Monte’s Biography

Monte’s daughter, Hannah, with their dog Ginger.
 
I consider myself a conservative, evangelical minister. My education at Wheaton College and Trinity Theological Seminary gave me a solid Biblical foundation for parish ministry and helped me to gain insights into the different perspectives of Christian life and service. The source of my theology is the Bible which I believe to be the inerrant Word of God.

The First Congregational Church of Sterling, Illinois, is my home church. It is a member of the United Church of Christ. I attended Sunday school classes throughout my childhood and youth.

On September 11th, 1978, in my senior year of high school, I felt the call to become a committed follower of Jesus Christ. I prayed to Jesus Christ to come into my heart and I was born again. This was the beginning of a new life for me. As a result of my spiritual commitment to the Lord, I changed my occupational focus from medicine to the ministry.

I graduated from Wheaton College, in Wheaton Illinois, with honors in 1984 with a B.A. in Psychology.

I then enrolled in Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield Illinois in September 1984. In my second year at Trinity I decided to become a United Church of Christ pastor. My decision was based on my love for my home church and my admiration for my former pastor. As a result, I was required to take a six week course at Chicago Theological Seminary. This I did while simultaneously taking classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and working with the minister at Washburn Congregational Church, serving as liturgist and Sunday school teacher. But while attending classes at Chicago Theology Seminary some deep concerns began to form in my mind. For the first time I was becoming aware of some of the wide discrepancies between the beliefs that I was being taught at Chicago Theological Seminary and my own spiritual convictions which were in agreement with the teachings derived from my conservative education background. However, I continued to fulfill my requirements.

In the fall of 1986, Washburn Congregational Church, United church of Christ, Prairie View, Illinois, released their pastor. The congregation requested that I continue on as their student pastor while they proceeded to interview candidates. In that position I was given the opportunity to handle all phases of a pastorate. Having to give a sermon every Sunday helped me to improve my speaking abilities so that I could better deliver the truths of the Scriptures. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I could feel my abilities increase to meet the spiritual needs of the congregation.

In December of 1987, I graduated from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School with a Master of Divinity Degree. On January 1st 1988 I was honored to become the senior pastor of Washburn Congregational Church by unanimous vote of the congregation.

In the early spring of 1989, after spending many months agonizing over the now obvious conflicts between some of the beliefs of the United Church of Christ and my own spiritual convictions, I finally came to a decision. I knew that I could not accept ordination through the United Church of Christ, even if such a decision would ultimately cost me my job. I notified both the United Church of Christ board and my congregation of my decision. My congregation requested that I continue as pastor even though I would be another denomination. I was elated. I then contacted the Conservative Congregation Christian Conference. A year later, on November 18th 1990, I was ordained through them by unanimous vote of my ordaining council. Also, in October of 1991, I was married to Susan Schapiro at the same church.

After serving six years as senior pastor at Washburn Congregational Church, I accepted a senior pastor position at Zion Congregational Church, Freeport Illinois, beginning January 1st 1993. Moving from a church of 75 members to a church of 250 members was a welcome challenge.

In the broader denominational aspect of the church, in October of 1993, I began serving as the chairman of the Northern Illinois chapter of Conservative Congregational Christian Conference.

Unfortunately, Zion Church had pre-existing internal problems involving their youth pastor. After four years of controversy, two of which existed before we arrived, the end result was a major church split.

The episode was very painful for everyone involved. After we did all we could to help stabilize the church, my wife and I felt that this would be the opportune time to broaden the foundation of my ministry and augment my abilities to minister to the local church.

As of January 1st, 1995, I completed two years as senior pastor of Zion Congregational Church. I resigned in good standing to again attend Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and work in the secular field.

Upon the advice from Cliff Christensen, our conference minister, my wife and I took this period away from full-time ministry so as, in his words, “Not to allow this episode to effect our next church.” He was right, as the church split had affected us greatly.

Now, after working in the secular field, filling the pulpit at regional churches and teaching adult Bible classes every Sunday at Redeemer Evangelical Free Church in Milwaukee Wisconsin, we both felt excited and optimistic about returning to full-time ministry.

In June of 1997 I was called to the senior pastor of Union Congregational Church in Monroe Center Illinois. Since this was a smaller church, I began working part time at UPS of Rockford. The ministry went exceptionally well for two and a half years, but soon my disapproval of the way a core group of three people always ran the church became obvious. Having tried every avenue of reconciliation, I decided it best for the church, the church youth and my family to resign. This I did in good standing, and moved to our first house in Davis Junction, Illinois with my wife and our now 5 year old son, Samuel.

I felt at this point my family needed stability since we moved five times within the last nine years, and UPS had offered me a full time job. My hope was to minister in the area until called back to full time ministry in a year or two. During this time I was offered two full time positions, one in Sterling Illinois and one in Seward Illinois as well as being a Chaplin at Rockford Rescue Mission. Tempting as these positions were, those whose advice I trusted could see that my marriage had become very unstable and advised me to wait to go back in the ministry full time. It was also during this time that we adopted our second child, Hannah in 2000.

As it turned out my advisors were right and my wife and I separated in February of 2004. At the time I did not understand why this was happening, because I was against it, but later it became clear that my wife wanted to start her own teaching career and felt I was standing in her way. It was at this point that my denomination suspended my ordination indefinitely and I decided it was best to resign from my duties at Rockford Rescue Mission and my current ministry as deacon, preacher and teacher at Stillman Valley Congregational Church. They all were all very understanding.

After a year and a half of failed reconciliation attempts, my wife filed for divorce which was completed in October of 2005. For the next 5 years my ordination remained suspended and my ministry focus was on my two wonderful children, Samuel and Hannah.

I honestly felt I would never re-marry or minister again but apparently God had different plans. I met my current wife, Linda at Stillman Valley Congregational Church in January of 2008. So by the end of the year I was ministering full time at Buffalo Grove Baptist Church in Polo Illinois and had taken Linda to be my wife. My denomination, after apologizing for the delay re-instated my ordination to full standing in the CCCC Conference.

Today our church has more then doubled in size, and Linda and I said “All things work together for good for those who love the lord and are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28