Arise Church vs Charlotte
Over the weekend people gave $25,582 to pay off Charlotte Cummings' legal bills. In response, Arise Church decided to distort the truth (again).
Over the weekend, a lot of people (including a lot of Webworm readers) decided to give to a GiveALittle campaign set up for Charlotte Cummings.
The campaign had a goal of $22,000, and people gave $25,582. That’s amazing.
This money was to pay off the legal fees Charlotte had been left with as she attempted to do the job she’d been hired to do: Release an independent report into Arise Church.
Following the completion of the GiveALittle campaign, another media organisation reached out to Arise for comment yesterday.
Arise issued a statement to them, and the media organisation then passed Arise’s statement onto Charlotte, so she could have a right of reply.
Charlotte had thought this was over with — but of course, with megachurches like Arise, it’s never really over. As I’ve previously written, churches like Arise are a trauma machine.
Following this, Charlotte reached out to me. It was about 7pm in New Zealand, and 10pm for me in Los Angeles. Charlotte and I have talked on and off through this entire experience — and this is the first time I’ve heard her break down. In short, she’d read the statement provided by Arise, and she found it… upsetting.
Now when Arise church was asked to comment on Charlotte’s GiveALittle campaign, they had three basic options:
Sit down and, for once, shut the hell up.
Say something truthful.
Say something else.
I’ll let you decide what option it went for.
Below is Arise’s statement they released. And below that is Charlotte Cummings’ reply.
She did not want to have to talk about this. I’ve nagged at her numerous times over the last five months for details on her interactions with Arise and the Arise board since legal proceedings began — and she has kept silent.
This time, her hand has been forced — by Arise church.
We are sorry that Charlotte Cummings of Pathfinding has had to deal with legal issues as a result of the report she completed at the request of Arise Church.
When Pathfinding was engaged, we committed to release the report publicly, and at no stage did any current board member or current senior leadership attempt to block its publication. However we could not stop any former staff members – acting in a personal capacity and not on behalf of Arise Church - from using legal avenues against the report’s publication.
During this process the board of Arise argued for the publication of the report, as we believe that transparency is essential to building trust as we move forward. Given this was an employment matter we had to abide by the legal process. We hope this clarifies.
Arise Church has paid Pathfinding’s invoice in full, and we do not know the full details of any current legal proceedings against Charlotte Cummings, or what advice her legal fees relate to. Any ongoing legal matters do not involve Arise Church, and we cannot prevent former staff members from acting in a personal capacity. However we have reached out to Charlotte to discuss her situation and whether there is anything we can do to assist.
Arise Church is fully committed to our current journey of health, reconciliation, and growth as outlined in our review roadmap https://arisechurch.com/review-roadmap. We acknowledge that this is a challenging path, but our objective to be a church that reflects the love of Jesus Christ to all and proclaims his truth, has not wavered.
David here again.
To be very clear — this statement leaves out some key details about the reasons behind Charlotte’s mounting legal bill.
The word “ongoing” is important in that statement, because one of her past disputes definitely did involve Arise Church.
Because of those distortions, Charlotte has issued a response.
It is with regret that I find myself having to publicly defend my position in relation to my professional work for Arise Church.
My contract with Arise Church included a clause which required them to cover all legal fees associated with the work I undertook for them. When presented with invoices for these legal fees, the board of Arise Church declined to pay these fees in any part.
After a number of months of attempts to negotiate, and incurring further legal fees, they eventually agreed to a settlement. The settlement agreement was then breached due to Arise Church failing to make payment by the agreed date. I then required further legal support to see this paid. Finally, I was paid the settlement, and paid for my work on the independent review report, on 9th December.
It is correct that a portion of the legal fees covered by the Give A Little fundraising relates to action taken by members of Arise Church, however, the majority of the fees were incurred in fighting to see my contract honoured, and chasing settlement.
I have not received any offer of assistance from Arise Church.
Again, I reiterate my sincere thanks to the many kind people who have stood by me at this time.
Arise could have told the full truth, or they could have shut up. They do not appear capable of operating in this space. In my experience over the last 10 months, they never have.
I think that deception and whitewashing is hard wired into a great deal of Christianity’s bones, and these churches especially.
I’d also note their response is the exact same response that started this whole thing in the first place (see: Arise Church Responds by... Not Responding, Arise Church Hires a PR Agency and Zero Clarity: Dealing with the Arise Church Board) — and yet Arise is absolutely incapable of seeing that.
Dealing with Arise is like dealing with another dimension of reality. The way they view the world is strange to me — and it’s reflected in the comments of its supporters on places like Facebook.
Even a simple concept like trying to make a church “safe” (in the context of my reporting into Arise, “safe” means things like not have leaders expose their penis to you or chase you down a hotel hallway, or have rape allegations swept under the carpet, or have leaders physically grab you) takes on a strange, warped tone.
I am not sure how you can keep a grip on reality when this is the sort of debate being had:
I used to naively think there might come a day when Arise church would be 100% truthful — but I realise that day will never come. If they were truthful, they would cease to exist — and for them, that’s simply not an option. Truth has been excluded from their DNA.
All of Webworm’s reporting into Arise and other megachurches (there is a lot) has been made possible thanks to paying members. If you haven’t joined and want to, please do. Only do this if it does not cause you any kind of financial hardship. Paying members keep Webworm ticking, and also keep important pieces free for all to read. It’s about the price of two coffees month.