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Responding to Jeff Durbin & Apologia Church

Okay, church checkers. It’s time I published something in response to Jeff Durbin of Apologia Church down in Mesa, Arizona. I’ve been struggling to decide whether to put this response in writing, in a recording, or both, and I’ve finally settled on both, so let’s get this party started, shall we?

Context is Key!... and Concerning

We’ll start with context because the context of this situation is very important for people to know. A few weeks ago, one of our dear friends and brothers in Christ, Michael Lake, requested that I check Apologia Church in Mesa, Arizona. He’s been searching for some Ex-Mormon Christian support for a while, and one of his friends recommended Apologia Church to him since they have a popular Mormon ministry.

Michael Lake is a true blue church checker, folks. He’s volunteered with us in the past and continues to be a great blessing to CMC, but the important fact to note here is that a friend was recommending Apologia Church to him, and he was doing his own personal research on them before a church check for them was even a consideration for me. Mike was investigating on his own behalf for his own spiritual interests, and once he found some information that was concerning to him, he contacted me.

By the way, Mike has given me permission to use his name and share the details of his request of Apologia Church to Check My Church.

The Red Flag Rears its Ugly Head

When Mike contacted me, he explained how he was looking into Apologia Church for their Mormon ministry, but that he’d found some articles on them that raised a red flag, and that’s when he officially asked Check My Church to write a report on them.

The articles and video he’d found are below:

My reaction? ...

If true, these accusations would lead anyone to conclude that Apologia Church is spiritually abusive to its members. Not only is it dishonest and insidious (and possibly illegal) to record someone without their knowledge or consent, but it betrays the trust that church members put in their church leadership. They confide in and reveal private information to their pastors. This kind of behavior clearly violates that trust and should be confronted, at the very least.

Arriving at the Truth

At this point, I had to find out if these accusations were true. If not, several people are lying and slandering Apologia Church for some reason, but if they are true, a lot of our brothers and sisters in Christ could experience abuse at the hands of this church’s leadership, even as I type these words.

If true, as a member of Apologia Church, you can’t trust your own pastors to honestly and respectfully shepherd you as a child of God. You don’t know if your conversations with leadership about your marital problems, your struggles with addiction, or your disagreements with fellow church members are being recorded, and then saved, lying in wait to be used against you later on for whatever purpose Apologia Church or Jeff Durbin deem necessary.

I could not in good conscience share this information with others without first determining that such heartbreaking and devastating abuse can be verified with proof. And unfortunately, it didn’t take long to find it.

In an Apologia Studios episode entitled Special: Responding to False Witness, Jeff Durbin admits to recording a phone call from Tim Hurd without his knowledge or consent, recording Hurd confessing his sins against Durbin and Apologia church. Jeff Durbin also admits to being the one who anonymously posted the recorded discussion on YouTube, rather than putting it out under his own name or ministry’s name.

We also see in this video, and others posted by Tim Hurd, that James White admits to hearing the phone call recording. The nature in which White divulges this knowledge is very off-putting to me, but listen to the episode for yourself and discern what he meant when White directs a third party to tell Tim Hurd via Facebook Messenger, “I heard the phone call, Tim.”

Jeff Durbin excuses all of this behavior by saying the recording acts as a “witness” to the discussions he has with people, almost as if it attests to good leadership and pastoral care, rather than what I see it as: abuse, dishonesty, and ultimately, entrapment. He also excuses it by saying Hurd has been abusing him and his ministry for years, as if that justifies (even if true) vengeance and vindictive retaliation.

Hearing the admission of this behavior from Durbin’s own mouth is proof that it’s happened at least one time, and as referenced in the article

Michael Lake found (above), there are several others who claim they have been secretly recorded as well. While the writers and reporters at Pulpit & Pen have attempted to contact Jeff Durbin for a one-on-one interview regarding these matters, he has declined to engage with them.

The Usual, Then Something Highly Unusual

So, after learning all of this, I put together my church check template and got to work. I did what I always do. I put an email together and sent it off to Apologia Church with my usual list of questions for the church. After several days and no response (usual), I tracked down another email address for Jeff Durbin and sent him an email. I thought maybe he wasn’t responding because my questions were too many and time-consuming, so I narrowed them down to the most important and difficult to find questions about membership and financial transparency.

Another 5 days passed, and still no response from either Apologia Church or Jeff Durbin. So I sent a follow-up email on the 21st to the church’s contact email. I will sometimes do this as a last-ditch effort to get the church to respond and let them know if they don’t, I’m forced to find the answers myself and if they do, it reflects more positively because it shows church transparency.

But this time, I mentioned I wanted to give Apologia and Durbin an opportunity to respond to the information I’d found at Pulpit & Pen. If they don’t engage with me, I’m forced to investigate matters for myself (as I’m usually forced to do), and what I’d found was pretty concerning. I didn’t want to publish anything without letting them know about it first.

This heads up, I believe, is what prompted Luke Pierson, one of the elders at Apologia church, to interrupt Jeff Durbin’s busy schedule. I think they’d already decided on the 11th that they would not answer my questions, but once I brought up the accusations against them (on the 21st) and mentioned that I’d found some controversial things about them, they perceived that as a threat.

Their response to the so-called “threat” raises another red flag for me. Keep in mind that they ignored me for 12 days, and probably would have continued to ignore me had I not mentioned what I’d found about them on P&P. And If the accusations are really false, this was their opportunity to clear it up. This was their time. Whether they like what I’m doing or agree with me in any category of the faith at all, I was asking questions about real accusations that have been lodged against Apologia Church and Jeff Durbin, and the best way to put lies to rest is to refute them.

But that’s not what happened. After 12 days of silence, once I mentioned the P&P news and Tim Hurd’s warnings to Apologia Church members, I was answered within 24 hours. The very next day, on the 22nd, Jeff Durbin finally responded to me. His response was both jarring and confusing.

Enter Stage Left: Smokescreens, Distractions, & Deflections Galore!

As you can see, rather than answering any of my questions, Jeff ignored them and leveled his own accusations against me personally, and against our brother in Christ, Shawn McCraney of CAMPUS Church in Murray, Utah.