A Letter to Sonny Arguinzoni about the San Francisco Victory Outreach

July 12, 1996
By Brent and Darlene Saupe

Dear Pastor Sonny:

My name is Brent O. Saupe. I have been a member of Victory Outreach San Francisco for a little over four years now. I have been a leader here for the last three years. My wife Darlene has been a member for the last six years. She has also been a leader for more than three years. We met in Victory Outreach San Francisco. The purpose of this letter is to inform you of problems in San Francisco. This last Sunday was the last Victory Outreach service we will attend. We are going to another church. The reasons are numerous, but I will try to be as concise as possible so as not to take too much of your time.

We started thinking and praying about leaving our church over a year ago on April 29th. This was our wedding day. Pastor Carlos told us to change the date of our wedding because there was a "Cinco De Mayo" festival in the city that day. His intentions were to have the church go to the streets. We told him that our families had already made their plans for that date. There were also a lot of other arrangements that were made for that date (e.g. hall, church rental, caterers, invitations etc.). When Pastor Carlos found out that we would not be changing the date, he told the congregation that no one could go to the wedding. He wanted all the church on the streets that day. My family as well as myself were shocked by this announcement. A wedding has always been a special event in churches (my family is mostly Christian) and the reason for this was not understood.

From that time on we have been praying about this situation. We have sought council from different sources. Some said to write you at that time. The majority, including our church elders, said just to forget it. I was told that you already know of the situation here and so do the Elders of Victory Outreach. God is in control and even though they were all aware of the problems with Pastor Carlos, they were just waiting for God to move. In San Francisco the prayer is that Pastor Carlos be changed or removed. He is still here. And in my insider's opinion, getting further and further from the Biblical example of what a pastor should be.

After conference we knew we would be leaving Victory Outreach. After all the powerful speakers and even some good classes, Pastor Carlos has continued to become worse. Over the past few months the congregation and I have witnessed more worldliness, lying and hypocrisy from behind the pulpit than should ever be allowed. When it comes to finances Pastor Carlos is lacking the accountability with the congregation to avoid unnecessary scrutiny.

A common problem for the leadership is the need to explain Pastor Carlos' extravagant lifestyle. I don't know how much you know of this so I will tell you what I know. Pastor Carlos has a BMW, his wife has a minivan, his unemployed son has a BMW, and his daughter has a newer car as well. His family wears designer clothes exclusively and every member of his family has gold chains and at least one diamond ring each. At the recent Rosarito retreat Pastor Carlos showed off what he claimed was a "$30,000 Rolex". As he passed it around the car I looked at it closely. It had diamonds around it and looked real. Pastor said that he doesn't go for the "cheap stuff". In his home he has a "big screen" TV and white leather couches.

The reason I shared the above with you is to give you a little background of how Pastor Carlos appears to the congregation. On more than three occasions before he collected the offering he has stated "you are not giving to me. I don't get any of this money. I don't even get a paycheck from the church." I am completely unaware of how much a pastor does or should earn. But I know that something is due the pastor for his labors. If indeed Pastor Carlos doesn't receive anything from the church he should. If he does than he has lied repeatedly from behind the pulpit.

He is also teaching from behind the pulpit that the reason he has all the things that he has is because he has been so faithful in his giving. A "give to receive" message is preached before offering almost every time he is the one collecting it.

Pastor consistently comes into service over an hour after the service has started. Sometimes it is obvious that the worship leader is struggling to continue until he arrives. Many of our new visitors leave after such a long time of worship. When he does come in, he is known to rebuke the congregation for not praising enough or loud enough. We are told that if we don't shout we don't love the Lord.

Often he uses scripture out of context to get his point across. His point has more and more been submission and obedience. He has claimed to be on the same level as Moses and has gone so far as to say that if we disobey him, we are disobeying God. A time of downgrading the leadership before the congregation plays an important part of the messages we hear from behind the pulpit. A leadership position is not a coveted position to most members. In fact it is getting to where no one even wants to serve in any capacity. During our recent event a few of our members have mentioned to me that Pastor Carlos was acting like a "spiritual pimp". It has become a burden to serve the Lord here. For the most part any service going on is out of compulsion and not willingness.

My wife and I waited until after the event to tell Pastor Carlos of our decision to change churches. We didn't want to cause any undo problems before the event. We served even until the end of our last service--as ushers at the event and at church. After our final service I told Pastor Carlos of our decision. He told me I was wrong for leaving and that if I left I would leave "not with a blessing but with a curse". He also accused me of trying to take my wife out of church. He said that he was the one to allow me to marry Darlene (He said God also). He told me that the only reason for leaving was that I was disobedient and couldn't take a rebuke. My wife and I have been leaders for over three years. Obviously we can take a rebuke, or we would have left long ago. If I were disobedient I would not have submitted to all that has been going on for so long.

It is obvious to us that we need to get out from under the bondage of this church and that is what we are doing. Our concern is for those who are still in Victory Outreach San Francisco. Over the years we have built strong and lasting friendships with the people here. It is a hard thing to leave. There are a lot of loving people here who love the Lord and want to serve Him. They are going through the same things that we have gone through. Serving the Lord should at times be a joyful thing. There is a shortage of real joy in Victory Outreach of San Francisco.

After telling Pastor Carlos of our decision we waited two days to tell anyone else. We first called the head usher to have our names taken off the calendar and be replaced. Then we called the head of the Children's Church to be replaced on the Sunday school schedule. The same evening Pastor Carlos called my home. He told me not to talk to anyone from his church. He said that he would tell them what had happened. Knowing how he has handled people who have left in the past I expressed how we left on good terms. I told him that we have done nothing wrong. He told me that if I talked to anyone from his church that he would come to my house and correct me personally. He didn't stop yelling through the phone to hear anything I was telling him. He said numerous times that he didn't care what I thought and to just go, get out of his church. Pastor Carlos was acting like a regular worldly thug over the phone. This has confirmed to me that the decision to leave is the right one.

Which again--leaves those who are still there. I don't know how much of this stuff you have heard before, but this is a serious problem. I will no longer have to deal with it. But those who are still there are being spiritually destroyed. I have seen hundreds of people get saved and on fire over the last few years. I have also seen them crushed by a man who has no love, no compassion, and no conviction through it all.

The impression of Christianity that people see when they come to V.O.S.F. could very well drive them away from Christ for good. We as a couple who love the Lord and want to serve Him have been driven away. Not from the Lord, but from Victory Outreach. Please do something to help out those who are still there.

Thank you for your time,

Brother Brent and Sister Darlene

Note: It seems Pastor Sonny Arguinzoni is personally aware of the problems within Victory Outreach of San Francisco. Should it be concluded that by allowing such things to continue he condones this type of behavior by Victory Outreach leadership?

This story was made available with the permission of "Victory Outreach Survivors"

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