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Home arrow The Off Shoots arrow Letter to the Board in 2007 about Dave and Sue Carlson
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I wrote this letter late in 2007. I have known Sue Carlson for more than 30 years, and her husband, Dave, for 10 years. Sue is John Schoenheit’s sister, and his teaching partner on our flagship seminar, New Life in Christ. In late 2003 or early 2004 the STF Board unceremoniously fired her and Dave from their volunteer responsibilities.

November 6, 2007

Dear John & Jenivee, Dan & Lori, Gary & Karen,

God bless you and yours richly.

Waking up in February and coming back to Elizabeth generated a great concern on my part to recognize and account to anyone else whom I had wronged in my blindness. Dave and Sue Carlson were at the top of that list, and I called them sometime around March or April to ask their forgiveness for totally bailing out on them during the brouhaha surrounding them from August, 2003 until their termination in January, 2004. Yes, I was by then very distracted by my own trauma with Elizabeth, but given the quality I had known in their lives and their service to the ministry, I failed to speak up on their behalf.

Since then, I have from time to time been thinking about their situation, and this letter will express my heart in the matter. I write with great love and concern for each of you, and for the ministry God has entrusted to all of us.

Until this past weekend, when we visited them at their home, I had not had the occasion to sit with Dave & Sue and listen to them in regard to what had gone down. This morning I re-read the four back-and-forth letters (two from the Carlsons and two from the Board—those primarily generated by Mark, I believe) of October 5 (when Dave and Sue asked for a meeting with the Board) until January 14 (when they were terminated). Of late I’ve also discussed this a little with Dan & John, asking specifically what Dave & Sue did to warrant their termination from Teen Camp and Finance Committee duties.

In view of all that has come to light since April of last year about the Graesers (and Resners), that is the first thing I want to bring up. We all know now what happens to anyone who stands against Mark or KA, and I believe that Sue’s confronting Mark at Teen Camp, 2003 set in motion his and KA’s subsequent and systematic assault on her and Dave’s characters. She had also confronted both of them previously in regard to certain other issues, but it looks to me as if Teen Camp was the last straw, and the Carlsons joined the ranks of those who became casualties of standing up to the Graesers.

In re-reading the Carlson’s original letter asking for a meeting to discuss four values they felt they needed to be in agreement with us about, I saw first that the Graeser’s behavior was contrary to all four of them. Now that you can see things from a different perspective, I hope you also will re-read these letters, and as you do, I hope you will consider that anything attributed to Mark or KA, or anything they said to any of us during that time, is at best suspect. In particular, I believe that much of what Mark wrote in the January 14 letter to Dave and Sue is the pot calling the kettle black.

On the contrary, who of us has ever known Dave or Sue to be in any way duplicitous? Rather, I’d say that each of them is quite up-front about what they think. And who has actually found them to manifest ungodly traits that have made them consistently hard to work with? Not I. Opinionated, picky, impatient, sometimes judgmental? Sometimes, but so am I (you can speak for yourself). Big deal. But I have read or heard NOTHING of substance in terms of character flaws, moral turpitude, or performance deficiencies that warranted their being so unceremoniously ousted from our ranks. I think we messed up big time.

Let’s remember that it was we who asked Sue to help us with our finances and to ensure our compliance with IRS regulations, and that is just what she diligently tried to do, despite our dragging our feet to implement her recommendations. She was superb in the NLIC class, and she did a fabulous job at Teen Camp, which I think we all know. She poured out her heart to help our ministry and did the lion’s share of work on the Finance Committee, all at her own expense. Sue is very smart and aware, meticulously detailed and honest, and her detailed accounts of what happened in their situation are very hard to dismiss out-of-hand.

As I probed their hearts this past weekend and then listened to them, my own heart ached to see the pain in Sue, especially. She is terribly hurt, and her corresponding anger, while not blatantly obvious, is righteous, I believe. Yet I did not experience either her or Dave as venomous, backbiting, or vengeful. Rather, I found them to be gracious, loving, willing to forgive, cautious, and curious as to what has changed in STF to prohibit another such debacle where an inner circle of leaders is blinded to certain realities at the expense of God’s precious people.

Here are some other verses I saw this morning, which I think are pertinent to the Carlson’s situation:

NIV Proverbs 17:15 Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent-- the LORD detests them both. Proverbs 18:5 It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the innocent of justice. Proverbs 21:3 To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. Proverbs 21:15 When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.

I believe we wrongly acquitted the Graesers and condemned the Carlsons, thus doing them a great injustice and subjecting them to unnecessary grief. It is my opinion that we too casually discarded them. I believe we owe them a specific and heartfelt apology, as well as an invitation to again be involved in STF, however that will look. We have already lost four years of fellowship, friendship, and mutual benefit from having them in our lives.

Who is “we”? Of course it is each of us as individuals, and each of us must look and see for ourselves how we failed both the Lord and the Carlsons (and, for that matter, Don and Laura Stone, who were also on my list of people to account to, which I did). If we do not, any apology we make would be superficial at best. Worse, if in fact we did wrong them, would be our failure to recognize that we did, and our unwillingness to do what is honest before God. Let us take heed to Paul’s words, as follows:

NIV 2 Corinthians 7:11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

The more we do what is right before God, the more He will bless us and our unique and wonderful ministry. If we do not, how can we genuinely lead God’s people?

I beseech you to connect with Dave and Sue, and listen to them. Then ask them and the Lord to show you to what degree you may need to account to them and ask their forgiveness. Personally, I think we shafted them, and I know that I, for one, never really listened to their side of things, nor did I ever contact them after they were ejected to see how they were doing.

If we did mistreat them, and we look at this in terms of profit and loss to STF, what we have to lose by going to them in repentance is, perhaps, some pride. What we have to gain is God’s blessing, and the restoring of two quality saints to our ministry family, people who are willing to once again pour out their lives in service to God’s people and stand with us for Him. I love you dearly.

Your brother in Christ,


[My comments on 10/4/09: Upon receiving this letter, the STF Board did little, if anything, about it, other than to chastise me for writing about the Graesers when they were suing me for defamation of character. Sorry, but my conscience would not allow me to remain silent. To my knowledge, none of the Board did, or has yet done, anything to try to rectify this grievous situation.]

Last Updated ( Sunday, 25 October 2009 )