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I believe in the golden rule

I believe in the golden rule to treat others as we want them to treat us.

This means building people up, not tearing them down. It means giving people the benefit of the doubt, second chances and forgiveness. It means encouraging others and being generous. It means sharing hope.

In the Bible, God clearly tells us to do right toward others; especially widows, orphans, strangers and the poor (in essence, the homeless).

My wife, Debi, and I, along with my children, Marc and Marci, committed our lives to serving those who need a hand up. We started Set Free Christian Fellowship in 1997 to serve the brokenhearted and the poor in spirit.

In 1998 we founded Rogue Retreat (a separate nonprofit), which became an organization that creates opportunities for the homeless to have hope. At last count over 500 a night.

Along the way Set Free also started God’s Food Pantry, which has morphed into Set Free Services (another nonprofit) which provides shower/laundry services, hot meals, clothing giveaway, water and more, serving hundreds of people a week.

Why do I share this?

In June, false accusations were made about me and Set Free. We were accused of discriminating against the LGBTQ population. This is far from the truth and an investigation by the city of Medford attorney and by the board of Rogue Retreat determined there was no truth in the allegations.

But there was fallout from these false accusations to me and Rogue Retreat. Some community funders and donors stopped funding Rogue Retreat over the accusations. Others stopped funding Rogue Retreat due to the way I was judged, condemned and treated in this process and eventually terminated.

What happened to the Golden Rule?

Because of my beliefs to give people the benefit of the doubt and second chances, I was naïve to believe others would do the same for me. I was wrong.

The Rogue Retreat board was warned in June by some community organizations and partners that if the accusations against me were true they’d stop supporting the organization. I was asked to take a paid administrative leave as the executive director from Rogue Retreat for an investigation to be done. I knew there had been no discrimination toward staff, participants or others in the community, so I agreed to an investigation.

Because of my beliefs to give people the benefit of the doubt, and second chances, I was naïve to believe others would do the same for me. An investigation is easy. Talk to the people supposedly mistreated and see if there were any actions to back up the accusations. No one from the LGBTQ community as staff or participants had anything bad to say.

I was told I couldn’t speak up for myself during the investigation. I couldn’t speak to staff, participants, community partners, the board, media or the community in general. If I did, it would be seen as me trying to manipulate the process.

I played well in the sandbox and believed people would follow the golden rule.

But, during the investigation, others spoke out against me and did whatever they could to separate me from Rogue Retreat.

So now I’m speaking up. Now I want to set the record straight.

The city and the Rogue Retreat board have done their investigations. There was no evidence found at either Set Free Christian Fellowship or Rogue Retreat that I ever discriminated against anyone.

The Rogue Retreat board decided I had become a liability for having personal religious beliefs (due to some funders’ and community partners’ threats). In August the board of directors terminated me, using reasoning that I had poor administration and financial oversight even though the administrative leave was for discrimination concerns.

Isn’t the right to religious beliefs protected in American’s Constitution? Isn’t it part of the DEI statements most organizations have to not discriminate against race, sex and religion?

The board and “new” leadership at Rogue Retreat threatened the staff they can’t speak to me during the investigation or lose their jobs. They “laid off” anyone who stood up in my defense. They told staff they can’t talk about God, display personal religious items at their desks or pray with anyone anymore. (Participants often asked the staff or me to pray with them since most of them are practicing the 12-step tradition, which accepts a higher power for help with addiction.)

But, in the end it isn’t my or others’ personal beliefs that matter. It is actions. It is the record of what we did in and for this community for the homeless, working poor and broken. Our track record speaks for itself.

I founded Rogue Retreat in 1998 and for 24 years led it to become a renowned nonprofit in Oregon. It was rated one of the top 50 nonprofits to work for. It was housing up to 550 people a night when I was put on administrative leave. It was being sought after by other cities, counties and organizations to find ways to address the homeless situation that worked. And Rogue Retreat’s way worked. We had success rates of up to 80% getting people off the streets and out of homelessness. There are people all over the community who are past participants of Rogue Retreat who are now stable, working, raising families, serving the community and paying taxes. They are full of hope.

A recent editorial said Rogue Retreat isn’t replaceable, but I, as the leader, was. True, leaders come and go, but the heart and soul of an organization isn’t replaceable. The turmoil, financial problems, staff anger, layoffs and resignations happening at Rogue Retreat since I was put on leave are the result.

If the Golden Rule were followed, none of this would have happened.

Chad McComas is pastor of Set Free Christian Fellowship and founder and former executive director of Rogue Retreat.