BRENTWOOD – The leadership of a Brentwood church remained in doubt Monday after a former pastor’s brazen attempt to reclaim control of the congregation during services Sunday morning.
Bob Allen, founder and the former senior pastor of Pathways Church, brought the 9 a.m. service to an abrupt end when he and about two dozen supporters, including family members, entered the sanctuary and marched onstage during a song.
Allen took the microphone from a singer and announced he would lead the rest of the service, saying God had not told him to resign, said church member Tara Tayler.
The congregation began leaving and Brentwood police were called.
The three officers who arrived stayed just long enough to ensure that the situation did not escalate, said Lt. Kevin King.
No arrests were made and police left Allen in the building.
It was unclear what transpired at the church Monday. Allen did not return phone calls, but issued a brief statement through a spokeswoman, saying his “healing break had ended” and that he “has returned to the people he loves.”
A reporter who went to the church in the afternoon was turned away by Allen’s supporters.
Both parties indicated they intend to pursue the dispute in civil court, King said.
The nondenominational church’s board of elders fired Allen on Jan. 4 alleging that he had behaved in a manner inconsistent with his role as a church leader, said interim pastor Matt Cronk. He declined to elaborate.
Former children’s pastor Peter Stratton said he was forced out of his job Aug. 29 after Allen tried to cover up past wrongdoings by giving him an ultimatum, telling Stratton to “be a team member or there’s the door.”
He and another church member said Allen had admitted publicly to having an “inappropriate relationship” with a woman in the church.
Problems at the church go back years.
The Delta Ministerial Association, a group of pastors and other church leaders from far East County, began investigating allegations of manipulation and other forms of emotional abuse by Allen as well as other leaders at Pathways Church in mid-2001, said DMA President Dennis Santiago.
The association was acting at the behest of some families at the Hayward church Allen pastored before he moved to East County.
“With spiritual abuse in the church, anything can happen –misappropriation of funds, mishandling of relationships,” Santiago said.
In September 2003 the DMA attended a meeting with Allen, the church’s elders and board of directors as well as some rank-and-file members of the congregation.
Several families testified at that meeting about the verbal abuse they had received from Allen.
The DMA asked the entire church leadership except for Cronk to resign but they refused.
Most of the congregation since has left, Cronk and Stratton said.
Jan. 13, 2004
Rowena Coetsee and Melissa Moy