Accusations against Elder Tenke???
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April 19, 2017

 

Presbytery of Long Island

42 Hauppauge Rd.

Commack, NY 11725

 

Attention:  Committee on Ministry

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ:

 

            I am writing to ask for your help in identifying accusations made against me by individuals in leadership positions in the Presbyterian Church of the Moriches. This an admittedly strange request for someone who has been a recognizable, approachable and faithful presence in the church for so many years. I assure you that despite my own suspicions, no one can authoritatively confirm or deny them. A form of administrative opaqueness seems to prevent it that is uncharacteristic of any church I have known, leaving me sentenced without any charges, a Uighur sent to Guantanamo, never to be released. For quite a while now, I have been selectively dropped from all church correspondence, including weekly e-mails as well as things like the monthly newsletters, that go to guests and friends of the church. The two-year old grandson I am raising and I have both been recipients of an increasingly cold reception by acting leadership over the past year. This includes being "greeted" by one member of session during coffee fellowship with anger, hostility, rants, and accusations that are far removed from --  in fact, quite contrary to -- easily demonstrable facts. Upon witnessing these escalating intrusions into our routine Christian fellowship, at least one longtime elder and trustee left the church in disgust, never to return.

 

            What I do know is that attacks against me tended to be synchronized to actions taken by my sister on a matter that has no direct impact on me beyond my concern for her well-being. More to the point, it appears that I have been systematically targeted in her place as some kind of collective retribution that escalated beyond all belief over the last 10 months, after Elder Moar indicated that Rev. Jeannine Frenzel-Sulyok wanted to reopen the issue. Since my sister hadn't returned to church for a half a year, I offered to speak to any and all session members on a one-by-one basis after services if they were so inclined. There were precisely two results: 1) Rev. Jeannine Frenzel-Sulyok said this was not her intention; 2) precisely zero session members expressed any interest in talking to me after service. I was fine with this, because my biggest concern was letting my grandson learn to feel comfortable in the "truch" (i.e., "church") of the four consecutive generations who preceded him. He was going through a period of separation anxiety, so "Papa" had to accompany him to the nursery. At coffee hour he'd get braver and let others help him turn on the fans in the kitchen, or play a harmonica for him. That's it.

 

            It is also possible that my offense was bringing my grandson to a place he was no longer welcomed. I base this possibility on language that has since been repeated to accuse me: "divisive, disruptive, and destructive." These adjectives are antithetical to my personality, my life, my history, and most of all my ministry to my congregation and the presbytery. However, they do tend to loosely reflect the distractibility of my grandson immediately before and during the children's sermon, or of myself while trying to make an announcement when he is running off to the choir loft. I had been under the impression that our congregation was amused by little children (at least in small doses before the children's sermon). I know of at least one other grandparent who hasn't been back to church consistently after her daughter and her grandchild were approached and scolded by Elder Horton during a visit. Even so, I still have a very hard time understanding why this precise, three-word anti-mantra (traceable, by the way, to the precise language used by Elder Horton) would be repeated verbatim by the CoM liaison after he met with session, or in fragments by the general presbyter. In stark contrast, nothing that I said to them was remembered.

 

            After the minister’s clarification, the rational expectation would be to drop it as a well-intentioned misunderstanding by Elder Moar. What happened instead was some kind of "secret discussion" by session. It was about me, and it somehow required an hour-long discussion of something, but it didn't seem to have anything to do with anything I did, said, or wrote. What resulted from that meeting was a formal (albeit non sequitur) letter that was addressed to me and signed by most of session. In it I was vaguely accused of spreading some kind of damaging information "in violation of my ordination vows" at coffee hour -- a time, as I have said, I would have been completely occupied with my 2 yr old grandson unless I made other arrangements.  It also strangely asserted that one-to-one discussions or conversations with members of session were somehow indistinguishable from rumors. Even more surprising, the tone of the letter was judgmental, despite its lack of either charges or evidence. My "wrongdoing" had apparently become some kind of "alternative fact," and quite immune to disproof of any kind. The letter also alluded to some undetermined "dissatisfaction and pain" that I supposedly harbored that required direct and immediate reconciliation with the minister, again something that indicated that despite the name on it, the letter aimed at my sister.

 

            As a neuroscientist in psychopathology and as a person of faith, I am quite used to dealing with facts. However, I admit to being ill-equipped to deal with fact-free rumor mills. When I arranged to talk with Rev. Rick Boyer, the CoM liaison, and Rev. Mark Tammen, the general presbyter, I hadn't been aware of the close ties between Rev. Mark Tammen and the minister’s family, going back to Louisville as it did. Both of them asked me (multiple times) what “result I was hoping for,” and each time they seemed predisposed to believe my objective was to have the minister removed. Multiple times, I carefully explained that, quite the contrary, I respected the sacrifice made by this family on behalf of the PC(USA) after the Ron Stone fiasco. I also cited the minister’s self- identification as bipolar as the reason I had tolerated a series of unfounded rumors about me that originated somewhere between the minister and Elder Dick Horton. I have more than enough experience with my own bipolar children to view factual imprecision and exaggeration as a quirk, rather than a real personal attack. Such statements require a higher standard of factual evidence and transparency before anyone should be prepared to act on them.

 

            Thank you in advance for anything concrete you can add that will help me unravel this puzzle. Even though there is nothing remotely Christian in the way I've been treated, I still have hope that honesty on openness can resolve it all.

 

Yours in Christ,

 

Craig E. Tenke, Elder

Presbyterian Church of the Moriches

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         Craig E. Tenke, Ph.D.

        Associate Research Scientist

       NYS Psychiatric Institute

                and

         Columbia University

  College of Physicians & Surgeons

 Associate Editor, Clinical Neurophysiology (2008-2016)

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       Psychophysiology Lab, Rm 3509

       NYS Psychiatric Institute,  Unit 50

       1051 Riverside Drive

       New York, N.Y. 10032-2695

       646-774-5222

email: cet2103@cumc.columbia.edu

http://psychophysiology.cpmc.columbia.edu

************************************************************

 

 

 


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Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2017 12:25:23 -0400

From:           Mark Tammen <gp@presbyteryofli.org>

To:     Craig Tenke <Tenkecr@nyspi.columbia.edu>

 

Just read you sad note regarding this situation.  I am sorry to hear of your experience, but as I have been trying to say to you, though clearly I am not making much progress, I see no future for your spiritual health, nor your grandson's at Center Moriches.  I am encouraged that you may be looking to another PCUSA congregation.  I just don't see any future for you in Center Moriches for the forseeable future.

 

While I am not attributing your sister's actions to Craig, I am pleading with you to urge her to withdraw her civil suit.

 

As I discussed with both of you when you visited my office I believe she could file church remedial case against the session and get a judicial commission to review it, but filing the same set of complaints with the secular authorities violates  both Scripture and the Book of Order.  It is the one activity where I have often seen Session's remove folks from membership.  I know that is not Carol Ann's goal, but if she persists I can foresee that as the likely result.

 

Secondly, as I told both of you I see absolutely no likelihood of a secular court finding in her favor on this issue.  Given that she has no written proof that it was only the sanctuary that her mother wished for air conditioning, the fact the session spent the money on air conditioning is going to fatal to her secular claim.  I am not sure a PCUSA judicial commission will find in her favor, but it is much more likely to at least hear it.

 

Since the Presbytery was also sued, I will have to appear and if I do, I will have to tell the secular judge that the church has a separate system, where he/she is likely to dismiss the matter and send it back to the church.  That situation will likely result in both Carol Ann loosing her PCUSA membership and still getting no satisfaction on her claim.

 

I am glad to write her, but she ignored my correspondence.

 

Peace

 

Mark

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MT:

 

I just participated in the March for Science. I'm sorry to say that the contents of most of the posters dealing with science vs. "alternative facts" apply quite directly to what I've experienced at the hands of the CM Session, and much worse yet, the CoM of the Presbytery of Long Island. You have to understand just how horrifying this is to someone whose only crime was to serve with humility.

 

Regarding my "sad note," no one has ever given me any rationale for why I was targeted for anything. My only crime seems to be that I didn't vigorously defend my own reputation before it was tarnished by baseless innuendo. What is worse for me is that you and CoM have tacitly accepted and even further expanded the baseless allegations against me, even after I met with Rick Boyer (and later, with you) and explained my situation in detail -- all of it conveniently forgotten by the time of the meeting with the Center Moriches Session. Your effort at preemptively removing me without reason or charge are still astonishing to me. Even in your reply today, you can offer me no explanation or charges. "Get out and don't ask questions why" is not a Christian approach to "conflict resolution."

I also remain confused by your persistent misreading of past correspondence regarding my sister. Could you have discarded these e-mails with the same intent as when you personally assured her in my presence that you didn't need the cancelled checks or any of the other documentation she had meticulously collected? You assured her that CM would not be allowed to spend her money on anything else, including air conditioning for other rooms, and that if they tried to presbytery would not allow it!

 

Carol Ann has not ignored your correspondence and I am quite surprised that you would claim so. Much to the contrary, she waited patiently for a reply that never came. In case you wish to try again, please remember that she recently retired and uses a private e-mail (cc'ed above, as usual). I admit that I was surprised by her decision, but it has no direct bearing on me, either personally or financially. However, as another member who has suffered chronic abuse from those in authority for so many years, I am not in a position to argue the point. My own abuse has been greater than hers, and because I said nothing I suffered severe retaliation.

 

A final point: Carol Ann's gift was verifiably solicited by the congregation for the one purpose of installing a very specific air conditioning unit in the sanctuary. She donated it in my mother's name for a cause she wanted, but the false witness about "what my mother wanted" (my mother never talked business with anyone, let alone the "witnesses" from session) is irrelevant. It was Carol Ann's money, solicited as a donation for one specific purpose, and redirected years after the specific project was abandoned. After her facebook post, someone from another charity identified the law governing this, and explained that the church could lose its tax exempt status if they were vindictive enough to persist.

 

I sincerely pray that the leadership of the Presbyterian Church of the Moriches, as well as all who have been tainted by their "alternative facts," will release their hateful venom, and humbly return to Christ's service.

 

YIC,

cet  **!!** 

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Craig,

 

 This correspondence, and the others I have seen, confirm the reason why you have been treated as you have experienced it.  You attribute all sorts of motives and language to me, and repeat them, despite my challenges.

 

I NEVER promised the session would do anything…I have little power over a session’s decisions.  You hear what you choose to hear.

 

Since you copied Carol Ann on you note, she is on notice of my thinking regarding her lawsuit. I see no positive result from the lawsuit, but only further deterioration of relationship.  I grieve that, but do not believe I have any ability to prevent it.

 

I was hoping to prevent future deteoration of the relationship, but you seem determined to once again provide that you are correct and anyone who does not agree with you is wrong.  I do not accept either your assessment of my treatment of you, nor your rationale.

 

I am sorry this painful to both of you, but since you decline to consider advice not consistent with your planned actions, I throw up my hands.

 

Mark

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MT:

 


You completely missed the point of the letter you replied to.  All I asked was someone to identify the charges that were contrived against me. I submit that the only charge is my asking. Even your answer implies that my crime was to ask.

 

Please also note that my letter had nothing to do with my sister, but almost all of your response was about her. My comments about her were only in response to yours. If this doesn't support collective retribution, I don't know what does -- and not just from the session.

 

cet  **!!**

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Your comments about current leadership at Central are not contrived, nor are they anything close to the reality I have experienced from the officers there that you seem to accuse.

 

You attribute much to me and clearly have little understanding of either my role, nor my actions.  I am sorry for your obvious pain, but you are the primary source of it, almost all of it self-inflicted.

 

I cc'd your sister on my note and was hoping you could help her see that her current actions are only escalating her frustration and will make things even more difficult for her.

 

Mark 


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MT:

 

Please forget the side issues and answer my single query:

What have I ever been accused of other than persistently asking what I was accused of?

 

cet  **!!**

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Basically I do not believe you really listen to anyone who does not agree with you.  That is very offensive to those around you.

 

You have been accused of being a “dog with a bone” (never letting anything go)  Your perspective is always the only one acceptable to you.

 

You have been accused of building your case in outside forums (the Sat morning group heard plenty about how you perceived your treatment …  you presented your perspective and expected everyone to agree)

 

You have been accused of misrepresenting other people’s perspectives (and I have  several times heard how you have described our interactions and your pespectives  were very slanted toward your position.)

 

You are a very bright guy and you have much history with our beloved denomination.  But you are currently simply stuck.  For that I am sorry, but I see no way to help you with that with your current perspective.

 

Mark

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MT:

 

Thank you for finally answering me. Why is it that after all of the accusations and disjointed, incoherent letters that no one ever addressed this before. I am among the most approachable people in the congregation -- at least until I was painted as something else last year.

 

I will respond to each of your points in sequence.

 

On 4/24/2017 2:59 PM, Mark Tammen wrote:

>Basically I do not believe you really listen to anyone who does not agree with you.  That is very offensive to those around you.

 

The generalities: If you ask anyone who has ever discussed anything with me, this can't be further from the truth. I give everyone - particularly those who think differently from me -- the opportunity to disagree and/or explain their point. Even in Honoring All Voices, I would routinely send out comments about how people "on the other side" might see our topics and actions and make suggestions to avoid their being seen as divisive. The people who get "offended" by me are typically those who agree with me and want me to trash somebody unnecessarily.

 

Now for the specifics: what is it that I am not listening to -- apart from you telling me to leave because I asked why?

 

At least as important, why is it that you, who have never had a "normal" discussion with me about anything, say with such certaintly what no one else ever has? [and no, no one has ever been afraid of me]

 

> You have been accused of being a “dog with a bone” (never letting anything go)  Your perspective is always the only one acceptable to you.

 

See prelude to previous answer. "Dog with a bone" I certainly am, unless and until someone gives me a reason to drop it. However, remember that no one has ever talked to me about anything specific, and long after I dropped everything, session attacked me with vague, inaccurate charges that I had no way of understanding or responding to.

 

Which raises the additional question: What "bone" is it that you are referring to? Was it even mine, or my sister's?

 

> You have been accused of building your case in outside forums (the Sat morning group heard plenty about how you perceived your treatment …  you presented your perspective and expected everyone to agree)

 

Never happened. The Sat Morning group heard almost nothing remotely divisive except for when the husband of the clerk of session asked a question about how everybody was happy with everything in church. Then it wasn't me who said anything, but Carol Ann and my daughter. Likewise, my perspectives are irrelevant in that group, and my topics are only starters. Other than that, it's just Elder Barry Moar who keeps bringing up points of contention when he returns from Florida, and the rest of us do our best to get beyond his commentary and back to our discussion topics. For the topics, everyone disagrees and/or clarifies based on their own background, and the topics generally shift accordingly. Ask Peter about that.

Again, what I see here is collective (and contrived) retribution without anyone bothering to do their homework.

 

>  You have been accused of misrepresenting other people’s perspectives (and I have  several times heard how you have described our interactions and your pespectives  were very slanted toward your position.)

 

No one can be expected to change a position without evidence. That's exactly what I've been missing, including in my interactions with you. My only evidence is that I have also been misrepresented, but whenever I try to broaden my perspective I get attacked.

1) Please give me an example from the congregation that would warrant my "excision."

2) Please remember that I offered to talk to any and all session members one-on-one, but precisely no one was interested. This doesn't sound like people who wanted to straighten out my "misrepresentations."

 

> You are a very bright guy and you have much history with our beloved denomination.  But you are currently simply stuck.  For that I am sorry, but I see no way to help you with that with your current perspective.

 

I thank you for this -- my very first inkling as to why I have been treated this way.

Now if you fill in the details, I'll be able to understand and/or respond to them.

 

YIC,

 

cet  **!!**  

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My last note this round

 

Your response reenforces my statements

 

You clearly do not accept them & that is your option

 

But that is how I see it

 

You asked & I answered

 

Bye

 

Mark

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Dear Mark:

 

I invited you (or anyone else) to advise me about what I've been accused of. I accept your statements, but you gave only one concrete example. For this one I thank you. I had no awareness of it because, quite frankly, it didn't happen.

 

I still have not heard a single accusation against me that isn't thinly veiled collective retribution against my sister.

 

The rest of your "accusations" are emotion-laden finger-pointing that frankly doesn't represent me at all. That's not just my take on it. People who've worked with me, studied with me, prayed with me and wrestled with difficult problems with me all have the exact opposite impression of me than the one you describe. Despite what you've said, my personal, professional and spiritual history all indicate that I am quite able to hear, process, and even respect opinions and critiques that may differ widely from, or even oppose, my own.

 

This stark misperception of me is clearly not your fault. You don't know me from a hole a the  wall. Apparently you have some kind of direct line to a stream of hateful or vengeful emotion directed against me. Be that as it may, for a religious leader to secretly promote this venom and defame someone's -- OK, I admit it. My personal -- reputation without evidence or attribution is something I admittedly do have trouble getting past. If that makes me a dog with a bone, so be it.

 

Membership in a country club might rest on the whims of a few, but a church has a moral obligation to be better than that. Although I rarely cite Romans 1 (for obvious reasons), verses 30-31 jump out at me here, along with the children's sermon about pointing fingers.

 

I prefer to abide by a different verse: And what does the LORD require of you? Do justice, Love kindness, walk humbly with your God.

 

Yours in Christ,

 

cet  **!!**

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Craig,

 

I own only my own perceptions, and I have been doing this sort of work as long as you have been doing yours, so I do have some significant experience.  The tone of your notes, this round and the last, reflect your perceptions solely.  You seem absolutely unwilling to accept the proposition that others may have a different view.

 

You come across as rigid and defensive.  That is just my experienced perception.  I continue to hear many examples of your behaviors and comments that are frankly offensive to me.  You quote Scripture selectively.  Think about Scriptures that describe how we are to treat one another (they are legion – look at a concordance), for they are the central Scriptures at play here, for both you and those you sense oppose you.

 

You could seek Vindication (D-9.000) but technically it would be the session at Center Moriches that would decide.

 

I am simply done with this conversation.  I don’t see that I am helping you at all and your endless notes are a distraction for me this week.

 

I pray you can move on in your life beyond this impasse, for until you do, I think you will remain stuck in the place I see you today. 

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