A Response to the
AOG National Executive’s ‘Response’

Some time during 1997, an unknown person who claims to act on behalf of the Australian AOG National Executive placed a short web page on the Internet which pretends to provide a response to the report of the AOG Insurance Agency Scandal located at this web site.

The page in question has no author’s name and no date of publication. The “.southerncross.com.aust” domain name houses the document, but there is no link from the Southern Cross Bible College index page to the “Response” page.
  David Cartledge controls the Southern Cross site, so we have to assume that he is responsible for the “Response” page. Certainly, his well known trade marks of dishonesty and cowardice recur throughout the “Response”.

If you have arrived here without first reading the “Response,” you may either visit the original at: http://www.southerncross.aust.com/response.htm, or read a duplicate, copied exactly as it appeared on 28 December 1997 and safely stored on this site.

What follows is a critical examination of the “Response”.

1. “For a long time Henry Sheppard has brought all sorts of spurious allegations against members of the Australian AOG National Executive and against other AOG Pastors.”

It is not true that I have brought “all sorts” of allegations against anyone — spurious or otherwise.
  For example, I have never accused any AOG pastor or National Executive member of either bestiality or paedophilia — though the mysterious sacking of Jim Williams (for unspecified sexual sins) from the Australian AOG National Executive, and the well-known case of Andrew Evans’ eldest son (Ashley Evans) perpetrating physical and sexual abuse against a teenage girl in his care, might justify such accusations.

[ The reader should note that the Australian AOG National Executive spent an estimated $100,000 of the people’s money to sue me for “defamation,” but they have never taken any action over my reports concerning Ashley Evans.
  Why not?
  Simply because it is a true report and they know that both the victim and the victim’s mother will testify in any open court. ]

2. “He will continue to do so in the future.”

David Cartledge has never been slow to claim omniscience for himself, frequently prophesying convenient “words” to the assembled masses.
  My personal favourite was the time when God allegedly whispered in his ear that the 1990s would be a “Decade of Harvest.” Of course, the reverse happened and the AOG slipped into a state of slow decline.
  (I have often wondered what happened to all the money that the National Executive collected, allegedly to help with the massive influx of new Christians, who we never saw…)

  My other favourite was Cartledge’s solemn declaration that his willingness to take the Southern Cross Bible College ever deeper into debt constituted a “miracle.”
  According to David Cartledge, taking on unnecessary, crippling debt is right up there with the parting of the Red Sea!

3. “The National Executive does not intend to respond individually to Mr. Sheppard's ridiculous allegations. They do not warrant it.”

I admire the technique. Just call the allegations “ridiculous” and flatly state that you will not respond to them and, hey presto! — nothing up my sleeves…, the problem disappears.
  Or, at least, it does with appropriately submissive cult members. And, if you don’t fit into that category, the next instruction will sort you out.

4. “If any AOG member is genuinely concerned by the allegations made by Mr. Sheppard then that member should approach his or her Pastor who will either provide an explanation or arrange for that member to be given an explanation about the matter.”

Actually, most of the ‘Pastors’ have been at some pains to ensure that they were never troubled with the facts. [There are a few genuine pastors left in the ranks; unfortunately they are a small and ineffective remnant.]
  But, by approaching them, you will alert the Executive that you are a potential trouble-maker. Asking the wrong kinds of questions will end any hopes you may have for ongoing acceptance within the AOG.

If you have a genuine interest in learning the truth about the AOG National Executive, try asking one of them for a copy of the allegations against Greg Sowerby that they paid a lawyer to lodge with the South Australian Police Force.
  Ask them for a copy of the Police Report on the results of their twelve month investigation into the AOG’s claims.
  You will receive truck loads of double-talk, but you will never receive a copy of either document from the AOG.

5. “In Mr. Sheppard's publications on the Internet he has referred to a book called "The Evidence" that he wrote and arranged to be published. The book concerned a dispute that existed between the National Executive and Greg Sowerby.”

A) I did not write The Evidence so much as compile it. The bulk of the book is a collection of the AOG National Executive’s own letters and faxes, along with the relevant Police reports. I simply put the documents together in chronological order and explained the relevance of each one.
  David Cartledge and his mates love to pretend that The Evidence is a novel containing a list of unsubstantiated complaints and allegations. On the contrary, it is basically a collection of documents that they either prepared directly, or caused to come into existence.
  The nature of their work is such that they are terrified you will read it and discover the truth for yourself.

B) The dispute in question involved Henry Sheppard, as well as Greg Sowerby. Again, they love to pretend that I was neither sacked nor had the wages owing to me wrongly withheld.
  They love to pretend that I was never there, but just stumbled onto some stranger’s problem and launched into a mindless crusade on behalf of that stranger.
  Read the Police Report of their investigation of the false accusations that the AOG National Executive made against Greg Sowerby and you will find — surprise, surprise! — that Henry Sheppard was rightfully employed by the then Manager of the AOG Insurance Agency.

6. “Last year, the parties to that dispute were reconciled in accordance with Scripture. They are trying to put it behind them. Unfortunately this has not satisfied Mr. Sheppard. In fact, to the contrary, Mr. Sheppard has continued to try to publicise the dispute and has now tried to attack the good faith of the reconciliation.”

During 1996, Greg Sowerby — who survives by operating a business providing services to churches — succumbed to the economic duress being applied to himself and his family by the AOG National Executive, and surrendered his fight to have the truth concerning his experiences made known.
  You only have to read the “Reconciliation” document to see that it is a declaration of victory by the AOG.

I have not “continued to try to publicise the dispute.” I have continued to testify publicly to the fact that I have had wages owing to me as at 5 November 1993 wrongly withheld by the AOG National Executive. It is impossible to tell that story without explaining the full context of my experiences.
  At some point, the AOG National Executive members developed the weird idea that I am merely an appendix of Greg Sowerby. They believed that by frightening Greg into “Reconciliation,” I would automatically go away. They were wrong on both counts.
  There is absolutely no connection between any arrangement they might have made with Greg and the debt they owe to me.

7. “This has resulted in a bizarre situation where the parties to the dispute have agreed that it is over and have been reconciled in accordance with Scripture. But Mr. Sheppard - who is not even involved in the dispute - cannot let it rest and continues to try to attack the National Executive using the dispute as a vehicle.”

That is a bald-faced lie. I am as much a “party to the dispute” as Greg Sowerby, and have been “involved in the dispute” since 5 November 1993.
  Greg has always understood this and attempted on a number of occasions to explain it to Brian Houston and the others, but they never listened, preferring their own fantasy to the facts.

8. “Not only is Mr. Sheppard trying to publicise the dispute by way of the Internet but he is also planning a video on the subject.”

The omniscient David Cartledge strikes again!

9. “Interestingly, this has led to Mr. Sowerby - the person who was involved in the dispute - completely disassociating himself from Mr. Sheppard's actions in this regard.”

“Interestingly” is a good word. What possible connection is there between an alleged video and any actions by Greg Sowerby?
  (Again, Greg was not “THE person who was involved in the dispute,” but merely ONE OF the people involved in the dispute.)

10. “It is true that some members of the National Executive took legal action against Mr. Sheppard on account of the defamatory allegations which appeared in "The Evidence". Action was only taken after Mr. Sheppard sent a letter in which he threatened to launch a publicity campaign with the object of seeing 100,000 people leave the Assemblies of God. The legal action was designed to minimise the harm to the Fellowship caused by Sheppard's accusations.”

Here we have another oft repeated lie.

The AOG National Executive raises the spectre of some fantastic campaign which will, at any moment, drive 100,000 people away from their churches and, on the basis of this terrifying possibility, pretend that their private legal action against me in the District Court of South Australia was really quite justified.

But there is no rational connection between the two (even assuming I had the power to invoke such devastation on the AOG).

What did the legal action in the District Court achieve?
  Before David Cartledge and friends sued me in the District Court of South Australia, a book called The Evidence was available by mail order.
  And after that attack fizzled out to nothing, the 5th edition of the same book was still available by mail order.

Do you really believe that 100,000 people would have left the AOG, but for these men engaging in their expensively futile legal action?
  100,000 did leave, but they were dollar bills which had been donated for the preaching of the gospel, not for silencing Christians who are complaining about being ripped off by professional religious leaders.

11. “This attack on the Assemblies of God by Mr. Sheppard failed dismally. Our Members treated it with the contempt it deserved.”

If the alleged “attack” failed because the people treated it with contempt, why was the legal action necessary?

12. “Mr. Sheppard has made much of the fact that he could not afford a lawyer to defend himself. However he refused very strong advice from a District Court judge that even if he were to conduct his defence on his own he should get an opinion from a lawyer who specialised in the area. The judge said that this would not be very expensive at all. To our knowledge, Mr. Sheppard has not followed that advice.”

What a laugh! What would “not be very expensive at all” to a judge on $250,000 a year, or to AOG National Executive members (who leave the bills to the unwitting flock to pay), would be financially devastating for an average citizen.
  For all their light-hearted approach to the question of expenses, the boys never offered to pay for this allegedly necessary “advice.”

And ask yourself this question: How could I have improved on the final result with any quantity of legal advice? When it came to the crunch, Andrew Evans, David Cartledge, Brian Houston and the others went to water. They could not face the judge’s decision and “discontinued” their action instead.
  I think I did an excellent job of “conducting my defence on my own.”

13. “Of course "truth is a defence". If Mr. Sheppard could prove - with or without a lawyer - that any of the many allegations complained of were true, then he would not be found guilty of defamation in relation to that allegation.”

Another outrageous lie.

Proving that a hundred million allegations are true is no defence against being found guilty of defamation.
  In the first edition of The Evidence I used the word “crimes” in its colloquial meaning of “bad things”.
  The law, while fully understanding the intention of my meaning, chooses only to weigh words in their technical, legal meaning.
  The result is that the first edition of The Evidence contained a solitary word that inevitably resulted in the entire book being ruled as defamatory.
  Fair enough. If I had known the rules at the outset I would have worded the sentence differently, but I cannot change the past.
  Once I received the list of complaints by Andrew Evans and the others, I deleted every single word they identified as being a problem for them (regardless of my own opinion), and reissued the book as a second edition.
  When the judge explained the legal significance of the word “crimes” to me, I pointed out that the second edition did not contain that word.
  The judge said it made no difference. Once the first edition was classed as defamatory, every other edition was automatically considered to be defamatory as well.
  In other words, if the second edition contained nothing but the King James Version of the Lord’s Prayer, it would still be considered defamatory!

14. “However, Mr. Sheppard did not try to defend the truth of any of the statements that he had made.”

What an unbelievably outrageous lie!

On 8 March 1996 I lodged my “Defence” with the District Court of South Australia. It was done to the best of my untrained ability and occupied sixteen pages.
  On 18 June 1996 David Cartledge's team of lawyers applied to have my Defence “struck out” on some technical legal grounds.
  On 11 July 1996 the judge ruled that my Defence be struck out for “non-compliance with Rule 46.”
  I had lodged a Defence of the truthfulness of all passages complained of, including my colloquial use of the word “crimes,” but my Defence was not taken into account for technical legal reasons which I have never understood.

15. “The members of the National Executive were entitled to an award of damages against Mr. Sheppard but elected not to pursue it.”

“Damages” are awarded on the basis of the losses involved. Andrew Evans and friends receive wages. They have suffered no loss from my telling the truth about them.
  So what damages are they entitled to?
  The most likely amount is $1 each, but because they lacked the balls to front up to the judge and hear him pronounce the figure, we will never know.

16. “Now that the dispute between Mr. Sowerby and the National Executive has ended, no doubt Mr. Sheppard will continue his attack on the National Executive and the leadership of the AOG.”

I fail to see any logical connection between the two parts of that sentence. (If you work it out, please let me know.)

17. “Mr. Sheppard will not meet with members of the National Executive to discuss the issues. He simply takes them straight to the public domain.”

Yet another of the oft repeated lies.

I have met with many of the members and representatives of the National Executive to discuss the issues.
  Robert Palma refused to acknowledge the existence of the issues, much less discuss them.
  Brian Houston and Steve Penny played word games and took turns at mocking me.
  Andrew Evans hated being asked about his lies, false promises and the cancelled cheques he arranged for Meredith Sowerby to receive. We did not really get amongst the issues before he stormed out of my house uttering threats which eventually manifested in the form of his legal action against me.
  Keith Ainge demanded that I appear before him at a Court room, on less than 24 hours notice.
  I explained to him that I was happy to meet with anyone, anywhere, anytime, but that I would not submit to intimidation.
  That has not changed. And, apparently because the average AOG Executive member only wishes talk to me if I am in a state of suitably abject submission, they wilfully interpret my resistance as a refusal to discuss their issues.

As for “taking things to the public domain,” what is the alternative?
  The Evidence was published during the third year of the AOG Insurance Agency scandal. Up until that time I had tried all the reasonable alternatives and been mocked for my trouble.
  I remain enthusiastic for a private resolution to this business, but cannot obtain such without a genuine response from people like David Cartledge. He has shown no interest in anything other than lies and intimidation.

18. “A possible guide to Mr. Sheppard's motivation occurred in August 1996. Mr. Sheppard threatened to send out another letter which contained many untruths unless he received an "acceptable offer".”

And here is another disgusting lie.

Their first approach was to deny that I had ever had any role in the AOG Insurance Agency scandal.
  Their second approach was to accuse me of being an irrational crusader who was interfering in other people’s business, uninvited.
  Their third tack was to accuse me of engaging in defamation as some kind of strange hobby.
  And now they infer I am involved in blackmail!

During the first three years of the AOG Insurance Agency scandal, Greg Sowerby and I went to some trouble to give Andrew Evans the opportunity to forestall the various exercises we conducted in our search for justice.
  He was always informed in advance in the hope that he would render the action unnecessary. Alas, our efforts were in vain.
  The letter I sent Andrew Evans in August 1996 was no different, except that lawyers were now involved, and they could see some technical legal advantage to twisting my offer into an attempt at blackmail!
  (I never understood the old jokes about 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea being a good start before the AOG Insurance Agency scandal reached the lawyer stage.)
  I do not “threaten” to send out letters, write books, talk to journalists or publish Internet web pages. But I have given warnings in the past, in the (vain) hope of minimising the unnecessary damage to the ordinary people who make up the AOG.

The purpose of the legal action against me was to frighten me into withdrawing The Evidence from circulation.
  The substance of the threat was that I stood to have massive damages awarded against me.
  Evans and his friends assumed that I, like them, had stored up a small fortune for myself, a fortune that I now risked losing.
  The simple fact is that I am only barely solvent. I would have to go into bankruptcy even if a minor damages amount were awarded against me, and I was pressed to find it.

The letter which caused such anguish to David Cartledge, Andrew Evans, Brian Houston and the others made the point that only possible outcome of them pushing the matter to its logical conclusion was for me to be forced into bankruptcy.
  They had convinced themselves that I would come cowering to them, begging to be allowed to keep my imaginery fortune.
  This letter, combined with my non-attendance at the last five or six court hearings, was sufficient for them to finally recognise that they had dug a pit for me, but were about to fall into it themselves.

19. “When Mr. Sheppard's representative was asked what Mr. Sheppard meant by an "acceptable offer" (because Mr. Sheppard would not speak with us directly) we were informed that Mr. Sheppard wanted $20,000.00 and that if he received this amount of money then he would be quiet and that he would stop all publications.”

Here we have four more lies.

ONE: I do not have a “representative.” I am a big boy and I speak for myself. If you cast your mind back a few lines, you will recall David Cartledge complaining that I could not afford to have a legal representative. Now he has invented one for me!

TWO: I have spoken with more than enough Executive members. If they ever had any genuine intention of resolving the matter, we would have reached a solution years ago. Nonetheless, I remain prepared to speak to any of them under reasonable circumstances and following some improvement over their sneering mockery of me.

THREE: Next they invent a demand for $20,000. I am aware that these men have parted with a sum in excess of $150,000 so far in the AOG Insurance Agency scandal. If I were here as a blackmailer, $20,000 would be a pathetically small sum to go after.

FOUR: The suggestion that I would be prepared to “stop all publications” for $20,000 is extremely insulting. The $150,000 that they have paid out so far has come as a direct result of those “publications.” Why would I quit for a mere $20,000?

20. “Discussions in January this year suggest that Mr. Sheppard's price has increased to $25,000.00.”

I have no idea who those “discussions” were with, but I was not involved.

21. “As stated, it seems likely that Mr. Sheppard will continue his attacks unless he receives the money that he is seeking.”

I will continue to tell the truth publicly about the AOG Insurance Agency scandal until it is resolved.
  I made my position clear back in February 1994 and have never wavered from it.

Index Page

The Australian AOG Insurance Agency Scandal
Last update: 3 January 1998             http://www.oocities.org/HotSprings/3658/resp-aog.html