In a surprising change of course, the beleaguered Whitefish-based ministries program that last summer faced a firestorm of abuse allegations, setting off a bizarre chain of events that led to the dissolution of its assets and the closure of its popular burger chain, announced it was reorganizing and will remain intact.
According to a “status update” posted last month on the Potter’s Field Ministries website and apparently authored by in-house legal counsel Sharon DiMuro, the previously announced dissolution “will not be in the immediate future of these ministries,” referring to both Potter’s Field Ministries and Potter’s Field Ranch.
Instead, “they will remain intact while the respective Boards, acting as unified governing entities, determine what purposeful reorganization may be possible,” the post states. “One thing we do know — God is not finished with Potter’s Field.”
Potter’s Field Ministries is best known in the public sphere for its popular chain of burger joints, which had locations in Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Kalispell, as well as its roving food trucks that were staffed by participants, or “interns,” in the IGNITE missionary program.
In July, many of those employees began airing grievances on a religious blog site reporting grueling 60-hour workweeks, low pay, and verbal and psychological abuse by the ministries’ founders, Mike and Pam Rozell.
As more reports flooded the website phoenixpreacher.com, it became a self-described nexus for “Potter’s Field Survivor Stories,” prompting Rob McCoy, senior pastor with Godspeak Calvary Church, to take over the ministries as chief executive officer and begin dissolving the nonprofit.
“I’m the guy being used to close Potter’s Field Ministries and I guess by default I am the one who is overseeing the shuttering of it,” McCoy told the Beacon at the time. “We are trying to clean up the mess as best we can.”
According to the recent post, however, McCoy tendered his resignation with Potter’s Field because he “does not believe he is called to be an active part of a long-term reorganization project.”
The post’s author acknowledged an ongoing investigation by Montana labor officials into claims by former employees, but said an independent audit into the past two years of financial records at Potter’s Field concluded that “no misappropriations or fiscal malfeasance have been noted.”
“Should it be determined that funds need to be paid out on any of those labor claims, such funds will come from the net proceeds of real estate sales and NOT from any child sponsorship funds paid by donations from supporters, which are always segregated and maintained separately from general funds,” the post states.
The website also states that no civil lawsuits have been filed against Potter’s Field Ministries or its leaders, despite allegations from employees and members of the missionary program likening the organization to a “cult.”
According to the post, Potter’s Field Ministries will conduct its own investigation into those allegations.
“Finally, as properties are sold and mortgages/loans are paid off for assets no longer in use, the ministries will be able to finance a formal investigation by independent reviewers of all remaining allegations brought against the ministries in general and the leadership (Michael and Pam Rozell specifically),” the post states. “Where restoration of relationships and reputations are possible, they will be pursued.”