Holy rage at the ‘Spring 184

In mid October, Perry Noble made an intriguing statement in one of his sermons that the church had fired one of its employees for “going over the line” against a critic. “Don’t worry,” Noble assured his flock, the guy didn’t blow up anyone’s house.

Noble gave no more details about what his employee had done or who the critic was.  He also didn’t reveal the kinds of activities–short of not blowing up houses–the person had been engaged in.

I was the critic, and what NewSpring subjected my family to was much more worrisome than blowing up a house.

It’s a long story. Take a seat. Take a deep breath. This will take a bit of telling.

I’m about to tell you how NewSpring insiders attempted to corrupt my family, sabotage an adoption, destroy my career, and ruin my reputation. This campaign, which became the subject of a police investigation, was conducted with the knowledge and encouragement of NewSpring’s senior leadership.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Billboards Article

Two years ago I submitted a column to the Anderson Independent, our local daily newspaper, which criticized a billboard campaign that NewSpring was conducting in our city that presented a bleak and degrading view of parenthood. Predicting the corrosive effects of the campaign on families and children, in particular my own, I asked Perry Noble, the pastor of the church, to take them down.

Before they published my article, someone at the newspaper asked me if I was really sure I wanted to do this. “They’ll come after you and try to destroy you,” I was told. Besides my house being flour bombed and a few people shouting at me as they passed by my office, the reaction wasn’t too bad.

Birth of Pajama Pages

In early 2009, I was teaching a class on Internet communication where I required my students to create and maintain their own blogs. To try to practice what I preached, I dusted off an old blog I’d created a year or two earlier with the URL pajamapages.com (the title a reference to a CBS executive’s dismissal of bloggers as worthless people who sit at home and write in their pajamas). After a few politically oriented posts, I noticed a post on one of my students’ blogs that highlighted a series called “SEXED” that was being promoted by NewSpring’s youth ministry. I took exception to the salacious image and statements that occupied the church’s stage, and said so in a blog post.

Shortly thereafter I noticed a video promotion for a sermon that looked like a condom ad. I wrote about it.

Then there was the youth minister describing the church using a despicable profanity. I wrote about that too.

The more I wrote, the more people started reading the blog. The more I looked at the public output of NewSpring church, the more I found to write about. So I kept writing.

Green-lighting the violent rage

One of the things I noticed was how paranoid pastors at NewSpring were of dissent and disagreement. To show how the paranoia at the top trickled down within the organization, I linked to a post by NewSpring’s creative pastor, Shane Duffey, where he described how he strongly questioned an underling based on his suspicions that the person was not sufficiently loyal.

Through the magic of blog trackbacks, Duffey noticed that I had linked to him a day or two later and mentioned it on his Twitter account. The following conversation ensued between Duffey; Josh Maxwell, a NewSpring security guard; and AH, one of Perry Noble’s personal assistants.

  • Duffey: cool… one of my blog posts just got linked by the esteemed AU Prof James Duncan… wow… I’m honored!
  • AH: @shaneduffey i am so tempted to read but i can’t. i sin when i read his blog. i have thoughts of making a prof. a _______ dog on a chain
  • Maxwell (whose Twitter handle is mrmalph): @shaneduffey seriously, how much would you pay to get rid of that problem?
  • Duffey: @mrmalph – ain’t worried about the prof, but thanks…
  • Duffey: @AH – don’t read… he just hates on Pastor Furtick, @bcoop & @perrynoble… i’m in really good company!
  • Duffey: @AH – also, major props for using my new favorite phrase!
  • Maxwell: @garylamb wanna schedule another gang land beating? I have someone in mind and I need a redneck that doesnt care to come along.
  • For context, this is the same Gary Lamb who said this:
  • You know what my biggest regret in that church [that I used to attend] is? It’s how I left that church. If I had to do it over again today, this is how I’d have done it. I wish I had walked up in that church with a baseball bat, clocked that [old] woman in her noggin, punched her husband in the face, took a baseball bat to those pews, burnt the organ up, [and] set the piano on fire.

    and this:

    I hope you believe in God because you should get on your knees and cry out to Him like never before because if we find you, I can promise we will kick the crap out of you. It won’t be pretty, it won’t be over quickly, and it will be very painful.

  • Maxwell: On my way to BTFOJD
  • Duffey: @mrmalph is one of my most favorite people… Got lots of rage & I like that!

This is a key conversation. Maxwell, whose job was to protect and defend the church, wanted to come after me to damage me. Rather than being chastised, one of NewSpring’s senior leaders encouraged him.

Nothing bad could come from that kind of encouragement, could it?

The Lamb eruption

Besides Perry Noble, my blog also occasionally covered the antics of Noble’s two personal proteges, Steven Furtick in Charlotte, and Gary Lamb in Canton, GA. On June 7, Lamb announced on his blog that he was resigning from his church because he had been engaged in a sexual affair with his personal assistant.

At the time, I had just arrived in New Zealand for a three-week trip to visit my father who was battling cancer (extraordinarily successfully so far). I did a bit of online research into Lamb’s relationship with his assistant and posted an article showing where and when Lamb’s problem may have started. Over the next couple of days I followed up with a few other Lamb-related posts.

I immediately noticed a massive spike in readership to my blog, largely driven by Google searches for Gary Lamb. A lot of people who had been unaware of my blog and its criticism of Perry Noble became regular readers, and–for some–commentators at that point.

Maxwell, though first made aware of my blog by Duffey, was apparently further aggravated by the Lamb posts. His own Twitter comments showed that something bad was going on in his life.

On June 8 he tweeted:

I haven’t wanted to go beat down the door of someones house and drag them from behind their pansy computer for a long time.

The behind-the-computer language is very similar to that used by Perry Noble, who describes a critic as someone “sitting in your underwear in your mothers basement behind a screen.”

The next day, Maxwell tweeted,

Devising a plan of attack. I read the Art of War – well at least half of it – ok, so I only read the preface. I can still do this!

On June 13 he again tweeted:

Madder than crap about an issue. I want to hit someone.

Things started going south very quickly. As I recount the events of June and July, some of the information comes from confessions to a local detective in October. In other words, although I knew at the time what was happening, I did not know who was doing it until much later.

Gay pornographic emails

On June 9 I received an email from “Hundred Thousand” at [email protected] with the subject line: “I think You will recognize.” The message was empty except for a link to a jpg image of hardcore gay sex.

On June 11 I received another email, this time from an account purporting to be Steven Anderson of [email protected], with the subject line “Faith World Baptist.” The email contained five paragraphs of biographical information about Steven Anderson, who is a fundamentalist Baptist pastor in Arizona who has been made fun of on some pro-NewSpring blogs.  Beneath the text were three pornographic photographs, one of a naked man, and the other two of hardcore gay sex.

Both messages were sent by Travis Dickson, a NewSpring member and friend of Josh Maxwell (MrMalph).

Magazine subscription

On June 9, I received an email confirmation of a three-year subscription to OUT, a gay magazine that was to be delivered to my home address. I placed several calls to the magazine from New Zealand and cancelled the request before they put anything in the mail to me. I found out later that Dickson had also initiated this subscription.

Sales calls

Beginning on June 10 through June 11, I received approximately a dozen email confirmations of requests for auto insurance, life insurance and financial planning services. Many of the sales people also called my home, which means the person making the request also provided them with my home phone number. On June 12, I received email confirmations for requests to enroll at two online universities. On June 18, my wife (who remained home in Anderson while I was in New Zealand) received a call that a Ford Flex vehicle was ready for delivery to my house. On the same date, I also received email confirmations of the same thing. As with the magazines, none of these services or products was requested by my wife or me.

The calls continued through July, and I found out from one of the sales agents who called me that he had paid approximately $20 to get my name and number. Not only did the calls serve to harass my wife, they cost third parties real money for a hoax lead.

First Twitter impersonation

On June 10 or 11, Eric Elgin, another NewSpring member and friend of Josh Maxwell, initiated a Twitter account with the handle, jduncandotcom, which included my photograph in the account profile. The posts named my wife and son, the street I live on, and contained insults directed at the president of Anderson University, where I work. It also showed an interest in homosexual sex with Tommy Frederick, a regular poster in the comments section on my blog.

Elgin said that he had intended to startle Maxwell by having his fake account link to Maxwell’s Twitter account as a follower. Elgin said that he soon told Maxwell it was he who had started it, and gave Maxwell the password so that he could start adding his own content to it.

A friend alerted me to the account’s existence, after which I contacted Twitter from New Zealand and had it shut down on June 13.

Wikiversity

On June 14, I received an email confirmation request from wikiversity.org that indicated that someone was trying to create an account that combined my son’s name and my street address. I didn’t activate the confirmation link, so the account wasn’t created.

Late-night phone calls

At 3 a.m. on June 18, my wife answered a call and heard a computerized voice say, “Perry Noble has just posted something new on his blog. We need you to read it and tear it apart.” The call originated from Abbyme.com, a site that allows users to enter a phone number and text message. The site then generates a call to the number and a computer-generated voice reads the message. Our caller ID indicated that the call came from Anderson University (it didn’t, but the caller ID is a parameter than Abbyme lets users set).

In early July I received another Abbyme.com call that threatened to cut off my cell phone for late payment. Travis Dickson later said that he had cut and paste the text from a real Verizon message.

At 9 a.m. on July 14, I answered another computer-generated call from Abbyme that said, “You are an asshole. When are you going to post again, you hypocrite?” We’ll come back to this call, and you’ll see how the date and time of this call were particularly sinister.

Forged resignation letter

On June 13, Ben Milstead mailed a signed resignation letter in my name to the provost at Anderson University, where I am a tenured associate professor of communication. On June 16, the provost emailed me to communicate his regret at my resignation. I informed him that it was a hoax and, thankfully, retained my job.

Milstead later explained that he had discussed the plan to send the letter with Maxwell, and they had wanted it to draw the university’s attention to my blog, with the goal of having them censor it or shut it down.

It didn’t work that way, and their assumption demonstrated a poor understanding of the place of debate within a Christian liberal arts institution. University administrators have never talked to me about my blog, either to praise it or condemn it. So long as I’m not speaking for the university–and I’m not–, our robust academic community encourages thinking and debate on a wide range of important issues.

Revived Twitter account

On June 13, the same day that the jduncandotcom Twitter account was deleted, a new Twitter account appeared with the handle, jamesduncanAU. This time, Maxwell noted on the top of the page that the account was a parody, which, under Twitter’s rules at the time, meant that I could not ask for this one to be shut down. The parody note was designed simply to keep the account open. Let me assure you, what followed over the next three months was no parody. It was outright savagery.

A screen shot from August of some of the fake Twitter account followers.

A screen shot from August of some of the jamesduncanau account followers.

Before I tell you just how bad it was, it’s important to note that many NewSpring insiders knew about the account, several even openly following it. Jason Moorhead, Newspring’s chief operations officer, followed the account from its earliest days, a NewSpring communications director also started following the account in July. Both were still following the account in September when Maxwell eventually deleted it and its contents.

Maxwell was aware that there was a large following of church staffers, and at one point even addressed them directly, asking them for ideas on what new content he should add (besides his own brilliant idea of turning me into a transsexual). On many occasions, the fake account directly addressed leaders like Noble and Cooper, who would have had my name and the often-pornographic content of the message flash through their own accounts.

Maxwell’s statement to police claimed that NewSpring staff did not know he was the author. Even so, Milstead, who knew Maxwell was the author and who also followed the account, told me later that no one ever tried to get the author to stop his activity. It was quite apparent that the author was not me, and it was equally obvious that the person behind it was actually a member and supporter of NewSpring church.

Once you see some of the content, you might think, with me, that it is remarkable that not one person’s alarm went off. No one thought that this content, which was publicly accessible, might not present NewSpring in a flattering light. No one thought that my family was worth protecting from this threatening person. All it would have taken was a simple tweet from someone like Perry Noble to tell the person to shut up and delete the account. To my knowledge, no such message was sent.

Family attacks

Maxwell repeatedly mentioned my family in his twitter posts in a way that felt like we were being aggressively stalked. He identified by wife and son by name, and even correctly revealed my son’s age and the location of his school. He also correctly described the make and model of our cars, and described journeys my wife took in our minivan.

The tweets include vile descriptions of my wife’s sexual behaviors and anatomy (you’ll excuse me, I hope, if I don’t quote those ones). When Steven Furtick preached a series on cow tipping, Maxwell invited him to come and tip my wife over. Maxwell repeatedly described my son as abused and someone who wore women’s underwear around the house. He seemed to enjoy threatening me, warning me that I could “only shelter a child for so long.” One post seemed to promise vandalism against my home:

and yep. theres a big bag of poop in my mail box. looks like human turds instead of dog… sick individuals

I had very real fears that something awful was about to happen, so it was at this point that I went to the police.

No family member seemed exempt from his anger. After posting an account of having the privilege to have preached at the same church in New Zealand that my father and grandfather had pastored, and showing a photo of them in the church’s gallery of pastors, Maxwell responded:

my dad and my grandpa look retarded

did i ever tell u that my dad beat me as a child? and he calls himself a pastor… maybe this is where my rage comes from

The most distressing series of messages came in August, when Maxwell started talking about my son’s backyard play equipment. Earlier this year, I built my son a 140-foot zip line in our back yard. It was really something, and my son enjoyed being able to share it with kids who lived on our street, including quite a few kids who filtered into our back yard from the subdivision behind us. Because it was behind our house, you couldn’t really see it from the street, though you could see the platform from which the kids took off. Unless you actually saw kids playing on it, there would be no way to know just by looking at my house that there was a zip line in the back.

So it was a surprise when on August 2 and 3, Maxwell left comments like this:

it would thrill me to see a hundred kids zipping back and forth in my backyard

feel free to come by the house and use my zip line!

It puzzled me how he knew about that. He had also mentioned a trampoline of ours, offering it for sale on Twitter, though it is possible that he saw that from the street (not a terribly comforting idea, but not as threatening as the zip line reference).

Remember that I said that Maxwell’s friend, Jason Moorhead, had followed the fake Twitter account? This particular NewSpring pastor lives just three houses away (500 feet) in the subdivision behind ours. Might he have passed the information about the zip line to Maxwell? You be the judge, but note Maxwell’s message from August 2:

what would you the reader like to see? i know there are alot of you that just read and dont follow. tell me. what would u like to see?

On August 2, Maxwell asks his NewSpring readers if anyone has any ideas to further harass me. Jason Moorhead, a NewSpring pastor, lives just a few houses behind mine, in the neighborhood from which we had welcomed kids into our yard. It was Moorhead who was receiving Maxwell’s messages in his Twitter feeds. The very next day, Maxwell is chirping about kids playing on my zip line. More than just reading, did NewSpring’s pastor feed content to Maxwell? I don’t know for sure, but the only other way that Maxwell knew about kids playing on my zip line was for him to have parked outside our house to watch my son play, or to enter my property to see what was back there. Perversely, the Moorhead theory is the most comforting.

Even so, once we connected those dots, all those possibilities were rather terrifying for my wife. She, quite reasonably, feels violated and unsafe in our own home.

Homosexual fantasies

Through his tweets, Maxwell seemed obsessed with descriptions of homosexual sex, especially accounts of acts between Tommy Frederick, a regular commentator on the blog, and me. On repeated occasions Maxwell describes an obscene sex act called a rusty trombone, and fantasizes about me being raped. I am going to leave most of what he said unquoted, but here’s a little sample:

@tommyfrederick i always think of you while i am squeezing turds out of my rectum. why is this?

my butt hurts. wonder if @tommyfrederick came over last night without me knowing! u sly fox!

At one point, Maxwell spun a story about me being abducted by three black men.

after a wild night of chip n dales, booze, cocaine and practical jokes in Homeland Park. we shall end it with 3 big black guys

the black guys have our hands and feet bound together with rope. dont ask how i am typing this. and no im not using my nose.

@tommyfrederick how are you going to leave me bound and gagged in this unknown place and be tweeting pnoble?

@burningp u tell that worthless bag of crap @tommyfrederick that i didnt pull my pants around my ankles for nothing. he needs to b here

never trust 3 black guys with pitbulls that u meet at simones bar. lessoned learned. hope [my wife’s name] understands

Maxwell’s posts often involved sex with black men.

i also like the way that Ron [Carpenter] holds a big black … mic … in his hands

At one point, however, black men were excluded from my sexual activities in a series of posts that invited people to a swingers’ party at my house.

oh forgot 2 mention – swingers party @ my house – details coming soon – check the pages of pajamas for details

in anderson? wanna party? send me a message! we have sexy time in a couple weeks.

details coming soon. stay tuned. bi curious welcome. no asian women

swingers party @ the duncan house. couples welcome, even fat chicks. no black dudes please! [The post listed my street and house number] is where its at. be here!

That was an invitation that I took seriously. Given that a Twitter search for any of the terms in that last message could appear to anyone who was looking for sexual misadventure, I slept on the couch that night with one eye on the front door.

Invitation to Murder

Picture 2In early July, the story that was dominating the news was of a serial killer in Gaffney, SC, which is only about 80 minutes’ drive from Anderson. The killing spree started when a gunman killed a man who had advertised some hay for sale. Maxwell put out three invitations to the killer, who was still on the loose:

if you are looking for some hay please come see @tommyfrederick and i!

@tommyfrederick and i are selling some hay this week

i’ve got some hay for sale if anyone is interested

Perhaps you think that I was over-reacting and reading too much into this stuff. The problem with violent words and threats is that they sometimes become real. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. I didn’t want my family to get hurt, so these threats felt plenty real to me.

The Failed Adoption

In early May my wife and I had received a very welcome call from Julie Dixon, the director of our local Care Pregnancy Clinic, that a young lady had reviewed our family profile and had selected us as the family she wanted to adopt her baby boy, who was due in mid July. We were told that she didn’t want to actually meet us until the delivery, though we received fairly regular assurances from Julie Dixon and our adoption attorney that the young lady was still confident about her decision to have us adopt her baby.

Although I posted a couple of items on my blog that promoted the concept of adoption, I kept the fact that we were about to adopt a secret, except for our family and some close friends.

On Friday, July 9, we got a slightly disconcerting message from Julie Dixon that the birth mother was feeling unsettled, and that she wanted to meet us the following Tuesday. We were also told that the previous evening Dixon had arranged for a group from her church to take her out for dinner and “love on her.”

Anticipating that the mother might give birth at any time–the baby was officially due on the 22nd–we purchased a roomful of baby furniture and equipment. On Monday afternoon we were told that the mother had been admitted to the hospital, so that evening I worked up a sweat installing the baby seat in the back of our van.

Julie Dixon called us at about 8 a.m. on Tuesday to tell us that the mother was going into labor, and that the birth mother wanted us to come in to the hospital to see her. We were to wait for Dixon to call us before we came, though.

Anticipating that call, I answered the phone at 9 a.m. expecting the invitation to the hospital. Instead, it was the AbbyMe.com call I mentioned earlier, telling me that I was an asshole and a hypocrite. Within the hour we got the call from Dixon to come in.

Expecting that the next time we came home it would be with our new son, we packed baby clothes, diapers and all the accoutrements into our van and set off. Our son was loaded up with an armload of books to pass the time while waiting for his new brother.

A few minutes after arriving at the hospital, we were ushered into the delivery room where we spent about 15 minutes talking to the young lady. As we talked to her, she indicated that she had memorized so many details about our lives from the little family portfolio, which she said she had read “hundreds of times.” Our meeting was going very well until a nurse asked us to go to the waiting room while she got an epidural.

Perhaps an hour later, we were told that the birth mother wanted to meet my wife alone. She began by asking my wife if we really wanted the baby. My wife explained that we had the room set up, we had the car seat ready, and that she even had a prescription from her doctor for the hormones to enable her to breast feed. “We couldn’t want this baby any more than we do,” my wife assured her.

The young lady then dropped a bombshell. She said that Dixon had called her into the office the previous Thursday to introduce her to a new family.  She said, “I feel terrible because I promised you the baby, but Julie introduced me to this family that she likes.” Seeing that the mother was stressed and conflicted, my wife backed off and said that while we really wanted a baby after ten years of miscarriages and infertility, we mainly wanted the mother to be at peace with her decision. My wife offered to pay for a social worker to come to the hospital to be the young mother’s advocate in whatever she decided, and then was asked to leave the room after about 20 minutes by a lady who was identified as a pregnancy center volunteer.

When my wife told me about what she’d learned and her offer to help, I drove home to get the number of an adoption social worker in Greenville to see if she would be able to come down on short notice. When I got back to the hospital, my wife was waiting for me outside, having been told by Dixon that the birth mother had made a decision, but that we should go home and wait for our attorney to call before we came back.

At 5 that afternoon, our attorney called us to tell us that the mother had selected the other family. We did not know who the family was or why she had picked them, and we didn’t expect that we would ever find out. We grieved the loss and prayed for the mother’s peace and that the new family would fully experience the joy we had been so close to ourselves.

When I called Julie Dixon two days later to see if I could find out at least a little background on what had just happened, she told me that the birth mother had come in to her office the previous week with the new family already selected. I had no reason to challenge her account, but the two stories varied considerably. The birth mother said she had been introduced to the new family at Dixon’s initiative, and she was still apparently conflicted about her decision when we met with her at the hospital. On the other hand, Julie Dixon told us that the mother had made the decision herself and had brought the family in so she could introduce them to Dixon.

Exactly one week later, as a couple of kids from a neighboring subdivision were playing on our zip line, one of the kids’ grandmother came into our yard to see what her grandson had been talking about and spending so much time on that week. I talked to her for a few minutes, and then my wife came out and talked to her some more. She said that her granddaughter was off on a church trip (it was the same week as NewSpring’s youth group’s Florida trip), and she was looking after her grandson in the meantime. She saw our son and asked if we had any other children. My wife said that we didn’t, and that we had almost adopted a baby just the week before.

Our visitor asked, “Did that happen on Tuesday?”

My wife said, “Yes.”

Then our visitor asked, “Was it a baby boy?”

Again, “Yes.”

The lady told us that she knew the family that had adopted–a pastor at NewSpring church, she said–and that she was a close friend of the baby’s adoptive grandparents. She told us how pleased they all were.

In the meantime, Maxwell had been tweeting about this as well, though I didn’t realize it until after the adoption.  On July 3, almost two weeks before the birth, Maxwell listed my chores for the day, which included “adopt a child.” He followed that with this:

buying a child is hard to do

Why might I need to buy a child? Perhaps if the child I thought I was going to adopt was going to go to someone else?

The day before the birth, when the mother was in the hospital, he tweeted this:

well i said i was taking a break @ pajamapages.com – something must have happened to change my mind.

In late June I had announced that I was going to slow down my blogging because I had important family events coming up. Part of the reason for the announcement was to see if it would get the harassers to back off; it didn’t. Maxwell apparently knew that the family event I alluded to was an adoption, and he was presciently aware that there was going to be no adoption to keep me busy at home.

As I mentioned before, on the day of the birth I got the second Abbyme phone call. That afternoon, Maxwell made a reference to my wife, who he probably expected would be angry, locking me up in a closet since 1 p.m., the very time we had been sent packing from the hospital.

i just drank shoe polish … my wife has had me locked in the closet since 1pm!

Either Maxwell is a medium, or he somehow knew our movements all that day.

Most chillingly, on July 18, just four days after the birth, an anonymous comment was submitted to my blog by someone calling himself Marco Polo that said, “Thankful children’s agencies read Pajama Pages.” I knew what that meant–my blog was the reason the adoption had failed. I traced the IP address of Marco Polo to Ben Milstead, Maxwell’s friend and the person who had sent my fake resignation letter.

Two weeks before the adoption Maxwell seemed to know that we would not be adopting a baby. He knew what we were doing on the day of the birth, and Milstead took it upon himself to explain why a few days later.

Exactly how it all went down, I don’t know, though Milstead shed a little bit of light on it in his statement to the sheriff in October. Said Milstead,

Josh Maxwell told me that Mr. Duncan had tried to adopt but the person making the decision was aware of the blog (independent of that particular adoption) and that it was one of the deciding factors as to who got the child.

When I asked Julie Dixon to explain what Milstead was saying, she refused to answer and referred me to her attorney.

I later found out that Jason Wilson was the new father, which came as a bit of a shock because he was the person that I had been corresponding with at the church to try to set up a meeting to inform the church about what had been happening. (More about meetings and such later.)

When NewSpring’s leaders figured out that I wanted to talk to them about the adoption, they lawyered up as well.

Police Investigation

Genuinely fearful of physical harm befalling my family or me, I reported the harassment to the Anderson County sheriff’s office on July 24. The detective who investigated the case, himself a member of Newspring (who disclosed that fact to me at the outset with an offer to recuse himself), served search warrants on Twitter to get the IP of the person who was posting the content, then on Research in Motion to get the name of the subscriber to the Blackberry device that was being used for the account.

The man behind the harassment was Josh Maxwell, a full-time security staff member at NewSpring. Three other volunteers (Milstead, Eric Elgin, and Travis Dickson) also confessed to their involvement in the harassment, though none were as involved as Maxwell.

I met with an assistant solicitor for the county in October to see what charges might be warranted. For various reasons, the solicitor could only press a single charge against Dickson for distribution of pornography. I had already decided that if Maxwell, the main driver of the campaign, was not going to be charged, it wasn’t fair for him to get off while his friend, who was only briefly involved, was held legally accountable. I told the solicitor that I would not press the charge.

When and why did you want to meet with Perry Noble?

When I got back from New Zealand in late June, I emailed Brad Cooper to ask him to set up a meeting with him and Perry so I could tell them about what I considered to be criminal harassment that appeared to be coming from someone on their staff. I trusted Cooper because we had met–at his request–for coffee on April 1. (NewSpring’s statement says this meeting happened in February. This should have been an easy fact to check because I didn’t start blogging about NewSpring or Cooper until March 6.) Cooper asked that we keep our meeting confidential, which is why I have not mentioned it until now.

Cooper did not respond to my June request, so I sent him a follow-up email on July 6. That evening, I received an email from Jason Wilson, to whom Cooper had forwarded my email. Wilson asked me to email him whatever information I had. I responded by reiterating my request to meet in person with Noble and emphasized that I did not want to talk to him about any of the content of my blog, just about the harassment. Wilson continued to insist that I email him, so I dropped my request.

Why?

Because I thought that Wilson himself was deeply aware of the harassment I was talking about and was feigning ignorance. You see, I had known all of June that a Jaysizzle had been following Maxwell’s tweets (I didn’t know it was Maxwell at the time). A little bit of Googling revealed Jaysizzle to be Jason Moorhead, the (former) executive pastor of Newspring church. Google’s results didn’t make it obvious that Moorhead’s job title had changed, so, as far as I knew, Jason Moorhead, the executive pastor was very aware of what was happening. When I got an email from Jason Wilson, the executive pastor, asking me to tell him everything I knew, I froze. I confused Wilson for Moorhead, and I certainly wasn’t going to trust someone I thought was a participant in the harassment to do anything to stop it.

The next I heard from Wilson was October 8, the day that Maxwell told them he had been interviewed by the detective, to tell me that they had fired him.

It doesn’t seem like Wilson did anything with my information. If he had simply asked in a senior leadership meeting if anyone knew why I might be complaining about harassment, surely Moorhead could have figured out what I was talking about. Their public relations staffer should also have been able to figure it out. They both subscribed to Maxwell’s sewage.

I do know that he called their lawyer, who told me a few weeks ago that he had been involved with this since the summer. NewSpring’s leaders apparently wanted to protect themselves from me, but didn’t seem to care about protecting me from them.

After I went to the sheriff, I could not and did not talk to them, otherwise I could jeopardize the detective’s investigation. After resolving the issue of whether we would press charges, I contacted Wilson again to ask for a meeting with Perry to fill him in on what had happened. As I noted at the outset, Noble told his congregation not to worry about what Maxwell had done, so it seemed to me that he probably didn’t know the full story. Wilson sent a cursory response inviting me to email him whatever information I had. As you can see, there’s a bit much going on here to fit in an email.

I sent him and Cooper (at this point I figured that Wilson was probably dodging me because of the adoption) a small sample of what Maxwell had said and asked again for a meeting.

Again, silence.

I suggested to them that if they wouldn’t listen to me face to face that I might have to tell them about it via my blog. The problem with that, from my perspective, is that I had not told my wife about some of the viler aspects of what had happened or about the adoption tweets. I could not make any information public that would be a surprise to her, yet I wanted to shield her from the emotional pain of learning about the adoption. Once again I emailed Cooper and Wilson and asked them to respond to me a week later by noon on Nov 10, which my wife knew was the time for our spill-the-beans appointment with each other.

After the noon deadline had passed, I knew I was going to have to deliver the devastating news to my wife, so I tried one last time by emailing Perry and his personal assistant directly to ask if they knew that Wilson and Cooper were blocking my request for a meeting. I asked for them to respond by 3 p.m. so that I did not have to reveal this mess to my wife.

Again they missed it, and as I was talking to her I got an emailed letter from their attorney in Texas asking me to correspond only with him.

Unfortunately for us, it was 90 minutes too late.

The next day, I sent the attorney a summary of what I have told you here, and guessed that his client would probably prefer that I not reveal this information publicly. A few days later, the attorney contacted me with a request to meet in person. As NewSpring’s statement noted, on Nov 17 we met and talked for about an hour. We’ve had meaningful correspondence a few more times since then, the last time just minutes before the church published its statement.

The chronology of unsuccessful requests for meetings is important to know, but it doesn’t help answer this question: Why wasn’t NewSpring requesting a meeting with me? On the day that Maxwell was fired, Wilson and Noble knew that I had been correct in my assertion of harassment back in June. Although Wilson did have the courtesy to inform me of the termination, his message contained no apology and no request for further information. Is it too much to expect that a church might be a little curious to investigate just how badly one of their employees had hurt another Christian? Did they not suspect that this bad character might not have told them everything that he had done? Wilson’s email, as well as their statement yesterday, hoped for the restoration of Maxwell and his friends.

Restoration for me? Why bother?

Did you ask them for money?

Yes.

Remember that I had been seeking a meeting to inform the senior pastor of the church about what some in his leadership team knew and did (mainly, didn’t do) about Maxwell. I guessed that he might be curious.

In response, Noble sent me his attorney. I’m not stupid; you send in attorneys to clean up messes. They’re generally not used for spiritual discipline and accountability. I had asked to speak to the church’s spiritual oversight, and they wanted to talk business instead. The attorney started our meeting by saying that the church had a benevolence fund and that they might be able to compensate me once I told them what had happened. They talked money well before I ever did.

I told the attorney, who had flown up from Dallas for our meeting, that I assumed that his presence meant the church wanted to resolve this privately. Based on that assumption, we then talked about two options.

My first preference was to have Perry Noble take some responsibility for what seemed to be a systemic culture of hate that existed from top to bottom in his staff (Maxwell to Moorhead). I reiterated that my main purpose in presenting this information to Noble was to have him see just what his characterizations of his critics had wrought. Since Noble had partially acknowledged that there had been trouble a few weeks before, I thought there was a chance that he might be willing to explain a bit more. Having seen how much we had been harmed, I thought there was also a chance that he might be willing to compensate my family to restore what we had lost.

My suggestion to the attorney had several key components:

  • Noble would recognize that his preaching and blogging had sent signals to his staff that they could attack me with impunity. (The attorney laughed at the prospect of Noble ever doing that.)
  • Having taken some responsibility for his staff’s actions, Noble would tell my story in broad strokes. At the same time, he could say that he and I had been reconciled and that we had been compensated for our loss and troubles.
  • We would mention the boasting that surrounded the failed adoption, though we wouldn’t connect the Wilsons to the story.
  • I suggested that this could happen on a Sunday morning (as it did with his first announcement), at a press conference, or in a post on his blog that linked to a statement on mine that would confirm our new reconciled relationship.
  • As a part of this deal, I would agree to hold the church, its staff and volunteers legally blameless so that I would not be able to move any of these issues to a civil court for a redress of the libel, harassment and emotional distress that we’ve endured.

This was an effort at reconciliation, and it was my wife’s and my personal preference, as I made clear to the attorney. For some reason, Noble seems to have completely got the wrong end of the stick on this offer. His statement yesterday accuses me of wanting to “share the pulpit” so that I could publicly “denounce” the church.

How crazy do they think I am?

The proposal, which I acknowledged to the attorney was probably an idealistic pipe dream, was that Noble and I would have met and resolved our differences. Noble could then, as a part of his announcement, introduce me to his church as his new friend. The idea was that all of the words would come from Noble; I wouldn’t say anything at all. The idea was that he could say, and I could nod, that we had had forgiven one another.

At the end of the meeting, the attorney asked me about money. How much money did I think was warranted as compensation? I told him $1.5 million.

You gasp.

I agree.

Here’s why I asked for such an astounding number:

  1. I expected the number to deflate significantly in the process of negotiation. Anyone who negotiates any of these types of settlements knows that you don’t start with your bottom line. After taking the initial figure to Noble, I expected that the attorney would want to come back and earn his fee by knocking me down by a bunch of dollars. I think it’s a bit much for NewSpring to be huffing and puffing about a figure that they asked be put on the table, but that they didn’t care to negotiate over. Report the number that I walk away from, and then complain that that’s what I demanded. They have no idea what I would have settled for. Also, demanded really isn’t the right word. They said no, right? (The attorney’s email to me announcing their rejection of the options and their simultaneous public announcement were coordinated to the minute.)
  2. I figured that roughly half of what we negotiated down to would be given to God and government.
  3. I wanted to expedite another adoption. Adoptions themselves are very expensive. The other consideration is that, especially for older couples–my wife and I are in our early 40s–the adoption process is a little bit like a financial beauty contest. Birth mothers pick families for all sorts of different reasons, but an important one is the financial profile of the adoptive family. Having money to spend on an expensive adoption, and having a more healthy net worth would both work in our favor.
  4. We feel like we’ve lost a home. We wanted money to move out of our current house and buy a new one. When my wife learned about the sex-party invitation and the zip-line references, she felt profoundly exposed and violated. Mr. Jaysizzle continues to live in a house we can see from our back yard.
  5. We lost a baby. That’s an emotional scar that will last for the rest of our lives. Compensating folk for emotional costs is not completely unheard of.
  6. Did you read what they said about my wife and son (and you saw but a small fraction)? How much would you have asked for if that had been done to your family? It wouldn’t be $50. How much is your family’s honor worth to you and to them?

The attorney guessed that Noble probably wasn’t going to go for that, so, if publication wasn’t an acceptable option, the only remaining option was to resolve everything privately with no admission of responsibility from Noble or NewSpring.

Two considerations drove our discussion on this prospect. First, would the amount be large enough to encourage Noble to think twice about demonizing his critics so often? If you’re familiar with civil judgments, you know the difference between personal damages and punitive damages. That was the basic concept I was angling for. Having explained what I thought was reasonable (again, assuming they were going to come back with a lower counteroffer) compensation for my personal damages, I suggested that we double that amount for this second option, hence the $3m.

The second consideration was whether NewSpring could trust me to keep my word, which was something the attorney was worried about. The solution to that was to spread those payments out over ten years, contingent on my honoring the deal. So, start with your $3m, adjust it with a low-ball counteroffer, halve that with what goes to God and government, then divide that by ten.

Yes, it’s still a lot more money than most of us have ever seen, but perhaps it’s not as breathtaking as when you first saw it on NewSpring’s blog yesterday.

Was this extortion? No. I waited until the investigation had been completed and the solicitor’s office had had a chance to process criminal charges. Everything I have to say was once public, though perhaps not many people saved it before it was deleted. I was negotiating with the attorney that they sent to me to try to settle legal matters out of court to avoid the expense, heartburn and publicity that would be involved in taking that route. At their request, we were also calculating appropriate levels of personal compensation. People will disagree about whether my number was appropriate, but they were the ones who asked for a number.

As outraged as Noble seemed to be in his announcement yesterday, you should know that it took the church more than two weeks to decide to reject either one of these arrangements. In fact, the attorney called me back the day after our meeting to make sure he understood the parameters of the deal. On Tuesday this week, he asked me to specify the details in writing so he could send the proposal to the church’s liability insurance company. (Were they just setting me up for yesterday’s announcement? Perhaps. It was that document that was the source of all the quotes in NewSpring’s announcement.) If my claims are really so hollow and outrageous, why not reject them with the phone call the very next day? Why did Noble need so long to make his decision?

Why are you making this public?

Because it’s my last remaining option to inform Noble about what he and his church staff have done. It certainly wasn’t my preferred option.

The Biblical standard for dispute resolution is to deal with each other privately first, which even NewSpring’s statement acknowledges that I tried to do. Here’s the sequence from Matthew 25:15-17:

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ”˜every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Despite my best efforts from June on to talk to people I could trust, the private meetings just weren’t going to be allowed to happen. Perry Noble is the church, so there was no higher authority to appeal to if he refused to listen. (Just so you don’t misapply this verse, I do not consider Noble to be a pagan.)

As for the propriety of attempting an out-of-court settlement, we can find that in Matthew 5:25:

Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.

I tried.

I have been repeatedly struck by the leadership’s profound lack of curiosity about what happened. Why didn’t Wilson ask around the office suites in July about what was happening? Certainly a lot of people knew.

Why didn’t Wilson ask me about what had happened when he fired Maxwell?

Even the attorney didn’t really seem to want to know. Before our meeting, he asked me to bring as much documentation as I had to prove my claims. Throughout our meeting, I held a folder stacked full of all sorts of things, including the sheriff’s incident report and the four signed confessions, yet he didn’t ask to see one page of what I had. To this day, I doubt that NewSpring’s leadership even knows what’s in those confessions.

When we talked, the attorney argued that NewSpring had done everything it could to investigate what had happened and that they’d fired Maxwell as soon as they figured out that he was the culprit. By the end of July, even I (with the help of some good friends) had fingered Maxwell as the person behind the Twitter account, and I didn’t know who he was. We’re to believe that it was impossible for them to figure it out?

As for patting themselves on the back for finding and firing him, there’s not a lot of credit to be had there. After being interviewed by the detective and signing his confession, Maxwell told his superiors at the church that he was in trouble, prompting his termination. That weekend, Noble told us all not to worry about what he had done, and the attorney told me that when he showed Noble the content of some of Maxwell’s tweets just a few weeks ago, Noble was shocked.

Whence the shock? Noble seems to have had very little idea why he was really firing Maxwell, and no one bothered to ask me to find out.

Do you blame the Wilsons for the failed adoption?

No.

Although there were plenty of people around Wilson who knew what was happening, I have no reason to believe that he knew who the birth mother’s original choice was. We are happy for them and we prayed for them when it happened, even though we didn’t know who the Wilsons were. We are happy that the boy who was just hours away from being our son is going to grow up in a family that is zealous for Jesus. God knew before this baby was conceived that he would be a Wilson, not a Duncan. We’re at peace with that.

We also have no regrets about the birth mother’s decision. If she ever reads this, we want her to know that we genuinely believe that she made the right decision. She met both of us and chose the Wilsons because they were a better family for her child. That’s as it should be.

Who is responsible?

Josh Maxwell, primarily.

Eric Elgin and Travis Dickson, who were active primarily at the outset, though both had knowledge of Maxwell’s activities throughout.

Ben Milstead, who sent the resignation letter and mentioned the adoption failure in an anonymous message to me. Unlike the folk in the church’s leadership, Milstead has been a standup guy about taking responsibility and restoring relationships. Though he and I both regret what he did this summer, we have met in person since then and had a cleansing dialog. Ben continues to post comments on this blog, usually disagreeing with me, though in a courteous manner. We occasionally correspond with each other privately through email, and, remarkably enough, I would count him as a friend. It was my experience with Ben that gave me some hope that perhaps I could come to the same level of friendly, respectful disagreement with Noble that would be the basis for that first option that I outlined earlier.

Shane Duffey, NewSpring’s creative pastor, who saw Maxwell start to go into a violent rage back in late May. When someone so high up in leadership compliments a junior staffer who has such obviously violent intentions, he must take some responsibility for what that staffer does. Duffey’s message: to get in the leadership’s good books, destroy James Duncan.

Jason Moorhead (aka Jaysizzle), NewSpring’s chief operations officer, who apparently monitored Maxwell’s tweets throughout and perhaps-knowingly or unknowingly–gave him content for his campaign. Every time that Maxwell logged in to the fake account, he could see that Moorhead was following him, as was their public relations staffer, though she joined a bit later. Perhaps Maxwell expected that Moorhead would rebuke him for what he was doing. Every vile tweet that Maxwell added that didn’t trigger Moorhead to “unfollow” must have told him that he was doing well. From June through September anyone who visited Moorhead’s Twitter page could see a JD icon in the list of Twitterers that Moorhead followed. How many people in the church used Moorhead’s public involvement as a green light to take delight in what was happening there?

Milstead told me that he actually talked to Moorhead, a fellow follower of the account, about whether it was such a wise thing for them to be following the account so publicly. Perhaps it wasn’t, though neither thought it problematic enough to stop following.

The many anonymous NewSpring insiders who found Maxwell’s messages entertaining. In my debriefing with the detective, he told me that Maxwell knew that there were many people inside the church who were reading his tweets, though most didn’t know that it was Maxwell who was behind it. Milstead told me the same thing. All it would have taken was one person to see the damage that this person, who at times was obviously tweeting from inside NewSpring’s services, was doing to the reputation of the church. That no one thought that it might be a good idea to have Wilson or Noble send this person a direct message through Twitter to ask that he stop is something that will puzzle me for a long time.

Jason Wilson, the executive pastor, who apparently did nothing, besides calling the Texas attorney, to investigate my complaints about harassment.

Perry Noble, the senior pastor, who continues to demonize his critics. I’ve argued before that when you portray your critics as being unsaved enemies of the church, you do give the green light to people like Maxwell to do what he did, and to all the mid-level folk who took vicarious pleasure in what he was saying. This is what I hoped, and continue to hope, that Noble will see. Words mean things, and meaningful words often result in real-world actions. Maxwell and friends acted entirely consistently with Noble’s teaching on how to deal with criticism.

As I’ve noted before, even when Noble took time to coach his church on how to deal with critics, he sandwiched his lesson in a story of fantasized violence against a young woman and referred to me as a “so-called” Christian. If Noble is going to learn anything from this summer, he doesn’t appear to have learned it yet.

184 thoughts on “Holy rage at the ‘Spring

  1. KH Dec 7, 2009 11:37 am

    I think that with the right lawyer you could have a real case for criminal stalking and harassment, and yes, Perry Noble and the business entity that is NewSpring would be liable. Regardless of the mission of the church, the church is a business and they are subject to the law. God is not an excuse for criminal action–anyone remember the FLDS ranch? Perry is in essence the “CEO” of the church, therefore he should have to answer for the actions of the people that are claiming affiliation with the church–especially employees. In the eyes of the law, he can’t hide and say “he didn’t know”.

    The law is changing all over the country, and cyberstalking and harassment are now recognized as criminal charges in many states. There is new case law validating victims’ claims in civil court too.

    If I was a lawyer, I would definitely give you my card. I think you have a heck of a case here.

  2. The Rev. Kevin A. Robbins Dec 7, 2009 12:15 pm

    Wow. If even 10% of this is true and I am not suggesting that any of it is false as I live well outside of South Carolina, then many people have much from which to repent. For all of Perry Noble’s indignation with sin, this should disturb him to the depths of his soul. I am truly sorry that your family has been through this nightmare. I am encouraged that even in the midst of this, faith is still your guiding light. So many folks confronted by this kind of “church” behavior would have lost faith. Thanks be to God for what is at work within you and your family. As an adoptive parent, you will especially be in my prayers that your family will soon be blessed with the pitter-patter of little feet. Blessings!

  3. Pingback: What makes one a Pastor? « A Journey

  4. Candi Smith Dec 7, 2009 1:57 pm

    This is in answer to some of the comments directed towards me.
    Remember: this is from MY point of view. Everybody has one.

    It appears to me that Duncan’s crusade against NewSpring actually started two years ago when he says he began writing articles against NewSprings campaigns. Therefore, Duncan began all this, not NewSpring. His blogs have a bitter and hateful tone. It appears that he does spend quite a bit of time blogging and that his main goal at this time in his life is to destroy NewSpring.

    Over the past several days I have gone through Duncan’s archives and read previous posts. However, it is unfortunate that his vendetta against NewSpring overshadows anything else that has been blogged.

    While I do attend NewSpring, I’ve never been told to ignore bloggers. However, I have only attended the past 6 Sundays. I will say that I’ve not had enough experience with NewSpring in regards to them being a “cult” or the “Christian Mafia.” All I know is what I’ve seen and heard at NewSpring on Sundays, and so far all I’ve seen and heard is PN preaching the gospel.

    When the Church is going God’s work, as is NewSpring, the Church will be persecuted. The more lives who are saved by Jesus through the work of NewSpring, the worse and more frequent the criticism will become.

    I do have to apologize for calling Duncan “Satan.” That was out of line.

    I do not in anyway condone what was said or done by the certain few at NewSpring who attacked Duncan. However, it was a FEW – not the entire church of NewSpring. That needs to be made clear.

    Yes, I am involved in other activites besides telling others what great things Christ has done in my life. My family is the second most important thing to me in the world, and I try and spend most of my time with them. I work 40+ hours a week (during which time I do find ways to tell my co-workers about Christ). I try to get together with my friends in my “spare” time. I don’t shop, play yahtzee, watch tv, get manicures – or pedicures for that matter. I understand it is probably impossible to spend all of one’s time sharing Jesus with others, but the one thing that stands out most to me in Duncan’s blog is that he would like to see NewSpring destroyed.

    It’s a possibility that if someone stumbles across Duncan’s blog by accident and reads about the mess that he himself started, they might just be intrigued enough to check out NewSpring. After all, if an educated individual is spending the majority of his time trying to tear down this Church, it would be worth visiting NewSpring just to see what great works God is doing through NewSpring.

    I’m not devoted to NewSpring or Perry Noble or any of the other pastors or staff. I don’t defend them to anyone and everyone: I defend Christ and God’s Word. I am devoted to GOD and GOD alone. If I began to see or hear things at NewSpring that I know to go against God’s Word, I will be the first to leave.

    I believe constructive criticism which attempts to better someone or something is very good, but not criticism that tries to tear down a church day after day after day. Nothing good can come of it.

    “I think, too, that NS can tend create disciples such as commenter Candi with her ironic, shrill and ugly diatribe.” I wasn’t created by NewSpring. I am a free-thinking individual. I’m not sure how my comment was ironic, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t “shrill,” as the definition of “shrill” is having or emitting a high-pitched and sharp tone or tones ; “a shrill whistle”; “a shrill gaiety.” Ugly? Okay. I’ll give you that.

    I would venture to say, though I don’t know it for a fact, that there are those who criticize PN and NS who are nonbelievers. I’ve never heard PN say anything at all about his critics. This is just what I believe from reading God’s Word.

    I have read Duncan’s story, as he tells it. Duncan, can you provide the documents to back up your story? How do we all know this is the truth? I would think Duncan would want to provide his “followers” with proof that he is telling the truth, this all this really happened, and that he’s not just a bitter man. If Duncan can provide proof that his entire story is true, then I’ll take a step back and review the situation.

    JOHN – “This battle that Perry Noble has started with his “critics” has led to this unfortunate situation.” Have you only read this one blog? Go back to the very beginning two years ago and you’ll see that PN and NS starting nothing. Duncan is the one and only cause of all this mess.

    Duncan may not be a psycopath, but he apparently has serious mental issues. Hopefully he is seeing a Christian counselor to help him deal with his bitterness and anger.

  5. Candi Smith Dec 7, 2009 2:04 pm

    P.S. I failed to mention I just became a fan of PN’s FB blog several days ago and stumbled upon this Friday. I don’t have time to blog, post, comment, twitter, or whatever there is out there. I do, however, have a FB which I am rarely able to get on because there are too many other important things in life.

  6. sam Dec 7, 2009 2:49 pm

    Candi,
    wow, where do i even begin to address your post. I know…lets start here:

    “I don’t have time to blog, post, comment, twitter, or whatever there is out there”

    But yet you have FOUND the time to find this blog, read thru the lengthy account and comments, formulate your own post, and yet you claim to have no time and criticize others for the time they spend writing blogs. Hmmm…..that is the very definition of IRONIC.

    Where do you find that Mr Duncan’s goal is to “destroy” Newspring? Critiquing equals wanting to see NS destroyed? As a previous commenter stated should Martin Luther not bothered to take the time to put together his 95 theses? Werent people in the church during Luther’s day being saved? Then Luther should have kept his big mouth shut according to your logic.

  7. Some Thoughts Dec 7, 2009 4:51 pm

    When you ask for a million dollars you look like someone looking for a payday.
    Had you said, no money please, I just want things made right. Then you would have gotten your resolution.

    Your greed got in the way bud.

  8. SImon P. Dec 7, 2009 5:27 pm

    Candi,

    Apparently you are blinded by your devotion to PN. Though you deny it, I find that hard to believe. Here are a few times why I think this (basically on your claim that you went back and “read” some of the posts on here):

    Many times JD has made the statement that his goal is not to destroy NS, but that it will notice how far it has strayed and change its ways. It’s also apparent that you are unable to use a blog (seeing as how if you go back to February of ’09 of this blog, there are 0 posts about Newspring. I’m looking for the 2 years you have stated (still haven’t found it.) Also, as Dr. Duncan has said, this ALL began with something he wrote about NS’s “sexed” series. I have to say as a Christian, I 100% agree with his point of view about it, though I knew nothing of it until after finding this website.

    It is funny though that you mention hearing PN preach the Gospel. Does he preach the Gospel or does he simply preach salvation? I know for a fact that I’ve watched several of his sermons over the web with reference to one (maybe two) pieces of scripture, usually to back up what he has been saying (it is a well known fact that it is easy to manipulate scripture when used out of context) and not completely used in their context.

    As has been stated many times (in this blog as well as other places.) NS may be working for God, but it is a very dangerous statement to say that just if you weren’t doing something right, God would have stopped it. Do I believe there are people who are serious about Jesus and have a strong conviction at NS? Yes. Do I believe the leadership at NS is capable of leading them in their walk with the Lord as required by the Bible? NO! A resounding NO. This has been made evident, not only by recent events, but by NS staff’s mockery of seminary. If you have a strong conviction for something and are REALLY wanting to be good at it and know it more than anyone else, you are going to go out of your way to find, learn, and increase your knowledge of this subject (I feel this way because I’m working on my PhD degree, something that requires tons of work, but insures that I have the skills required to be an expert in my field.) It is very difficult to understand why someone who is of God would want to make fun of people who want to further their knowledge of the Word.

    It is our job as Christians to protect ourselves and question our leadership. A good minister, preacher, pastor (which IMO Perry Noble is NOT) would welcome these challenges and scriptually explain to you, why he/she is right. PN does not do this (I personally believe its his lack of understanding when using the Word, though I may be wrong), he simply dismisses critics. What is most disconcerting here is how blindly you follow PN. How you can look on here and not find pts made not only by JD, but independent parties and simply dismiss them…. is ……. scary.

    If you have simply missed Perry’s diatribes on his critics you should read this blog. You must be missing something during the sermon. Cause they are recorded and posted on youtube for everyone to see and relive. Were you not there for the one where he was praying for God to let him beat up the lady?

    I’m sure Dr. Duncan can defend himself, but this I feel is from my pt of view not necessarily Duncan’s since you obviously believe he is here to destroy NS.

    ============

    Again, from Day 1 I have been no fan of NS from the first I heard of PN’s “theology.” I was asked to attend service at NS many a times, which I declined politely, because of what I thought was a severe lack of reverence from the pulpit. I believe it becomes more and more apparent. It is the blind, unquestioning followers of PN that worry me. These are same type of people that ended up behind David Koresh and Joseph Smith…..

  9. Joe Dec 7, 2009 5:52 pm

    Mr. D,

    Do you feel better now?

    This Holy Rage at the Spring post really shows your loving forgiving Christian attitude.

    I think your obsessed with PN and have too much time on your hands.

  10. Kim Dec 7, 2009 6:48 pm

    DISGRACEFUL and SHAMEFUL behavior on the part of PN and his church. What a terrible witness he is for non-believer’s. If he has brought anyone to Christ, they surely do not know about this immoral and outrageous behavior. We are suppose to be set apart, and NOT like the rest of the World. The fruit of the spirit in this church is NOT from Jesus Christ and I am sure it GRIEVES the Lord.

  11. William Dec 7, 2009 7:35 pm

    A few months ago, during one of Newsongs conferences, I noticed that the embedded live stream was running ads for a divorce lawyer. It was funny, because Perry Noble was talking about families staying together. It appeared the player was simply displaying ads based upon the content of Perry Noble’s talk. No big deal. I tweeted about the irony and didn’t think much about it – until members of Newsongs staff begun following my tweets. It seems this church has a culture of not being able to handle critiques and keeping a tabs on those who would dare criticize.

  12. LeAnn Bowen Dec 7, 2009 9:24 pm

    Mr. Duncan,

    After reading your whole blog, I am truly saddened and surprised by the attacks that have been brought on you and your family. I am praying for restoration and peace in this chaotic time. I am praying specifically for your wife as she is being robbed of the feeling of being a new mother, despite if there was anyone at fault for this particular action.

    As a member of New Spring, I wanted you to know that not all view you as an enemy. I frequently read your blogs in simple effort to know why I believe what I believe and see other view points in effort to defend my own. I have always appreciated different opinions and respect that some styles of worship or doctrine are different than others so long as the basis of it is Jesus.

    I also wanted to apologize for members of my church who have responded to your blog with more ridicule and attacks. I’m not sure exactly where they see that they’re in the right or how they see they are showing Christ’s love.

    I do not think NS is perfect, nor is any other church, and I feel that any church has an opportunity to have people who are in leadership roles that do not act accordingly. I apologize that these people were from my church. I am also continually praying for my church’s leadership and pray that those who are guilty will be lead to repentance.

    I thank you for sharing your full story. I personally think it was a brave thing to do. I’m sorry that you’ve had to open this to the public as I’m sure you wanted these matters to stay privately, just like any other family. Please know that me and my best friend Megan, another member, are praying for you and your family. We do not want you or others to see us any differently than a random person who is attending a church they are spiritually growing at.

  13. Cindy Dec 7, 2009 10:32 pm

    I am so terribly sorry to hear about the harassment and abuse endured by your family. But I am not shocked or surprised.

    My brother and family joined New Spring a few years ago. None of them are the same people they were before. My brother was one of the kindest men you’d ever want to meet. We were a close family who spent time together. Now we only talk maybe one or twice a year. You can’t be around my brother and his family without being subjected to hateful criticism. The entire family has become mean spirited. They have withdrawn from the rest of the family. I am the only member of my family who even continues to try and maintain a relationship. I have seen and spoken to my brother once this year. I used to talk to him several times a week.

    I have tried to talk to my brother that showing Christ’s love might be a better way of sharing faith than attacking others. I have shared scripture. But my loving discussions have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, my discussions with my brother had done nothing but earned me hateful, personal attacks. My entire extended family has been attacked because we attend more traditional churches.

    But that’s the way of New Spring’s members – A good offense is the best defense.

    Once you have been around members of New Spring, you can spot them a mile away. Not because of the love of Christ flowing from them, but because of their hate-filled view of other Christians.

    New Springs members that I know attack any outside of their church, even family. And yes, I have attended services at the church. I know first hand what I am talking about. I have three teenagers who have attended with me. They have refused to go back. My children have attended church since the day they were born. And even at their age, they know something just isn’t quite right at New Spring. And I have yet to attend a service at New Spring where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached.

    I have been following New Spring for a couple of years now. Noble creates footprints that lead others off the path of righteousness. Some of his personal twitter postings about ‘hot’ women on airplanes are shocking. And his sermon about not visiting sick people was in total contradiction to the scripture in Matthew.

    The members of New Spring who committed these vile acts did so because Noble has made it acceptable to treat people outside of New Spring with hatred and contempt.

    I will continue to pray for your family. What happened to you was evil committed by evil people.

    I hope you consider pursuing compensation to the fullest extent of the law. Maybe then, you can open up eyes of the members of New Spring so that they can see the true character of the people leading their church. As for me, I will continue to pray every night that the Lord opens my brother’s eyes to the truth.

  14. Sheri Dec 7, 2009 11:07 pm

    God’s word says to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to expose them. What was done to you deserved to be made known, and the conduct of the people who tried to hurt you was sick, vindictive and very criminal in nature. I pray they feel shame and repent. May God give you and your family healing….

  15. Josh Dec 7, 2009 11:53 pm

    Mr. Duncan, i received a link to this on Twitter and must say that I am only somewhat surprised at this news, while I am still appalled.
    I attend a church much in the same aesthetic and cultural likeness of NS, some of our leaders are well acquainted and we even attend some of their conferences, but apparently far from their idea of social or scriptural value. I regret this news. I cannot say that I am 100% shocked, however, due to 2 of the person’s mentioned. Both are or were lead pastor’s and are well associated. Both have some acquaintance with my church. I also wrote about discomfort with their unhealthy use of language and reference amidst their messages.
    I followed both of them on Twitter at one time as well and had to relieve myself of their constant negativity, you know with the whole be joyful part. Shortly after my decision, one of them was in fact forced to resign his position based on some bad decision making, and I am even more angry at him for the comments made concerning you. This makes his words of regret concerning his “mis-cues” seem worthless.
    I am also disappointed with the whole BAMF thing. Their style of shock religion, while done scripturally soundly can be very effective, when done simply for shock cheapens Jesus’ sacrifice, which is exactly why I stopped paying attention to NS to begin with.
    Lastly, I just hope that you can make a decision now to move away from this hurt and begin to forgive and pray for, not against, NS. There are about 10,000 people there commonly who could use grace, much like ourselves. God Bless.

  16. David Strickland Dec 7, 2009 11:55 pm

    I am sick and tired of the whole “you ain’t never been there!” argument. How exactly do you know that any of us have never been to NewSpring? And what if we haven’t? I have visited several times, but this is the future and I could just as easily watch online. Is a different show performed in the building than what is broadcast on the internet? No. It is the same. You do however get some relief from the opening acts by watching online.

    And as for the few saying that Dr. Duncan should just let this go: are you serious? What would you to? I don’t questing Perry Noble’s or any other NewSpringer’s salvation. If he says he’s a Christian, that is good enough for me. Having said that, however, being a Christian does not make you a good person and it certainly doesn’t give anyone a license for this type of behavior. I firmly believe that Perry Noble knew about this all along. He has always claimed to not care what his critics think. But how could he know he had any critics if he wasn’t listening? The man lives his life on the internet. If you or anyone else has ever written anything about Perry Noble, you can rest assured he’s read it.

    What this church has done is nothing short of criminal and Mr. Duncan is a much more disciplined and gracious man than I am because if it were me, I wouldn’t give up until I owned that giant office building of theirs.

  17. Brandy Dec 7, 2009 11:58 pm

    WOW is all I can think to say. I am a mother of 4 adopted boys and my heart breaks for your family right now. I have been to newspring and I do not argue that the word of God is preached there. However we are only human and we do make mistakes. This appears to be a huge mistake on the part of the church. Especially when so many of the core members were in the loop of knowledge about the threats and taunting of this poor family. It saddens me that men act as boys on a playground, when their are people and childrens lives and futures at stake. I will be praying for you and your family and the child God has for you 🙂

  18. matt Dec 8, 2009 12:53 am

    Candi,

    First off, we know it’s your opinion. You wrote it.
    Second-he wrote one article that was published to my knowledge.
    Third-you have a misunderstanding of the word church. 1 Cor. 12:19 (I can provide other scripture if needed) is talkinga bout the temple of the Lord. The word ‘you’ in the verse is a plural meaning ‘you all’ (southern translation) 🙂 Therefore, because of these few persons sins, the whole body is affected in some way.
    fourth-Mr. Duncan doesn’t want Newspring destroyed he said so in a recent post.
    fifth- criticisms aren’t persecution, it’s opinion. Want to see persecution, go live in Uganda, or China and profess Christ.
    sixth-“Duncan may not be a psycopath, but he apparently has serious mental issues. Hopefully he is seeing a Christian counselor to help him deal with his bitterness and anger.”
    Seems like your entire post is out of anger and so was Perry’s response to critics.
    I’m not attacking you or how you live your faith, so you don’t get all in a twist. I think it’s awesome that you share your faith, that’s what America needs. But you don’t have a to flaunt it.

  19. matt Dec 8, 2009 12:55 am

    I meant to reference 6:19 in the previous post but 12:19 works as well.

  20. Steve67 Dec 8, 2009 2:20 am

    James,
    I have not read the whole article but I did hear the interview on F4F and was appalled at what happened to you. I plan on reading the article and commenting further.

    To Jeramy who has been a “regular attender” at Newspring for about five months.

    You say that as Christians we should be above publicly defacing those who stand in the name of Christ. I totally agree. But you do realize that there is a difference between being critical of the content of someone’s preaching and teaching publicaly defacing them. And I hope you also realize that how Perry Noble speaks of his critics (questioning their salvation by calling them ‘so-called Christians’ etc.) is much closer to defacing someone who stands in the name of Christ than anything his critics say of him.

  21. jberry Dec 8, 2009 2:52 am

    Let’s see –
    Head of security of areas largest church threatens violence against fellow Christian albeit critic with full knowledge of associate pastor and other member volunteers.

    The same persons send out messages soliciting sex at the Duncan’s home, along with references to his wife and child, while also sending pornography to them.

    They advertise that Mr. Duncan has hay for sale at a time a serial killer has killed two people who happen to also be selling hay.

    They forge a letter of resignation to his employer.

    They conspire and actually sabotage an adoption that had been set up for months. The
    lady in charge of the adoption is a New Spring member and the last minute substitute
    parent is a New Spring pastor and I guess this is a COINCIDENCE.

    And all this goes on unknown to the inner circle of a church staff that that is tighter than a drum. PLEASE! While certain details may not have been known, it’s pretty easy to know that serious harassment was being done to someone. But that’s OK because he’s a critic of certain things about the church and the pastor.

    Now the single biggest reason I can believe the victim’s side of this story is because he has always posted the comments of his CRITICS!! He’s not afraid to face criticism or to answer his critics without the palpable rage of a bully.

    Maybe I have missed it, but has anyone even APOLOGIZED to this family? And I’m not talking about a high powered Texas attorney (guess there are no personal injury lawyers good enough in the area to handle a case with no merit).

    As for the people who think Duncan should just drop this in the spirit of forgiveness, what about the atonement that should come from the other side? After the attempts to intimidate him,his wife and child, ruin his reputation and career,
    leaving them feeling unsafe in their own home and community, and coercing a VULNERABLE
    young pregnant girl (and lets not forget what trauma this must have inflicted on her) for their own vengeful purposes, I say there is hardly enough money to cover that. The 800 pound gorilla (or the 8000 member church) bullies around one man who disagrees with some of their methods and doctrines in an open forum and without rancor in a way that differences of opinion should be debated. Sounds a little like the Inquisition to me, just without the openess.

    It’s time for the head of the church, Perry himself, to apologize for what has transpired, and to take some responsibilty (even if he didn’t know all the details)
    and to seek reconciliation face to face with Mr. Duncan. But that’s going to take eating a slice of humble pie so large that even Perry’s appetite probably can’t handle.

  22. Mary Dec 8, 2009 3:53 am

    There are 2 sides to every story. There is also Love. Love covers a multitude of sins. We will never know what really happened, but It does look like you have an axe to grind with this Church. If there are people within this Church that are doing these things then pray for them! Love them! Let it go! Bitterness, and Offense will rot you from the inside out.

    We always know how to quote the word. It is just hard to live it out. 7 times 70 Brother. May God fill you with peace, forgiveness, and understanding. Stop letting the Devil steal from you! This Christian life is not for Wimps.

  23. Joe Dec 8, 2009 5:02 am

    I listened to your story on Fighting for The Faith and read the rest of it here.
    I feel your pain, as someone who publicly attacked and was abused in my case by the church I was a member of at the time.

    Keep up the fight, God Bless
    Joe

  24. Kim Dec 8, 2009 5:46 am

    Praying for you and your family Mr. Duncan. It is at times hard to wait on the Lord, but he is our vindicator and he will take care of your family. So sad that anyone these days can put the title “Pastor” in front of their names and to think people would even want to follow one of these Wolves is beyond my comprehension. The scriptures says “My people perish for lack of knowledge”. I pray the people that attend this church will study and take scripture VERY seriously because they will be held accountable for following a man like this. The behavior of PN, is so opposite of what Jesus stands for and it is grievous that he calls himself of representative of Jesus Christ. I just hope the congregation studies scripture carefully as “A little leaven works through the whole batch” and it seems to be happening at this church. To me this is a tragedy that anyone would follow this man and it is so obvious they do not know scripture, otherwise they would run as fast and far as they can from this evil man. Continuing to hold you and your family up in prayer and thank you for having the courage to expose this evil.

  25. Joe Dec 8, 2009 9:01 am

    Why are you following PN’s twitter page on this blog? [JD: Because it’s interesting.]

  26. MK Dec 8, 2009 9:13 am

    Who holds Perry Noble accountable? What kind of structure is in place as far as Elders or a board or a “team” that supervises Perry? My sense is that a phone call or email to the church will not reach the appropriate hands. Does anyone have a name of someone in leadership at NS but not on staff.

    My prayer is that at least one person on staff at NS refuses to take a bullet for Perry and speaks the truth. They may end up losing their job, friends, and life as they know it, but the freedom in speaking the truth will prevail.

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  29. Rose Dec 8, 2009 12:33 pm

    Mary,

    But we DO know what happened! There is plenty of evidence…those people left a very nice trail of their malicious activities which they thought were great fun. Did you not read the entire post above? A letter of resignation from his job (which I am sure can be produced), many blog posts, testimony of people, etc. Duncan would not have brought this forward without evidence to prove what happened.

    The love you talk about needs to come from NS. They did terrible harm to the Duncan family. They thought their horrible behavior was justified just because Mr. Duncan dared to critique the preaching of PN. NS did not respond to his criticisms with an attitude of love…that is the reason we are having this discussion today. Mr. Duncan has followed the biblical procedure for grievances with a brother. The ball is in NS’s court now and they are the ones who need to do the loving thing…admit their sin, apologize, and right the wrongs that have been done. I believe if NS doesn’t respond at some point, the Lord will intervene to discipline that fellowship Himself. PN may talk a good talk in his sermons…but condoning or trying to push bad behavior under the rug…is not the walk of a true Christian.

  30. Rose Dec 8, 2009 12:45 pm

    Brandy wrote: “I do not argue that the word of God is preached there. However we are only human and we do make mistakes. This appears to be a huge mistake on the part of the church.”

    The Word of God may be preached there but if the shepherd of that flock is not living the Word himself and leading by Godly example…then all his sermons are in vain. This was not a ‘mistake’ as in ‘we are only human and all make mistakes’. This was sinning against the brother in the Lord. And it should be dealt with as such…SIN not a mistake, oversight, slip up. It was deliberate and malicious and as such is very serious in God’s eyes.

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