Exposure, pt.2.

<–Withering Heights.                                                    Exposure, pt.3.–>

[Exposure, pt.1.]

In the second half of Exposure pt.1, we looked at three truths about the community that is the epicentre of this blog’s main events that have been exposed by the events.  These were:Related image

  1. Lack of Sentimentality.
  2. Short memories.
  3. Group-think and/or Irrationality.

In pt. 2, we’ll explore truths 3-6.  Our list of principles, I trust, will follow next week.

Fourth, lack of self-awareness.  Some examples of this have been explored before, but we’ll limit ourselves to a few, and they’ll be in the form of quotes or paraphrases of what some of the pastors involved have said.

Church visitor 22: ‘Wow, you’re really concerned about truth!’  22 to 42: ‘Simon Templar is very enthusiastic about justice; do you think perhaps he could get a career in the legal profession?’  Implication: If you’re into justice, truth, and virtue, clearly the pastorate isn’t the place for you; that’s not really what we’re about around here…

From a pastor on the Oversight Committee, with the power of career life or death: ‘Simon, you’re taking pot-shots at me, and I’m always having to run for cover!’Image result for minion whaaat  Implication: wait, what?  I’m making you feel like a target?  Whaaat?

From a pastor on the CIC: ‘You should have submitted to the process, then maybe we would have done right by you.  Maybe.’ Read: well, since we didn’t actually read or interact with any of the documentation,* we can’t really discuss our conduct or whether you deserved any of this, but I know we didn’t like your attitude, which consisted of asking us to explain ourselves, so I can excuse us from any accountability based on that–that you made us uncomfortable and therefore weren’t submitting (to the process).  Being ‘cooperative’ here means, ‘don’t say anything, let them fumble about in the darkness and destroy you, because that’s what they’re there to do, apparently–some kind of a job, regardless of whether they do it well.’

[*The documentation addressed to the CIC from mid-September to the time of the pastor’s complaint about the overwhelming amount of written communication consists of:

–1 overview letter sent 15 September 2016, 3 pages, along with a supporting document recounting incidents with the Oversight Committee, 3 1/2 pages.

–1 follow-up letter sent 17 October 2016, 2 pages.

–1 letter as an addendum that of the 17th, sent 31 October, 2 pages.

–1 essay on the Star Chamber, sent 4 November (ST was at that point unaware that the OC had recommended to the CIC that he be defrocked, and that the CIC was meeting that very day to discuss this), 3 pages.

–1 letter sent 7 November, 2 1/2 pages.

Depending on how you want to count them, it’s 5 or 6 documents, up to a total of 16 pages, sent over the course of almost 2 months, roughly 53 days.  16/53=.3018, or, less than 1/3 page per day.  Maybe 2 paragraphs or so, required of men who on paper have the obligation to ‘handle’ this rather weighty matter.  But they were overwhelmed, dontcha know…

Of course, it’s hard to be overwhelmed by something you haven’t even looked at; back in the autumn, regarding the key initial documents from mid-September, at least 3 of the 5 men admitted to not having read them (I think it’s 3.  I suppose the guy who wouldn’t return any phone calls, texts or emails could have read them…we’ll just never know, like whether there was a second gunman on the Grassy Knoll).  See truth 6 below.  These 16 pages, I might add, are not in small font, nor do they have narrow margins.  One wonders how the sermon-writers on the committees who did read all, let alone any, of these 16 pages, and found it particularly arduous, approach a biblical commentary; on the flipside, if the laymen on the committee can’t read, what exactly are they doing on the committees? 

My reaction though is that 16 pages over two months seems like a lot to them because they themselves don’t write, so writing substantial (grammatically correct as well as articulate, strikingly so when compared with samples of their writing) amounts of material doesn’t seem to them normal.  And of course, if they don’t take this situation all that seriously, writing that amount of material will also be to them very inconvenient.  Because not only may they not be writers, but also, they likely are not regular (certainly not close) readers of text that requires significant (and continuous) mental engagement.

Excerpts of these letters may be included as evidence in the future.]

Fifth, inability to hear anything that contradicts preconceived notions about what happened, or who someone is.  This is connected to point three in Exposure, pt.1.  I don’t feel I’m yet in a position to explore this point at length, though I’m sure it is at the heart of what went on in 2016.  People heard the testimony of the church visitors at the Classis Meeting in December 2015, heard Simon Templar and 42 (for instance) maligned and marginalized by others, while the two of them went unheard, and that pre-empted any future objective hearing (see the next ‘truth’).  This helped to create a conspiracy–often an unwitting one, the people in it are so clueless. 

Image result for lion in winter philip geoffrey

I’m registered to take a course on the psychological aspects of approaches to evidence in March; I’m hoping this will help me to shed some light on why there’s so much selective listening and deafness going on in classis Northern Michigan.  Though I can say that there is some evidence of either closed-mindedness or intellectual laziness, since there has still been ZERO interaction with yours truly about this blog…

Sixth, lack of professionalism.

Image result for disney robin hood prince johnWhere should we begin?  This topic definitely spills over into others, like those that will be covered in pt.3.  But we’ll take a stab at it from a couple of angles. 

First would be operational incoherence that includes pervasive conflicts of interest. We’ll go through just the men on the CIC and leave it at that:

Pastor 1, the clerk of classis: his church is on financial life support from the ‘Classis’ (who or what is that, again?) who ‘approved’ the Article 17 in December 2015, and whose OC has been bungling their end of things for the past year.  He is thus bound not only by Classis money, but by Classis favour–he can’t afford to rock the boat.

Pastor 2, regional pastor and chair of the CIC: has to maintain personal ‘relationships’ and thus ‘goodwill’ with every pastor in his care, which is all of classis.  While a friend to ST, he also saw 21 on a regular basis throughout 2016 and finds it difficult to see people and their actions for what they really are; is compelled by his position to give everyone, including the wrong people, the doubt ad infinitum, long after they’ve demonstrated they don’t deserve it.  It’s easier to tell the one guy under the boot of the Classis monster what he has to do to change and kiss up to them, than to stand up to your pool of peers with whom you’re stuck and tell them they’re all wrong.

Pastor 3, ‘youth’ pastor, member of both the CIC and OC.  *cough* NO LIE!  Here’s the email exchange between him and me:

9 November 2016:

Dear Pastor 3–,

I am ‘reaching out’, as the buzz-phrase goes, to you from the UK.  I read your profile on —- CRC’s website; in addition to being their youth pastor, you’ve also been on my father’s ‘Oversight’ Committee, and the CIC as well.

I’m wondering whether you would be willing to talk to me (via phone or Skype) for a few minutes?  If you give me your number, I can make an international call quite easily, or we can exchange Skype handles and make contact that way.  There is a five-hour difference between our respective time zones, but if you give me a list of dates and times when you are available, I’m happy to call at your convenience.  Please let me know.

Regards,

ekklescake

10 November:

Dear ekkles,

Thank you for your offer, but I respectfully decline.

Take care,

Pastor 3–

14 November:

Dear Pastor 3–,

Thank you for your reply.  I was asking you for a favour, not offering one, but I suppose that’s moot at this point. 

At any rate, perhaps you do not object to writing just a little?  I only wanted to ask two questions: first, do you think the way the OC (and CIC) have treated my father sets a good example to the youth of the CRC in general, and to those in —- CRC in particular? Second, if the answer to the first question is yes, how so? I only ask because of what I read on your profile on the church website, and because you are on both committees.

Thanks in advance for your interaction on this. For what it’s worth, I’m probably younger than you (though maybe not by much).  Perhaps that means I fall under the spiritual purview of you as a youth minister?

Regards,
ekklescake

16 November:

Dear ekkles,

Unfortunately I am also going to decline this second favour you have asked.  It seems to me you already have your answers and no matter what I say,Related image you will use my words to support your stance.

I sincerely hope you can find peace with God surrounding the events of your father’s separation from A. CRC, even if you don’t have all the answers.

Take care,

Pastor 3–

 

16 November:

Dear Pastor 3–,
Since this email is a bit longer, I’ll put the most important part first: Why can’t you just tell me the truth, and be confident in knowing it’s the truth? 
You write as if you already know me, or know what I’m all about; based on this conception of who I am and how I think, if I had ‘answers’, do I seem the type to need your words to support my ‘stance’?  I do want to know what you, in your position, with your profession of what you think your role in the church is, think of all ‘this’.  I don’t like being accused of dishonesty, and find that very offensive and quite surprising, since you don’t know me. 
Again, perhaps you think you do, because of my blog or something?  Please give me any example from my blog where I have misappropriated someone else’s words to support my arguments.  You must have at least one, since you’re being so cavalier with your insinuations.  As I haven’t heard the perspective of anyone in this post-2015 string of events, there’s no precedent for asserting that I wouldn’t read what you have to say and interact with it in an honest fashion.  Still, I can say that I do appreciate that you’re not treating me like a child, by just blowing me off–you’re blowing me off and telling me what I’ve done wrong (or will do wrong) to earn being ignored. 
At any rate, if I were to ‘use [your] words’ to ‘support [my] stance’ in a way that’s irresponsible or dishonest, wouldn’t you be able to counter my misdeeds handily if everything is in writing?  Shouldn’t that offer you ample protection?  Anyway, pretty much anyone could use that as an excuse to never explain anything–‘Well, you’ll just use what I say to support your own position’ (with the intimation that the use is invalid or underhanded).  I don’t think the possibility of someone misusing information negates the obligation of people in power to articulate justification for their actions. 
On the other hand, if you can’t express yourself clearly enough not to be misinterpreted or misrepresented, since you evidently are concerned about this, I hardly think that’s my fault.  Or, if you don’t have the ‘words’ to explain what you think about this situation, or can’t explain your involvement in it, perhaps that’s good reason not to be involved?  This smacks of evasion– people in ‘official’ positions in this situation get to just walk away from the explosion after some promise to ‘pray’ or some vague wish for ‘peace’ and ‘healing’.  Gee, I thought Christian leaders actually did something to help people once in a while. 
Cynically yours,
ekklescake
**
I’m sure you’ll be shocked to know that I never heard anything back.  Probably he saw the length of this email and had to take a nap.  Also note–I never had any communication with this man before that initial email sent on November 9th.  This is the kind of Christian leadership engagement to be worked with and within.

 

Layman 1: is fellow parishioner/consistory & singing group member as Rogue K on the OC.  That’s right, they’re on the council of the church who were approached about the issue of the Ss and did…nothing

Layman 2: can’t even be polite.  Although we’ve got two different stories as to why this is–we’ll come back to this.   

So, conflict of interest, here in the selection of personal and the various hats they wear and diverse interests they carry with them into committee meetings or when reading (or not reading) their emails.

Professionalism is also lacking in failure to keep interested parties appraised of goings-on, of meetings, of those meeting’s subject matter, of correspondence between the committees, e.g., the recommendation by the OC to the CIC–when exactly was ST going to find out, if it had been left up to them to follow up?  this is a counterpart to the double-whammy of booting ST out of the September 2016 Classis Meeting, without having informed him of what the OC planned to present there, and thereafter failing to give him a copy of document they presented, which was only done after ST asked pastor 1 of the CIC to ask the OC to copy him.  Shabby–that kind of thing in the ‘real world’ in which I live and work is completely unacceptable. 

Linked to that is failure to reply to communications, even to acknowledge receipt, after a peer or colleague has specifically asked for it, in writing and more than once.  Then there’s the crummy email exchange I had with Pastor 3–, which speaks for itself above ^^^.  Accusing a person you’ve never met of ulterior motives and underhandedness without even a reason or example is both unprofessional and very bad manners.  In the Old West, there’d have been precedent for demanding a person take back such ‘fightin’ words.’  Unfortunately, we’re dealing with Christians who hate being questioned and challenged, and who apparently are never wrong.

 

Image result for gilligan's island the secret of gilligan's island
‘A Howell is never wrong! Break off a piece and make it fit!’

 

Author’s note: embedded links to come, and stay tuned for pt.3!

[Return to Table of Contents.]                             Exposure, pt.3.–>

 

Withering Heights

<–A Slight Detour.

Where am I?

I stand alone on a barren heath, where the grass grows sideways, bowing to the wind.  My head pounds, making it feel somehow distant, separate from the rest of my body. But the air is bracing, and it brings me back to myself.

Related image

The sky is half-clear, clouds sweeping or being swept across it like pieces across a chessboard, gracefully and soundlessly.  The sky is blue, but not bright, the cloud not too dark, but not too soft.  The air is akin to the winter gusts that tear through your coat and scarf , rushing down from the Arctic over the plains, gathering force and cracking bitterness of cold as they go.

It is, however, salty, carrying with it the traces of brine from the west.  In that direction, looking down from where I stand,  I see a white house.

I can see it, and inside of it, though it be even farther away than it seems.  There’s a blue glow within, the sound of voices and the smell of oven-fried steak, coffee and apple pie.  It is a scene rebuilt from memory–my memory, behold.  I see the chair in which I believe myself to be seated–to have sat? but there is nothing there.  Food on the plate disappears, a cup is drained, a card in the deck is lifted and added to the hand at my place.  The tiny flecks of vanilla in the ice cream are clearly visible there.

Other faces are there–sort of–and whose?  Only two I know for certain, yours, the cook, and yours, the banterer.

Not far off are loose stones for a project, a garden with corn grown tall, wood taking shape on the edge of the glade–all for the children, again, we hear–and a converted barn where the smell of roast turkeys past still lingers.  Voices, laughter, and an empty chair.

Am I seeing it with my own eyes?  Or rather, is this…from my memory?

Perhaps not.  For while I remember, I am not–was not–there.

A dog stops by the chair, and forImage result for golden retriever smile a moment there is a shape, and it reaches out to stroke her, smiling.  But she passes on, and the shape fades.

In and out of the house, I look here, there, see a sign with a name, a very familiar car, and, to my surprise, a large stone box.  Ah, not a box, but some kind of pyre, an altar.  It’s disused, but impressively made.  It has gems set in it, expenses proclaimed, with the names of the artists stamped on the edges and corners.  And lots of writing.  As the art of Islam takes in and returns the curving script of its book, so this altar is covered in words.

But they are printed a bit too large, I think to myself.  Yet they can’t be read–and they mean nothing.

I was never anything to you.

And in that way

I never was.

I was but a shadow in your house,

eating your food

and laughing at your jokes.

The fire burns elsewhere, and it burns blue.

 

[Return to Table of Contents.]

 

A Slight Detour…

<–Exposure, pt.1.                                                                      Withering Heights.–>

This post is full of links–that is because all the leg-work of exposing these many instances of sin and corruption (and in some cases, just laziness) in the church has been done by other people!  Credit given where credit is due, especially to the less well-known writers in the discernment and pursuit -of-justice arenas.  (Apologies too for the odd ellipses here and there; I had serious formatting issues in constructing this post.)

Now, then, onto the bumpy dirt road…

Image result for detour sign dirt road

The clergy as a class have never been perfect.  Naturally, since they’re made up of not-fully-sanctified human beings with a (defeated?) sin nature.  But they should at least have been, and be, upright.

If ever there were negative stereotypes about clerics, they have included a propensity toward theft from those in their care and embezzlement from their parishes, tendency towards ‘killjoyness’ or a degree of pharisaism mixed with hypocrisy, and craving for power or recognition.  Dante writing about Christian whitewashed sepulchres may as well skip over the usual, plain old vanilla sexual indiscretions of past generations, because if we’ve learned anything from the recent evangelical scandals, it’s that something about contemporary protestant groups’ power structures (for lack of a better term) and priorities have made them as susceptible to (founded) accusations of deviancy, such as child molestation, and of covering up reported cases of it, as the Roman Catholic Church. How can this be? What about the systems in place first makes groups like SGM  appealing to predators, and what about them drives the non-deviants to hide the evil and themselves victimise the abused by denying them first help and then justice?  (Head to Brent Detwiler’s blog for all you could possibly [not] want to know, and/or Google ‘SGM survivors blogs’.)  I don’t have the answer to this question, though the cause is probably related to the structure itself, the group’s theology, their priorities (relationships over morality? or at least over church discipline), and the dangerous presumption that all who name themselves Christians (especially of the group’s stripe) actually are.

The Man pointed out last night that mass media makes us more aware than before of such people and events, and it may be that, statistically speaking, there aren’t actually more sex predators after children and youth than there used to be.  It’s just that we hear about them, and a lot more about them.  While this is probably true, I can’t help but think that SGM (though I don’t know their fluctuating numbers of members over the years) has more than their share of deviants, and of conscience-challenged people to enable them.  At any rate, it’s more the nature of the phenomenon than the bare numbers that concerns us here, though I am curious about the proliferation of this kind of evil in general.  These are the last days, so it’s entirely possible that such proliferation is inevitable, both inside the church (and what calls itself the church) and outside of it.

With their years of what has probably become compulsive covering up of such egregious sin, SGM has opened itself up to suspicion and ridicule like this, which hitherto has been Image result for savage eye catholic churchmuch more associated with the hierarchical self- and magisterium-protecting and mutual back-scratching of the RCC. And this ridicule need not be expected only from secularists (who may, if they’re not too influenced by Richard Dawkins, have taken better care of their children and charges), but from the victims and those who have demanded leadership at SGM, erm, change their MO. Perhaps repentance and resignation would be in order for many at the top.

No, SGM and churches and other ministries like them under scrutiny for systematically hidden and/or excused sin, have lain themselves open to the critique, challenge and ridicule of their fellow protestants and evangelicals (assuming men like CJ Mahaney and Grant Layman do have a real Christian commitment). SGM could fittingly be the subject of a cartoon or satire about supposedly spiritual men in positions of social influence and moral authority stealing children…

And from Romans, we know that one needn’t be the abuser to be culpable– the leadership who failed to report the allegations to the police themselves and advised others against doing so, who took blood money for vacations in exchange for their silence, who transferred perps out of local ministry without public rebuke or an offer for support toImage result for bloody wolf unreported victims, who continued to parade themselves at conferences and unfairly expected their big name ‘friends’ in the (reformed) public eye to defend them with bogus or lame arguments about truth and justice (thereby asking those friends to make themselves look foolish in the process)… Well, they may not have molested these kids or cheated on their spouses, but they approved of those who did.  And no doubt some type or types of abuse is still going on, since the sheep of Christ are easy targets, and the shepherds at SGM are happy to turn a blind eye, or even, apparently, to provide access to the lambs in the fold.

 

When I saw the photo of one of the pastors newly dumped, I started to cry. He is entangled in, and has been dismissed due to some kind of sexual sin–it’s not clear if it is assault on minors, and the gist is rather that it is something different. So… Why cry? Well, because these men who have been enabled in all this– even they have been done a disservice by SGM’s hypocrisy. Because they still have souls, and for others to overlook their sin, and therefore encourage it, has served to increase their shame and guilt. They should have been both reported to the authorities and called to repent, which is what will matter in eternity, particularly to the abusers. And in eternity, the sin committed by their enablers will also be a topic of conversation when those men themselves come before the Seat.
..
As with Tullian Tchividjian (read these headlines backwards to follow the chain of lies), those who (in my opinion) worked and talked overtime to explain things away and put him on the fast-track return to ministry not only shamed Christ’s church by their lack of principles and refusal to carry out church discipline, but they did the worst thing they could by the person they claimed to be trying to help (if they were; one must wonder in this social media age if things are done to make their doers look good, in this case, ‘supportive’, ‘forgiving’, etc. One must also wonder if the same would be done for someone less famous, and, let’s face it, less handsome). And then… what did he do? He took advantage of them, and the shame of all increased.  (Personal note: we should probably pray for the woman who was foolish enough to marry him.)
..
We could go on at length about the ‘friendships’ that cause people in the blogosphere to jump publicly to the defense of the accused, and the fact that they’re so careless–not only of their own reputations, but also of the well-being of the victims, especially if what the victims say is true.  Todd Pruitt (and others, on Tom Chantry**), Kevin DeYoung  (and others, on CJ Mahaney), Chris Rosebrough (on Daniel Emery Price [H/T puritangirl]; at least Rosebrough has posted a statement about why he had to remove all his Tullian Tchividjian-related material; perhaps he can bring himself to follow his own instruction and backpedal [i.e., repent of having gone to the mat for Price and withdraw his threats of lawsuits]), and many others, several of whom have benefitted evangelicalism in different ways, have struck an imbalance when asserting more than simply, ‘The law requires proof of guilt via proper judicial proceedings, and we should assume innocence until proven otherwise; let’s just see what happens at trial.’  That’s all anyone should say.  And then pray that the truth comes out.  To say anything more after people credibly allege that these ‘leaders’ have lived free under the sun for years after committing acts of various kinds of abuse can be construed by true victims as joining the voices of the excusers and defenders who actively helped to keep things hushed up (like the SGM leadership).
**Apparently inconsistent with this acclaimed MoS noted on thouarttheman from 8 months before, although read here the response of R. Scott Clark to Todd Wilhelm’s comments on the Tom Chantry arrest; also see here for Todd Pruitt’s stance on CJ Mahaney in Spring 2016.
..
People must recognize that they lose credibility when they get on their computers to say, ‘Don’t judge, don’t gossip, nothing is proven, what would Jesus do?!’, after they have been palling around as ‘friends’ and conference associates with the accused, or recommending their blog articles, for years.  Best to say as little as possible–and the same goes for anyone in the blogosphere who does not have first-hand knowledge.
..
At any rate… How many people really know their ‘friends ‘like they claim they do on the internet, when they either tell other people to be quiet, they are certain these allegations are false and their friend pastor x would never do such a thing, or when they tell people to stop talking about x, he’s repented and so very sorry and broken about all this, and we should be moving on and talking forgiveness now?  Notice these aren’t in quotes, and I’m not attributing  them to anyone–this is the gist of some of what is being said or has been said (e.g., about Tullian Tchividjian–that was real repentance…)  People are so superficial, so in a hurry…  as a side-note, one must wonder if there’s a certain level of inevitability about putting one’s foot in one’s mouth when anyone becomes a big shot, even when becoming known for critiqueing the culture that allows for Christian big shots and celebrity in the first place, because over time the standards to which they hold themselves begin to drop, which is manifested in poor arguments, hasty and uninformed judgments, or offering criticism without evidence.
Image result for celebrity pastor
Who are these people?  I don’t know, but apparently they’re a pastor-couple with a TV show.

And then of course, there are cases like Mark Driscoll’s (the sobering remarks in this article about the ‘good ol’ boys’ club’ that comprises the ‘Neo-Calvinist’ movement are difficult to read), the discovery of whose plagiarism was such an explosion that the

Image result for Mark Driscoll song of solomon
Pastor Mark can tell you all about how teens have a one-track mind, because he never grew up.

unchurched heard about it everywhere, I’m sure.  But long before that BOOM, the testimony of those who were abused at Mars Hill, and the sober critique of his sub-biblical methods, attitudes, and teaching were readily available, just like all the legal documentation concerning the sexploits of those associated with SGM and the likes of Doug Wilson are freely, readily available.  But people choose not to inform themselves (of course, the above-linked article about conferences asserts that there is an awful lot of mammon involved in these ‘networks’), to their own detriment as well as to that of the victims of the ministers and their ministries, and unto the continued ‘free pass’ granted to the reprobates because not enough, or not the right, people are taking a stand.  And so Mark Driscoll, without even the lip service of ‘repentance’ given in Tullian’s case, can skitter away from Seattle, and turn up again like a bad penny in Phoenix.

It should be pointed out that the electronic trail of proclaimed support for ne’er-do-wells does tend to disappear (just like some jailed or fallen pastors’ sermons off of church websites) once the ne’er-do-wells are arrested.  As a result, we are indebted to watch blogs who provide screenshots of posts, articles, and talks which are no longer available on their home sites (is it to TGC’s credit that this is still available, or is it a sign that they still don’t get it?).  Often, unlike in the case of F4F and the Tullian materials mentioned above, these items are deleted without explanation or acknowledgement.  It’s as if they were never there.  And, those who defend too vociferously without knowing what they’re talking about (while spending an awful lot of time attacking other people for much more egregious things, like being continuationists) may have to resign from ‘talking’ online altogether.
..
Why this detour from the mini-series at hand?  Because I’ve been distracted by others’ writing, and because I find it so strange, all this messy business, with folk looking the other way when ‘pastors’ and ‘church leaders’ do something really heinous, like fondling 14-year-old boys and then forcing those boys to accept their ‘apology’ and ‘forgive’ them and thereby swearing them to silence…  And a pastor in Northern Michigan who does nothing but preach the trustworthy word as taught and try to live with integrity is first kicked around by his council and church (including people he thought were his friends), and then by the collared brethren who are supposed to support him.  Cancer, physical affliction, is nothing compared to hopes disappointed by Image result for i claudius is there no one with integrityfellow Christians, and trust betrayed daily over the course of two years.
..
And there is none with integrity.
..
But while the contrast is an irony–other people wreak havoc on young lives and are excused and covered for, while truth-speakers are maligned and abused, the cover-up is in fact a common factor between Simon Templar’s case and that of, say, SGM.
..
A professed ‘love for the church’, and probably pragmatic self-interest, both in the sense of avoiding, a., a tarnished reputation and b., the cognitive dissonance that comes with seeing that reality and people around you are far other than what you’ve always believed, has led to a sick expenditure of lots of energy to quash the testimony and voice of victims of abuse (spiritual and verbal [slander & libel] in one case, all kinds in the other), and lots of bureaucratic conspiracy among ‘officials’ to just ‘make it (the truth and the consequent obligation to do something about it) all go away.’  But if you’ve read this blog, you know we’ve already tread this ground many times.  I rest my case.

Photo0506.jpg

[Return to Table of Contents.]                                                       Withering Heights.–>

Exposure, pt. 1

<–Testimony: Post from our Guest Contributor.                       A Slight Detour.–>

Image result for US cavalry remington

A New Year in the blogosphere, and a potentially positive development in the drudgery is at hand: intervention by some people with meaningful morality.

I plan to compile a list of basic principles which can be gleaned from this whole experience, but I will start from a different vantage point and see where that leads us.  Today, we will look at some aspects of this Article 17 and its aftermath that are unique; to be more precise, we will look at realities brought to light–or indeed brought into existence–by the A-17, concerning the people and community involved.

One can ask, and perhaps is compelled by nature to ask, ‘Why did this happen?’  Per this blog, there are multiple causes, factors, perhaps reasons, at the human level.  I’d dare to say that most of the causes, factors, and even motives of the major players have been (I hope accurately and responsibly) catalogued herein.  To come at it from a Christian perspective and raise the eyes to the level of divine cause, some things we will never be told in this life.  But we can speculate within certain parameters, and the Bible gives us a few different reasons for why God engineers or allows things to happen the way they do.  Sometimes, all we are told is that the unfolding of events is unto His glory.  Sometimes, events reveal something about His character, while by the same token the action of people shows or exposes the hearts of those people in particular, or aspects of human nature in general.

While this topic would certainly coincide with that of a list of basic principles, we’ll proceed as if they’re separate and continue this monologue in paragraph form (the principles, as I imagine them, would be in the form of bullet points).

So, why did this happen?

Let’s take a quick inventory of what happened in another A-17 situation and see how it compares.

For starters, it also was precipitated by a man with a psycho-spiritual problem, a narcissist with a compulsion for gaining influence, impressing people with both his confidence and intelligence, and with a bit of the snake-oil salesman about him.  This walking ‘black hole’ (H/T George R.) had engulfed a house church group of which he had before been a part; he/it has since erected and lost multiple small business alleged by some to be ‘shell companies’.

Image result for black hole

What is interesting is that for our purposes he attached himself to the pastor’s best friend in the congregation–both he and this friend were on the council at the time–and over the months before the A-17, the two met for breakfast EVERY DAY.  Most likely, so the black hole could talk (and boy, can he talk!).  The former friend, who also worked for the black hole in his business and was persuaded by this association to trade up to a much more expensive car than his family had ever been wont to drive, became the right-hand man in the drama, leading the charge by making phone calls, chairing meetings, running interference and defence for the black hole even after the pastor was gone.  I believe it was he who first made the motion that the black hole take over the pulpit after a congregation merger with an Asian group who met in the same church building; their pastor would remain head of their group, while the black hole would pastor the predominantly Anglo congregation.  When a suspicious parishioner asked about the black hole’s credentials, the reply, perhaps via a red-faced puppet, was, ‘Are you questioning my integrity?’

The fact that someone was willing to ask a question upon announcement of this hare-brained proposal was perhaps a harbinger of what was to come: in the months that followed the pastor’s departure, the vast majority of the congregation came to see the black hole for what he was–a charlatan.  And the numbers ebbed.  One year to the week after the pastor preached his last sermon, the church closed.  The would-be CRC mediator who had come in to assess the situation was had by the black hole (though he was warned in advance), and the handling by higher-ups was bungled, because people didn’t listen (how rare!).  The black hole killed the church in less than a year, while blocking any attempt to get an interim pastor.  But there was never any acknowledgment that the pastor had been right (rather, that he had been wronged), and there no doubt was never any discipline for the smooth-talking, power-hungry cheat, who is now plying his wares at a non-denom seeker-friendly church nearby.  I hope this new church is ‘reformed’ enough for him; at the time he and his wife joined the church he destroyed, he remarked with great significance, ‘I don’t know if Covenant is reformed enough for us.’

At any rate, it took relatively little time before he was found out.  Part of this was likely due to his unethical business practices, which no doubt were difficult to conceal from the church, since by the time the pastor left, a half-dozen of the church’s men were working for him.  One of them, one of the younger men in the congregation, was anxious to get out of that ‘snake pit’ in the weeks after the church became vacant, but he couldn’t put in his notice: the black hole had not paid him in two months, and he knew if he announced his intentions to quit, he would likely never see the check he was owed.

**

So now.  It is about 14 months since the A. congregational meeting at which Mr. Wonderful, the Fabulous Lucky #13, announced the ‘release’ of Simon Templar and tried to buck up the congregation (successfully, I might add, as we all know) with a bunch of Journey bluster.  ‘I seen him in a smoky room–the smell of wine and cheap perfume!!’  Whoops, wrong Journey.

Initially, 8 people left in the first month, plus the two young children of a young couple. That couple and their children subsequently came back.  In the last six months, another couple has left, one that had felt embraced and accepted by A. after some rough experiences in other churches.  According to my sources, there have not been any significant visitors in this past year, nor, of course, any sightings of the young people ST supposedly drove off with his fire-and-brimstone sermons, nor of the other couples who, it was claimed by the council, left only because of him during his tenure.  This is predominantly a LIE, and was demonstrated so by 42 in his rebuttal of the A-17 submitted to Classis NM in December 2015.  Where are all these people now (the ones who left A. between 2008 and the A-17)?  One of the women of A. did her own research, and even asked one of the families whether ST was the reason they left.  The answer was ‘No.’  The real reason? 13 himself.  I’m shocked.

So a few were onto the stink of this situation from the beginning, and several have smelt it since.  They may be more departures of long-term members in the coming weeks.  But the Deliverer hoped-for (and perhaps promised) by 13 never materialized, or rather, he wasn’t in the right denomination (he’s a Baptist) and he got called by a church in Kalkaska County.  A. is, almost needless to say, still vacant.

Now we should talk about what’s been exposed by this series of unfortunate events (Netflix is apparently putting out a Lemony Snicket original, by the way).

**

First, lack of sentimentality.  We all know the culture has taken the value of feelings too far, and uses them to justify all kinds of poor judgment and immoral behaviour.  But how does one react to the complete radio silence on the part of ‘Christians’ toward a couple who have not only been members of their congregation for decades, but also taught the adult Sunday School, and wrote a very striking letter about the evil nature of the church’s course?  Not only was there no interaction with that material (indicating the couple wasn’t taken too seriously), but no attempt was made to reach out to them (with one exception).

The other older couple who immediately left A. received cards and phone calls, perhaps attempts to woo them back (one of their adult children still attends A.; this may have been added incentive).  This couple gave the callers an earful.

But in spite of the tears shed, and love and sympathy expressed for ST, less than a month before by one of the women of the dissolved small group, no one from that pod has reached out to my family in the past year.  One woman saw fit rather to deride and lecture me and my sister, but we’ve gone all over that.  Those who are gone are also forgotten.  Some might wonder what a lack of show of sentiment–e.g., a verbal declaration to someone that you miss him or her, whom you’ve seen regularly for years and years–says about more biblically significant categories like love for the brethren and general compassion.  Of course, it may also say something about integrity, the fact that no one was motivated (enough) to talk to 42 & 43 about Kent Crockett’s book, but we’ll talk about integrity later.

Feelings trump everything, and we need to just ‘love on’ (I hate that expression) everyone.  Until they disagree with you.  Then you kick them to the curb and after 60 years of church membership don’t even give them a phone call.  And the faces in services are happy and smiling as if none of this had ever happened.

Image result for groundhog day movie clock

**

Second, short memories (see last few sentences of previous section).  Recently a contact preached at A., and was told by one of the elders with whom I met in October 2015 that the reasons for the A-17 were that ST was too ‘gloom and doom’ and ‘always had to be right.’  In autumn 2015 he said to my face (and to ST’s) that he didn’t believe either of those things was true, but that he and the council simply ‘had to do something’.  Read: it doesn’t matter if it’s true and people are just nit-picky (or even delusional, I might add), they’re threatening to leave!  And this man had been arguing with his cousins for years about their invalid points of view.  One has to wonder if, in the conversation with our contact, he offered or forgot to offer a disqualifier, that these were the alleged reasons but he didn’t hold to them himself–or if he doesn’t remember that he disagreed unequivocally at the time but has heard all the tripe for so long, with no countering argument, that now he believes it.  Sad.

But even at the time, that is, during the course of 2015, people contradicted themselves from one conversation to another, a whole ‘nother level up from asserting things about the pastor, when actions taken by him only weeks before utterly debunk those assertions.  The problem is, the person making those assertions has to be willing to consider the reality of the pastor’s behaviour, and then apply that reality to the validity of the assertion.  This is a lot to ask of people who live so much in the here and now, and want that which is most immediately convenient and expedient, and requires the least effort.

**

Third, irrational thinking or Group-think (propelled by the compulsive need to go along and get along).  This goes hand-in-hand with point two.  And we’ve been over and over this issue on the blog.  Because most individuals in this area prioritize getting along over doing the right thing (and particularly over the truth and thinking for themselves), this phenomenon is both widespread and essentially over-powering.  Many of the folk in the area are related by blood and by marriage, and they put family and (the veneer of) family peace ahead of all else.  And because the churches are peopled by families who make up most of the numbers (and are ethnically homogeneous) they do think alike, share the same values, and have a vested interest in avoiding any rocking of the boat, and in actively discouraging or opposing such by others.

This, combined with the culture of doing what makes you happy, is enough to overrule strong personal antipathies: one couple (the wife in particular) used to make no bones about proclaiming how much they couldn’t stand 13.  By the time everything at A. came to a head, they were on his ‘side’.  These were also sometime members of the small group.  While at the time we were still friends with 13, and knew his family better (and I thus didn’t understand why they didn’t like him), probably the wife’s instincts about 13 were right all along.  But she and her husband fell victim to peer pressure, temporal thinking and what they perceived to be a socially desperate situation.  And 13 was the hero making promises and apparently the only one ‘courageous’ enough to say what they had all allegedly been thinking.  Of course, the word ‘courageous’ requires reiteration that 13’s name never went on anything in all this mess, and neither did his ‘wordsmith’s’ (who nevertheless gave permission to share his name on this blog–which I may yet do!).  This wordsmith wouldn’t admit to writing the council’s documents on their behalf when asked point-blank about it.  But this too is evidence perhaps of Group-think: because none of the other five men naturally thought of any of the major nay-sayers complaints (mostly articulated and spread like manure by 13), none of them would have been capable of writing either the A-17 Request or the Letter to the Congregation.  It takes some mental leg-work to distil and crystallize such significant arguments, and it took someone like 21 to fake his way through legitimate and ‘Christian’ argumentation.

Image result for animal farm napoleonThe phenomenon is at its most frightening when you hear relatively intelligent and upright people saying very stupid and unbiblical or even amoral things–like, ‘I don’t care if x is true; y is how I feel.’  It’s a real-world, small-town, monolithic local church version of Animal Farm.  If people do not think independently (and especially if their minds aren’t conformed to Scripture and they don’t rely on the Holy Spirit to bear witness to them in moral and intellectual quandaries); if they believe all those who speak powerfully care about their best interests (notice that this trumps what honors God); if the big talkers successfully equate what people want for themselves with the ‘good of the church’, without appeal to what the Bible actually says is the church, and is good; if they can persuade the listeners to follow along, by first saying what they think the listeners want to hear (later this won’t be so necessary, as evidenced by Napoleon’s evolving arguments in the above-mentioned novella—they’ll have the peons trained to listen and obey even if the message becomes a difficult one); and if the now-elites repeat something often enough, they can shape the minds and reality of practically everyone.  There is no opposing someone who is effectually impressive to those who are pathetically impressionable.

 

To be continued…

[Return to Table of Contents.]                                       A Slight Detour.–>