Report on IIWO Donors Meeting about Gary Kent Dismissal

Posted May 27, 2017 by Adrian Ebens in Adventist Issues Hits: 1,350

Updated and Expanded May 29. Provided from witnesses at the meeting

A group of around 300 donors gathered at an It Is Written Oceania Conference on the Gold Coast on May 27, to hear the evidence as to why Pr Gary Kent had been dismissed. Before the meeting began donors had organised to put a petition to the South Pacific Division leadership to reinstate Gary. They planned to refuse to donate anything to the fund raising weekend. 

A group of donors put together a sign saying bring back Pr Gary Kent, that had about 8 messages written on it from various Partners at the event, wishing well to Gary and hoping he would stay strong and continue doing God’s work.

The Sabbath meetings remained relatively calm in comparison to what happened after sunset from 6:30PM to 8:30PM. The evening event began, by one of the four leaders walking up onto the stage and reading from a legal form on his phone, stating “We do not give permission for any video recording, secret audio recordings on iPhones or other devices, and we are about to turn off the Live Stream transmission to Social Media, any who would like to tune back in can do so at 8:30AM tomorrow morning.” The whole atmosphere became tense; various people were muttering amongst each other about rumours and words like “Powerplay” were mentioned frequently in regards to the reason Gary was strong-armed out.  Pr G. Townend tried to begin the meeting with a humorous story to try to lighten the mood, but the audience was having nothing of it. One person in the room said loudly that he didn’t care about his story. One other person said, "We have had to stomach your vomit all day!" Various people in the crowd were heckling and asking questions loudly to the four leaders at the front. 

The Division leaders said they could only say some things that “weren’t” the reason for Pr Gary Kent being dismissed. They said that there was no sexual misconduct involved in the dismissal. As the atmosphere in the room became a little tense, somebody asked the question on a piece of paper, “Would Gary Kent be able to continue on the multiple speaking (appointments) he has booked at churches in the near future in the capacity of Pastor or Minister”, and the leadership told the crowd that they were considering the status of Pr Kent's credentials, as they were currently up for an annual review, people pleaded that his credentials remain, as the events he has agreed to speak at were important and said that surely bringing people to Jesus was more important than a simple issue at work. The crowd weren’t happy that they didn’t answer this question completely; they never confirmed whether they would allow him to keep his credentials.

The leadership did not provide any substantial evidence to warrant the decision taken. There was much discussion on the trademark issue, an official document was produced by a substantial financial partner, stating, “It Is Written International submitted a request of return of the Trademark of It Is Written Oceania to them, on specific request of Jennifer White.” And this document was met with Pr. Townend, stating “I am not aware of any such document, I’m sorry”, and the crowd booed at them. The same man also produced an official document, stating that the dismissal of any Speaker for It Is Written Oceania had to be cleared and Vetoed by It Is Written International, and that this was never done at all as the series of events that led to Pr Gary Kent’s dismissal was hasty and suspicious at least. At this question, Pr. Townend did not answer at all.

One older gentleman stated that he had taken the letter that was emailed out to all the Partners/Donors explaining that Pr. Gary Kent had been dismissed, and took it to a friend who was a defamation lawyer, and he stated that Gary Kent should sue them for between 5 and 7 million dollars.
After questions from the floor continuing the tense atmosphere, many questions weren’t fully answered. Three donors came to the platform per request of the four leaders on the stage, and sat alongside the leaders to ask questions.

To see a picture of Jesus behind the stage and considering the mood of the meeting, it makes the whole situation seem distressing, that four men could sit on a stage and hear the pleas of the donors that fund the entire project, and ignore them.  Despite the prayers of Pr Townend and the other leaders, their hearts were not right in that moment and that was clear. It appears evident so far that the Division cannot provide a valid reason to satisfy the donors. Sadly, amongst some of the donors present there was a negative attitude towards the Division leadership, and this unchrist-like spirit will make Pr Gary Kent feel sad.

The night continued, and at multiple stages, Pr. Townend referred to the audience in the derogatory term of “You people” and played the victim, saying “I know what you people want, you… I know what you really want here; I saw the sign out the front with “Bring back Pr Gary Kent. I’m not sure if I was supposed to see that, but I did”, and this attitude fuelled the negativity in the room even more. He also stated he had been learning and looking long and hard into the background of Business, and reading up on business. Which didn’t restore any sense of trust or hope in him from the audience.

The fall out from this meeting remains to be seen but it would appear that the division is going to take a substantial financial hit to their support. A question was asked, “Is it possible to receive full refunds for our donations?”, and then it was asked, “Can we have a show of hands who would like their donations refunded, and almost the entire room put the hands into the air, at least three quarters. Pr Townend brought somebody else’s name up who wasn’t present in the room at the time and said if they’d like a refund they should contact that person. It was a poor attempt at diplomacy, their excuse simply that “This motion is still in play, it’s still in discussion and so we cannot comment on that,” to multiple questions just wasn’t enough for the crowd. It remains to be seen how much momentum this group will gather in righting what they have determined is a complete injustice to Pr Gary Kent. 

With the Division men refusing to provide the reasoning behind this seemingly unfair dismissal based on the paper evidence that was submitted, the whole situation will continue to spiral and the church will be divided by such a small matter. The event ended with Pr. Townend stating he really needed to leave, for a flight to Fiji and couldn’t answer any more questions. This wasn’t met well. He rushed some more answers to questions that were pushed and a short prayer before leaving. A final question was “Can we get complete confirmation that Pr Gary Kent’s credentials will remain, right now?” and he said, “No, I can’t give that, as I said previously this is still in discussion.”

Despite the negativity and hostility at times, at many occasions, people stood up to thank the administration for their work and contributions, as well as prayers said for them and the crowd. Much positivity was spread, some very heartfelt pleas were heard and statements regarding Gary Kent’s character and vouching for his actions in the past, which was met by many simple, “We hear what you are saying” by the Administration, to people muttered “Yes, but are you going to do anything about it?”

We pray that Pastor Kent can calm those who seek to help him and the Division leadership church back down from what the donors obviously feel is a very bad decision, which goes against specific legal documents, and to which no reasonable explanation has been given. The donors clearly wanted answers, to which none were given.
It is a rocky road ahead for the South Pacific Division, if they continue to squander the possibilities in vain greed for personal gain, instead of edification and growth towards better days.

Just before Pr Townend left, his final agreement was that the three partners on the stage asking questions would become a liaison of sorts between the Division Administration and the donors. Pr. Townend believed this to be a sign of good faith and that trust would be created between them, that these unbiased individuals would be filled in on all matters relating to Pr Gary Kents dismissal, and then could forward that on. Pr Townend then stated he’d be out of contact for about a week, and any further actions to resolve this matter would need to wait or he could resolve them via Phone call. A final question was “Can we get complete confirmation that Pr Gary Kents credentials will remain, right now?” and he said, “No, I can’t give that, as I said previously this is still in discussion.“ He then rushed out, (he had a flight to catch) and the discussions continued.

Multiple movements were made after he had left. It was pointed out by a speaker, that every single Donor in the room was a IIWO Stakeholder because of their donations being the single form of funding for IIW, and that they had a voice in the decision making. And so, multiple movements were made for 30 minutes, with “show of hands” and “show of opposition” being used as the way of decision making.

A movement was made that because of the failure of returning that trademark to It Is Written International, it was direct show of opposition, as well as not consulting with It Is Written International when dismissing Pr. Gary Kent, and so a vote of no confidence was passed, to which three quarters of the room put their hands up and later, paper was passed around the room and signed by all who wishes the vote of no confidence to be approved and officially recognised in the future. It took 20 minutes for the room to fill out these papers as more moves were made. After the agreement for a vote of no confidence in the current administration, they began the process of choosing a new and current administration, and strategies were spoken, names were put forward, a second vote was put forward for 8 names written on a Whiteboard, and 5 of those names received enough votes to be considered for the 5 vacant positions that were now available in the administration. Later, a second movement was passed to “bench” the previous movement, and to resume at a later date, and discuss possible options of 1 member of administration retiring for the next four years to phase in new administration, or for these movements to be benched until further notice, which was suggested every month a meeting would be held. Despite the negativity and hostility at times, at many occasions, people stood up to thank the administration for their work and contributions, as well as prayers said for them and the audience.