The following is a letter sent to church leaders in 2004 by Greg Zanetti,
at the time a board member of Calvary Chapel.
November 8, 2004
Re: Committee Meeting Response
Dear Pete, Skip, and Paul,
I am writing because I left our committee meeting in
California concerned and disturbed about the direction Skip and Paul
want to take Calvary Albuquerque.
I was so concerned in fact; I consulted with an
attorney to obtain legal advice. My attorney is familiar with New
Mexico 501c3 law and has been through this type of situation before. He
is also a Christian.
He recommended that I write this letter to all of
you so you will know the legal ramifications of what Skip and Paul are
proposing. I also wanted you to have a record of how I see the events
that got us to this point.
First, I must take issue with he notion that Calvary
Albuquerque "sent" Skip to Ocean Hills on some sort of mission outreach.
This is not true. Skip left. No one in Albuquerque
asked Skip to go to Ocean Hills. In fact, many tried to get Skip to
stay. Skip sought the Ocean Hills opportunity without the knowledge of
the Albuquerque board members. Please also recall that Ocean Hills was
Skip's second attempt to leave. Initially, Skip informed me that he was
negotiating a deal with a church in Palm Desert. That deal fell through
and Ocean Hills later materialized.
I also need to note that at the time and,
unbeknownst to Albuquerque board members, Paul Saber helped negotiate
Skip's departure even while he was serving as a board member of Calvary
Albuquerque. According to my attorney, this was likely a breach of his
fiduciary responsibility to Calvary Albuquerque.
The facts are clear. Skip left voluntarily to pastor
an established church with apparently tens of millions of dollars in
assets. This was not, nor is, a mission outreach of Calvary Chapel of
Albuquerque. With Skip's departure and decision to pastor another
flock, there were consequences for both Skip and Calvary Albuquerque.
That is what we are dealing with now.
To be sure, I believe that God sent Skip and any
attempt to change that diminishes His work. I will not be party to
diminishing God's work nor at re-writing a history that is not true.
Second, the idea that Skip will always be a part of
Calvary Chapel Albuquerque is certainly accepted on a spiritual level.
No one disputes the amazing work that God, Skip, and the congregation
did during his tenure here. With that said, however, in a practical,
day-to-day sense, Skip cannot reasonably be a part of Calvary
Albuquerque's from 850 miles away.
We are all fortunate that God has clearly anointed
Pete for his ministry at Calvary Albuquerque. Calvary Albuquerque is
flourishing under his leadership. However, the notion that Skip is
providing mentorship and guidance to Pete in a meaningful way regarding
the operation of Calvary Albuquerque is not supported by the facts.
This is not meant as a criticism. Managing and
leading from hundreds of miles away is impractical. In addition, Skip
has made it clear that his schedule is full and his duties in
California demand much of his time. This too makes it difficult, if not
impossible, to provide the mentorship and leadership to Pete that Skip
purports to have done or will do.
Moving on...the Calvary Board approved and paid Skip
a very generous, tax-advantaged severance package to ensure that he had
a warm send off and to help him with his transition to his new church.
His acceptance of that money further indicated that
he had, indeed severed his day-to-day operational relationship with
It is my understanding that upon Skip's departure,
in addition to the automobiles, office furniture and equipment he took
as part of his severance, he also had the Line on Line stage equipment
with an approximate $26,000 net book value and published inventory
invoiced at $140,000 shipped to himself at Ocean Hills Community
Church. I understand that Ocean Hills was invoiced for these assets but
there has been no acknowledgement that Calvary Albuquerque is owed for
these assets. The $166,000 receivable from this transaction must be
resolved prior to the year-end audit.
Moreover, while Skip's willingness to stay on the
Board for a year was appreciated by all of us, it was understood that
Skip's California duties would demand more of his time and that a
permanent place on Calvary Albuquerque's Board was not in Skip's plans.
As a result, we in Albuquerque did the prudent thing and began making
plans for Calvary Albuquerque's future without Skip and Skip's chosen
Again, if you will recall, Skip's initial plan was
to turn the whole church operation over to Pete and walk-away. It was
Ray Ziler, in particular, who was worried about the appearance of such
an abrupt move. Ray, Pete, Jim Williams, and I all understood that Skip
and his absentee board members (Franklin Graham, Raul Ries, Greg
Laurie, and Paul Saber) would stay on a year to help Pete, but then we
would be on our own. During the transition year, it was understood that
Pete would invite new members to the board to permit a period of
overlap so that absentee members could leave the board in a stable
I believe it is clear the absentee board members are
more loyal to Skip as an individual than they are to Calvary
Albuquerque as an organization. They do not attend church here. They do
not tithe here. They only visit when asked by Skip. Paul Saber has
personally disclosed to me that his first loyalty is to Skip personally
and not Calvary Albuquerque. I believe this makes him a good friend to
Skip, but by his actions and loyalty, he is compromised as a Calvary
Albuquerque board member. His undisclosed negotiation of Skip's
departure only further supports that belief.
To further make my point, I need to remind everyone
of the vote concerning the radio stations in March of this year. Skip
and all of the absentee board members voted to transfer the radio
assets and operation to an entity that Skip and Paul would control.
These absentee board members did not disclose in their voting that they
were also members of the Ocean Hills board, a fact that was only later
Furthermore, and by way of background, when the
Calvary Albuquerque Board met in November of 2003 to discuss Skip's
departure, the topic of Calvary Albuquerque's $7.5 million debt was
discussed. The fact is, Skip was leaving at a time when Calvary
Albuquerque's debt was at the highest level it had ever been. I, among
others, expressed concern about Skip's departure with debt levels so
high and a pending bank approval of an additional line of credit.
Franklin and Paul (and, if I recall, Greg Laurie)
did not want to tell the bank of Skip's pending departure, which sent
immediate red flags up with Ray and me. We voiced our dissent and
proposed transparency and disclosure to the bank. We were voted down.
Ultimately, Skip privately approved of appropriate disclosures to the
bank, which were made by Bob Church and Ray Ziler.
Beyond this, however, Skip assured us that although
our debt was high, we had the radio stations as collateral. All of
which brings me to the March 2004 meeting.
At that meeting, an attempt was made to remove the
radio station assets from Calvary Albuquerque and put them under the
control of a separate absentee board in California. Franklin Graham
even made a statement along the lines of, "God told me He had given
those radio stations to Skip." Ray Ziler interdicted and stated that
this transfer could be illegal as the radio stations were serving as
collateral on our loans.
Nevertheless, the absentee board members voted to
pursue the asset transfer.
According to my attorney there were two major
problems with this action. First, since five Calvary Albuquerque board
members also serve on the Ocean Hills Board there was an apparent
conflict of interest when they voted over the objection of Albuquerque
based board members to transfer assets from Calvary Albuquerque to
another entity under the control of these (or some of these) Calvary
Albuquerque board members.
Even more troubling though, is the breach of
fiduciary responsibility to Calvary Chapel of Albuquerque. Those radio
stations are assets of the church, not personal assets or assets of
some other organization or board. The Calvary Albuquerque congregation,
who are the principal stakeholders in those assets, paid for them.
The point is, by that vote, the five absentee board
members demonstrated that Calvary Albuquerque's interests were not
first and foremost in their minds. In no way can the wresting away of a
significant asset from the church be deemed in the best interests of
Calvary Albuquerque. I believe they demonstrated that their loyalty
lies elsewhere. This also demonstrates a structural problem with our
All of which brings me to the governance issue,
which was discussed at our recent committee meeting in California.
The notion that there should be an "Executive Board"
at the top of our organizational chart with Calvary Albuquerque,
Calvary Ocean Hills, the radio stations, and the Connection ministry
below is shocking and appalling to me.
According to my attorney, this would be a breach of
our fiduciary duty to turn over control of a New Mexico 501c3
Corporation to an absentee board comprised of members with no vested
local interest in Calvary Albuquerque. In no way does ceding governance
to this "Executive Board" constitute the execution of our duties as
board members of Calvary Albuquerque.
My attorney says this is illegal and should not be
I further reject what Paul said at our committee
meeting that our duty as Calvary Board members is to look out for the
"interests of the church as a whole." No. Our job as Calvary
Albuquerque board members is to watch out for the best interests of
Calvary Albuquerque. We are a corporation of the State of New Mexico
and our legal charge and obligation is limited to the specific focus of
Furthermore, my understanding is that the Calvary
Organization has a history of independence. Each Calvary stands on its
Therefore, to usurp the governance and control of
our local church to another governing body is a gross breach of our
duties and responsibilities as Calvary Albuquerque Board members. In
addition, it flies in the face of all Calvary precedent. Moreover, this
idea was not represented to Pete or any other board member upon Skip's
Regarding the governance and control of the radio
stations, that too, is something that should stay local. The radio
stations are assets of Calvary Albuquerque paid for with Calvary
Albuquerque tithes and offerings.
If Calvary Ocean Hills or some other entity wants to
buy the assets of the radio stations at the market price, then legally
that is something that could possibly be pursued. If a solution can be
worked out with the bondholders, Calvary Albuquerque might be able to
sell the radio stations to another entity subject to the related bond
However, turning over control of the radio stations
to an absentee board, or any other board for that matter, will once
again, according to my attorney, be a breach of our fiduciary
responsibility and likely deemed illegal under the laws of the State of
New Mexico. Irrespective of these legalities, I believe the board would
be grossly negligent to let this happen to the Calvary Albuquerque
Regarding the Connection Ministries I need to remind
you all that financially this has been a losing proposition for many
years. Subsidies paid by Calvary Albuquerque to support the Connection
over its history total approximately $6 million. I asked Bob Church for
the numbers, and the fact is Connection Ministries will again be
subsidized by an estimated $500,000 again in 2004.
I do not believe this is good stewardship of God's
money. Further, fellow board member Greg Laurie has repeatedly voiced
his own belief that radio ministries must be self-supporting. We all
understand that the "fruit" of saved lives cannot always be seen from a
radio ministry. According to Pastor Laurie, however, the surrogate
fruit has to be self-support. This has not happened in any year over
the past ten years with the Connection and self-sufficiency in not
indicated within the foreseeable future.
Indeed recently an additional $68,000 was spend in
an attempt to get the Connection Ministry to be self-supporting. A
similar consulting engagement was funded in a prior year. No marked
improvement has resulted from either of these engagements.
Nevertheless, we have continued to fund Connection
over the past year out of respect for Skip and to ease his transition.
My understanding upon Skip's departure was, however, that once the
transition period was over (again, one year) Skip's new church would
decide whether to pick up this cost since he was their senior pastor.
Even when Skip was senior pastor here, the Board was
examining if this truly were the best use of our congregation's tithes.
Now that Skip is not here, I do not believe it is possible to justify
continuing this expenditure. To continue to fund this ministry is not
in keeping with being good stewards of God's money or with being good
fiduciaries of Calvary Albuquerque's funds.
Furthermore, I believe that if the Calvary
Albuquerque congregation knew that we continued to fund this ministry
at this level (with Calvary Albuquerque's debt so high) for the senior
pastor of Calvary Ocean Hills, it would not be received well. Again,
according to my attorney, the potential for lawsuits against all of us
as board members would be quite high.
Next, I need to address the new idea that Skip is
the permanent CEO of Calvary Albuquerque with personal and financial
authority while Pete is merely the custodian of the pulpit. This is
neither fair to Calvary Albuquerque, its staff nor to our senior
pastor, Pete Nelson. Further, it is not what Skip represented to Pete
or us when he left.
Skip made it very clear to Ray Ziler, Jim Williams
and me that this was to be Pete's church. Skip has apparently now
reversed that view. From what I could gather in California, Pete's only
transgression was recommending a new board member, so I do not
understand why the sudden loss of Skip's confidence when Pete has
performed so well.
As an aside, I had the opportunity to talk to Tom
Stipe and asked him about Calvary governance. During the conversation
he disclosed to me that Skip told him he was handing the reins of
Calvary Albuquerque to Pete with "no strings attached."
Skip's change of heart is not healthy for Pete, the
Calvary Albuquerque staff or for the congregation of Calvary
Albuquerque. My understanding was that Skip would help mentor Pete for
an interim period of time (1 year) and, at that point, Pete would be
free to choose his own board members and shepherd his own flock. He
would also assume all the duties and responsibilities Skip enjoyed as
senior pastor during his tenure here.
The fact is Pete does not need a set of milestones
(as Skip and Paul proposed at our committee meeting) to prove his
ability to run Calvary Albuquerque. He has already proven himself.
Since Skip left, attendance has risen. Tithing is up over 7%. There
have been no negative doctrinal issues and Pete as been faithful to the
Word and God's teaching. His ethics and personal life are beyond
reproach. Angie's' women's ministry is equally successful. The staff
has embraced Pete as the senior pastor. And, most importantly the
congregation has accepted him as their senior pastor, as do I.
You also need to know that since Skip left the
congregation has changed. It is not the same body as last December.
This was to be expected. Some left. Many more came. Pete is their
pastor and he should be afforded the authority that goes with the
Skip and Paul are proposing that Pete keep the
responsibility without the authority. This again, is neither fair nor
healthy. I therefore ask that Skip resign as Chairman and nominate Pete
as the successor. It would be the noble and right thing to do.
According to our by-laws, as senior pastor, Pete is
to be the President of the Corporation. He also has the authority to
appoint new board members for approval by the board. I have asked Pete
to present new board members for the board's approval at the next
meeting. We have an obligation to vote on them and to give him a local
board that he can turn to for advice and counsel.
Also, any attempt by the board to change our by-laws
to facilitate the changes Skip and Paul want will likely be deemed
another breach of fiduciary responsibility and I will vigorously resist
such an attempt.
Pete needs the same autonomy at Calvary Albuquerque
that Skip has at Ocean Hills and Greg Laurie and Raul Ries have at
their churches. All board members should accept this prima facie.
Next, I was taken aback by Chuck Fromm's presence at
the California meeting. I knew nothing of him prior to the meeting and,
as a result, was reluctant to speak freely in front of a stranger.
I read the re-cap that Chuck sent regarding our
meeting and found too much "spin" for my liking. Furthermore, Chuck
disclosed to me that he visits with Skip 3-4 times a week. Therefore, I
do not consider him an impartial moderator, but rather an advocate for
the changes Skip and Paul are proposing and that I am opposing.
I would ask that Chuck not be asked to any more
board or committee meetings since he is not a member of our board.
In summary, I am rejecting, for reasons stated
herein, the proposal advanced by Skip, Paul and Mr. Fromm.
Finally, I can understand that Skip may feel a sense
of entitlement as the founding pastor of Calvary Albuquerque. The fact
is though; God gave Skip stewardship over Calvary Albuquerque for a set
period of time. Skip was then called to steward another ministry and
another flock. Skip never had ownership. None of us do.
When Skip left a chain of events occurred. Not only
was Skip called to California, but also Pete was equally called to
Albuquerque. I implore Skip and Paul to please stop hindering God's
work through Pete.
The bottom line is if we continue to pursue the
radical changes Skip and Paul are proposing, all board members will be
exposed legally and financially. If word of these proposed changes gets
out to the flock, it would be very damaging to Skip's reputation and
could grievously harm the body. I know none of you wants that to
happen. Nor do I.
Skip has indicated a fear that his work will be
marred or destroyed. I believe God will ensure that Skip's past work
will be built on and grow. Have faith.
Signed Your Brother in Christ,
Calvary Albuquerque Committee and Board Member
Cc: Paul Saber