A Report from Toronto by Rick Persad
Recently on the church in Toronto ’s Web site some of the elders have claimed the church is under "attack" from "outsiders". There have been many accusations and insinuations but no real substantiation of these claims. The following testimony is offered by one brother who is openly targeted as such an "outsider" on Toronto’s Web site. It is an example of the real situation in the church in Toronto and of the undue control exercised by some of its elders.
February 24, 2007
My name is Rick Persad. I live in Vancouver, B.C. In 1976, I began to enjoy the church life in Toronto. I was saved in Toronto, baptized in Toronto and in fact spent many months working full time building the original hall 1 in Toronto. In 1985 I moved from Toronto to Calgary in western Canada, but I still kept in touch with a number of saints in Toronto, including a brother I had rented a room from at one point. He visited my family while we were living in Calgary. The following is an account of an incident that occurred on January 30, 2007, while I was visiting Toronto.
Knowing I was in town, this brother invited me to have lunch with him, so I agreed to meet him at a restaurant close to his work. When I arrived, I discovered Bob Duncan, one of the Toronto elders, was there with him. Bob began by saying that after lunch he had something he wanted to talk to me about. During lunch, I began to fellowship with them concerning some things I had been enjoying in John 15 and Acts 2:46-47.
At the end of our time, the brother I had come to meet with left for work and Bob Duncan and I continued our talk. He told me that I should coordinate with the elders in the church in Toronto before I contacted any saints there. I asked him if he could show me in the Bible where that was. He responded by saying, "Come on now, brother." I repeated, "No, really, can you show me that in the Word?" He then said that as a worker, I should coordinate with the elders before contacting any of the saints. I again asked him if he could show me where that was in the Word. He then responded in a strong tone, saying, that I was a "wolf in sheep’s clothing."
Brother Bob asked me with whom I fellowshipped before contacting the saints in Toronto. I told him that I had fellowshipped with David Wang and Ron MacVicar, both of whom are elders in Toronto. I asked him if they were not elders. He responded that David Wang did not represent the eldership in Toronto but that he (the brother with whom I was speaking) represented the "functional eldership" there. I then suggested that the three of us—Bob, the brother who had left, and I—get together to enjoy the Word. He responded, "NO!"
I then asked him, "So you mean I cannot fellowship with saints I know here?" Bob replied that I could not. I then asked, "Are you saying that I cannot care for my relatives that are believers here?" To this he said, "If they are under our care (meaning under the care of the elders of the church in Toronto), no."
I then said to Bob, "Now, you called me a wolf in sheep’s clothing. That is a strong accusation. What do you mean by that?" He responded, "It is a strong accusation". I asked him exactly what he meant by it. He said it was because of "wolf fellowship." I asked him, "What is wolf fellowship?" He said that it was "fellowship with a hidden intention". So, I asked him when I was guilty of engaging in "wolf fellowship." At that point he apologized and withdrew that accusation.
But Bob still repeated that I should not contact the saints without the permission of the elders. I said, "Well, brother, I guess we have a difference of opinion on this matter and we will both stand before the judgment seat regarding it. However, the good thing is that John saw us fully built up in the New Jerusalem." He then said that that was for the future but we had to work things out now. At that point we prayed, and then we parted.
Rick Persad was named in a document distributed among the saints in Toronto as someone "reported to be active in the Toronto area recently." The document accuses Rick and others listed in it of engaging in divisive activities against the interests of the church in Toronto. In fact, Rick was simply there to contact some of the members of the church in Toronto with whom he had enjoyed a long relationship. One is his cousin with whom he grew up and who is very close to him. It was actually the elder’s action that was divisive. By seeking to control the saints’ fellowship, his own view is manifestly organizational and inorganic, devoid of any realization of the Body of Christ or of the universal fellowship among all the members that is vital to their health.
It appears that some of the elders in Toronto assert that their authority extends to withholding permission for acknowledged brothers in Christ to fellowship with their friends and relatives. These elders consider all of the saints in Toronto to be under their control. This sort of overreaching authority is sectarian should not be named among us. It replaces the universal fellowship of the believers as the Body of Christ with a selective fellowship circumscribed by men. Such a practice transmutes the church from being a genuine local church as the local expression of the one Body of Christ into a local sect. It is a shame for an elder to try to exercise such control over the fellowship of the saints.
Furthermore, the term "functional eldership" as used in this conversation was clearly meant to exclude some of the properly appointed elders from meaningful participation in the leadership of the church. The term "functional eldership" is not one known in the Lord’s recovery and its use in Toronto indicates an ominous development in the church. It indicates that a hierarchy has been established among the elders; with some being only elders in name while others represent the "functional eldership," i.e., those in control of the affairs of the church.
That term implies, and facts confirm, that some of the elders and directors in Toronto are staging what amounts to a "coup," putting dear brothers who have faithfully served the church for decades aside. They are acting presumptuously, outside of the common fellowship of the eldership, to consolidate control in their own hands. Tellingly, these elders’ response to a recent open letter by Soan-Lin Liu did not contradict his statement that "one elder told a visitor that David Wang and Ron MacVicar are not part of the real eldership any more." Both the control exercised in the name of the "functional eldership" and the hierarchy it establishes should be rejected out of hand.