Part 5 of a 5-part series.
“A Badge of Honor” – My Excommunication & Shunning from a NeoCalvinist Church – by Velour/MtnShepherdess ©
TRIGGER WARNING: DISCUSSION OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
“Consider your excommunication as a badge of honor from a church like that!” –
Boz Tchividjian, Attorney/Law Professor/former sex crimes prosecutor/ advocate for child sex abuse victims/founder of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.), grandson of the Rev. Billy Graham, words of encouragement to me on my excommunication/shunning from Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley (California)
- Where I Found Help
I did an internet search on “excommunication” and found the Petrys blog, Joyful Exiles,
devoted to their excommunication and shunning at Mark Driscoll’s former Seattle church Mars
I am glad that they put their painful experience, of Paul’s being fired and excommunicated and shunned in writing. He had opposed Mark Driscoll’s un-Biblical consolidation of power.
They were put in a terrible situation socially, emotionally, and financially for Paul doing the right thing.
Some of the former Mars Hill pastors/elders have repented: http://repentantpastor.com/ Mark Driscoll has not.
My internet searches also brought me to Spiritual Sounding Board and Julie Anne’s experience with an abusive, authoritarian church. And finally through her blog I found The Wartburg Watch.
I have learned that I know more than I thought I did. I learned the history of many abusive church practices from commentators here like Gram3 and others. They saved my sanity, along with the blog articles. I have been able to share what I’ve learned with others, including in my reviews about my former church.
Some current church members contact me through social media, wanting to get out of that church. I have given them tips on how to do that. And instead of criticizing the church, I ask them to tell me their concerns. They do. I tell them that I and others noticed the same things. I ask them to tell me about other churches they’ve been to where they were treated differently.
They do. I know that they have the answers within them, I simply see my job as being a safe person who can help pull insights out of them that they already know.
- Thought Reform
I found it helpful to learn about Thought Reform techniques from therapist/cult expert/author Steve Hassan’s blog. Many of these NeoCalvinist churches, and other abusive groups, are using Thought Reform techniques to leverage conformity from members.
Hassan was inspired by the research of psychiatrist Dr. Robert Jay Lifton who studied Chinese Communist Thought Reform [brain washing] Techniques and the BITE model used by destructive groups, including my former church:
The BITE Model
Brad/FuturistGuy who blogs here has already written about Dr. Robert Jay Lifton’s work:
- Helpful Books I have found books on spiritual abuse and recovery from it helpful. The books that I have turned to most are:
- Healing Spiritual Abuse by Ken Blue
- Recovery from Churches That Abuse by Ronald Enroth (FREE online version)
- The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen
- Spiritual Abuse Recovery by Barbara M. Orlowski
- Wade Burleson. I have found pastor Wade Burleson’s blog, he’s the pastor on The Wartburg Watch on E-Church on Sundays, very helpful in undoing so many of the false teachings that I was taught at my former church. http://www.wadeburleson.org/
- Egalitarian In the future, I hope to read Biblical Egalitarian writers, like Dr. Ron Pierce Rebecca Merrill Groothusis, and Gordon Fee’s Discovering Biblical Equality.
- Also Barbara M. Orlowski recommended three books by Susanna Krizo that uncover the
Refuting Complementarian/Patriarchy agenda:
- Recovering from Un-Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Patriarchy
- When Dogmas Die: The Return of Biblical Equality
- Genesis 3: The Origin of Gender Roles
- Self-Care: A Supportive Friend And Treatment for Depression
I became friends with a woman who posts here and on Spiritual Sounding Board. We also became friends on Twitter. She has posted candidly about her treatment for depression. After talking to her, her bravery encouraged me to do same.
I was put on anti-depressant medication and anti-anxiety medication. It has really helped me with the emotional challenges and losses from my bad church experience. I also go to therapy once a week (regular therapist and not a Biblical counselor) and it has been helpful to help me process what happened and make concrete steps to take care of myself.
I receive emails from insiders at my former church, including my ex-senior pastor’smost recent email to several hundred church members about me, all lies per usual.
I have removed the names of the law enforcement agencies who are professional and whom my ex-pastor tried to take down in his attack on me, to give him credibility:
[From this lie]One of our former members who is in the final step of church discipline, has recently been aggressively harassing some of our current members. She has been spreading malicious gossip [police department No. 1], the [police department no. 2] and [law enforcement agency no. 3] all say she is unstable and should be ignored and or avoided. So if she sends you a text or email, they suggest you ignore it and delete it with no reply. They believe if she receives no attention, that in time she will stop.
In the meantime ask God for protection over the Body of GBF [to this lie. This email is 100% lies and I have NOT contacted anyone. In point of fact the law enforcement agencies have repeatedly referred to the Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley pastors/elders as liars as has the California Attorney General.]
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Cliff [McManis, Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley”
My ex-pastor’s email to several hundred church members is totally fabricated. Two church members work for police departments 1 and 2 and have repeatedly defended the senior pastor and the elders.
The third law enforcement has always said point blank that my church’s ex-pastors/elder were “lying” about the sex offender and that he is NOT coming off Megan’s List.
Additionally, it is not possible to “aggressively harass” current church members since I haven’t contacted any of them. I haven’t had any contact with church members by phone, text, email, in person or by other means. My ex-pastor’s email about me is a lie.
The law enforcement agencies have not said that I am mentally ill. To the contrary, they are alarmed at the conduct of these pastors/elders, including harassing former church members, excommunicating and shunning them, protecting a sex offender, and not cooperating with law enforcement.
I faithfully contact, every year, any school that rents their gym to my ex-church and tell them, “This is their policy about Megan’s List sex offenders and children. It would be wise for you to ban this church from your property as if it goes wrong you can be sued.”
Sometimes I wake up and my cheeks burn red with shame at what my ex-pastors/elders said about me and all of the people who believed them. My Wartburg Watch friend has gently said to me, “Give the shame back to them.” I have. I take my hands and say, “Here is the shame and it’s yours not mine” and I hand it back to them.
And I sent the senior pastor’s email to all of the law enforcement agencies, to the district attorney, and to the women’s groups in Silicon Valley that deal with domestic violence and sexual abuse, are well funded and staffed, and have attorneys. I also gave it to the San Jose Mercury News, our major newspaper. I told all of them that this pastor and the elders can put this in writing or tell police, even if asked by police. It will then be filing a false police report, a crime in California that they can be arrested and prosecuted for. Anyone who wants to make those assertions about me – that I did any of that – can face arrest and prosecution for telling that to police, because it’s not true.
26. What is a Healthy Church?
I have come across lots of books and articles on what an unhealthy church is and some qualities in a healthy church. But I now know that one of the most important qualities is LOVE, the only mark of a healthy Biblical church as someone on The Wartburg Watch wrote.
I posted this story recently on The Wartburg Watch, about love during the Christmas season. Real Biblical Love. I realized that the “formula” of church the NeoCalvinist way, or any way, that adds on to the radical message of Love on the cross…misses the message entirely. God took off the “training wheels” of NeoCalvinism and let me know that “playing it safe” when it comes to love was really harmful. So I must not look to pastors, elders, authors, or anyone else for my faith. I must look to Jesus.
I must love like Jesus. I must be around people that want to love like Jesus. And that doesn’t come through rules, formulas, shoulds and doctrines of men. It comes by being transformed by the Holy Spirit.
“At my former NeoCalvinist/9Marks/John MacArthur-ite church many people espoused a hatred for gays. They had vile speech, and were proud of it.
I can’t do that because of my job, I have to uphold anti discrimination laws, and because a boss (who is a wonderful, talented professional) is gay.
On a deeper level, I couldn’t abide by the lack of love. In these groups people also proudly shun gay relatives. John MacArthur recommends this.
As a Christian, I can’t.
Years ago, in December a few weeks before Christmas, some friends called to say that their young neighbor in the countryside in their town by a river had been taken by paramedics to my city’s emergency room. He was dying of AIDS.
It was the middle of the night, a pouring rain storm, I was in bed, cozy and warm.
And God insisted that I go visit this young man in the middle of the night. I had never done anything like that before, or with an AIDS patient (which on my own strength would have frightened me). But the Lord was insistent. “Go!”
So I got dressed, got a teddy bear and some Christmas candy together (early Christmas gifts from others). I called a little old lady friend Catherine, 100 years old, Catholic, a retired social worker and a lovely, warm, kind person who could melt anyone’s heart. I asked her if she wanted to come with me. I told her the Lord insisted I go, and I was going. It would be nice to have company, but I understood if she wanted to sleep.
She said she wanted to come. She got out of bed and got dressed as well.
I went to a 24-hour supermarket and bought a small table top Christmas tree, with little decorations on it, some sports magazines, entertainment magazines, and some snacks.
My elderly friend and I went to the hospital. I told the nurse at the ER that, “Sean’s [the young man who was so sick] Christmas Angels have arrived.”
He was so stunned when my little old lady friend and I walked in with gifts to see him. I introduced us. He was so terribly weak. And he hugged us. I got him a Pepsi and fed it to with him a straw. Sean kept hugging Catherine, 100 years old. She stroked his hair.
He kept saying, “This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had in my entire life.” He was in his mid 20’s. His mother had died when he was a child. His family that remained was very dysfunctional and they had disowned him. They lived back East in Massachusetts.
The little room for indigent patients was nothing spectacular to look at. Old large discolored white tiles on the floor. No art work on the walls. Old, tired sink near by.
It was 3am and it was pouring rain outside.
But I could feel the presence of God and the angels in that room. I could feel them.
I thought when I went to give Sean some Pepsi or a hug or whatever that I would bump into an invisible visitor. That room was physically ugly but it was so beautiful because it glowed from the presence of God!
Sean said to me, “If you ever need anything, call on me and I’ll be there.” I smiled and I thought to myself, “What is a guy with AIDS who is this weak going to do for me. He couldn’t even lift a box if I moved.” I smiled and nodded. Sean repeated it, “If you ever need anything call on me and I’ll be there.” I nodded and said, “If I ever need anything I’ll call on you and you’ll be there.” He smiled weakly and said, ” Yes.”
I went, or so I thought, to minister to a young man named Sean dying of AIDS that night.
I thought that was what God wanted me to do.
Instead something entirely different took place: I was ministered to. It was glorious.
I told Sean I would see him a few hours later that day, bring him some Mickey Mouse socks from the mall to keep his feet warm. He said he’d like that.
When I called the hospital in the morning to ask about Sean, the nurse said, “Oh you’re the lady who was here with the 100-year old lady visiting Sean. Sean passed away peacefully this morning at about 6:30 a.m.”
‘When you did this for the least among Me, you did it for Me.’ That is what my Lord would have me do. The Royal Law of Love.”
Related articles in 5-part series