Friday, September 21, 2012

Pastor Bob Grenier of Calvary Chapel to File Defamation Lawsuit Against Son and Blogger?

Not too long ago, I followed quite a few referral hits on my blog and came upon the Calvary Chapel News blog run by Alex Grenier.    Alex had been following my lawsuit story and shared my story on his blog.   Alex is the step-son of Pastor Bob Grenier of Calvary Chapel Visalia in California.  He also mentioned in that article the possibility of a defamation lawsuit against him by his father and pastor, so of course that shocked and intrigued me.

I did a bit more searching to find out the back story. You can find Alex's personal story here.  Below are a couple of paragraphs describing Alex's story in a nutshell and the purpose of the Calvary Chapel News blog:

My name is Alex Grenier. I am the son of Pastor Bob Grenier of Calvary Chapel Visalia. My brothers and I were physically abused by “Pastor Bob” for our entire time in his home. His board and elders, including Raul Ries (Calvary Chapel Golden Springs), Gary Ruff (Calvary Chapel Foothills) and David Rosales (Calvary Chapel Chino Valley) have ignored the allegations and the requests to have a face-to-face Matt.18 style meeting for Bob to answer his accusers and give his side of the story. Pastor Dave Rolph of Calvary Chapel Pacific Hills has agreed to mediate the meeting. Many requests have been made to Bob’s board, elders and staff…no response to date.
Bob is unrepentant and lying about his many abuses…both physically toward me and my brothers and my mother…and his spiritual abusiveness to many over the 30+ years he has been the pastor of Calvary Chapel Visalia. 
. . . . . . In August of 2009 my wife discovered a blog forum about people who had been “shown the door” by Bob/CCV…in this forum were accounts from people who had attended CCV who had been hurt by Bob and tossed aside. I read their stories, felt their pain…and I believed it was time to share my story. I began sharing and the blog exploded. More and more people began sharing their stories of Bob’s abuse and corruption. Many began contacting me privately. So many similarities and patterns of abuse. It truly makes me sick to realize Bob has gotten away with this stuff for over 30 years. Shame on Bob, shame on his board and elders. Shame on the Church

Alex's recent post indicates that attorneys representing Alex's parents, Pastor Bob and Gayle Grenier and Calvary Chapel Visalia, are in fact preparing to file a defamation lawsuit against Alex and four others who post on his blog.  Here we go again - another pastor is suing a blogger and those who dared to expose their experiences on a blog.

It was almost seven months ago I was first threatened by my former pastor with a lawsuit.  This threat was mentioned on a Google review.  I received the subpoena approximately two weeks later.  Of course Alex's situation is very close to my heart and it sure brings back all of those heightened feelings from that time.

Here is part of the notice from the attorneys:

“Our office represents Bob & Gayle Grenier and Calvary Chapel Visalia. The aforementioned parties intend to file a lawsuit in Tulare County Superior Court against individuals who have made defamatory statements against Bob Grenier and members of the Calvary Chapel Visalia Board of Directors.”
The letter specifically cites the following “individuals that have posted comments on the website as follows”:
1. Alex
2. NotAlone
3. Admin
4. Tina Jenkins
5. Edna Silva

Reading a bit of the Calvary Church Visalia situation, I have found there are similarities with my case, yet there are some distinct differences.

The obvious difference:  my former church was very small - maybe 100 members at the most.  Calvary Chapel Visalia has had around 1,000 regulars, but probably has considerably less attending now.

Some similarities:

Both churches have affiliations.  My former church was affiliated with Grace Brethren churches.  Calvary Chapel churches are connected with the Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel "fellowship of churches".  Both churches are independent, however, in that there is really no hierarchal structure that can discipline a pastor who is out of line.  The pastors in the other "sister" churches have their hands tied as to what they can do if there is a case of abuse or any sort of problem.

In both churches, there have been allegations of sexual abuse and spiritual abuse.  (Note:  the sex abuse I am referring to in my former church has to do with the former pastor not reporting a sex offender to authorities.  To my knowledge, no one has ever reported him to be a sex offender.) My former pastor's first job as pastor was at our former church.  Pastor Bob Grenier pastored a church briefly in Eugene, OR, but then went on to take the pastorate at Calvary Chapel Visalia.  Both pastors were inexperienced as pastors.  

Pastor Bob Grenier of Calvary Chapel Visalia

The picture of Pastor Bob Grenier and the biographical information below are taken from the Calvary Chapel Visalia church website.   Below is the extent of his personal information posted on the "About Me" page under the "Pastor Bob" tab.  

I was born in Winnipeg Canada. That is a city in the province of Manitoba, which is directly above our state of North Dakota.
Our family moved to Florida when I was in the 4th grade. We continued to live in Florida all the way through High School.
The Lord saved me on Feb 6th, 1973, and I entered full time ministry on Feb 12th, 1973, becoming part of the "Shiloh Ministry", which had grown out of Calvary Chapel in Southern California.
Gayle and I moved here to Visalia in the summer of 1978, and the Lord established Calvary Chapel Visalia. We are both deeply committed to "finishing our course well" See Acts 20, and are blessed beyond words to be serving Jesus Christ in this body of believers.
My personal vision for ministry is found in the book of Ephesians, chapter 4:11-16.

Please reread those dates that he was saved and went into ministry.  He was saved February 6, 1973 and entered full-time ministry six days later?  Is that a typo?  It's the same year 1973.  Six days after this dude was saved and he went into full-time ministry?  Who does that?!   What is going on here?  How can someone come off the streets after drugs/baggage and be fit for the pastorate?  That is pretty remarkable and I'm not suggesting that in a positive light.  Red flag warning!!

Scripture is pretty clear about issues like this.   Take a look at 1 Timothy 3 and especially verses 6 and 7.  I have underscored verses 6 and 7.

1It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

In the bio, you see his wife, Gayle, mentioned, but there is no mention of any children.  I've never seen a bio of a pastor not mention children and even possibly grandchildren.   Why would he leave out the names of his children?  Calvary Chapel is all about families.  Take a look at the website to see all the children's ministries.  Why would he fail to mention his own children   . . . .unless there was a problem???  Is this another red flag?  

I want to highlight this paragraph from Pastor Bob Grenier's bio:

Gayle and I moved here to Visalia in the summer of 1978, and the Lord established Calvary Chapel Visalia. We are both deeply committed to "finishing our course well" See Acts 20, and are blessed beyond words to be serving Jesus Christ in this body of believers.

Bob and Gayle Grenier are not young anymore.  They say they are committed to finishing their course well.  They are committed to finishing the course well by filing a lawsuit against their son and others who are sharing their opinions about what they deem to be abuse?  They are finishing well by cutting off family relationships?  Alex mentioned that his daughter hasn't seen her grandmother in years.  It is delusional thinking to file a lawsuit against a Believer, against scripture, and think you are finishing well.  Something is clearly wrong.  Who is paying for this lawsuit?  Is the church?  How would the congregants feel if their tithe money was used to support this lawsuit?  Here is more information on the payment of my expensive lawsuit.  

This no doubt is a challenging time for Alex and the others who will be named on the suit.  When you are being sued, it feels like life stops in some respects.  Finding an attorney is a challenging and time-consuming process.   You try to do normal tasks, but a dark cloud is over your head wondering all of the "what ifs" and "hows" and "whys".  I had a lot of people supporting me in my lawsuit.  I've told Alex and others on their blog that I will do whatever I can do to provide support and encouragement.  

I have more to share on this story later, but I wanted to alert my readers of this serious situation in which another pastor has apparently made the decision to go against scripture and sue not only Christians, but his own son.  

I would like to take the opportunity to issue a personal note to Pastor Bob Grenier.

Pastor Bob:
I don't know you, but please know my heart.  I care about people who are hurting.  Please consider my recent court case.  Take a look at my court documents.  Look at some of the media links on my right sidebar and be sure to read the comments.  Those links are only a fraction of the media/news/blogs that reported our story.  Look at the comments from strangers. Your case will be perceived very similarly to mine by the public - a pastor suing.  That doesn't look good.  Look at the amount of hits and comments:  
Young Turks Video - nearly 70,000 hits article - nearly 700 comments 
FBCJax Watchdog article - thorough investigation 
Most of the major media sites don't list the number of hits, but you can see hundreds of comments.  My own blog received 16 and 17 thousand hits in a 3-day period.  The story went around the world which was evident in my personal e-mails.
This was overwhelmingly negative attention that my former pastor received due to his choice to sue me and four others.  One news report mentioned that he received hate mail.  This media attention undoubtedly brought more disruption to the pastor, his family, and the church.  Is this what you are looking forward to?  If you do a quick search on my pastor's name or the name of the church, the legal case is found on pages and pages on Google.  Do you want your church to have the reputation as the suing church and suing pastor?  Learn from my former pastor's experience.
Instead, why don't you look at the claims of people on the Calvary Chapel blog.  If there is some truth, make amends.  Get help with mediation.  This is the right thing to do.   Bob, finish your course well.

Julie Anne Smith


  1. This post mysteriously vanished online, but thankfully, I found it in my Google reader so I was able to copy it and republish. So if you see 2 copies of the same article in your feeder, that's why! JA sighs ::::::whew:::::::!!!!

  2. What is he thinking?! That's crazy! If the allegations are true, he's obviously just trying to cover up his sin! We have some more praying to do!

    1. Isn't this what we were thinking when you-know-who sued us? Seriously! Can you say $60K court costs? Defamation cases are rarely won. I predict this pastor's name and church in spotlights in a negative way. What a waste of time, money, resources!

  3. Calvary Chapel is an episcopal hierarchy. Chuck can fire any Calvary Chapel pastor, anywhere in the world. At the local level, all Calvary Chapel pastors can fire and remove anyone in their church. Though he almost never does, Chuck could discipline the pastor.

    Love the post. Glad you got it back.

    1. Chuck Smith can fire a pastor? Whoa - I certainly wasn't getting that impression from the articles I read.

    2. It's telling that Jesus didn't make the authority chart.


    4. Calvary Chapel is an episcopal hierarchy. Chuck can fire any Calvary Chapel pastor, anywhere in the world. At the local level, all Calvary Chapel pastors can fire and remove anyone in their church.

      Would it be too much to describe Chuck Smith as Calvary Chapel's Pope? (Which is a real hoot, considering how so many Calvary Chapelites are foaming-at-the-mouth Anti-Catholic.)

  4. If Calvary Chapel is an episcopate form of church government, does that mean Pastor Chuck Smith not only can fire/discipline/remove pastors, but is also therefore ultimately responsible LEGALLY and PERSONALLY for the actions of local pastors in his denomination? Or is the macro-government form of the denomination not legally liable unless all local Calvary Chapels are legally part of the main church's non-profit?

    Anyone have legal input they can offer here? It seems that whether talking about criminal or civil matters at issue, the non-profit organizational system would potentially be relevant in terms of some kinds of resolutions ...

    1. There is a law suit that is making kind of that case. It is not that Chuck knew about he abuse, but that in all the Bible training he never once taught the pastors how to deal with sex abuse.

    2. Thanks for this link, Moses Model ... the idea of seminary/leadership training for identification and prevention/intervention of all kinds of abuse (domestic violence, sexual abuse, spiritual abuse) seems to be coming up more and more these days. I have to wonder if at some point, some program or denomination/network is going to lose a big-time lawsuit for negligence in failure to train/prevent and/or failure to report. It's only a matter a time. What would encourage these training institutions and network organizations to ensure they equip their future leaders?

    3. Brad - -That's interesting you mentioned this because I've wanted to discuss something like this for a while. I saw 2 cases of sexual abuse in churches recently show up through my RSS reader (it's pretty much a daily occurrence, sadly). But even the states do not have consistent laws on mandatory reporting. In my lawsuit case, the pastor was not obligated to report the sex abuse that he knew about and that is why the former church member did, because she was not confident that the situation was going to be handled properly. In one of the stories I read, church staff were arrested for not reporting sexual abuse. How can we get anywhere if we first don't require that pastoral staff be mandatory reporters?

    4. Surely it is clear enough that mandatory reporting is a MORAL/ETHICAL responsibility, even if it is not a clearly LEGAL responsibility in some states, or is not enforced consistently.

      And if church leaders act as if they can handle "restoration" on their own, doesn't that imply they accept some level of legal (criminal) and civil liability, if those they neglect to report or those they "work with"/"minister to" end up victimizing again through sexual abuse?

      Also, I understand that on some issues like sexual abuse, if you DO HAVE policies in place in your church, BUT FAIL TO APPLY THEM, you are liable for double damages, should you be sued by anyone victimized on your premises or on church-sponsored events. Can anyone out there verify or correct that?

      At any rate, if compliance with legal requirements is the only motivation, at least it motivates. I'd suggest that being lax on this issue, in terms of training leaders and volunteers, plus being negligent in vigilence and/or reporting, is outright evil.

    5. If a policy and procedure is used to convince people that their children will be safe at a church event and those policies/procedures are not followed, that is a sort of false advertising the enables the abuser to get more victims. Hence the civil damages may be enhanced in some jurisdictions, either through statute or through common law (aka "court decisions"). I am not familiar with which jurisdictions allow such an enhancement of penalty.

      BTW, a second instance after (even limited) public knowledge of a first instance involving the same perpertrator will always result in some kind of enhancement of the impact of the offense on all in a position to act who did not not act to reduce the risk to children following the first incident.

      In some jurisdictions and in the public mind, a second incident involving a different perpetrator can have the same effect.

    6. Thanks for this information ... it's important to know. And I'm not sure exactly why the legal + ethical aspects of this have been stuck in my thinking lately. Maybe it's my "trend-tracking" sense as a futurist that detects the trajectories of several trends are about to coincide and collide. It does seem the numbers of highly public court cases on spiritual abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse are all increasing, and also becoming more frequent.

      At any rate, I think these are issues not only to be aware of, but to move from intervention which benefits mostly a few toward prevention which benefits the many. (That's my basic strategy for sustainability, developed out of working in the "recovery movement.") Hence, training in order to prevent problems.

    7. If Calvary Chapel is an episcopate form of church government, does that mean Pastor Chuck Smith not only can fire/discipline/remove pastors, but is also therefore ultimately responsible LEGALLY and PERSONALLY for the actions of local pastors in his denomination?

      Brad, you DO know the de facto principle that "The More Power, the Less Responsibility"? Until Absolute Power means NO Responsibility whatsoever? ("Do What Thou Wilt" -- op cit Caligula, Idi Amin, Baba Saddam & his sons.)

  5. Julie Anne, what were the allegations of sexual abuse at the Beaverton Church? Were they against the pastor? staff?

    1. Sorry - that was confusing - the pastor to my knowledge has never been accused by anyone of sexual offenses. However, he did not report a sexual offender to authorities. The sex offender was a juvenile congregant. I'm going to take a look at my post above and make sure that is worded more clearly.

  6. It is hard to say whether the entire group or "parent" organization has liability or not. That depends not only on the relationship of supervision of the pastor, but also on whether the individual churches are separately incorporated, registered, or whatever process the State has implemented. If a single corporation with unincorporated subsidiaries, then upward liability is likely. If one that only appoints the leadership of the local congregation, then there may be no upward liability, except possibly for negligent appointment and supervision, and that may not be.

    1. Thanks "An Attorney." You comments are always helpful in grasping the intricacies involved in such situations. Given the growing number of "multi-sites" often spread over several states, and also of legal agreements to "associate" with a network and use curriculum and consulting resources in common, there may be other kinds of hybrid situations emerging that don't always fit the usual conception of a denomination, but may end up having legal, liability, and/or ethical implications just the same. It's getting more complex all the time ...

  7. I know there have been some cases in the United Pentecostal Church where the local church was sued and they also tried to bring the organization into it. I don't believe those went anywhere, for the most part. ( ) The organization always says that the local church is autonomous, though they do have a judicial process in place ( )...but District Superintendents have a bit of leeway in what they do.

    I would think if there were cases that showed Smith at any time intervening in a local church situation, that perhaps they might be brought into a suit based on that and if it could be proven they were made aware of the local situation, had ample time to take action, and did not. Just a guess, though.

  8. This is very sad. A pastor suing his own son. Just think that if this goes to court the testimony that will be said against the pastor. Which then becomes public court records. Which may then be available to anyone in his congregation to read. Very sad indeed.

    1. Kathi - I have more to follow on this case. This has been going on for a long while. It is a very messy situation and so much of it is already online. Alex and others have been trying to get help to resolve this situation for quite some time.

  9. Yes, extremely sad and grievous, but if light can be shed onto the darkness, then that is necessary for all concerned!

    1. There are many parallels with this case and our case. And as with so many spiritual abuse situations, it sure does seem like this pastor graduated from that underground Creepy Spiritual Abuse School that I have referred to throughout this blog.

  10. Hmmm....Calvary Chapel and Chuck Smith have a reputation among those I have read/talked with for being very authoritarian and harsh - with their own allegations of spiritual abuse, so I wouldn't look in that direction for intervention.,,,and this, though sad, doesn't surprise me. I will be praying for Alex and company. There is none more unreasonable than an abuser trying to prove he's not....

    1. Yes, Jeannette, you are absolutely right. We seem to find patterns in abusive churches and the bigger Calvary Chapels are not exempt from this story. Many times it starts from the top and trickles on down.

    2. Calvary Chapel started local to me. Calvary Chapel radio programs (primarily Chuck Smith at CC Santa Ana or Costa Mesa and Raul Rees at CC West Covina) used to dominate the airwaves when I listened to local Christian(TM) Radio in the Seventies.

      From those broadcasts, I remember the following things:
      * Chuck Smith of CC Santa Ana/Costa Mesa HATED Star Wars. He was always looking for any excuse to denounce it as Satanic/New Age/Eastern Mysticism/Witchcraft. At the drop of a hat, and he usually dropped the hat himself.
      * Raul Rees of CC West Covina(?) HATED Catholics, and was always denouncing them using rhetotic from classic anti-Catholic hate publications. (I don't think it's possible to exaggerate the guy's RABID anti-Catholic attitude.)
      * CC in general had this attitude that they were the ONLY PURE CHRISTIANITY and all others were Heretics and Apostates. No Man comes to Christ but through Calvary Chapel.

      Living where I do, I have encountered many Calvary Chapelites. And I have ALWAYS gotten a “bad vibe” from them. Nothing I can put my finger on and say “AHA!”, but a general feeling of something wrong. And any attempt to broach the subject triggered the Calvary Chapel trademark high-pressure apologetics/witnessing. (Which I now recognize as a "You're the One With The Problem!" passive-aggressive blame-shift game.)


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