Craig Williams responds to 1001 announcement

Craig S. Williams, one of the four former employees at the center of an ethics investigation involving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 1001 New Worshipping Communities program, has issued a statement he calls a “corrective to the narrative” the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) has been telling about what happened.

Craig Williams at the 221st General Assembly (2014). Photo by Erin Dunigan.
Craig Williams at the 221st General Assembly (2014). Photo by Erin Dunigan.

In it, Williams states that PC(USA) representatives were told from the time he was hired in March 2010 that there was an intent to set up a nonprofit corporation to raise funding and expand the capacity of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Williams writes that “my deep hope is that an unbiased look at the truth will begin to undo the damage done to my reputation as a Teaching Elder in the PC(USA), the damage done to the 1001 movement, and the deep distrust that exists between the Church and the PMA.” The 1001 movement is the PC(USA)’s effort to start 1001 new worshipping communities between 2012 and 2022.

In that statement, Williams, who lives in California, said the PC(USA) hired him in March 2010 to become the Western regional associate for the Office of Church Growth. The rationale, he says, was to provide services in Western states for developing new churches and strengthening existing ones – and that he would work toward developing a nonprofit corporation “that would raise its own funding and expand the capacity” of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Williams writes that “this rationale was submitted to all those who had responsibility for personnel decisions at that time. It was also shared publicly at our national coaches training and our national NCD [New Church Development] Conference, with national staff present at those announcements. The hope was to widen the financial support, beyond the resourcing of the PMA budget, in order to ensure the continued resourcing and planting of new churches.”

It was the discovery that an independent corporation had been created and that PC(USA) grant funds had been sent to it (money that was later sent back to the denomination) that sparked the ethics inquiry last year. The PC(USA) has already spent about $850,000 on legal fees related to the investigation, and about $242,000 to have the four employees involved put on paid administrative leave from Nov. 15, 2014 until it was announced at a news conference on June 1, 2015 that they no longer were PC(USA) employees.

Williams – like his colleague Philip Lotspeich earlier this week – said he learned through news reports that he no longer worked for the PC(USA)’s national staff. Lotspeich also has said he turned down settlement and severance offers because “they came with the stipulation that our voices would be silenced and the report would likely remain unseen.”

Like Lotspeich, Williams is calling for PC(USA) leaders to release an investigative report from the Charlotte law firm Alston & Bird – a firm that the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board’s executive committee hired to look into the creation in December 2013 of an independent corporation in California to which $100,000 in PMA grant money later was sent. All of that money has been returned, and Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, has said none of the employees involved were acting for personal gain.

Roger Dermody, formerly the PC(USA)’s deputy director for mission – serving directly under Valentine – has filed a lawsuit in Kentucky alleging the PC(USA) defamed him by accusing him of “unethical” behavior in connection with the 1001 investigation.

Here is the text of Williams’ statement.

 On Monday June 1st, I, along with 3 colleagues, learned through the Presbyterian News Service, that we were no longer “with” the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the PCUSA. Over the past 6 months a narrative has developed that led the church to erroneous and harmful accusations about me and my colleagues. Most of these accusations are baseless and speculative, containing no more information about the questionable facts than what was printed in a few news releases by the Presbyterian Mission Agency and other church news organizations. They tell a woefully incomplete story. I consistently objected to PMA leadership concerning the content of the narrative that was being crafted.

Now that I have been released from employment at the Agency, I am free to offer a corrective to the narrative that has developed concerning these issues.

In March of 2010, I was hired to become the Western Regional Associate for the Office of Church Growth. The rationale for hiring me was to create a regional office of services that would resource the Western States in developing new churches and strengthen existing ones, and I would work toward developing a 501(c)(3) that would raise its own funding and expand the capacity of the Agency. This rationale was submitted to all those who had responsibility for personnel decisions at that time. It was also shared publicly at our national coaches training and our national NCD Conference, with national staff present at those announcements. The hope was to widen the financial support, beyond the resourcing of the PMA budget, in order to ensure the continued resourcing and planting of new churches.

My deep hope is that an unbiased look at the truth will begin to undo the damage done to my reputation as a Teaching Elder in the PCUSA, the damage done to the 1001 movement, and the deep distrust that exists between the Church and the PMA. All I seek is the truth to the questions surrounding the narrative that has been developed as well as the process the PMA used to get there. 

I have no ill will toward my colleagues in the Presbyterian Mission Agency. I’ve served this church for more than 40 years and do not wish to see it unnecessarily harmed. I do, however, want it to be at its best. I continue to believe that what became a narrative of rogue, unsupervised and deceitful employees, was really the failure of a system to be able to adequately keep up with a dynamic church planting movement. It most certainly did not involve unethical behavior by any one of the four employees.

Please pray for our denomination’s leadership. These are difficult times to be sure. It is not a time for failure of nerve. There is still time to do the right thing. Please ask the PMA board to fulfill their promise of transparency and fairness and release the results of the Alston and Bird report. You can come to your own conclusions about my actions, but at least they will be informed. I believe the report will lead to my and my colleagues’ exoneration from any wrongdoing.    

Christ is the head of the Church. Let us honor God’s mission by acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God.

Rev. Dr. Craig S. Williams
Teaching Elder in the PCUSA since 1981

 

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