The law detects, grace alone conquers sin. – Saint Augustine of Hippo
The following is an email that I received from Bent Meyer, the well-known, fired ex-pastor of Mars Hill. Bent told his story on TWW here which resulted in the largest number of one-day hits in the history of our blog.
Bent is now a highly respected counselor in the Seattle area who specializes in helping those who are abused by churches. TWW encourages all those, who have been hurt by a church and are in need of counseling, to avail themselves of his services link. He has walked that difficult path and is in a unique position to be of assistance.
Bent was responding to our post AoR Letdown, SBC Putdown and Redemption Group Rundown link. He will refer to the third part of that post in his email so it might be helpful to quickly read it. In the following, when I say refer to TWW post, it is this post to which I am referring.
Bent carefully explains the difference between the Grace Groups that he formed while he was at Mars Hill and the current Redemption Groups which were formed after he left. There is a startling contrast. Please, please, please, if any of your churches form such groups, carefully assess them. You could end up in far worse shape if they are based on the current Redemption Groups.
Bent gave us permission to reprint this email. At the end, he requests that Mars Hill refute his perspective if he is wrong. We end this post with another regrettable audio clip of Mark Driscoll, which was made about the same time that Myer was fired.
Next week we will recount another horrifying story of pedophilia which involves international intrigue and one of Greg Harris’ family of churches. We also hope to do a story on one groups of people who molested as children on the missionary field.
“I have been very busy helping people who have experienced church abuse. It is painful to hear the many stories and experiences, and the agony some of these folks report. The loses to them is more than an affiliation, it is a community of friends. It is often a damaged reputation. It is confusion, anger, shame, guilty that have to be understood and processed. It is sorting out betrayal of leadership who spoke loyalty, but meant unidirectional obedience. It is working through the experience of being silenced, having no advocacy, no appeal process.
A few times I hear folk say they will not attend a church again, fearing future betrayals, confining policies and harsh treatment for non conformity. The consequence has been not keeping up on your interesting posts.
Joanne (my wife) and I started Grace Groups at Mars Hill Church in 2003. The groups were designed to address a specific population of people in the church who had experienced childhood sexual abuse. We had done this because sexual abuse had invaded our family. We discovered when my son was 15 years old that he also had been sexually abused by a family friend, in a local church we had attended years before. We had assumed like so many, the church was a safe place. NOT SO!
The issue of sexual abuse was very real to us and we wanted to address it. I had come to learn that even conservative estimates report that 25% of women and 15% of men have been sexually abuse as a child. That’s 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men that we all meet every day. This statistic was staggering for Joanne and me.
At first we did not know where to go for help. The church community did not know what to do. I had gone to the University of Washington book store to see what I could find on the topic. I discovered Dan Allender’s book The Wounded Heart (I would highly recommend it). Dan Allender has focused on the issue of sexual abuse recovery for many years and I have sat under his teaching or the issues and therapeutic approach.
Subsequently, after talking to a friend some years later, we discovered Open Hearts Ministry link. We went to Michigan and experienced a method of helping wounded survivors of sexual abuse grow to experience life and relationships with increasing fullness. The Michigan groups are called Journey Groups, rather than Grace Groups today.
Joanne had already taken a group of women through “The Wounded Heart“workbook, when she asked them if they would like to experience what we had learned and experienced at OHM. They did. They became the first leaders of groups called Grace Groups at MHC.
Word of mouth spread interest in attending future groups. Quickly we had to put together a waiting list, since we didn’t have enough trained leaders to facilitate groups properly. We also began to get inquires from men. My son and I lead the first men’s groups. It wasn’t long until we had a long waiting list. By the time I was fired for MHC for objecting to the change in the Bylaws, we had over 130 people experience the groups and another 130 on a waiting list.
Grace Groups were shut down abruptly and Redemption Group material was invented to take its place shortly thereafter.Now, here is the clarification distinctive between Grace Groups and Redemption Groups.
Note from Dee: My email system screwed up the chart Bent sent us so I am going to address this in categories.
We (Joanne and I) made clear participants needed to honor the stories disclosed within each group. To give an example. Joanne would never discuss stories she heard in her groups with me, nor would I with her.This was a standard we promoted and held as example to the others.We also told the participants, since they are in a group, there is no guarantee confidentiality would be honored by everyone, so they would need to share their childhood stories with discretion.
Within MHC there is no confidentiality. Information disclosed is often discussed freely, particularly among leaders.
Though this is related to confidentiality we regarded safety as paramount. Wounded people are not to be revictimized in the context of getting help.
The description you provided for participants in Redemption Groups demonstrates revictimizing is not a caution prized at MHC.
Caution was exercised to insure pressure was not put on a person to disclose more than they felt safe doing.
Please refer to the aforementioned TWW post.
Empathy is essential in the group process, since victims of abuse have often received contrary messages from parents or others they have attempted to tell their stories to. Survivors experience a safe group of people who understand and can affirm the damage done to them, which was not their fault.
Please refer to the aforementioned TWW post.
We regarded the sin issue to be discovered by the participant as they examined the consequence of their adaptive relational style. It was not something any one of us could declare. We could mirror back to the person, how we experienced them, but that was only for them to consider the effect they were having on others. It was also important to clarify their adaptive relational styles was in place for a reason that at one time possibly protected them from even greater harm. Paul speaks to the sin issue in Roman 13:8-10: do no harm, which translates into being responsible to love efficaciously.
Please refer to the aforementioned TWW post.
Adaptive Relational Style
An abused child creates adaptive processes to navigate their environment and relationships. These adaptations are created within the developmental capacities of the child at the age they were in crisis.The adaptations are comprised of images, narratives, highly charged emotions and processes to avoid harms and in some case endure harm they cannot escape (like dissociative processes).Many of these adaptations are retained into adult life, marriages and relationships.
After a participant knows they have been heard and the harm done to them has been validated, then is the time to examine processes that are likely no longer useful and likely harming relationships and themselves.
These groups have no concept of this.
Adaptations as Defenses
We all employ defensive processes in our daily lives. For instance, when we go to a car dealership, likely our defenses are employed. In abusive relationships, defenses are employed by children with immature emotional regulation processes. The defenses and emotions are employed at a high pitch, without adequate processes to reduce the intensity, so the defenses and emotions become normalized. As a consequence a survivor often reports not knowing what is normal. As a survivor matures those processes are modified, while also maintain an adaptive profile that might be characterized as normally distancing, aggressive, emotionally flat, dissociative, agitated, depressed, nice, highly vigilant, or quickly shifting between idealizing to villainizing others and back.
They have no concept of this.
These focus on the heart and try to help a person, within a safe environment, experience validation of their life experience.To have safe people mirror back to them the way their adaptive processes operate.This provides the opportunity for the survivor to understand the harm they might be doing to others by their relational style.
Goal 1.To provide a means to adjust their defensive structures to be kinder (Gal 2:20).
Goal 2. To provide a means to engage existing relationships realistically.
These seem to focus on behavior management.They center on sin and eradicating it from the sinner with little
consideration for illegitimate shame, which is a shame imposed by others which the victim owns as their own. Illegitimate shame is like telling a child they are a sinful brat, when in fact they might have ADHD as a treatable condition.
OHM has been in ministry for over 25 years. It was started by Sandy Burdick in her local church. Sandy developed the content and process with Dan Allender over years of experienced and evaluation.One of the vexing issues for the folks at MHC, is how prominent women are as developers, leaders and presenters of content at OHM. (They are brilliant, extraordinary women.)
Mark Driscoll has militantly opposed women in ministry leadership. His rhetoric about respect for women, doesn’t match what is actually happening in the church.
There is much more to say about this work, but it will have to wait for another time. I hope this helps make a distinction between Grace Groups and Redemption Groups. They are distinctly different in purpose and process. Joanne and I still offer Grace Groups (now called JourneyGroups) in the Seattle area. Grace Groups (Journey Groups) are also offered in Olympia, Spokane, Yakima, and Bellingham, Washington. Other locations in other states can be found at Open Hearts Ministry link
Bent addresses Mars Hill’s Mike Wilkerson:
I would welcome clarification from Mike Wilkerson, the author of Redemption Groups to correct any misrepresentation I have given to Redemption Groups. What I have said above is my opinion and not a technical psychological presentation.”
Finally, TWW leaves you with this delightful little audio of Mark Driscoll merrily “throwing people under the bus.”
Chris Rosebrough at Fighting for the Faith, Christian Pirate Radio link has found some audio of Driscoll exposing his version of “blessed subtraction.” Bent Meyer and Paul Petry were a two of these bodies. The lives of these two men speak for themselves. As time goes on, so does the life of Driscoll.
(Driscoll speaking as transcribed by the Sola Sisters)
“Here’s what I’ve learned. You cast vision for your mission, and if people don’t sign up, you move on. You move on. There are people that are gonna die in the wilderness, and there are people that are gonna take the hill. That’s just how it is. Too many guys waste too much time trying to move stiff necked, stubborn, obstinate people. I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus (chuckle), and by God’s grace, it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done…. You either get on the bus, or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options.”
Yesterday, I read about 30 blogs and found a quote which I attributed to Timmy Brister. However, I linked to the last article read and cannot find the original quote. His comment in the link also brings up the same issues. So using that link we find he says the following.
“As for Mark Driscoll, I would put him up to any Southern Baptist preacher today who preaches Christ and Him crucified (and how many SBC churches can you find Jesus preached on any given Sunday?). Baptist Press’ efforts would serve the cause of Southern Baptist life much more in the future should they highlight such preachers who are planting gospel-centered churches and reaching this younger generation whom we have all but written off. Southern Baptists can learn from Mark Driscoll, but that can only begin when we lay down the knives.”
In this same article he also got upset that Driscoll’s vulgarity was the subject of a Baptist press article, claiming that Driscoll had repented (5 years previously) and why was the Baptist Press raising this issue. So, since 2004 until 2009, Brister felt all was well with his language. So well, in fact, that he wrote the preceding paragraph. During that time, Driscoll caused much pain in his church, including the firing of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry. There was pornovision, throwing people under the bus and many other issues. But, I guess, so long as Driscoll “repented” for cussing, 5 years previously, all is well. That comes as a surprise to me. He gave Driscoll a pass and even declared the SBC could learn from him. Yeah, right. If he is the example, God have mercy on the SBC.
PS:The title of this post was “My Take on Baptist Press Throwing Mark Driscoll Under the Bus.”
Lydia’s Corner:Hosea 10:1-14:9 Jude 1:1-25 Psalm 127:1-5 Proverbs 29:15-17