Dave Maddox is pastor of Living Hope Evangelical Fellowship (LHEF) in Southern California, which was started in January of 1997 with a special emphasis on family and evangelism. The Ezzos joined Dave's efforts in the start up of LHEF 5 months after their departure from Grace Community Church. While the intent of most of the founding families was pure in biblical motive and vision, there was an underlying deception that would soon rear its ugly head. You can learn more about the LHEF startup by reading the Ezzos' Living Hope Startup.
(Internet link coming soon....)
There have been unfounded reports that the Ezzos were excommunicated from LHEF. The story was in doubt from the onset. The Ezzos excommunicated from a church? The seriousness of the claim begs the question: What horrendous sin did they supposedly commit that would necessitate such a serious public action? Surely, actions against a public ministry leader, especially one known and respected around the world, requires some substantiation, dates of meetings, witnesses, category of sin, and a documented Matthew 18:15 process. The Bible not only requires these things but conversely forbids anyone from accepting Dave Maddox's claims without them. And yet, the story offered by Dave Maddox has none of these basic elements.
That might be due to the fact that the story only began to take shape after the Ezzos confronted the leadership on deceptive practices with particular concerns regarding Pastor Maddox. Their unresolved private concerns formed the basis of their departure on March 8th, 2000. After unsuccessfully dealing with the integrity issues with Maddox, the Ezzos gave their resignation letter
to the church leaders and left quietly. At no prior point to their departure were Gary and Anne Marie ever approached on any sin issue, let alone one that would constitute church excommunication. There are no dates of meetings, no witnesses, no letters, phone records, or e-mails. Maddox never went to the Ezzos nor did he bring witnesses in support of his claims as Matthew 18:15 requires. The charges that did finally materialize where highly suspect since none existed before their departure.
After their departure, the Ezzos begain attending Granada Hills Community Church under Pastor Ron Seidel and stayed there until their move to South Carolina. The Ezzos were interviewed by Pastor Seidel and he thoroughly investigated the claims made by Maddox as well as the concerns registered by the Ezzos against the LHEF Elders. He wanted to make sure that there were no sin liability issues on the Ezzos part regarding their departure from LHEF before allowing them to join Granada Hills Community Church. Pastor Seidel (an ex-police officer) found the claims of misconduct raised by the Ezzos about Maddox and Living Hope credible and they had good reason to leave Living Hope. He also found no merit and no substantiation to the claims by LHEF's Elders against the Ezzos. Pastor Seidel's complete response to the LHEF question can be viewed here
The after-the-fact claims by Maddox against the Ezzos were found to be without biblical authenticity and merit. Ron Seidel concluded: "Based on the evidence, which we consider substantial, it is our conclusion that the entire Living Hope matter was retalitory in form and substance directed at the Ezzos' departure." On the suggestion of a friend, Gary even submitted himself to a polygraph test that specifically targeted the Maddox charges. Gary passed the exam attesting to his truthfulness in the Living Hope matter. As we understand it, Dave Maddox has not consented to be examined by a licensed polygraph examiner.
When LHEF first made public their claims against the Ezzos, LHEF Pastor Dave Maddox personally called several of the GFI Regional Representatives to inform them of his actions. (The only two GFI Regional Representatives that he did not call were two men who were personally acquainted with him, having acompanied him on a trip to Israel. These two men had a perspective on Dave Maddox that the others did not, based upon time spent with him on this trip, and some events which unfolded there.) However, all of the GFI Regionals eventually learned of Dave's actions, and all were willing to come to California from their various locations across the country to hear directly from the Elders of LHEF and to evaluate the situation for themselves.
Ironically, though Pastor Maddox had agreed to meet with the GFI Regional Administrators, upon their arrival in California, and upon hearing that they were looking forward to viewing the documented evidence on both sides, Pastor Maddox refused to meet or even talk with them. To date, he has not provided any documentation to substantiate his actions. The regional representatives concluded that there was no evidence of wrongdoing by the Ezzos related to Maddox and Living Hope. Later, an indepenent review committee was formed and met with the same obstacles, finding that none of the LHEF elders would discuss the issues with them. To read the GFI Regional Representative's report on the LHEF issue and the Independent Committee's report, click here
Pastor Maddox has suspiciously refused to give any details about his claim against the Ezzos, not even to the Ezzos themselves. Yet, he has placed his sinful claim in the public forum without providing evidence to suport it. Doesn't this constitute gossip and slander? Should he be any less acountable than any of the rest of us. To the contrary, James 3 tell us that those in leadership are held to a higher standard. We have personally investigated the claim with some of the principals involved with the Living Hope matter. What we found was quite revealing and confirmed our suspicions about the whole event.
We e-mailed Pastor Maddox and he articulated what was already stated in his public release, but refused to offer any further detail. He also shut off any other communication with ezzotruth. We then spoke with Nick Carter who was an elder at Living Hope at the time. He agreed with the Ezzos story and their concerns about Pastor Maddox's integrity. The Carter's left Living Hope as well with similar concern's as the Ezzos. Nick is now an ordained minister in full support of the Ezzos. It is also our understanding that Living Hope's congregation has dwindled significantly and the other elders that were on staff at the time are no longer there.
We also spoke with Pastor Ron Seidel who thoroughly investigated the Living Hope matter. His official conclusion is mentioned above but on a more personal note he said that in his opinion as an ex-pilice officer, Pastor Maddox and the elders at Living Hope who concocted and filed a false police report about Pastor Nick Carter, committed a felony and should have been put in jail. It is curious that Dave Maddox refused to speak with Pastor Seiel when the Ezzos were attempting to join Seidel's church and he wanted to know from Maddox if there were any issues that need to be resolved before he allowed Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo to join his church. If the Ezzos were indeed wolves in sheep's clothing, didn't Pastor Maddox have a responsibility to tell pastor Seidel? There was a lot more to the conversations with Pastors Seidel and Carter that shed light on this very disturbing effort by Dave Maddox to discredit the Ezzos. We came away from the conversations thoroughly convinced of the innocence of the Ezzos and the unfortunate unresolved sin on the part of Pastor Maddox.
To read the Ezzo's summary of the LHEF issue from their response to Kathleen Terner's Christianity Today
article, click here
. What few people knew, but what speaks volumes about Gary Ezzos' character, is that even after leaving LHEF, Gary and Anne Marie continued to meet a monthly financial committment that they had made to LHEF church for an entire year until the obligation was complete. That monthly obligation (which significantly subsidized a lease on a car driven by one of the pastors), was never refused by the LHEF elders or by Pastor Maddox based upon Gary Ezzo's church status, nor was it acknowledged with any gratitude. This is the Gary Ezzo that we know. A man who fulfills his comittments with integrity, though unseen and unacknowledged.