SEEDS OF AWAKENING - Part II
by Phil and Genny DavisAfter visiting Waukegan during the Christmas 2000 holidays, we retuned to Kansas and picked back up with our Neighborhood Bible Study (NBS) group in early January 2001 with a plan to study the book of Acts. Since we had about 20-something weeks left together (the course at Fort Leavenworth was about 10 months, and everyone was to PCS-transfer in June), the book was a good fit for our one-chapter-a-week format and a natural progression after studying the gospel of Mark so intently over the previous four months.
Within the first couple of weeks, obviously, we ran smack-dab into baptism. This was my first good chance to really hit it head on and I tried my best to put on my traditional CFCMI mindset as I taught. However, after having done serious, soul-searching Bible study with these folks for all that time and having seen their faith and daily walk with God, it actually felt disingenuous to sit there and tell them flat out that they were going to hell. I did it, though. Still, in my heart of hearts I could not resolve their sincerity and visible walk with God with the message that I had presented them. I felt for the FIRST TIME IN ALMOST 16 YEARS a twinge of doubt in what I was teaching for the "plan of salvation". It scared me a little bit and Genny sensed it, mentioning that I was "beating around the bush" somewhat in our Bible studies that covered scriptures regarding baptism. Nonetheless, it wasn’t an all-consuming thing and we continued with CFCMI in full-force and also continued our NBS-group studies and my weekly meetings/debates with Tom.
In February of 2001 we traveled to Norfolk to participate in the (apparently now defunct) Christian Military Officers Association (CMOA) Inaugural Celebration. CMOA was CFCMI’s approach to tapping into the military officer community and I was the President and a founding member. Pastor Paine and Debbie traveled to Norfolk for the event and it felt "just like old times". We were "being faithful" and appeared to be on track with staying in favor with the first families.
Throughout this time frame, however, I was negotiating for my next duty station and the detailer kept flip-flopping between Norfolk and San Diego. Genny had serious reservations about San Diego due to the things she had heard about Pastor Lantis. At the same time, we both were refreshed at having not had to deal with the politics of Norfolk for the past year. This process fostered discussions about the pro’s and con’s of each congregation and, FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME, we allowed ourselves to occasionally be critical (out loud) of CFCMI pastors and their families. This, in and of itself, was a serious "ice-breaker". In the years prior, we would of felt like this kind of talk was BIG-TIME SIN, (and we even felt a little that way still), but somehow our common sense was finally breaking through all the years of thought reform and we were actually reasoning out some things that had bothered us for years. Again, this was by no means an all-consuming thing and, in fact, it only came up a couple of times. But still, it was an important seed.
In March 2001, Genny attended the CFCMI "International Women’s Conference" in Waukegan. I stayed at home with the boys for that week. For some reason during that week I came to think about some of the good friends I had over the years that had left CFCMI. Several of them were very sensible, sincere people. I thought about Alan and Dionne and remembered all the bad things I’d heard about them from the leadership and, again, simply couldn’t resolve it in my mind. It just didn’t make sense that they would have changed so drastically. So, on a whim, after I put the kids to bed one night, I decided to do an Internet search and find Al’s "evil" web site. I figured, if it was truly evil, I would be able to judge that for myself.
Well, to shorten this part of the story, let’s just say that I found it very credible and that I spent several hours browsing the transcripts. I WAS 100% BLOWN AWAY! I previously had never had a doubt that LRD was innocent and in a matter of a couple of hours I was 90% sure he was guilty. This hit me really hard.
I didn’t want to lay all of this on Genny when she returned, but the minute she got in the door, she said "We’ve got to talk" (which is a VERY rare thing for Genny to say, by the way). Then she proceeded to tell me about how disgruntled many "bedrock" members of the FCFC Norfolk were and how fed up they were with the double standards, etc. Well, I told her that there may be more to it than that and introduced her to the site.
I’ll try to shorten this up by saying that over the next two months, I read every single page of the transcripts and became 100% convinced LRD was guilty. Genny shared the same sentiment. We remained "faithful" CFCMI members throughout, though, but decided that we needed to travel to Waukegan to discuss the implications of LRD’s guilt with Pastor Paine. We asked one of our closest friends if they thought that anyone with similar concerns might want to join us to meet with Pastor Paine and through this, Pastor Thomas found out that "something was up". The pastors finding out we had concerns was no big deal to us, since we were planning to schedule a meeting anyway. So, at that point we decided it was best to "come out with it" and we went ahead and discussed our concerns with Pastor Paine over the phone (around early April 2001) and set up a meeting in Waukegan for the first weekend in May.
Meanwhile, our NBS Bible study group continued, as did my weekly meetings with Tom. However, Tom and I were now shifting from debating doctrine to discussing pastoral ethics as they related to CFCMI. He had become a counselor of sorts for Genny and I. Again, the fruits of his love for and service to God were evident and we had developed a strong relationship built on honesty, trust, mutual respect and a common love for God and his Word.
Our deep examination of the scandal surrounding LRD’s guilt (we had two months to prepare for our meeting with Pastor Paine) led to many more questions than it did answers. In fact, we prepared five pages of questions for Pastor Paine in advance of our meeting and e-mailed them to him a week prior to the visit. We were DEADLY SERIOUS in our pursuit of the truth in this matter and were not taking lightly the decisions before us. In addition, we had no malicious intent and were not predisposed as to what course we would take.
However, simultaneous with our questioning of CFCMI leadership, we found that we had to also question ourselves. If we were wrong about LRD and if many of the beliefs we had formed were based on skewed CFCMI doctrine designed to support LRD’s habits (eunichship, abiding in your calling, pastorship, communication, etc., etc.), we simply could not ignore the manner in which this whole situation brought into question our entire belief structure. Sure, we were still sold out on "the gospel truth of salvation" as defined by CFCMI. But, at the same time, we also realized that our understanding of that subject was COMPLETELY formed within the walls of CFCMI. To be honest with ourselves and with God, we had to question that too.
Nonetheless, at that time we weren’t seriously questioning our faith or doctrine…we were too focused on the meeting with Pastor Paine to discuss the direct issues surrounding LRD’s guilt and the leadership’s handling of the situation through the years.
We drove from Kansas to Waukegan and met with Pastor Paine for five hours on Friday, May 4, 2001. We expressed our concerns, poured out our hearts, probed his reasoning…we turned the problem every which way. At the end of the meeting we simply told Pastor Paine that we could not support the leadership any more. He said he didn’t agree with us but that he understood why we felt we had to do what we were doing, that he respected us and that he did not believe we were "lost" just because we were withdrawing from CFCMI. We told him we would check back in 2 years to see what reforms had been instituted and to give God the chance to show us if we were wrong. After tearful hugs in the parking lot, we drove out toward the interstate and the trip back to Kansas.
There is no way to express the joy, freedom, release, etc., etc., we experienced on that trip home! We were uncertain of the way ahead, but we understood VERY well the oppression that we were leaving behind.
We now had about 5 weeks left before we were to transfer from Fort Leavenworth to San Diego and our whole lives were an unwritten page before us. We confided in our NBS group some of the things that had occurred (they were completely oblivious to our spiritual journey to this point) and we met and prayed earnestly with Tom, who had become a trusted advisor throughout the past 6-8 months.
We didn’t have a lot of benchmarks to work from. We had obviously opened up some serious doubts about the things we had been taught in our 27 or so years with CFCMI. But we were extremely confident in the grace and loving kindness of our Savior and the ability of his Holy Spirit to lead us. In fact, we realized in hindsight at this point that we had really been relying on the Holy Spirit more the last 6 months than we EVER did in all of the rest of our time in CFCMI and that we were drawing an immense amount of joy and spiritual renewal just from doing so.
This provided us with a much broader view of the world, for we really didn’t feel AT ALL that we were hanging by a thread over the lake of fire while we were in between churches. We knew we had doubts in our beliefs, but that was OK. We knew just as strongly that the Holy Ghost was inside of us and would lead us. We weren’t too worried about the spiritual uncertainty that lay ahead. We were God’s precious children and he would take care of us, all we had to do was continue to love and sincerely seek him. He’d proven this to us throughout this extremely intense ordeal.
Now that we were fully released from the bonds of CFCMI, we figured we’d better begin the search for a new place to worship. However, since we were transferring in a few weeks, we figured we’d focus our search more once we got to San Diego.