As has been noted on this blog multiple times, Jim Wright (James C Wright of Manassas, VA) and Keith Smith (“Dr.” Keith W. Smith of Gunzenhausen, Germany) have a lot it common. They both dislike national authors who address the topic of organic church and other forms of church polity and theology with which they disagree. More to the point, they both see themselves as the proper people to “lead” in this arena. This has been especially clear with Jim Wright, who has a habit and pattern of this type of attitude and then behavior stretching back to 1981 when he was known (for the first time at least, to have been thrown out of the Moral Majority (along with the entire Maryland Chapter that he represented.)
“Dr.” Keith Smith, operates from the same position of assumed entitlement and grandiose claims as well. It’s was a match made in heaven (or more like hell) when the two of them connected and saw how they could help each other in attacking multiple people whom they see as standing in the way of their desire to lead a movement.
Jim Wright’s More than 30 Year History of Attacking Others
Jim Wright, of course, has been making absurd claims for years about others. In addition to his removal from the Moral Majority in 1981, he left his last two local churches in Manassas VA, after attacking them both publicly and with outrageous accusations of different forms of abuse and financial mismanagement. One he fled rather than stand up to the charges against him, while at the same time in the midst of a messy divorce, and the last he finally was charged within the church for his specific sins of slander and seeking to harm others in leadership within that church and the church as a whole. The congregational meeting held about that issue in 2009 required the presence of attorneys representing the church as well as security for the meeting to be prepared for any potential disruption by Jim Wright who had to be kept off of the property based on the level of virulence and past disruption he had caused in general and in previous church meetings and services. In the end, the congregational vote to excommunicate was unanimous save for one person, who subsequently went on to marry Jim Wright.
Organic Church Convictions?
After Jim Wright was excommunicated from his local Church in Manassas VA, in 2009, Jim conveniently decided he was now being led into simple or organic church, something Jim’s parents had been in involved in all their lives but which Jim had left and had nothing to do with most of his life. The fact that he was now known publicly through his rabble rousing and disruption of 2 consecutive local churches and known to the local ministerium of the other churches in the area, might just have had something to do with it. So, Jim Wright started a “simple church” in his home which based on the accounts of people who have attended it really only comprised Jim and his second wife, one other family of about 4 and then a constant stream of people whom Jim came into contact with through his “prison ministry” where he went weekly to the local jail to present a Bible Study. Most people attending were former prisoners or their families. Speaking with a few of these people the general pattern was about 1 or 2 visits for each of them and then they chose not to return because of the negative nature of the meetings which was mostly Jim railing about the dangers of existentialism and other Christians with whom Jim Wright disagreed. (That’s not hard to see as Jim’s writing online is predominantly on that theme as well. It’s something of an obsession for him.)
The local Simple Church was centered on Wright, who dominated the fellowship, and became the de facto “pastor”. In the meantime, Jim used his meeting at the jail and came to describe his captive audience there as an “organic church plant” based on his single weekly Bible Study and encourage prisoners as they were leaving to continue in their own gatherings. This is the basis upon which he claims to be an “Organic Church Planter,” an “Organic Sower” and an “Elder” in a “network of local organic churches.”
History Repeats Itself
Jim Wright began his campaign against multiple authors at the House2House group as early as February of 2012. He took personal offense at the writings of one of the authors who is part of H2H and sought him out on his website to make clear his displeasure with what was written. Included in his “outrage” were the following claims made by Jim Wright as to his own importance from the past.
Jim Wright : “with all due respect (and I mean that!), you don’t have a clue what you are talking about.
Your “history” of the “religious right” and “neo-evangelicals” and “fundamentalism” is so off base as to be shocking.
I know: I lived it and was involved at the highest levels and also as one of the most touted grass roots leaders back in the ’80s. I was the object of books and national media for my leadership and organizing back during the time you now want to discredit with dubious and outright false “history”.”
This was of course, the type of claim, Jim Wright made until I (Bart Breen) took the little bit of effort needed to check out Jim’s past and claims and found that far from being “one of the most touted grass roots leaders in the 80’s” he was in fact a disgraced outcast from the Moral Majority who were embarrassed by him, (see this newspaper article of his “campaign” to erase the public threat of “obscene Gingerbread men”).
From this point on (if not before) Jim Wright then kicked into his lifelong pattern of attacking and smearing people toward whom he had taken offense. As usual, he used scorched earth tactics making the most serious, the most outrageous and the most damaging claims he possibly could using selective evidence with his own confirmation bias selecting only those things that he could use to promote his already made-up mind. He ignored correction and multiple communications to him, (some from the very people he was quoting in his efforts!) and simply charged ahead with his smear campaign.
Jim Wright’s Multiple Bannings for Trolling
He went on Facebook Groups attacking multiple people until he became known in the online organic community at large as a troll and slanderer and was banned from multiple groups (at least 10 known at this time.)
He went to blogs and attacked people personally and vicariously there until he was banned from multiple blogs.
He used organizations he’s set-up and didn’t reveal that he was the sole spokesperson of all of them and yet attempted to speak independently from each one of them in the effort to create the illusion of independent confirmation of his fabricated charges.
He looked hard and long for any dirt he could find and then made the most elaborate and exaggerated conclusions he could to extrapolate any small thing into the most outrageous claim and in the course of it all he presented very little direct evidence, instead promoting his credentials as an attorney (which he was in environmental law and had no little or no practice in the areas he now claims expertise) and calling upon people to “trust him.”
Jim Wright and Keith Smith Connect and Promote Each Other
Then came some more “red meat” in Jim’s patterns and gift for Jim to step things up another notch. Keith W. Smith found Jim Wright online and had an opportunity to advance his own agenda which was similar to Jim Wright’s.
An examination of Jim’s blog shows that Jim and Keith connected on September 1, 2012 when Keith posted the following on Jim’s blog (which was, of course, an attack on others with whom he had already taken offense and was in the process of ramping up his attacks.)
Keith Smith: “Both this article and the comments that follow, are helpful contributions to any discussion on Organic Church. I must say that after 40 years of Organic thinking and ministry, there is not one point that you made I would disagree with. I wrote to … about the idea that there has to be an apostle involved in the planting of every organic church, as here in Germany this idea has severely crippled a local network that seemed to have started three or four churches, but now believe that they are not true churches because no apostle was there when they started.”
Notice the claim. Keith claims to have been involved in organic church for 40 years and to have had issues with the teaching of others in Organic Church. Other research on Keith shows this to be false and hypocritical as Keith in his own writings, which don’t appear until after 2000 claims the status of “apostle” and as someone who plants churches. What follows however is even more revealing.
Keith Smith: It is fair to say that … and I relate in another way, that is all I can say.
And with that, Keith Smith and Jim Wright began to communicate privately and begin their dance to promote each others’ common agenda. What are some clues as to that agenda?
Keith Smith’s Claim to be the Originator of Organic Church
Keith Smith was already making noise on the internet against authors in the organic church movement before he came to Jim Wright on September 1, 2012. Keith was also making claims throughout this time that he in fact was the coiner of the phrase “organic church” as far back as 1991 and he even claimed Neil Cole plagiarized portions of his book! There’s no evidence I can find by the way of any such book ever having been published by Keith Smith. This is what Keith said on November 19, 2012 commenting on a post on the Simple Church Website that demonstrates who this man is and what his motives are in terms of promoting his own claims of self-importance.
Keith Smith: Hummm, I fist used this term [organic church] in the 1991 in my book “Organic House Church”, Neil later used unattributed quotes from the book. I was quoting earlier brethren sources. Organic does indicate living, thriving growth. I’m not sure that that accurately describes some who use that designation today
So, we have Jim Wright who has a personal grudge against multiple authors from H2H and a history of smear campaigns, excommunication and expulsion from multiple organizations and churches and now we have Keith Smith who is coming to Jim Wright with his own agenda of wanting to promote himself as the originator of the term and concept of “Organic Church” intimating that he has some things that only he knows that Jim Wright might be interested in.
Birds of a Feather
Add to that, that Keith Smith makes incredible claims of multiple Doctorates, multiple MA degrees, multiple church plants, the founder of specific methods of therapy, a touring teacher in medical schools (which are never named) an expert in all types of areas who has been cheated of what is his due, and it’s not all that hard to see that what is going on here likely is two men who both have similar motives to promote themselves while destroying others, and they are relying upon each other to try to create the appearance of legitimacy.
Jim Wright by the way, has bought into Keith Smith’s claims and promotes them without apparently having done any real due diligence to check them. When he’s working from a selective confirmation bias and only accepting those things that support his agenda to destroy others with whom he disagrees with and wants to replace, it really doesn’t appear to matter to Jim Wright. He’ll take whatever he can get and spin it to suit his needs and personal destructive agenda.
Jim Wright appeals with a logical fallacy of an appeal to authority referencing Keith’s “credentials” on June 20, 2014
Jim Wright: “That counselor [Keith Smith] has a doctoral degree from a top university and a long resume regarding sexual abuse issues.“
So there you have it. Jim Wright and Keith Smith look plainly to me to be cronies and collaborators who have found each other and work off of each other to promote each others’ already predisposed and demonstrated personal agendas.