Sunday, March 26, 2006

Calvary Chapel hires public relations man

Calvary Chapel hires public relations man

By Susie Gran
Tribune Reporter

March 18, 2006

New Mexico's largest megachurch, Calvary Chapel, has retained Tom Garrity, an Albuquerque public relations man who specializes in crisis communications.

Calvary Chapel has been in turmoil since the February resignation of Senior Pastor Pete Nelson and the March 10 announcement by its founder, Skip Heitzig, that he was stepping down as Calvary board chairman.

Garrity picks up the 14,000-member church as a client in time to manage whatever news emerges from Tuesday's board meeting, when Heitzig's resignation letter will be discussed.

"The board has to act on the letter," Garrity said.

Meanwhile, a group of church members who submitted a petition with 1,805 names seeking Nelson's return as senior pastor called a meeting Thursday to pray for guidance and discuss their demands. They want the Calvary board to respond to the petition and to their request that local members be appointed to the board.

Last week, the Calvary pastoral staff contacted Garrity and retained his services Saturday to handle communications with the congregation and the community, Garrity said.

"It's not really unusual to have PR (public relations) firms," he said of megachurches.

But typically, "they have somebody in-house" who handles public relations.

Calvary Assistant Pastor Chip Lusko has been handling media relations. The staff especially wanted Garrity's help during the Easter season, he said.

On Thursday, the church posted a collection of documents at, including statements by Heitzig about the conflict, Heitzig's answers to a host of questions and letters between Heitzig and Nelson dating back to 2004.

It's not the first time Garrity has managed public relations for a church. He worked for Calvary Chapel about six years ago. Hoffmantown Church, another megachurch, also was one of his clients.

The 42-year-old Garrity, who served as one of four superintendents for Albuquerque Public Schools in 2003, is a member of Hoffmantown West, Hoffmantown's sister church on the West Side.

Garrity also worked for Furr's during the supermarket's bankruptcy proceedings and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. His client list includes the New Mexico Senate Democrats.

Calvary's turmoil is not so rare

Calvary's turmoil is not so rare

Megachurches' power changes are often painful, expert says

By Susie Gran
Tribune Reporter

March 9, 2006

When the founder of Legacy Church in Albuquerque left his flock after more than two decades, his successor did not look back for approval or guidance.

Without controversy over new leadership, Legacy grew into the second largest megachurch in New Mexico with 9,000 members.


More than 4 million people across the country attend megachurches like Albuquerque's Calvary Chapel.

New Mexico has three megachurches, defined by researcher Scott Thumma of the Hartford Institute for Religious Research as a non-Catholic congregation of about 2,000 or more worshippers each week.

Albuquerque and Rio Rancho have two Catholic parishes exceeding 2,000 members.

The megachurches are:

Calvary Chapel, 4001 Osuna Road N.E., 14,000 worshippers

Legacy Church, 7201 Central Ave. N.W., 5,000 worshippers

Hoffmantown Church, 8888 Harper Road N.E., 3,000 worshippers

Sources: Scott Thumma, Hartford Institute for Religion Research,; The Rev. Richard Olona, Church of the Risen Savior, 7701 Wyoming N.E.

That doesn't always happen when a megachurch founder moves on, Legacy Senior Pastor Stever Smothermon said.

"We're probably the exception to the rule," Smothermon said.

New Mexico's largest megachurch, Calvary Chapel in Albuquerque, is in the midst of a difficult, and public, transition.

On Wednesday, church members learned founder Skip Heitzig was stepping down as chairman of Calvary's board following more than two weeks of turmoil.

Heitzig had handpicked senior Pastor Pete Nelson to succeed him when Heitzig left for a California church in 2004.

Heitzig continued to serve as chairman of the Calvary board and conduct his radio ministry.

On Feb. 19, Nelson resigned, saying in a letter to the board that Heitzig wasn't allowing him to run the church.

Nearly 1,600 church members have signed an online petition asking for Nelson to return and for local elders to be seated as Calvary directors.

Church members and former board members had called for the resignations of Heitzig and Calvary's out-of-state directors.

Some church members have also requested information on finances and personnel decisions.

Former Calvary board member Greg Zanetti said any church, large or small, can have difficulties with pastors or boards that have too much power.

"Our problems are not unique to Calvary. We're all human beings," Zanetti said.

It took Nelson's resignation to get the problems resolved, Zanetti said.

"Good men and women are going to do the right thing," he said.

This is a typical reaction in disputes over leadership, said Scott Thumma of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, an offshoot of Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. Thumma conducted studies of megachurches in 2000 and 2005.

Lack of accountability in the leadership of a megachurch is a frequent claim made by former members and external critics, he found.

Some new senior pastors find it difficult to run the church when the founder refuses to relinquish control, Thumma said in his study.

"Given the pivotal role played by megachurch pastors, it is hard to imagine their churches functioning without them. Indeed, this is a concern for many such congregations: how to create ministerial continuity and a congregational identity apart from the senior minister."

In an interview with The Tribune, Thumma said between 25 percent and 30 percent of the megachurches have changed pastors after reaching megasize.

"The idea that these are going to collapse when the founder leaves is not necessarily true," he said.

For Smothermon, the transition at Legacy Church was much different than Calvary's.

When he arrived, Smothermon said he formed two boards - elders and trustees - to help him govern the church.

From the beginning, he had support to grow the church on his own terms after the founder left.

Smothermon has doubled the size of the congregation, formerly Victory Love Fellowship, and is determined to make room for more.

He counts 9,000 members, with about 5,000 of them attending weekly services at Legacy on Central Avenue Northwest.

Smothermon said he is familiar with the research on megachurches that has documented both smooth and rocky transitions.

"Other churches have transitioned wonderfully," he said. "I know they do, but some do not."

He said he hasn't followed Calvary's controversy closely, but he said he believes churches should handle such disputes privately.

"The church should never air its dirty laundry," he said. "When leadership fails, the people suffer. Our heart goes out to the people" at Calvary.

Calvary Assistant Pastor Chip Lusko agrees Calvary's problems should not have gone public.

"On one hand, I feel concerned for the people of Albuquerque who have watched this publicly unfold. On the other hand, I am expectant God is going to work this out and good things will come of it," Lusko said.

He said the lessons learned should improve relationships and lead to reconciliation.

"Each of us can look and see relationships that get out of sorts. When those become public, it's painful."

Lusko likened the founder of a megachurch to an entrepreneur in the business world. Both leave their fingerprints on their product.

In Calvary's case, there was no business plan from the start to follow as it grew into a megachurch, Lusko said.

"We didn't set out to become a big business," he said. "It grew so very naturally, it seemed like a very smooth change from small to large."

Around Albuquerque, church leaders and churchgoers are joined in prayer for the Calvary membership and the future of their church.

"I'm personally praying for that community," said The Rev. Richard Olona of the Church of the Risen Savior, one of the largest Catholic parishes in the metro area.

"It's a lot different in the Catholic church," he said of leadership changes.

"We are appointed by the archbishop and the local parishioners accept that."

March 4 Announcement

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

March 4 Announcement

Journal Staff Report

The Board of Directors of Calvary of Albuquerque has announced the addition of a new member. Michael Rosenblum was voted in unanimously at the Thursday, March 2, 2006 meeting. Rosenblum, an Albuquerque resident, joins John Fidel, Paul Scozzafava, Gino Geraci, Paul Saber, Skip Heitzig and Paul Ries on the church board.

After that meeting the board and the Pastoral staff was presented with an ultimatum by (a) small group that demanded the resignations of three board members. The questions raised in this presentation will be addressed in writing because of the many false accusations and missstatements contained within their statement.

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.

Heitzig, founding pastor of the church, also responded to recent stories by saying 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.

In addition, Heitzig said that a church meeting will be announced soon to give opportunity for discussion with the Calvary congregation in a question and answer setting.

Heitzig did respond to a story in the March 3rd edition of the Journal concerning the site of a Calvary Board of Directors meeting and his financial compensation upon leaving Albuquerque. "The hotel for the meeting was chosen by Samaritan's Purse because of death threats to Franklin Graham. I agreed to the location because of my concern for him, and to cooperate with that request for a secure location," said Heitzig.

Concerning his financial gift given by the Board of Directors, Heitzig said, "I was not in the room when this was discussed, it was a decision that the Board voted on unanimously according to the minutes."

Heitzig said all financial statements of Calvary have been subject to an annual, outside audit for the past ten years and that a public report is being prepared.

"We have always had a policy of meeting with those who are part of our church and for discussing these audited financials. I also would like to see any conflicts that exist be resolved according to biblical principles and not in a way that would be divisive to the church."

The Pastoral staff of Calvary has issued a call to prayer for the members of Calvary so a spiritual climate will exist for dealing with conflicts in grace, unity and in a way that is consistent with biblical teachings.

Interim Pastor to Take Reins at Calvary

Thursday, March 23, 2006

By Jeff Proctor

Journal Staff Writer

Calvary Chapel of Albuquerque wants to use the next 60 days to "stabilize" itself in the wake of a recent power struggle and the resignations of several key church leaders.

The church's board of directors took the first step Tuesday by naming Dave Row as interim senior pastor.

"I'm definitely looking forward to it," Row said in an interview Wednesday.

Row takes the reins from Pete Nelson, who abruptly resigned Feb. 19. In his resignation, Nelson cited a power struggle over Calvary with church founder and longtime senior pastor Skip Heitzig, who has resigned from the church board.

Row will serve 60 days. He will assume all the duties his two predecessors took on at the 14,000-member church: taking over as president of the Calvary corporation, managing the church's staff and handling the sermons on Wednesday evenings and on Sunday mornings, as well.

John Ackerman, who has led a group calling for the resignation of all out-of-state board members, was disappointed with Tuesday's appointment.

"We believe the appointment of a senior pastor by the current board members is inappropriate," said Ackerman, former president of Public Service Company of New Mexico and a UNM professor. "This appointment should be made by a restructured local board. This is not a comment about David Row. But for that board to name someone really handicaps whoever takes that position."

Heitzig left Albuquerque in early 2004 to lead Ocean Hills Community Church in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., but remained as chairman of the megachurch's board. He announced his resignation as chairman March 8. Board members officially accepted his resignation Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Tom Garrity, a church spokesman, all but ruled out the possibility Heitzig could return to Calvary as senior pastor in 60 days.

"Skip's focus right now is on the Ocean Hills community," he said.

Also on Tuesday, California-based board member Raul Ries resigned. However, Paul Saber, of California, and Gino Geraci, of Colorado, remain on the board.

Garrity said he's not aware of any additional resignations by board members.

"Out-of-state board members provide a unique perspective and objectivity you might not otherwise get," he said. "There is some value in that."

Also during the next 60 days, financial and organizational audits will be conducted. National accounting firm Moss Adams, LLP., will audit Calvary's books. Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowships of Costa Mesa, Calif., will do the organizational audit, Garrity said.

Row, whose father and grandfather were pastors, joined the staff at Calvary in 1998. He oversaw the church's School of Ministries, which trains students for service in church ministries, until late 2004. He then took on the position of overseeing the pastoral staff. Dale Coffing will replace Row.

Row met Heitzig in 1987, when he was a congregant at Calvary, and the two have remained friends.

Row said he doesn't feel like he's filling a hot seat.

"I base that on the stability of this fellowship," he said. "There are a lot of great people here.

Board Accepts Heitzig Resignation

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

By Jeff Proctor

Journal Staff Writer

The Calvary Chapel board of directors on Tuesday accepted the resignations of founder Skip Heitzig and Californiabased board member Raul Ries.

The board selected an interim senior pastor - to replace Pete Nelson, who resigned Feb. 19 - but did not say who it was.

"They were very adamant to make sure that the staff and congregation heard it first from them, rather than reading it in the newspaper," said Tom Garrity, who has been hired by Calvary to handle media requests.

Heitzig announced March 8 that he was stepping down from the board in an attempt to "defuse" escalating tension within the church.

Heitzig, who served as chairman for 22 years, has continued to leave open the possibility he might return to Calvary in some capacity later.

He also said, in a telephone interview from California this month, that he was "still involved" with the 14,000-member church.

John Ackerman, who was part of a group of churchgoers who asked for Heitzig and other out-of-state board member to resign, said Tuesday's actions were the first step in a transition.

"Calvary Chapel Albuquerque cannot move forward towards ultimate healing until the other out-of-state directors also resign," he said. "I would say we're disappointed because the resignations of all of the out-of-state directors did not occur at this meeting. Let's see what they come up with tomorrow."

Heitzig left Albuquerque in early 2004 to lead Ocean Hills Community Church in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., but he remained chairman of Calvary's board of directors.

In a statement released Tuesday, Heitzig said: "I have respectfully resigned from the board of Calvary Albuquerque after serving for 25 years and I want you to be aware of and understand the factors that led to my resignation. Some have mistakenly thought that doing so was an admission of wrongdoing. Such is not the case. Rather, I wanted to make a strong statement on one hand and on the other hand to give the church a hiatus from the media frenzy that has placed it in the spotlight before the unbelieving world."

Nelson, Heitzig's handpicked successor as senior pastor, resigned abruptly, and neither he nor Calvary have explained why he left.

A struggle for control came into public focus when the Journal obtained a copy of Nelson's resignation letter that outlined a list of grievances against Heitzig and the board. Nelson wrote that Heitzig did not allow him to appoint his own board members or to exercise autonomy as senior pastor.

The controversy came to a head the first week of March when Ackerman's group demanded that Heitzig and the other out-of-state directors resign.

Ackerman, former president of Public Service Company of New Mexico and an ethics professor at UNM's Anderson Schools of Management, and his group also sought more transparency in personnel and financial dealings.

The board on Tuesday released a statement saying Heitzig's resignation was "a concession to a group of local dissenters who assured him the media frenzy they helped create would cease."

Currently on the board are: Gino Geraci, Paul Saber, Paul Scozzafava, John Fidel and Michael Rosenblum. Geraci and Saber live out of state. Scozzafava lives in Santa Fe; Fidel and Rosenblum live in Albuquerque.

In his resignation letter, Ries thanked the board "for allowing me to serve as a member of the board for the past few years. My intention has always been to help Calvary Chapel Albuquerque as well as Pastor Skip Heitzig through the transition period" of Ocean Hills and Calvary.

He cited "many ministry responsibilities" at Calvary Chapel Golden Springs in Diamond Bar, Calif., where he serves as pastor, and in his "Somebody Loves You" crusades.

Disagreement over how Calvary Albuquerque was run had been simmering behind the scenes for more than a year.

In November 2004, thenboard member Greg Zanetti wrote a pointed letter to church leaders detailing some of the same concerns Nelson would raise more than a year later.

According to Zanetti's letter, Heitzig stacked the board with his friends - none of whom lived in Albuquerque or attended Calvary - who were more loyal to Heitzig than to the church. Zanetti told the Journal he was forced to resign from the board after writing the letter.

Heitzig has said that it was Nelson who asked Zanetti to step down. Nelson, Zanetti and Ackerman's group all have questioned whether non-local board members serve Calvary's best interests.

Zanetti said Heitzig promised him in a March 8 conversation that Heitzig and the other outof-state directors would resign.

Heitzig told the Journal that same day that he wasn't clear on the others' resignations, and that he needed to speak with Zanetti again on the matter.

Zanetti said Heitzig did not return telephone calls or emails until last week.

Heitzig has said that his future involvement at the church would be up to the pastoral staff, made up of Calvary's pastors.

"I serve at their convenience," he said.

He said that in his March 8 conversation with Zanetti, the possibility was left open that Heitzig could return to Calvary's board

Gift of Radio Station to Calvary Sparked Little Static

Monday, March 20, 2006

By Andrew Webb

Journal Staff Writer

A Christian radio station that figured prominently in the recent power struggle at Calvary Chapel was donated to the church five years ago in a transaction that attracted scant attention.

Bryan Folk, a youth activities leader for an East Mountains evangelical church, was one of two people who formally opposed the deal, urging the Federal Communications Commission to reject the transfer of Albuquerque-based KLYT 88.3-FM to a Calvary-run nonprofit.

The reason: He argued that the nonprofit Christian Broadcasting Academy Inc., which had run KLYT for several years, was not affiliated with any particular church.

"I told the FCC I didn't think it was right to have a public broadcasting station, the only (Christian) one in town, being taken over by one particular denomination," he said recently.

He also claims the deal was set up to benefit former Calvary pastor Skip Heitzig.

Folk said members at Calvary dominated the board of Christian Broadcasting Academy, the company that was operating KLYT.

The president of the Christian Broadcasting Academy Board at the time was Paul Saber, a Calvary Albuquerque board member and prominent backer of Heitzig.

"It just didn't smell right."

Folk said of his objection to the transfer. "It wasn't just gifting (the station) to Calvary; it went straight to Skip."

The Christian Broadcasting Academy Board chaired by Saber voted to give the 31-year-old radio station to a nonprofit subsidiary of Calvary called Connection Communications Associates.

The president of Connection Communications was Heitzig, who founded Calvary Chapel of Albuquerque, and at the time was its senior pastor. Connection Communications ran another Albuquerque station, KTKN.

The FCC permitted the transfer of KLYT and its statewide network of translators on Jan. 1, 2001.

Radio ministry

Fast forward to 2006, when a simmering dispute at the city's biggest nondenominational church boils over into public view.

The resignation letter by Heitzig's hand-picked successor, Pete Nelson, said Heitzig in March 2004 proposed transferring the radio station assets to a company he controlled.

Nelson and board members from Albuquerque voted against the move, which did not occur.

"We were both well aware that the radio stations were very valuable CA (Calvary Albuquerque) assets," Nelson wrote in his letter. "Further, it was my understanding that these radio station assets serve as collateral under a bond indenture of CA and could not be transferred ... without breaching the CA covenants under the debt documents."

Heitzig released letters and statements last week concerning the controversy.

He said proposals involving the radio station were simply matters for discussion and exploration, then rejected.

Although Heitzig left Albuquerque in early 2004 to lead Ocean Hills Community Church in California, the local church still funds "The Connection," Heitzig's daily half-hour radio program.

The program is heard on radio stations around the country and on the Internet.

Both the radio stations and "The Connection" are supported by church funds, generated by tithings and donations, as well as merchandise sold by the Calif.-based producers of "The Connection," said Calvary Associate Pastor and spokesman Chip Lusko.

"All the revenues come back to the church to help underwrite the cost of the radio ministry," he said.

That merchandise includes a vast collection of books, CDs and other materials produced or written by Heitzig and his wife, Lenya.

In a 2004 letter to church officials, former Calvary board member Greg Zanetti said the church had subsidized "The Connection" to the tune of $6 million since 1994 and was continuing to support it with $500,000 per year, despite the fact Heitzig had left Calvary.

Some former church officials, including Nelson, have contended that Heitzig was using local church money to advance a nationwide ministry and have questioned the loyalties of its largely out-of-state board.

"His vision appears to have (Calvary Albuquerque) serving as part of this larger national ministry and includes having (Calvary Albuquerque) provide significant financial resources to fund this national ministry," Nelson wrote in his resignation letter to the board.

In late December, Heitzig wrote to Nelson that, even as he transitioned out of his pastoral duties in Albuququerque, he never intended to leave the radio ministry in New Mexico.

"KLYT was gifted to Calvary ABQ because of my past track record in the community with reaching out to youth."

He wrote that the board specifically insisted on his involvement in order that the programming and expansion be sustained.

Spreading the gospel

Radio— especially low-power FM stations with networks of inexpensive translator stations— is one of evangelical Christianity's key mediums for spreading the gospel. A 2000 study by the Hartford Institute for Religious Research found that nearly 50 percent of megachurches— those with 2,000 or more members— used radio as part of communicating to the flock.

The global Calvary movement also operates a nationwide radio network, Calvary Satellite Network, or CSN, which showcases music and sermons from evangelists like Billy Graham, national Calvary founder Chuck Smith and Heitzig.

Today, Calvary operates two radio stations.

KLYT, otherwise known as M88, plays youth-oriented Christian music and programs statewide and in southern Colorado. First founded in the mid-1970s and run by a network of evangelical churches, KLYT has been frequently referred to as one of the country's longest-running youth-oriented Christian radio stations.

KNKT, or Connection 107.1, is an adult-oriented station broadcasting contemporary music, talk and religious services in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. It has operated since 1986.

Stations were key assets

Because churches do not have to report to the Internal Revenue Service, tracking financial information for Calvary is difficult. But the scant records available for the short-lived nonprofit Connection Communications Association show that the two radio stations were key church assets.

At the end of 2000, an IRS form 990 filed by Christian Broadcasting Academy showed KLYT had assets of $300,219.

It had total annual revenues of about $26,000, lost nearly $500,000 per year and depended largely on donations from listeners and fundraising concerts and other events for its survival.

Christian Broadcasting Academy dissolved in 2001, and Calvary's Connection Communication Association filed its first 990, reporting on its year running KLYT and KTKN.

That report placed total assets at $3.5 million after accounts payable and other expenses.

Total revenues were $4.7 million, most of which came from "noncash" direct public support totaling $4.2 million. The tax filing did not detail the source of that funding.

Lusko said he did not know where the $4.2 million came from.

The nonprofit Connection Communications Association continued to run the stations for two more years, recording annual revenues of $600,000 to $700,000. Expenses exceeded revenues by about $100,000 for those two years.

In 2003, all the radio station's assets were donated by the Connection Communications Association to Calvary Chapel, which does not have to report to the IRS, and no financial information is available after 2003.

Connection Communications is still cited as the copyright holder on Web sites for the two radio stations and for Heitzig's radio show, "The Connection."

Calvary Board to Discuss Founder's Resignation

Monday, March 20, 2006

By Jeff Proctor

Journal Staff Writer

This week could be pivotal for Calvary Chapel of Albuquerque.

The 14,000-member church's board of directors is scheduled to meet Tuesday. On the agenda: the resignation of Calvary founder and former senior pastor Skip Heitzig.

Heitzig, who has served as Calvary board chairman since founding the church nearly a quarter-century ago, submitted a letter of resignation March 10, according to Tom Garrity, who is handling public relations for Calvary.

That wasn't the first time Heitzig tried to resign during the leadership crisis that has gripped Calvary in the past month.

According to church leaders who spoke from the pulpit on Feb. 26, Heitzig had "submitted his resignation, but the board wouldn't accept it."

That scenario isn't likely to play out again at Tuesday's meeting, Garrity said.

"The situation has dramatically changed since (Feb. 26), and it is Skip's desire that the board accept his resignation," Garrity said Sunday. "Skip's desire for the congregation is that the healing process begin.

"From everything I've heard, the resignation will be accepted."

What is still unclear is whether Calvary's other out-of-state board members will resign as well.

Controversy at Calvary spilled into public view Feb. 19 when then-senior pastor Pete Nelson abruptly stepped down. In his resignation letter, obtained by the Journal, Nelson cited a struggle with Heitzig for control of Calvary.

Nelson wrote that Heitzig, who left Albuquerque in early 2004 to lead Ocean Hills Community Church in California, was not allowing him to choose his own board members— or enough autonomy to run the megachurch as he saw fit.

A November 2004 letter written by then-board member Greg Zanetti raised many of the same concerns.

Zanetti's letter, also obtained by the Journal, said Heitzig had tried to wrest control of Calvary's two multi-million dollar radio stations from the church. Zanetti also expressed concern that Heitzig had loaded Calvary's board of directors with his friends, who did not live in Albuquerque or attend Calvary, and who were more loyal to Heitzig than to the church.

Finally, during the first week of March, a group of church members headed by John Ackerman went to the board and demanded that Heitzig and all other out-of-state board members resign.

Ackerman, former president of Public Service Company of New Mexico and an ethics professor at UNM's Anderson Schools of Management, is a longtime member of Calvary.

The group he leads wants more transparency and accountability in Calvary's financial and personnel moves, and asserts local governance is a key first step to achieving those objectives.

At Tuesday's meeting will be Heitzig, Gino Geraci, Paul Saber, Raul Ries, Paul Scozzafava and Michael Rosenblum, according to Garrity. John Fidel, a certified public accountant, is on sabbatical until the end of tax season.

Geraci, Saber and Ries all live out of state. Scozzafava lives in Santa Fe; Rosenblum and Fidel— the board's two most recent appointments— live in Albuquerque.

Zanetti said that, on March 8, Heitzig promised his resignation along with those of Geraci, Saber and Ries.

On that same day, Heitzig told the Journal that he wasn't clear on the others' resignations, and that he needed to speak with Zanetti again on the matter. Heitzig has not returned telephone calls from the Journal since March 8, and Zanetti said Heitzig did not get back in touch with him until last week.

It appears that Heitzig's will be the lone resignation discussed by the board Tuesday.

"I'm not aware of any other resignations that could be coming down the pike right now," Garrity said Sunday, but he left open the possibility the others could step down.

The board will act on three other items Tuesday: selection of an interim senior pastor; a selection process to find a permanent senior pastor; and internal realignment of staff to meet existing and future church needs.

Garrity said Heitzig is "very unlikely" to fill the role of interim senior pastor. But he said Heitzig may return sometime down the road— either as senior pastor or as a board member.

"He has a strong place in his heart for Calvary of Albuquerque," Garrity said. "Whether those feeling will bring him back, I don't know."

For now, there is no "short list" of candidates to step in as senior pastor. In fact, on Tuesday the board will simply discuss a process to find the church's next top preacher.

As for "internal realignment," Garrity said, the church has at least two spots to fill on its pastoral staff. Bob Church and C.B. Blankenship— both members of the staff— resigned about the same time as Nelson last month, he said.

Garrity, president of the Garrity Group LLC, said he was hired last week by Calvary Associate Pastor Chip Lusko, who normally handles media inquiries for the church.

Garrity counts as recent clients the Albuquerque Public Schools, Intel, New Mexico Senate Democrats, Furr's Supermarkets and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

He said his salary is being paid by the Calvary board of directors but declined to say how much.

Garrity's role, he said, is to manage "crisis communications and public relations" for Calvary.

"The church is in the midst of a transition, and the pastoral staff more than has its work cut out for it," he said. "That's one of the underlying reasons I was brought on."

Zanetti and Ackerman have criticized Calvary's hiring of a public relations firm.

"I find it revealing that Skip Heitzig and Chip Lusko are using Calvary Albuquerque funds to pay a public relations firm," Zanetti said in an interview. "Using hard-earned tithings and offerings in this manner is deplorable. Truth does not need spin or packaging."

Ackerman said Sunday that none of his group's concerns have been addressed so far.

"Our principal concerns continue to be a governance process and behavior that lacks accountability, transparency and truth," he wrote in an e-mail response to Journal questions. "P.R. firms are hired to improve image. The best way to improve the church's current image is to adopt accountability, transparency and truth. It is cheaper than a P.R. firm, and may even be biblical."

Journal staffer Paul Logan contributed to this report.

Letters to the Editor - Views From the Pews

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Church Delivers Money's Worth

AS ONE OF the 14,000 who worship at Calvary Chapel who was referred to by Greg Zanetti as a "little old woman" ... being taken advantage of financially by Skip Heitzig, I would like to respond. ... I do not regret the money which I have donated and which was given to Heitzig and his family.

If one does the math, the severance pay is a bonus of $12,000 for each year that Heitzig has served. Although I have attended Calvary for only about six of those years, I suspect that in the early years of the church those finances must have been "lean to nonexistent."

It would be interesting to know how many years Heitzig went without any financial support at all. It was also noted in the article that the Heitzigs were not furnished housing, which is a traditional benefit given by many churches.

And why is it so horrible that some of the money from the local church be used to support a worldwide radio ministry? Didn't Jesus say to go into the entire world and preach the good news?

Perhaps the reason that I attend Calvary Chapel is the reason that others do also. I want Bible study. I want to study chapter by chapter, verse by verse. I want to start with the biblical text and a teacher to expound— not a sermon with a convenient scripture as a postscript. I receive this at Calvary Chapel and, yes, I get my money's worth.



House Cleaning Is Long Overdue

THE SITUATION with Skip Heitzig at Calvary Chapel is standard operating procedure. Wide is the path and many are they who have been burned by Heitzig.

There are many casualties over the last two decades of good people who have been axed, canned or forced out simply because they crossed him. Pete Nelson is the only one who has had the guts— or perhaps more accurately, the venue— to make it public.

Franklin Graham and Calvary's current board seemed to express concerns about Nelson's leadership. I believe the problem is Nelson's "followership"— his unwillingness to blindly follow Heitzig's dictatorship. God bless Nelson. Cleansing begins with the House of God.



This Trash Isn't Front-Page News

CALVARY CHAPEL'S internal garbage is not front-page news. It does not deserve more than a brief article in the Metro section— if that.


Rio Rancho

New Congregation Also in Turmoil

IT IS DEEPLY sobering to read of all the turmoil at Calvary Chapel because of Skip Heitzig's involvement.

Hearing of this brings back painful memories of how Heitzig defiantly strutted into our church and assumed the throne under false pretenses to become the senior pastor of Ocean Hills Community Church in 2004.

He was extremely crafty at dismantling our wonderful body of believers. In less than a year, he obliterated our choir— stating that it was an antiquated form of worship— canceled all Bible studies, let go all our pastors, one of who had a wife dying of breast cancer.

He refused to meet with concerned church members, stating that they were immature. He had a Machiavellian way of squashing anyone who had a dissenting opinion. Should the old board members and old pastors of Ocean Hills Community Church speak candidly about this, I'm sure their testimony of Heitzig would be the same as Pete Nelson's.


Coto de Caza, Calif.

Heitzigs Our Own Jim, Tammy Faye

I WAS STUNNED to read on the front-page news what I personally knew was brewing at Calvary Chapel for years. I attended Calvary for close to a decade and finally left in disgust over the arrogance, lack of accountability and spendthrift ways of Skip and Lenya Heitzig.

I felt that the only difference between the Heitzigs and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker was the Heitzigs' facade of an "Orange County" lifestyle/class which seemed to be lacking in Jim and Tammy Faye. Their motives however are the same— power, greed and fame seeking, which are definitely not fruits of the spirit.

My experience with the Heitzigs was they were totally unapproachable, lived in a huge expensive home in Tanoan, drove only high-end luxury cars, jet-setted around the globe with Franklin Graham and never ceased making improvements on their Disney-esque "temple of greed" that they now call Calvary Chapel on Osuna Boulevard. ...

The allegation that Heitzig maintains control over his empire is not too far-fetched. I recall a former roommate of mine who was on staff at Calvary in the 1990s who tells that Heitzig maintained control even over where his staff lived. Addresses in the South Valley were unacceptable. ...

Now Heitzig has brought in his big gun Franklin Graham to further fuel the fear and intimidation that he so subtly yet expertly uses to control his flock. By doing this he sends the message to the Christian community that Pete Nelson is wrong and not to be trusted. What card-carrying evangelical born-again Christian is brave enough to argue with the son of Billy Graham?

I am deeply thankful that these abuses have finally come to light. Heitzig has imposed such power and fear over his people that I am deeply impressed at Nelson's brave stance to "speak the truth."

I would like to challenge the people of Calvary to investigate those independent audits to see exactly how their money is being spent. I doubt that but a handful will be courageous enough to do that.



'News' Makes Hard Process Harder

I HAVE WATCHED as the Albuquerque Journal placed report after report ... on the front page about the church that I consider my home. ...

Unfortunately, the way the Journal has handled the "news" has made an already difficult process a much more painful one. Not only do we now have to seek God's will as we search for a new pastor to lead in our church, but we also have to stand up to ridicule, anger and spite that I believe have been encouraged by the Journal.

As a member of the church (who) ... has been present at all of the services where the issues have been openly addressed, I can see that the Journal has not made ... truth its main priority when reporting the things that are currently going on at Calvary. ... It is discouraging and it is hurtful.

There are two things that I know for sure in this situation. The first is the media obviously has no sympathy in such situations and its only purpose is to exploit and feed off the stories that, of course, consumers will be interested in. ...

The second thing that I know for sure, and the reason I am writing, is that Calvary belongs to God, and that he alone has been working in the lives of the people in this church in amazing ways through Skip Heitzig and Pete Nelson as well as through the other leaders and ministers at Calvary.

I know that he will continue to work in our lives until the day he has perfected his work in us. My purpose for writing is to give hope and comfort where the Journal and others have failed to do so.

As many have mentioned in the services at Calvary, there is a time for everything, and the time now is to follow God and allow him to lead us where he may over the next few months or years. His plan is never disturbed or changed by the plans of men. We can be certain that he will work everything out for the good of those who love him. ...



Congregation Is The Real Loser

WHAT A surprise! It turns out that Calvary Chapel's wunderkind founder Skip Heitzig has feet of clay, a heart full of greed and a strong need for power and control— just like most of the other "big-church," evangelistic preachers.

Looks to me like the best indicators of a corrupt clergy are a huge church building with a "cult of personality" about the pastor or founder.

Unfortunately, the real losers in the Calvary soap opera won't be Heitzig, Pete Nelson or the church's board. They will be the members of the congregation who have given of their time and wealth to what amounts to another self-enrichment scheme.



Only God Decides Who Stays, Goes

... SHAME ON all of you. Reading the articles in the paper, I feel like I am back in fifth grade. He-said-this, he-said-that arguments are popping up everywhere. ...We need to focus on now and the future. Let's all grow up.

So Skip Heitzig received a very generous severance package. Who is to say that he did not deserve more? How many of us can say we have not only preached at one of the largest churches, but also led it? ...

To those who have started Web sites to bring back Pete Nelson, if you would take the time to think, you would know that your signatures will not bring Nelson back to Calvary. Only God has the power to do that. ...

John Ackerman is demanding that Heitzig and other board members resign immediately. Who is he and his group to demand the resignations? They do not necessarily represent the opinions or same feelings that others do. Have they spoken with the 15,000 plus members about this? ...

Why are we not setting an example by turning to the One who truly leads this church— God? ...I am a proud member of Calvary, and I am praying that people will let God choose who goes, who stays, where they go and everything else.



Actions Louder Than Preaching

THE RECENT debacle over Skip Heitzig and his Calvary Chapel is truly nauseating and difficult to comprehend. In addition to his clandestine move to greener pastures and a huge severance package, he "received cars, office furniture and radio station equipment" and the funding of his daily radio ministry to the tune of $7 million.

He and his crony Paul Saber's attempt "to transfer Calvary's two multimillion dollar radio stations to a corporation run by both of them" is indicative of a self-aggrandizing and financially ambitious mindset, not one of selfless teaching of the ways of the Lord.

It is obvious to the observer that this continuous and repeated pattern of self-serving behavior says much more about the real Heitzig and his gang than what he preaches from the pulpit. What would Jesus think?



Prayer Service Rated More Play

WHY IS IT when the "first 12 rows" of Calvary are filled— not to mention all of the other rows which were partially filled— to approach our problems with biblical standards (prayer), the story is buried in the back page of the paper?

Then, when a very small group, fronted by one individual, Greg Zanetti, raises questions about the church and doesn't follow biblical Christian guidelines regarding church problems, he is given front-page status day after day after day?

I may or may not agree with the board and pastors of Calvary, but I do know that Zanetti absolutely does not speak for me or for a majority of Calvary members.

There were many more at that prayer service than there are in Zanetti's group. To place his view on the front page and the rest of our views on a back page smacks of biased reporting or editing by the Journal.



Embattled Pastor to Step Down

Thursday, March 9, 2006

By Jeff Proctor

2006 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer

Calvary Chapel founder Skip Heitzig said Wednesday he is stepping down from the board of directors in an attempt to "defuse" escalating tension within the church.

But Heitzig, who served as chairman for 22 years, left open the possibility he may return to the board at some point. He also said, in a telephone interview from California, that he is "still involved" with the 14,000-member church.

"The pastoral staff and the board want me involved," he said.

Pete Nelson, Heitzig's handpicked successor, stunned the congregation by resigning Feb. 19. Neither he nor other Calvary leaders would say why he was leaving.

But a struggle for control became public when the Journal obtained a draft of Nelson's resignation letter that outlined a list of grievances against Heitzig and the board.

The controversy came to a head last week when a group of church members including John Ackerman, former president of Public Service Company of New Mexico and an ethics professor at UNM's Anderson Schools of Management, asked that Heitzig and the out-of-state directors resign.

The group also sought more transparency in financial and personnel dealings.

Ackerman said Wednesday the resignations "provide the opportunity for forgiveness, restoration and healing to begin."

Heitzig declined to say whether the other out-of-state board members were resigning.

But former board member Greg Zanetti said he spoke with Heitzig on Wednesday morning, and Heitzig agreed that he and the other non-local board members would step down.

"My belief is that Skip is trying to get hold of all of them right now to get their resignations so that the church can revert to local governance and the healing process can begin," Zanetti said.

The other out-of-state board members are Gino Geraci, Raul Ries and Paul Saber.

Saber, in a telephone interview from California, would neither confirm nor deny his resignation. Geraci and Ries could not be reached for comment.

In describing his reasons for stepping down, Heitzig said he wants to "defuse any escalating issues. I don't really believe there are any issues. ...

"I trust the local leadership of Calvary Albuquerque— especially the elders, who are the pastoral staff— and we're just going to see how the Lord leads them."

Heitzig on Monday had dismissed calls for his resignation as "arrogant."

He said Wednesday that he didn't know when he would announce his resignation to the congregation.

Heitzig meeting with pastors today

"I haven't yet talked to the board and the pastoral staff, and I want to be able to do that," Heitzig said, adding that he will be in Albuquerque today to "speak and pray" with the pastoral staff.

Heitzig left Albuquerque in early 2004 to lead Ocean Hills Community Church in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., but remained chairman of Calvary's board of directors.

In his resignation letter, Nelson wrote that despite promises from Heitzig, he was not allowed to appoint his own board directors.

He outlined an ongoing struggle between him and Heitzig for control of the church, and concern that Heitzig wanted Calvary Albuquerque to become part of his national ministry.

Earlier this week Heitzig told the Journal he had "no grand vision for a national ministry."

Disagreement over how the church was run had been simmering behind the scenes for more than a year.

In November 2004, then-board member Zanetti wrote a pointed letter to church leaders detailing some of the same concerns Nelson would raise more than a year later.

According to Zanetti's letter, Heitzig maintained a board stacked with "absentee" members, who were more loyal to Heitzig than to Calvary. Zanetti told the Journal he was forced to step down from the board after writing the letter.

Nelson, Zanetti and Ackerman all questioned whether non-local board members serve Calvary's best interests.

No comment from Pete Nelson

One person who has not spoken publicly about the conflict is Nelson. He reportedly is out of town.

Saber said more than a week ago church leaders expected to have a replacement for Nelson within a few weeks.

It's unclear whether Nelson would be a potential candidate.

Saber reiterated Wednesday that the board accepted Nelson's resignation.

However, a group of members has launched a petition drive to reinstate Nelson, which it says has gathered 1,500 signatures.

Nelson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Heitzig said that his Wednesday conversation with Zanetti represented the "beginning of the reconciliation process."

"If throwing the olive branch out means stepping down from that position (on the board), though I can still be involved at the bequest of the board ... and the pastoral staff, then great," he said.

His future involvement at the church will be up to the pastoral staff, made up of Calvary's pastors.

"I serve at their convenience," Heitzig said.

He said his conversation with Zanetti included leaving open the possibility that Heitzig may return to Calvary's board.

"But we have no timetable for that," Heitzig said.

Board members Paul Scozzafava of Santa Fe and John Fidel and Michael Rosenblum— both of Albuquerque— will remain on the board, Zanetti said.

Neither Scozzafava nor Rosenblum could be reached for comment. A message left for Fidel was not returned.

Zanetti said he hopes church leaders will "reach out to John Ackerman's group" to fill out the board and "fully reunite the church."


1965: Calvary Chapel gets its start in Costa Mesa, Calif., with 25 members. It now has 500 independent affiliates, including 18 Calvary churches in New Mexico, two in Albuquerque.

1982: Skip Heitzig organizes a Bible study group that meets in an apartment clubhouse with four members, including himself and his wife, Lenya. That is the origin of Calvary Chapel in Albuquerque. By 1990 the church has grown to 6,000 members.

1986: Calvary Chapel buys a 45,000-square-foot former indoor sports complex. The metal building at 4001 Osuna NE becomes home to one of the biggest churches in the state.

1999: Calvary Chapel buys 31,000 square feet for an undisclosed price near the Osuna location for a youth complex that includes space for classrooms and two radio stations, KNKT 107.1 FM and KLYT 88.3 FM, known as M88.

DECEMBER 2003: Heitzig announces he is leaving for a church in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., but will remain on the board; Pete Nelson, a former youth pastor at Calvary who had moved to Denver, returns as to Calvary as senior pastor.

MARCH 2004: A $3 million expansion that includes a cafe and bookstore is completed. By now membership has grown to 14,000.

NOV. 8, 2004: Board member Greg Zanetti writes to church officials listing numerous concerns. Among them: Nelson was not allowed to exercise his full duties and the board was controlled by nonlocal Heitzig loyalists. Zanetti later told the Journal he was pressured into resigning after sending the letter.

FEB. 8, 2006: Nelson drafts five-page letter of resignation, which is sent to the board Feb. 18 and announced to the congregation the next day. The letter details a power struggle over control of Calvary.

MARCH 2: Church member John Ackerman and five others write to the board and to Heitzig asking that Heitzig and other out-of-state board members resign. They criticize several actions by the board and say local oversight is needed.

MARCH 8: Heitzig tells Journal he has decided to step down from the board.

-- Albuquerque Journal

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Heitzig Slams His Critics at Calvary

Friday, March 17, 2006

By Paul Logan

Journal Staff Writer

Calvary Chapel founder Skip Heitzig, saying he was betrayed, on Thursday unloaded on critics who questioned his actions as church board chairman.

Through a public relations firm, Heitzig lashed out at Pete Nelson, who resigned in February as Calvary pastor. Heitzig said his protégé deserted the 14,000-member church and left it without a pastor or plans for the transition.

Heitzig also lowered the boom on former Calvary board member Greg Zanetti and former Public Service Co. of New Mexico president John Ackerman, who attends Calvary. Both men criticized Heitzig's decisions and sought his resignation, as well as those of board members living outside New Mexico.

"I will not contribute to the creation of two camps that will divide this church I so dearly love," Heitzig said in one of nine documents posted Thursday on the Calvary Web site,

"I feel I have been betrayed in this process by men I have loved and trusted. ... I believe my communications and actions with Pete did not warrant his negligent behavior or the level of animosity from a minority of disenfranchised church members."

Nelson could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Heitzig submitted his resignation from the Albuquerque Calvary Chapel board March 8. The board has yet to act on it.

He left Albuquerque in early 2004 to lead Ocean Hills Community Church in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., but remained chairman of Calvary's board of directors.

In one of the documents posted by Tom Garrity of The Garrity Group Public Relations in Albuquerque, Heitzig listed his reactions to recent church events, including:

  • In his resignation letter, Nelson claimed he was under too much restriction by Heitzig and out-of-state board members, but Heitzig said that was not the case. "Under close examination, the facts may prove that Pete was under too little supervision," he wrote.

  • The heart of the problem surrounding Calvary Chapel, according to Heitzig, was a breakdown in relationships. "It would have been wonderful if both Pete and I were communicating frequently and openly about our feelings throughout this leadership change," he wrote.

  • "Based on the sheer volume of false or partial information released to the media and public," Heitzig wrote, "I conclude that the Bible's clear steps for conflict resolution have been repeatedly and chronically ignored."

  • Heitzig said his responsibility on the board was limited and his ultimate goal was to care for this church. "The church has been abandoned and I trust the board is doing its best to respond to meet that need," he wrote.

    Heitzig added that, twice during the months before Nelson's resignation, he had written Nelson "letters of encouragement."

    Among Calvary's Web site documents are letters Heitzig sent to Nelson Dec. 23, 2005, and Feb. 16, 2006.

    In the three-page December letter, Heitzig wrote to Nelson:

    "My continued involvement is therefore necessary and I believe has strong scriptural precedent along New Testament lines. I don't micro-manage ..."

    Later in the letter, Heitzig said:

    "As I transitioned from my pastoral ministry and my oversight responsibilities in the local church, I never intended to transition myself out of the radio ministry in New Mexico."

    In a letter to Heitzig and other board members in November 2004, then-board member Zanetti criticized Heitzig for attempting to transfer Calvary's radio operation to a separate corporation.

    "KLYT was gifted to Calvary ABQ because of my past track record in the community with reaching out to youth," Heitzig wrote to Nelson in the December letter. "The previous KLYT board added the caveat that ownership of this important asset would be transferred to Calvary ABQ since I would be its spiritual overseer."

    The Calvary board is planning to meet next week in Albuquerque to deal with Heitzig's resignation and continue discussions about a new senior pastor.

    On Thursday, about 100 Calvary members met with Ackerman and Zanetti in a question-and-answer session about the church's future.

    Journal staffer Jeff Proctor contributed to this report.

  • Sunday, March 12, 2006

    March 2 Letter To Skip Heitzig

    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    March 2, 2006

    To: Calvary Albuquerque Brothers in Christ

    From: John Ackerman; C.B. Blankenship; Tim Crume; Matthew Ellison; Matt Mossman; Paul Wilson

    Good Afternoon,

    Thank you for meeting with us. We will take up very little of your time this afternoon. I will address you from this prepared text. These initial comments are addressed to Skip. Everyone else in the room, please consider yourselves to be witnesses. When we are finished, this statement will be left with you.


    We are here in the spirt of Nathan who confronted the pattern of sin in David's life. We are here to speak the Truth in Love.

    We want to address TWO RUMORS that have circulated:

    1. "This group is out to split the congregation and we have no intention of being a part of the healing process." NOT TRUE.

    2. "This group is out to harm you personally and cause you reproach." NOT TRUE.

    These statements are nothing more than lies.

    You are a gifted teacher. We all know that to be a fact. How do we know that? Because, without exception, each one of us is a piece of fruit produced by the Spirit's use of you. All of us have grown in our relationship with our Lord.

    Your course has changed over the past several years. We want you to understand that we find no fault in a course change that God dictates to you. That is an issue between you and God.

    We do, however, find major fault in how you influenced this change of course for Calvary Albuquerque during the past two years. We do find major fault in the lack of accountability demonstrated by you and the Board over an extended period of time.

    We seek truth, accountability and transparency in matters of the Board. This begins with disclosure and is sustained by a sound governance design and process. Checks and balances and accountability are essential. It is a process that starts with a Board comprised of primarily local members.

    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. We were initially surprised by your impending departure and yet we were uplifted by your actions that were an extrordinary example to us all on how to respond decisively and quickly to God's instructions.

    Our issues have to do with the truth, accountability and transparency at the Board level. The Board has been severely compromised and is under extreme reproach. Consequently, we propose that all non-local board members resign immediately.

    Skip, it is our fervent hope that you will resign with dignity. We want you to know that you, Skip Heitzig, will always be Calvary Albuquerque's Founding Pastor. We would like nothing better than for you to enjoy the rewards of such an exalted position.

    You resigned from the Calvary Albuquerque pulpit to leave for Ocean Hills Church. That is simply what we are asking for now. You were called to Ocean Hills, Skip. Follow your calling.

    Heitzig Says He Will Resign

    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    By Jeff Proctor

    Journal Staff Writer

    Calvary Chapel founder Skip Heitzig said today he is stepping down from the Albuquerque megachurch's board of directors in an attempt to "defuse" escalating tension within the church.

    But Heitzig, who served as chairman for 22 years, left open the possibility that he may return to the board in the future. He also said, in a phone interview from California, that he is "still involved" with the 14,000-member church.

    "The pastoral staff and the board want me involved," he said.

    Heitzig declined to say whether the other out-of-state board members were resigning.

    But former board member Greg Zanetti said he spoke with Heitzig Wednesday morning, and Heitzig agreed that he and the other non-local board members would resign.

    "My belief is that Skip is trying to get ahold of all of them right now to get their resignations so that the church can revert to local governance and the healing process can begin," Zanetti said.

    The other out-of-state board members are are Gino Geraci, Raul Ries and Paul Saber.

    Heitzig: Calls for Resignation 'Arrogant'

    Wednesday, March 8, 2006

    By Jeff Proctor

    Copyright © 2006 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer

    Calvary Chapel founder Skip Heitzig defended his decision to keep out-of-state members on the megachurch's board and described calls for his resignation from longtime members as "arrogant."

    Heitzig, in an interview with the Journal on Monday, disputed allegations leveled by former church leaders that he is using the 14,000-member church's assets to build a national ministry.

    "I'm really a local leader," he said. "I have no grand vision for a personal national ministry."

    Heitzig left Calvary Albuquerque in early 2004 to lead Ocean Hills Community Church in California, but kept his position as chairman of the Calvary board of directors.

    The controversy spilled over onto talk radio Tuesday with church members and critics weighing in on KKOB's local morning and afternoon shows.

    Former Calvary Senior Pastor Pete Nelson, Heitzig's hand-picked successor, resigned suddenly Feb. 19, citing a power struggle between him and Heitzig over control of Calvary. In his resignation letter, Nelson wrote that despite assurances from Heitzig, he was not allowed to pick board members— even though two years had passed since Heitzig left.

    In November 2004, then-board member Greg Zanetti wrote a letter to church leaders outlining many of the same concerns Nelson would raise more than a year later. Zanetti wrote that Heitzig had stacked the board with out-of-town members— who did not attend church in Albuquerque, and who were more loyal to Heitzig than to Calvary. He said in an interview that he was forced to resign from the board after writing the letter.

    Four of the church's seven members live outside New Mexico.

    Better accountability

    In Monday's interview, Heitzig said he believes non-local board members can serve Calvary's interests.

    "Board members serve for accountability reasons," he said. "Sometimes, when you have board members that are out of town who ... don't have anything to gain or anything to lose— it can be healthy, because they're going to say some things to the chairman of the board or the president that maybe a church member wouldn't have the freedom to say."

    Albuquerque-based board members, Heitzig said, even applauded the appointments of Greg Laurie and Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, to the board. Graham and Laurie, who live out of state, left the board in late 2004.

    "We were bringing a whole new level of leadership to this board, where we would get the experience of time and management," he said. "It was agreed upon by everybody. There was no dissent."

    Following Nelson's resignation and the publication of Zanetti's letter, a group of longtime church members including John Ackerman demanded that Heitzig and all other out-of-town board members resign.

    In a letter to the board, Ackerman, former president of Public Service Company of New Mexico, and other church members contended that "there is little, if any local oversight of this church" and "fiscal accountability to the (congregation) is virtually non-existent."

    Heitzig dismissed the group's letter as an "un-biblical" way to "force a change."

    "I think it's arrogant for a group of six people, or however many were represented, to come and make demands," he said. "That's the reason there are a board of directors who have to make decisions for organizations ...

    "The congregation will ultimately decide how reasonable boards make decisions ..."

    Reached at his office Tuesday, Ackerman said his schedule was full and that he did not have time to respond.

    Handling of controversy

    Heitzig said he wished Zanetti and Ackerman would have handled the controversy privately.

    "We hoped Greg Zanetti would have come privately to resolve these issues without pain to the entire congregation," he said. "I'm saddened that they chose to publicly damage the church instead of working out these issues in an appropriate forum."

    Heitzig said he tried several times during the past two weeks to contact Zanetti, but his calls and e-mails were not returned.

    Zanetti said he wrote a letter to Heitzig six months after his resignation but that Heitzig never responded.

    "Only when Skip heard my letter was going to be in the newspaper did he and a host of others— many asking me to retract my letter— get in touch," he said.

    And in recent weeks, Zanetti said, Ackerman asked him to hold off on speaking with Heitzig until Ackerman's group had a chance to meet with the board.

    In his letter, Zanetti wrote that Heitzig was planning to transfer Calvary's two multi-million dollar radio stations to a corporation run by Heitzig and board member Paul Saber.

    Heitzig said a "fact-finding" group was appointed to look at potential ways the stations could be used, but the group decided the transfer would not be appropriate.

    "Most of this controversy is based on a 15-month-old letter that raised some premature concerns over ideas that never happened, that never came to pass," he said.

    Further, Heitzig said that while he does not have aspirations for a "personal national ministry," he believes his half-hour daily radio show— known as The Connection— has done "good things for Calvary Albuquerque."

    "The church in Albuquerque ... has seen (The Connection) as part of their outreach, ministry part of it for some time," he said. "That was the decision made years ago— to get the word of God out."

    Tuesday, March 07, 2006

    Heitzig Doesn't Plan To Resign

    By Jeff Proctor

    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.

    Coming Wednesday:

    See the Journal for more of the interview with Calvary Albuquerque founder and former senior pastor Skip Heitzig.

    Sunday, March 05, 2006

    Heitzig, Others Asked to Resign; Group Seeks Local Control of Calvary

    Sunday, March 5, 2006

    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"
    at Calvary.

    "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
    being prepared.

    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.

    Pastoral Letter

    March 2006

    To: The Calvary Board of Directors & Congregation

    From: The Pastoral Staff serving as the elders and overseers of Calvary of Albuquerque (Acts 20:28)

    We the pastoral staff are deeply grieved that recent
    conflicts in our church have made their way into the court of public
    opinion. We want to thank our Board for its continued willingness to
    biblically resolve this matter and the open door that has been
    consistently presented for reconciliation. As a pastoral staff it has
    always been our desire that these and all other conflicts be resolved
    in a biblical manner by all parties.

    Matthew 18: 15-16 ìIf another believer? sins
    against you, go privately and point out the fault. If the other person
    listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you
    are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so
    that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.

    As a pastoral staff we believe strongly that the
    current methods being used to resolve this conflict are not in
    accordance with biblical mandates and are contributing to an atmosphere
    of divisiveness in this community of believers.

    Therefore we ask you, our brothers and sisters, in
    the name of Christ to stand with us. Our prayer is that the parties who
    have up until now refused to come together, drop all unbiblical methods
    of resolving this conflict and seek biblical reconciliation and
    restoration to the body of Christ.

    We are calling for a time of church prayer and
    fasting to wait for Godís direction.

    There will be a church prayer meeting at the church
    Sunday, March 5th from 7:00 to 8:00 PM for everyone who would like to

    The Prayer Room at Calvary is open each weekday from
    8:00 AM-5:00 PM and during all services.

    May the world know that we who are called by the
    name of Christ practice those very things we strongly preach!

    Letter from Nelson

    Wednesday, March 3, 2006

    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.
    (Ephesians 4:15)

    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
    and me.

    Pete Nelson