What Happened at Bethlehem Baptist Church? Part 2

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The Roys Report
The Roys Report
What Happened at Bethlehem Baptist Church? Part 2
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Is the turmoil at Bethlehem Baptist Church simply the result of different theological and political convictions? Or, is it due to spiritual abuse and control at the highest levels?

In part two of my podcast on What Happened at Bethlehem Baptist, former members Steve and Janette Takata describe how a Bethlehem elder, Andy Naselli, reportedly disparaged and gossiped about them behind their backs.

But when they confronted Naselli with his sin, he refused to ask for forgiveness, they say. And in exclusive audio shared with The Roys Report, Naselli argues that asking for forgiveness would be “lying to make peace” because the harm he inflicted was unintentional.

The Takatas also share how an elder attacked Steve Takata personally when the couple approached the elder board with what they felt were disqualifying sins by Naselli. The Takatas say the board also effectively threatened them with church discipline if they brought a motion requesting a third-party investigation before the church.

You’ll hear about these and other concerning details involving not only a high-profile church, but a college and seminary that’s training future pastors.

This Weeks Guests

Steve and Janette Takata

Steve and Janette Takata attended Bethlehem Baptist Church (BBC) for around 31 and 18 years respectively and were members of the church the majority of that time.  Steve has served at BBC in Media Ministries and Janette has served in the MOMS group–they’ve both served in various youth ministries. They withdrew their membership from BBC in July 2021.  Steve and Janette have four adopted and two biological children.
Listen To Episode One
Show Transcript

SPEAKERS
JANETTE TAKATA, JULIE ROYS, ANDY NASELLI, STEVE TAKATA

JULIE ROYS 00:00
Bethlehem Baptist Church is reeling from the resignation of three pastors and the exodus of hundreds of members. There also have been numerous allegations of spiritual abuse and calls for an independent investigation. But what really happened at Bethlehem Baptist? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And joining me today for Part II of my podcast on Bethlehem Baptist, are former longtime members Steve and Janette Takata. As they explained in Part 1, they unwittingly found themselves at the epicenter of a storm at Bethlehem after proposing two motions at a church meeting last January. This led one church elder and professor at Bethlehem College and Seminary to threaten to resign if the motion passed. That elder is Andy Naselli, and as the Takatas recounted in the months after the January meeting, Naselli said things about the Takatas in numerous public and private context, that the Takatas felt were not just disparaging, but slanderous. This brings us to a very important meeting between the Takatas and Andy Naselli with several Bethlehem elders present. We pick up our conversation there, but first I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson University is a top ranked Christian university providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus, the school offers more than 60 majors great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to Judsonu.edu. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of character. To check them out. Just go to buyacar123.com. Now, here’s part two of my conversation with Steve and Jannette Takata. When things like this happen in church, I wish people would go to the people involved, get first-hand accounts of what happened. Not people who heard that they heard that they heard. Just so important. But for an elder to be repeating some of these things is concerning. So, then this whole kind of comes to a head and there’s a March 11 meeting. It was, as I understand called, or referred to as a peacemakers meeting, it was supposed to be a time to resolve some of these issues. It was between you and Andy Naselli, with several elder pastors in the room. And I have a recording of this meeting. Minnesota is a one-party state so people can make recordings, as long as one of the parties present, is making those that is completely legal. But for time, I want to just briefly mention I can’t play the recording of the whole meeting. But I want to mention some of the things that are the alleged sins that you named Janette. In that meeting. you felt that Andy had sinned against you in the following ways: one, for attacking instead of shepherding at that January 31 meeting by threatening to resign if your motion passed. Two, for gossiping about you to members of the Church, falsely accusing you. We’ve talked about some of those of being insubordinate and divisive. You also mentioned that in another conversation with an elder and he accused you of engaging in emotional blackmail and being manipulative. And then you say, and he apologized in an email to the church with no real admission of guilt or sufficient knowledge, acknowledgement of the impact his actions had on you, you conclude, and I quote, ‘I don’t simply think you’ve offended me or merely hurt my feelings. But I contend that in addition to the sense I’ve charged you with above, you’ve increased abuse of power and disqualified yourself from eldership at this time.’ And he responds with several I Regret statements. So, I regret this, I regret that he doesn’t apologize or ask for forgiveness. And in the clip, I’m about to play, and he explains why

ANDY NASELLI 04:06
We’ve got four kids, and we distinguish between when to say I’m sorry, and when to say I’m sorry, please forgive me. So, if one of the kids checks a block across the room and hits her sister in the head. If it was an accident, it’s an I’m sorry. But you don’t say please forgive me. But if she took aim and whacked her, that’s a I’m sorry, please forgive me. Intent matters. So, we distinguish between the two. And I think that’s a pretty important distinction. And sometimes a sister will come to one of us, complaining that they feel hurt by something one of their sisters did. And if they come to us with basically the logic, I’m hurt, therefore she sinned against me, we say well, maybe she did. Maybe she didn’t. Let’s talk about what happened. Sometimes we maybe wrongly judge it but you’re trying to twist it to say . . . ‘I don’t think that’s her sinning against you,’ and try to help them work through that. We found it to be helpful. So, I know you’ve already written out charges, but would you be willing to consider listening to my intent and reconsider some of your charges? Because we haven’t even talked, and these are pretty strong charges. My intent was not to harm anyone. I think what’s happened is, the impact has been massive, way bigger than I realize. It’s like, backing up your car and smashed a car behind you. Ah man! I didn’t mean to, but it had the impact of you might know this, you know, punched on the gas, and purposely destroyed a car. So, I think intent matters. One thing I’ve done is I’ve tried to discern if I’m guilty of what’s the category for unintentional sin? So, I contacted Jason DeRouchie, he’s an Old Testament professor and said, Brother help me here. I want to know does this apply to me in this situation? And he wrote me a really, really helpful email, helping with this. I’ll give you some highlights. He says the Bible distinguishes unpremeditated accidental acts versus unpremeditated spiteful acts. And whether you feel only sorrow or also seek forgiveness is fully contingent on your heart during the act.

JULIE ROYS 06:38
Okay, so again, in this clip, Andy’s saying that this was unintentional. So, he didn’t mean to cause you harm. And so, he doesn’t need to own that it was sin, or ask for forgiveness. He reads more from this letter he got from Jason DeRouchie, who, by the way, is an Old Testament professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also used to be an elder there at Bethlehem, as I understand.

JANETTE TAKATA 07:04
He was the Old Testament professor at BCS and Andy is the New Testament

JULIE ROYS 07:10
And he was also an elder at Bethlehem, correct?

JANETTE TAKATA 07:13
Yes.

JULIE ROYS 07:13
Jason was okay, for time, I can’t play everything. But I want to play another clip. And again, I’m not doing this because of the personal nature of this. To me, this speaks to the theology and the reasoning and the kind of this is how an elder who has an incredibly important position at the College and Seminary is reasoning, in this particular case.

ANDY NASELLI 07:38
My hesitancy here is, it will be so, so relieving to just say please forgive me for XYZ and shake hands or hug and move on. But I am afraid that if I did that, at this point, I would be lying to make peace. I can’t do that. So, I feel terribly that I hurt you. And I own that, and I regret it. And I’m so sorry. I’m not convinced that I sinned against you, ‘cause I have zero ill intent against you in what I’ve done, zero. And I could walk through charge by charge to explain that if that’d be helpful.

JULIE ROYS 08:22
Okay. And again, I don’t have time to play all of your response to him, Janette, but, again, he’s saying it’s a communication breakdown. And I didn’t really mean to do this. Janette, you respond.

JANETTE TAKATA 08:36
I understand intent. I get it. We have six kids, right? We’re like all of us in this room have kids. We understand that there’s times when your child does something or we do something, and we don’t intend we can’t even foresee the impact. But I also firmly believe that we say prayers, like may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing and acceptable to you, oh, God, because we cannot judge whether our meditations and our words are pleasing to Him. So, we have to ask Him, create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit in me. You have to be the one as the judge of the secrets of the hearts of men. The heart is deceitfully wicked. So, if I don’t want to own any offense towards you, if I don’t want to own my impact or my intent on the way that I brought the motion, maybe I could say, I didn’t intend for it to be that way, and we move on. But that’s not my posture towards you. I want to say, I see. I see how the way that I worded the motion and the fast pace of the QSM let it to land on you in a way that we didn’t intend, that I didn’t intend. I see that and I’m sorry for that. And I prayed, and I’m asking you to forgive me for the impact of the way that I brought the motion. I don’t want to just own impact, I want to own intent as well. Or I don’t want to focus so much on intent that I can’t own the impact with you.

ANDY NASELLI 10:21
When our Lord says, I want you to forgive me do so of course, I forgive you. But I would also argue, I don’t think you need to ask for forgiveness, if you didn’t intend to hurt me.

JULIE ROYS 10:34
There’s a heavy sigh at the end there. I left that in because I don’t know whose sign that is. Is that yours Steve?

STEVE TAKATA 10:39
I don’t recall, at this point.

JULIE ROYS 10:41
I just can feel it in the room, the frustration listening to this. And by the way, I’ll post a transcript of the entire thing so people can see it. Response of other elders in the room? Do they say, Andy, you made some false accusations here? Although he actually in this meeting denies that he said the things that then later he admits that he said, and that he did some of these things, but there was no confronting of at least that I heard from any of these elders saying, Andy you’re wrong, you need to ask for forgiveness, that’s not right.

JANETTE TAKATA 11:19
It was a really, like fast meeting, it was crunched, we had to pick up a kid from sports in another city. We all wanted more time. Towards the end, it was each elder got a chance to give their perspective. And one of them said, Andy you made six or seven I regret statements. Would you be willing to apologize for those to the congregation? The answer was no. So, regret, but no intent, no sin, no apology, no seeking forgiveness.

JULIE ROYS 11:48
And you must have left this meeting feeling incredibly unsatisfied.

JANETTE TAKATA 11:54
Yes. Another elder’s response was that he could tell from the clip that you played, he could tell I was modeling the kind of apology and seeking of forgiveness that I expected or was wanting from Andy. He could see I was modeling that. But Andy can’t apologize, it would be like lying to God if He apologized for sin and sought forgiveness. So, this elder proposed that maybe the church needs some better teaching on whether or not and how to apologize based on the impact of our actions and words. And I was like, Lord, have mercy if you write another paper.

JULIE ROYS 12:36
So, was it kind of your impression that the church needs more teaching so that you need to be informed or that Andy needs to be informed?

JANETTE TAKATA 12:44
The church needs to be informed.

JULIE ROYS 12:46
Because they have an ignorant view like whom?

JANETTE TAKATA 12:48
Like me.

JULIE ROYS 12:50
Like you? Okay, that’s, I just wanted to be sure that was what the understanding was on that. So, this happened on March 10. And present in that room, Ming-Jinn Tong was there, who’s one of the pastors who ended up resigning. Jason, was Jason Meyer there?

JANETTE TAKATA 13:09
Jason and Bryan were not permitted to be there.

JULIE ROYS 13:12
And why was that?

JANETTE TAKATA 13:13
We don’t know.

JULIE ROYS 13:15
That’s curious.

JANETTE TAKATA 13:17
They were told they would not be there prior to when we were told we that they would not be there. And it was our meeting.

JULIE ROYS 13:24
And you had requested them be there.

STEVE TAKATA 13:26
We had placed this meeting on the calendar from mid-February, within, I’ll say, a week and a half of the QSM. We had settled on, alright, this is the day that we’re going to get together with Andy, and with these pastors that have been sort of walking with us through this. Less than a week prior to the meeting, we were told that this person is not going to be able to come, this person is going to come instead, are you okay if these people don’t come? It sort of threw me for a loop. Hey, we’ve been planning this meeting for more than a month now, and all of a sudden, the people that we’ve invited to be a part of the meeting, aren’t allowed? aren’t permitted?

JULIE ROYS 14:12
So, the day after that meeting that happened on March 10, March 11, there’s another meeting and this meeting is of all the downtown elders. So that would be Jason Meyer and Ming-Jinn T0ng, Bryan Pickering. But also, Kenny Stokes, and I think Kurt Elting Ballard was in that as well, the chairman of the elder board. And at that meeting, and again, at this point, you don’t know, do you, about all the accusations that have been brought about Andy Naselli at the school or the investigation?

JANETTE TAKATA 14:44
No.

JULIE ROYS 14:44
So, you don’t know this, but Bryan Pickering does.

JANETTE TAKATA 14:48
We had rumors, but what are you going to do in the middle of this, start asking church questions? No, nothing,

JULIE ROYS 14:54
Nothing.

STEVE TAKATA 14:55
As we were departing the March 10 meeting, we were exhorted by Tom Lutz, who was sort of facilitating this meeting for reconciliation, that we were to leave this meeting at this time and hold the information from that meeting in confidence. The intent or the described intent was that in this area of personal reconciliation between people, if you then leave that meeting and go talk about it with a bunch of other people, you can sabotage the opportunity for reconciliation between the parties. However, he said, because of the way that we presented grievances against Andy Naselli, for his behavior that we believed was disqualifying from eldership, it was Tom Lutz’s responsibility and the elders’ responsibility from that meeting, to then go present that to the rest of the elder council, and to talk about it. But stepping out of that meeting, we were being held to confidentiality at that juncture.

JULIE ROYS 16:02
Difficult position, no doubt. So again, day after this, on March 11, the downtown elders meet. Bryan Pickering brings the testimony of 12 current and former BCS students who had accused Andy Naselli of spiritual abuse. I’ve written about this at length. So, if you want to read more about this, you can just go to Julieroys.com, and you look under the tab for Investigations under Bethlehem, and the stories are there. But he brings these, and he has other documentation about Andy Naselli, he was charging that Andy Naselli was not qualified to be elder anymore as well. And according to Bryan Pickering, what happened at that elder meeting is that they were just grief stricken over some of the things that had happened. And Kenny Stokes in particular, said at the end, according to Bryan, that there needed to be an investigation. He didn’t want a third-party investigation, but some sort of internal investigation to see what had happened. So, at the end of that meeting, there seemed to be unanimous agreement that there was going to be some sort of investigation. And then five days later, there’s a meeting of the entire elder board. And again, I know this through Bryan Pickering, who has told me about this, that on the 16th, rather than ordering an investigation into these matters, the allegations against Andy were dismissed and specifically, the charges that you brought and the grievances that you brought, because you had since accumulated a number of these because of what had happened since that January 31 meeting. Those were dismissed. And there were other Bethlehem members, who were some of the people who are party to the conversations that you talked about with Andy, who also submitted grievances. All of those were dismissed. They also considered the charges by Bryan Pickering, who openly stated that he that he thought Andy should be disqualified. All of those get dismissed. And the next day you get a letter from Kurt Elting Ballard, who again is the chairman, and he writes to you, and I quote, “The Council of Elders does not find the grievance brought by Steve and Janette Takata against Andy Naselli as true or substantial. Further, this grievance requires no further investigation or consideration.”

JANETTE TAKATA 18:24
Steve and I can’t speak to what happened at a downtown elder meeting, because we weren’t there. We also can’t speak to what happened on March 16, because we were not there. And because they chose to hold that investigation in Executive Session. So that is bound to confidentiality as well. What we were told is that at the end of the March 10 meeting that not only were we to keep it confidential, but we had initiated a process according to the bylaws. So, the church bylaws state when there’s a grievance brought by two or more members in good standing, after thorough an investigation and careful consideration, the elders will determine whether the charges are true or substantial. And if so, they would recommend this elder be removed by the congregational vote. So, they did not have a choice, according to the church bylaws, whether to investigate or not. So, it was our understanding that the March 16 meeting was to investigate the grievances that we had brought, according to the bylaws.

JULIE ROYS 19:35
And again, I’ve asked elders for their feedback on this specifically I approached Kenny Stokes about Bryan Pickering has said this happened. And you said one thing on the 11th. Why did you vote then another way at the 16th? I haven’t received a response or clarification on that at this point. This didn’t end the issue for you You put together a 17-page document which you shared with me. You asked for another meeting on April 6. For purposes of time, I can’t go into everything that’s in there, but you basically said, Andy has displayed a pattern of behavior of concerning and disqualifying type of behavior and a pattern of unrepentant and. But you add, furthermore, actions by the elder council have minimized, excused, supported or hidden Andy’s lack of repentance and/or have abdicated accountability. Your letter concludes that you plan on bringing a motion at the next QSM. So again, these quarterly strategic meetings that the whole church gathers, you want to bring emotion proposing that the church initiates a third-party investigation into how things were handled. So, you were at this April 6 meeting to present this letter. What was the response to you when you brought this letter? I bet you read the entire letter, is that correct? The elders. Yeah. What happened in the meeting?

STEVE TAKATA 21:06
So, we spoke to the elder council. As we started reading these pages, we were interrupted twice by an elder addressing the chairman, saying, I thought we weren’t going to relitigate this, Mr. Chairman, I thought we weren’t going to go here?

JULIE ROYS 21:27
Can you say who interrupted?

JANETTE TAKATA 21:29
Sam Crabtree?

JULIE ROYS 21:30
Okay. One of the elders.

JANETTE TAKATA 21:32
When we started reading 22 instances that we had documented of times when Andy was told to apologize, resend an email, repent, and he didn’t. He was immediately interrupted by someone who said, That’s not appropriate. Tried to repeat the question, he was interrupted by a second person who said, brothers, are we going to pastor in shame? And his response was, we just got shamed for the last hour. And so, he went to talk again, and then a third person said, Sam, stand down. At this point, Steve is crying. I’m looking at the chair, to stop the line of questioning, or to say something and he doesn’t. And I was so grateful the Lord gave me a soft answer to his question that I hoped would turn away more wrath. And so, I leaned forward and just did my best to get through that question. And then an elder of three months asked us about strong language that we used. And some of his examples were dark and light. We use really strong language like dark and light.

STEVE TAKATA 21:44
22 instances that we knew of at the time. And as you have acknowledged, there were many things that we didn’t learn about until much later. But 22 instances that we knew of attempting, in our mind, to present to the elder council, maybe you just don’t know, maybe somehow, this is all just happening, and you weren’t aware of these things that took place. There are parts of this experience that have just been gut wrenching. And at the conclusion of our presentation, Sam Crabtree addresses us and says, to the council, you know, how I you know, I, I love Janette, I love Steve, you know, we’ve, we’ve known them all this time. And then he addresses me, Steve, why didn’t you go to Easter with your mom? in an extremely accusatory tone.

JULIE ROYS 23:54
So very personal, this whole entire thing. And, and I know you don’t really want to go there, but it was part of what happened here. Your dad’s an elder, for Sam to bring that up, gets at some really difficult things that obviously wrestling through not just what’s happened with the church, but seemingly irrelevant to the accusations about Andy.

STEVE TAKATA 24:20
Looking back at that moment, we’re coming to the elder council, trying to plead for understanding, trying to present evidence towards an investigation that we weren’t permitted to participate in. We were trying to present concerns. Multiple times through this document multiple times through every personal interaction, we’re seeking the repentance and restoration of those in offense. We’re seeking the Christ likeness of our elder council. We’re seeking, turning away from patterns of behavior towards patterns that better represent our Lord. And so, to present this information, and then to be directly attacked personally in response to this, just doesn’t resonate with what I’ve seen of our Lord.

JULIE ROYS 25:26
So, despite everything that happened in that meeting, which it sounds like that didn’t really resolve in a meeting in the meeting, either you offered an apology, Janette, to the elder board. Why did you offer an apology to them?

JANETTE TAKATA 25:45
Two ways that the Lord convicted me of my tone. So, one was one of the pastor’s response was, I understand, but you didn’t lead with meekness ,you lead with anger. I understand your anger, but you didn’t lead with meekness. And then the second was a teaching from the Gospel Coalition’s women’s conference from Jackie Hill Perry was preaching on, I did just call her preacher unapologetically I did. On James 3, the Lord just pierced me that I did not bridle my tongue, in how I mean, yeah, we’ve never released the 17 pages to anyone. until just now with you.

JULIE ROYS 26:35
And I’m happy to post that on my website as well.

JANETTE TAKATA 26:40
But you can tell the tone is angry. And we said, you’re going to hear passion, you’re going to hear anger, we are upset. But I, throughout all of this wanted to work to walk circumspectly before the Lord. And if he convicts me that I was angry before the elders, who gets to meet before all of the elders? the entire council? They meet four times a year as the whole council. And we were given an opportunity to speak with them for 45 minutes to an hour? And if that’s the tone that they landed with, was they were ashamed, or they were, we were angry. And the Lord convicted me on that I respond to the Lord. And if He convicts me, I offered a page and a half apology.

JULIE ROYS 27:29
I mean, I’ve been in situations where I’ve witnessed wrongdoing. And when I’ll come and I’ll say something about it, they’ll say to me, you seem angry. And my response is, I am angry, why aren’t you? I think there is a certain amount of anger that is appropriate. I wasn’t there. So, I can’t speak to and if the Lord convicted you of that, but it does seem in this whole situation up into this point, that you guys are offering a lot of apologies. And these other parties who are elders, are not offering apologies, but a lot of justification for what they’re doing. But after you confront them, okay, so we’re talking months now have transpired, but you do finally hear from Andy and he requests a zoom call with you, which happens in mid-April. So just a couple of weeks after this meeting, you get on a call with Andy, and he offers you an apology. However, it’s very interesting to me, he does not apologize for falsely accusing you, he doesn’t apologize for gossip, he doesn’t apologize for maybe a lack of love, you know, what’s going on in his heart when he’s speaking these disparaging things about you. Instead, he offers what and, and I’ll just say my perspective of it, it sounds very mechanical, kind of apology, of being quick to speak, which he is determined now after all this time, that’s a sin. And so, he was quick to speak, and that’s the sin he can own. So that’s what he does. I’m going to play a portion of that. You’ll hear some bleeps. And that will be because there are some names there that are mentioned. And we want to protect the names of those individuals. So let me play that clip of his apology. Again, not the entire thing. But I think it will give you an idea.

ANDY NASELLI 29:24
So, since that QSM on January 31, I have sought to take responsibility for my actions, including any errors of judgment any sins I’ve committed, and I’ve repeatedly sought the Lord please show me my sin. I’ve received wise counsel from friends, pastors. So that’s why I’ve asked to meet with you because I want to ask you to forgive me. So, James 1:19 commands, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, quick to hear slow to speak. So that means it’s a sin to be quick to speak, and slow to hear. And I was guilty of that sin when I spoke unwisely on at least three occasions. So, it’s one of those three occasions, it’s January 31 at the QSM, February 11 at the faculty staff meeting, February 22, on a zoom call. So, I just work through those three kind of asked you to forgive me for each one. So, on January 31, at the QSM I, I spoke unwisely. And that was the case particularly when I spoke the first time.

JULIE ROYS 30:38
Okay, I’m going to play another clip, but I will just say that he does own this sin of, again, speaking unwisely, not just at the QSM, but at the meeting with the Bethlehem College and Seminary and staff meeting, he reiterates this phrase that I was quick to speak and slow to hear. He also addresses the allegation that the elders told you not to bring emotion to the QSM. And he says, I’ve spoken with Jason Meyer, he has told me that is not what happened that that is not true. And then Andy talks about the specific private conversation, where he brought that up, and other things about you. And this is what Andy says.

ANDY NASELLI 31:24
And then third is February 22, with a zoom call. And on that call, I spoke unwisely when I shared my perspective and what happened at the QSM Basically, the same applies here as what I just shared about the BCS faculty and staff meeting. I regret, I was quick to speak, slow to hear. I ask your forgiveness. And I’ve already reached out if I can meet with them. And I haven’t heard back yet. But I’m planning to do that as well to ask him for forgiveness. So, you’re probably wanting to hear many more requests for forgiveness, but for those three, would you be willing to extend forgiveness to me for that?

JULIE ROYS 32:06
And?

JANETTE TAKATA 32:07
We said Yes, we forgive you.

JULIE ROYS 32:09
For the record? Yes.

JANETTE TAKATA 32:11
Yes, we did.

JULIE ROYS 32:12
You did. But Janette, you did bring up. Wow, I just want to bring up the impact that what this did, because there’s no acknowledgement of how I mean, I shouldn’t say no acknowledgement. I mean, he does acknowledge that he hurt you. But I will just say I’m dumbfounded. I’m dumbfounded after everything. Like if I have reported something falsely about somebody if I’ve spoken behind their backs, if I have not gone to them and gotten their side of the story and reiterated hearsay, I mean, I get accused of gossip all the time. I don’t repeat things that aren’t from firsthand sources. When I do repeat things from firsthand sources that accused someone I go to the other side and seek their comment. If they don’t give it that’s, you know, on them. But I found his response to be stunning. You guys are really gracious. I’m not sure I would have been in that circumstance. I mean, after this, did you feel satisfied?

JANETTE TAKATA 33:08
No. And we didn’t feel satisfied in the moment either. But you have to understand this apology and the apology from Sam Crabtree came one day later. It took Andy, what, two and a half months to actually say, I have sinned against you. And it took Sam Crabtree a couple of weeks.

JULIE ROYS 33:27
So, he did apologize for the comments he made?

JANETTE TAKATA 33:29
He did apologize. You have to understand we were working so hard to partner with the elders, to not talk about these things with the church with members. And we were waiting. I believe we got these this apology for sin because of the April 6 meeting with 17 pages. I pressed hard that if I talked about someone from church at my place of employment, or Steve did the same, of course, that would be considered gossip. If it was a false accusation slander, of course, it would be inappropriate. Of course, it would be breaking the relational commitments.

JULIE ROYS 34:15
But he’s calling it just unwise.

JANETTE TAKATA 34:17
Correct. And he didn’t even call it unwise or a sin until I pressed hard with the elders. Do you realize that there were even elders sitting in the room when this happened? And no one has held him accountable? But I would be first in line under discipline, if you ever found out I did something like that.

JULIE ROYS 34:37
And that would be considered, you know, violation of those relational commitments.

JANETTE TAKATA 34:42
Right. And at some point, in April, even when we started to say I don’t think we should be held to confidentiality for the grievances. I think that we should put them out there now that the council has ruled them all as not true or substantial. It wasn’t just that they were insubstantial to remove him from being an elder, it was they are not true, not any of them. So, I think that also plays into why Andy didn’t apologize for a false accusation, for gossip for slander. Because if he had, it would have reversed the decision of the elders. They viewed all six of those grievances and dismissed them as not sure substantial. So, is he then going to apologize? If he does, he calls them true. And it would have reversed the decision of the elder council.

JULIE ROYS 35:36
So, on April 22, this is just within weeks of this zoom call with Andy also, you heard from Sam Crabtree, and an apology, did it feel any more authentic to you?

JANETTE TAKATA 35:48
I mean, he’s tearful. He’s kind. What we pressed with him was, we’ve seen this same behavior from you, affirm and attack, twice publicly. And then the third time was within that private elder meeting. We had seen that same behavior from him three times in 18 months.

JULIE ROYS 36:08
Did he own that?

STEVE TAKATA 36:10
Yes and no. There was one public occasion at a previous QSM, where he made some comments that we had, that we believe were out of line. Janette got up to the microphone at the time and said, Sam, I don’t think that’s appropriate. You shouldn’t have said that. He got up and said, No, it’s right. It’s applicable here. I should have said that. And then one week later, a written apology went to all of the attenders of that meeting, saying, I was wrong, I shouldn’t have done that, will you please forgive me? And then a year later, a similar event happened. In the moment, he got up, made a comment, made a statement, and somebody called him on it. And then in this elder meeting, we get personally attacked several people in the moment called him on it, and he doesn’t back down, and then later has to follow up with an apology. And these are just three instances that we happen to be direct witnesses of which I presented to him later in an email saying, hey, Sam, I’m concerned. This is what I have seen and witnessed from you. Are you concerned about this? What do you think about this thing that looks like a pattern? And I don’t remember the exact content of his response. But no, there isn’t a there’s no problem here. There’s no pattern.

JANETTE TAKATA 37:40
So, his apology? Yes, we forgave the same with Andy. Yes, we forgave. What we were also looking for was fruit in keeping with the repentance.

JULIE ROYS 37:53
Right.

JANETTE TAKATA 37:54
That was unsatisfactory. So, April 22, we get invited to talk about the motion. So, remember, we had given the potential wording of a motion for an independent investigation at the end of the 17 pages. And this was Wednesday night and the QSM in April was going to be Sunday night. And so, we were given a text, can you meet with us ASAP to talk about the motion?

JULIE ROYS 38:22
And you’ve given me a letter that they presented at that meeting on April 22. I can post that at my website as well if people want to read that. They mentioned that both Hey, Andy and Sam have apologized to you. So, in other words, that whole entire matter should be resolved for you. They also claim that several of the items in your 17-page document were inaccurate. You met with Jason Meyer and Ming-Jinn Tong, and also Bryan Pickering. And we’re like, Is this accurate? There were a few things in there. But they basically affirmed Yeah, this this is accurate. There’s definitely disagreement from those three who did resign from the church with the rest of the elder board on what happened and how to characterize it. So, we’ll just say that, again, the other elders haven’t spoken with me. So, I don’t know what their take is on that. But then they claim, they accuse you of employing, ‘elevated language and uncharitable judgments when you accuse the elders of stirring up division slandering and attacking you.’ And then they conclude, and I quote, ‘we strongly urge you to refrain from making any new motions at QSM while the reconciliation process with the elders is ongoing, in accordance with the relational commitments, which states that we will obey God’s command to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.’ Clearly not the outcome that you were hoping for. Did you feel that you had any freedom to go against what they told you and bring that motion for an independent investigation?

JANETTE TAKATA 39:59
The last paragraph in particular sounded like we were on the cusp of an unknown disciplinary path. They did not define ongoing, they did not define reconciliation, and they did not define process. So, when they strongly urge us, don’t do this action that you say you are going to do, because you might violate or it would violate the reconciliation process with others that is ongoing, but you don’t define those terms. We immediately knew we were, if we miss step somehow, some way, it’s going to result in church discipline. Because you, they’ve also quoted the relational commitments, which is what would be used for church discipline, otherwise known as excommunication

JULIE ROYS 40:53
What happened then at the April QSM? anything notable?

JANETTE TAKATA 40:57
Well, we didn’t say anything. People were coming up to us and asking us questions. And we were like, we can’t, we can’t talk.

JULIE ROYS 41:05
You can’t talk. So, kind of a no talk rule, which again, that in and of itself is usually a hallmark sign of a dysfunctional system, when there’s a lot of secrecy a lot of no talk rules. But there’s plenty of talking going on, apparently behind the scenes with the power brokers, but the rest of the people are, you know, often asked not to speak. So, there’s so much has happened since then. As we’ve mentioned, three pastors have resigned, literally hundreds of church members have left the church in the past year, 18 months. And just when it appeared that things might be dying down, with really, I mean, I think very frustrating for you and others who have been involved because I feel like there’s been some reporting on this. And I have to offer an apology to you because I was going to report more of your story months ago, and other stories, you know, this is kind of the life of reporter but it’s the tyranny of the urgent, right? The breaking news. And I also had some family trips and just never got to do it. So, I’m glad that we were able to air this. But in addition to everything that happened, then two members who really seem like they’re just really seeking the truth and kind of confused by everything, went on a fact-finding mission. And they published an open letter that’s like 31 pages of documentation of what happened. And they’re saying, even though the church I guess, this summer voted not to do an independent investigation, they’re saying, you’re not even privy to half of the information that happened. And with everything that I’ve seen, there’s so much smoke, it looks like there’s a lot of fire. And so, they openly asked for an investigation, the response from the church so far has been no, we decided not to do it. And there’s a number of reasons which were published in sort of a retrospective that this couples the Shoes, put online. So, you can read more about that. And I have it at my website as well, in some of the responses to how the church responded to this open letter, which I think some would say, is kind of definition of spiritual abuse, using scriptures to say things that they don’t really say, and putting shame where maybe it shouldn’t be placed. And I encourage you, there’s an article there that gives responses of experts in spiritual abuse, kind of responding to how the Bethlehem elders responded, a very helpful piece, I think. But again, for the two of you, with everything you’ve been through, through what appears at this point to be elders’ unwillingness to deal with these issues. Do you do you have any hope that with this podcast with some of the information that continues to come out? Do you have any hope that this is going to finally be addressed by the elders? finally be dealt with in a way that’s appropriate and people disqualified who need to be disqualified from ministry, or at least until they are shown fruits in keeping with repentance?

JANETTE TAKATA 44:07
I don’t put my hope in people. From what I’ve seen of Bethlehem, they’ve lost over 200 members just from the downtown campus this year alone. The latest round of members was given an email, if you want an elder to reach out to you, please let us know by Thursday. I mean, these are people who spent over a decade at the church. And if you want to talk to anybody before you resign from membership, please let us know. Otherwise, we have no reason to reach out to you. It’s terrible. But my hope is in God. He never quits. He’s always true to his character. He is so compassionate, so just and he gets to write the timeline and he also gets to decide who will receive mercy and who won’t. So, I don’t tell the story to have my name in lights, or to be any more important than another victim at Bethlehem. And I don’t say that word lightly. I don’t need anyone to defend me but Christ. And my conscience is clear before him, and he can convict and continue, and he will, he will continue to convict if there’s any grievous way in me. My heart is totally his. And He will convict and bring forth any reconciliation between myself and God, and between myself and others, but I’m not waiting for Bethlehem to repent. We left in July, because we could no longer trust that the elders were going to do anything about this.

JULIE ROYS 45:57
Must be incredibly heartbreaking though. And I feel that for you, I feel it with you. Because John Piper, his book, Desiring God, changed my life when I was 20 something. And I am grateful to him for that. I’m grateful to the ministry of this church, which has had such an incredible legacy, unfortunately, marred by some just really toxic patterns of leadership. But I do pray for the church, I pray for repentance, I pray for you guys, because I know even when your conscience is clear, your heart can still be broken. And I’m sorry.

STEVE TAKATA 46:38
Like Janette said, I don’t hold my hope in the church, I placed my hope in Christ. One of the things that does make it extremely difficult is spending the majority of my life at Bethlehem. One of the sorts of the buzzwords out in the world these days is deconstruction. What does it mean to deconstruct? what does it mean to sort of re-inspect, or, you know, understand where your history comes from? And trying to think back prior to January, prior to sort of feeling some of these concerns rise up. How long have the concerns that came to light this year? How long have they been there? How long was I complicit in the abuse of others that have occurred? I won’t go into details, but I know of stories of church discipline events that happened in executive session at church meetings, where we were presented, hey, this person is unrepentant of the sin. We as a church, need to say, they’re no longer saved, and we’re going to treat them as an unbeliever. And I participated in those meetings. I voted in favor of excommunicating members that were not present to defend themselves. And am I complicit?

JANETTE TAKATA 48:22
Yes, we are.

STEVE TAKATA 48:26
But I need, Lord, do I need to go to those members, find some way to get their names out of an executive session meeting, and go repent to them? How far back does this go? Is this a modern change that took place at Bethlehem? Or is this a symptom that just happened to come to the surface more presently? I definitely agree that the writings and the teachings and the preaching of Pastor John Piper have been powerful across the world. But certainly, some of the systems that were established at Bethlehem were established when he was pastor for preaching and vision. Many of the elders that serve today served under Pastor Piper. Could there be leadership characteristics of Pastor John that negatively impacted the development of the elder council today? These are some of the things that go through my mind in, you know, I’m not trying to clear my name. I think this is sort of the difference between as you referenced at the beginning, the personal reconciliation that needs to happen between one believer to another believer and the difference between what the Bible calls for believers to do when confronting elders and teachers who are in sin. This is a tell it to the church not just tell it to Bethlehem Baptist Church. But brothers, I’m concerned. I’m concerned for the members that you are leading, the members that Christ Jesus has placed under your care that you are not caring for well.

JULIE ROYS 50:20
And can I add the pastors that are being trained by Bethlehem College and Seminary, if this is the way that they’re being taught, this is concerning to the larger church. This is why all of us should be concerned and also, desiring God John Piper’s ministry has a huge reach. And if this is what they believe about the way members should be treated, I think the rest of the larger body of Christ has a right to know that information. So, I want to thank you, for your honesty, your vulnerability. And I would say from what I’ve seen your integrity, walking out this process. So, thank you, and I pray for you and your families for there to be healing and restoration in the days to come.

STEVE TAKATA 51:15
Thank you.

JANETTE TAKATA 51:15
Thanks for having us.

JULIE ROYS 51:17
Well, and thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. If you’d like to connect with me online, just go to Julieroys.com. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcasts, Spotify, or YouTube. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you have a great day and God bless.

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Pickering Letter Why Naselli is Disqualified

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Transcript of 3.10.2021 Peacemakers Mtg

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Ruling on Grievances by Elder Council

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Takata’s Presentation to BBC Elders 4.6.2021

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23 thoughts on “What Happened at Bethlehem Baptist Church? Part 2”

  1. Yikes, the complete avoidance of responsibility in that recording at the beginning is just staggering. Doubly so coming from (I presume) a hardcore Calvinist. A Calvinist’s life should be marked by profound grace and humility. This was the opposite of both.

    1. “Profound grace and humility:”? Now, why would a Calvinist’s life be unlike Calvin’s? Calvin’s showing against Servetus is the very opposite of that.

  2. I can’t imagine my pastor or any of the council members, committee heads, or *anyone* at my church splitting hairs, phoning a friend, and eventually concluding that they would “lying to God” if they apologized for acting like a tin-pot dictator toward members of the congregation. Utterly incomprehensible.

    Who are these people, anyway? I thought goombahs like that only existed on the internet.

    1. The elders likely can’t imagine such behavior either. Despite witnessing it, and receiving overwhelming evidence of it, they preferred to accept the pathetic defense from the accused elder rather than admit egregious disqualifying behavior occurred.

      Elder boards often suffer an appalling lack of imagination.

  3. Yes yes this is all very common, and business as usual, where church tribunals just crush individual members.

    In a church, the expectation is there is godly leadership, but too often the leadership is not very godly and at the same time they not very good leaders. They often just cannot do the basics…. honesty, integrity, transparency… etc.

    Also, Steve Takata’s reminiscing on if he himself may have been culpable in wrongly executed church discipline….demonstrates a certain level of maturity, but also reveals some insight on how widespread the problem is in the Evangelic-Industrial-Complex….. as most board members/elders would never come to such self-awareness of the issues at hand.

  4. Kimberly Chastain

    One of the things that disturbs me greatly about an all male elder board is there are some things they may miss where God has gifted women with spiritual insight. Also, can you imagine being the only woman in a room full of men trying to bring up a sensitive topic? I’m glad Janette’s husband was with her, but no woman willing does that to manipulate a situation. Why would a woman ever put herself through that process if they were sexually abused, etc. I have struggled with this question for a long time. Maybe a church does not have female elders, but it would be wise to have wise, discerning, mature women who attend the meeting and lend their insight. Women are often respected and their wisdom is sought out everywhere except for conservative churches. It is a personal struggle for me and I think for many women.

  5. Reading the transcripts makes me think there is much less here that is concerning than your reporting would imply — not that you have said anything false, but it seems to me that there was a genuine attempt for Andy to search his own heart. While I may think that it seems like there’s more for him to be convicted of than he genuinely was at this point, it seems to me he is genuine in only asking forgiveness where he believes he sinned. Janette seemed to be a deeply offended woman (somewhat understandable), and while she clearly was trying to honor the Lord, I see ways in which her own offense led her to be very harsh in her assessment of the depth of Andy’s sin. I don’t see anything here that would make me afraid to be at a church with these elders.

    1. It would be naive to assume he “searched his own heart” in matters which could lead to a loss of employment, to say nothing of the public humiliation of being disqualified.

      Naselli is a prominent professor at the seminary affiliated with the church, and a dozen students had made allegations against him of spiritual abuse remarkably consistent with the pattern of sinful behavior he exhibited publicly and privately toward Janette. All accounts indicate those allegations were dismissed without investigation.

      Read the embedded letter from Pickering and ask yourself again if you really are comfortable with this style of leadership.

  6. I have followed Julie Roys for a few years now and always listen to her podcasts. She is one I have learned to trust. Good work, Julie, please keep it up.

  7. What is that old saying about Hell? “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

    We cannot judge intentions, but we can judge words, actions, and impact. This is a basic lesson I learned in my training as a clinical chaplain.

    It is shameful that no pastor or elder held Mr. Naselli to account while he used his sophistry as a screen to avoid owning his sin.They allowed him to play word games and dance away from taking accountability for what he DID and the HARM his actions/words inflicted.

    By shifting the whole focus upon his intentions as he did or said these damaging things, he makes this all about him and his “good” intentions. Again, his victims are given short shrift. Their harm is not seen or is minimized by this sophisticated avoidance tactic. The focus is answering an unanswerable question about heart issues only seen clearly by God while the answers about real harm he did is right before him. He just refuses to accept that reality and face his responsibility in creating it.

    It does not surprise me this church is so hard on empathy as this was the opposite of an empathetic (and I would add, godly) response to sheep wounded by a shepherd.

    1. I agree. It sounded to me as if he has built a fortress of his own authority and rightness, and when a regular person tossed a paper airplane over the wall saying, “Out here, we feel like we’re not being treated very well,” it infuriated and even frightened him. For months, he managed to avoid being in a room with the regular person, and when he finally had to, he had nothing to offer but anger and desperate self-protection.

      It sounded to me, as well, as though he’s afraid of the God he believes in, afraid he’ll be blasted if he makes the slightest error. Some people turn that fear on themselves, as it seemed Mrs. Takata might have been doing, and some people turn it on others, insisting that if anyone did wrong, it was never themselves, not ever.

  8. Listening to this podcast both saddened me and helped me feel less alone in my own church journey. Having spent over ten years trying to deal with sexual immorality within our local church, I know all about these meetings behind closed doors. It’s such a shock when you realize who these people truly are and who they really love.

  9. What’s missing in both of these interviews with the Takatas is any mention or discussion of the issues involved in this dispute. Instead, it’s all about personalities and attitudes,who should apologize to whom, and whom the church should discipline.. Was Naselli defending biblical truth against the intrusion of “woke” political correctness into BBC? In addition, the interviews are biased against Naselli, and should not have been aired without him being interviewed, and if he refused, the whole matter should have been dropped. Moreover, throughout the interviews, Jeanette appears to have taken the lead in speaking for herself and her husband in the church, as in the interviews, an apparent violation of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

    1. Ron, your suggestion that the focus of a critical story/podcast should be able to veto that story simply by refusing to participate is concerning. This standard would essentially give over all control of information to anyone accused of wrongdoing. One of the reasons The Roys Report exists is to report the unvarnished truth that otherwise would be buried–often by evangelical powerbrokers like Naselli.

      Your suggestion that 1 Cor 14:34-35, which concerns rules for church assemblies, should be applied broadly to mean women may never take the lead speaking anywhere is also concerning. I can’t imagine any serious theologian suggesting that.

      Lastly, the situation at Bethlehem Baptist Church is complex and involves many issues. This podcast was designed narrowly to address what happened to the Takatas and how it spoke more broadly to dynamics within BBC. But I have written other articles, giving additional context to the issues at BBC. I encourage you to follow this link and read them: https://julieroys.com/investigations/bethlehem-2/

  10. I’ve seen this sort of thing in some of the Evangelical Calvinist churches I’ve been in. Why significant portions of Calvinist men end up with this mindset should be the next investigative report. I finally left that whole branch of Christianity and went conservative mainline Protestant.

    On a side note, I don’t know who wrote the bio about the Takatas, but they should not have written, “Steve and Janette have four adopted and two biological children.” It should read “Steve and Janette have six children.” It’s not appropriate to specify that a child is adopted unless it’s necessary and directly relevant to the conversation. Please correct that mistake immediately. Thank you.

    1. Hi Lisa, thank you for your concern. I wrote the bio myself, specifically referencing adoption since it is related to our motion regarding the Ethnic Harmony Task Force. We are a multi-ethnic/multi-racial family and so perhaps I could have made it more clear why adoption was important to our story. But that is difficult with limited time and space and when it didn’t end up being the central part of this story.
      There could be books written about the additional pain and heartache of minorities at Bethlehem. Attempts by a team of BIPOC members to address the lack of representation in leadership were shut down and silenced. Members approached the elder council, created a task force with unanimous support from elders, and after hundreds of volunteer hours, the elders essentially buried their reports.
      You can read a bit more of the background in my motion that is attached with Part 1 of this story.

      1. Thank you for clarifying. I really appreciate it. Many readers may be unaware of how important it is to not specify that a child is adopted unless it’s directly relevant to the situation. Our interracial family has run into this problem frequently, as have many families in the adoptive community.

        As the Caucasian parent of an Asian adoptee, wife of a Caucasian husband, and parent of biological Caucasian children, I understand the importance of finding a racially diverse church that shares minority leadership and power and is sensitive to minority experiences in the US.

      2. Steve, thank you for sharing your story. I had never seen the BIPOC abbreviation used before. It seems to be linked to some fairly unbiblical ideologies. Could you maybe elaborate on your usage? I only ask because it seemed like a disagreement on ethnic relations fueled some of the issues in the podcast and I’m just trying to understand more of the context. I am finding more and more that Christians are becoming “tribal” surrounding justice issues, and would love to see more conversation surrounding biblical terms and concepts rather than ideologies rooted in secular philosophy. Thanks!

    2. Lisa, the connection between especially these “New” Calvinists and spiritual abuse has been widely noted.

      You could arguably look all the way back to Piper’s “Seashells” illustration and draw a through line of young men who are so committed to a theology and a mission that they completely miss 1 Corinthians 13–without love all of that knowledge and fervor, all of their baptisms and church growth, is useless.

  11. I think that it is often very difficult to find the words to accurately describe situations such as this both to oneself and others. One of Julie Roys’ past guests, Steven Hassan, has created a couple educational resources, the BITE Model and the Influence Continuum, to help give people a common language to describe their experiences in groups like BBC. In my listening to the podcast, I think Information Control (the “I” of the BITE Model) is a integral part of the leadership culture at BBC.

    https://freedomofmind.com/cult-mind-control/bite-model/

    Hassan is a cult expert, but I would caution (as he does) anyone to rush to judgements regarding whether any particular group is a “destructive cult”. Rather, his work gives us insight into what types of behaviors and thinking make a group more “authoritarian” in contrast to “free” or more “unhealthy” in contrast to “unhealthy”. IMO, BBC is NOT a destructive cult. At the same time, it doesn’t seem to be very healthy either.

  12. Ryan Blackwelder

    FWIW, According to the Hebrew Bible/OT, unintentional wrongdoing is considered sin and is to be forgiven:

    For example, Lev 4 (NRSV):

    13 If the whole congregation of Israel errs unintentionally and the matter escapes the notice of the assembly, and they do any one of the things that by the LORD’S commandments ought not to be done and incur guilt; 14 when the sin that they have committed becomes known … 20b The priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven.

    22 When a ruler sins, doing unintentionally any one of all the things that by commandments of the LORD his God ought not to be done and incurs guilt, 23 once the sin that he has committed is made known to him … 26b Thus the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin, and he shall be forgiven.

    27 If anyone of the ordinary people among you sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the LORD’S commandments ought not to be done and incurs guilt, 28 when the sin that you have committed is made known to you … 31b Thus the priest shall make atonement on your behalf, and you shall be forgiven.

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