Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More Monkey Business and New Review by Former Member

I was reading an online article which gave the link to the Google reviews and clicked on the link.  

Seems Ed Chapman has gotten a taste of what it is like to leave a review for the church.  Current church member, Lori Nodurft obviously revised her positive review to keep it at the top of the page, bumping down Ed Chapman's review. (BTW, Ed, if you are reading this, your comment was excellent!)   Ed noticed that his review was bumped down and revised his to show that they are still playing the game.  Lori must have revised it one more time, because her review is now on top even after Ed revised his.  It reminds me of elementary school where kids are taking cuts in line to be the first to go outside for recess.  

I have always been concerned about the young people at the church.  The long meetings with the pastor for discipline issues, the lectures/teachings on discipline issues on Wednesday nights when we all knew he was using that as a lesson to deal with someone who was in sin and who was sitting in the pews (probably dying inside).  I wondered how these young adults would fare many years later.

As I clicked on the review link in the news article, I noticed my daughter had updated her review and there was a new review I hadn't seen before - this one by Emily.   Some of my readers may remember a story about a young lady I met in the nursery the first week we attended the church.  You can read more about Emily in this earlier blog post:  Disobedient Children and Meetings with the Pastor.  She is the young lady who told me that all kids end up in the pastor's office at one time or another.   She was to meet the pastor for an upcoming baptism.   Her comment stuck with me loud and clear the entire time we were at the church.  She told me so innocently, as if this was normal.  I had never heard of such a thing in any church.  Now, we'll read some more from Emily - in her own words.  She grew up at the church.  She met her boyfriend and future husband there.  All of her friends were there.  The friends were so close, they were more like family.  This is the only church she has ever known.  And she was shunned.  Try to put yourself in her shoes and imagine what it would be like to have all of your friends and church family shut you off like that.  In the profile picture, Emily is on the left and another former church member is on the right and both have given permission for me to discuss this on the blog.   

When I think about their situation (the young ladies in the profile picture below), both having been there for as long as the former pastor was there, it grieves my heart.  These young ladies are brave - leaving behind the only life they have ever known (very sheltered life) and walked out facing the unsheltered world head on.  Thankfully, they have a lot of support and love from friends and family who have since left the church.  They could have easily walked away from their families, but that has not happened.  It will take some time to replace the bad teachings with right teaching, to work through the emotions of what happened, but these ladies are on the right track and have a lot of support.  I'm so thankful for that.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Discovery Process - The Jigsaw Puzzle

Our brains are fascinating.  Without fail, every single time I listen to this song below, I am taken back to a specific time in my life.   It was 1987 and my husband was at Officer Candidate School with the Navy in Newport, Rhode Island.  We were separated for four months while he went to this officer's training school.  When he left, our firstborn (Hannah) was only 6 months old.   When she was 10 months old, I took her on a plane trip across the country to attend his graduation.  This particular song was popular and was played on the radio frequently.  It was an exciting time.  Our new life in the military was just about to begin.  Our marriage was young and my husband and I had been separated for four months and now we were together again.  It was a sweet reunion and special time together.  It still gives me chills when I hear this song even though the events happened 24 years ago.

It's amazing how our brain connects emotionally with events.

While sometimes our brain can remember every detail of events from long ago, sometimes our brain "forgets" important details.   That can be good, too.  Think of how beneficial that would be to someone who suffered an immense amount of abuse.  It might be too overwhelming emotionally.  I'm reminded of Jaycee Dugard who at the age of 11 years old was kidnapped and held captive for nearly 2 decades.   She had two children fathered by her captor.  Can you wrap your head around that?  She was later discovered and is now free and her captors are behind bars.  Thank God!  She and her children are living with her biological mother/grandmother enjoying her new life of freedom and getting reacquainted with her siblings and extended family.

Most likely Jaycee is going through a process of discovery of what really happened to her.  Of course she knows she was kidnapped and that her captor is the father of her children, but slowly, Jaycee is coming to grips of what this horrific crime did to her, what it stole from her and her children.  She lost her family, a normal life of going to school, being with friends, relationships with her siblings, parents, extended family, etc.  As she is in a healthy environment, surrounded by loved ones, her story will become more clear to her, she will be in a safe place to heal, the full story will come to realization.

This discovery process is occurring with many of us.   It's kind of like we are each putting together a big 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.  When I started this process 3+ yrs ago, I may have gotten the border of the puzzle put together, but as time goes on, I am adding piece by piece.  One day, it will be complete and I will have understanding.  Interestingly, even last week I was coming to grips with another aspect that the abuse has had on my family that I hadn't considered before!   It's crazy!   

It only confirms to me that our brain will only allow us to absorb a certain amount of pain and releases more info as we can handle it or we are reminded (by memories, people retelling their stories, songs, events, etc).   I can see how certain questions have been cleared up in my mind.

There is a group of people who left the church over 8 months ago.   They are likely to be going through this process of discovery.  They are realizing what it feels like to be shunned now and probably have a new sense of compassion for those whom they were previously shunning.  I know some are reaching out to those they once shunned and apologizing and restoring those relationships.  That is beautiful.  But there is also sadness and anger.  They are coming to grips with the years that were wasted under bad teaching, relationships that were destroyed, wondering about the effects on their children, wondering where they would be if they never had this experience.  This stuff is deep and gets heady!

In this process of discovery, we do not always have the same level of understanding as others.   We might understand some aspects of what happened, but be blinded to others.  Some of us are dealing with friends or family who don't quite see the situation the way we do.  They may minimize events or justify things they saw.  This can make it confusing, too.

At one point a friend was labeling the pastor as a "wolf" or "abusive" or "legalistic".  I thought this person was just too emotional and perhaps worked up.  As time went by, things became more clear to me,  and I, too, came to the same realizations and now fully believe we were dealing with someone who is a spiritual wolf, who used his authority inappropriately in ways I find abusive.  It was interesting to see how my perspective changed over time.

God will reveal things to us in His timing in our discovery process.  The truth will be revealed.   The pieces of the puzzle will be put in place.  Give grace to one another - we are not all at the same place.   Try not to get frustrated if someone isn't seeing things differently than you.  They may be working on a different spot on their puzzle.  It will eventually come together.

Three Women Celebrate

Ok, I'm sufficiently rested from camp and have caught up on my e-mail/blog/news.  I'm in the mood to celebrate.

Disclaimer:  Beyond this point you may encounter heathen pop music.  Read/listen at your own risk.  

Do you know what's worse than a maliciously sued woman?  A group of maliciously sued women partying!

I've been having fun reading news articles, comments, and blog posts regarding the case.   If you recall, 4 out of the 5 defendants were female.  The male was dismissed from the case even before the first hearing.  Our attorney is a female.  I've been rebuked publicly for speaking out as a woman.  I've been asked if I had my husband's permission to blog.  Some wannabe high profile person in a high profile church has mentioned my name in several posts and discussing women and their spiritual abuse blogs.  I've been referred to as whiny and complaining.  You get the message.  

Well, the three of us women aren't whining and complaining, that's for sure.  We are in a celebratory mood and have brought in a little music to the par-TAY.

This comment cracked me up.

I asked Meaghan's what song she would use to celebrate.  She chose "We are the Champions" because she said, "we are queens".  :)  So funny.  Love you, Meaghan.

I chose Celebration by Kool & the Gang.  My husband and I saw Kool & the Gang live in concert when living in the Philippines during a very difficult time of terrorism, base restrictions, curfews, etc.  The USO brought them in to lift the spirits of servicemen and dependents.  Oh yea, there was a celebration and now the song is so appropriate to end this nearly 5-month fiasco.  So come on, everybody, let's celebrate and have a good time.

And for Hannah -  I've indoctrinated my kids to some of my favorite music and this next song was part of our "Kitchen Dance Music" playlist collection - music that the kids would play when doing dishes.  Hannah selected KC and the Sunshine Band, "That's the Way I Like It".  Oh yea, baby.  You'll definitely have to stand up while playing this.  JA is groovin' here.

Thank you for joining in the celebration :)

Friday, July 27, 2012

The News and My Thoughts

As many of you know, I have been at a Christian high school summer camp as a counselor since Sunday.  We had been expecting the results any day, so I had my smartphone which is really pretty much useless when you are in a remote area.  There's one spot out by the flagpole where I can get internet about 80% of the time.  Crazy.  But thankfully, my attorney told me what time her mail came so I didn't have to keep checking throughout day.

So yesterday, I was with one of my campers having precious one-on-one time.  We had been talking about 30 minutes or so on the dining hall deck (close to the same place of the earlier picture I posted - Sunday).  I noticed one of the camp directors hanging around.  After the meeting with my camper was finished, the director told me that there was a phone call from my attorney and it was good news.  I tried to get to the flagpole to get to the e-mail quickly, but the internet was not cooperating, so I went to the office and called Linda.  The news was better than I imagined - every single claim dismissed.  We only spoke for a couple minutes, but oh how sweet that news was.  

I ran outside to tell the staff person the news and she said, "Go!, Go!" and shooed me out.  All four camp directors knew of the case and knew that I would need to have a little time to send out information.  So, back up those stairs I sprinted, grabbed my laptop and came to the counselor's lounge where there was decent internet.  

I sat down on the couch and with tears in my eyes, I tried to absorb what this meant.  My attorney, Linda Williams, had prepared me that there certainly was the possibility that the lower court might miss something or be confused about something.  When my close friends asked how I thought the case would go, I told them I thought that everything would get dismissed except the sexual abuse comment.  I based this on the judge's question in the courtroom and also the media response.  I knew, of course, the phrase wasn't defamatory, but that's where I thought it might get hung up and was mentally prepared to deal with that.

My attorney was nothing short of amazing.  She was confident from the very beginning.  Why?  Because she knows the law.  She knew our phrases were not defamatory.  From our first meeting where she, Hannah, and I met at a coffee shop, Linda went over the original complaint with a pencil or pen and pointed out phrase after phrase:  "no, that's not defamatory, that's opinion", "this is just not defamatory".  Or she pointed out that phrases had to do with religion and "the courts will not touch those".  She believes in First Amendment rights and what it means for Americans.  I am so thankful for Linda, for the many, many hours she worked on our case, and the many combined hours she spent on the phone with Hannah, Meaghan, and me.  She was so reassuring the entire time.   Linda Williams, thank you so much!! 

So here we are - the case100% dismissed.  Wow.  I saw a comment wondering if my former pastor/church can appeal.  I asked my attorney this question.  Yes, they can appeal.  I would not be surprised if they do.   I am not afraid.  First Amendment is Linda's thing.  Simply put, our words were and are not defamatory.  If they appeal and it goes to a higher level court, the higher level courts have more experience with defamation and it will be even more clear to them.  I am not worried.  

You see those stairs right there?  I am intimately acquainted with these stairs.  Did I say intimately?   Yes, intimately.  You cannot see all of the stairs.  There are two sets of stairs.  I have to climb around 55 steps on the right stair case or around 65 steps on the left side to get to my cabin.  The first day I was at camp, I realized that by 10AM, I had already climbed them four times.  You do the math and tell me how many times those babies are climbed each day.  I was going to say how awesomely buff my legs are becoming, but that hasn't happened quite yet.  But at this point, I can sprint up them without running out of breath.  I can hear you all woo-hooing right now.  Thank you, very much.  :)

With this new day, I am keenly aware that when I wrote my first Google review about my church experience - an experience that is still affecting my family today, I knew that this was a big, big battle.  I was aware that it was going on in other churches.  Somehow in a very strange happening, God chose to use my case to help spotlight this thing we identify as spiritual abuse.  It happened quickly and now we have this amazing place where people can tell their stories,  discuss how it happens, what it looks like, the results of spiritual, how to not get into a bad situation again, and so many other topics.  These topics are real and very relevant to so many.  

The picture of that staircase reminds me that we are climbing this battle.  I am going to keep climbing the staircase of this battle even though my court case is over (at least for the time being).  I am committed to this battle.  Stay tuned.  I will write more later when I get home.  Our camp counselor's meeting will start soon, so I want to get this posted and read a few comments before our last full day of camp begins.  

Big hugs to you all!   Please excuse typos.  I'm typing fast!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Judge's Decision

I just got off the phone with my attorney, Linda Williams. 

WE WON!!!     Every single claim of defamation was dismissed, Hannah's, Meaghan's, and mine  - even the one about the sex offender that seemed to be a sticky point with the media.  I'm having a hard time typing this and don't even know if I'm using the right words, but WE WON!!

All statements "not defamatory" and so never got to "malice." 

Thank you all so very much for your prayers and support.   I haven't read any of the documentation that my attorney sent, but want to get this posted right now.  I'll add more details as I read more.

Praise God!!!

This is the judge's opinion about the sex abuse phrases.  I'm sure people will be interested in this:

And here's the scoop, baby.  The whole scoop right here in two sweet paragraphs:


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Christian Summer Camps

This has to be quick.  So at camp today, I was talking to a counselor who just got back from a month-long camp where she was a counselor.  She had a disappointing experience for a number of reasons.  The primary disappointment was that she thought the staff focused more on numbers for the wrong reason.  The focus was off.  There was a herd mentality to get all the kids "saved", with no real interest in their lives or discussing how to live for Christ.   They seemed to be in it purely for the numbers.  

I guess I never considered this kind of thing at children's camps.  The camp I am at is amazing - well, it's the people involved.  I know these people, know their hearts and have seen them in action.  Some have taken a week off work to be here.  A few are driving 1-1/2 hours just to be part of the praise and worship team in the evening which lasts maybe 15-20 minutes and then drive 1-1/2 hours back home.  That's love.  

I'm sad to think of those kids who went to Christian camp and missed out on the full meal deal.  And I'm so glad to be a part of something that I'm experiencing here.  It has opened my eyes, that's for sure.  

So, if you send your kids to camp - be sure to do a little investigative work.  Or better yet, go volunteer!    :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

I'd Love to Know

I'm at camp now and typing this Sunday morning.  The counselors will eat breakfast soon, have a Communion service and then we will have training for the counselors.  Campers come in around 5 or 6PM.   

I am in a cabin with 12 beds.  Nine young ladies will be in our cabin.  My friend who was supposed to be counselor with me in our cabin couldn't make it, so a college student is her replacement.  We are both newbies!  Ack!  It should be fun, though.  I love hanging with high school students.  Please send your prayers for the campers - and that God would use me here.  

I'm on the deck overlooking part of the grounds where the fun activities occur.  Those blue things on the grass are little kiddy swim pools.  Evidently there will be some water activity and I heard a rumor that counselors get "involved".   OY!  Glad I brought those extra towels.

Enough of that.  Can you indulge me?  I'd love to read how you heard our story.  Where in the media?  From a blog?  From a friend?  On Facebook?  It's interesting how many friends from decades ago have contacted me after doing a double-take saying, "I know her!".  Never in my wildest dreams...

I might be checking in from time to time when I can.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

No News is Good News?

A number of people have been asking if I've heard anything from the judge on the court hearing.  I have not.  There seems to be confusion regarding when we would hear something.  I heard the judge mention the date of July 23rd and couldn't tell whether that he meant we would hear by the 23rd or if he would mail his ruling by July 23rd.  Since we've heard nothing yet, I'm guessing that he will mail it by the 23rd which would mean we should hear something within a few days after the 23rd.  And all of this anticipation makes me think of that Carly Simon song again - "anticipation, anti-ci-pa-ay-tion, it's keeping me way-ay-ay-ay-ayee-ting"  (come on now, check it out and see if I did the "way" part right - lol - sorry, the musician in me).  

I have so, so appreciated the thoughts and prayers sent my way when I posted my "Rough Time" post. The support is simply amazing.  And wow, the private e-mails have really touched me.  I've told people I wish I could bottle up some of this support and send it out to so many of the hurting people out there who need it far more than me.  I feel spoiled.  Thank you.

Buff and Jamie, I purposely did not respond to your post about taking time away from the blog.  I am going to do that now, not because I feel the need to emotionally, but because of other reasons and the timing is actually good.   It will be a good diversion.  My daughter is going to a church high school camp and I was asked to volunteer as counselor.  

I've never been a camp counselor before and told the person who asked me that I was a bit nervous.  She told me, "Julie Anne, you do this every day when you volunteer at your high school choir classes."  Hmm, I hadn't thought of it like that.  I've volunteered for the last 4 years as "choir mom", chaperone for trips, and accompanist at the local high school and it has always been a joy to work with the students.  This high school camp will be a wonderful opportunity to be with my sweet daughter in a great environment and also to make myself available to any young ladies in my cabin or other high schoolers at camp.  I'm actually quite excited about this opportunity.  Sometimes these camp experiences can really shape a young person's life in a powerful way and if God wants to use me there, I'm happy to be a part of that.  I know the people running it - great godly people with hearts of gold, love the Lord, so that makes me look forward to it even more.

So I will be absent a good bit from the blog this week.  I want to be fully available to those precious teens.  My husband and son are moderating comments while I am away and I may check in depending on time and internet availability.  There's a possibility my husband may write a post.  Whoa, wouldn't that be fun?  The husband who gave me permission to post speaks?  haha  

Now, about the judge's decision - I suspect it will come in when I'm away at camp.  My attorney knows how to contact me here.  When I find something out, I will try to get a post out.  I can definitely send a Tweet (the link to follow me on Twitter is on my right sidebar).  I have notified  Dee of Wartburg Watch that I will be away.  I'm sure she will post the news if she sees it.  

I'm not worried about the court case one bit.  God has it under control.  I trust Him no matter the outcome.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Independent Churches = Recipe for Spiritual Abuse?

We were taught submission at our former church:  children to parents, wives to husbands, husbands to Christ, congregants to pastor/elders, civilians to governmental authorities.

Most churches have a check and balance system in place to ensure that there are no abuses going on in church.  Here is part the doctrinal statement from our former church (located on the church website).

To each of these churches, He has given needful authority for administering that order, discipline and worship which He has appointed (1). There are two Biblically designated offices serving under Christ in the church. Elders (males, who are also called bishops, overseers, and pastor-teachers) and deacons (males), both of whom must meet Biblical qualifications.(http://www.beavertongracebible.org/doctrine.html)

Here is part of the bi-laws discussing the responsibility of elders at our former church:

The New Testament Scripture is clear about those who have the responsibility of rule, oversight, and care of the church.  These men are called elders, overseers, and bishops.  All three different titles are used to refer to the same spiritual office of leadership in the church and are interchangeable (1 Tim 3:1-7).  We know that Christ is the head of the church and that He mediates His rule in the church through the shepherding of elders (pastors).   (Acts 20:17-18, 28-31; 1 Pet 5:1-4)
All the decision-making authority of the church is vested in the elders (pastors) who shepherd the church.  The objective of any and all decisions made shall be to do the will of God regarding the matter at hand. (Prov. 11:14)
Decisions shall be reached after prayerful consideration in a spirit of humility, with each elder regarding one another before himself.  All decisions are to be made unanimously.   This will at times require a dissenting elder to yield graciously to the elder body as a whole, thus allowing the Lord to direct and correct the decision made, while keeping the unity of the elder body intact in private, in public and before God.  Any decision will bebe a unified "yes" or "no" decision.  All elders agree to be unified in the final decision, "yes" or "no" in public and in private, even though it may not agree with their personal preference (Heb 13:17)
1.  The calling of or removal of the pastor-teacher.
2.  The calling of or removal of pastoral or non-pastoral ministry staff.
3.  The church's annual budget.
4.  Expenditures involving new property or new buildings and related indebtedness.
5.  The selection of elders.
6.  Any changes or amendments to the constitution and by-laws.

In one meeting with just the elders (we purposely asked that the pastor not be present at this meeting), we asked if they had ever, in 10 years of working with the pastor, brought up anything that needed to be addressed, ie,  any sinful behavior, anger, pride, relational issues, any issue whatsoever.  We weren't asking for any specifics, just asking the elders if they in fact were holding him accountable.

This was his first pastorate.  No person is perfect and it is the job of elders to keep their pastor in check and hold him accountable.  

Elders are supposed to be on the same level as the teaching pastor.  Our pastor should not have been exempt from that close observation just as the elders were certainly not exempt from his watchful eye.   Both elders told us that they had found no reason to bring up any issue, behavioral, sin, etc, in the prior decade.   

Not even one minor issue for a first-time pastor in 10 years?  That raised a huge red flag for me.    

So, if the elders did not and were not able to bring any issue to light, correction, criticism, concern, regarding any character issue, behavior, sin, etc, then who is?   We did not see anyone fulfilling that role.   What we saw were yes-men as elders and a pastor as an authority with no other pastoral oversight.  I never got the impression that the elders were equal level with the pastor . . . ever.

As I have been reading so many stories of spiritual abuse, there seems to be a common thread.  Some of these involve independent churches with pastors and elders who are yes-men with no other accountability or oversight.  If you are in a church with elders who are yes-men", it can be a perfect system set up for spiritual abuse.  

I'm sure this subject will come up again with the amount of stories I've read.  Perhaps this is something very important to consider when looking at new churches.  I had never thought to consider this when looking for a new church. Hindsight is 20/20, huh?  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rough Week

If you have some extra prayers, I would like to ask for you to pray for me and my family.  This is hard.  The lawsuit decision is hanging over my head, but I'm not sure my funk is all about that, though. 

The harder issues for me right now are spiritual abuse and how it affects families and marriages - even years after the fact.  This is what I'm dealing with now personally.  Relational issues are tough and combine that with spiritual issues, it's even more challenging.  I'm just going to leave it at that and ask for prayers.  I didn't want to hide this fact because it's a part of the ramifications of spiritual abuse and it needs to be discussed.  Maybe when we get through this hurdle, it would be good to discuss it more at length.  I guess I'm sharing this for two reasons:  one is because we could really use the prayers.  Secondly, to let you know that this is a very normal part of spiritual abuse.  It is confusing and it can come between the most important relationships.  So if you are walking in this part of of your spiritual abuse recovery, I'll be your walking buddy.  You are not alone.

Also weighing heavily on my heart were stories I've read and heard this week.  One story I heard today - from another side of the country -  would make your head spin - sexual abuse involving a very young child that was overlooked by pastor and the typical pattern is that the perpetrator gets all the attention (cover up) and the victim gets basically abandoned and pushed aside.  AAAAAACCCCCCKKKKKKK!!!!!   I can't handle this, people.

There are so many of us out there who are going through this.  I was reminded of  Pastor Ken's comment yesterday - that even he struggles with spiritual abuse "remains" some 16 years later.  Yea, this stuff is real and lasting and we'll be working through it for a while.   I'm so thankful for his honesty and vulnerability - keeping it real for us here -  as someone who has walked this path.  

Here is my favorite part of Ken's comments in case you missed it:
As for the guilt, it's a double-bind, really. I was horribly guilty for mistreating my parents, siblings, old-friends who hadn't "seen the light" as I had, etc., (still apologizing to this day!), but also, I was constantly dealing with a nagging guilt for being/seeming less committed to this new, "serious" church that I'd joined, and was gradually giving away more of my life to, piece by piece, friend by friend, dollar by dollar. I felt guilty for being a my families events/parties, etc., and guilty for NOT being at them! Ugh. I'm flash-backing...going to go on a walk and thank God for saving me, once and again and again! 

And I don't know if you need to read the next part, but I think I needed to read it about 22 times today.  Thanks, Ken

 This chapter of your "life-book" is dark, strange, full of surprises, wins and losses. I know it's been pretty dark and challenging and uncertain. But we DO know the end of the book! The great Shepherd personally returns for His flock. Errant teachers are corrected and judged appropriately. Damaged sheep are finally and forever healed, and the world finally sees Jesus, again!

Amen, oh, how I needed to read those words.  And now after reading that for the 23rd time, I will go and put my head in the book of Philippians because a good friend thinks it would be good for me.  Thanks, Michelle.  

Last thought:  Folks, if you do not have people in your life who will lovingly encourage you to stay on the right path.  Please seek them out.  Take a risk and ask if they would do that for you.  I don't think I could do this on my own without friends.

Photo is from Avery Suarez, one of the high school choral students I worked with last year and a great photographer.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Outside Family Members: Why Are They Shunned?

After this busy weekend with the court case (no ruling yet), spending wonderful time with my friends and a little birthday celebration, I woke up in a funk.   Two e-mails were pressing on my mind and then I realized, no, there were actually three e-mails that arrived over the weekend that described the destruction of relationships caused by shunning.  They found the story in the media and contacted me.

This is the kind of thing that makes me in a foul mood and then I get upset and so I come to the keyboard and type.  The subject of the e-mails was shunning.

Shunning can be the act of social rejection, or mental rejection. Social rejection is when a person or group deliberately avoids association with, and habitually keeps away from an individual or group. This can be a formal decision by a group, or a less formal group action which will spread to all members of the group as a form of solidarity. It is a sanction against association, often associated with religious groups and other tightly knit organizations and communities. Targets of shunning can include persons who have been labeled as,  apostateswhistleblowersdissidentsstrikebreakers, or anyone the group perceives as a threat or source of conflict. Social rejection has been established to cause psychological damage and has been categorized as torture.[1] Mental rejection is a more individual action, where a person subconsciously or willfully ignores an idea, or a set of information related to particular viewpoint. Some groups are made up of people who shun the same ideas.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shunning)

After receiving the e-mails, I called around to see if anyone could verify the stories.   They were verified.   Ugh!  Later, I spent one hour on the phone listening to one person's story as she shared the heartache of not being able to see her loved ones for a long while.  The pain in her voice was real.  It was gut-wrenching to hear of relationships torn apart.  She did not choose this.  She was not a member at the church.  She was a relative of someone who attends the church.  

All three of these e-mails were from outside family members who are being shunned by people in the church.  These are family members who don't even go to the church, have probably never even visited the church, yet they are being shunned.  People, I am not making this stuff up.  Have you heard of such a thing?  

These family members outside the church could be sisters, aunts, grandparents, brothers, daughters, it really doesn't matter, but what does matter is these relationships are being torn apart because of shunning:  nieces and nephews can't see aunts/uncles, grandchildren cannot see grandparents, brothers cannot see sisters, etc.  

Shunning can be broken down into behaviours and practices that seek to accomplish either or both of two primary goals.

1.  To modify the behaviour of a member. This approach seeks to influence, encourage, or coerce normative behaviours from members, and may seek to dissuade, provide disincentives for, or to compel avoidance of certain behaviours. Shunning may include disassociating from a member by other members of the community who are in good standing. It may include more antagonistic psychological behaviours (described below). This approach may be seen as either corrective or punitive (or both) by the group membership or leadership, and may also be intended as a deterrent. 

2.  To remove or limit the influence of a member (or former member) over other members in a community. This approach may seek to isolate, to discredit, or otherwise dis-empower such a member, often in the context of actions or positions advocated by that member. For groups with defined membership criteria, especially based on key behaviours or ideological precepts, this approach may be seen as limiting damage to the community or its leadership. This is often paired with some form of excommunication.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shunning)

Why are they being shunned?  Perhaps they are viewed as a threat.  Maybe they know too much of the inner-workings of the church or family situations and the pastor doesn't want them to talk to their family member and risk losing them from the church.  Maybe outside family members are seeing questionable activities and actions and asking too many questions.   

Julie Anne asks the simple question:   WHY?????????????????????????????

These people were crying out to me asking me what is going on in the church?  Do I think the children are safe?   How long will this last?  What can they do?   I don't know.   I didn't know this was happening when we were there.  So I blog.    I tell what I know.  I encourage them to pray.  

Recently, I saw a reporter on tv fanning a pile of "hate mail" which was evidently e-mail sent to our former pastor.  This hate mail was a result of media attention to the case.  Would there have been any hate mail without the public lawsuit?  I think not.  A couple samples of hate mail were included in the court documents as exhibits, so I assume he must be upset about it.  I saw them.  There were strong words, but they were from strangers who didn't like what they were seeing in the news media and quickly typed out a ranting e-mail.  I've had a few of those.  I usually send an oozing sweet response and hit "delete" :)   

A key detrimental effect of some of the practices associated with shunning relate to their effect on relationships, especially family relationships. At its extremes, the practices may destroy marriages, break up families, and separate children and their parents. The effect of shunning can be very dramatic or even devastating on the shunned, as it can damage or destroy the shunned member's closest familial, spousal, social, emotional, and economic bonds.
Shunning contains aspects of what is known as relational aggression in psychological literature. When used by church members and member-spouse parents against excommunicant parents it contains elements of what psychologists call parental alienation. Extreme shunning may cause traumas to the shunned (and to their dependents) similar to what is studied in the psychology of torture.

Maybe I should have printed out all of the e-mails I have received since the inception of this blog to show reporters - hundreds of pages.  Some e-mails I have received have been particularly upsetting to me.  No, I'm not talking about the negative ranting.  Who cares.  There will always be those.  I'm talking about the pages and pages of personal accounts from people telling their stories of spiritual abuse, shunning, abandonment, shaming, etc.  The kinds of e-mails I'm dealing with are people crying out to me describing the pain and anguish of loved ones they know are alive, but are not allowed to see, but long to see.  The relationships were ripped from them.  

Try to imagine having a relationship with a close family member and then it is stopped immediately.  No explanation.  No closure.  Holidays that were traditionally spent together are now without that loved one or family.  No more birthday celebrations together.  No more camping trips, impromptu coffees, etc.  Death would be easier because there is something final, you can move on.  This is heart-wrenching because you know they are alive.  It's always at the back of your mind reminding you of what once was, what should be, and what you cannot have.  You wonder if they think of you, what they are told about you, you remember those precious times together, but you can't have it.  If this happened to me, I think I would go crazy.  I'd probably drive by the house, hoping to see family.  I'd drop off gifts.  I'd frequent places I knew they would go to just to "happen" to run into them.  I don't know what else I'd do, but family is so important and I'd probably do anything to break through that wall.  Good grief, I cannot even type this without getting teared up again.  You guys have got to get a sense of what this does to families, relationships and how destructive it is.  And it is a complete FARCE - totally made-up rule only benefitting ONE person.  :::ja, calm down:::

Remember the post on False Teachers Mark and Avoid Church Members?   The key verse  used to justify shunning people was Romans 16:17.   I explained how false teachers twist the meaning of this verse  to encourage the shunning of congregants (and  apparently family members outside the church).  They entirely missed the real meaning of the verse which is to shun false teachers.  

Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.  Rom 16:17

I just found what John MacArthur (our former pastor's favorite pastor) says about that verse and how it applies to false teachers (not congregants or people outside the church).  I know some of this is review, but it is so important because this shunning thing is absolutely huge in spiritually abusive churches.  It was found in an article entitled, Love for the Saints, Part 2:

Now particularly in the church the Apostle Paul says, "Look, here's what you do when you come across it, you mark it and you avoid it." Pretty clear. "To mark it," simply skopeo, identify it, look through the scope, take a good look at it, observe it, scrutinize it, identify it, pick it out, see what it is. And if you know sound doctrine you'll be able to do that. Identify it as heresy, identify it as false teaching and then avoid it, or really in this case avoid them because false teaching always has a source a propagator. That means to come away from it, to shun it.

See, we're not talking about marking and avoiding church members, but false teachers.  Here's more of what we're to do with false teachers: 

 . . . . No, we're not to kill and torture the people who don't believe, just avoid them, move away. Nowhere are we told to stay around and argue with them. That's fruitless. We're told to shun them, go away from them. 

And here MacArthur describes the character of false teachers:

And then he gives two reasons why these lying teachers are not worthy of your ears in verse 18. "For they that are such, who bring in divisions and who cause people to stumble and be offended with their lies, they that are such...number one...serve not our Lord Jesus Christ but their own body." Now I want you to understand that this is something that's repeated frequently in the Scripture. They are in it for self-gratification. 


Notice also, will you please, the second reason why we ought not to give them our ears in verse 18, you first of all must know that their motive is wrong, secondly, you must know that their effect is wrong. "They use good words and fair speeches and they will deceive the hearts...they will deceive the hearts of the innocent."
Good words, phrase means smooth speech. Oh they can talk...glib, clever. Well you know that, right? I mean, let's face it, the devil wouldn't put error in the mouth of a klutz if he wanted to get his point across, right? It's going to be smooth speech and fair speeches. That implies the word praise, eulogia, like eulogy. It's the idea of false eloquency, flattery, well chosen lies that sound good and appealing and they deceive the hearts of the innocent. So the false prophet comes clever, eloquent, polished, smooth-talking, praising, flattering. He gains the ear and deceives the heart...deceives the heart. And, beloved, that's why we have to test everything by what? By the book.
Innocent is the word akakosKakosis sort of a basic generic word for evil, aat the front negates that. They deceive the without evil, the as yet uncorrupted. They corrupt the uncorrupted. They're selfish and sensual and sexual and they deceive with cleverness those who aren't corrupt. And as Peter said they are in bondage to corruption and they lead their hearers into that corruption. They did it in Corinth. That church became entangled in that. They'll try it in Rome. And they're at it today. 


I encourage you to read the whole article.  It is good.

Oh, why does this insanity continue?  It is insanity because it is not about God and love and shepherding the Saints.  The false teacher is self-serving for his own self pleasure.  This type of shunning I've described is false teaching.   There is no benefit for the congregant whatsoever.  You don't shun outside family members.  ACK!!  Once again, I urge those of you who are in a church, following a pastor who is telling you to shun people based on Romans 16:17, leave that church at once.  Read Jude.  You cannot dialogue with someone like this.  You must leave and get out from that corrupt teaching.   

At times like this, my only hope is this:  

Psalm 34

15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous 
and his ears are attentive to their cry; 

16 the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, 
to cut off the memory of them from the earth. 

17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; 
he delivers them from all their troubles. 

18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted 
and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 

19 A righteous man may have many troubles, 
but the LORD delivers him from them all; 

20 he protects all his bones, 
not one of them will be broken. 

21 Evil will slay the wicked; 
the foes of the righteous will be condemned. 

22 The LORD redeems his servants; 
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.