Monday, September 17, 2007

Guess Who's Coming to Greenwich?

As if the scandal-ridden tenures of serial adulterer Dick Stearns and serial philanderer Becky Spencer weren't enough to blacken the names of their respective churches, let alone our Town in general, we now have the un-reverend Tom Tewell (he's been debarred by the Presbyterian Church from serving as a minister) coming here to Greenwich to speak.

Parishioner Sues Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Saying Pastor Seduced Wife - ExChristian.Net - News and Opinion

Your scribe is scratching his head in bewilderment. As the younger generation would say, WTF? Is this the kind of person we need addressing our citizens, let alone a church group that is still recovering from the notorious Dick Stearns himself?

One hopes that the First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich will reconsider its invitation for Tewell to speak at the church ten days hence. Even for a town with as checkered as history as ours, this one should be a no-brainer!


Rev. Thomas Tewell suspended for affair

So if he's been debarred from "formally or informally working in any Presbyterian parish until 2009," why is he coming to the First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich? No doubt he will be getting travel expenses, some kind of honorarium, and perhaps even a hotel room (yikes!!) at church expense. If that's not "formally or informally" working the system, what is?

Oh, and just to bring everyone up to date: now that the husband has collected an undisclosed monetary settlement from Fifth Avenue Presbyterian, the wife has just recently decided to file a suit of her own:


And this is the man who is to be the "guest of honor" at a special dinner celebrating the completion of First Presbyterian's new $20 million building?!

The mind boggles, dear reader. Only in Greenwich could such a farce be taking place...


Your scribe ran into Sandy Herman at the library yesterday. Sandy was co-chair, along with Lisa Bienstock, of the building committee. She informed your scribe that she and Lisa had nothing to do with Tewell being invited to speak at the celebration dinner - the word had come down from the "senior leadership" of the church. She was clearly not happy about this, and wondered what effect it would have on attendance at the dinner.

She then went on to drop a bombshell: Tewell will indeed be spending the night in Greenwich, and will be preaching from the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church the next day. Your scribe is utterly aghast. He has therefore sent an email to the Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of New York City, the body that issued the censure:

A number of us who belong to the First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich, CT, are upset to learn that Thomas Tewell will be preaching at our church on Sunday, September 30, and also addressing a special dinner the evening before (September 29) to celebrate the opening of our new church building.

My understanding is that the Presbytery of New York City has debarred Mr. Tewell "from formally or informally working in any Presbyterian parish until 2009 as part of a written censure issued by the New York City Presbytery on Thursday." [from a newspaper article]

If this is true, is not Mr. Tewell violating the terms of the censure? He will undoubtedly receive an honorarium for the dinner speech and the sermon, travel expenses, and hotel accomodations. To me, this would appear to be "working" in a Presbyterian parish and being compensated for that "work".

Those of us who would greatly prefer not to have to have Mr. Tewell in our midst - and, as you may know, our church is still recovering from the scandal of the serial adulteries with women of the parish carried on by Richard Stearns, a former senior minister of our church - would be grateful if you would take a look at this situation and determine if it meets the letter and the spirit of Mr. Tewell's suspension.

Thank you for your prompt consideration of this matter.

The EP sent a reply that seems to indicate that Tewell did an end run. He went to the Presbytery of Southern New England and sought permission from them to come and preach in Greenwich. Even though the New Yorkers expressed their concern, the Southern New Englanders gave him the green light.

So, ladies and gentlemen, we will have yet another serial adulterer gracing the pulpit at First Prebyterian. Same old, same old. One would like to think that life in this Town might get better, not worse, but that seems to be a mere pipe dream.

So lock up your wives and girlfriends on the night of September 29. Tom Tewell is coming to Greenwich, whether we like it or not.

Update: September 21

Well, the comments are coming in thick and fast. The most recent comments were written by two people who seem to be defending Tewell, and your scribe has done his best to do justice to the first commenter in the blog thread.

The second commenter, like the first, appears to have joined Blogspot only yesterday simply in order to leave a comment or three for your scribe. Their blank home pages had no hits until your faithful reporter himself paid a visit and was informed he was the first and only visitor to date. Nothing wrong with this, of course; but it's clear that these two people are new to the blogosphere, and are putting in an appearance pro haec vice.

Since your scribe knows of no way to sequence the comments into their logical order - they are posted according to the time they were sent - he is placing the following comment directly into the blog so as to be able to reply to it in a sequential fashion:

FifthAveland has left a new comment on your post "Guess Who's Coming to Greenwich?": So you have proof of your allegations about these men and women you mention?Newspaper stories based on what? Read the most recent Post piece.And the censure specifically permits visits to churches.

Welcome to Blogspot, FifthAveland, and thank you for your comment. First of all, other than Tewell himself, your scribe does not recall mentioning "men and women." If Dick Stearns and Becky Spencer are meant, well, yes, there is proof aplenty of their misdeeds. But as for the FAPC situation, only Tewell has been mentioned by name.

In your scribe's first reply to T v. G in the blogthread, the facts as he understands them are laid out, 1, 2, 3. All opinions expressed are based on those facts.

"Newspaper stories based on what?" Your scribe is at a loss to answer this question, as he is unable to understand it. The Post reported on Tewell's suspension, and later on the fact that the woman in the case had filed suit against Tewell two months ago. Those are presumably verifiable facts; the first was confirmed in yesterday's email from the Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of New York City, and the second is presumably a matter of public record.

Your scribe would love to read the most recent Post piece. Is it a retraction of the earlier pieces? Can you provide a date? (It doesn't seem to come up on Google.)

As to the censure allowing Tewell to visit churches, this assertion would seem to be contradicted by the EP's email, which stated that he had to receive permission from the Presbytery of Southern New England. If what you say is correct, why would such permission be necessary?

And so, dear reader, we enter another day of the "Guess Who's Coming to Greenwich?" controversy.

Saturday, September 21:

Clearly this is a topic which needs to be fully and fairly aired, and thus your scribe will be making periodic updates as warranted by new information and/or developments.

The most important of these new developments is a lengthy email from the Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Southern New England, The Rev. Dana Lindsley. Not wishing to be accused of selective editing, your scribe will quote it in full:

Dear William,

Thank you for your note about Tom Tewell's visit to Greenwich. It is an important issue that you appropriately raise and I'm glad you asked about it.

You are right that Rev. Tewell was temporarily excluded from any form of ministry by the Presbytery of New York City. When the invitation went to him, it was also forwarded to the Committee on Ministry of our Presbytery in Southern New England. They were asked if he could preach at that service and give a talk as he had been temporarily excluded from ministry. We all felt that it would be inappropriate for him to do this type of preaching and speaking ministry if he were excluded from doing ministry. The Committee on Ministry of our presbytery contacted the COM of the Presbytery of New York City as they are the body that is supervising the temporary exclusion.

We discovered from that COM that the time frame for the exclusion will have ended by the time of the engagement at Greenwich and that there would be no formal impediment to his accepting the invitation. Therefore, the COM in our presbytery did not take any action to either approve or disapprove of the request to have Rev. Tewell preach. Consistent with the Book of Order, the session of First Church has the responsibility to oversee worship, and the pastor of the church has the exclusive responsibility and authority over the preaching of the Word.

As to the advisablity of having Rev. Tewell preach given the history of First Church, that is a matter most appropriately dealt with on a session level. Specifically for this event with this guest preacher, there is no formal or constitutional reason for not permitting him to serve in this way.

I hope this answers your question. I would be glad to discuss this matter with you if for some reason this email does not fully address your concerns. Again, thank you for asking ... I am pleased to know that you have the ministry of the church and of Jesus Christ at heart!

Yours in Christ,

The Rev. Dana F. Lindsley
Executive Presbyter
Presbytery of Southern New England

Let it never be said, dear reader, that the Presbyterian Church is lacking in faithful servants. Dana obviously spent a great deal of time responding to your scribe's concerns, and your scribe hereby publicly expresses his gratitude.

Bottom line: Tewell's suspension is over, and he can go wherever and do whatever he wants. This does not square with the newspaper report that the suspension was to last until 2009; but we all know that newspapers do not always get all of their facts correct. Or, it may be, the suspension was shortened for some reason or other.

Dana's letter makes it clear that if the suspension had still been in effect, Tewell would not have been allowed to come to Greenwich. As it was, the Presbytery's Committee on Ministry took no position, believing it to be more properly a matter for the local session.

Did the session at the First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich approve the invitation to Tewell? Did they even know about it? These are questions to which your scribe has no answer at the moment.

You will note, dear reader, that Dana's letter mentions the "advisability" - and by extension, the lack thereof - of having Tewell preach "given the history" of the Dick Stearns episode. Again, several questions occur to the scribal mind:

Does anyone on the present session remember the bad old days of Dick Stearns? Are the senior minister and other clergy aware of the depth and breadth of Stearns's womanizing with parish members he was "counselling" at the hot-sheets motel? And does anyone care?

Well, dear reader, this is Greenwich, after all, where all the rules are made to be broken, and where the more outrageous your behavior, the more likely you are to get money and awards from the Town fathers. Stearns himself received a "purse" of money from the church in order to continue his "studies", even as he was blatantly stealing funds and sleeping around. The problem, you see, is that the then session didn't want to face up to his misdeeds, because it would have made them look bad as well for failing to do something about the situation.

But coverups never work, as Nixon learned to his cost, and the truth has an odd way of coming out despite all efforts to suppress it. Meanwhile, however, good people get hurt. And so it is here in Greenwich.

Quite likely there will be some of Dick Stearns's victims in church when Tewell preaches. What kind of message will they read into his appearance here? That the Presbyterian Church no longer believes the Seventh Commandment is relevant to our time and our society?

The "Wicked Bible", published in 1631, omitted the word "not" from the Seventh Commandment. This may well have been the Bible that the founders of our Town used a few years later when they came to Greenwich. So why should we be surprised that adultery has always been in fashion in this Town, and apparently always will be? Hell, even the churches are promoting it.


Blogger Erica Ridley said...

As the younger generation would say, WTF
LOL. You have such a way with words. Er, acronyms. =)

Sounds like some drama is en route to Greenwich...

September 18, 2007 9:22 AM  
Blogger Vicki said...

Wonder who will actually go hear him speak?

Well, probably qutie a few will go just to hear what he has to say. However, I wonder who will go that actually wants to hear and believe his words?

September 18, 2007 1:34 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Sadly, the creep has been invited to speak at a church dinner celebrating the completion of a $20 million building project. It's supposed to be a festive get-together thanking everyone who worked to make the new building a reality. I simply can't understand why the powers that be would cram such a revolting creature down our throats on such an occasion.

The scribal mind boggles.

September 18, 2007 1:51 PM  
Blogger Vicki said...

One tends to wonder if money exchanged hands between the creep and the church.

Being very involved in my old church I found it sad to see how the ones who gave large sums of money (or their families gave)were treated much different.

September 18, 2007 4:39 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

I suspect there's some sort of old boy network here, Vicki, whether it involves money or not. You're right: all churchgoers are theoretically equal, but some are more equal than others, as Orwell would say.

September 19, 2007 11:10 AM  
Blogger truth vs gossip said...

if you only knew the truth !
The people who accused Tom were foreclosed on by Citibank a few months before Joe Vione accused
Tom Tewell of using marital
counseling to get close to his wife.
He only ended up with $50M after looking for $6MM in the end because there was no case.
Rachel told the committee of the presybtery that nothing went on between Tom and herself - that she was just trying to keep her marriage from falling apart but after she was not admitted back into the ministerial program and Joe got nothing. She changed her story making all sorts of accusations.

When the investigation went on Rachel told the committee that only something very slight happened
which the committee found could be seen either way. tom is a person who shows affection in a sincere way. It is now rather obvious that Rachel set Tom up in order to Joe to make an accusation. So that they could solve their money problems. The divorce action was put to rest last spring - no surprise.
The investigation committee findings were that only something very slight in the form of touching happened that could be seen either way. However the head of the judicial committee who should have recused himself (and did not saying he could be fair)
decided to rewrite and make it sound much worse and give an increbily harsh sentence - obviously trying to cover up that an investigation never should have happened and the presbytery never should have taken up the accusations. There were agenda people involved in this whole mishandling. Who did much harm to FAPC. Fortunately there are people who realize that Tom was not treated well - such as churches who have had the wisdom to invite Tom.
Just thank heaven you have not had to endure what Tom has and have some respect for the way Tom handled himself with humility to see the lessons God had for him in this trial - unfair as it was.
He has come out on the other side
gaining much wisdom and insight
because he had the right attitude
of submission to Gods will.

Lets be mature and well informed
shall we ?

September 20, 2007 7:28 PM  
Blogger truth vs gossip said...

the Viones were foreclosed on by Citibank several months before
Joe accused Tom of using marital couseling to get close to his wife.
He only got $50M in the settlement
which meant he had NO case - he was suing for $6MM - an attempt to get out of bankruptcy.

WAKE UP everyone !

September 20, 2007 7:35 PM  
Blogger truth vs gossip said...

It is a very destructive act to spread gossip which as we all know turns out most of the time to be untrue ! And who would use the NY Post for the basis which slants stories so as to sell papers and not interested in telling facts
that would lessen the sensationalism.

This kind of behavior not only hurts the intended victim who is weakened but even more so the gossip themselves.

It is a very evil thing to do as it is a tool of Satan - loose tongue
and one who knows better would be
ashamed to be a "Greenwich Gossip"

I will be interested to see if the blog manager posts the opinions that are contradict his writeup
of Tom Tewell

September 21, 2007 8:59 AM  
Blogger Erica Ridley said...

Wow, that's crazy!

Erica <-- whose mind is also boggling

September 21, 2007 9:45 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Dear T v. G:

Thank you for taking the time to write. In fact, I see that you have written three times since yesterday afternoon, and I will address each of your posts in turn.

First of all, I believe in truth-telling. We had a situation here in Greenwich a few years just like the one reported about Tom Tewell. Our then senior pastor, Dick Stearns, carried on a series of adulterous affairs at the local "hot-sheets" motel with various married women of the parish under the guise of "counselling". We were sick at heart to learn of this. Stearns left under a huge cloud which included allegations of taking money and services from the church to which he was not entitled, but he hired a high-priced lawyer who managed to get him off the hook. Instead of being permanently defrocked, as the Presbytery had wanted, he got a slap on the wrist.

So as you can see, our wounds are still raw, and even the thought of another Dick Stearns coming to our church makes many of us profoundly unhappy.

I have never met Tewell (though I knew his predecessor Bryant Kirkland), and have no first-hand knowledge of the situation. But the facts, I believe, such as you have stated them, speak for themselves.

1) The church paid out $50,000 to settle Mr. Vione's claim. This was news to me, and I thank you for sharing it. I consider that a fairly substantial settlement for a civil matter that entailed no monetary loss or physical injury.

2) Tewell was in fact disciplined by the Presbytery of New York City. I received a confirming email yesterday from the Executive Presbyter, who stated that they are continuing to "supervise his rehabilitation." In my experience, such suspension and supervision is reserved for only the most egregious cases of clerical wrongdoing. The Presbyterian system requires hard evidence before any action is taken. Clearly there was such evidence.

3) According to one of the links I posted, it seems that Tewell may have had a history of inappropriate touching, or worse. Apparently there was an earlier incident several years before at FAPC itself. It may be that the Presbytery took the whole pattern of accusations into account when making its decision.

Based on the foregoing, it is clear to me that the projected visit of Tewell to First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich is highly inappropriate. It just rubs salt into our still-painful wounds, and whoever came up with the idea of inviting him clearly was not acting in a caring and concerned pastoral way to our church community.

September 21, 2007 10:28 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Dear T v. G:

As to your second post, it doesn't seem to add anything to the first.

September 21, 2007 10:32 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Dear T v. G:

Your third post seems to add even less to the discussion. As stated in my reply to your first post, my opinions are based on things which I know to be facts.

I do agree that untrue gossip is a very harmful thing. The Letter of James in the New Testament, which says the same thing, has always been a favorite of mine for that very reason.

I chose the title "Greenwich Gossip" with my tongue firmly in cheek. I have not, and never would, spread malicious rumors that I know to be untrue. But I do, and I will, speak truth to those in power - again, as we are all urged to do by the Gospels.

Finally, I am reluctant to make ad hominem observations, but it is clear to any disinterested reader that by the time of your third post your grammer and thought patterns are disintegrating markedly. Obviously you feel strongly about the matter, but at this point you seem to be shedding more heat than light on the subject.

I also notice that you appear to have joined Blogger for the sole purpose of posting your comments. As of this morning, I am the first and only person to have visited your (empty) home page. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, but since you appear to be new to the blogosphere, please know that civility is preferred to abuse by most people in cyberspace.

September 21, 2007 10:47 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Morning, Erica!

It seems that Blogger inexorably posts comments in the time sequence in which they are sent. Thus I'm sure you were commenting on my post rather than the third comment of T v. G.

Yes, the whole thing is crazy. And getting crazier by the moment, it seems.

Do you know of any way to re-sequence comments so tnat they can be put into logical order? There's another comment waiting to be posted, but at this point it would just get lost in the shuffle, and I am reluctant to see that happen.

September 21, 2007 10:56 AM  
Blogger Erica Ridley said...

AFAIK, no, the comments post in chronological order, and that's that. Maybe if you hosted locally, you could edit the timedate stamp, but otherwise... huh-uh. Stuck. :(

September 21, 2007 12:15 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Thanks anyhow! I have gone ahead and inserted the other comment into today's update for discussion purposes.

September 21, 2007 12:44 PM  
Blogger lacey kaye said...

Uh, wow?

September 21, 2007 11:40 PM  
Blogger Vicki said...

Oh My!! I will say that the bible does say that everyone can be forgiven of their sins. And yes, if he has spent the time allotted him doing what was required and has truly repented then yes, God forgives and sends to the sea of forgetfulness.

That being said, I'm not thinking that having him come back to preach in the pulpit of the place where everything took place is the smartest thing.

Regardless of whether or not the man has changed, is sorry, will never do this again, or plans to continue doing the same thing over and over isn't even the real issue at this point. The real issue to me (IMVHO)is what this will do to the church.

There will be those who will support him and there will be those who will be hurt and/or angered. This is never a good thing to have a church divided.

So sorry this is going on in close quarters.

September 24, 2007 5:00 PM  
Blogger Erica Ridley said...

Where is Bill today? Could he (*gasp*) be taking a break from the blogosphere???


September 24, 2007 5:52 PM  
Blogger Vicki said...

Hey Bill, Just checking on you. We haven't seen you around for a few days and missed your wisdom and wit. :)

September 27, 2007 4:28 PM  
Blogger Sarah Darer Littman said...

Where are you GG? We miss you!

October 02, 2007 10:47 AM  
Blogger Laura C said...

a few weeks later... just curious as to how the whole weekend with Tewell went. He preached not too long ago at my parents' church, and they were very impressed. As a young female clergyperson, I'm constantly amazed at the kinds of things a middle-aged male clergyperson with a gift for preaching can get away with, and still be asked to come serve as a guest preacher somewhere. I'd also be interested in finding out how the Greenwich church has talked about the Stearns controversy since he left.

October 18, 2007 3:25 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Hi, Pastor Laura,

Thanks for your follow-up query. Personally, although I tried to keep an open mind, I found Tewell's performance - for such it seemed to me to be - facile and in very poor taste. You can read more of my reactions in the post for October 3, 2007 ("Of Shoes - and Ships - and Sealing Wax").

As a young female clergyperson, I'm constantly amazed at the kinds of things a middle-aged male clergyperson with a gift for preaching can get away with, and still be asked to come serve as a guest preacher somewhere.

That makes two of us (except that I'm not a young female clergyperson, of course). It's just not right, IMO.

The Saturday night dinner was poorly attended, I hear, and at least a few of the regular attendees stayed away on Sunday morning. But to hear the "buzz", Tewell walked on water. I, of course, do not agree, based on what I saw and heard.

As for Stearns, the Greenwich way is to try to sweep things under the rug and pretend everything is Disneyland-perfect. The session bascially tried to hush everything up and send him off as though to a well-deserved "retirement".

Personally, I do not agree with such behavior, which of late has created so many problems in the Roman Catholic Church, for example. But hypocrisy is high on the list of favored civic virtues here in Greenwich, and if you have ever read Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress", you will realize that the town he calls Vanity Fair is an exact spiritual prototype of Greenwich, Connecticut.

Please stay in touch!

October 19, 2007 9:46 AM  

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