Dear Hope Church,

Updated: May 19

I am writing this publicly because I have been silenced by my fellow elders of Hope Church Guildford despite requesting an opportunity to share this with the church in a meeting that was held tonight. More will be coming out over the next few days.

 

I have been part of Hope Church Guildford/Centrepoint Church since 2007 after meeting Tina at university and deciding to make this church our home. We married in 2009, one of the many Centrepoint couples that married that year. Through this time I have served the church through helping with IT, teaching kids and youth, leading life groups, leading the men’s ministry, preaching, preparing couples for marriage, caring for people who were hurting, supporting friends as they or a loved one faced death, and throughout all this I have sought to serve Christ and reflect the gospel in how I lived.


Rosalie has grown up in Hope Church and we as a family have been cared for in more ways than I can recount as you walked with us through Rosalie’s diagnosis. You have been so generous to us that we would not be in the home we are in without our church family. Your faith and love has held us steady through the hardest times of our lives.


I was asked to be an elder in 2016 by Jon P and Boggles under the oversight of Mark LS. As a church, you have supported, encouraged, prayed, discipled, and helpfully challenged me when I have been in the wrong. I have learned so much from you in terms of following Jesus and what it means to be an elder.


Last year Leah asked me to support her in raising with the elders substantial concerns regarding a trustee. As elders we found ourselves needing support and we went to Commission. At this point it became an official written grievance and we were advised to seek external advice. I was asked by the elders to support Leah and Chris E while Stuart supported the trustee and their family through the grievance process.


Unfortunately the process began to cause more hurt to Leah which led me to challenge the process and raise multiple concerns. I challenged the use of solicitors, Moore Barlow LLP, rather than an HR advisory firm as initially agreed. I challenged the change from an external investigation to an internal one without consultation with Leah. I challenged the impartiality of trustees, investigating trustees, investigating a trustee. I challenged that the trustee was not stood down from their respective roles while the grievance was being investigated, a standard practice to protect both parties in a grievance investigation. I challenged the repeated response that I needed to “trust the process” and “not interfere”.


I raised concerns that Stuart and I were not able to see initial recommendations made by the trustees prior to a first appeal nor were any of the elders allowed to see the final report. I gave voice to Leah’s concerns that the report neither represented Leah, nor her husband Chris, accurately. I raised Leah’s, and my own concerns, with evidence, that the report was biassed against her. There was no action to pause and review the process. There was no action to consult Leah regarding her concerns, even after Leah went on medical leave due to stress induced anxiety. Due to the unheard concerns with the process, I sought a means to find resolution by instigating meetings with the elders and the trustee to discuss known issues both relating to and external to the grievance. After two meetings with the elders, the trustee took responsibility for the hurt they had caused Leah and was seeking to repent and begin mediation if possible. Off the back of these meetings the trustee of their own volition stood down from their role.


The trustees as Leah’s employer, Chris K as Leah’s line manager, and elders as pastoral and spiritual oversight, had a duty of care for Leah. I identified we were failing in that duty of care but I was not listened to. The elders have deemed my challenges to be quarrelsome, divisive, undermining the eldership, and undermining apostolic oversight. They asked me to stand down from my role as elder as well as all leadership positions in the church. I resigned my role stating I no longer have confidence in Chris K’s leadership of the church.


Both Tina and I are hurt and incredibly upset to be having to reconsider if Hope is a place we can call our church, our home. There is a sense of betrayal and a lack of biblical process in what has happened to Leah and the way I was asked to stand down.


Thank you to all of you who have supported us through this mess, prayed for us, and fought our corner. I'll do my best to not post more while angry or lash out at anyone but injustice has been done in the church that I love and I cannot stay silent.


Phil

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