Tracey Beasley, Redeemer Trustee, Elected VP of SEPA
Journalism 101: The incoming (not outgoing) leader is the news.
We heard a rumor that Tracey Beasley of Reformation Church in Mount Airy was elected to replace the outgoing Vice President of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We looked for confirmation but came up with a story that said she was one of two candidates.
The story that comes up on SEPA’s web site is all about the outgoing vice president.
The people of Reformation are congratulating Tracey on their Facebook page. It must be true!
What do we know about Tracey Beasley? What can we expect from her leadership?
Tracey Beasley was influential in the creating the mess in East Falls that severely hurt our Christian community and neighborhood and has saddled SEPA with a costly and unnecessary five-year court feud.
She was one of four trustees appointed by Bishop Burkat to make our community wards of the bishop and convey our property and cash assets to benefit the synod, while locking out the Christians that provided this Care Package to plug the Synod’s deficit. She was co-chair, along with The Rev. Lee Miller, who left SEPA Synod last fall for New York’s green pastures.
She visited Redeemer in July 2007 along with the other three trustees. Rev. Lee Miller had demanded the meeting with only a couple of days notice — never telling us why. Only two of our council members could attend. Summer vacation season made getting people together quickly for an undesignated purpose difficult.
The four visitors from SEPA Synod, never identified themselves as trustees nor did they inform us that we were under Involuntary Synodical Administration (a made-up term that does not appear in the constitution, but has taken on legal weight by virtue of it being tossed around often enough). Apparently, we had been under synodical administration for some time. No one told us! Not even the trustees sitting with us in our fellowship hall.
They came to our door and asked for a room where they could meet in private. Odd.
They then sat with us and we told them about the mission plan we were drafting. It was a good discussion. At the end, they thanked us for being candid. I remember commenting, “Yes, we have been forthright, but something tells me you are not being candid with us.”
They glossed over the observation and assured us that they were there to help. We were unaccustomed to SEPA showing any interest in our ministry, so even that was odd.
The four trustees then did nothing to help us. We didn’t see or hear from them again until November 2007, when our congregation council met with the Bishop. This is when they told us about the synodical administration — some five months after it was supposedly imposed.
Tracey Beasley did not attend this meeting. The other three trustees were present. Larry House and Ray Miller said nothing but took copious notes. Lee Miller seemed to be excited by our reports of our ministry and said “I’m with you guys.” Closing the church was never mentioned at this meeting. We gave Bishop Burkat a copy of our 24-page mission plan and a resolution to call one of the ELCA pastors who had spent seven months helping us draft and implement the plan.
We were excited by the progress our congregation had been making. The meeting was concrete proof that our membership had grown steadily in the last ten years, during which SEPA was largely absent. Bishop Burkat promised that we could work with the newly appointed Mission Developer, Rev. Patricia Davenport.
Four months of silence from SEPA followed. Repeated phone calls to the Synod from our leadership, who were eager to follow up on the promising meeting, were ignored.
We were not to see Tracey Beasley again until February 2008. She was with the bishop and her party when they came to our church one Sunday afternoon with a locksmith and lawyer waiting behind the church, out of sight. She was instrumental in spreading the gossip that we tried to have the bishop arrested at this encounter. This is untrue.
We objected frequently to this false representation, but it continued to appear in court documents for five years.
Tracey Beasley spent no time with our congregation outside of that first encounter in which she lied by omitting her true purpose. She presented a report to the 2008 Synod Assembly about our ministry that was wholly inaccurate. Some of the information was just plain false. Some was so outdated that it created a false impression. And that’s what the trustees needed to sway the Synod Assembly—a false impression.
In 2008, Redeemer immediately asked for the record to be corrected. We followed up with detailed monthly reports of our growing mission and ministry. All of these were copied to Tracey Beasley and all the trustees, as well as the bishop.
There was never any response to any of our letters.
Tracey Beasley read the same fabricated report, unaltered, to the 2009 Synod Assembly.
The next time we were to see Tracey Beasley was on Mother’s Day 2009, just hours after the close of the 2009 Synod Assembly. This is the Assembly at which Redeemer appealed Synodical Administration. The Assembly never voted on our appeal. Synod leaders substituted a question allowing the Synod to take our property—a topic our appeal had not addressed. The vote was predictable. Almost everyone voted to take our property. They have NO constitutional authority to vote on congregational property.
Tracey Beasley came to our worship that Mothers Day with Larry House. They sat through the worship service and before the service concluded they walked to the front of the sanctuary and announced, “We are in control now.”
What happened next was beautiful. The people of Redeemer rose united from the pews and surrounded the two trustees who had represented themselves as working with Redeemer but had done nothing. There had been no plan, no strategy. It just happened. I watched from the back of the church, talking to the visitors. (Redeemer had visitors almost every Sunday.)
Redeemer members confronted the two trustees about their behavior. Most notably, someone pointed out that Synod’s interference in our ministry had cost us a 25-year relationship with Ken Crest. This interference had not only cost our congregation a strong source of income, it had deprived our neighborhood of an excellent service.
Tracey Beasley claimed that Ken Crest did not leave because of them. We pointed out that Ken Crest had just signed a five-year lease with us but abruptly whited out their names. We had a letter from Ken Crest stating that they were leaving because they didn’t want to be in the middle of a property dispute.
Tracey Beasley claimed to know nothing about this and demanded to see that letter. The letter indicated that she had, in fact, been copied.
The courts ordered the property given to SEPA — not under the law, but under Separation of Church and State. They couldn’t get involved in church matters. They did not order that the church members be locked out, but Synod accepted the court win as entitling them to do exactly as they please. There is no authority in the church or out of the church to stop them (unless SEPA Lutherans follow their constitutions).
We were suspicious. Suddenly, we are open again! A public announcement. No effort to tell Redeemer’s members.
It ended up to be not so much a worship service as a gloating fest. The service, never to be repeated, was conducted by the Rev. Lamont Anthony Wells, pastor of Reformation in Mount Airy, where both Tracey and her predecessor are members. The watchful eyes of East Falls reported that about seven people showed up and seemed to be very uncomfortable in their presence.
There was never any real intent to “open Redeemer.” The group that seemed to be from Reformation marked their territory, locked the doors behind them, and moved on.
Tracey Beasley, as a trustee and as a member of synod council, was in a position to represent the interests of the congregation. She demonstrated no inclination to do so.
She was clearly an extension of the bishop. Now she is an official leader of all congregations. Will she do so with independence? Will she now represent the interests of the congregations—as her position suggests? Will she check the power of the bishop — as is the responsibility of synod council?
If past behavior predicts future behavior, your leaders are comfortable in their view that congregational property is theirs for the taking. Because Synod Assembly seems to be powerless in enforcing their own rules, there is nothing to stop them.
Small churches (and most SEPA churches are already small or getting there) should be alarmed. You now have leadership that has shown they are capable of plotting to take your property. They have a track record using secrecy, intimidation, and deceit in doing so. They have demonstrated a clear sense of entitlement. They will not hesitate to attack lay people in court if they dare to oppose their views within the constitution.
You elected them!
When they knock on your doors, remember—we warned you.