Saturday, 12 July 2014

Rob Beardsley Leaves Caversham Baptist Church

After two and a half years as pastor, Rob Beardsley is leaving Caversham Baptist Church. As I understand it, the termination agreement includes some sort of 'gagging clause', so church members are tight-lipped. In fact their church website, in its news section, doesn't even mention that he has gone ... there is just a gap in the Meet The Team page.

I'm not a fan of secrecy myself: when authorities use 'confidentiality' as a justification for being secretive, then I tend to assume they are avoiding accountability. Typically secrecy has the exact opposite effect from confidentiality: the information vacuum creates gossip and speculation to fill it.

We never did find out what had gone wrong at Rob Beardsley's previous church, Oakham Baptist Church, just that there was not a single person from Oakham who came to his induction at CBC - unheard of in my experience.

My take on what has happened at Caversham Baptist over the last two and a half years is as follows:
  • The church has been haemorrhaging members;
  • The church has been haemorrhaging money;
  • Their outreach worker was moved to internal work and later laid off;
  • Disciplinary action was taken against Rob Beardsley;
  • The church has become deeply divided;
  • It was clear that the situation was unsustainable so the parties agreed to Rob Beardsley leaving.
A year into this process I left the church, so I am not a neutral observer, but I hope the above is suitably objective anyway.

There is a less-obvious issue in all this: that of listening to God as a church.

Baptist churches, when recruiting pastors, don't seem to do the things that would normally be considered 'due diligence', like taking references. They just say that pastors are 'called' by God, so that sort of thing is inappropriate. Actually, my reading of the Bible is that things heard from God should always be checked out ('tested').

Nevertheless, the basic point stands that pastors are called under God's guidance, and a church knows who to call because they listen to God:
"[Jesus] calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice." (John 10:3b-4)
In Caversham Baptist's case, we clearly did not listen to Jesus. That, in my view, should be their priority now as they attempt to move on from this traumatic time: focusing on Jesus and following him.

Meanwhile all should acknowledge that, whoever might have been at fault for the things that happened whilst Rob Beardsley was pastor, the basic problem lay further back, with the church as a whole. We all messed up, so playing the blame game would be a singularly futile exercise.

It is time for Caversham Baptist Church to learn from the past, constructively; but, more importantly, to step out into the future: doing what is right, always showing compassion, and - most importantly - walking humbly with their God.

EDIT 26/07/14

It strikes me that the bullet point list above is solidly negative. This is simply because I wanted to only list changes which were objective and demonstrable, and the list of such things that I am aware of is solidly negative. However, it does seem implausible that there was nothing objectively positive happened at CBC during that thirty month period. If you are aware of any such, please use the comments section to share it.

One thing I would add is that I am aware of individuals who went above and beyond the call of duty just to keep things going in particular areas of the church's ministry. 'Keeping things going' doesn't really fit into 'objective and demonstrable' changes, but it does represent a significant and costly contribution to God's Kingdom, I think.

EDIT 29/10/14

I've had a letter claiming the above is defamatory: I've taken legal advice and it is clearly not (see the Defamation Act 2013). Nevertheless, for the avoidance of doubt, I wish to explicitly state that there is nothing in the above attempting to suggest that Rob Beardsley was in some way personally responsible for the heavy financial losses suffered by CBC during that period. This was a whole-church problem and CBC is a church with congregational government: all church members are responsible for decisions made, and Rob Beardsley was just one amongst many such members.

Sadly, in the kerfuffle I have disconnected the original comments on this post. I am recreating them below, but the links to commenters are lost. Sorry.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Comment originally from BlackPhi July 14, 2014:

      Hi Martin, thank you for bearing witness. I hope you have now found a far more caring, Christlike church to be a part of.

    2. Comment originally from Anonymous July 15, 2014:

      Martin - can you honestly say that OBC was and 'unloving' church? - I feel deeply hurt and upset that you have said those things and BlackPhi - perhaps you would like to check statements fully before you make such hurtful comments - yes - we were hurt very much during that period but I dont think we were ever unloving - or unChristlike like.

    3. Comment originally from BlackPhi July 15, 2014:

      Sigh! Look at your comment again, Anon. You have just jumped down Martin's throat for speaking of his hurt. Is that really a loving or Christlike thing to do?

      Look, if someone says they did not find a church loving, then that is their experience and it is real. I hope that Martin is now part of a church where he does experience Jesus' love and the Spirit's fellowship ... don't you?

      If your experience of Oakham Baptist at that time was more positive, then that is good: share that witness. But do not attack someone else's viewpoint just because you do not share it.

      I see from the OBC website that you have a new pastor now: I wish you all the best for your future as a church - may you too "step out into the future: doing what is right, always showing compassion, and - most importantly - walking humbly with your God."

    4. Comment originally from Anonymous July 28, 2014:

      It was a very difficult time at OBC and many people experienced this - but we must be sensitive at times like this and continue to show love to everyone; enemies, those crushed in spirit, those far from God and as it says in scripture:

      Luke 6:27-36 ESV
      “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them."

      We should be praying for this situation and for the churches - God will do what he needs to do in His timing. Lets trust in Him that things will get better and that through Him, relationships will be healed and that any sign of the anti-spirit will be gone completely.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. Comment originally from BlackPhi July 28, 2014:

      I agree fully, Anon2, that loving enemies and praying for abusers is vital in the context of aftermath and recovery, along with prayer.

      I would say, though, that "love your enemies" is an incomplete truth whilst injustice is being done. The other side of the coin is to stand firm against the schemes of the evil one. That's from Ephesians 6, of course, but an application is shown in Luke 13:10-17:

      On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
      Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
      The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
      When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

      When God's people show passive deference in the face of abuse then that is a serious falling short. Discerning when such wrongdoing is taking place can be difficult, though, which is where standing together and listening to Jesus comes in. As well as remembering that all is covered by God's Grace and Jesus' sacrifice.

  2. If you could permenatley remove the one comment by Martin that would be appreciated

  3. Hi Anon. Are you Martin? Robert Last? Someone else? In principle the answer is probably yes, unless Martin objects, but not without knowing who is making the request.

  4. Yes, there is no objection, pls remove thanks

  5. Done.
    I would add, possibly irrelevantly, that anyone receiving threatening letters from lawyers would be very well advised to seek legal advice themselves. It's not that expensive and the advice might be surprisingly reassuring. That's my experience anyway.

  6. Thanks for removing the comment, at this point I would kindly advise that you remove your posts & others comments, no letter has been received its more about common sense. This obviously has caused upset to Rob which is regretful and unnecessary.
    Indeed its your choice., I've made mine which I believe is the right one, hopefully this will be my last communication with whoever you are as I no longer wish to be associated with whatever point you are trying to make

  7. Fair enough, and thank you for letting me know.
    I'm not sure how to put this without sounding pompous, but I think truth matters. In particular I think having an open, visible record of truth is important. My initial edit, asking for alternative viewpoints, was genuine - I don't have a monopoly on truth, and my bullet points were not necessarily the same as someone else's. But CBC did go through a very rough time, and I believe that needs to be openly acknowledged, which I have tried to do.
    A choice indeed and my opinion only, of course.

  8. Thank you for your courage in speaking about this Phil. Many people have been hurt at CBC... Time to pick up the pieces and move on now.

  9. Indeed it is. Happily, from all I hear and see CBC do seem to be doing just that, by God's grace. Every blessing to them.

  10. Hello from sweden with warm love in Christ that share my blessing over you in rich heavenly realm with us in Jesus blood sake and we will win and be blessing around us ,thanks and bless,keijo sweden

  11. Thank you. God's grace and peace to you, and to all Jesus' followers in Sweden.