Note: The most current version of this can be found here, on the new Love Wins Community Engagement Center Website.
Yesterday, while I was out of the office on a family medical appointment, three members of the paid staff of the Love Wins Community Engagement Center and one intern quit. They closed the Center, hijacked one of our social media accounts and the Community Engagement Center’s website, and stole our mailing list. They then released a video on that social media account, stating their intention to discredit me and to start their own community engagement center and to solicit funds from our supporters to do it.
A note on structure:
Love Wins Ministries may not look like it to the outside world, but it is a small church in Raleigh, with regular worship services, that regularly performs weddings, funerals and baptisms. I serve as pastor and the only member of paid staff there. Our primary work is providing pastoral care for, and working for relational change in, the homeless and at-risk community. Our primary expense for the last 15 months has been the approximately $12,000 a month it takes to run the Love Wins Community Engagement Center while they work on getting their own tax exempt status.
The Love Wins Community Engagement Center, inc. is a separate company, with a separate board, in the process of filing for tax exempt status, founded in 2016. It was started with the goal of creating something that was self-sustaining and professionally managed, that would eventually free me from the operations of it to have the room to continue doing the spiritual work of Love Wins Ministries full time. The goal from the beginning of its founding was that one day, I would not be involved in running it.
So yesterday, the three person paid staff – none of whom had worked there for more than a year, and one of whom had worked there less than a month – left in order to start their own venture, taking an intern with them, which brings us back to where we were.
So what happens now?
In the short term:
The board of the Love Wins Community Engagement Center has made a statement about the situation, which can be found here.
The Love Wins Community Engagement Center is currently closed, and will be at least through the end of the week. All three people have lost their jobs, obviously, and their final paychecks will be mailed to them by the end of the month. The passwords and locks have been changed and we have regained access to our website, but not to the Love Wins Community Engagement Center Facebook page, which the former employees are continuing to use, under our name, illegally.
Today’s weekly service for Love Wins Ministries is canceled for this week, as is the weekly meal that proceeded it. Given the events of yesterday, we don’t have the bandwidth to deal with both the service and the drama at the Community Engagement Center. The meals we help provide at the Oak City Outreach Center this weekend should continue without a hitch, and, while I am obviously busy dealing with all of this, I am still here.
No one will be in the office to answer phones on a regular basis this week – I ask if you need to talk to me, please email me at email@example.com. I am a little overwhelmed with people reaching out, but I will get back to you as soon as I can.
In the long term:
I don’t know. Both organizations are evaluating things, and the Community Engagement Center board is meeting tomorrow to decide next steps. I will update you by Friday morning with the outcomes we decide.
What I do know:
We have between 70 and a hundred people who daily use the Community Engagement Center, the vast majority of whom are chronically homeless, who today, have no place to go because the staff quit. For the last five years, we have managed to keep that space open for them during battles with the city over our right to feed hungry people, through funding losses, through staff turnover, and through my wife having a heart transplant.
I have no doubt that if we decide to reopen, our generous network of volunteers would come forward to help us staff it until we can replace those who quit. The community has never failed us when we asked for help.
But I also know that the last five years have been exhausting, and that most of the conversations over the last month at the Community Engagement Center have been about my transitioning out of the operations of the Community Engagement Center in order to focus on the work of Love Wins Ministries. I thought I was on the way out, and that I had trusted people who shared our vision to take it forward.
Obviously, I was wrong. I would be lying if I told you this wasn’t discouraging.
So I don’t know what is next. We will work on that tomorrow and I will let you know as soon as I know.
As my hero Rev. William Barber says, “Love always wins in the end. And if it appears that love has not yet won, it is because it is not yet the end.”
Grace and peace, friends.