Greenwich Gossip

Monday, June 23, 2008

More Thoughts on Tom Tewell

Well, another of Tewell's defenders from his Fifth Avenue days has entered the blog comment thread. Like everyone else from that church who has commented, "nychurchgoer" prefers to shelter behind the cloak of anonymity. Nothing wrong with that, of course; but it does make one wonder why none of the Tewell loyalists ever want to give their name.

Here is nychurchgoer's comment, written with the usual FAPC vagueness and lack of attention to English grammar:

Please. Do not post comments that allege things. Unless you find a quotation attributed to Tom. As you point out, he came to the Greenwich church September 2007. Does it seem credible to you that he would appear so close to NYC, where many people did show up who knew him, if what you quote would apply?

No, nychurchgoer, it does not seem credible to me that Tewell would appear on our doorstep here in Greenwich. It seems utterly incredible to me. It did back in September, and it still does now. Would you like to know why?

Your scribe was thinking over the weeked about the reasons that the latest news about Tewell bothers him so much, and in the best scribal tradition he has decided to do an intellectual analysis of his intestinal discomfort. This is what he wrote in the waning hours of yesterday evening:

Your scribe is still seething under the collar at the fact that the First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich had the temerity, bare-faced audacity, poor judgment, and execrable taste, not to mention downright stupidity, to invite self-admitted adulterer Tom Tewell to speak at the inauguration of its new $20 million building, and then to preach from the church pulpit the following Sunday. It was bad enough that former Senior Pastor Richard Stearns carried on as a serial adulterer with married women of our church at the local hot-sheets motel before his dismissal; did we really need to have more salt rubbed in that particular wound?

Apparently so. The message these days seems to be, do whatever you want to do, and it shall be covered up for you. Sin your paltry soul away, and the Presbyterian Church will find you a cushy high-paying job to reward you for your misdeeds. In official Presbyterian language, the Seventh Commantment now reads, "Thou shalt not commit personal indiscretions." Whee! Anything goes! Ain't America wonderful? Is this a great country, or what?!

It is clear to your scribe, at least, that Tewell is not in the least repentant about his adultery. When he was here in Greenwich he spent five minutes of his facile sermon telling an elaborate joke about "the A-word", as though to trivialize the sin of adultery itself. In the mouth of another preacher, this "joke" would have been merely tasteless. Coming from Tewell, it was downright blasphemous. Clearly the man has no sense of shame.

This is why your scribe is so disheartened that the "good old boy" network of the Presbyterian Church continues to support Tewell. He has admitted his adultery, but he shows no shame or remorse. When he came to Greenwich, he treated it all as a big joke. Methinks that had Jesus Christ Himself been present in the First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich on that day, He would have simply walked out at that point.

In the Christian tradition, forgiveness is granted to those who truly repent and promise contrition and amendment of life. Tewell is clearly as uncontrite as it is possible for a person to be. Let's all have a big laugh about the A-word, shall we, and tell Tom Tewell what a great and gifted preacher he is. Just don't look to see JC back in the pews anytime soon.

And that, dear reader, is why your scribe is so appalled that Tewell has been given one of the highest-paying jobs in the Presbyterian Church.

Perhaps we should put up large billboards on the roadways into Town: "You are now entering Greenwich, Connecticut. Adulterers welcome."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tom Tewell Lands on His Feet

Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader named George Houston (George, are you the George Houston I used to know at Georgetown?), news has come that Tom Tewell (see the scribal posts of 9/17/07 (9/17/2007 12:43:00 PM) and 10/3/07 (10/03/2007 09:58:00 AM) about his visit to Greenwich) has landed a new job after leaving Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in disgrace and being censured by the Presbytery of New York City. He is moving to the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, but with terms and conditions attached. To quote the official Presbytery document:

Tom will enter the presbytery under censure by the Presbytery of New York City for personal indiscretions in his position of pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City.

In other words, Tewell is still on a short leash. But his move to Atlanta will be very worthwhile. Here is his compensation package:

Salary - $145,000
Housing Allowance - $50,000
Benefits including Pension, Medical and Continuing Education - $80,775
Total - $275,775

His new job title is Executive Director of the Pilot Project on Renewing Presbyterian Pastors. In this capacity he will "seek to renew the spiritual lives of clergy in order to create a culture of spiritual growth in congregations who are experiencing declining membership, financial instability and loss of hope."

Hmm...interesting job description. Given the chaos he left behind him at Fifth Avenue, Tewell's would not be the first name that springs to mind to serve in such a capacity. But since he is not permitted, under the terms of his censure, to serve in a parish ministry, perhaps the old-boy network of the Presbyterian Church found him this job instead. And a cushy one it is.

So there it is, dear reader: break the Ten Commandments and maybe you, too, will be offered a job worth $275,775. By a mainstream Protestant church, no less. Will wonders never cease?


George Houston has left a comment along with a very interesting link. Since hotlinks seem not to transfer into the comment section, your scribe is pasting George's comment in the body of the post:

I'm not that George Houston. Here's more info on his new job, tho:

Apparently Tewell has admitted his adultery to the Presbytery of New York City. This was new news to your scribe, who was unaware of this confession. Oh, and let's not overlook the fact that adultery is now officially described as "personal indiscretions". Wow! Shall we rewrite the Bible, dear reader, so that the Seventh Commandment says, "Thou shalt not commit personal indiscretions"?

Also interesting is the statement that "The Presbyterian Church has created a job for him...." While your scribe suspected that might be the case, it's always disheartening to learn that suspicions like this are correct. O tempora, O mores!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Does She or Doesn't She?

Only her hairdresser knows for sure. And perhaps Susan Bysiewicz, Secretary of the State of Connecticut.

Lee Whitnum was all over the local airwaves this morning, loudly proclaiming that she has enough signatures to force a primary with Jim Himes for the 4th Congressional District here in the Nutmeg State. Secretary B acknowledged that Ms. W had roughly half the needed number as of yesterday morning, with more signatures still being checked. Ms. W has called a press conference in Norwalk for this afternoon, at which she will presumably claim that she is now entitled to force a primary.

Though from Connecticut, your scribe is also from Missouri on this topic. Does Ms. W really have the necessary sigs? 'Twill be interesting to see what the official word is from Secretary B.

Meanwhile, Ms. W is buzzing around as manically as ever. She accosted your scribe this morning in the library and told him she "has a bone to pick" with him. But as she traipsed back and forth from terminal to printer, perhaps already printing campaign materials at Greenwich taxpayers' expense, she did not elaborate. Then she flitted out, on her way to whatever appointment with destiny awaits her. The bone will apparently have to be picked at a later date.

Your scribe was interested to see that Ms. W seems to know who he is, despite her earlier assertions to the contrary. When he wrote the post, "The Silly Season Gets Sillier," [2/15/2008 02:05:00 PM] back in February, he received the following communication from Ms. W:

Lee Whitnum here. Bill I don’t know who you are you and I don’t recall ever meeting you. You are a liar.

Ouch! Plenty to be pained about here, from the regrettable grammar and syntax to her lack of sound memory to the childish (and manifestly incorrect) name-calling. Ms. W and your scribe go back several years, to a spot not twenty feet from where she was standing this morning, where we were introduced by a mutual friend. Ms. W whipped out a business card and presented it to your scribe in honor of the fact, as she put it, that we were both authors. (After she left, the friend filled the scribal ear with tales of Ms. W that cannot be repeated in a family blog. Not that this is a family blog, of course; but your scribe does have his journalistic standards, and unlike Ms. W he does not descend to trash talk.)

And so, dear reader, the question remains: Does she or doesn't she? No doubt we will find out soon enough. If she does, we will have the entertainment of watching a primary race between her and Mr. Himes. If she doesn't, the legend of Lee Whitnum will be the richer by yet another chapter. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gary Kriss Gets Caught

Your scribe loves stories in which karma comes around to bite the ungodly in the backside. In his experience, this happens just about 100% of the time, sooner if not later. It's possible that karma is actually batting a thousand, since some of the ungodly vanish from the scribal radar screen before the karmic zap occurs; who's to know what happens to these wretches once they sneak away to parts unknown?

A Westchester grand jury has recently issued two subpoenas in its investigation of Kriss, who allegedly spent "more than $12,000 [of taxpayer monies] on electronics, software and books, with much of it shipped to his home," according to The Journal News, whose staffer Seth Harrison took the photo above. The postman at 169 Laurel Ridge in South Salem has been kept pretty busy, it seems. Said Board of Legislators Vice Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, "[Kriss] got his fingers stuck in the cookie jar."

About time. Some two decades ago Kriss was one of the honchos at the Second Congregational Church here in Greenwich, acting as an enforcer for the Black Pope of the church, the late unlamented Reg Jones. Both men were actively trying to cover up "Spencergate", the flamboyant affair being carried on by the very unreverend assistant minister Becky Spencer with the son of her superior, the equally unreverend senior minister Mert Rymph. The venue for this hot-sheets trysting was the church parsonage, less than half a stone's throw from the church itself. No doubt the devout parishioners who had built the house well over a century earlier were turning over in their graves in the nearby cemetery. A minister of the Gospel fornicating in the church parsonage? Spencer and both Rymphs would have been tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail if those God-fearing Christians were still alive.

Now, your scribe is no bluenose, and he enjoys sex as much as the next man or woman. But there are certain proprieties to be observed, not to mention some pesky canon laws bearing on the subject of unmarried ministers getting it on with others, particularly members of their congregation. Not to mention the offspring of their direct supervisor, always a managerial no-no. Becky Spencer and her paramour Doug Rymph were a ticking time bomb waiting to topple the hollow steeple at the top of the hill.

Thus it was that Reg Jones, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the General Electric Corporation, a chain smoker and environmental polluter the likes of which this nation has rarely seen, confidante and advisor of Presdent Richard M. "Tricky Dick" Nixon, and master of the cover-up extraordinaire, decided to circle the wagons around the hapless Becky and her boy toy Doug. The truth about their affair was clearly unpalatable and damaging to the church; therefore Reg and his henchman Gary Kriss decided to resort to the Big Lie.

Jones and Kriss issued a challenge to a group of concerned individuals, your scribe (not surprisingly) among them, to attend a meeting with members of the church council to lay to rest the "false and malicious rumors" that were threatening to split the church apart. Two identical tape recorders were placed on the conference table, one tape to be retained by each side. The attack began. Your scribe and his friends were castigated by Jones and Kriss for even suggesting that Becky Spencer was not a pure and spotless virgin, let alone a shameless hussy carrying on night after night in the church parsonage. There were laws of libel and slander, we were told, and unless we had explicit photographic proof of Becky and Doug's in flagrante shenanigans, we were to zip our lips henceforth and forevermore.

Taken aback by this frontal attack, your scribe felt as though he had wandered into Wonderland, where ordinary reality no longer obtained. Reg Jones, Gary Kriss, Jim Dean, and the other church council members took an unequivocal stand: there was no affair, your scribe and anyone else who said anything to the contrary were liars, and that was to be the end of the matter.

Except, of course, it wasn't. The church secretary, who lived in an apartment in the parsonage, knew the true facts of the situation, since she could see and hear Doug's car roll in at dusk and leave at dawn. Doug's father Mert had said sadly to your scribe, once he realized how badly his son's and his subordinate's misbehavior was damaging the church, "I thought there was some health in it...." Finally, after some two hours of acrimony and debate, church elder Phyllis Jacob acknowledged that the Big Lie wasn't going to work. "Everybody knows it's true," she said.

Reg and Gary immediately seized the tape recorders, claiming one of them had "malfunctioned". They said they would make a copy of the remaining tape and provide one to each side. But they never did, of course - Reg had learned all he needed to know about tape recorders from Tricky Dick. Gary Kriss later stated that both machines had malfunctioned, and therefore there were no tapes. He was lying through his teeth, of course.

Well, Reg is dead of cancer (no surprise there) and Gary is now under scrutiny for an apparent lack of financial integrity (no suprise there, either). Becky Spencer was given the usual Greenwich treatment of a farewell party as she was foisted off on an unsuspecting out-of-state church. Mert Rymph looks prematurely old these days, and who knows what has happened to poor simple Doug? Well, karma probably does. And that's all that really matters.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

When is a Cupcake Not a Cupcake?

When it's an ice-cream cup?

Or perhaps a birthday cake, as first reported? Or merely a "birthday treat", as whatever-it-was is now being called?

Details are murky surrounding the suspension of Glenville Elementary School Principal Marc D'Amico. Apparently a parent tried to deliver "birthday treats" to his daugher's class, by prearrangement with the teacher, as is customary at the school. Principal D'Amico told him he could not do this, citing a "regulation" in the school's student handbook. The parent, taken aback, protested that there was no such regulation. And guess what? The parent was right.

Which did not deter Principal D'Amico from carrying out a little ex-post-facto charade to justify his unjustifiable behavior toward the parent. He cunningly went to his office computer and immediately typed a new regulation into the student handbook banning "birthday treats" from the classrooms at Glenville School. "There," he must have thought to himself, "I sure fixed that guy's wagon."

Oops. Principal D'Amico fixed his own wagon instead. Unaware that his little addition to the handbook was date- and time-stamped by the school's computer, he strutted around loudly proclaiming his own righteousness in the contretemps, and that he had just been doing his job in barring the parent from the classroom birthday celebration. His boss, the Deputy Superintendant of Schools, called to discuss the situation. Was there indeed a regulation in the handbook about "birthday treats"? Oh, yes, Principal D'Amico assured her. How long had it been there? Ages and ages, came the reply.

Well, that little lie has cost Principal D'Amico a month's pay. He was immediately suspended from his duties, and today it was announced that his suspension without pay will be continued until the end of June. Thereafter, he will be reinstated in his job at Glenville School, but will be on probation for the next twelve months.

Should Principal D'Amico's lie have cost him his job? Actually, he apparently lied several times regarding his unauthorized editorial addition to a public document. He has since apologized, but one wonders how sincerely he means it. Would he have owned up to his behavior if the computer had not tripped him up? The pattern of repeated falsehoods suggests, probably not.

Well, it appears that the unprincipled principal will keep his job, albeit with terms and conditions. He has blotted his copybook, and one suspects that further advancement will not be coming his way. In the old days, a severe schoolmarm might have made him wear a sign around his neck for a week or two - "I told a lie" - and made him sit in the corner during recess. Oh, and of course stay after school to clean the blackboard and erasers.

One bets that Principal D'Amico wishes he could have erased those tiny computer telltales that proved his word was meaningless and that he could not be trusted to speak the truth. But it's too late now. He has agreed to his punishment and the sanctions imposed by the administration. He has apologized again to the parent and his supervisors. And so he will keep his job.

We all make mistakes. Principal D'Amico has made a doozy. The question to be asked is whether a mistake is an honest one, or a dishonest one. Your scribe believes there is a large difference between the two, and is not certain whether he agrees with the school administration's leniency. He wishes he could consult with his own kindergarten teacher, the formidable Miss Work (who once washed out the scribal mouth with soap when he protested one of her decisions) on this matter. But she has long since gone to her reward in the great Classroom in the sky. In her absence your scribe turns to you, dear reader. How do you feel about the case of the unprincipled principal?