established By-Laws of the Church specify that the Senior Pastor cannot
be removed from the Board of Directors and that only the Senior Pastor
may nominate or propose a new Board Director or request the removal of
a Board Director.
At Skip's request, in the latter part of 2004, a CA Board
member and I participated in a meeting held in Southern California with
Skip and Paul Saber (Skip and Paul are members of both the CA and the
Ocean Hills Boards of Directors), along with a consultant chosen by
Skip. They proposed setting up a new national organization under Skip's
control with an Albuquerque campus and Southern California campus,
which was described as a new church model. Under this proposal, CA
would become the new organization's Albuquerque campus.
During this same timeframe, the Albuquerque Board
Directors expressed serious concern about this proposed direction.
Local directors were also concerned that Skip and Paul appeared to have
serious conflicts of interest by serving on both the Boards of CA and
Ocean Hills Community Church and their apparent unwillingness to
acknowledge the impropriety of these conflicts of interest.
On November 8, 2004, a local Board Director of CA sent a
strong letter of objection articulating his concerns over the proposed
actions. This resulted in Skip's request for this Board Director's
immediate resignation. Skip has since requested and received the
resignation of the other Albuquerque Board Director (other than myself)
who opposed these proposed restructuring actions that would have placed
CA into a new national ministry organization under Skip's control.
On November 10, 2004, Skip flew to Albuquerque unannounced
to discuss the Albuquerque director's letter. Skip indicated to me that
if I did not approve that he remain President of the CA Corporation, he
would either have to find someone else to fill the Senior Pastor role
or return to Albuquerque himself to take over as Senior Pastor.
Prior to the Board meeting on November 29, 2004 in
Southern California, I, along with non-Albuquerque directors, had
discussions in response to the local Board Director's protest letter
and to address the proposed departure from the original governance
model of CA and how it might be restored.
At the November 29, 2004 Board meeting, Directors agreed
to develop and put into place an intermediate plan to get the Board
back to the original and long established governance model for CA. This
plan included: 1) resignations from the Board by Franklin Graham and
Greg Laurie to make three (including the Albuquerque Board member asked
to resign) Board positions available for me to appoint members of my
choosing, 2) the provision that Skip would serve as Board Chair until
2008 and then retire, and 3) any necessary amendment of CA's By-Laws to
facilitate return to the original governance practices of CA. The
Minutes of this Board meeting clearly reflect it was the clear intent
of the two non-local resigning Directors that, as Board Chair, Skip's
authority was to be limited to reviewing and approving my
recommendations for new Board members and reviewing my proposed Board
meeting agendas. It was specified that I would have complete authority
over the operations and ministry activities of CA, including all
operational and staffing decisions.
During 2005, I did my best to implement and adhere to this
Board approved plan.
At our official December 12, 2005 Board meeting, Skip
repositioned himself to remain Board Chair for an indefinite period of
time to facilitate restructuring of CA's governance. As Board Chair, he
indicated that he intended to run CA while serving as Senior Pastor at
Ocean Hills, in California. It seems he now plans to ultimately have
the power to make key decisions for CA to facilitate his vision for CA
as part of his national ministry vision. His vision appears to have CA
serving as part of this larger national ministry and includes having CA
provide significant financial resources to fund his national ministry.
Prior to the December 12, 2005 Board meeting, Skip
contacted an Albuquerque Board member and requested him to submit his
resignation. I was not allowed to nominate the two new local Board
Directors of my choice (out of three previously approved by Skip) until
after the Board meeting. In that Board meeting, Skip chose and approved
a new Board member of his choice without my consent, which was in clear
violation of the agreement reached in the November 29, 2004 Board
meeting. In this meeting Skip proposed his perpetual Chairmanship of
the CA Board. Skip also reasserted his plans to govern and control CA.
In December 2005, subsequent to the Board meeting, Skip,
as Chairman, sent a letter to all new Board members stating that they
would not be qualified to serve as Board members if they did not
support his governance vision.
On December 25, 2005 I received a letter from Skip further
setting forth the restructure for the implementation of his governance
While I was away on vacation with my family the week
between Christmas and New Years, Skip called a Board meeting (which was
at that time a Board made up of myself, Skip, and one non-local Board
Director and before my local nominees would officially become Directors
on January 1) despite my clear communication through my assistant, that
I would not be able to attend. In this Board meeting, Skip and the one
non-local Board member, by means of a 2 Director quorum, voted to
establish Skip's Chairmanship indefinitely. They also voted to amend
the CA By-Laws to provide legal authority for this change.
On January 18, 2006, Angie and I met with Skip and Lenya
in Southern California to communicate our concerns as well as express
our belief that the role of the Senior Pastor at CA is being undermined
by these actions. We communicated the dilemma that this presents to us
in our role at CA. Angie also expressed the present reality of Skip's
actions as clear change in the original agreement when first presented
with the opportunity in 2003. Skip agreed and cited my vote in the
March 25, 2004 Board meeting as the beginning reason for this change.
On January 24, 2006, I discovered that Chip Lusko
announced to his department that he would not be around much this year
due to the increasing demands with Skip's ministry needs. This
announcement was made with the expectation that CA will continue to pay
Chip's full salary.
This followed an earlier announcement by Chip to his
department that came to my attention that Skip's radio program
operations will remain in Albuquerque and continue to be funded by CA
indefinitely. This is a departure from the previous plan voted in by
the Board in the November 29, 2004 meeting that clearly indicated that
these operations and expenses would be systematically weaned off of CA
over an agreed period of time.
I am trying to be the best and most godly shepherd that I
can be serving as Senior Pastor of the CA body. However, Skip's actions
to date, proposed governance and organizational model undermines my
ability to lead and perform effectively. Further, all of this
restructuring and new vision for CA is going on without the knowledge
of the local church body. I do not feel that I can effectively serve
the body at CA under the present circumstances.
I believe CA is at a fork in the road. I am seeking the
Lord's will and unity as the highest priority for this church.
Disclosure of these developments and issues to the church body could be
very destructive. I am at the quandary and face a severe dilemma as the
Senior Pastor of this church. I'm not claiming to be perfect, however I
believe that I have walked in integrity before the Lord at each step of
the transition process, but I am unwilling to be further compromised in
my role as Senior Pastor.
As the founder of CA, Skip feels he should still be in
full control. I have been unable to obtain Skip's understanding of my
concerns about his intentions. He has removed all past Albuquerque
directors in retaliation for opposing him. I seek your assistance in
dealing with this untenable situation.
If the leadership of CA desires to support Skip's plans
and actions, then the leadership of CA should appoint another Senior
Pastor for the church. Skip's current plans for CA and the Senior
Pastor role are not the basis upon which Angie and I were called by the
Lord to lead this church. Because this was not the basis of our
understanding and is contrary to Skip's initial assurances and later
agreements, this letter is presented to you as Board members and
leaders of CA for your prayerful consideration. We love this church and
would be delighted to continue to lead the church on the basis of the
original vision for CA and the assurances given to us.
I love you and deeply appreciate your love for my family