A church called DestinyChurch of Broken Arrow is looking to expand to Muskogee. Generally, that sort of thing wouldn't be news. What is news, however, is the violent backlash against the church on its Facebook page after its video "Why Muskogee?" started making the rounds.
View the video here:
The video, which cites crime, poverty and teen pregnancy statistics for Muskogee, features a narrator who says people who give money to help DestinyChurch create a Muskogee campus will be helping to alleviate those problems, as well as a "racial divide" in Muskogee, by providing a "safe place" for everyone.
"Why not actually build a church there? N. Tulsa has FAR more problems with poverty and crime than Muskogee," asks Tony Spatz. "But it's more dangerous and, well let's be honest, the pocketbooks are smaller."
" I think your video is insulting and condescending," said GA Robinson. "While no community is perfect or without flaws, our community deserves better than your hate filled words. I would never set foot in your house of hypocrisy."
Isn't it coincidental that now that Muskogee over the last 10 years has pulled itself up by its bootstraps and managed to recruit and sustain new commerce and tourism through chain recruitment, music festivals, Sunday liquor by the drink (no thanks to area churches), and the like,
suddenly "needs" a new out of town church to come in and "save" our poor broken town.
Where we you at back 10-15 years ago when Muskogee was a static community in distress? Oh yeah, no one had money to give back then.
Stay home. We've got this.
Destiny's pastor in Broken Arrow, Mike Goolsbay, was accused in a civil lawsuit of being negligent in not reporting evidence of child molestation at an earlier church, called Grace. Several Facebook commenters mention those allegations, and receive no response.
Muskogee campus pastor Andrew Conley has not returned a call for comment.
4:38 P.M. UPDATE: Pastor
Mark Mike Goolsbay, his associate pastor, Jonathan Rivers, Muskogee campus pastor Andrew Conley and Goolsbay's wife, Renae, called MuskogeeNOW on a conference call just now.
"We did not expect the negative response that we got," from the video, Goolsbay said. "That video was intended to be for former members of Church 4:18 and some of our Broken Arrow people who were part of our efforts to relaunch the church there. ... We were not intentionally hitting up strangers for money. This was a communication tool, a loving hand that kind of turned into a horse whip."
The video's message was, in hindsight, a mistake, he added.
"We (should) have shared our vision and our love and what we see as so fantastic about Muskogee before we cited those statistics," he said. "We fell in love with this amazing group of people at Church 4:18 ... we weren't willing to ship them off without doing everything we could to make sure those believers were taken care of."
Church 4:18 dwindled after the founding pastor left and the replacement pastor then left to pastor a growing church in Norman. Church 4:18, Goolsbay said, was in a poor location on Cherokee Street just north of Peak Boulevard, and as membership began to dwindle, the decision was made to rename, relocate and relaunch the church.
"I'm not sure how much money we've spent so far," he said. "But it's more than $50,000" on efforts to relaunch the church.
"We are not asking the Muskogee community to finance this church," Renae Goolsby added. "There isn't anything in this for us financially. If anything, it's a financial sacrifice for our church to do this."
Mike Goolsbay added that he and church members would respond on the Facebook page to any questions, but they would not respond to accusations about the church or any of its members or leaders.
"They can accuse me all day long," he said. "That's just part of it. But if they accuse team members, they're going to get banned. I'm not putting that on staff members or launch team members or another church."
Accusations that Goolsbay covered up a molestation are misstated, he said.
What happened, he said, was that it was brought to his attention that a staff member had sent an email to a juvenile that contained an ostensibly inappropriate phrase.
"I was never aware of any allegations," Goolsbay said. "The email was in 1996 from Aaron, a college student at the time ... it was a matter of ... the email said the student had asked him about practice, and the coach said 'you better be able to get it up. At least I hope you can get it up,' so it was a pretty sophomoric thing. That was why I got sued, but I ended up being released. There was never a criminal accusation or an accusation that I had known of any accusations of child molestation. Because I would have been the first one to take someone's head off."
UPDATE 4:03 AM: Goolsbay called me at 3:29 AM. What follows is a partial recounting of the conversation:
GOOLSBAY: I feel like I've given you enough time to correct your article. I think I now have to refer you to our legal ...
ME: What? Who is this?
GOOLSBAY: This is Pastor Mike. We're on the record now. I feel like I've given you enough time...
ME: I updated the article way earlier today.
GOOLSBAY: It still says I was accused of covering up a molestation and I wasn't. And you still refer to me as Mark, not Mike.
ME: Have you refreshed? Because I fixed that a long time ago (turns out, I had missed one reference to "Mark," but had fixed one).
GOOLSBAY: Yes, I've refreshed multiple times. With screenshots. I was not accused of covering up a molestation.
ME: Yes you were. On Facebook, at the very least.
GOOLSBAY: Then at least cite that. Cite your sources. That's Reporting 101.
ME: Have you been to Reporting 101?
GOOLSBAY: Yes I have. I'm a professor of (he listed 'business' something or other that he's professor of. It was 3:30 in the morning, so I didn't get the details. The only thing I could find online is his certification as a physical education instructor from 1992 to 1996). At this point it's just about integrity.
ME: Dude, are you drunk? It's 3 in the morning. I am in bed with my wife and two babies.
GOOLSBAY: No, I'm not drunk. I just feel like I've given you enough time to update the article...
ME: I'm not going to update the article right now. It's 3 in the morning.
GOOLSBAY: I know. I've received weird calls at 3 in the morning, too. I'm just...
ME: I'll update the article in the morning if there's anything to fix. Right now, I'm going back to sleep. Goodbye.
GOOLSBAY: I just feel like...
I hung up.