By Diane Derby
The Rutland Herald, Staff Writer
But Terry has had his own marital difficulties as of late, which contributed to his being publicly censured three months ago by the Binghamton, N.Y., church where he served as an elder for 12 years.
The censure issued by the Landmark Church cited a number of reasons for the disciplinary action, the first item being, "For leaving his wife in preparation to divorce, annul or otherwise dissolve their Christian marriage, and for his unwillingness to repent for this sin."
Terry, who has since joined a charismatic Episcopal church on Long Island, dismissed the censure Wednesday as "garbage." He declined to address the claims specifically, instead referring a reporter to his new bishop and to other supporters who would speak on his behalf.
The leader of his new church, Bishop Craig Bates, called the censure "totally unnecessary, inaccurate and not valid."
Terry, who reluctantly acknowledged that he was separated from his wife, said the letter of censure came several months after he left the church of his own will.
"I'm going to make one comment. After that I'm not going to say anything," Terry said. "This is the darkest side of evangelicalism. I'm not going to defend myself against garbage."
The censure has been posted on an Internet site established by Operation Save America, a Texas-based anti-abortion group run by Flip Benham, a one-time ally of Terry's in the Operation Rescue movement that Terry founded in 1986. It is accompanied by an open letter from Little, who said he wrote the letter in response to questions that arose after Terry publicly challenged his church's actions.
In his letter, Little said he was Terry's pastor for 15 years, "and I considered him to be one of my closest friends."
"Last August, Randall left his wife of 18 years, set up an alternative residence in Windsor (N.Y.), and has told numbers of persons that he intends to divorce, annul or otherwise break covenant with his wife," Little wrote. "This we earnestly pray he does not do."
"We have waited these many months to write in the sincere hope of seeing a change in his intentions. Many of his longtime friends (with whom he no longer associates) are shocked and bewildered that a man who has traveled the country pleading with Christian people to think and act biblically is now thinking and acting so anti-biblically on a number of fronts.
"When asked why he is doing what he is doing to his family, the reason that he gives is that he isn't happy being married to Cindy," Little wrote.
Little said he noticed changes in Terry's style beginning in the spring of 1997, which he characterized as "signs of Randall's spiritual deterioration - chiefly anger and self-will which manifested itself in what I would characterize as a lack of purity in speech and lifestyle."
Little said he asked Terry to resign his long-held position as church elder in August 1998, "and by August of 1999, having been told by him of his intentions to move out of his house and leave his wife, I asked him to resign as a member of the board altogether."
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Little said he repeatedly called on Terry to return to his home and work through the problems in his marriage.
Asked if he considered it hypocritical for Terry to come to Vermont to preach the virtues of marriage, Little responded, "That is what I am referring to, the difficulty of suddenly showing up in someone else's state to go public and straighten them out on matters of marriage. I would like to see him come home and prove that it can work."
"It takes effort. You must give energy to it or love dies," Little said of marriage. "If you give energy to everything else, to saving Vermont or to saving whales, whatever, they are great causes, but having nothing left to give to the homefront? It doesn't go well."
Little said his church believes that Terry has undergone a "personal and theological transformation" in the past three years that has left him an "altogether different Randall Terry." Based on that belief, Little said the church had concerns about a recent fund-raising letter that Terry sent out in which he reportedly wrote, "I know that you believe what I believe."
"This lacks integrity since the vast majority of his donors have no idea what he now believes nor the liberties and license in which he now walks, and in our opinion, would hardly agree to support him if they did," the church said in its censure.
When asked about his current marital status on Tuesday, Terry, who wears a wedding band, told reporters that he was married. But on Wednesday he confirmed that he and his wife were separated.
"We're living apart. Our marriage is in trouble. It's not a secret. It's a personal, private, painful matter," he said. As for the actions of his former church, he added, "It's distressing to me as you can imagine. I have had men of God from all over the country standing with me who have taken Dan Little to task."
In an open letter dated Jan. 27, Bates, who is bishop of the Northeast Diocese of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, said Terry's censure was neither valid nor binding.
"The majority of charges are untrue," he said, adding that there was no evidence of immorality or illegal behavior on Terry's part.