FROM THE BIG HOUSE TO GOD'S HOUSE
A smoky voice rings up to the rafters of the pink chapel at the Cathedral of the Valley in Glendale. With an otherworldly echo, it calls out to the 20 or so faithful gathered for the Sunday-afternoon service:
"We lift up our hands toward Heaven and say, 'Jesus, I reach up to You, reach down to me. . . .'"
The voice belongs to James Alderdice, who is trying to reach up to the Lord from the worldly trials and excesses of his past life.
Alderdice is a man of average height in a slimly cut, double-breasted suit. He's got high cheekbones, hair slicked back in a cut worthy of a television evangelist and a light-brown mustache flecked with gray. He has been legally blind since childhood, but has enough peripheral vision that as he looks at you out of the corner of his eye, his steely-blue gaze seems to focus somewhere just over your shoulder. And when he preaches, he scrunches up his eyes as if they hurt.
Or maybe it's the memories.
In Florida in the early 1980s, Alderdice and his older brother, Bill, were charged with defrauding 13,000 would-be investors out of $75 million in one of the nation's largest-ever precious-metals frauds. Jim served five years in prison, and although he did not have to make restitution to his victims, the IRS is still waiting for more than $700,000 worth of the take; proceeds from swindles are taxable income. Justice is blind, after all, and so is faith, and sometimes also the preacher.
Alderdice studied the Bible in jail in Florida, and somehow emerged as youth minister of the First Assembly of God of Glendale. His pastoral message today is about salvation, and the cadence and crescendos of raw emotion surge through the clichs: Seek and ye shall find, ask and it will be given, and so on.
Religion has saved Jim Alderdice from a life of crime and depredation. He has given his testimony, confessed his past sins and, according to the doctrine of the church that adopted him, all is forgiven. He is reborn. He is a new man.
Or is he? The Arizona District Council of Assemblies of God recently disaffiliated this tiny congregation--which has long been plagued by money problems and church politics. It's the only Arizona church in memory to have declared bankruptcy, to lose its church building through foreclosure. The District Council was so peeved that it also chose not to renew the credentials of the church's charismatic and controlling pastor, the Reverend Philip V. Sturgeon. And Jim Alderdice himself may be guilty of behavior many consider worse than fraud.
And no one there will talk about any of it, because, they say, they answer only to the Lord.
@body:The financial career of the brothers Alderdice was a fool's crusade, judging from accounts published by the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and the New York Times, and from information gleaned from police and federal prosecutors. It was a misguided mission from God that dragged thousands of investors straight to hell. The brothers, however, felt they were free of sin.
Though they professed to be good Christians, Bill and Jim Alderdice were a couple of smalltime Florida hustlers. Both (and a sister) suffered from a hereditary condition that left them with little more than peripheral vision. But they had more than enough attitude to compensate for the handicap.
Bill was Jim's guiding light, the older of the two by 12 years, and, at age 35, he had already been a hair stylist, and at various times had owned a chain of wig shops, a restaurant and a pinball emporium, all of which went out of business. But in 1978, he moved to Fort Lauderdale, where Jim was already selling gold chains door to door.
A year later, they succeeded in borrowing enough money to open a jewelry store, a classy joint with soft music and complimentary champagne. Business was good, especially in gold coins, because economic times were rough and financial survivalists were investing in gold. The brothers began selling gold bullion through the mail and over the phone, and when cash started pouring into their business, they bought full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal, and then money flowed more freely. The deal was this: The Alderdices and their new company, International Gold Bullion Exchange, would offer gold at below-market rates--provided the investors would wait a few months to take delivery.
At first, they obtained cheap gold from Latin America to fill orders. Then, as gold prices dropped, they could sell at a low price, then just let the market take over and make delivery when international prices dipped below that rate. Somewhere along the way, they started postponing delivery indefinitely, as if the money were theirs to spend.
Buoyed by cash, the business grew; IGBE had more than 100 telephone-marketing reps. The Alderdices boldly flaunted their success. They leased an enormous building in Fort Lauderdale, right across the street from the government buildings that housed the FBI and the DEA, and atop the building, they erected a giant sign depicting gold coins. If that was not a deliberate nose thumbing, the feds took it that way. The sign, says Michael Pasano, the federal prosecutor who eventually brought them down, was "like a landmark that was galling to no end to the federal agents."
Infatuated by their apparent success, the brothers started up 38 subsidiary businesses--travel agencies, car-rental agencies--and opened branch offices in Dallas and Los Angeles. As president of the company, Bill Alderdice paid himself a salary of $520,000 per year; Jim, as secretary and treasurer, earned $200,000; their mother, Eileen Alderdice, made $90,000. They padded their staff with hangers-on and beautiful women until they had several hundred employees and a monthly overhead of $3 million. Bill and Jim lived wildly and wonderfully, taking office-staff field trips to Hawaii to plant the company flag on a volcano, throwing $100 bills out of limo windows and, according to legend, wild bashes in apartments hung with side-by-side portraits of Jesus and Elvis.
There was a religious overtone to their excesses that bordered on delusion, an apparent assumption that God must be smiling on them if they were doing so well. As an ex-girlfriend told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, "Bill would do cocaine and tell me how he wanted to become another Jesus Christ and feed the poor, heal the sick and do good for people."
They would make generous donations to charity--even while they were raiding the life savings of their investors. And in an interview during his prosperous years, Bill said, "When we leave this planet, I'll know I've done a fair job to God and my country."
He did not think he was bragging. "Bill, at some point, started believing his own hype, and that's when you move from businessman to megalomaniac," says Pasano, the federal prosecutor.
That the Alderdices could ride the wave of warped fortune for two years certainly made it look as if God were on their board of trustees. But then gold prices went flat, and so did the scam, and, as Pasano says, "The trickle of consumer complaints became an avalanche."
Despite gross earnings of $130 million between 1980 and 1982, IGBE went broke, and the Alderdices claimed they were penniless. In April 1983, they declared bankruptcy to escape their creditors. Bill claimed that it was just another failure of a large company. The brothers denied they had intentionally defrauded anyone.
"It was just mismanagement," their mother, Eileen, still claims. "It was growing too fast. It got out of hand, and a few complaints started coming in, and when they did, of course, well, everybody panicked. It was just a real sad situation how things evolved."
Even the federal prosecutor remarked that Jim and Bill did not take the money and run. "This was not a bust-out scheme," says Michael Pasano. "The Alderdice brothers are what I'll call 'bent businessmen.' I wouldn't describe them as bad; you might describe them as punks. They were full of ego. They thought they were so smart, that their system was so perfect that eventually it would make all the money that they thought it would. They thought they could talk their way out of anything."
They could not. The Alderdices were hit with 203 theft and fraud charges in three states--Illinois, New York, and Florida--and in federal court, stemming from complaints by 13,000 investors taken for $75 million. Investigators poring through IGBE records were unable to account for $20 to $40 million.
Bankruptcy officials found that the gold bars stacked in the company vault were really blocks of wood painted to resemble gold. The brothers alleged the bars were merely photographic props.
Though Bill wanted to downplay the seriousness of his error by characterizing the scam as a routine business failure, the consequences to the investors were hardly casual. Ellsworth Decker of Rochester, New York, lost $300,000 to the Alderdice brothers. He's passed away, but his son, James Decker, who lives in Scottsdale, claims that his father was a sophisticated investor and businessman who had carefully researched IGBE. "They used some pretty big names, and so he got some feeling of safety there," James Decker says of his father. "The fact that it was backed by gold, and it was an interest-bearing type thing was, I guess, what hooked him, and he put a lot of money into it."
He lost it all. "It had a devastating effect," the son says. "It contributed to his death. He had begun looking forward to spending time in Florida and doing things with his life in his later years. He prided himself on being a good businessman, but this broke him, and he just couldn't forget it. After it happened, he just seemed to vegetate."
In the end, delusion and bad judgment proved fatal for Bill Alderdice, as well. While waiting to post bond in the federal prison in Miami, Florida, he started cooking up a new get-rich-quick scheme to help recover from his business losses. The brothers would raise chickens, and he thought he could trick hens into laying more eggs than they would normally by turning the lights on and off and making the chickens think it was a whole new day.
He and Jim invited a convicted felon they met in jail, a man named James Doyle, to come work for them as bodyguard, chauffeur and partner in the new enterprise. When they all made bail, they brought Doyle to live with them and their girlfriends in their sister's rented house in Fort Lauderdale.
On the morning of July 15, 1984, police called to the house found a naked Doyle standing in the front yard with a knife and Bill Alderdice dead from a dozen stab wounds. Bill was 40 years old. Jim had been cut in several places before he was able to force Doyle out of the house.
Jim Alderdice claimed that Bill and Doyle had quarreled because Doyle had taken the car and brought a woman to the house without first asking permission. The fracas makes no sense by any account, and certainly not in good-Christian circles. Doyle claimed he had broken up a fight between the brothers, then gone into Bill's room to get his bathing suit when Bill went berserk.
"There was one theory that the murder was really orchestrated by the mob to pay [Bill] off for having lost their money or something," Pasano says. Jim, to this day, thinks that his life may be in danger, that "people" may still be looking for him, but whether he means the people who killed Bill or other people the brothers swindled is unclear.
Pasano characterizes Jim Alderdice as "the quiet one," the faithful follower. "Jim may well have believed his brother, Bill, and therefore, I can have a lot more charity in my heart for him." If he had gone to trial, he could have gotten 166 years in prison for the New York counts alone. Instead, he copped a plea to a handful of charges in each jurisdiction, and was sentenced to two five-year sentences to be served concurrently. On June 3, 1985, he surrendered to the Federal Correctional Institute in Tallahassee, Florida, where he arduously studied the Bible.
If Bill had thought himself a man of God, in death, Jim elevated him to sainthood.
"Bill Alderdice was one of the greatest men to walk the face of this planet," Jim said in his eulogy for his brother, according to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. "Jesus Christ walked this planet some 2,000 years ago for 33 years. He spoke the truth and they murdered him.
"Bill Alderdice walked this planet for the last 40 years. He spoke the truth and they murdered him."
He finished the eulogy by saying, "In the name of God, our father. In the name of Jesus Christ. In the name of Bill Alderdice."
When Jim got out of prison in 1989, the Lord called him to Glendale, Arizona, to follow yet another man who has been called "Christlike."
@body:The Reverend Philip V. Sturgeon, pastor of the former First Assembly of God of Glendale, takes the pulpit of a rented chapel. He's a tall and slender man, immaculately dressed, with dark hair arranged neatly over a receding hairline.
Jim Alderdice sits in the front pew with his wife and infant son.
The day's Gospel is from the Book of Hebrews, Chapter 10. ". . . We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all," Sturgeon reads.
After a rustle of Bible pages, a couple of rereadings, Sturgeon smiles down on his congregation. "Isn't that a powerful piece of Scripture?" he asks. "It talks about a man. . . ." He pauses a beat. "And not just a man, but Jesus."
"Hallelujah!" cries a voice from the front row: Jim Alderdice.
Sturgeon is a masterful speaker with a smooth, well-modulated voice that he plays like a musical instrument. He builds his sermon to a slow crescendo: ". . . No matter what your background has been, no matter what your past history--his kingdom, this Jesus, this man, offered himself through his blood, once for all of us, and then sat down on the right hand of God the father."
"Hallelujah," Alderdice calls out.
"Praise the Lord," Sturgeon booms. "Praise the Lord!"
It's a message for the troubled, and Lord, there have been troubled folks here: a woman who shot and killed her abusive husband in self-defense; a family with a son in prison. Sturgeon ministers warmly to them all. Congregation members past and present exclaim, "Brother Sturgeon saved my life," their voices cracking with emotion, their eyes brimming with tears--even if they won't divulge their past transgressions.
The message in the Scripture, after all, is that Jesus died for their sins, and if they have Jesus in their hearts, then all is forgiven.
"When they portrayed Father Flanagan with Spencer Tracy, that was Hollywood stuff," says Sturgeon's karate instructor, Barry Bernstein. "But I would say in real life, if there was a Father Flanagan-type person, it would be Phil."
Bernstein was so taken with Sturgeon that he asked the evangelist preacher to officiate at his wedding, even though Bernstein is Jewish. "He is such a genuinely Christlike person," Bernstein gushes. "I can't think of another parallel."
Of course, Bernstein never met Bill Alderdice.
How fitting that the prodigal son, Jim Alderdice, should have landed in this heart of Christian forgiveness. Sometime between his arrest and his release from prison, Jim reconnected with an old friend from high school, Sharri Romero, who owns a gift shop in Glendale. When Jim got out of jail, he married her--Phil Sturgeon officiated, of course, because he was the pastor of her church here--and Alderdice settled into his new life, eventually being named youth minister of the First Assembly of God of Glendale. Jim's mother, who also lives in Glendale, says he is taking correspondence courses to get his ministerial credentials.
The Arizona District Council of Assemblies of God, however, had never heard of him. "Mr. Alderdice has never had any credentials with the Assemblies of God that I'm aware of," says the Reverend Robert Sites, superintendent of the Arizona District Council.
In fact, outside of his church, Jim Alderdice has remained invisible, and wants to remain so. After weeks of prayer, he refused repeated inquiries from New Times.
"The thing is, I'm beginning a new life out here," he said, "and really don't see any benefit in dredging up the past."
"Jim is a tremendous man," said Sturgeon, right before he, too, clammed up for good. "He preaches the word, nothing but the word."
Past and present church members, with some exceptions, old girlfriends and their fathers all profess their great fondness for Jim Alderdice, but not a one will say anything more detailed, for better or for worse, about him.
Though no one in the church seems to have witnessed it personally, they all heard secondhand that Alderdice gave his testimony one Sunday, that is, told of his tainted past, and they have accepted his confession.
"We want to believe the Lord forgive him," says church-board member Frank Richardson. "And we should forgive him, and not keep bringing up his back history--he's not even going to remember it, according to the Scriptures--and just bring up what the Lord's doing to him now."
"A sin is a sin," echoes board member Jim Bennett. "It doesn't matter if you murdered somebody or you stole a pencil; a sin is a sin in the eyes of God. God says the same forgiveness is there for everyone. That means a person who committed a murder can also be forgiven."
Certainly, a swindler can. Only one former church stalwart, who asked to remain anonymous, spoke above the veil of secrecy: "The fact of the matter is, if you want to know the truth, and you're not going to use my name, I have not cared for James Alderdice since he hit the place," she said. "I don't feel that is the type of person I want leading my kids. I have loved Pastor Sturgeon as a pastor. But I have personally not felt that Pastor Sturgeon has used good judgment in youth pastors."
Her gut feeling may be on target.
@body:A Glendale police report dated July 16, 1992, details a revelation made by a 7-year-old girl who is friends with Alderdice's stepdaughter.
While at brunch with her family at a local restaurant, according to the police report, the little girl suddenly announced, "Jim's been touching me where he's not supposed to."
The parents were shocked and asked for details, and the child bravely reported that over the course of several days, while Alderdice's wife was at work, Jim Alderdice would fondle her genitals through her clothing. When asked to be specific, as written in the police report, the child "responded by saying, 'Well, Jim sat me down on the bed (demonstrated by spreading her legs and showed that she was sitting between his legs facing away from him) to brush the back of my hair. [Name deleted] said that she told Jim, 'That's OK because I can do it myself.' Added 'He started rubbing between my legs.' When [name deleted] asked [name deleted] if she told him to stop [name deleted] replied 'Yes' and added that she was pushing his hands away so he took hold of her hands to stop her from pushing his away. . . . When asked when this started [name deleted] replied 'It started happening after church (Sunday), it happened everyday, and it happened a lot.'"
But there was never an investigation of the incident. Even though the last line of the police report indicates that the family members were willing to testify in court against Alderdice, when Glendale police asked to interview the child, the parents refused. Alderdice was not questioned--even though Glendale police felt the allegation was valid. False accusations tend to arise out of ideas planted by one parent or another in custody disputes, according to Detective Bruce Foremny of the Glendale Police Department, but rarely occur in alleged assaults from outside the family. "Kids will lie to get out of trouble, but very few kids will lie to get into trouble," he says.
Sergeant Susan Porter of the Phoenix Police Department agrees. "Every case should be put through the test of saying to yourself, 'What does this person have to gain by making this report, and, also, what do they have to lose?' And this girl, it doesn't sound like she had anything to gain by making this report, and at her age, she doesn't know about lawsuits or anything."
Sergeant Porter, however, feels that in such cases, when it comes to interviewing the victim, "You can't take no for an answer." When New Times first inquired about this particular report, the Glendale police attempted to reopen the investigation, but found that the child and her family had moved out of the state.
As Foremny concludes, "Without interviewing a molest victim, we don't have a molest case, we have a report."
Alderdice claimed he never knew the police had been called. "I don't know where it comes from," Alderdice said of the allegation, "and, of course, it's absolutely untrue."
@body:Discerning the truth about anything that involves the former First Assembly of God of Glendale is like being on Wheel of Fortune with six vowels and eight consonants exposed and still not being able to read the secret message. The members seem good, God-fearing folk, but they will not be questioned, they maintain, because they need answer only to the Lord.
One thing is clear: The Reverend Philip Sturgeon commands a faithful following that is willing to turn a blind eye to his peculiar escapades and lapses of business logic.
In the early 1980s, Sturgeon decided to trade a paid-for church building on 59th Avenue in Glendale for a five-acre parcel of prime land farther north on Peoria Avenue. There, he intended to remodel a small house on the property and turn it into a chapel, where the 300-member congregation could worship until it could build a new church.
Though Sturgeon portrays the land swap as a unanimous decision on the part of the congregation, his church membership mysteriously dropped from 300 to 16 when the paperwork was final.
"I was setting in my office with boxes of books stacked around me and a stack of letters on the floor that had been dropped through my mail slot during that night or that morning," Sturgeon wrote in a recent letter to Assemblies of God headquarters in Springfield, Missouri. "These letters were from members of the church saying how much they loved me, the church, the choir, the music, the teaching, etc.; but the Lord had told them to leave. . . . These letters were all coming from three hundred people who just a few weeks earlier had voted 100 percent to relocate the church."
Perhaps truth is defined by the version of events that history chooses to remember, regardless of what may have happened. The collective memory of Sturgeon's congregation says that the former members "dropped the ball."
The Reverend Leroy Owens, pastor of Victory Assembly of God in Glendale, recalls it differently: "My daughter attended there," Owens says. "[Sturgeon] would call a special business meeting and have all the members there, and they would turn it down," he says, referring to the land swap. "They didn't want to do it. They left before he moved out and sold the church. They saw he was determined to do certain things, so they just left."
Sturgeon, however, saw himself as the victim, and in his letter to the church fathers in Missouri, compared himself to Christ. "I believe a similar thing happened to our Lord just six days after a triumphal entry into Jerusalem," he wrote.
Until it could fashion the new chapel, the remains of the congregation met in a local school cafeteria.
There followed a string of interest-free loans from Sturgeon's family and followers--some for as much as $100,000--and high-interest loans taken through mortgage companies. According to church-board members, each of these loans was to cover earlier notes, hundreds of thousands of dollars that never seemed to get paid off. On more than one occasion, Sturgeon was reduced to borrowing the church mortgage payments from his garage mechanic, who was not even a member of the church. "Phil, he's the type of guy, he could have a brand-new car and it would break down on him every time he drove 100 miles," the mechanic says.
Often, the church could not afford to pay Sturgeon's salary, so he returned to school--though in his late 40s--to become a surgeon's assistant, and was eventually forced into bankruptcy.
So was the church. In 1987, Sturgeon and his board of directors mortgaged the property for $185,000, then quickly fell behind on those payments.
The Arizona District Council of Assemblies of God lent them another $70,000. However, only a fraction of the money went toward the impending mortgage.
"When we lent them the $70,000 to hold off the creditors on their loan, I think Sturgeon used that for back salary and a lot of other things that were due him," says Reverend Sites, superintendent of the District Council.
Four months' back payments went directly to the title company; the rest went to pay off a $30,000 loan from Sturgeon's wife's uncle and a smaller loan from Sturgeon's garage mechanic. Nearly $24,000 went directly to the church, and, at most, $8,400 of that may have gone toward the mortgage.
In spring 1991, a little more than a year after Jim Alderdice's arrival, the First Assembly of God of Glendale filed for protection under Chapter 11. Though the church's board of directors insists that Alderdice has no say in church finances, the reorganization papers listed him as a board member. On the articles of disclosure filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission, Alderdice was also listed as a board member--even though the church had checked a box stating that no board member had ever served as an officer of a corporation that had gone bankrupt. Then, as IGBE had on a grander scale, the church simply walked away from $273,000 in loans, including the district money, the mortgage and loans from church members.
"It's the first bankruptcy that's ever been filed by a church in Arizona, of any denomination," says Reverend Sites. "That's what I understand."
The District Council thought that it would have a claim on the Glendale church's property, because of the loan it had made, but Sturgeon and his board members cut the district out of the pie when they filed for bankruptcy. The holder of the mortgage foreclosed after attempts to work out payment schedules and lease options with Sturgeon.
Alderdice and 20-some devout churchgoers, who "stick with him like Heaven," as one former church member put it, followed Sturgeon into exile at the chapel he now rents on Sunday afternoons.
Others decided that the financial problems outweighed Sturgeon's marvelous preaching and counseling in their minds, and they quietly moved on.
"There's frustrations of attending a church for a long time and really pulling and really trying and not having it go anywhere," says one former member.
"We could see the potential of the church," another says sadly. "And we did have a desire to go, because it had such a rich ministry." The Arizona District Council of Assemblies of God had long had its eyebrows raised over Reverend Sturgeon's irrational acts.
On one occasion, when a district official tried to attend service at the Glendale church, Sturgeon became irate and demanded he leave.
The most bizarre and inexplicable incident took place in summer 1990. An assistant pastor of Sturgeon's church called the district office to say that Sturgeon was vacationing in Florida and had been asked to visit a prison inmate. Therefore, Sturgeon wanted the district council to write him a letter of good standing--but under an alias, addressed to a Reverend Philip Victor, instead of to Philip Sturgeon. Victor is Sturgeon's middle name.
The inmate's name was also Sturgeon, the assistant went on to say, and the pastor was concerned that he would not be permitted extended time with the prisoner if it was thought he was a relative.
The district refused to provide the alias, and instead sent the letter in Sturgeon's name.
Sturgeon showed up unannounced one afternoon at the New River Correctional Facility in northern Florida. According to the Reverend Billy Nix, who has since retired as that prison's chaplain, Sturgeon was dressed like a Catholic priest. The inmate he wanted to see had not asked to see a minister and was not Catholic. Nix told Sturgeon that he could go talk to the Catholic priest in town and if the priest approved, then Sturgeon could see the prisoner. To which Sturgeon announced that he was an Assemblies of God minister. "It was all over then," Nix remembers, the agitation still in his voice. "I said, 'I don't understand what you're trying to do, but the answer is no,' and he left." A few days later, Sturgeon reappeared, and tried to talk his way past the front gate, but was again denied entry.
Ironically, Nix says, if Sturgeon had been up-front, explained who he really was and that he wanted to see an inmate who was not expecting him, it probably could have been arranged.
Although Nix vividly remembers Sturgeon, he cannot recall who Sturgeon had come to see, and says there would be no record of it at the prison, especially since Sturgeon never got in to see the inmate. At the time of Sturgeon's appearance, Nix called the Arizona District Council to ask about Sturgeon, and the District Council has a record of that call.
Sturgeon would not comment on the adventure. His wife told New Times, indirectly through church-board member Jim Bennett, that there had been no alias requested, and that Sturgeon was trying to visit a friend of a friend and not a relative.
Bennett then offers a more befuddling explanation: "I remember conversations prior to going. Jim Alderdice did ask, 'If you get a chance to go to this other prison, I would like you to go see a friend that I won to the Lord when I was there.' The two prisons were in two different locations, and he was not able to go to the prison where the friend was."
Needless to say, the Arizona District Council of Assemblies of God was more than a little concerned.
Losing the church to foreclosure was the final straw for the District Council. Still, Sturgeon and his board came back to the district and asked for more financial help. The district agreed to bail them out only if Sturgeon left. By another 100 percent affirmative vote, however, the tiny church membership voted to keep its beloved pastor.
"We just could not put another $200,000 in that church with the same man as pastor," says the Reverend Leroy Owens, who sits on the district board. And so the District Council disaffiliated the congregation, told members they could no longer use the name "Assembly of God" and declined to renew Sturgeon's credentials. "We never found out what goes on there," says Reverend Sites. Sites is not only superintendent of the Arizona District Council, but a clergyman of national stature who sat on the televised review panel that sanctioned the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart. "He [Sturgeon] would not provide any kind of records to us. I have 642 ministers that I supervise, 181 churches. We have never had a problem of this nature. Ever!"
Sturgeon took his appeal to a higher power, and invoked the highest power of all. In his appeal letter to the church fathers in Missouri, he wrote, ". . . The need for this letter is not pleasing to the Lord and it grieves the Holy Spirit. What is happening in the Arizona District is not pleasing to the Lord and is hampering the advancement of the Kingdom. . . .
"If I have made mistakes," he pleaded, "where is forgiveness?"
@body:"You know what?" Sturgeon asks toward the end of his sermon. "I welcome persecution of the church."
"Amen!" cries Alderdice.
"The church has never been stronger until they're under persecution."
"Why is that? Because it calls forth all the reasons for the Kingdom."
"Oh, thank God! Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!"
After the service, Sturgeon and Alderdice are all smiles as they shake hands and share final Sunday blessings with the congregation.
Once again, Alderdice tells New Times that he doesn't want to talk. "I feel like you're trying to retry me on things I've already paid for," he says. "I've done every minute of my time."
He pauses a moment, then says, "Man to man, I want you to realize that my brother was murdered, and an attempt was made on my life. And I want you to think real hard about what would happen to me or my family if people found out I'm here."
Then, with a hand on a shoulder, he ends the conversation with a challenge.
"Most of all," he says, "I hope you find Jesus Christ.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.