In an email to Acts 29 members over the weekend, embattled president, Matt Chandler, responded to questions stemming from the 2015 removal of five Acts 29 staff who complained about abuse by former Acts 29 CEO Steve Timmis.
“I don’t want you to think that five employees complained about abuse, and we fired them because of it,” Chandler said. “That’s not what we did, and we believed we had communicated that clearly to them until the article was published last week.”
According to an article in Christianity Today and one I published last week, Chandler and the Acts 29 board fired the five staff within a week of them meeting with Chandler and submitting a letter expressing their concerns about Timmis.
In the recent email, Chandler said the decision to fire the employees “had far more to do with whether an Executive Director in England (Timmis) could lead staff in Dallas.” He added that the “conversation to let go of the US staff began before the letter (from the five staff) was received.”
“I don’t want you to think that five employees complained about abuse, and we fired them because of it. That’s not what we did . . .”
However, Chandler admitted that in 2015, “I didn’t have the leadership tools to process these allegations, and Acts 29 didn’t have any process to handle it.”
Chandler said he met with the staff complaining about Timmis’ abuse, read the letter they submitted, and asked some clarifying questions. But Chandler said that at the end of the meeting, “I believed that only one of those concerns would fit into the category of ‘abuse/bullying,’ but I was unable to substantiate that accusation (though I tried) for reasons that are private concerning the employee who made the accusation.”
Chandler added that he has “already begun to reach out to the former staff personally.”
I reached out to all five of the staff who were fired in 2015. So far, only two have responded. Both say they have not heard from Chandler. When I asked one of them what he thought of Chandler’s explanation, he texted, “This makes me crazy.”
Chandler also addressed questions stemming from the changing stories he gave regarding the firing of Acts 29 CEO Steve Timmis on February 3.
Initially, Chandler said in a video announcement that Timmis was taking a four-month sabbatical to “rest and recover.” A day later, Chandler said that Timmis was being removed because of accusations of abusive leadership.
Chandler said the reason he wasn’t more forthcoming initially was “due to some legality involved for both Acts 29 and Steve Timmis.” However, Chandler said that when he and the board realized that the accusations about Timmis were going public, they decided to go public, as well.
“A public accusation requires a more public response,” Chandler wrote. “That public accusation was on abusive leadership, and we responded to that.”
Chandler said if Acts 29 members have more questions, they should reach out to their Network Directors who “will help you with all the information they have.” Chandler added that the board is working on a plan to examine how Acts 29 functions and “how the organization is structured at every level . . . We will look to learn from this in every way that we can and make appropriate changes.”