"I remember thinking about Davey, something's not right with that boy," NewSpring Church Pastor Perry Noble said about Davey Blackburn during this past Sunday's memorial service for Amanda Blackburn, who was killed by a single gunshot wound to the head during an alleged home invasion last Tuesday. The audience laughed at Noble's comment about Davey. Noble continued, describing the day he met Amanda, "They walked in and I said that thing that hasn't been quite right with Davey just got made right when she walked in" "She truly was the person that completed him and made him a better man." After reading what follows, some might wonder if there's something not right about Pastor Noble.
Long before Davey and Amanda arrived to build their new Resonate Church in Indianapolis with the financial backing of Noble's NewSpring church, Noble and his church had frequently been the center of controversy in Anderson, South Carolina. Noble was recently rebuked by the South Carolina Baptist Convention over controversial statements he made about the Ten Commandments not being commandments from God but rather "sayings" or "promises." Noble told the parishioners at his mega church during a Christmas eve service last year that there was no word for "commandment" in the Hebrew language in which the original Old Testatment was written. Noble later apologized, saying he misunderstood his teacher in Israel. In a later sermon shown in the video above, Noble apologizes for the misunderstanding, as well as a flap over his use of the N-word during his sermon. He assured his parishioners that's not the word he meant to say in his heart.
A critic of Noble's church, Dr. James Duncan, an associate professor of communications at South Carolina's Anderson University, filed a lawsuit against Noble, his church and other NewSpring officials after he complained they waged a "campaign of harassment" against him and his family because of his critique of the church's methods. "We sued the parties for negligence, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, assault (Maxwell only), civil conspiracy, unfair trade practices, and negligent hiring, training and supervision," Dr. Duncan wrote on his blog, Pajamapages.com. "We alleged that Perry Noble and other NewSpring leaders were aware of the harassment from early on and did nothing to stop it; though they deny those complaints." Dr. Duncan said he and the defendants entered into a confidential settlement after years of litigation in September 2012 under which the church's insurance company paid him and his family an undisclosed sum.
Dr. Duncan detailed the harassment he claims he and his family endured following his public criticism of Noble and the NewSpring Church in a December 5, 2009 post on his blog titled, "Holy Rage at the Spring." He says his ordeal began after he blogged about a series by NewSpring's youth ministry titled, "SEXED." Duncan took issue with the "salacious image and statements" he believed occupied the church's stage. Looking closer at the church's sermons, he saw what he viewed as profanities being spewed by ministers during church services. The church's youth worship center was called the "Fuse Factory" that was described as looking "bamf" (bad a_ _ mother f_ _ _ _ _)." After church officials became aware of his criticism, Duncan says he earned the wrath of what he described as "paranoid pastors" who had no room for "dissent and disagreement."
Duncan describes what started as a twitter campaign against him by Noble's associates escalated into something far more serious and deranged. Duncan began receiving gay pornographic e-mails sent by a NewSpring member. Later, someone subscribed him to a gay magazine, OUT. That was followed by unsolicited e-mails confirming his request for auto insurance, life insurance, financial planning services, enrollment at online universities, etc. One NewSpring member set up a Twitter account impersonating Duncan, which directed insults at Anderson University's president where Duncan was a member of the faculty, and expressed a homosexual interest in one of regular commenters on his blog. Someone else attempted to create a fake account for him at Wikiversity. That was followed by late-night prank phone calls and a forged resignation letter from Duncan addressed to the university's provost, which he only learned about when the provost e-mailed him to express his regrets about his resignation. It didn't stop there. One fake twitter account was deleted and replaced by another that renewed attacks on Duncan and his family members, describing their sexual proclivities in the most explicit of terms, often fantasizing about homosexual activities.
Duncan said Noble once told parishioners during a sermon that he had to fire one of the church's employee for "going over the line" against a critic, namely Duncan. "Don't worry," Noble assured his flock, the guy didn't blow up anyone's house," Duncan wrote on his blog, quoting Noble. Duncan claimed he and his wife had arranged to adopt a baby, but those plans were dashed at the last-minute. Duncan blames a church member for turning the birth mother against him and his wife. As it turned out, the baby was adopted Duncan claims by a church member with whom he and his wife had been communicating about the ongoing harassment issues to which they were being subjected. Duncan says a police investigation confirmed church members were behind the "campaign of harassment" against him and his family members. This is how Duncan described that investigation and its results:
Genuinely fearful of physical harm befalling my family or me, I reported the harassment to the Anderson County sheriff’s office on July 24. The detective who investigated the case, himself a member of Newspring (who disclosed that fact to me at the outset with an offer to recuse himself), served search warrants on Twitter to get the IP of the person who was posting the content, then on Research in Motion to get the name of the subscriber to the Blackberry device that was being used for the account.
The man behind the harassment was Josh Maxwell, a full-time security staff member at NewSpring. Three other volunteers (Milstead, Eric Elgin, and Travis Dickson) also confessed to their involvement in the harassment, though none were as involved as Maxwell.
I met with an assistant solicitor for the county in October to see what charges might be warranted. For various reasons, the solicitor could only press a single charge against Dickson for distribution of pornography. I had already decided that if Maxwell, the main driver of the campaign, was not going to be charged, it wasn’t fair for him to get off while his friend, who was only briefly involved, was held legally accountable. I told the solicitor that I would not press the charge.The experience Duncan describes going through after criticizing the NewSpring Church is nothing short of a nightmare. One can't help but wonder whether negative influences from the church where Davey Blackburn once served as a youth minister followed him to his Resonate Church in Indianapolis. Peter Hyatt has blogged extensively at Statement Analysis blog about his perceptions of Blackburn and, in particular, his relationship with his late wife. Hyatt complained of church discussions focusing too much attention on sex and, Blackburn, in particular, whom he describes as having narcissistic tendencies. Hyatt, in particular, is critical of the humiliating and condescending manner in which he perceived Blackburn as treating his wife based on his analysis of numerous videos of the two uploaded to the church's website.
Interestingly, there's an interview Pastor Perry Noble had with GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson this past August. During the interview, Carson repeats the story about how he was led to Jesus Christ after he locked himself in a bathroom after attempting to stab to death a friend during a fight. That claim, recounted in Carson's recently-released book, has become a center of controversy for Carson's presidential campaign with some acquaintances claiming it never happened.
UPDATE: So I received a menacing phone call this morning from Ware Shoals, South Carolina from this number: 864-618-0017. There was a male calling from this number speaking in a fake accent pretending to be my online computer service provider. Ware Shoals is just a short drive southeast of Anderson, South Carolina. Someone is trying to give me the Dr. Duncan treatment.