Stanton leadership’s lack of Biblical understanding is appalling, to say the least. This letter stating the reasons for Stanton’s “withdrawal of fellowship” (a completely misused term) should be an embarrassment to anyone who even has a cursory knowledge of scripture. I will provide it here for your perusal and comments below.

Dear Faithful Brethren,

We are deeply comforted in knowing that all the churches continue walking in the faith, unity, and peace that we have enjoyed for so many years.

This letter is sent to help answer the many inquiries received regarding the recent withdraw (sic) of our brother Joe Gautreau. While it is not customary to send out letters to the brotherhood over local church discipline, we felt it necessary to do so in this case because of the nature, frequency, and widespread affect (sic) that our brother has had on so many. Our brother had his peer group of younger preachers that he infested with his personal beliefs, along with many individual brethren, as well as whole churches that have been affected by the pernicious beliefs contrary to the doctrine and “manner of life” we hold dear especially, among our youth.

On July 27, 2021, the church in Prescott Valley, AZ. elected to withdraw its fellowship for the sins of:

Walking Disorderly: Citing I Thessalonians. 6:1-6

Causing Division by way of:

    • Sowing seeds of discord
    • Undermining Church Teaching (scriptural authorities)

Below are listed detailed statements and accusations made by Joe Gautreau about the brotherhood that will help explain the charges above.

Concerning the brotherhood being oppressive:

  • “There is systemic oppression throughout the brotherhood (at least 70 % of the brotherhood is under some form of oppression)”
  • “We replaced oppressors with more oppressors that teach standards and bind judgments”
  • “Often the judgments imposed within the brotherhood are soft forms of oppressions
    (binding one’s judgments thus creating sin for which the law does not state)”
  • “We replace oppression with standards and judgements, which is another form of oppression”
  • “Most of the oppression has come from women in leadership roles”
  • “Women ought to learn in silence” (taken out of scriptural context)
  • “There is an overuse/abuse of verses such as James 4:17 and Hebrews 13:17”
  • “James 4:17 is taken out of context”
  • “One counselor uses oppressive tactics” (he never verified with the one whether things were true)

Charging the brotherhood of dereliction of duty

  • “Due to the over focus on evangelism the brotherhood has both robbed and weakened congregations”
  • “Too much time is spent studying the epistles and more time needs to be spent on the teachings of Jesus in the gospels”

Miscellaneous statements made

  • “The responsibility of our generation is to correct the errors of the previous generation”
  • “I’m trying to move the church in a different direction”
  • “We have all cast off our faith long ago and became followers of men”
  • “Let’s get into our bibles and study so we are not followers of men”
  • “The current counsel on courtship is archaic”
  • Romans 16:2 “We don’t know what work Phoebe did”
  • Acts 18:26 “We don’t know how long she spoke or what she said”
  • I Corinthians 11:29 “Eating and Drinking damnation comes from not having one’s mind upon Jesus”

Undermining of scriptural church authority

  • “The brotherhood is guilty of placing sin where it is not sin and taking away personal
  • “The church operates under the wrong understanding of carnality and oppression”
  • “The brotherhood does not have proper understandings on oppression/carnality”
  • Below describes some of the effects these statements have had to date
  • Youth in certain congregations can no longer be instructed as they now demand proof for all guidance
  • Public teaching against carnality has begun to slack in order to avoid being called oppressive
  • Brethren are not taught as they ought, therefore sin and fleshly indulges are going unchecked
  • Seeds of doubts sown have created suspicions regarding what is commonly believed within the churches
  • Doubts as to whether women can be in a place of leadership
  • Internal debates over whether one can teach against going to places of mass indiscretion, such as public pools, water parks etc.
  • Negative opinions formed regarding the epistles (there’s too many do’s and don’ts)
  • Willingness of gospel preachers to engage in sports activities together
  • Teaching of the biblical principle “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”, are now met with contentions of “you can’t prove”, as well as “you can’t bind”

It is our opinion as well as the church in Prescott Valley, that such attacks are some of the most lethal and insidious that the church has faced in many years. There can be little doubt that if this were left to continue unchallenged that the brotherhood, as we know it, would cease to exist and would indeed follow the pattern of the faithless and apathetic people we know as “the off” Church of Christ, which indeed have a name that they live and art dead!

Our Lord stated in John 17 (and still requires), that his students be as he and the Father are; ONE. Such unity requires restraint from one’s own personal opinions. This, in turn requires much effort and patience to reconcile our opinions with the prevailing consensus (based on scripture) of those that have been tested, tried, and proven. Ones that have labored in the word and doctrine and have had their senses exercised to discern both good and evil….in other words, not a novice but, rather experienced, older brethren who watch for your souls as they must give account.

It is well understood among us that the church has grown in her judgments as needs and circumstances have required. These changes have come primarily as the result of collective counsel and have been the result of our minds moving together as one people, fulfilling the command in 1 Corinthians 1:10, of which we are all familiar. This we know with men is impossible but, God has given us that gift that makes it achievable, the Holy Spirit!

We see the mechanism God has used to deal with differences in Acts 6 and especially, Acts 15. The collection of humble-minded men guided by the Holy Spirit and thus it still is today. “It will never be accomplished by rogue, youthful brethren who have found “a new and better way”!

We are also are warned of the time when “men will not endure sound doctrine but, shall heap to themselves teachers having itching ears”. Such are the sophistries of our wayward brother.
We are commanded to “preach the word, be instant in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine”. This remains vital to the preservation of that strait and narrow path commanded us by Jesus.

Let us be brought back to remembrance as Malachi had to remind the priesthood concerning Levi. “The law of truth was found in his mouth and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity and did turn many away from iniquity for the priest’s lips should keep knowledge and they should seek the law at his mouth for he is a messenger of the Lord of Hosts”.

Below are signatories to this letter as there were many faithful brethren that have been instrumental to the investigation, discovery and discipline of this matter. Many others participated in counsel (both men and women), and still many more faithful were of great importance in exposing this and still many more in silent prayer as they witnessed these evil events and went to our Father over what they were hearing and seeing.

In closing, let us all thank God that he has provided himself men and women to “stand in the gap”, that discern judgment and contend for truth, that the truth might remain with us even into the next generation.

May God continue to bless us all in our labors, sufferings and sacrifices in midst of such dangerous and uncertain times.

In Christ,

Chris Saulsberry
Michael Lehman
Stuart Russell
Gary Preman
Tom Cornforth

I won’t make an exhaustive critique of the letter right now, but here are a few things that jump out at me:

  1. A primary offense is listed as “Undermining Church Teaching (scriptural authorities).” Tyranny much? Any power structure in which there is no avenue for valid dissent is a tyranny over conscience. A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. A free conscience has to be able to arrive at logical conclusions freely—meaning without coercion or fear. If one is constantly looking over their shoulders to see if someone else will report them to the thought police for expressing even a dissenting thought (undermining church teaching), how is that not authoritarianism? Even expressing to a friend that a particular understanding might be incorrect can be labeled as “undermining church teaching” and bring on severe social repercussions.
  2. The supporting “evidence” for the primary two charges are ludicrous, because there’s nothing stated here about their veracity. Are these things true? And by that, I don’t mean “Is it true that Joe Gautreau did it or said it?” but “Is it true that doing or saying it is wrong or incorrect?” For example, Joe is charged with saying “There is systemic oppression throughout the brotherhood” as evidence of his “sowing seeds of discord” or “undermining church teaching” (whatever that means). But is there systematic oppression throughout the brotherhood? That question is never even broached. What if it’s true? (And we all know that it is.) Then it’s not “sowing seeds of discord” or “undermining church teaching” but reproving grossly errant behavior in the church to keep it pure of such tyranny.
  3. I don’t know about you, but I’m horrified that Joe (allegedly) said “Let’s get into our bibles and study so we are not followers of men.” I mean, we wouldn’t want people to think we’re like the Bereans or something.
  4. Joe apparently said that in I Corinthians 11:29, “Eating and drinking damnation comes from not having one’s mind upon Jesus.” Horrors! Except that Joe just happens to be correct, and this is easily provable by any standard English dictionary and the extremely obvious context. The KJV uses the word “unworthily”—and we know that the -ly suffix means it’s an adverb, which modifies the verbs (eats and drinks). So the passage clearly is reproving the Corinthian church for the manner in which they were eating and drinking the Lord’s supper. And how, might we ask, were they eating and drinking the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner? By not recognizing it as the body and blood of Jesus, but instead as a common meal.I have news for you, Stanton. It is not possible for any person to be worthy to eat and drink of the Lord’s supper. It’s arrogant to even think that. But it is very easy to eat and drink of it in a manner that is unworthy of Jesus’s sacrifice. That’s a huge difference, and one I’d suggest you contemplate more deeply before throwing a brother under your doctrinal bus.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the letter in the comments—and clarifications from any parties involved, if you so desire.

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