Life Center Tacoma Perspective, Part 1

Written by Scott

Topics: Faith

Life Center

In my previous post I laid out the foundation for this series of posts, which in short were the things that I saw during my time at Life Center that I believe played a role in bring the church to where it is today, in the midst of the Dean Curry scandals* and dismissal.

I thought writing this would be an easy exercise. But I’ve struggled, because this recent series of events is a big deal. It’s a serious blow the Life Center, to the Assemblies of God, and to the Christian witness in community and beyond…regardless of whether the allegations are true or not. I want to get these perspectives right. As I’d written in the preface post, these posts aren’t at all about Dean Curry’s guilt or innocence, because I do not know. I wasn’t there. And frankly, we as the public may never know the full truth.

I’m also not writing these posts as a Dean Curry apologist. I like Dean. Always have. But like all of us, he is a flawed human being. That fact needs to be acknowledged, and for many people, including many friends that still attend Life Center, that simply isn’t being done. Some of these flaws I saw firsthand working with him during my internship, and led me to make some decisions (two in particular) that led to a one-sided (his) falling-out of sorts at the tail end of my time there. Those will be discussed in the future.

But what these posts are primarily about is Life Center as an institution, and some of the things I witnessed and observed while I was there, that I believe contributed to the condition in which it now finds itself. Not root cause, necessarily, but contributing factors…nor are they justifications to what may or may not have happened. Whether allegations are true or not, choices were made and actions taken by people: by Dean, by the accusers, and by other church leaders, and those choices and actions are theirs.

So I’ll start foundationally, and as the posts continue, more specifically.

The first part of this discussion begins with something very basic: Life Center has a size issue. We can look at this from any number of perspectives, and I think all of them would have some validity. But outside of the discussions of the issues related to a large church with large numbers of programs requiring a large budget, I want to focus the meaning on something even more basic: a large church isolates a (senior) pastor from those he is supposed to be shepherding.

Clearly the the pastor can’t know everyone in a large church well.

But let me illustrate anecdotally. During my time there, and this would have been toward the end part of that time, so around 96-97, I was doing audio for a wedding that Pastor Fulton Buntain was officiating. I was getting him set up with a wireless microphone, and he didn’t know who I was. I’d been volunteering for years in different ministries, around the church a lot (most of that time, I lived within blocks of the church), and by this time had been on the payroll off and on for audio events for some time. I’d even been to his house at least once. He didn’t know me.

This isn’t a slight toward Pastor Buntain. Any larger organization, public or private, has this struggle. But the implications in a church are very different than in a company, where you have specified job descriptions for people, a chain of command, etc. In a large church, this isolation causes separation between leadership and the masses; insulation of the leadership from the masses, and within leadership, politics.

Those are the general topics for further posts, though the politics might be covered in several posts, because there are several facets to it.

 

*I did mean to make that a plural, since additional allegations have come to the forefront since the dismissal.