Updated: Apr 14
"I stand by my decision to send you home and I stand by asking you to cut those relationships."
Rivernook Campground in Kernville has over 40 acres of campsites, riverfront beaches, trees with their own stories, and lusciously green meadows. We sat at a weather-worn picnic bench near the water. This was the neutral setting for the last meeting I had with Neal. We hadn't met since the June meeting at Riverside Park with Johnny. He requested the meeting; I was able to understand his intent within the first few minutes. He needed something from me. Phrases like: "I still think we should work together," and, "We have more left to do in this community," dominated the conversation. I mostly listened. "New vision" was explained. Vision that sounded very similar to things I'd heard before, but this time, it had a new wrapper.
At this point in time, our new venture, Life Church, had been formed. We were meeting at Kernville Elementary School and things were really coming together. Back in April of 2018, we had been cut from everything: job, church, denomination, community. Now, only six months later, we had a fresh start, full of hope. Yet here I sat, across from someone who was talking with the same passion and charisma I had actually believed in for years...but somehow it sounded stale and distant. It's not that I didn't agree with the words he was sharing -- they sounded inspiring; they always did. But now I was aware of the cost involved if I even hinted toward a "yes." I had almost died. And "almost" dying was too close to dying. We'll get to that story later in this chapter.
As I listened to him, my mind began to think through all the stories I had heard over the previous six months. They were very similar to the stories I'm hearing now as I write this blog -- stories of abuse, harassment, bullying, shaming, and obscene anger. It wasn't until I stepped away from their cultish church, that those in the shadows felt safe enough to come forward and share. Their stories made mine look pleasant. In those six months I also started to hear about emotional health and spiritual abuse. I began to learn from professionals what terms like grooming, conditioning, gaslighting, and narcissism really meant. I wasn't going out searching for excuses; I was confronted with a reality I wasn't ready to accept. No one enjoys feeling like they've been duped. Been the victim. Hoodwinked. Bamboozled. Used and discarded. It was a hard pill to swallow. The only redeeming factor was this: I wasn't alone. There were hundreds more. Hundreds. Spanning over decades. Again, those are not my stories to tell. But I will say this: they are real, and they have not only brought me to tears, but have literally caused me to vomit in disgust.
My mind returned to the present scene at Rivernook, and he was finishing his new mission pitch. I thanked him for sharing and asked just one question, "Do you regret the way things ended? Sending me home, firing me, asking me to cut off people?" Up until this point, I had compassionate Neal in front of me. But now, his face changed. He leaned forward across the table, stern and stoic, almost robotic. Here came the reply I was expecting, "I stand by my decision to send you home and stand by asking you to cut those relationships." That's all I needed to hear. And deep down, I knew that would be his response. We ended the meeting shortly after. I wasn't angry. I was sad for him. I didn't want him to fail. But I knew it would be his fate if he kept going down the same road.
One Year After I Was Sent Home
On March 11, 2018, a Sunday morning at approximately 7:45 a.m., I was sent home from church because I wouldn't cut off relationships with people. It was now one year later, to the day, to the time. 7:45 a.m. on March 11, 2019. This year, it was a Monday morning, and I was driving my kids to school at Kernville Elementary. I had to pass by Wofford Heights Foursquare Church (FC-Faith Community). As I crossed the intersection, there was Neal in his car, waiting to turn onto the street. We made eye contact. I then looked over the top of his car and could see the entrance to the church, the location where he scolded me and sent me home. 365 days later to the minute. Time stood still as I thought about how much had happened since that day. After dropping the kids off at school, I sat in the car and wrote the following in my journal. No one has ever read this before.
Exactly 1 year after getting sent home from church and seeing Neal as I passed by FC taking the girls to school
Today was exactly one year since you sent me home from church, in your words, to “discipline” me. Why? Because I was allowing Jocelyn and the Moss family into my home. Your words were, “If they are in your camp, you can’t be in this camp.” Those words were spoken by you at 7:45 a.m. on March 11, 2018, on Panorama Dr. outside the front doors of Wofford Heights Foursquare. Today, at 7:45 a.m., on Panorama Dr., my car passed you in your car as you were waiting to turn toward Kernville. Same street, same day, same time. One year later. The only difference is that I was moving and you were stopped, waiting. I believe you are still waiting, stuck and not moving. When we met in October of 2018 you shared that you “stand behind your decision to send me home and stand behind asking me to cut relationships”. I think that as long as you believe that, you will be stuck, stopped, and hindered. Pray and read until you are blue in the face, but until your secrets, lies, control, and manipulation stop, you will be frustrated and in the same spot, literally. Once you and Amie acknowledge this and change, I believe you will succeed. I want you to succeed! You don’t owe anything to me, but you do owe others honesty. Starting with your kids plus your extended family. The ripple effect of your honesty will bring more growth and health than you know.
The remainder of this post deals with the overwhelming evidence of corruption within the former leadership of the Foursquare Church denomination, as proven by Neal, on March 10th of 2023 on his personal blog & Facebook account. We will work forward to this date.
I've spent the last six weeks digging through all my notes, journals, texts, videos, emails, calendar events, and computer files. I've been on so many phone calls with people. All to help tell this story as accurately as possible while still acknowledging my own bias and point of view. Through all the searching and revisiting, here is what I can't find: anything to prove the following statement to be accurate.
"The things being written about me and my wife, by my former Christian colleague and friend, are by and large not true." Neal Preston - March 10, 2013
In the chapter, "The Big Secret" I had redacted this paragraph entitled, "Bias."
I redacted the content because it wasn't my story to tell. However, Neal used the content of that story back in 2018 against me. I only found this out after his March 10th post. He said it this way:
For those who don't want to watch the video, here is my summary: Apparently since 2018, he believes I had a "plan of attack" on his family and former pastor (Bill Chaney). Read his church letter from 2018 below.
Here is one important section from his letter for those who don't want to read it:
I am writing this letter in response to a recent conversation I had with Supervisor Bill Chaney. He informed me that accusations were brought against him and me by Jon Feldschau, the former Senior Pastor of Wofford Heights Foursquare Church.
In short, and paraphrased from our conversation, the accusation was that I was blackmailing Bill Chaney in order to not be fired from my current position as pastor of Wofford Heights Foursquare Church. Jon supposedly cited in a recent Facebook message to President Glen Burris that Bill or I engaged in “Lewd” behavior during a visit to Bill’s home in 2016. The purpose for the visit was to explore the possibility of succeeding Bill as pastor of Valley Christian Center prior to him becoming Supervisor of the Central Pacific District.
This accusation is absolutely false. I am in no way holding any information against Supervisor Chaney, nor did anything take place during the visit that would constitute anything close to these accusations.
When I spoke with Bill this morning he asked me what I told Jon about the visit my wife Amie and I made to Fresno back in 2016. I told Jon that I had a lot of fun. That spending time with Bill in a home setting was much different than the typical work environments I had known Bill previously. I told him that we drank wine and stayed up most of the night playing pool, talking, and getting to know one another. I told Jon it felt a lot more like hanging out with an old buddy from High School and I appreciated that.
Again, in no way did anything take place that supports the accusations being brought against us. I have great respect for Bill and Beth Chaney and am saddened that Jon would say the things he has. There is no merit behind Jon’s statement as I know it.
I'm not sure who Neal distributed this letter to back in 2018, but I assume it was sent to whomever was attending the Foursquare church at the time. I will say this: I did send a private message in September of 2018 to the President of the Foursquare Denomination. I did say I had concerns about Bill's leadership and the type of "buddy" relationship he had with Neal. A private message -- to the President. I didn't tell anyone else. Until now. A very important question is this: How did Neal know that I accused Bill Chaney, Foursquare District Supervisor, of a drunken night with Neal? A night that did happen; it will be proven later in this post. Only the President should have had this information, since he's the only person I shared it with. Let the Foursquare Human Resource nightmare unfold...corruption in the system...time to jump ship...all the leaders listed below did eventually leave Foursquare...voluntarily or non-voluntarily...
Life Church had been established, and after meeting at our house, Kernville Cowork, and other locations, we had eventually found our home at Kernville Elementary. We were led by a group of 10 leaders. Stacy and I were two of them. There was no king. No ego. Just this week I finished watching a video from one of our Family Camp retreats and cried. I miss that church so much. It was healthy.
We were caring for people. We were doing life together. That was the point. And the church was growing very, very fast. But that wasn't the point. Health isn't found in numbers. Health is found in people loving and caring for each other. It was during this month, September of 2018, that I received a call from Charles Twist.
Charles and Brenda Twist had been pastors of Restoration Word Fellowship in Bakersfield for 20 years. The weekend after I was sent home in March of 2018, they were installed as support pastors at Wofford Heights Foursquare Church.
Charles and Brenda are amazing people. Wise and insightful. Charles is Native and his words pierce with sincerity, honesty, and truth. Brenda is a firecracker and says that which is on her mind, in a good way! I love this couple. They continue to inspire and encourage me today.
They had been "tested" and were "safe people" according to Neal and Amie. For six months, they served at Wofford Heights Foursquare Church. But then they were escorted off the property by Neal's secretary for "bringing division". Anyone who knows Charles and Brenda also knows this was not true. It's not who they are.
Charles and Brenda called me shortly after their removal. We met for lunch in Bakersfield. I listened to their story. It was painful and full of tears. I told them an overview of my story. I let them know that Neal told me back in our June meeting that "I had hurt him deeper than anyone in his entire life." Charles paused, he said Neal told him the same thing. The victim mentality on repeat.
Previously Neal had asked Charles to "call him out" and "stab him in the front," like a true friend. But when Charles tried to do exactly that, Neal would not listen. Over and over, the cycle repeated. There was a point reached when Charles and Brenda had seen and experienced too many ethical issues with Neal and Amie, so they called Bill Chaney, the boss. They informed Bill about everything going on, sharing what they had seen and heard. Let me be clear on something: If you're in a hierarchical form of governance, this is exactly what you're suppose to do - report issues up the chain of command. But Bill dismissed them. He told Charles to talk to Neal about it, maybe because Neal was also the Area Superintendent...in charge of himself. No conflict of interest there... Before Charles could even schedule a meeting, Bill had called Neal and told him that there was "division in his leadership." Neal then called for an emergency meeting with Charles and Brenda. The attendees of this meeting included: Charles, Brenda, Neal, Amie, and the pissed-off secretary. They all sat in a room, but Amie stood over Neal. Furious. After minutes of being berated by Neal, Charles tried to speak. Not allowed. The secretary wouldn't condone someone possibly speaking against "the leader," so she escorted them both off of the church property. Neal did not stop her.
When Charles and Brenda shared this, I heard their story and believed them. Similar stories of abuse and bullying had been shared with me by so many people in the six months leading up to this meeting. It was my story as well. There are two things that make me extremely angry: bullying a child and bullying an elder. The Prestons, once again, crossed this line. The Twists' story is what compelled me to report the incident (that included both Bill and Neal) to the President of Foursquare, Glenn Burris. I was taking the concerns up the chain of command. This is what I messaged him:
Facebook Messenger to Glenn Burris
9/19/18, 2:50 PM
I am just checking back in. After emailing Bill, per your request, I haven’t heard anything back. I still would like to pursue a Foursquare Association membership. As an update, we are now an official church plant within Southern Baptist and things are really developing well for this new church: Life Church. We have had an overwhelming number of people show support and begin attending and journeying with us. I do need to share something very unsettling with you though. I believe that Bill’s leadership decisions in regards to allowing Neal to continue to pastor the Wofford Heights Foursquare Church and lead as an Area Superintendent are compromised. In the last 5 months, most (80%) of the church has left as a result of Neal’s leadership decisions, lack of ethical behavior financially, and harsh criticism of those inside and outside the congregation. The entire church council, all ministry leaders (that are not part of Neal’s immediate family) and most of the tithing members. Just a few weeks ago, an elderly couple, Charles and Brenda Twist (Foursquare Pastors who were on staff), just left the church for the reasons listed above. Additionally, there is an active IRS investigation into Neal’s non-profit, Enforum, because for years he’s used tax deductible donations to pay for a mortgage on a building he personally owns (through an LLC) (that building is dilapidated and unable to be occupied). There are a lot of shady details and proof of this. He’s recorded donations to that non-profit as “tithe” to the Wofford Heights Foursquare Church and even asked tithing members to donate directly to that non profit in leu of tithing to the church. It’s a mess. Bill knows all this by the way. When I asked Rick Guerra for advice on this scenario, about a year ago (because I learned about it about a year before resigning), his advice was to stop it immediately. I approached Neal and then Bill on it and they showed no interest in doing anything about it. Within the next few months it unfortunately will come to light and ultimately not look good for Foursquare. Now I have to get back to why I feel Bill is treating Neal like “he can do no wrong.” I am aware of Bill’s alcohol addiction and denial of said addiction. I know that Neal and Bill have been drunk together at Bill’s house and know of detailed obscene behavior that Bill has done in front of and with Neal. I know of Beth’s prolific apologies to Neal for the behavior. And I know this behavior isn’t an isolated incident. I personally believe that Bill will do anything Neal wants because he doesn’t want these things to come out. Why am I telling you all this? Because I see the continued wreckage in this community as a result. I see the Foursquare family I love in an unhealthy place. And, I can’t just sit idly by. I have no other options that I know of. When Pastor Charles and Brenda Twist came to Bill to air their concerns about Neal, Bill dismissed them, called Neal, then Neal chewed them out and had them escorted off the property! I’ll stop now. I won’t share any of this with anyone. Here is all I want. I want to be able to be Foursquare (via Association) and be proud to call myself that. I know family can be dysfunctional at times, and I’m ok with it! I want Bill to get the help he needs and I want Neal to no longer hurt people in this community. I’m available to talk anytime. I can be reached via my cell at ________. I’ll completely respect anything you tell me to do, including “leave it alone and just move on”. I’ve waited to send this for about two months now. I didn’t want it to come from a heart of hurt or vindictiveness. I don’t believe either are happening now. Thanks for listening. Sorry you have to deal with this. -Jon
(Click to expand and read)
Glenn's response was simple: "Jon; I appreciate you sharing these out of the concerns you have stated. I will be sharing this with our General Supervisor. It moves me to prayer for everyone involved. Praying for your ministry."
At the time, the National Foursquare leadership, from the top, down to the local Foursquare church, was structured this way:
President: Glenn Burris
General Supervisor: Tammy Dunahoo
District Supervisor: Bill Chaney
Pastoral Overseer (by choice): James Ranger
Area Superintendent: Neal Preston
Pastor: Neal Preston
Reminder of the "Good ol' boy's Club" members: Tammy, Bill, and James all had been friends since youth, where they grew up together in Arkansas. James looked at Neal as near perfect (as shown in a previous chapter). Hence, I had to go ABOVE Tammy to the President with my message. And the very private concerns I addressed somehow trickled down to Neal...who is still, to this day, publicly using them against me.
The Big But
Ready for it? I didn't make up the story. And Foursquare knows this, other people were told the same story. By Bill's wife Beth. First, let me explain what I believe happened. In sequence:
Neal came back from a trip to Fresno with Bill, and he was visibly upset. He shared the following with me:
He and Amie had a weekend in Fresno, with Bill & Beth Chaney. On one of the nights, Bill and Neal were playing pool and Bill broke out the vodka. Bill got hammered drunk. He was sloppy. He was cussing and calling Neal profane names. His wife, Beth, was profusely apologizing. Saying, "He only acts like this around his close friends, he must really like you". Neal didn't know what to do.
Neal was shaken up by this when he told me. I didn't tell anyone until I messaged the President on 9/19/18. When President Glenn told Tammy, I believe she immediately called her friend Bill and told him he needed to deal with it and get Neal in line. Tammy, at the time, was already aware of Bill's alcohol problem. Foursquare has record of his DUI - CHP reports. I downloaded a copy of one of them (and so can you below) since it is public record. I NEVER would have shared this information, had Neal not tried to use Bill's history against me.
I believe that Bill, upon having heard from Tammy about my message, then called Neal to chew him out, they decided to aligned their stories, and Neal wrote the 2018 letter as a cover up. "Protect the family." Over and over through this blog I've shared how the mindset of "protect the family" somehow justifies: lies, cover ups, and concealing the truth. It is not my intention to out Bill and his struggles, and I truly do hope he's received help. I have had my own times of drinking too much alcohol and saying things I regret. I understand it. And I don't blame him for it. But I don't agree with covering things up. Unfortunately, it's been proven to be the Foursquare way for 100 years. The other option? Own your sh*t, repent, ask for forgiveness, deal with the consequences, and move on. That's all it takes.
Here's the kicker...Bill's wife, Beth, was so upset about the night with Neal that she told her friends. Those friends, at the time, worked for Foursquare. And, current Foursquare leadership doesn't deny they know about this event and what took place. I asked them about it this past week. It all happened.
But...not only did Neal say something different in his letter back in 2018; he is now trying to use that letter as a way to say I've been spreading false accusations for five years? I wasn't out spreading anything about the visit in Fresno, until now. And even if I had, it wasn't false. It happened. There are multiple corroborating witness testimonies. Am I surprised by his actions and statements? Not at all. Time and time again, he has justified this type of behavior to "protect the family." Here is another hard truth...
"We are Christian people...If you've known us in any real life capacity or situation for over the last 20 years...you would know that is our heart's desire."
Everyone who is sharing their stories, including myself, has known Neal and Amie in a very real life capacity, some for more than 20 years, and no one is doubting their desire. However, their actions are not congruent with their stated desires. Their actions harm people deeply. Their actions are abusive. Their actions are full of harassment and bullying. Their actions gaslight people. And let me be very clear on this: I do not believe their actions represent the God they claim to represent.
July 10th, 2018
No one knows this part. Not even my wife. My eyes are closed as I write this. Only my fingers and their muscle memory guide this draft. I can't even look at the screen. Tears are flowing down my face, not slowly, but in rapid succession. Pause, deep breath. We had met with friends on this day. I won't mention their names; none of this was their fault. But when I left the meeting, a dark weight hit me in full force for the first time. I didn't have the strength to bear it. The question posed to me that night was simple, "Why didn't you stand up?" I had asked myself that question for years. I had been asked the same question by many. But this night, it hit hard.
Guilt. Shame. Regret. Sadness. They crashed over me, repeatedly, in rapid succession. It was my fault. It was all my fault. Even after years of therapy, I still believe that today. It doesn't matter how many people tell me something different. And I am truly sorry for all of it.
On this night, I couldn't breathe. I didn't want to breathe. I knew how I would do it. I won't go into the details -- my children are reading this. But I had a plan, and I was ready for it all to be over. I don't have some amazing story of something or someone who pulled me out of it. I just know that looking back, it felt like standing on the edge of a cliff, and for the first time, I was actually thinking about the relief I'd feel if I just leaned forward, fully letting go. But I stepped back. Blame it on the scare of the thought. Blame it on cowardice. I just know I didn't follow through.
I will say this: I had really great friends and a very encouraging family. They've helped more than they know. The darkness was real. It invited me to dance. I started the dance. I decided to walk away. And now I don't blame anyone else for dancing. I now have an unspoken compassion for those who have finished the dance, sad as it is. I never again can say, "I don't understand how they got to that point." I do understand, but, I wish I could have been there with them, on the dance floor with an open hand, ready to cut in.
Who Is This God?
There is a very famous saying from the 1993 football movie Rudy:
Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard, incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and...I am not Him. Father Cavanaugh
I am not a pastor. I am not a counselor. I work in marketing now. But I also know this: pastors are not gods. I don't even believe they speak for God. I believe the good ones do their best to share from an ancient text about God. And they love people, as modeled by the God they study from their ancient text. Those who claim to speak on behalf of God -- I don't trust them. Not anymore. Maybe that will be worked out in my ongoing therapy, but probably not. Neal and Amie continue to use the word "God" as a justification for abuse --"God told me". In my opinion, Neal and Amie do not represent any god, and they certainly do not speak on his behalf. Look that those who have followed them for any extended amount of time (over three years). First, do they even exist? Most leave before making it to the two year mark. But for those who do stay:
Are they more loyal to a person or to a god? Will they fight for a person till the end or for a god? Does it seem like it's mostly about defending a human? One answer seems scriptural, and one seems very cultish.
Abuse was very evident within this chapter. I call it "never-ending" in the title, because even though it's five years later, I'm still being gaslit -- even today. I'll say it again, as I said in the introduction of this entire blog: until abusers are exposed for what they are, the abuse will continue. It needs to stop.
Two weeks ago I sat down with Charles and Brenda Twist. It was so great to see them. We hugged, we laughed, we talked through the hard times, and we shared about the goodness of life now. And Charles, again, had words of wisdom for me. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a small stone, Brenda did the same -- smooth stones. They set them on the table. He told me that no altar could be built from stones made by man's hands. These particular stones had been found in the river, smoothed over by the flow of water for centuries. It was the Native way. He shared a scripture with me about how if God's people don't worship God, God will make the rocks or stones cry out in praise to him. He pointed to the stones and looked directly into my eyes, "These rocks are silent because you are speaking out. Sharing your story is bringing people closer to God; That is worship." Tears rolled down my cheeks. I thanked him for his encouragement. He told me to keep the rocks in my pocket, as a reminder that he and Brenda would be praying for me. They are with me now. I love this couple. They are still pastoring people. That day they were pastoring me. They give me hope that not all pastors destroy lives, gaslight, and bully. Not all are abusive.
I don't have a massive cliffhanger to this chapter. And I only have one more post left in my story, coming next time:
Off Track: Questions that Demand Answers
All the documents that show possible financial corruption over the years along with all the questions I believe need to be asked in order for this abuse to finally stop. I'm guessing another cease and desist letter is on its way...