That triggered a power struggle that led to the surprise resignation of Pastor Pete Nelson on Feb. 19, according to a report by Pastor Tom Stipe of
Stipe also writes that Heitzig had financial motives and that he and other board members tried to "recast" the circumstances under which Heitzig left Calvary for
Heitzig shot back Monday, saying Stipe got only one side of the story, mischaracterized Heitzig's motivations and should not have released the report.
Stipe could not be reached for comment Monday.
Heitzig addressed widespread speculation that he would return as senior pastor of
"I know the rumor has been swirling around, but I have never been given an invitation," Heitzig said in a telephone interview with the Journal from
"I love (
A power struggle
When he left Calvary, Heitzig recruited Nelson from Crossroads in
Heitzig remained as chairman of the
After presiding over growth in attendance and tithes for two years at
But a power struggle became evident when a copy of Nelson's resignation letter emerged. It outlined a list of grievances by Nelson against Heitzig and the board.
In March, the controversy bubbled over when a group of congregants asked Heitzig and other out-of-state board members to resign. The group also sought more transparency in financial and personnel dealings.
Since then, Heitzig and two other out-of-state directors - Paul Saber and Raul Ries - have stepped down. Gino Geraci, who also lives out of state, remains on the board.
According to Stipe's report, after Heitzig's departure as senior pastor, he and the board attempted to recharacterize Heitzig's departure from " 'leaving' to 'having been sent out as a missionary.' ''
And, according to the report, Heitzig and the out-of-state board members relegated Nelson's role in the church to "custodial pastor" and stymied his efforts to choose his own directors.
Heitzig has denied interfering with Nelson's duties as senior pastor. And on Monday, he said that "my hope is still that I can meet with Pete. I love him deeply and consider him a brother."
Stipe contends Heitzig wanted to remain in control of
"Things (at Ocean Hills) clearly had not gone as Skip had hoped," Stipe wrote. "The continued success of (
"It was about the finances. Without financial support from (
Heitzig denied that Ocean Hills is in trouble.
"The church is healthy financially and in its operations," he said. "In fact, it has more than tripled in size."
Heitzig said that, to the best of his knowledge, The Connection has been "breaking even - paying for itself."
Stipe's report also says there is an "underground move by many former (
Heitzig said he's heard of no such thing.
"I've spoken to thousands of people when I was in
During two recent trips to
Heitzig said Stipe's report was one of three done by pastors affiliated with Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowship (CCOF), which, among other duties, "provides materials that will define the Calvary Chapel philosophy to individual fellowships."
Stipe's report was based largely on board minutes but also included information from
The other two were done by pastors from
Those reports were not made available to the Journal, but an overview of the three reports by CCOF leader Paul Smith, was.
"We find no evidence of sin or wrongdoing on the part of the board of directors, Skip Heitzig or Pete Nelson which would preclude you continuing friendship and fellowship with CCOF," the letter states.
Heitzig said the two
He said all three reports were to be given to Smith - not made public.
The Stipe report was posted on a Web log, phoenixpreacher.com.
"This is church business, and the board is trying to do things with due process and with an open hand," Heitzig said. "It's just discouraging that this has to be dragged through the public arena again. I think the good people of Calvary Albuquerque are tired of it being in the media."
Copyright 2006 Albuquerque Journal