Lawton is leaving

The leader of C3 Exchange in Grand Haven will soon be moving back to Australia.
Marie Havenga
Aug 6, 2013


Ian Lawton, 45, took the helm of the then-Christ Community Church in Spring Lake in 2004. He led his congregation through a controversial name change and cross removal, and eventually its relocation to the Grand Haven Community Center.

Lawton said he and his family plan to return to Sydney shortly before Christmas. He has not set a date for his final service with C3 Exchange.

“It's really just a lifestyle decision based on the age of our kids and the age of our parents,” said Lawton, whose parents and in-laws live in Australia. “All four of our parents are getting to the age where traveling is difficult. It's time to be closer to family.”

Lawton's oldest son, Hugo, is currently a student at the University of Michigan. He said he wants to relocate his younger son and daughter before they reach high school.

Lawton said gun violence in America also played a role in his family's decision.

“We've definitely been unsettled by the recent gun violence in America, and some of the mass shootings and aftermath with still-stubborn reluctance to talk about those issues,” he said. “We feel uncomfortable with some of the priorities and values in America.”

Lawton moved here from Australia nearly a decade ago to take take over for the Rev. Dick Rhem when Rhem retired from Christ Community Church.

Lawton forged a path of “inclusiveness,” setting aside traditional biblical teachings and symbols for what he calls a more progressive spiritual focus. Some community members found it difficult to embrace Lawton's teachings and left the church.

Lawton described those first few years as “agonizing.”

Russell Radford, chairman of the C3 Exchange Board of Directors, said many C3 members were shocked when Lawton told them at Sunday's gathering that he would be leaving.

“It really rattled people,” Radford said. “Quite a few people were visibly upset by the announcement.”

Bob Kleinheksel, who left C3 last year to pursue a private counseling practice, said he is saddened that Lawton is leaving.

“It was kind of an emotional morning for me Sunday, but all out of a pocket of positivity,” Kleinheksel said. “I'm incredibly grateful to have worked with him for nine years.”

Radford said C3's future is very much up in the air. He said the effects of the community leader's departure will not be known until it happens.

“It's an open question right now as to what is going to happen,” Radford said. “We need to get a handle on the options that are open to us and and also get a handle on what this does to the number of members we have. We don't know what the attrition is going to be in terms of numbers and in terms of dollars.”

Should members leave when Lawton does, Radford said the financial fallout could be devastating.

The congregation moved out of the church at 225 E. Exchange St. in Spring Lake two years ago because of financial struggles. A bank took over the property and later sold it to Harvest Bible Chapel, which started worshipping there this spring.

Prior to that, the congregation changed its name from Christ Community Church to C3 Exchange and took down the cross atop the Spring Lake building so as to not represent only Christianity. That move drew criticism from some in the community and some C3 members as well, and some left the church.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.



Damage done...




WOW lots of damage done. Goodbye Enemy and go to the CROSS! Now its time for Damage Control... Calling on Jesus and praying for these folks to get back on track to their ONE and ONLY Savior... Jesus Christ!

what you talkin...

what do you know. you don't even know him!!


Damage to whom? Or to what? It continually amazes me how people who have absolutely NO knowledge of persons or situations can make such hateful remarks! And, by "getting back on track" do you mean that "these folks" start to think like YOU do? C3's spiritual journey has gone so far beyond your judgmental vitriol, no one in that community would have the least desire to get "back on such a track"! I'll take C3's philosophy of love and kindness over your brand of "Christianity" any day!!!


Jesus I give this to you... your stronger than I! Praying for these folks :)...aka... All of your children who are lost!


Are you serious, Lisakh?? Love and compassion are what I expect from fellow travelers... hate?? Hateful words? What do you know of this?? Do you think what you're showing is a Christian view?? Hate?? Fear?? Judging?? I believe there is something about "judge not, lest you be judged" in your Bible. Some of what I feel from your words makes me believe that there truly is a hell...right here on earth....
Seriously??? I will choose to send out light and love...


You any relation to Jim Jones? You like Kool Aid?


Lisakh---Please reread abckdb's post about how your remarks are hateful and certainly not what I would in any way consider "Christian". Just why are so many Christians so judgmental?
Also, I'd like to point out your grammatical errors: "Your stronger than I" should be "YOU'RE stronger than ME".


You accuse her of being judgemental and then point out her grammatical errors? Wow. Just wow. Do as I say, not as I do, I guess.


The words I spoke was of Truth. Truth shines the light on darkness. This has triggered something in each of you who have slashed back angrily at me. The enemy hates the Truth of Jesus. My words on here where prayed before I typed. Again I speak Truth and pray for all the lost or troubled to seek God's Face and to find the Truth in the Bible. God Bless your hearts for seeking the Truth!


Sounds like someone spends a little too much time watching the 700 club. Just remember, God prefers kind atheists over hateful Christians.


Gun violence as an additional reason to leave????? He does realize he lives in West Michigan, not Chicago right??? Sounds like a cop-out. Regardless, real religious/spiritual/biblical leaders do not flee in the face of danger or failure, they fight the good fight.


Those children in Newtown knew they weren't in Chicago.


New town happens every week in Chicago....look it up.


A "cop out"? What do you know of anyone's situation to make a judgement like that? How do you know that the Lawtons have NOT been directly affected by gun violence, and how DARE you excuse our country's lust for guns by saying they are running in the face of danger? Did it ever occur to you that there are places in this world that are more peaceful, and have laws to prove it? I know many people who would love to relocate to such a place. The Lawtons have been in America for 10 years; their desire to go home has nothing to do with "running", "failure" or being a "REAL religious leader" has to do with the desire to be close to family again, and to NOT have to spend thousands of dollars and many hours of difficult travel time in order to be with them. This family has a very well-educated world view, far more extensive than most of the people I know. I respect that, and know that this decision was not reached without a lot of consideration. I would expect others (especially those who don't even know this family!) to do the same.


very thoughtfully said


"World view"...I guess that explains it all. Bottom line he could have left gracefully, without a final cheap shot comment about America's "priorities and values" as it relates to guns. Anybody who is a parent was hurt by Newtown, including myself. Simple fact is, gun violence is still extremely rare, especially in suburban communities like this. I am sure he had other reasons to leave, but his gun violence comment is classic "world view". Last I checked, much of the rest of the world is in chaos. Good Luck to him.


"Gun related deaths" is a vague term. However, we can use that number. The US population, according to Google, is roughly 313.9 million. That means since Newtown that the percentage of people that have "gun related deaths" is 0.000990095%. That just makes me want to live in a shelter.


It should be noted that facts can be manipulated, such as pointing out that gun crimes are higher in the US than elsewhere, while ignoring the fact that violent crime rates are HIGHER in cities with gun control (as opposed to those without it), as in the UK and Australia.

Katie Bar the Door

I find it interesting that the Lawtons have always responded with kindness, love, and thoughtfulness to the venom and vitriol spewed at them by so many who purport to follow a god of love. I also find it interesting that these people appear to believe those of us who are part of the C3 community would be in church if C3 didn't exist. If there were no C3, I and many others would stay home on Sunday mornings.

I don't understand how being concerned by the growing violence in this country can be termed a "cheap shot." Violence is a reality in the U.S., and each mass shooting brings calls for more guns. As for American "priorities and values," we no longer appear to care much about the last, the least, and the lost. Isn't that what the book of Luke is about?

Ian, Meg, and their children are loving, courageous, amazing human beings. I will miss their presence in my life, and I will miss their example. I am happy they will no longer be the target of so much hatred from people who allegedly follow a god love.


Thanks for this're not alone!




When did Anger, Hate and Judging become family values??

Katie Bar the Door

I am reminded of some 1960s song lyrics: Hate your next-door neighbor, but don't forget to say grace.


Time to put it like it is..
A Liberal Progressive Minister took over a Church with around 2,000 members, stripped it of all that represented true Religious Principals, hurt many famlies to the point that we left, lost the Church, took 200 sheep to a new pasture, and now leaves because he dosen't like America..Something real wrong here..


This is a news worthy article? Leaving because of gun violence in the usa? Probably one of the tootie fruities made an unspeakable act towards him.

Later tater, don't let the door hit ya in the rear on the way out.



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