"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one." -C.S. Lewis
We are continuing our series on Spiritual Abuse Recovery, which has been inspired by Barbara Orlowski’s groundbreaking book on this topic. Orlowski affirms: (p. 19) Based on our research here at TWW, we believe spiritual abuse is escalating in the 21st century.
Here is a case in point. I follow the SGM Refuge blog, and over the weekend a young man (probably in his mid-twenties) who goes by the moniker “ByFaithAlone” posted his incredible testimony, which can be accessed here.
“ByFaithAlone” was introduced to a “reformed, conservative fundamentalist church” in Vermont by the guy who had been his college roommate. Apparently, this church is “associated with SGM”. Hmmm………
Mohler’s Favorite Homie – C.J. Mahaney
Yes, the SBC/SGM connection is getting stronger by the day. Need proof? Guess who delivered the chapel message at Southern Seminary just last Thursday (2/10/11). Here’s a hint… It was the person who believes Al Mohler is “the smartest man on the planet” and said so at Resolved 2010. Yes, the chapel speaker was none other than C.J. Mahaney. That morning Mohler sent out the following Tweet: “Come hear CJ Mahaney in chapel this morning at 10:00. Don’t miss it. Don’t even think of missing it. Can’t wait to hear his message.”
Mohler’s next Tweet gave the link to streaming video of Mahaney’s talk, which yours truly watched. It was the first time I had ever seen Mahaney in a coat and tie. He began by explaining to the students that he only has a high school education. Perhaps if he had revealed to them that he and Sovereign Grace Ministries combined have made contributions in excess of $200,000 to Southern Seminary, they would have understood why Mohler believes this high school grad is qualified to address them on the topic of “Deflating the Puffed Up Church” .
Then Mohler provided the link to Mahaney’s message on Twitter, along with a Tweet that he was eating dinner with C.J. and that the waiter is a SBTS student. Mahaney continued to be a popular topic in Mohler’s Twitter account the next day. He provided the link to streaming video of Mahaney’s talk at the Recalibrate Conference (for college students), and then tweeted “C.J. Mahaney knocked it out of the park. What a great message. If you missed it, download it. RECALIBRATE.”
The most surprising comment on Mohler’s Twitter feed was as follows:
“RT @drmoore. C.J. Mahaney just asked our server what she would guess he, @almohler, and I do for a living. She guessed ‘exotic dancers.’ It boggles the mind…
It really is amazing what you can learn through Twitter…
Now let’s get back to the testimony of “ByFaithAlone”, who believes he was involved in a spiritually abusive church. Here are what I believe to be the highlights of his testimony:
“I found that I was busier with church than I was at work. Eventually I had very little time for myself. My life revolved around this group.”
“The teachings were very rigid. Black and white thinking.” (Remember, this church is located in ultra-liberal Vermont!)
“They preached that their church was a cornerstone in theology. They taught they were the crem de la crem of biblical teaching around. No one really preached the gospel, only they knew what the Bible really says.”
About a year ago “ByFaithAlone” (BFA) took interest in a young lady who attends the church. Apparently, she had embraced what Josh Harris wrote in his book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” as the gospel truth. He asked her out, and after their first date she became very concerned. He writes: “She said that by me asking her out, it may as well have been a marriage proposal. “
He explains that he calmed her down and that she agreed to continue the relationship, although she was still somewhat hesitant because she didn’t know him that well.
Then he explains: “After our second date she requested that we both start talking to an elder about dating advice. I almost laughed but reluctantly agreed. I started talking to my college roommate’s father, an elder, whose approach to dating I thought was a little absurd. Such advice came as, ‘Don’t start having feelings for her until there is a ring on her finger”, “Nothing good happens after 11:00”, “You should date in groups,” and “You should want to marry someone who is excited about the kingdom.” I was utterly confused to say the least. By the third week into the relationship I was approached by the pastor who mentioned that he knew we were dating and he’d like to meet some time. I agreed. I was somewhat confounded how he knew that she and I were dating less than three weeks in, especially since the only person I told we were dating was the elder I was seeking “advice” from.”
BFA then explains how things with the church leadership went south the more he met with them. It got ugly! They tried to break his spirit using a “demotivational technique”, and the straw that broke the camel’s back were these words spoken by an abusive elder: “I can’t think of anything good to say about you” and “I don’t see how any woman could ever be interested in you.”
Then this wise young man decided to seek counsel from his grandmother, who happened to be the wife of a pastor for over 30 years. BFA writes: “I told her my story and she immediately identified this church as exhibiting cult-like tendencies. At that point I had made my decision to run.” Way to go ByFaithAlone!!! It is the smartest decision you could have ever made.
BFA is obviously a quick learner because he surmises that “those who left are treated as the problem and the leaders are justified.” He ends his testimony as follows:
“Ever since then, I’ve thought that maybe I was crazy for thinking that this church was abusive. I thought that perhaps I’m the one with the problem and it was an isolated incident. This all happened seven months ago and It wasn’t until recently that I had discovered the line of people who came out of that church battered and bruised. If I was angry before, I was angrier now. Everyone who was abused was told not to tell anybody what’s happened. I wish to fight for those who have been hurt. I want to help them and remind them of Christ and His atoning work for salvation on the cross by faith alone!! Not by anything they can or ever will do!
The church that I attended was Christ Memorial Church of Williston, Vermont. I choose to reveal this name so that those who wish to find anything regarding that church will not only find the positive comments on the church’s website, but the harsh reality of what really goes on behind the scenes. If I had not known that I was not the only person to have been abused by this church, I would not be sharing my story.
My friend who has been a great help to me over the past couple months, had experienced abuse from this church introduced me to sgmrefuge and sgmsurvivors. I can’t tell you how encouraged I’ve been in hearing how others have fought the system and those who have overcome and moved on for the better. These sites, as well as my friends who have had traumatizing experiences with this SGM have described to me the reality of the abuse going on that I thought only I had experienced. Thank you for the work that you do. May God bless!”
The SGM / SBC Connection
What caught my attention in BFA’s testimony were his words “associated with SGM”. I assumed that Christ Memorial Church belonged to the SGM “family of churches”, so I checked their church directory. There are no SGM churches in Vermont. I then searched “Christ Memorial Church” and “Williston, Vermont” to find the church website. The internet is such a wonderful research tool! What would we do without it?
Here’s what I found on the church website under the heading “Our Beliefs”:
“Christ Memorial Church is a Baptist church within the evangelical tradition affiliated with both Converge Worldwide (formerly Baptist General Conference) and the Southern Baptist Convention. We hold to both the Affirmation of Faith (CW, 1951, amended) and to the Baptist Faith and Message (SBC, amended). In addition, our church officers are required to accept, in substance, the First London Confession of Faith (1646, 2nd revision).”
Yes, BFA was attending a BAPTIST, not an SGM church. Apparently, there are strong ties to SGM. For instance, quite a few young people attend Josh Harris’ annual conference called “Next”. Also, courtship appears to be highly endorsed as evidenced by BFA’s dating experience.
How about this church’s ties to Southern Seminary? Here’s what we found when we searched Christ Memorial Church and Southern Seminary:
“The Vermont Extension Center is an off-campus educational facility of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the largest Southern Baptist seminary in the world….All classes are held at Christ Memorial Church in Williston, Vermont…”
We believe ByFaithAlone’s testimony, along with the above information regarding the church he attended demonstrate that there is a growing alliance between the Southern Baptist Convention and Sovereign Grace Ministries. We have already made such a conjecture which can be accessed here.
With regard to the SBC, it’s important that you know that both Dee and I were faithful Southern Baptists. However, as we become aware and even personally experienced a number of issues going on beneath the surface, we decided to disassociate ourselves from the denomination.
Spiritual Abuse Recovery Resources
“ByFaithAlone”, if you’re reading here, welcome to the TWW family!!! We are happy to report that there are EXCELLENT resources available to help you recognize spiritual abuse and how to recover.
First, we believe the current book we are reviewing – Spiritual Abuse Recovery: Dynamic Research on Finding a Place of Wholeness by Barbara M. Orlowski – is an excellent resource. It just came out in 2010, and Dallas Theological Seminary did a review which can be accessed here.
The DTS review of Orlowski’s book begins as follows:
“Spiritual abuse by the clergy happens in churches. It shouldn’t. But it does. And people leave their home church in grief and anger over it. What happens to these Christians? Where do they go, and why should church leaders care?
Barbara M. Orlowski’s doctoral research into the problem of disenfranchised believers is presented in her book, Spiritual Abuse Recovery. She defines spiritual abuse as “the misuse of spiritual authority to maltreat followers in the Christian Church.” Orlowski focuses on dedicated Christians who have served in their churches for years before making the difficult decision to leave after experiencing spiritual abuse. She follows them on their journey to find healing and wholeness.”
Dee bought Orlowski’s book several months ago and couldn’t put it down because it was chock-full of important information regarding spiritual abuse recovery. I have just begun reading it, and am amazed at how important her research is. It gets TWO THUMBS UP from us, and we get absolutely nothing out of our book recommendation other than knowing that we pointed someone in the right direction to having a healthy faith.
Here are some other resources Orlowski recommends in her book, which we happen to have reviewed here at TWW.
The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse – David Johnson Jeff Van Vonderen - link here
We wrote several more posts related to information we found in this book, so check the articles that follow this one (go to May 2009 to access them easily).
Churches That Abuse – Ronald M. Enroth -link here
We hope these resources will get you started on the road to spiritual abuse recovery.
Lydia's Corner: Numbers 16:41-18:32 Mark 16:1-20 Psalm 55:1-23 Proverbs 11:7