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Author Topic: Investigation Findings and Board Action  (Read 15683 times)
wisemind
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« Reply #40 on: July 02, 2018, 10:07:32 am »

What strikes me as I follow the progress of these allegations and now the aftermath of the BOT decision is the lack of humility and grace, total lack of wisdom and insight Brent Knox, Mark Bowen, and the other pastors have shown.  For decades they knew about these allegations and chose to keep them tightly locked away, meanwhile holding themselves and each other up (including Mark Darling) as great and godly husbands, pastors, teachers and men who hear God's voice.

I don't buy any of it.
Brent Knox knew these allegations were true the whole time this investigation was going on. He left it alone, showed no courage or concern for anyone but himself. He blames his personality type for his inability to confront Mark 20 years ago but I'm assuming he has been able to call others out for their "misdeeds" and hold others accountable even to the point of excommunication. I don't think his "personality" is the problem.
 
Brent may have been afraid of Mark's reaction. After seeing Jeromy's reaction, I can understand why. In 2 Samuel, the Lord sent Nathan to rebuke King David. I'm assuming David could have had Nathan beheaded for his rebuke, but Nathan heard God's voice and did what God told him. He didn't help hide and cover sin for decades. David repented and is still known as a man after God's own heart in spite of the terrible things he did. Nathan may have been afraid to confront David, but he did it anyway.

Brent's "unfair, unjust" sermon indicates a total lack of understanding and respect for the women abused by Mark. Mark is portrayed as the victim, not the people he used and hurt. Such lack of integrity and insight! I can't understand why he is allowed to stay in leadership at Evergreen. He is not wise, godly, or even honest.

And Mark Darling...

It's understandable to me that his children would deny his guilt at first. I'm sure they were blindsided by these allegations. It was hidden so well that they had no idea their father was capable of such things! And Jeromy had an immature temper tantrum over it.  But as the evidence mounted and finally Mark was taken down from his role as pastor, the family could help their dad come to terms with his past behavior through psychological counseling and honesty in repentance. They still love him and all could grow in maturity and grace through this. What seems to be happening, though, is they are circling the wagons around his innocence and leaving ECC in a huff of bitterness. While Brent is no Nathan, Mark is certainly not like King David, either.

Pridefulness (and false humility) goes before the fall. Toxic leadership breeds toxicity in the church. Evergreen unfortunately is a church with an unhealthy, abusive legacy. The grace, love, compassion, forgiveness, honesty, true humility and integrity that healthy churches demonstrate are noticeably absent here.
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GodisFaithful
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« Reply #41 on: July 02, 2018, 11:58:56 am »

I would imagine it was quite difficult, painful, and embarrassing for Brent Knox, being interviewed about what he knew and when. I'm sure he was trying the best he could to be truthful.

And for that matter, Mark Bowen.

I am not surprised that the BOT did not want to give the reigns over to the investigator to do a summary of her findings that did protect individuals appropriately. I think a ton of the information would have been very embarrassing for Evergreen Church and the pastors that were involved. I am pretty sure that the BOT was struggling with how to handle this without decimating the church, and that is why Brent Knox and Mark Bowen are virtually untouched.  To me, their discipline seems like a few lashes with a wet noodle, in light of the seriousness of what they covered up and did not deal with.

And an apology with lengthy remarks about personality characteristics and many references to "blind spots" is not much of an apology. It does not address the grievous nature of what was allowed to go on and failure to protect.
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Heidi
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« Reply #42 on: July 02, 2018, 05:42:43 pm »

I would imagine it was quite difficult, painful, and embarrassing for Brent Knox, being interviewed about what he knew and when. I'm sure he was trying the best he could to be truthful.

And for that matter, Mark Bowen.

I am not surprised that the BOT did not want to give the reigns over to the investigator to do a summary of her findings that did protect individuals appropriately. I think a ton of the information would have been very embarrassing for Evergreen Church and the pastors that were involved. I am pretty sure that the BOT was struggling with how to handle this without decimating the church, and that is why Brent Knox and Mark Bowen are virtually untouched.  To me, their discipline seems like a few lashes with a wet noodle, in light of the seriousness of what they covered up and did not deal with.

And an apology with lengthy remarks about personality characteristics and many references to "blind spots" is not much of an apology. It does not address the grievous nature of what was allowed to go on and failure to protect.


I agree.  It was absolutely not an apology or any type of repentance. Part of the benefit of the Body of Christ is that we can help one another as a body.  A "Elder led" church has created this atmosphere of pastors who have lacked true accountability and authenticity with each other and with the body.
 The Elders or pastors have blind spots, partially because they have not had " ears to hear, what the spirit might be trying to say to the churches", or to them, maybe even from the believers in the body. 
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Linda
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« Reply #43 on: February 28, 2021, 06:51:23 am »

PWW,

Bumping this thread so you can read the findings of the board that actually saw the evidence.
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« Reply #44 on: February 28, 2021, 10:59:25 am »

To make it easier, here is the report.

Again, I'm going to put it in all caps, not because I'm mad, but because you seem to not be able to comprehend what I have said.

THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF EVERGREEN WAS IN CHARGE OF REVIEWING THE TESTIMONY REGARDING THE ACCUSATIONS.

THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES IS NOT THE ELDER BOARD.

And now, the report.

http://www.evergreenchurch.com/update/

(Posted July 1, 2018)

INVESTIGATION FINDINGS AND BOARD ACTION

BOARD RESPONSE

According to Evergreen’s charter and by-laws, its Board of Trustees (See Note A below for information about the Board of Trustees) has final authority over financial and legal oversight, including employment decisions and policy matters. In these areas, the pastors submit to the authority of the Evergreen Church Board of Trustees (EC BOT). This governance authority is designed to provide oversight, accountability and operational integrity for the church.  On January 30, 2018, upon learning of the allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior against Mark Darling (alleged to have occurred prior to 2001) including the charge that the matter was handled inappropriately by pastors, the EC BOT made the decision to recuse all pastors from the investigative process.  The EC BOT also placed Mark Darling on administrative leave.  The EC BOT’s interest in this matter was to determine to the extent possible whether allegations of employee misconduct were true or false; and, if true, determine what the appropriate next steps should be.  The EC BOT chose not to conduct its own internal investigation of the allegations because they believed that this matter needed to be investigated by an experienced person outside the church, with complete independence and without bias.  After thorough due diligence, a highly qualified, independent investigator was selected and retained on February 9, 2018.

THE INVESTIGATOR

The investigator, Ms. Joan Harris Esq., from the law firm of Ogletree Deakins, has over 20 years of experience and has conducted hundreds of investigations. She is a lawyer, but her role in this investigation is as an investigator, not as a lawyer. She is not a litigator in this matter and she is not a legal advocate or counselor for Evergreen Church, Mark Darling, any pastors or the EC BOT.  She was retained by the EC BOT to investigate the facts surrounding the allegations that have been made, independently and without bias, and to report her findings to the EC BOT.

SCOPE OF THE INVESTIGATION

Ms. Harris was specifically retained to independently investigate the following:

1) allegation made by Suzanne van Dyck against Mark Darling of physical sexual abuse

2) allegations to the effect that Evergreen Church was made aware of allegations of sexual abuse (not physical) and failed to take appropriate action,

3) allegations that Evergreen Church attempted to “cover up” the allegations of abuse and silence Suzanne van Dyck with the offer of a monetary payment, and

4) any related claims that arise.

Other than occasional communications with Nicholas M. Wenner, attorney for the EC BOT, Ms. Harris did not meet with or discuss any of the allegations with the EC BOT until after the investigation was completed and her final report had been delivered to the EC BOT.  The independent investigation was conducted and directed by the investigator not by the EC BOT.

THE INVESTIGATION

As the EC BOT reported in their April 10, 2018 investigation update, on April 5, 2018, two EC BOT members met with Suzanne van Dyck.  At that meeting, she indicated that she would not be participating in the investigation.  However, before the investigation was completed, Suzanne van Dyck did meet with the investigator and was interviewed as a part of this investigation.

The following Evergreen employees were also interviewed by the investigator – Mark Bowen, Mark Darling, Brent Knox and Doug Patterson.

Fourteen other individuals were also interviewed by the investigator (see Notes B and D below) and numerous relevant documents were provided.

Public statements that may have been made by individuals through social media or the news media were not considered as part of Ms. Harris’ investigation unless Ms. Harris obtained the information herself through direct personal interviews.  Ms. Harris’ investigation is only based upon information obtained through personal interviews and any relevant documents provided.

LIMITATIONS OF THE INVESTIGATION

The EC BOT’s interest in this matter was to determine to the extent possible whether allegations of employee misconduct were true or false; and, if true, determine what the appropriate next steps should be.  An investigation of this type is not a legal proceeding or court trial where documents can be subpoenaed or where witnesses are deposed under oath, compelled to testify or subject to cross-examination by opposing parties.  Nor was a jury asked to deliver a verdict based upon evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.  This is an independent investigation conducted by an experienced investigator who tried to uncover, to the extent possible, the facts.  This investigation is also limited by the passage of time.  It is much more difficult to secure detailed recollections and documents from events that occurred 20 to 30 years ago than it would be if the events occurred more recently.

WHAT THE INVESTIGATOR REPORTED (See Note B below)

1) regarding the allegation of physical sexual abuse made by Suzanne van Dyck against Mark Darling

Suzanne van Dyck alleged physical sexual abuse by Mark Darling in a post she made on an online forum on January 24, 2018.  The alleged abuse was said to have occurred prior to 2001.  Investigation findings:

From the investigator’s report: “Based on the interviews conducted during this investigation, Suzanne van Dyck’s individual allegations of sexual abuse, by definition, could not be substantiated.”
While the investigation revealed that some pastors of Evergreen Church had seen the phrase “emotional sexual abuse” prior to Suzanne van Dyck’s post on an online forum on January 24, 2018, the EC BOT first learned of Suzanne van Dyck’s specific allegation of physical sexual abuse by Mark Darling from a post she made on an online forum on January 24, 2018.
 The investigation determined that no one at Evergreen Church knew about this specific allegation prior to January 24, 2018.
2) regarding allegations to the effect that Evergreen Church was made aware of allegations of sexual abuse (not physical) and failed to take appropriate action

While the investigation determined that no one at Evergreen Church knew about Suzanne van Dyck’s specific allegation of physical sexual abuse prior to January 24, 2018 (an allegation that could not be substantiated by the investigator), the investigation did reveal the following:

In 2001, Suzanne van Dyck provided a letter to pastors Mark Bowen, Brent Knox, Doug Patterson, and John van Dyck addressing concerns with Mark Darling. This letter included the phrase “emotional sexual abuse” and included no allegations of physical contact but stated that she had specific concerns about Mark Darling’s conduct as a pastor that felt abusive to her.  A second draft of this letter was shared with Mark Darling, Mark Bowen, Brent Knox, Doug Patterson, and John van Dyck where the phrase “emotional sexual abuse” was changed to “inappropriate sexual boundaries”.

Additional investigation findings:

In 2001, Mark Bowen, was also aware of at least two other women who had concerns similar to Suzanne van Dyck’s about Mark Darling’s conduct as a pastor (inappropriate conversations of a sexual nature).  (In 2001, apart from Mark Bowen (Chair of the EC BOT), the other members of the EC BOT were not aware of the concerns raised by Suzanne van Dyck and these other women regarding Mark Darling’s conduct, and were not informed of the concerns.).

From the investigator’s report: “ECC failed to take appropriate action in response to misconduct allegations.” In 2001, the four Evergreen pastors, Mark Bowen, Brent Knox, Doug Patterson and John van Dyck made aware of Susan van Dyck’s concerns about Mark Darling’s conduct acknowledged those concerns, and engaged with Mark Darling in a process (Matthew 18) over the course of several months in a good faith effort to address her concerns, but failed to follow through and implement appropriate corrective action regarding Mark Darling’s conduct (conduct that failed to meet some of the standards spelled out in Titus 1:6-9 See Note C below).

From the investigator’s report: “ECC has no policies or procedures specific to reporting or receiving discipline” for the misconduct attributed to Mark Darling.
3) regarding allegations that Evergreen Church attempted to “cover up” the allegations and silence Suzanne van Dyck with the offer of a monetary payment.  Investigation findings:

From the investigator’s report: “Mrs. van Dyck appears to rely on standard non-disparagement and confidentiality provisions included in the GCM severance package to prove there was an attempt by Evergreen Church to pay ‘hush money’ in order to cover up the allegations she raised against Darling in 2001.”

When the van Dyck’s left Minnesota for Berlin, Germany, John van Dyck was no longer an employee of Evergreen Church.  He became an employee of Great Commission Ministries (GCM) (now known as Reliant).  Upon the van Dyck’s return to Minnesota, in recognition of John van Dyck’s years of faithful service and the risky nature of the Rock Berlin church plant, the EC BOT was asked to approve a monetary severance package for John van Dyck.  The minutes from EC BOT’s October 13, 2003 Board Meeting indicate that a portion of the severance amount be conditioned upon the van Dyck’s engaging in a process of Christian conciliation.  Communication about the severance package including the preparation of the formal severance agreement was handled by GCM, John’s employer and included standard confidentiality and non-disparagement conditions, and a commitment to engage in a biblical conciliation process to address “unresolved issues in your relationship with Evergreen and its leadership.”  The van Dyck’s refused to sign the severance documents to obtain the entire severance amount; they did, however, receive the portion of the severance amount that was not conditioned on participation in a process of Christian conciliation.  At the time the severance amount was approved by the EC BOT in 2003, and the severance plan was offered by GCM, neither members of the Board of Trustees (other than Mark Bowen), nor personnel from GCM were aware of the issues raised by Suzanne van Dyck with the Evergreen pastors in 2001.

The investigator concluded this severance agreement did not constitute “hush money” or an attempt to cover up the allegations Suzanne van Dyck made in 2001.  (See Note D below.)
 

4) regarding any related claims that arose

Two additional women came forward during this 2018 investigation to make similar claims regarding Mark Darling’s conduct that they experienced prior to 2001; neither made claims of physical sexual abuse. 

From the investigator’s report: “the investigation does support the fact that Mark Darling, while holding a position of authority, engaged in inappropriate conduct. . . .”  Specifically, this conduct included spending time alone with women in private settings and inappropriate conversations with women of a sexual nature.
BOARD ACTIONS

Based on the investigation findings, the EC BOT, in unanimous agreement, will proceed with the following disciplinary action (See Note E below):

The EC BOT rescinds Mark Darling’s ordination.  He will remain on paid leave as an Evergreen employee and will be presented an opportunity to follow a restoration process established by the EC BOT.  He will not regain his status as an ordained pastor nor return from leave until the EC BOT and an outside third-party, acting on behalf of the EC BOT, determine that he is ready to do so.

The church has been informed that Mark Darling has resigned.

The EC BOT will participate in and oversee the process of restructuring the Executive Ministry Team (EMT).  Mark Bowen will step down as EC BOT Chair.
Based on the investigation findings, the EC BOT, in unanimous agreement, will participate in and oversee the development and implementation of policies and procedures and the appropriate leadership structure to correct the organizational deficiencies revealed in the investigation.

The EC BOT will retain Ms. Harris’ law firm, Olgetree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., to assist with the development of the appropriate policies and reporting procedures.

The EC BOT will retain an appropriate third-party to assist with employee training.

The EC BOT, with third-party assistance, will work with the pastors to develop procedures to address pastoral accountability, performance improvement planning and discipline.

The EC BOT, with third-party assistance, will work with the pastors to develop a “grievance process” and specific ways we can further open communications and improve the culture of safety in our church.
The EC BOT is committed to providing the congregation with quarterly update reports on the progress on each of the action items listed above.

NOTE A
EVERGREEN CHURCH BOARD OF TRUSTEES
According to Evergreen’s charter and by-laws, its Board of Trustees has final authority over financial and legal oversight, including employment decisions and policy matters. In these areas, the pastors submit to the authority of the Board. This governance authority is designed to provide oversight, accountability and operational integrity for the church. 
The Board carries out their responsibility in several ways, here are some examples:

Approving the annual church operating budgets.
Monitoring the budget and financial health of the church on a quarterly basis.
Approving all major church financial transactions.
Developing and monitoring compliance with financial, legal and employment policies.
Determining and approving employee compensation and benefit plans.
Qualifications/Term Limits

Per the church by-laws, the minimum qualifications to serve as a Trustee shall be that of a man or woman qualified to serve as a Pastor or Elder of the Church, or as a deacon of the church, as such terms are defined in the New Testament (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). There must always be at least one person from the Executive Ministry Team (EMT) on the Board and this person is exempt from any term limits.  The Finance Director must always be on the Board and is exempt from any term limits.  The Operations Manager must always be on the Board and is exempt from any term limits.  All other Trustees shall serve a three-year term and shall serve a maximum of two consecutive terms before a minimum of one year off the Board.  Trustee membership should include representation from each of the Church’s locations.  The number of non-staff Trustees serving on the Board must exceed the number of the staff Trustees serving on the Board.  No Trustee shall receive payment for serving on the board.

 

Selection Process

When a vacancy occurs on the Board of Trustees or a term expires or when the said Board has
determined to increase the number of Trustees, nominees are presented to the Board based upon recommendations from a location’s pastors in consultation with location leaders and the current location trustee.  Such vacancies and/or new positions shall be filled only by the unanimous affirmative vote of the then current Board, after consideration of the qualifications of such nominee(s).

Current Trustees

Pastor Mark Bowen, Executive Ministry Team, Board Chair – recused from all matters related to the investigation
Lynn Newman, Operations Manager, Board Secretary
Jim Bird, Finance Director
Terry Kriesel, Bloomington location
Teri Polson, Lakeville location
Brad Zielke, New Hope location
Todd Goodwin, Rock location
Jeff Hudson, Urban Refuge location

NOTE B

In this document, the EC BOT has communicated the investigator’s conclusions and findings regarding the specific allegations the EC BOT asked her to investigate.  The full investigator’s report is a confidential document for the EC BOT only and the EC BOT will not release the entire report.  Other than what is reported here, its contents will not be shared or discussed with anyone including Evergreen staff and pastors. The EC BOT will also not release the names of all the witnesses who participated in the investigation.  Many witnesses came forward with the understanding that what they were sharing was confidential.  Furthermore, it is likely that some people with information about the matters being investigated would not have come forward and participated in the investigation if they knew their identity and the contents of their interview would be made public. Redacting names from the report would not fully protect the identity of the individuals who participated. The EC BOT is not willing to compromise the privacy of any employee or other individuals who chose to participate in the investigation.  While releasing the full report may make the EC BOT look “transparent”, the EC BOT is unwilling to expose the identity and personal details of individuals involved in the investigation simply because it might, in the eyes of some, enhance the EC BOT’s image (i.e., by being completely transparent). 

NOTE C

Titus 1:6-9 New International Version (NIV)
6 An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.7 Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

NOTE D

As indicated above, public statements that may have been made by individuals through social media or the news media were not considered as part of Ms. Harris’ investigation. Evergreen Church’s stated position has been that we will not engage this matter on social media. However, posts made by Suzanne van Dyck on May 26, 2018 and June 5, 2018 warrant a response from the EC BOT because they mischaracterize comments attributed to the investigator, Ms. Harris.

Among the relevant documents provided to Ms. Harris were two letters drafted by Suzanne van Dyck to Mark Darling, including a copy of the original draft and a copy of the revised draft that was provided to Mark Darling.  The original draft did not include a section that was “crossed off”. 

No member of the EC BOT was advised by Ms. Harris to release the investigation report to the public. Although Ms. Harris advised that the EC BOT maintain transparency throughout the process, including the release of findings from the investigation, she agreed that witness confidentiality was paramount.

Based on the investigation report and accompanying relevant documents, there were no e-mail communications directly or indirectly to the van Dyck’s from any member of the EC BOT or Evergreen staff regarding the offer of a severance agreement. The relevant document provided by Ms. Harris contains emails and summaries of communications between the van Dyck’s and GCM.
NOTE E

From the Evergreen Church Employee Handbook:

PROGRESSIVE DISCIPLINE

The purpose of this policy is to state EC’s position on administering equitable and consistent discipline for unsatisfactory conduct in the workplace.  The best disciplinary measure is the one that does not have to be enforced and comes from good leadership and fair supervision.

EC’s own best interest lies in ensuring fair treatment of all employees and in making certain that disciplinary actions are prompt, uniform, and impartial.  The major purpose of any disciplinary action is to correct the problem, prevent recurrence, and prepare the employee for satisfactory service in the future.

Although employment with EC is based on mutual consent and both the employee and EC have the right to terminate employment at will, with or without cause or notice, EC may use progressive discipline at its discretion.
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Linda
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« Reply #45 on: February 08, 2022, 02:58:01 pm »

Quote from: ECC Investigation Findings
The EC BOT will participate in and oversee the process of restructuring the Executive Ministry Team (EMT).  Mark Bowen will step down as EC BOT Chair.
Based on the investigation findings, the EC BOT, in unanimous agreement, will participate in and oversee the development and implementation of policies and procedures and the appropriate leadership structure to correct the organizational deficiencies revealed in the investigation.

The EC BOT will retain Ms. Harris’ law firm, Olgetree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., to assist with the development of the appropriate policies and reporting procedures.

The EC BOT will retain an appropriate third-party to assist with employee training.

The EC BOT, with third-party assistance, will work with the pastors to develop procedures to address pastoral accountability, performance improvement planning and discipline.

The EC BOT, with third-party assistance, will work with the pastors to develop a “grievance process” and specific ways we can further open communications and improve the culture of safety in our church.

The EC BOT is committed to providing the congregation with quarterly update reports on the progress on each of the action items listed above.

This just came to my attention. Hadn't looked at this report for quite some time.

I'm curious, does anyone know if this promised follow-up ever occurred?

Have policies been made and are they available for members and potential members to see? Is there a link?

Was there employee training?

What is the grievance process?

Have quarterly congregational reports been made, as promised? Have any reports been made?

I really hope these weren't empty promises.

Would love to hear from any members who follow this forum. It would be good to show all that changes have been made and there is a grievance process that members and non-members are aware of.

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Janet Easson Martin
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« Reply #46 on: February 08, 2022, 04:14:09 pm »

Yes, Linda, Evergreen Church (now Hometown Church) and it’s affiliate churches should absolutely be accountable for carrying out what they promised. That is a crucial question. Are they truly working with third parties outside the church to right their usual denying and dismissive responses to concerns and complaints from abused members or those witnessing such actions? Where do complaints actually go? Are they documented? Are they actually taking action against their history of pretending ignorance of ANY complaints with smooth talking? Have they removed those leaders who bully their members into submission and silence?

Has it has now been 4 years since the victims of ECC felt they needed to resort to public pronouncements in order to resolve the spiritually and sexually abusive “counsel” and behavior going on there? If the leadership’s pledges regarding these promised policies to protect the victims rather than the perpetrators, and to keep the members safe rather than the dismissive leaders or the church organization; haven’t been fulfilled by now, it seems doubtful they will follow through. Have these policies been documented, distributed, and carried out?  If not, it would seem that this Church is NOT trustworthy to “shepherd” anyone.


« Last Edit: February 09, 2022, 08:46:41 am by Janet Easson Martin » Logged

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