Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

August 15, 2013

Controversy swirls around pastor's resignation

TRAVERSE CITY — The Rev. David Walls, whose refusal to allow a Muslim mosque leader to perform during a Veterans Day concert sparked a community controversy, announced he’ll step down as senior pastor of the First Congregational Church.

Walls said he’ll leave the prominent local Protestant church after three years because he can no longer rise above continued “loud and harsh voices of condemnation.”

“Certainly I have made mistakes along the way, but I am confident before the Lord that I have been faithful to my calling to Him,” Walls told church members Sunday, according to transcripted remarks provided to the Record-Eagle.

Walls’ decision came two days after a petition was submitted to the Church Council. Signed by about 150 church members. It requested a special meeting in which church members would determine Walls’ fate as pastor by majority vote.

It wasn’t clear whether Walls, 60, will continue to work until his contract ends on Nov. 24.

Jan Vlach, who with several others initiated the petition, said his efforts were aimed at getting out the “full truth of the matter by all people involved so that real healing and real unity can be achieved.”

He and other petitioners shed light on the long-simmering controversy at the 750-member-strong church beginning in late July, when they mailed a series of letters written by disgruntled congregants — letters only seen before by the Church Council.

It appears the issues were myriad, and went beyond the November controversy when Walls refused to allow a Muslim mosque leader to perform the “Call to Prayer” as part of a Veteran’s Day performance of the “The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace.”

The incident became public, in part, because it involved choirs of West Senior High School and Northwestern Michigan College.

The letters allege that Walls, who arrived in the fall of 2010, is prone to yelling and turning disagreements into an issue of faith and loyalty. Yet he allegedly refused to meet to discuss such problems. About 40 congregants aired their complaints at a Church Council meeting in mid-March, according to an Aug. 9 petitioners’ letter.

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