Christmas came early for old friends and family who had been hurt in the split at Brownsville Assembly of God, brought on by the December 2000 firing of Michael Brown from his position as head of the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry (BRSM). But it had been a painful two-year wait for those hurt from the fallout that shook the home of the internationally known Pensacola revival after Brown took most of BRSM's instructors and many students across town to start his own ministry school and church-known as FIRE (Fellowship for International Revival and Evangelism).
Brownsville pastor John Kilpatrick, who led Brown's ouster over differences in BRSM's direction and other issues, met with Brown privately at his offices for the first time since the split on Dec. 12. Kilpatrick said Brown had sent him an e-mail suggesting the effort.
"I was riding in my car with my wife, Brenda, and my son called me on my cell phone and read me Dr. Brown's e-mail," Kilpatrick said. "When I heard the tenor of what Dr. Brown had written, I held my thumb up and told my wife, 'It's over.' Literally it felt just like a dam broke."
Several previous attempts by the two sides to meet since the split had stalled, even with some reputable national leaders trying to act as mediators.
After the Dec. 12 meeting, Brown and Kilpatrick issued a joint statement and scheduled a joint reconciliation service for Jan. 12 at Brownsville, with leaders and congregations from both sides attending.
The two asked for forgiveness from each other and for the hurt felt by many believers from the Pensacola area in particular and from the body of Christ worldwide. "We desire to be examples of unity and grace, not division and strife," they said.
"And as the Holy Spirit has indeed done a supernatural work and there is not a hint of ill will between us, and a real sense of friendship and trust has been totally restored, we pray that the Holy Spirit will work supernaturally in the hearts of all of those who have been wounded by the separation. May healing and grace be released. May restoration come. May unity replace division."
Their meeting was God's idea, according to Brown, who said the Lord spoke to him on a return trip from India and told him to write Kilpatrick to suggest they meet. After getting Brown's e-mail, Kilpatrick immediately called Brown on his cell phone, but Brown was in a meeting. Brown called him back and said they needed to find a good time to get together.
"I said, 'How about right now,'" Kilpatrick said. So they met from 11:20 p.m. until 3 a.m. the next day. "It was like old times...absolutely wonderful. We didn't get into issues. I'm really relieved all of this is behind us now."
Brown agreed. "This was really a miracle," he said. "I'm sure both of us wanted reconciliation for many months now, but two years had gone by, and we still had not talked. This whole process has been painful for everyone involved, but I have no doubt it was God who birthed FIRE and that it is God's desire to continue to bless Brownsville. We are not looking backward. We are moving forward."
Kilpatrick said a heavy cloud has lifted off all involved. "I'm the type of person who just grieves over broken relationships," he said. "We may have had some great services at Brownsville and a lot of wonderful things have happened. But a part of my heart was in grief because everyone wasn't together. I am really relieved that this is all behind us now."