Season 1 / Church & Institution: Only Certain Messy People Allowed

Editor: Ariana deVries
Mastered by: Joshua Snethlage with Mixed Media Studios

This episode is where the rubber hits the road with Steve and Jane's journey with Church and Institution – where things get even more real and honest. Through this conversation, we get to hear about the major turning point in their relationship with each other and the Institution.

Scott deVries

We're continuing the conversation with Steve and Jane - picking up where we left off on the last episode. Talking a little bit about how church can be a machine that slowly eats you up from the inside a little bit.That's an interesting perspective.

Steve Warner

Talk about framing it before we even get into it.

Scott deVries

Exactly. Spoiler alert. Steve, you jumped from being at one campus, and being a music pastor, essentially, onto two campuses. And you talked a little bit last about how that became a little bit of a time sink for you. How did how did you feel when you jumped into being in two different places at the same time? Was it an incredibly different workload? Was it something new, you hadn't experienced at the time?

Steve Warner

I think there was a shift in workload, just by the sheer breadth of what you're looking after. I mean, there have been some shifts made to help just with sort of day to day things that, you know, stopping teaching in the academy, stuff like that, that did help. But I think it's probably more important to underscore the thought of just increased brain space, like, there's a lot of responsibility and the pressure that sort of comes with that, because now it's not just a department of a church anymore, it's actually its own separate congregation. And the sense that, you know, now you carry some responsibility for these people.

And it's, I think it's worth noting that that congregation had come through some difficult patches. We didn't get it this last time. But I was reminded recently, just the fact that when this congregation had been, quote-unquote, adopted by the the main campus, there were some people that weren't super in favour of that, at that smaller campus they didn't like the idea of being taken over by the big mothership feel.

A lot of them didn't really care for the idea. And this probably came up and more over time that we were doing kind of a simulcast sort of solution for the sermon with the load of time. For me, it wasn't possible for me to be preparing a sermon every week to preach. I did it once in a while, and when I did, people loved it. It was a good connection, they liked the fact that somebody was talking to them, that would actually look them in the eye. But there was just no way with the scope of what I was doing that I could be doing that every week. So I did it once in a while. But most Sundays, we were using kind of a simulcast approach, using the recording from the first service at the main campus, and then at the second service, or when a second so what was happening would be the same time that our service was happening at the satellite campus. And we would use that recording of the sermon. So yeah, there was various things that were done to try to help the load. But I think it was a broader scope, it was a broader perspective we had to keep, and maybe that is, you know, part of the downfall is just, it's almost too much for your brain space.

The parallel piece that had happened was that right towards the end of our second year, there had been a hiring of a new fellow to become the eventual worship pastor for the main campus with the intent of number one, you know, even the load from me a little bit, but more so, so that I could focus more time towards this lake campus. So, I mean, that was great. As far as a long term goal, the short term effect was that he needed to be trained. Yeah, and you're coming to a guy who was coming in with quite a bit of church ministry experience ahead of time, which was a blessing for sure. But he is also stepping into a church that, you know, has 30 plus years, years of history and into a role that I had been in at that point for, you know, over 24 years. So, that's a lot of downloading to do. And we had to spend considerable time trying to sort of co-manage things that were going on, so that he could learn as we were going to just start learning the ropes.

So it was, it was good. I mean, as I said, long term, the goal that was great and commendable, the short term which is, you know, right, in the point of where the story is, is that it was a fair bit more work to be managing, and yeah, all these points of, as we talked last time, points that add to pressure.

Scott deVries

Jane, when you, when Steve was doing this, were you involved with the Church at the time like the satellite campus?

Jane Warner

Yes, I mean, we were, that was basically home as far as church was for us at that time.

Steve Warner

And we were treating it seriously. I wasn't an experiment for us. We were going full bore.

Jane Warner

I was in the nursery almost every Sunday, which I didn't mind. One of the other staff's wife was in the nursery as well. So as the two of us, and we had great chats. I missed most of the Sunday messages, we had lots of connect time with people afterwards, we were over on Wednesday nights. So yeah, we were, we were invested. And we liked the people. And it was more about community, not excellence, which maybe isn't the DNA of the main campus that we were supposed to take there. I don't know what that was supposed to be. But that's kind of how it rolled out.

But during that winter of 2016, when Steve was now training the guy who was hired at the main campus, who he got like, that was a great thing. And you got along really well with him, but you still do, but it just added another pressure. And I knew that he was not doing well because he gets quieter and more distracted, like, not here; here in body lots of times, but his brain and his processing was somewhere else most of the time. So we were just finishing up a fairly large renovation on one of our properties up north, that spring was coming in the busy time. And there's a lot of things that needed to be done. So I'm kind of a get it done person. So we actually had the conversation and I said, You know what, you got too much to do. Like, I knew it was probably more than what he was able, was handling well, but you look after, when you look after the the church campus, and you know, what you need to do with the main campus, you look after your job, or your calling your ministry, maybe shouldn't call it a job, and I will go north with one of the kids and I will make sure up there gets done as best as I can. I mean, there are things that I can't do that he just has to, but just all over the spring thing. So we do a lot of work up there. But it left him on his own to carry the load. And, you know, just not being together as much. Which, in hindsight, was not good.

Scott deVries

I mean, you're doing what you had to do at the time.

Steve Warner

It was sort of a divide and conquer approach, right? You know, if we're gonna, if we're going to keep this rolling forward, and we needed to, on both fronts, then we're going to have to divide and conquer. But perhaps the divide piece wasn't always always the best. And I mean, the thing is, can you know, you're looking back in hindsight, is 2020, and you don't even realize probably at your soul level, what this growing pressure is doing to you. And, and we're just going day to day, try to keep on top of stuff, try not have things spin out of control with the work that needs to be done. And I think it's worth noting that we were really invested into that campus, the the satellite campus, we were not treating it lightly, we couldn't just kick into maintenance mode, which meant a lot less work. But we were we were working hard to make sure that the the campus was vibrant, and that it was touching community. So we worked hard to develop some special events and community connect things that really we're doing something but all that kind of new venture takes more time and more pressure. So yeah, could we have dialed that back for sure. That would have been really putting our heart into it. And we were serious about it. I mean, we didn't have a long term goal in mind, like, we're going to be there X number of years. But actually, we hadn't had serious conversations a number of times about should we be selling our house and moving to that city, just to be closer, that's how serious that we were taking it. So it wasn't like we were being late about it. But all that to sort of underscore the idea that there was a fair bit of work building up.

Jane Warner

Yeah, then at the same time, just to add a little bit more fun to the story is, you have had been for years working with a senior leader is a very strong, very strong personality. And you had got to the point where you felt you needed to talk to him about some things. I was like, okay, but...

Steve Warner

I think just to kind of explain that a little bit, having worked with someone for a lot of years, you know, you you see each other good and bad, and some of the things that, you know, could be adjusted and changed. And our senior leaders had gone away on a three months about, and one of the things that I observed in their absence was how differently the staff team functions when they weren't there. And we were really having to work as a true team, a peer to peer team and work through things and come to the best decisions that we could as a team. And I just observed how differently that felt than what it normally was. And what really kind of sparked and was the catalyst as Jay was afraid to, to be feeling like, I really want to share some of what I've seen in this is that when they return from their sabbatical, the dynamic of the team changed again; back to as it had been. And it was just so clear to me that this just isn't always so healthy.

We're not really and this is my concern, I felt that we weren't really harnessing and harvesting the very best that people on the team had to give, because it was just such a cultural difference all the time to the senior leaders perspectives. And I understand that sometimes that is what happened. And maybe it has to happen. But I just really felt like a lot of times, we're not getting the very best from our people. So it was really difficult for me to try to work that through the point where I could feel the courage to share that and right and I sweated over that a lot and wrote things out and try to make sure that I was communicating it very carefully and very clearly without being inflammatory. And so, you know, I kind of knocked on that door a couple times to try to help us cover conversations and hopefully bring some changes that there may have been some adjustment, I don't think near as much as should have been. But I think Jane's point, that's part of the whole.

Jane Warner

That was a huge thing.

Steve Warner

Wow, that was stressful.

Jane Warner

Because, like something that's never happened for 24 years, and all of a sudden you're going to go there, and you don't know how that's going to go. So yes.

Steve Warner

It's sort of trying to step into your own as a leader within the fact that as I mentioned before, when I started there, I was pretty much a kid, right? A university. So you know, now I'm recognizing the fact at that point in time, I'm saying, I've been here over 20 years, 24 years, if I really care about this place, and about this leader, I need to actually have these courageous conversations that aren't about me, or what benefits me but really something that needs to be spoken to, right. And that was, yeah, for sure. just added to the, the stress pile, you know, and, and as I said before, like, I think we don't even recognize sometimes what's going on in our soul. And sometimes when less pressure, less pressure vows come along, it may seem like it's out of the blue, but I think there's this thing that there is there is the fact that pressures, having honest and those valves, which can be healthy and often aren't, I think are just indicative of sometimes what's really going on at the soul level.

So I mean, that kind of leads into if we want to go there, now, where, as I mentioned last time, where it kind of hit the fan.

Scott deVries

Yeah, I mean, a lot of people listening will know that, obviously you don't work at the church anymore; and that something happened. There are various stories and pieces of stories that people know, or don't know. What happened? This is where everyone's ears pick up. This is what we all came to hear, apparently.

Steve Warner

Right. It was a turning point for our lives, really, it's the beginning of where everything began to unravel in so many ways, and has landed us now in a very, very different place on so many levels. But the story of it basically, it was that over the, well, it was two and a half years that I was on staff with the campus role, but previous to that, even as we were helping that campus with their worship team, I was having regular contact with the gal who was the worship team leader over there. And we worked together well. And obviously, that was kind of a growing, working relationship over those years, especially as Jane and I took on the campus pastor role, all of what we're doing there just becomes more invested and more involved and with her involvement, both with music and worship. And that was not only for services, but for events and stuff, we had a continued connection and growing relationship there, regular phone meetings to talk to what was coming up. And that just, you know, again, looking back, we just see the similarity that developed there with us. And that quickly spiraled into crossing some physical lines.

And that went on for about five weeks, I guess. And our discussion as time rolled along was that this is obviously not a sustainable thing. This is a train wreck just waiting to happen. And so we had mutually decided that we would talk to our spouses about it, because there was no way we're going to sort of have the courage or strength ourselves to back away from it. When you're, you're, you're already sort of this magnetic thing going on.

So I began to share with Jane, would have been going on a Sunday, and over the next two days, like Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, as we had time to talk, we began to kind of unpack in levels and layers would have been going on there. And, and I think she was doing the same, the other woman was doing the same on her side, but I don't know exactly.

Scott deVries

So Jane for you, then, obviously, how did that feel for you? And what...I mean this is a big deal, right?

Jane Warner

It is. So on Sunday night, he shared a kind of at the level that there's an emotional attachment, and I was like, okay, Oh, boy. All right. And then by Monday night, he shared that it had been more physical. So you know, where I went was, I was mad.

I probably, you know, use a lot of words that I never used before, and beat on him a fair bit, and did a lot of crying and ended up, I don't know, partway through the night, going back to bed. He got up Tuesday morning. And I knew he was going to share with our senior pastor at that point. And I said to him that morning, I'm not going anywhere I'm angry and mad, but to see you know, I know you're going into this meeting that is not going to be good and you just need to know not going anywhere. At that point I was so angry that physical lines had been crossed and for a long time that was so painful for me that I didn't make a deal to correct people that hadn't been sex. Okay, because I was hurt so I'm not correcting that with people and I think that's a huge point that hasn't got connected with a lot of people.

Scott deVries

Yeah, people assume that everything, the worst has happened and it's gone way out of control.

Jane Warner

And a lot of it depends on how it's said and what's not said.

Steve Warner

The language and terms that were used were pretty nebulous.

Jane Warner

Yeah, so that was Tuesday, he went to talk to the senior pastor, I actually texted the worship leader, because we've been friends and sort of like, my life is, like, falling, what's going on, kind of, and she was very broken and hurt and hurting and knew that it was, I was hurting as well, and wanted to apologize in person at some point. And I said, I'll see you on Wednesday, and you should have somebody with you.

Steve Warner

I'll meet with you.

Jane Warner

I'll meet with you. And you should have somebody with you. And yeah, I'm human. So all that day at work, I was rehearsing in my mind how I was verbally going to take her down, she went to lead a small group, I went to meet with her and one of the other leaders that the other leaders house and early on, I ended up in the bathroom crying, because I didn't know if I could do this and pulled myself together, went back to the deck where we were having tea, and I never did actually say anything to hurt her. Because she was a broken person in front of me.

And in the end, the leader we were with was praying, and I just started crying. And when she was done, I got up and walked over towards her and just said, I want to hurt you so badly, and I can't hurt you. And we hugged each other, which I say, seems like we hugged each other for 10 minutes, which was probably two or three, I don't know. And we described and got up from that. And, and whatever anger whatever was in there that was making me so angry was like, on and I went and picked Steve up at a coffee shop. And I've been pretty verbally harsh to him until this point.

Steve Warner

It was an icy drive to that campus.

Jane Warner

But on the way home, I don't think we were too far on the drive. When he said to me, 'I don't care about my job, we need to be okay'. And that again was and I couldn't even told you at the time. It probably took me a year to realize how that impacted me. But we got home that night. And we honestly held each other and cried a lot in the night in the middle of the night, we'd wake up in the day when we were together like it was just that it was like that emotional connection that had just not quite been there all those years that we were both broken, and we were both hurting. And how did we get here? And where do we go from here. And like, of course, that's just between him and us. And we know there's this their whole thing that we're going to have to deal with, and that we were together and we'd never felt so together in all of our marriage is three days after he just told me he crossed the physical lines with somebody I know. But because we had a great marriage as far as we knew, we sure got a lot of things done.

Steve Warner

We were friends. We were good friends.

Jane Warner

So that's kind of that week. I had to still work another week. And then we were going on holidays to our cottage for two weeks.

Scott deVries

Well, it sounded like at this point, you're on the road to recovery and starting to build a relationship again, between the two of you and things, however, difficult things that come to a head and now you're ready to move forward together. That's what it sounds like, right. Of course, it's maybe a little more nuanced than that.

Steve Warner

There was more unpacking to do. For sure over the next couple months, that stuff would sort of hit, you know, or Jane would have a question. And the answer to it was difficult, right? And that would be painful for her to hear, or to come to grips with. And so we certainly had some up and down moments, you know, that you just don't sort of, you know, watch this with soap and make it go away. Right. You have to work it through. And it took some time. There's no, there's no dancing around that for sure. But then what happened that night for sure. The the Wednesday night. And then as we sort of, as she said, we're really open and broken with each other over the next couple of days was just so incredible. And incredibly healing or the beginning of healing anyways. And sure, it was a lot differently than the earlier part of the week.

Scott deVries

Yeah, I mean, Jane, your response to the whole situation just feels amazing. Part of you, I'm sure you probably feel like, wow, I don't, I can't believe I did that. But also like an other worldliness of how you responded?

Jane Warner

A little bit. I think I had little walls of protection around myself for most of our marriage because of some things that had happened to me when I was younger, which we had talked about lots. I had shared with our senior pastor, but you know, years ago, what happened is, they pray for your you're better, and it's not so simple. And you develop patterns in your relationship. And I think I realized the walls were not protecting me. And I hurt like I've never hurt before. So what is the point of the walls? And it was just like let the walls go. I mean, I'm broken. I can tell this woman is broken and devastated and has a marriage to heal. I need to heal, we need to heal our marriage. Like, what's the point of hurting more people? The hurting just needs to stop so that we can heal.

Ariana deVries

Like you were hurting so much you didn't want anybody else to hurt as much as you were hurting? Maybe?

Jane Warner

Maybe. Yeah. Like, why would I like we're both obviously. So hurt here. And going forward from there. I mean, she and I had so much contact over the next while because I think we kind of understood the depth of each other's pain was different. But then we both had to walk out of this as wives and women and somehow become strong again. So there was a connection, which I know lots of people said, That's weird. That's strange. But it is what it is. So yeah, whatever.

Ariana deVries

It's part of your story.

Jane Warner

Yeah, it's part of the story.

Steve Warner

Two marriages that needed to be healed, and two broken people that were in conversation.

Scott deVries

This continues, though, because I mean, there's another part of the story that is beyond just the two of you, in that you have a church community and a church job that you have to walk us through, right. And I'm a bit curious on how that all plays out a little bit did obviously you have to tell leadership about this instead of the time so that the two of you go together to...

Steve Warner

No, we didn't, and maybe looking back, we should have. We never really talked about that.

Jane Warner

You wouldn't have wanted me there on the Tuesday when you were telling the senior leader.

Steve Warner

So I first shared the essence of what had been going on with the senior pastor on the Tuesday. I think he had some conversations with people Tuesday night, probably some of the elders or people that...

Jane Warner

They met Wednesday night, the elders met Wednesday night.

Steve Warner

Oh I know. I was just going to get there. But I think he talked to some people for some input and counsel on Tuesday. And then we we met again, he and I, on Wednesday, and talked further. Wednesday night, they were having a council meeting, and, or sorry, an elders meeting. And, you know, they were going to discuss and decide what the course of action was going to be, and what next plans were.

So, on the Thursday, which would be the day that I would have normally gone to the other camp us to have an office day there, he and I first met that morning in his office. And the plan had already been that I was going to go and talk to the staff of the other campus to share with them because they didn't know anything that's been going on. And the the decision had been made as far as from the elders was that the responsibilities that I had would be lifted off of me, and I wouldn't need to be going to the campus anymore. And, and as Jane mentioned, we had a couple weeks holidays coming up after the following week. So the idea was the week ahead of that, let's just lift all the responsibilities off so that you can focus on you and Jane and we'll processes to and see what needs to happen.

And then, yeah, he and I went over with Jane, later that morning, and shared with him what had been happening, which, of course, was very difficult, because, yeah, we're really close with these guys. And I knew that it would be having implications for them that we're going to be really difficult. So it was a hard, hard conversation. I mean, they were very forgiving. And, and a lot of love there, for sure. But it was still hard. And then that was kind of the end of it in in Jane and I came home. And as she mentioned, like, we just continued sort of this personal, you know, just being with each other, and talking and crying and...

Jane Warner

...Starting to unpack how we got here.

Steve Warner

Yeah, how did we get here.

Scott deVries

Because at this point, you had a lot of, all of a sudden, a lot of time to do that that opened up.

Jane Warner

A little more time, yeah.

Steve Warner

It was more time. And, you know, parallel to that, we're just trying to focus on us and trusting that the other conversations that are happening are moving forward as they need to.

Jane Warner

And we have our family, as well. So yeah, back up a little bit. I desperately we needed to tell our kids because they're adults, and I'm either at home or at work. And I can't, I can't fall apart at work. And I felt called at home because the kids didn't know. So we told them on the Wednesday.

Steve Warner

Yeah, in the morning.

Jane Warner

Right.

Which, and this is was a hard one for me to take, is that he was encouraged to tell them from a place of strength. And I had no idea what that was, because there was no strength anywhere in this situation. But anyway, it was better after we told them. So they were kind of, we're sort of coming together as a family, you know, his parents, we told them on the Thursday, and it was your birthday weekend, it was Father's Day, Father's Day, says birthday, Saturday, Father's Day, so fun family things. But in that time, there, you had to write something.

Steve Warner

So I was told that for the other campus for the Sunday, which I was to be going to that I was to write a essentially a confessional letter, which would be read to the congregation. So I began to work on that and attempted to it without it being massively long share my heart and the pain and what had happened in my office, sorrow and grief for all of that, and the effect on them. And at the time was writing, it occurred to me, wow, this would be really great, I mean, not great in a rosy sense, but great in a let's be real about this sense.

Jane Warner

An own it sense.

Steve Warner

If I could actually go and read that letter. And I put in that request as I sent the letter, and I said, I really feel that if I could go on Sunday morning, I don't need to have any other part of the service, but I would like to be able to read this letter and own my shit in front of congregation. These are the people that I've worked with for two and a half years.

And that's what I felt. But then I had sort of a dual response back one was that that request was denied. I was not allowed to interesting logic on it was given that, well, if I'd really love the congregation, I wouldn't have done this in the first place, which is sort of, you know, like, hey, yeah, if you love people, you'll always be perfect them all the time. Like as we are as parents, you know, if we love our kids, we will do everything absolutely perfect. Anyways, that was kind of crazy as I look back on that later. But that's what I was told. And the letter was apparently too emotional and was to be the words were dispassionate and less involved. And so, I was sort of coached through a whole editing of that letter, and it was shrunken down a little bit. And then yeah, on the Sunday then one of the elders that to others went over I think, and one of them wrote, read that letter to the congregation which I mean, this is the first accommodations ever heard anything, none of them other than the leader that hadn't met with Jane and the other ladies knew that anything and the stuff that we met with President at the time then No, no, I was not allowed to go so we were at home actually led know Jane could have gone anybody would have been awkward, right, of course, and we needed to be together as a family. The kids were all around that weekend. So we were home on the Sunday Jane and I spent a little bit of time, just together and I think we sat at the piano worship a little bit.

My son and I went for a bike ride that afternoon, and yes.

Jane Warner

I was home with two of the girls

Steve Warner

Jane was home with two girls. He and I went for a bike ride. And he just asked me tons of questions. And I just opened up to me lots of things you want to know. And I didn't hold anything from them. I mean, hey, this is your dad. And you might as well learn from this journey, because you're in it now. Yeah, so it was great. But then on the way back, I got a text from Jane that said, just so you know, when you get back, we have some girls who are a little upset because they've got a text, one of them got a text from a friend saying, hey, you ok.

Jane Warner

Wait, wait. I got an email from the church with a little preamble, and then a copy of what you had written to say at the other campus that had been sent out to all the covenant partners at the church and all the staff of the main campus at the main campus, which included like...

Steve Warner

300 plus people.

Jane Warner

Probably interns and like kids who had just finished high school who one was a friend of my daughters, and I'm sure we all look at our phone in the washroom and that's when I saw it. With the time I got out into the hallway, practically, our youngest daughter was saying, like, I'm telling them what had happened just to prepare them. And she's getting a text at the same time saying 'Is everything okay? I just got this email.' Which was nice on the part of the friend. It's not that that was wrong to do But, I don't think they took into it that our family's broken right now. And we're trying to heal and make sense and not knowing that that was going to happen was not nice. It's like feeling very vulnerable already. And then that vulnerability is like feelings somewhat exploited. Not so much for us. But for our kids who are already...

Steve Warner

And to be clear, it wasn't that we didn't know that the main campus would be notified. At some point, we expected that I think we've even been told that that would happen. The problem was, there was no timeline given on it. And we had been given know heads up that all of a sudden, not just the little campus that heard on Sunday morning. But now Sunday afternoon, all of the partners of the main campus are being sent this and we're going to find out about it through here, say, yeah, so it just there was just all this stuff was starting to roll.

Jane Warner

And the flip side to that is, we had already set up some times to get together with two different groups of friends to like one on the set that night, one of the next night to talk to them about it before they got an email. So yeah, that kind of didn't work very well. So then we went into those situations with them already getting an email and us just trying to fill in the gaps.

Steve Warner

Give them the back story and explain it. Because it was very, you know, the sort of managed story, they're not hearing it from our perspective as friends and our journey and the whole thing and what the week had looked like leading up to that, right. So there was just a sense of, wow, we're playing catch up here with this ball that's already in motion that we just had. No idea.

Jane Warner

Still we, I did, anyway, I still, like you can look at that and say, Okay, well, yes. And things should have happened that didn't. Okay. We had the senior leader and come to our house and talk to me on the deck a little bit. Talk to Steve a little bit. Steve had mentioned to him how hard that was her kids. And I don't know if it came in and out and said, you know, maybe apologize. Talk to them? I don't know. Yeah, that didn't go well, because the girls it was two of the girls came out of that, like, Well, I'm not sure what that was. But that was no apology that was telling us why you had to do that. So they came out of that very angry with how that went down course not saying that to us, because they're not wanting to disturb us, and not saying anything in the middle of it. Because they don't want to say anything that would jeopardize. Right our relationship with that leader. But I found out two months later, that they were so upset about how that was, and we were too, but...

Steve Warner

And the other piece was like, we were still very much in trusting mode at this point.

Jane Warner

Yes. Very trusting.

Steve Warner

We were so entrusting that we're going to be looked after. This is a difficult thing, not denying for anybody that's impacted by this is a difficult thing. But we were very much and for a number of weeks ahead. Coming up still very much in a you know, recovered will be looked after will be people jump into it with us. The leaders have our best interests at heart.

Jane Warner

And I think that's the one I think I really felt that I don't know what looked after would look like, right, but just that there would be conversation that there would be care for our marriage. Which to me at this point, I think for both of us at this point. That was the main thing. Yeah, yes. What happened is going to have an effect on a lot of other people, but not this kind of effect, right? So I am so sorry for how that is affecting all of you people out there. But we need to look after this right now.

Scott deVries

Yeah, you saw the institutions still as an asset towards helping you recover and grow together.

Jane Warner

Because we didn't see it as an institution; we saw it as church. To me, it was still church. So. But a number of things happened in that following week before we left for the cottage, that should have been red flags for us that, Wait a minute.

Steve Warner

There's something in motion here that we did not see coming and don't understand. Because, like we said before, this is the only full time job I ever knew was working for a church. So when all of a sudden one day, I can't get into my email anymore. And the next day, I can't get into the volunteer management software anymore. And that was because I wanted to poke around it. I was actually just trying to find some lyrics of songs that we could spend some time worshipping together. So all these things all of a sudden, like, what is going on? So I began to ask some questions. And I got pointed sort of up and up and up the ladder. And it was told to me, well, Steve, I don't know what you were told. But you're, essentially, suspended with pay. Well, that would been really helpful term to have known, you know, three or four days before all of it.

Jane Warner

Or even to explain what that was, or where they're going, instead of just having these two or three times where you're, you look for something, it's not there, you call the tech person, then you're and you have to go through this conversation two or three times until finally, somebody's life.

Steve Warner

So clearly, there was some there was some people involved in decisions there that had corporate experience. Yeah, and they were into the, we have to protect ourselves mode here. And so this guy can't have access to his email anymore, you can have access to these other platforms that he's used. And ironically, one of them, I actually pioneered there, but it so it was always a bit shell shocked, like, what is going on, right. And this is all in this second week, the week now that we're just getting ready to head away for the cottage. So he sort of navigated through some of that stuff.

And we went away. So during our second week at the cottage, just I think, at the beginning of that second week, here on the weekend, I was requested to have a meeting with the senior leader and one of the elders. So we met at a kind of in between location. And it was interesting, because I think going into that as we were still kind of in this mode of there's going to be conversations that are going to happen, and we're trusting that it's going to roll forward that way.

I went into that meeting, we went into that meeting, or we would end with the expectation that when that meeting happened, it was going to be picking up these conversations that, you know, here's the sort of next steps, the elders have talked more. And here's what we're looking at everything. So I was pretty actually blindsided when I had that meeting, because it wasn't anything like that at all. It was basically that they had some other questions, they wanted to ask me. An accusation had been brought from a different source, different setting. And there was just, it was quite fuzzy, there was questions about it.

And...it was very blindsiding, and it wasn't really an opportunity to have a conversation about it. There was no opportunity to sort of journey into it. It was just, you know, what do you say to these kind of things.

I mean, in hindsight, I wish that Jane had been there, because we've been, they could have both talked about it a bit more. But again, not knowing what it was going to be. So I spoke to what I could speak to with the information that you were giving. Yeah, which was, as I said, fairly small, and led to this. But you know, I said, what I could say. And then we parted ways, and I hit it back to the cottage and fill Jane in on that. And again, looking back, that should have been probably more of a red flag that there was other dynamics at work here. Other things were rolling along that we didn't know. But, you know, we talked about it more like Jane asked me some more questions. And that sort of got us into some conversation about what were they asking, What was that all about?

Jane Warner

Right. So the accusation was from 20 years previous from more of a family situation setting in our home. So yeah, we were like, this is somebody we love. So if Steve said, when it's situation, they just call it a situation. He said, Well, I'm not going to call this person a liar. Like why would you do that? We don't know what has been said. And this is somebody that we love. So we were just really hurt, I guess, hurting because we're already kind of broken. And now you have this other thing roaming around your head.

I was expecting to come back and sit at a table and have some conversation about what what is this that you're saying? Because to us there is there's nothing there from our perspective, but obviously, somebody has a different perspective. So we want to hear that perspective.

Scott deVries

Was this the first time you've heard any of these accusations?

Jane Warner

Yes.

Steve Warner

That's probably what was so shocking was because we didn't realize there was actually any issue there. So when it's being framed and sort of been used, as we found out, as sort of a key piece in this termination, it just becomes all the more 'My goodness, what is going on here'.

Jane Warner

But we're still not thinking that at that point.

Steve Warner

No, we're not thinking that. And I mean, that gets into it a little bit further down the road, but just no opportunity to really try to unpacked out or find out what's really going on there. It's being kept very closed and protected.

Jane Warner

And the senior leader was leaving on holidays before we got back from our holidays. So we had thought the meeting he was going to was sort of to cross that bridge, we're going away. Here's what we've processed. And so we still came back from our holidays, thinking there would be convert conversations, right. And then you got a request from one of the elders. I guess we came back on the Friday then we went to church on the Sunday.

Steve Warner

No, we were at church on the Sunday. And I mean, that was different going in for the first time, just the two of us, going into church holding hands that had never happened in 24/25 years of my role there. And that was quite surreal.

Jane Warner

On a Sunday morning.

Steve Warner

On a Sunday morning. So that was different. And we'll probably talk more about some of the dynamics of that Sunday at another time. But yeah, we were back then. And then I think it was on the Monday that I got a message from one of the elders that that he had another the elders wanted to come and meet with me sometime next week. And so we set that up for the Friday and I said in that conversation, would this be a good meeting for Jane to be in on and they said, yes, this would be the one.

Jane Warner

Because I was kind of frustrated that I wasn't at the other one.

Steve Warner

Right. There wasn't really, like, I was asking, but not really asking, because there was going to be normal readings that weren't going to include Jane Yeah, clearly. So she so they agreed, that was a good idea. And so they came over to our house on the Friday sat with us. And part of that conversation was us to sharing some of what we have been processing through at the cottage, our discussions about, you know, what future might look like, and that kind of thing.

And then it was posed to me a question of what did I think should be happening now, and I can see in the future, the future was next steps, or whatever. And so I shared, you know, this sort of spectrum of things that we talked about the card is it could happen, but it was kind of a funny, an odd question that was given me, because the truth of it was, they had come with a decision already, the others had already decided they were going to proceed with a full termination with cause.

Jane Warner

And they listed the previous HR report with the friend helping him clean his office and the situation that had just happened at the other campus. And then it's situation that they would never tell us really what was said, or what it was, it was just this...there's this and we're not gonna...they're not saying that I'm going to tell us, but they never gave us a chance to hear what it was or explain about it.

Scott deVries

When you're hearing all this, like, what is your...what's running through your head? Like, is this a the whole things is a total shock to you? Or is it like, yeah, I see this coming. Or I'm curious, what in the moment, what do you felt?

Jane Warner

I probably was angry even then.

Steve Warner

Not that, not that I was being terminated. But that it was apparent that there was going to be no conversation. Because we had already wrestled to the ground in our own minds of one of the options that could happen would be that I would be fully fired and done. It was the fact that this was happening right there with no conversation leading up to it, no chance to speak to it, to drill into what is being listed in this termination as the the grounds for it. Yeah, and that's probably that again that blindsiding feeling which would be fostering some of the anger Jane was feeling.

Jane Warner

Right, because I was, I was actually holding back a lot of things I really wanted to say, because I was still fairly intimidated by a corporate guy sitting on my deck listing things that, that Steve was being terminated for that one of them, I even was like, 'That's ridiculous. Like, why are you even?' 'Well, it's important. It needs to be in there.' Okay.

And then to the point where I don't know what I said to him. But I was a little...I had said something that he obviously knew I was upset. And he said, 'Well, Jane, most of the board really wanted to give you nothing, so you're kind of lucky to be getting anything.' And I was like, oh, wow, Isn't that nice? And the other elder said, 'Steve, why didn't you just resign? Everybody learns in Bible college that you just resigned when this happens?'

And we're like, ‘Well, hey, guess what? We didn't go to Bible College.’ Steve didn't go to Bible College, we didn't know that's what you're supposed to do. We have always been taught that you go up with your stuff, and they wait for the people above you to tell you what's going to happen. And here we are sitting here waiting for the conversation. And I guess maybe that's their version of the conversation of what's going to happen.

Steve Warner

You mentioned about being happy about getting anything, right. So the detail on that is that it was a termination, full termination with cause, which basically means that the organization doesn't owe you anything.

Jane Warner

Oh, that's where he went with that.

Steve Warner

Yeah, no severance, per se. So it was, then what was given was, quote-unquote, compassionate support, I think, which is just different terminology. But that's how it was framed. So then, yeah, that's what kind of what Jane was reacting to a little bit.

Jane Warner

Which he got a paycheck through to the end of the year, that year. And they said that they would pay for counselling.

Scott deVries

I'm interested, though, how you just mentioned, you know, you go out with your issues, and, you know, you're in a corporate organization, I'm curious, like, with the people that were in that meeting with you, they weren't any of your direct reports at church or as part of your job, hey, these are all like, I'm just curious, the relationship that was there, it doesn't seem to be the same relationship that we were having, as you were employed, it's kind of new people showing up and giving you the business a little bit.

Steve Warner

No, I don't know all the rationale behind that. It is sort of curious that the person that you actually have been in direct report to for all those years is now not the one actress sitting and telling you that you're being terminated. It's been given to two elders to come and deliver who Yeah, I didn't report to either those guys.

So yeah, just so many different things, just again, kind of take you out of left field and you don't know where it is coming from, and trying to work through that.

Jane Warner

So I think a lot of the verbiage that was used was scare tactics to scare us. And it worked because I was scared they were using he was it was very corporate and very, I mean, I guess I technically wasn't the one hired. So I didn't have to be there. But that's not how it's portrayed all of those years. They would never say this is just a job, Steve. Right. This is a life. But in the end, sorry, guess what? It's just a job. And you should know, maybe they felt that it was relational. Because I was, they allowed me to be there. Or maybe they're related part was asking Steve what he saw in the future when they already decided what it was going to be.

And yeah, that they really played that third thing, like a trump card that that it wasn't. And that was very scary to me. Because not only, I mean, there's just no, there's no explanation. There's no and there wasn't going out of that either. There was never any as much as Steve emailed back and forth to try to get some conversation. And then he would say things like that been for 25 years. Like what and that could have been like, what is going on, and that could have been, like, taken as money. This guy wants more money, but our hearts were just like bleeding for someone to explain to us what is going on. And so that's when we talked with somebody who suggested that we talked to the senior leaders when they get back from holidays.

Scott deVries

So this is after a few meetings with back and forth with elders or is this...

Steve Warner

No, there wasn't more meetings, there's just a lot of email conversations back and forth. Because the thing was, the terms of the termination were not something that we were in agreement with. And there was no way that we were going to agree to it the way it was. And even like, there was a term that was used a thorough investigation on part of the elders which is just hilarious because to me a thorough investigations that you would actually speak to all the parties involved and get their side in their version of what was happening.

Jane Warner

We were also told that the corporation has the legal right to determine what truth is.

Steve Warner

We were told that later.

But I mean, in the moment, that's what we were told was that they had done a thorough investigation. Which was very interesting, because apparently, a thorough investigation didn't involve any conversation with us to actually find out our perspective on what some of these stories and accusations were. So that was that kind of launches on this, we have to dig a little bit harder on this.

Jane Warner

And I mean, at the time of the termination on the deck, the elder who did all most of the corporate talking refer to that situation as a 17 year old that there was a 17 year old person for 117. And we found out later that she actually was 18, but I know that what he was insinuating by that, and the card that he was they were going to play and then we find out later that that's not even true.

I didn't know, I just, once you realize that things are being hidden. And there's this huge push for you to sign their paper. And we're not going to tell you the details, because they don't want to listen to it. They don't want us to inquire because it wouldn't be something that they could use.

Scott deVries

So why do you think you felt, like why was there's so much pressure to sign things or to get this resolved? Why were all these things said?

Steve Warner

Well, I think the thing is the decision has already been made, that I was going to be terminated with cause. So, and clearly, no interest in a conversation about it. So it's more like, we need to tie this up with a bow and get this done, get this guy out of the way and then move on. So the bigger you can inflate the whole thing to be and feel then the less chance there is that anybody's going to push back. Whether it be us pushing back or even people around us that might have some questions are probably not going to really ask because it's just all very inflated.

Jane Warner

I think it probably started with, we're going to terminate you but you've been here for 24 and a half years. So if we don't terminate you with cause this is going to be an expensive process so we can terminate him with cause then we don't have to give him anything at all. It's going to roll out better. So I think, I don't know there were a lot of scare tactics. He used a lot of words dropped and things that didn't need to be done and said.

Scott deVries

And I guess the question, one of my questions to you, Steve, is you probably were, I mean, you'd made peace with maybe getting fired is what's going to happen. And, I'm just curious, that outcome minus all this buffoonery out called that you probably would have been okay to be let go at the time anyways, and, or would you?

Steve Warner

Yeah, like, as I said, we had talked through that it was an okay option in the sense that, you know, that conversation we've had back on our way home from the other campus, the the one night was just that the job was not the ultimate thing for me, I needed to choose what was right for our relationship. And our family. And perhaps, you know, not being there anymore would be another chapter, I had no idea how much weight another chapter it would be, and how great another chapter it would be. But at the time, it was at least Well, this could be a fresh start with a look at this totally different and actually think our kids at the time, I remember the making some comments to us, like, you know, data might not be all bad, like they were actually seeing this potential silver lining in it, that you would step out from something that clearly has been a massive pressure for you, and they could see the effects in on us and our family. And that's all even the kids are kind of confirming voice, that a termination and end of this chapter wouldn't be all bad. I mean, that is you look back on that. And it's like, that was great. At the same time, you're certainly in the middle of just a horrible roller coaster of emotion, you know, that sure you're working through.

Jane Warner

And the termination for me would have been scary enough. Because that has been your paycheck for 24 and a half years. But to add this other game that was being played on us, that was too much for me. And that's when we wanted to, well, somebody suggested you need to talk to the senior leader when he gets back from his holidays, which we initiated to try to stop the train and have some conversation because we know historically, that's the only way it's going to stop as if he he stopped it, because everybody else's basically following his directors. So we did set that meeting up for the following Thursday for the four of us at their place, right after they got back from their holidays.

And Steve and I had talked about topics we were going to bring up, because we know that they can be inflammatory with him. And we tried to stay away from them. But he had said something. So I kind of went there a little bit. And it kind of related back to the previous HR report, and how that had been handled. And I mean, obviously, I'm already in a fairly broken state going into this meeting. And pretty scared, because now I know there's corporate games going on that I have no idea. It's totally out of my realm of understanding. And I feel like I have no voice and no power.

And he got very upset about me bringing up a topic. And he got very loud and very aggressive and sat forward and to share and raised himself up and did a very little a dissertation that was very loud and very aggressive. And I was even more scared. And I let them just finish it out. Because I thought, Okay, this is going to talk like this until he stops talking like this, because I can't say anything right now. And he did calm down, and his wife sort of grabbed his knee to get him to calm down. And I as this is going on, I'm just kind of in my mind saying, I don't, like, I don't really know what else to do. Except he needs to know how I feel right now. Because if we walk into this room, and I don't, I am not fully vulnerable with how I feel, then I can't expect anything different. And after he was done that I said, I'm terrified. I wake up feeling like I'm waking up at a nightmare. And I'm terrified, and I just fell apart. And he gave me a hug. And I'm sure he felt compassion, but there was no nothing. That was it, the meeting was over, and there was no talking of what they're accusing of, or, like, there was just nothing. And I don't even know if we had had a chance to tell him where where we were at.

Because I came home being like, okay, Steve and I are doing so well, you know, they're going to want to know this. But it was never about us, because they had a corporation to protect at that point, they felt so everything goes on hold until the corporation is protected. And then and then so on. So anyway, we walked out of that, knowing that there was nothing there for us, there was no point in going back to them, they had clearly shown us what was important to them are most important, anyway. So then we had to figure out what we were going to do with this termination letter. And we talked to a lawyer. And it was two or three weeks after that, that we actually got to meet with her.

And I probably had a little bit more high hopes for that. Then what came to but it was basically we had to make a decision if we were going to find our church or not. And if you want to unpack all this stuff, people are going to get hurt. And and we just kind of looked at her and said, we've never wanted to find our church. Why would we want to find our church? We're just very confused and angry and hurt. Because we don't understand why they're doing this and why they're not explaining and why we have no voice no power, right?

Steve Warner

She said, we'll we could we could go after this. We could unpack it. Yeah, there's some stuff in here. That's fuzzy, you know, but she said, it will get messy, prolonged expensive and that in the day do you want to fight your own church? Right. So it was a helpful and yet not helpful conversation. I mean, I'm glad we did it. Because we want to make sure that even from the terminology, there was nothing in the termination documents that we were not understanding. But it didn't really give us a clear answer just was like, Yeah, well, I guess we're still back to us, we just have to decide what we're going to do, right. And at the end of the day, I mean, that whole process kind of got prolonged because of the vacation schedule of the lawyer.

But at the end of the day, after a lot of back and forth, we finally came to an agreement wording for the termination that we could at best, as best as it could be agreed on, and the reality was like, the night before the deadline, we just decided emotionally, we just can't do this anymore.

Jane Warner

Yeah, but we had also said that we're not going to sign something we don't agree with. So we had pushed it to that point, which left me going through a lot of emotional, I don't know, chaos, to the point where I would be walking around a tree in our backyard, and our bare feet, just like crying or in the playhouse, totally zoned. It's like, not there, just like gone, because I'm so scared, traumatized, confused, I don't know what words to put to what was going on.

We still weren't going to sign something that we didn't agree with. And we would not have...that they would not explain to us.

Scott deVries

So in that process, did they make concessions with wording or things like that?

Jane Warner

So they were going to take one piece out, which is the piece that I spoke to on the deck and said, That's ridiculous. And he made some comment about something that's going to be in there. And I said, 'That's ridiculous'. And he said, 'Well, it needs to be in there'. So they were going to take that piece out, because obviously that wasn't important to them.

But the night before we basically told one of the other other elders, we don't sign things that we don't know anything about; don't believe, don't agree with.

Steve Warner

In good conscience.

Jane Warner

Yeah. And the next morning the verbiage was changed enough that it's like, well, that still doesn't tell us what this is. But it's not false. Yeah. But then they added that other thing back in when the paper finally came to, for us to sign that I was just so done at that point. I just couldn't emotionally take this anymore. So thinking that if we signed the paper, and it must be done, and we can move on.

Scott deVries

So yeah, you mentioned though, like earlier that being fired means that you're in charge of a few things, and now you're not in charge of those things anymore. I'm curious how you felt like being fired from corporations. One thing but then being let go of people and community that you were involved in? I'm curious how that felt a little bit for you guys.

How did you feel about leaving that satellite campus that you are responsible for? How do you feel about leaving that behind a little bit?

Steve Warner

I mean, the whole thing is just such a traumatic couple months, it's hard to imagine; to go back and try to remember it all. But I know for sure, it was kind of a dual; on one hand, we were wrestling with a ton of emotions, and trying to work through a lot of this stuff, kind of getting all the trauma feelings or blindsided and betrayed. On the other hand kind of glad that we have this new space and some of our time and schedule because honestly, we really needed it like for us to be able to talk and try to work through this. And it was so much dialogue, trying to figure this whole thing out. As I said, it stretched out from what was initially proposed to be a week ended up to be, you know, three to four weeks long, so that that stretched through the summer and took a lot of that. But...yeah.

Jane Warner

He wasn't allowed to go back. You weren’t to go back.

Steve Warner

No and part of the terms of was I wasn't allowed to go back to the satellite campus until actually right into the next year. And so that was just that and I had never been back.

Jane Warner

And I had gone back a couple of times.

Steve Warner

Somewhere in the fall, maybe.

Jane Warner

Yeah, a couple of Sundays, I went back, but then somewhere in September.

Steve Warner

September, really early September.

Jane Warner

We had contact with people from there, and some of the staff. Our daughter, we were just at Steve's parents having dinner, and we were heading out the door to go somewhere. And our daughter got a text from one of the people from the worship team over there saying, the leaders from the main campus are here and we're having a meeting and they're telling us that they're closing the campus down, and that's it.

Steve Warner

How we found out.

Jane Warner

Yeah, they told the people that they had to focus on... transition at the main campus. So they didn't have the resources or the people to continue running the satellite campus. And they were going to be closing it, I don’t know, November 14, or something like that. Yeah, so that wasn't, that was not a good day for sure. But

Steve Warner

That's how we find out what was gonna happen that and that was one of our first realizations that that actually wasn't an adopted campus. It was an experimental campus, and it had become too much of a liability or an expense, and it was expendable.

Scott deVries

So it felt like then the journey that you had been on personally where you feel that same way where you thought you were part of the corporation, and all of a sudden you feel yourself expendable. It feels like the same thing was happening to the satellite campus.

Steve Warner

For sure, because I know, like, one of the things we have been talking about through those months over the summer was, you know, what is going to happen to that campus? What what could be their next chapter, you know, do we have any involvement in that even in a post staff role?

Could we still be involved there but that door got slammed pretty fast when it was announced that they were actually being closed completely. So there was no more need to journey down that road. Yeah, just another interesting...

Jane Warner

It's kind of just like there's so many layers one on top of the other on top of the other it's hard to sift through and how to end and put words and emotions to individual parts of it right because everything is just so big and crushing and a lot of processing and conversation and deconstructing happened following that. Once you realize that separation between corporate and the corporate church, the corporate part of the church and the institution part as opposed to just people and relationship and community because that part was actually there for us and and helped us - the community part.

Steve Warner

Yeah and I would say that the decision to close that campus was yet another confirmation that at the end of the day most of the time what went out is what is going to serve the corporate good of this organization over the people, because clearly the people at that other satellite campus where expendable; even though they had been told when this all hit the fan that they would be looked after, and that there was a plan.