Pastors' Conference, 1972

Pastors’ Conference, 1972, ch. 43-44

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Chapter 43

chapter 43

The pleasure of having a good meal away from the chaos of the associational annual meeting wasn’t enough to diminish the impact of the messages waiting when Glynn and Marve returned home.

“It’s, like, your phone never stopped ringing. I know I missed a couple of messages while the kids were getting their baths,” Claire told them when they walked in. “Some of the people sounded really angry. Is this normal for that kind of meeting?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Glynn said as he glanced through the notes Claire had carefully taken down on a legal pad. “It was my first one, and possibly my last. I’ve never seen such a disaster in a church building.”

“Did Mr. Mayes really knock out that other preacher?” the babysitter asked.

“Punched him square in the face and knocked him backward, but it was probably hitting his head on the back of a pew that knocked him out,” Glynn answered.

Marve reached into her purse and pulled out $8 and gave it to Claire. “Here’s a little extra for all the secretarial work tonight,” she said. 

Claire took the money and smiled in a compassionate way that sufficiently communicated her appreciation of the gift while acknowledging the sacrifice it represented on the part of the Waterbury’s. “I’ll put the extra in my college savings,” the girl said. “There are already some fee deadlines coming up by the end of the year.”

Marve returned the smile, somewhat bothered at the feeling the teenager was pitying them and equally bothered that they were in a position to be pitied at all. “Grab your coat and I’ll take you home. Glynn’s going to take 30 minutes trying to decide whether he needs to return any of those calls tonight or if they can all wait until morning.”

“Oh, I think they can all wait until morning. Most of them said so,” Claire responded as she put on her overcoat and gathered her school books.

Marve looked over at her husband who was still flipping through the four pages of notes. “Did you hear that, Glynn? None of them need to be returned tonight.”

“Mmmm hmmm,” he responded.

Marve laughed. “He’s so in his head right now it will be midnight before he finds his way out. Come on, let’s get you home.”

By Friday morning, Glynn had a plan in mind for how he was going to return all the calls and attempt to calm the situation. He didn’t have a chance to implement that plan, however, as the phone started ringing before the family had a chance to finish eating breakfast. Overnight, the rumors had grown from Alan knocking Larry out to killing him with a single punch. He did his best to keep his voice calm, laughing where he could, and trying to play down the drama. 

The pastor was a bit surprised but thankful to open the morning newspaper and there be no mention of the event on its pages. Certainly, there had been enough police activity around the church building to have gotten the paper’s attention. He quietly wondered if Dr. Bennet had enough influence in Arvel to squash such a story. He had heard of such things and this seemed like the perfect opportunity for that to happen. 

Glynn took the list of messages with him as he walked to the church office, the hood to his heavy coat pulled up over his head so as to subtly communicate that he wasn’t in the mood for idle conversation. The temperatures weren’t really all that cold compared to Michigan standards, but there was a comfort in having pulled the coat out of the closet and putting it on again. The coat represented the comfort he had felt in Michigan and the ability to wrap himself in the peacefulness of those memories. 

The pastor could hear the telephone ringing inside before he could unlock the office’s outside door. Roger was on the other end. He sounded as though he was out of breath and Glynn wondered if the new Director of Missions had even had any sleep. 

“Have you talked with Calvin yet this morning?” Roger asked the moment Glynn answered the phone.

“No, I was going to wait until he’s in the office this morning,” Glynn answered.

“Don’t bother, he’s on his way up,” Roger said. “Obviously, everyone in Oklahoma City is as upset as we are. I’ve been on the phone most the night with Calvin and Dr. Ingram and Bob Burkett, the convention’s legal guy. There’s a question of liability, since Clement, Bill, and I knew that Larry was going to complain. I don’t see how we could have anticipated what happened but Burkett’s of the opinion we should have done more to stop him. This is really going to spell trouble for the association. I already have six churches ready to remove themselves.”

Glynn listened and couldn’t help feeling that underneath everything Roger was saying lied an unspoken accusation that everything was Glynn’s own fault for having preached such a troubling sermon at the pastors’ retreat. “So, do I need to come over there for a meeting with Calvin?”

“Absolutely not,” came the stern reply. “I’ve already told the secretaries to not come in today. I’m working in the office with the front door locked. No one’s getting in until this matter gets resolved at least to a point where the various threats have stopped. Every hothead in both counties is up in arms. They’ve threatened Winston, your guy over there, Mayes, you, Clement, me, and to some degree the whole convention. I figure it’s all talk and will die down over the weekend, but until it does I’m not hosting any meetings here. I was looking forward to our first pastors’ conference on Monday, but I don’t see that happening now.”

“I don’t think I’d come even if you had one,” Glynn said. “The messages I’ve gotten show a lot of tempers flaring and just handling Alan and my own congregation is going to be enough. I don’t need any more trouble.”

“Neither of us may have a choice, Glynn,” the Director of Missions said firmly. “Trouble has found us all and the devil’s going to shake that tree as hard as he can to get us to fall. Know that I absolutely will not entertain any idea of removing any church from the association. I won’t let there be an investigative committee and we’re certainly not going to have a trial. Let the sourpusses leave.”

“So, what about Calvin?” Glynn asked.

“Oh, he’s coming up to talk with everyone individually. I think he’s going to Clement’s first this morning and he’ll probably stop by your place before coming over to seek Larry and Bill and myself,” Roger explained. “He’s trying to piece everything together so that the BGCO can issue a formal statement on Monday.”

“Is all that really necessary?” Glynn asked.

There was a long pause on the other end of the phone call; long enough that Glynn was beginning to wonder if the call had been disconnected or perhaps Roger decided to hang up. When he did respond, Roger’s voice was less firm than it had been. “Yeah, Glynn, it is. I’m afraid this whole issue of your sermon has gotten bigger than it needed to be. Dr. Ingram is concerned that what happened here could be a precursor of what could happen at the state convention in a couple of weeks. Accumulated ignorance has you in the hot seat, my friend, and it’s tough to fight ignorance when people think they know it all.”

Glynn hardly had time to ponder Roger’s words. They finished their call in short order but it was only a matter of seconds before the phone was ringing again. Buck had gone back over to Alan’s first thing that morning and found that people in Arvel had found his phone number in the phone book and had been so relentless with their threats that he’d had to take his phone off the hook to get any rest. The deacon’s temper was waning, but Buck expressed concern as to whether any of the threats could be real.

Between phone calls, Glynn walked to the post office and retrieved the mail. There were five more hate letters. When the pastor casually mentioned to the postmaster that he was getting tired of all the threats, the postmaster’s demeanor changed from his usually friendly engagement to one of seriousness. “Preacher, sending threatening letters in the mail is against federal law and is subject to prosecution. We normally don’t raise such cases unless there’s evidence of actual intent to harm, but I’ve seen how many of those letters you’ve gotten recently. If you’re telling me they’re all threatening, I have a legal obligation to take action.”

The advice took Glynn by surprise. “No, no, they’re not all threatening,” he responded. “At least, they weren’t at first. They started out being more positive than negative. The last week, though, has been all negative and something tells me it’s only going to get worse.”

“You mean that mess involving Mayes and that preacher in Arvel?” the postmaster enquired. “Is that related to your letters?”

Glynn sighed, hesitant to say too much not knowing what his own legal situation might be at this point. “Sort of, in a long way around. His defense of something I said is getting him so many threats he had to take his phone off the hook.”

The postmaster leaned over the counter and in an almost conspiratorial tone said, “Those threats are against the law, too. It’s messy, but at some point, ya’ll gotta stand up for yourselves.”

Glynn returned to the church office just as Calvin was pulling into the parking lot. After Glynn had provided his account of Thursday’s events, including what he had known versus what he hadn’t known, Calvin told him that what was needed now was to keep the church calm, to not make a bad situation any worse.

“We’re sitting on a powder keg here and it’s not going to take much to set a fuse to it,” Calvin warned. “The base issues are deeply theological but the people who are causing the trouble don’t have a basic understanding of even the most superficial theologies. The concepts of the association, the state convention, and everything else become lost when one person or one group tries to exert dominance over the whole.” He paused and looked at the stack of mail Glynn had brought in with him. “I’m guessing there are more letters in there?”

Glynn nodded and pulled the letters out of the stack, handing them to Calvin. “You’re more than welcome to read them if you wish.”

Calvin sifted through the envelopes, noting their return addresses. “None of these pastors were at the retreat, and they’re all from Telleconix association. I talked with the Director of Missions out there and he said Harvey Bentwood, pastor at First Church, Bellhaven, was the only one from out there who attended the retreat. Apparently he returned that Monday and told everyone at their pastors’ conference that the whole convention was full of heretics and that’s you’re their leader.”

Glynn sat up straight, startled by the accusation. “What? How can anyone think such a thing? I’ve not even been in the state a year!”

Calvin tried forcing a laugh. “I know, it’s a ridiculous statement but apparently he’s really whipping up that group out there and the DOM isn’t strong enough to fight it on his own. Joe’s sending someone out to talk with them Monday. They’re threatening to bring a resolution to the state convention. We don’t need that mess on the convention floor.”

Glynn looked down at his desk. “I’m so sorry. I had no intention…”

“I know,” Calvin said, interrupting. “We all know and no one in the Baptist Building is blaming you for anything except daring to speak the truth on a topic no one finds comfortable. This fight goes beyond your sermon, Glynn. It speaks to the heart of how we interpret the Bible. There are those in our convention who think we need to take a stand on the infallibility of scripture as interpreted in the King James Version. You and I both know that’s not accurate. The errors of the King James text have been proven over and over. But they’re gearing up for a fight that sooner or later is going to come to a head and when it does we’re going to lose a lot of churches and a lot of good pastors.”

The words rang in Glynn’s ears as an ominous warning. He’d only been in Oklahoma for eight months. Evidence seemed to be piling up that he’d made the worst mistake of his life by coming here, evidence that increasingly had him questioning the authority and validity of the church itself. The two men quickly wrapped up their conversation as Calvin still had several others he needed to see before heading back to Oklahoma City. 

Buck called again to let Glynn know that matters had escalated after someone had shot one of Alan’s cows that was grazing in a pasture near the road. Alan’s anger was hotter than ever. The sheriff had been called. What had been largely confined to being a church matter was now a legal matter and everyone in the county had an opinion.

Glynn called Roger to let him know of the change. Roger responded with news that Larry Winston’s condition had been downgraded to severe as blood clots had formed as a result of hitting his head on the pew. Arvel police were considering filing assault charges against Alan.

The phone calls continued. Church members shared their outrage at the accusation of heresy made against Glynn and the threat to remove the church from the association. Most were also supportive of Alan’s actions as well, saying that Larry had gotten what he had coming to him. The pastor’s attempts to calm that anger were proving ineffective.

Saturday saw further escalation as members of the county Cattlemen’s Association rallied around Alan and began patrolling the county roads around his property, stopping any vehicle with a Ridell County license plate. The sheriff had tried to convince the men to go home, but ultimately there were more of them with more guns than the sheriff had deputies. The best he could do was try to manage the situation and notify the state police. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol showed little interest in getting their black and white cruisers dusty on county roads.

Glynn worked through the night, sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by books and a growing pile of crumpled paper. By the time he stepped into the pulpit Sunday morning, everyone in the packed-to-overflowing congregation could see that he was weary. Marve had done her best to make sure he was wearing a well-pressed shirt and his best-fitting blue suit, giving him the most optimistic presentation possible, but the deep, dark circles around his bloodshot eyes told of a level of strain the people of Adelbert were not accustomed to seeing from their pastor.

He cleared his throat and read from Luke 12:49-50:

It is fire that I have come to bring upon the earth—how I could wish it were already ablaze! There is a baptism that I must undergo and how strained I am until it is over!

The New Testament in Modern English by J.B Phillips copyright © 1960, 1972 J. B. Phillips. Administered by The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England.

“Do you ever wonder just how angry our God gets with us?” he began, looking at a sea of bewildered faces who seemed to have just encountered the odd verses for the first time. “Sure, we know the God of wrath in the Old Testament and we’ve seen Jesus angrily driving the money changers out of the temple, but here he’s sitting with his disciples, talking about taking responsibility and doing God’s work. 

“I’ve looked at these words in every translation I have available and there’s an anger here we’re not accustomed to seeing from Christ. He’s seething. He’s been traveling with his disciples for a while now and he’s grown a bit tired of all the malarky he’s had to endure. 

“The Jesus we see here wishes fire upon the earth! And while we can debate all day whether he is talking of a spiritual or literal fire, the end result is that the same Christ who, throughout the rest of scriptures is loving and compassionate, is in this moment ready to burn the place to the ground.

“What are we to think? Is it possible, even remotely, that Jesus is giving in to sin? Of course, it’s not! Anger is not a sin! 

I find it reasonable to assume that he’s foreshadowing the fire set on the earth by his coming resurrection and his desire is to skip ahead to that post-resurrection time, past the suffering, and into those glorious days leading up to Pentecost. That makes perfect sense. But right now, as Jesus is sitting with his disciples, he’s ready for it all to be over.

“Personally, I’m with Jesus and I think some of you may be in the same place. We’re ready for the accusations and condemnations and the resulting violence to be over. Wouldn’t it be nice if Christ would choose today to return and bring all this to an end?”

Glynn paused for a chorus of agreement from the congregation voiced as a nearly simultaneous amen.

“The day is still early, but should Christ choose to delay, we have to know how to deal with this affront that continues against us. We have become too dispassionate about evil. As long as it dresses in a suit and stands behind a pulpit we assume that it has God’s blessing and is bringing us good news. But my friends, while the devil dresses nicely, truth is often grotesque and ugly and fails to fit with our personal plans for our lives.

“The truth is that every last one of us are sinners. The truth is that we are wholly and completely incapable of recovering from that sin on our own. The truth is that death is the only possible result of our sin and death is an absolute, mind, body, and soul. And the truth is that God, in His infinite mercy, through the blood of Christ, brings his own power of the resurrection down into our graves, recovers our dead souls, and carries us to eternal life. It’s not pretty and I can’t tell you how quickly that process happens. Perhaps it is instantly, but we cannot impose our concept of time onto God’s timeline. An instant for God may well be a million years by our count. The timing is not what matters, though. What matters is that Jesus saves. The grave is not the end. 

“So, some people are offended by the truth. The truth does not change because we don’t find it pretty enough to fit our ideal. There are often long periods of life where truth is the opposite of pretty; it is grotesque, offensive, gnarled, and wretched to behold. That doesn’t stop it from being the truth though.

“When we see the truth in that dark light, we want to run away from it but if we are to deal with the anger caused by truth’s dark side, if we are to deal with the full reality of the gospel, we must embrace it more tightly than we ever have. If the gospel of Jesus Christ is setting fire to the world, then we must not come at it with a water hose but with matches, fueling the fire, helping it to spread, burning out the underbrush of deceit and lies and wishful thinking.”

The weary pastor looked at his congregation and saw among them nodding heads of approval. He feared what they might be thinking, how they might twist his words after they left the sanctuary. He carefully continued.

“We do not come to pick a fight any more than Christ did. But as is his example, we won’t back down from one, either. We will not use violence as some have this past week, but we will come at sin armed with the unwavering, never faltering, triumphant power of God’s truth. We will apologize only for the harm we do in our moments of sin. We will never apologize for our defense of the gospel.”

Glynn felt his legs begin to shake. He felt his skin grow clammy. Griping as tightly to the pulpit as he could, he closed the service. The invitation was short as he leaned on the communion table in front of the pulpit. The congregation, recognizing perhaps more than he did that their pastor was ill, left quickly and without commotion.

Buck and Horace followed behind Marve as she drove Glynn and the family home, helping to get the pastor into the house and safely into bed. His fever was high and within seconds of lying down, he was unconscious. Marve wiped a tear from her eye, thanked the men for their help, then turned to the kitchen where the kids were waiting for lunch, neither of them fully aware of what had happened to their father. 

The two deacons quietly dismissed themselves, giving each other a knowing look. Their pastor was in crisis. Their obligation was to protect him and protect the church, but that wasn’t going to be easy.

Chapter 44

chapter 44

By the time Dr. Dornboss arrived at the house Monday morning, Glynn’s temperature had soared to 105 degrees. His sheets were drenched in sweat. Marve had gotten little sleep, up checking on him every few minutes, trying to keep him hydrated. The doctor administered a heavy shot of penicillin, emphasized continued fluids, and promised he’d be back at the close of the day.

The fever did not break until Thursday evening. By that time, half the town was convinced that the pastor was going to die. A few, mostly those from the Holiness church out toward Bluebird, questioned whether Glynn was being punished for what had happened. More, however, were convinced that the church had put too much pressure on the new pastor. After all, he was not accustomed to all the full-time needs of a church, and perhaps they had pushed him to take on too much. Similar thoughts were being discussed at the Baptist Building in Oklahoma City. Calvin called daily to check on Glynn’s condition and Dr. Ingram had called twice. Roger and Clement had stopped by the house, separately, and careful to keep their conversations out on the front porch, each offering Marve any immediate financial support she might need. She thanked them and assured them that the church was taking sufficient care of them.

In the meantime, the division within the association grew in its ferocity. Larry Winston had been discharged from the hospital Tuesday morning, having been declared to be sufficiently healthy to stop bothering hospital staff with incessant nonsense. That afternoon, Larry and Roy Moody delivered a letter to Roger demanding that he start the process necessary to remove the three churches from the association. The letter was signed by only six pastors of whom only Larry and Roy were full-time. None of the pastors were formally educated. Roger reminded them that the association was composed of 64 churches and that it would take the vote of a two-thirds majority of those churches to initiate any investigative proceedings. The two pastors left angry and defeated but with promises to return.

Anger against Alan Mayes had taken a surprisingly secular turn as cattlemen in Ridell county took advantage of the situation to charge that cattlemen in Mishawaka county, led by Alan, had been manipulating cattle prices, causing Ridell ranchers to have to bring their cattle to the Adelberg sale barn to get a better price. Threats of violence were serious enough that the sheriffs of both counties were setting up checkpoints and turning back vehicles from the opposing county. Thursday’s scheduled cattle sale was suspended, further angering ranchers in both counties. 

On one hand, the cattlemen’s distraction had tempered Alan’s anger at Larry Winston. At the same time, though, a small militia was now camping just inside the front gate to Alan’s ranch. The sheriff asked the Oklahoma Highway Patrol for a heavier presence on state highways passing through the county, and a contingency plan was developed with the help of the state’s Attorney General allowing OHP limited jurisdiction on county roads should actual violence occur.

Claire and Linda both visited daily to help Marve take care of the kids and provide some much-needed company. Frances Edmonds organized the women in the church to make sure evening meals were provided. While the kids were loving all the attention, and devouring the special meals, Marve was growing weary herself, causing Dr. Dornboss to give her a B12 shot and prescribe her a series of vitamins strong on iron during Wednesday evening’s visit.

Buck had taken over the Wednesday evening prayer service, using it to rally the church around their pastor and their community, emphasizing that Larry Winston was almost certainly under the influence of the devil and was an evil against which they had to stand. Glynn would wince when he eventually found out but in the moment it gave voice to the emotion everyone was feeling. 

Friday morning, the doctor confirmed that the worst of the flu was gone but warned that it could still take the pastor up to two weeks to recover and that if he pushed too much before then that he could relapse. Not only did he tell Glynn that he could not preach the next two Sundays, but Dornboss also called all five deacons to make sure they knew it as well. As a result, they all gathered on the front porch of the parsonage Friday evening to determine how to handle Sunday’s services. 

This was the first time since the ill-fated associational meeting that Glynn and Alan had a chance to talk. The deacon was tentative, convinced he had done the right thing but also feeling guilt over the pastor’s condition. “Pastor, I’m sorry to have caused such a ruckus, but that loud mouth needed to be stopped,” the rancher said carefully. 

Glynn forced a smile. “Sometimes, perhaps, in our haste and in our anger, we still manage to do good. I hope that’s what comes of this whole situation.” His voice was feeble and lacked any confidence for the men to put any faith in his words. 

Faith, for the moment, was limited to the desperate hope that God wasn’t really trying to teach them something. They weren’t in the mood to learn anything deeply spiritual any more than they were in the mood to talk about the landslide presidential election of that week. All anyone wanted was for everything to go back to normal, where the biggest problem was someone’s tractor getting stuck in a muddy field. They didn’t want to address the accuracy of anyone’s theology. Theology didn’t put food on tables, cows in barns, nor souls in heaven. Faith, right now, was that God would deal with Larry Winston so that they wouldn’t have to do so.

After a short discussion, they all agreed with Glynn’s recommendation to ask Roger to fill the pulpit for both services this Sunday. This would give the church a chance to get to know the new Director of Missions and, hopefully, affirm their dedication to the association and the convention. Glynn said if he wasn’t feeling better by the following Sunday, he’d ask someone from the state convention to send someone to address the services.

Roger was quick to agree to preach on the coming Sunday. He not only considered it a show of support for the association by the church, but also affirming his support for the Adelberg congregation and their pastor. He knew that if he didn’t establish a strong tone of leadership right from the beginning that he’d never gain the full support of all the association’s churches, the support he desperately needed at the moment.

As Glynn slowly began to feel better it became more difficult for him to stay in bed and be quiet. He wanted to know what was going on throughout the community. He wanted to be a part of solving the associational crisis he felt he’d help start. He wanted to disarm the situation out at Mayes Ranch. Yet, each telephone call he attempted left him weak and barely able to sit up for the next several hours. 

Marve was attempting to handle the roles of nurse, pr manager, news reporter, kitchen manager, launderer, child care provider, housewife, comforter, and delivery driver all at the same time. Glynn might be weak but she was exhausted. Even with Claire and Linda helping, Marve was finding it difficult to have a moment to herself. Glynn was being a less-than-cooperative patient, his mind racing through everything he thought he needed to do, and the more he tried to do the more work it made for his wife. 

Tensions across the two counties had eased some by Sunday simply because of people having more important things to do. Heavy rain always caused problems with mud and low-level flooding and what started as a mild shower Friday night turned into a torrent by Saturday afternoon leaving much of the region floating. As difficult as the situation was, it also sent feuding cattlemen back to their ranches and put the focus back on the day-to-day task of surviving.

Marve opted not to attend church Sunday morning, arguing that Glynn couldn’t be trusted alone for two hours. She told Frances that she had no desire to come in from church and find her husband unconscious on the living room floor. Claire stopped by and took the kids to Sunday School and had them sit with her during the worship service. 

Roger’s sermon was sufficiently benign as was customary. It was never the job of a pulpit supply to upstage the host pastor. The Director of Missions avoided direct reference to the ongoing controversies, focusing instead on the cooperative roles and things that could be accomplished between the church and the association. He fully expected to see a loss in associational revenue over the next few months and wanted to be sure that First Church, Adelberg was not one cutting their giving. His jovial demeanor quickly won over the congregation and by the time the evening service was over, there was little question that the church would remain supportive.

Dr. Dornboss arrived early Monday morning, giving both kids a quick checkup before they went to school. His reasoning, as he told Marve, was that he had gotten a letter from the state’s health department over the weekend warning that the upcoming flu season could be especially destructive. New vaccines were still in development and wouldn’t be available for another month. 

Glynn’s continued weakness was also a problem the doctor found disconcerting. He drew blood samples to be sent to the lab, prescribed more medicines, and promised, again, to be back that evening. When Marve worried out loud about the cost of the eventual bill, the physician assured her that insurance was covering everything. The truth, of course, was something different. The pastor’s modest insurance policy would never have paid for home visits even under the direst circumstances. Dr. Dornboss knew, however, that the preacher was as close to a public figure as the town had. The extra effort was worth the trouble because it helped maintain the town’s trust.

Clement stopped by for a moment Wednesday morning after having been assured by Marve that Glynn could handle a few minutes of conversation. Glynn sat in his recliner, covered by a heavy quilt, while Clement sat on the end of the couch, each of them trying to casually balance a cup of coffee while trying to keep their normally demonstrative gesturing under control. After a few minutes of polite banter and teasing about Glynn having gone to the extreme to avoid having to confront Larry, Clement finally got down to the real purpose of his visit.

“Some of the other pastors and I have been talking, and we’ve included Roger in on the conversation, and we’re thinking it might be best, now that we have a Director of Missions again, that we resume the pastors’ conference, but that we have two of them, one in each county. Of course, it would be up to each pastor to decide which he wanted to attend, but it would give us a rather innocuous way of separating the super-conservative King James-loving pastors from those of us who take a more progressive approach to the gospel.” Clement’s tone was somewhat conspiratorial, as though what he was suggesting was in violation of some unknown pastoral law.

Glynn tried to lean in, enhancing the strange and unnecessary sense of secrecy while still trying to not spill his coffee. He was less than successful and tried to ignore the small wave of brown liquid that escaped his cup and plopped onto the quilt. “I can see where that makes some sense, but should we worry that as new pastors continue to fill the vacant pulpits they might not know which meeting to attend?”

Clement nodded and took a sip at his coffee before answering. “We’d rely on Roger to guide them in the best direction,” he said. “He’d handle the more conservative guys there at the associational office on Mondays. He doesn’t like moving around from church to church. He’s concerned that it becomes too much of a power play for the host and we don’t need any of that right now. The other group would meet at my church on Tuesday morning, that way Roger can attend both.”

“It certainly would make the meetings a bit more palpable than they had been,” Glynn said. “Still, are we sure that we’re not sowing seeds of divisiveness in separating everyone this way?”

“That’s certainly a concern,” Clement said. “And there’s no unanimous opinion there. I mean, it would be hard for things to be any more divisive than they are at the moment and I’ve talked to enough of the other preachers to know there are still some pretty hot heads out there on both sides. I think bringing us all together right now could potentially result in an all-out brawl. Roger says those five pastors most closely aligned with Larry won’t even answer his phone calls. Among the other more conservative pastors, the issue is not so much whether any of the three churches need to be kicked out of the association as it is whether we handled Larry’s complaint fairly. I still think that letting him air his grievances there, without giving you and the other two churches sufficient time to prepare a rebuttal, would have been criminal. You nor I nor Bill are going to find any welcome among those guys right now.

“Carl had the same question, though, and I think part of that question is whether cohesion can even be achieved in this environment. Roger mentioned, and I think he had input from Oklahoma City on this, that 64 is a lot of churches and it would be easier for him to manage if there was like a North group and a South group, or something like that. We could all still, maybe, come together for big meetings, although I think next year’s annual meeting might be a bit sparse.”

Glynn chuckled at the reference. “What, you don’t think they’d be coming out to see the fights?” He laughed a bit more before adding, “I don’t think we’ll elect Alan as a messenger next year. He kept dropping his left. Maybe we can recruit Cassius Clay or something.”

“Man, you’re behind!” Clement teased. “He’s been Muhammad Ali for a while now. And something tells me bringing a Muslim into this county might really get you killed, my friend.”

The two pastors laughed some more until Glynn started coughing. Clement took that as a sign he needed to excuse himself and promised Glynn that he would really pray for him, “you know, the real conversations we have with God, not like the liturgical prayers we do from the pulpit to keep the congregation in line.”

After Clement left, Marve helped Glynn back to bed where he slept the rest of the day. She called Buck and suggested they cancel the Wednesday services. Buck responded that since it was a business meeting they probably shouldn’t cancel but promised he’d make sure nothing too serious was addressed. 

Marve was worried knowing that Glynn would have been worried had he been awake. Neither of their concerns was realized, though. Attendance was sparse, most people assuming that without the pastor’s attendance there wasn’t a need for their presence, either, and to a large extent, they were correct. As a result, when Horace presented his idea that he gift the church with pads for the pews in Joanne’s memory, there was no objection. The only question was how long it might take, the answer to which was about three months. The issue passed with so little fanfare that it didn’t even make its way to the evening’s gossip conversations among the community. 

Glynn woke up Thursday morning fussing that business meeting had occurred without him having any input in the matter and expressing his frustration at what seemed to be an increase in dizziness and weakness in his legs. He called and talked briefly with Cavin who assured him they would send someone from the Baptist Building who could be trusted to fill his pulpit on Sunday with the necessary care. Glynn then called Buck to make sure he knew and fussed at him a bit for conducting a business meeting without talking to him first. 

By the time Dr. Dornboss came back around that evening, though, Glynn had exhausted all energy he had for orneriness and sat quietly in the kitchen chair as his temperature and blood pressure were checked. He told the doctor about the dizziness and weakness. In response, the doctor motioned for Marve to join them at the table.

“So, I got a preliminary report on those blood tests,” he said in that tone that always precludes bad news. “And they’re going to run some more tests to make sure before we come to a final diagnosis, but given how long your symptoms have gone on, even though your fever has been gone for a week now, I have to tell you that I am concerned that you may have something more critical and longer-lasting than the flu.”

Glynn and Marve looked at each other for a few seconds before Glynn asked, “What are you thinking it might be?”

Dornboss sighed and sat back in the chair, folding his arms in front of him. “I’m not sure it’s appropriate for me to even make a suggestion until those other tests come back. The initial tests could have easily been influenced by the remaining flu cells in your system. We have to eliminate that possibility before we get too specific. But I want you to be prepared. If you’re not better by Monday or Tuesday, I want to admit you to the hospital and run some specific tests.”

Glynn was stunned by the doctor’s words to the point that he couldn’t force his brain to form the words necessary to speak. He sat there, his mouth slightly open, looking as though he were about to talk, but making no sound.

Marve showed the doctor to the door and then returned to the table, sitting in the chair directly in front of her husband, who still hadn’t made a sound. “Don’t worry, dear,” she said softly. “Everything’s in God’s hands and it’s going to be okay.”

Glynn shook his head. “They broke me,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “We came to Oklahoma to do God’s work and they broke me.”