Difficult Stories from Former Sovereign Grace Members

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm. Willa Cather

Storm_clouds_over_Brent_Hill_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1096775
Storm Clouds over Brent Hill-UK -Adrian Platt-Creative Commons
 

Today we begin with a story from a former member of SGM. This story is one which corroborates Noelle's story link. Some of the stories in this series will be from the grown up child victims, others will be from family members. Some will be new stories. Others will be from those whose stories have been told but will be retold from a different perspective. Some will be deeply disturbing. Others, like this one, will provide needed insights into a formerly tightly controlled group. 

Why is TWW publishing these stories?

First and foremost, this blog is dedicated to defending and helping the victims of any sort of abuse on the part of churches. Many of these victims have felt marginalized by Christians. Some have been told, by church leaders, not to tell anyone what happened. Consequently, they have felt alone and rejected. We want to provide a forum in which victims will be believed and comforted.

How do we know the stories are true? 

Some of the perpetrators have been tried and convicted. That is a matter of public court records. In other situations, the stories had a ring of authenticity to them. Long before we started this blog, Deb and I would spend hours discussing the stories that we read on the SGM Survivor and SGM Refuge blogs. Combined with other blogs, which also discussed horrific stories of church abuse, we decided  that these stories shared similar elements that, in the big picture, gave credence to the accounts.

I had a discussion with Fendrel on this blog. He asked for evidence for my contention that Jesus is the Son of God. I presented evidence of the testimony of the disciples along with their willingness to go to their deaths, vigorously defending their belief that Jesus was the Messiah. Fendrel challenged me, saying the evidence that I presented was weak.

I told him that I disagreed with his contention and referred him to the example of our trial system. Take the OJ Simpson case. Evidence was presented and the jury decided to acquit. I may disagree with their conclusions but I do respect that they assessed the evidence of his involvement and found it lacking. If I had been present, I might have hung the jury. Two people might view the evidence and come out with opposite opinions. In other words, Fendrel can disagree with my interpretation of the evidence but I have a right to interpret what I see from my view "in the cheap seats."

Deb and I were confronted with a pedophile situation in a former church. We wanted to know if we were allowed to present our view of the issue. Thankfully, SNAP (Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests) put us in touch with Jeff Anderson, the internationally renowned attorney who has been involved in the lawsuits against the pedophile priests in the Catholic church. He gave us a great piece of advice. He said we are allowed to say what we believe to be true but that we must never knowingly make up a story. So, we may choose to believe the story of a victim and disbelieve a pastor's story but we cannot make up a story, let's say, that said pastor is a transvestite.

Don't you trust church leaders?

No more than we would trust any member of a church. All are sinners. When trust must be demanded, something is amiss. Trust is earned. 

Do you know the victims?

Deb and I have had phone conversations with the victims and their families and more will be forthcoming. We met with one mother in the restaurant of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte. We will be making a trip to Virginia in the near future to meet with other families. We also know the identities of those who publish under the pseudonyms but hold those in confidence.

Shouldn't the presumptive leaders of the Gospel Coalition, Acts 29, etc. intervene?

Color me stunned. Not only do they not intervene, they continue to push the books of CJ Mahaney and other leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries, seemingly in the face of the revelations. Not one of them has expressed any concern for the victims. They appear to be unimportant to the bigwigs. These men are invited to conferences and are held up as role models.  Al Mohler even told the Louisville Courier Journal here that the allegations against Mahaney, when he stepped down a 1 1/2 years ago, were merely those of people who do not like strong leadership. Does that sound like something Jesus would say?

Certain Christian leaders claim they are concerned about pedophilia and domestic violence but, when push comes to shove, the victims get the "shove" out the door while the pastors (especially the designated "cool" leaders) are "pushed" by the very leaders who say they are "against" violence and abuse. (Day 67 of silence, by the way). Pedophilia is bad unless it happens in a friend's church then it must be studiously ignored. After all, the conferences, book endorsements and donations must go on.

Deb and I had a unique opportunity when a pastor, closely connected with one of these national groups, contacted us to correct our perspective on his ministry. We knew that he was friendly with the leaders of SGM. So, we took a chance and begged him to talk with the leaders of SGM about the stories told on SGM Survivors. We said that there were so many stories with common elements in them that there must be some truth to them.

Was he concerned? Yep-about us! He accused us of "character assassination." This was a few months before Mahaney stepped down. I wonder what he thinks when he sees the Detweiler papers, the involvement of Ambassadors of Reconciliation, the churches who are leaving SGM and the lawsuit? How can these leaders ignore so many stories over so long a period? Shame on all of those who have coddled the leaders and ignored the pain of the people. Do they not remember that Jesus hung around the little guy and had harsh words to say about the Pharisees?

Are we part of a vast conspiracy to "take down" SGM?

We believe these stories that we post have a ring of authenticity to them. Time will tell. Could these stories really be a vast conspiracy against the leadership of SGM?  We doubt it. Dee hates conspiracy theories. Are we part of a conspiracy? I talk too much to keep any conspiracy quiet. Everyone will get their day in court, including the leaders. One thing is certain. The SGM entity will have to face the court of public opinion. The door and windows of this ministry are being flung wide open and the pain is being exposed. We predict that this will be the major religious story of 2013

If any pastor from SGM wishes to publicly refute any information contained in these stories, they are welcome to contact us. We would be happy to publish their rebuttal, just as we allowed Chuck O'Neal to comment on this blog prior to his defrocking.

The sad part of all of this is that it could have been prevented. If only the author of the book on humility had applied his own principles, this could have gone away. But, in SGM land, I guess that love means never, ever, ever having to say you're sorry.


A Story That Might Be Worth Telling…
Phoenix

This is a story that might be worth telling.  In any case, it is my story. It doesn’t contain a dramatic climax that will make people gasp, as Noel’s story does. And I think it will leave me a marginally sympathetic and somewhat morally ambiguous character for some (myself perhaps included) not to mention throwing harsh light on some impressive stupidity.

My favorite character in the Bible has been Joseph for a long time.  I love his story because it takes such sudden turns – like a fairy tale – and because at the beginning he was a gifted kid and a major doofus.  In the late 80’s I was a happy Christian wife and mother (there were issues – more to come on that.)  I had two little girls and I lived in a very secure community – the military.  I was part of a close-knit independent and charismatic church (that met, by the way, in a converted Sears warehouse across from a K-Mart strip mall.) My older child attended school at the church and my younger went to preschool at a church across town. I worked part-time at the school as a tutor. At Halloween I took my kids to a Harvest Festival at the church and put a poster on my door with a Bible verse and a brief explanation of why we didn’t celebrate it. At Easter I participated in a Passion Play.   My greatest challenge was perhaps that their father (and this was in peacetime) was deployed much of the time. I once calculated that he was gone almost three years of my baby’s first five.  But, as I said, I was happy. 

My children’s father completed his deployment cycle and had the opportunity for a sweetheart assignment as a college professor in our home state.  It was lovely to go home and be close to family; but I was very lonely and homesick for my church and for our little military town where I had lived for 10 years and had my babies. The owner of the local Christian bookstore had known my name and had given me books to read and review.

As I said, it was a sweetheart assignment and you might have thought that my children’s father would be happy (although that was never something he was good at.) But he wasn’t. He was very unhappy.  I was really worried about him.  I don’t really remember that part very clearly now, but I’m sure I must have done everything I could think of to make things easier for him and to cheer him up. Because that’s what I had always done.  I couldn’t fix this.  A few months after our move we were planning to be with my family a couple of hours away for Thanksgiving.  He told me to go without him.  We had missed a lot of holidays together and had certainly not always been able to be with family but this was the first time one of us had chosen to stay home alone.  I took my girls and went. I tried to enjoy myself, but my dear mother told me later that I looked so sad she didn’t want to look at my face.  On the trip back I was terribly anxious about him – this was before cell phones, of course.  I pictured him hanging – a suicide. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody that.  He wasn’t. He was at home. He was ready to talk about what was wrong.  “It’s you. I don’t love you anymore.”  We had been married almost 13 years.

By Christmas he had decided that he was going to move out; although he still wanted to spend time together as a family and do our Christmas shopping together.  I was able, by the grace of God through a book He sent my way (Love Must be Tough by James Dobson) to let him leave without clinging.  He didn’t want our families to know and so I agreed not to tell them that we were separated.  He didn’t do any visitation with the children (that I recall) but we saw him on Sundays at the little Episcopal Church we attended together.  We did try counseling, by the way, with our priest and with a professional he recommended.  His parents lived the closest – within about 30 minutes, actually, but we didn’t see them often and they never came to our home, so it wasn’t difficult to keep the separation quiet.  But early that spring his mother called and said that she wanted to take the girls to the circus. Well, she wasn’t going to spend an entire evening with my girls without them mentioning that Daddy had his own apartment. He came home so that his parents wouldn’t know he had left. And we didn’t deal with any of the issues.

Here comes the (first) part where I might be a morally ambiguous and marginally sympathetic character.  During this time I had become very active in the little Episcopal Church, although it was never home like my previous church had been.  Because it was very small, this meant that I spent lots of time with the priest. I fell in love with him.  He said he loved me, too. And it’s important to say that when I am in love –with a marriage, with a church, with a man, with a hobby (and I’m not suggesting these are equivalent) I fall in love all the way. All the way. In particular, I had always experienced very passionate infatuations.  But I also had a very strict upbringing that I had thoroughly embraced, so that my high libido and my feckless passions gave me great pain. It’s all many years ago and the priest was then a few years younger than I am now.  I think I understand somewhat where he was coming from; though I was angrier with him than I have ever been with anyone for many months.  He was, of course, flattered by all this attention from a younger woman who was much prettier and more winning than I gave myself credit for at the time. He was also married with a young son and had no intention of screwing up his life and his career.  When my children’s father questioned our relationship he shut it down and pretty much denied that it had ever existed. All the panic, desperation, and clinging that I had managed to avoid when my children’s father left us I dived into then.  And I left the church.   This wasn’t the first time this kind of thing had cropped up in our marriage, although I had never been actively unfaithful (I had also never said no to him sexually — never.)  Morally ambiguous and marginally sympathetic. 

We were coming to the end of the college duty and my children’s father would be returning to a military base in northern Virginia that summer. I was finishing graduate school with a teaching degree and starting to look for a job.  He told me that he didn’t want us to come when he moved.  He didn’t know whether he was going to divorce me or not, but he didn’t plan to live with us, at least for the summer.  But when the summer was over the children had to start school somewhere and I needed to be working somewhere.  I decided to move to northern Virginia, put the children in school, find a job, and give our marriage the best chance for reconciliation.  I wasn’t just going to disappear. 

That was in 1991.  That’s how my ambiguous, second, and much longer marital separation began and how I ended up in a PDI church.  I was blessed with a friend who shared both the military connection (we were stationed together several times) and the church connection, and she invited/directed me to then Fairfax Covenant Church (“FCC”).  I wanted a community and I wanted my girls to have a community.  And I wanted to be with people who would support my faith for reconciliation in my marriage.  And I was broken.  My girls, especially the older one, then 11, were broken as well. 

I’m going to finish the story of my first marriage here, because I want to continue with the story of my second bad marriage, which is how I think of my time (11 years) at Fairfax Covenant Church. After 6 years of the ambiguous separation my children’s father was retiring from the military.  He finalized our divorce (financially pretty unfavorable to me – my goal had always been to reconcile.) We had been married 22 years and I had been celibate through the entire separation (and remain so at this writing.) Shortly after that he announced that he was getting married and wanted the children to meet his fiancée. And shortly after that I found out they had been having an affair and/or living together since just after he came home from the first separation. She was his high school girlfriend and I had actually met her years before. (I was his college girlfriend.)  OK.

The best thing about FCC was always my home group, which was like family.  My girls and I settled in Prince William County (mostly because we had been stationed at Quantico and the area was familiar.) There were some changes over the years – leaders came and went and the group split and reunited a couple of times.  But there was a core group that was together for years.  Those people saw my children grow up and helped me move at least four times. At least twice they arranged rides to Celebration for us so that I wouldn’t be on the road with my unreliable car.  They prayed for me and kept my children in the summer when I left teaching and started working year round. 

I was (until a marriage in the home group came apart) the only single most of the time; although a few other single women and even a couple of guys came and went.  The weekly home group meeting was the tent peg of our week for years. We had a lot of fun together.  And when leadership changes were made in the home group or a split occurred I was always left with the leaders to whom I was closest. I wasn’t able to homeschool my children (who were older than most of the kids as I was older than most of the parents) and I was working during the day when the other ladies were freer to socialize, so I remained somewhat isolated but I felt accepted. That remained true until almost the very end.  I loved my home group.

And I loved our sphere pastor and his wife.  They were just special.  I know now that the pastor failed Noel and her family very badly (to put it quite mildly) when things were coming apart. But I loved them.  In fact, I fell in love with him – a gentle man with an amazing sense of humor and very, very much in love with his wife. That went on for years and caused me enormous pain. It was known by my home group leaders and others who helped me but the pastor and his wife never knew. 

My dear mother also said, over these years, that my life was really three things: my growing children, the church, and my work.  My work.  That’s a factor that I haven’t seen addressed in the stories I’ve read on the blogs; but for me it was a major factor in my eventual disillusionment with this church – a major element of my bad marriage.  There were two reasons for this; one an aspect of the FCC/PDI culture that I didn’t really become aware of or question until later and the other – more on that to come.  Much has been written about the culture as regards marriage, child-rearing, courtship, home-schooling, big families, traditional gender roles.  But I haven’t seen much about paid work as a necessary part of many women’s lives.  I was unusual, I think, and unusually blessed, as I see it now. 

As I mentioned above, my divorce settlement was much less favorable to me that it would have been if I had made that a goal.  I would have worked in any case, I think. Except for a few years when my girls were babies, I’ve worked since I was 15 years old.  But I also had to.  A more traditional way for a single mom to survive was to live with her children in someone’s basement – a married couple, of course! No two situations were alike, but this usually meant that the single mom was under the husband’s authority to some degree, as were her children.  I’m sure that this was God’s provision for some women, but it was never really an option for me, at least, I never asked and no one asked me.  I think there was probably a reluctance to expose children to my public-schooled (and therefore questionable) and beautiful daughters.  They are both now wonderful women and mothers, by the way. 

But what I realized toward the end of my time at FCC was that there was NO support for a woman trying to be faithful to God in the secular workplace.  None.  I don’t think there was much for men, either, but for women there was just none.  A woman working full-time by choice (especially in secular business) just did not fit the mold and was best ignored.  A young woman working until she got married was acceptable, although there was definitely a tacit understanding that she should be working in some kind of Christian ministry if at all possible. I worked four years as a teacher in Fairfax County schools.  When I was laid off, I took an entry level office job because I couldn’t afford not to work. I was made a manager after only a few months and in fact, was offered big promotions twice that I turned down because it would have meant moving to Boston.  (I didn’t particularly want to move farther north, but more than that I didn’t want to uproot my children.) Also, of course, when I sought counsel about this, I was reminded that there wasn’t a PDI church in Boston. 

About two years into that job, I got a call from a former home group leader.  He owned (still owns, I think) a business that was then about two degrees away from being a subsidiary of Fairfax Covenant Church and PDI –a small, media-related business that did audio and video production and duplication work for Christian and conservative groups.  As far as I know, with maybe one exception (and that didn’t work out) every employee was part of FCC.  If you have any familiarity with FCC during the 90’s (probably still, but I left in 2002) you can probably figure out what business I am speaking of. Anyway, former HGL (“D”) asked me to leave my current job and come to work for him as his Office Manager.  This is very important to the part of my story that follows, because D was very given to mercy hires.  When people in his home group were out of work he would give them jobs whether or not they were actually qualified. 

I was an exception – he asked me to leave a job and come to work for him and it set the dynamic of the relationship.  Also, he was not my HGL during the time I worked for him.  Looking back, it strikes me as an example of God’s sense of humor. D said that he and his wife had been praying about a replacement for the current Office Manager, who was leaving.  God gave them my name.  And although I think he would still sincerely praise my administrative abilities – I am good at my work– I gave him so much grief.  He was used to being the unquestioned Boss in every area of his life – a Home Group Leader, a business owner, husband to a geisha wife and authoritative father. He had only ever had a boss in the traditional sense for a couple of years. He is also almost exactly my age, although he generally hired younger people.

This meant that I thought he ought to be walking the talk in his business AND that I was uncomfortable with business practices that seemed substandard – or even illegal.  I knew that he asked questions in job interviews about marital status, family plans, church affiliations (when he didn’t already know all this because the person was part of FCC.) And women were paid less than men for very similar work, although of course the titles were different.  And I saw him stiff little guy “Christian” vendors while making major purchases many, many times. While preaching that accumulating credit card debt should be avoided; he ran up huge credit card bills that the business paid. As far as I could tell he was a favorite of the pastoral staff and was never addressed about these issues.  

I learned a lot for which I am now grateful during those years.  I did work I love – administration – under very adverse conditions.  And of course, what you learn to do under adverse conditions you can do quickly and easily under more favorable ones.  That experience stood me in good stead over the next many years as I worked in demanding (“secular”) businesses as an administrator. I left that job about a year before I left FCC.

Meanwhile, in the home group I loved so there was a shunning. A gifted, brilliant, loving father of several children was also severely bipolar. No question there was a lot of bizarre behavior – he made me very uncomfortable.  And he was married to an angel — ethereally beautiful with a soft voice, huge blue eyes, and a carefully cultivated air of fragility and innocence.  No one believed him when he tried to share what she had done – we all wanted him to be the bad guy.  So (directed by the HGL) we shunned him.  Sometime later he committed suicide; although we were told not to call it that.

And then one night a dear home group friend (A) left a very distressed message on my answering machine.  I didn’t call her back; I just went to her home.  That night she told me that her teenage son had “been inappropriate” with Noel’s baby daughter. Her brother was also there and by her answers to his pointed questions I learned that “inappropriate” meant penetration—rape. I also learned that her very bright son was perfectly well-aware that he “could go to jail.”  By the time I got there she had called the pastors.  They were all preparing to leave in the next day or so for  a Pastor’s Conference in Virginia Beach and (it took years for this to sink in as very strange) apparently didn’t think that one of them should stay back to help deal with this tragedy. This was after Benny Phillips had stepped down and before Mark Mullery arrived so Dave Hinders was acting Senior Pastor.  The next day Dave Hinders called me at work to ask me to be responsible for ministering to A. Yes, you read that right, a single woman. I was happy to say yes. That same day Noel and her husband were called to the church and told what A’s son had confessed.  They were also told that I knew. (And, I believe, told not to tell anyone else.)

I can’t describe how difficult the next few weeks/months were for me. (It wasn’t about me, of course, but this is my story.) Noel and A were my two best friends and both needed me. And I needed them.  I didn’t think the story was mine to share so I didn’t tell anyone else. My beloved pastor talked to me about it early but shortly after said that he couldn’t discuss it. One Sunday morning another friend asked how I was and I said, “Things are difficult in Prince William County.”  By Monday I received a call on Dave Hinders’ behalf demanding to know how I knew about the situation, accusing me of gossiping, and telling me not to mention it again so that I wouldn’t find myself in court.

The ensuing months/years have been described by Noel. I’ll just add that over that time there were more and more revelations about how deeply the problem of child molestation ran in A’s family.  More situations in her extended family were covered up and more perps were protected by PDI from the consequences of their actions. Also, over time, the home group I loved was allowed to disintegrate and disappear by the FCC pastors.

What finally compelled me to follow my conscience out of FCC/SGCF/PDI/SGM?

Increasingly, I sat during messages thinking “What the heck does any of this have to do with Jesus?” or even “What a load of crap.” When the home group was shut down and I got a call to ask what group I would be attending (I hadn’t been invited) I said I needed some time. Just a few weeks later I got a form letter from Dave Hinders telling me that home group attendance was mandatory and I would be dropped from membership.

In a discussion about my imminent empty nest, another friend told me to “Think outside the box.” She said that I should spend my time being a mommy’s helper for the young mothers in the church.

My beloved pastor stepped down and my oldest friends in FCC left on a church plant.

 I attended a single’s conference and listened to a condescending lecture by a twenty-something pastor about how in heaven we’ll all be single so stop whining and serve in children’s ministry.

I was serving in children’s ministry and in several other ministries so I picked the first Sunday of a month (May, as I recall) when I had no commitments to say good-bye to certain people. I walked out the door and I’ve never been back. Not even for the wedding of my oldest friends’ daughter.

And for the denouement of “my” story. About four years ago, I reconnected with my oldest friend.  By that time, she had also left PDI/SGM. We got together with my oldest daughter and hers. In the far-reaching conversation we shared that day, her daughter told us about the SGM Survivors website. I visited it and told Noel about it. Noel visited it and shared her story.  Through the website she connected with other families who had been victims of child molestation and pastoral abuse/botched handling. As a result of their shared passion for justice and desire to protect other children they decided to file the lawsuit. And I believe along with many that it will be used by God to bring down the corrupt structure that is SGM and to rock today’s corrupt evangelical church to its foundations for his glory and our good.

I’m so thankful that God has woven the silly, sad, painful, and oddball threads of my story into a larger story for his glory. Just like Joseph, my favorite. 

Lydia's Corner: Numbers 19:1-20:29 Luke 1:1-25 Psalm 56:1-13 Proverbs 11:8

 

 

 

Comments

Difficult Stories from Former Sovereign Grace Members — 135 Comments

  1. Phoenix, thank you for your story. It’s important for you to be heard. Dee and Deb, thank you for hosting this site.

    “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

    -Elie Wiesel

  2. We believe these stories that we post have a ring of authenticity to them. Time will tell. Could these stories really be a vast conspiracy against the leadership of SGM? We doubt it. Dee hates conspiracy theories. Are we part of a conspiracy?

    By the axioms of Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory, yes you are.

    Anyone who denies The Conspiracy is part of The Conspiracy.
    Anyone who doubts The Conspiracy is part of The Conspiracy.
    Any evidence against The Conspiracy PROVES The Conspiracy.
    Lack of evidence for The Conspiracy PROVES The Conspiracy.

    “If your Conspiracy Theory doesn’t fit the facts, Invent a Bigger Conspiracy.” — Kooks Magazine

    “The Dwarfs are for The Dwarfs! We Won’t Be Taken In!”
    – C.S.Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia, Volume 7: The Last Battle

  3. “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

    This is so true but neutrality/looking the other way/refusing to believe leaders can do wrong things….. is very typical in Christendom. It enables evil.

  4. ‘Was he concerned. Yep-about us! He accused us of “character assassination.” ‘

    Yes, this is the typical response and it is sooooo frustrating. Just now – some SIX months after we won the defamation lawsuit, there is finally ONE pastor who has come out publicly saying that my former pastor’s license was removed. He does not explain why the license was revoked, but at least people can start putting 2 and 2 together that those involved with that church and the others who left were not making this stuff up. Keep in mind this is 4 years after most of us left the church.

    Most pastors I dealt with on my case turned it around to my sin problem. They couldn’t identify my sin, but assumed that because I went to them about a problem with my pastor, then obviously I had the problem. What is this INSANITY?

    Until a pastor is willing to listen and consider that there just might be abuse, we will not get anywhere and people will be forced to file lawsuits to get their churches/pastors to wake up. It does not need to be this way. If pastors would be humble, servant leaders instead of high on their lofty perches, lording over people, this would be a non-issue.

    Dee and Deb – thanks for keeping this SGM story in the limelight.

  5. Great job Phoenix. Are you in a supportive environment now? I know it’s a difficult process unpacking the unwanted baggage left over from the SGM “experience. ”

    So glad you were a witness to Noel’s side of the story.

  6. Phoenix, my sympathies. I know how toxic church environments mess with your mind and break your heart. One of the things I have come to believe is that if it doesn’t set you free, it isn’t the truth.

    A request to our blog queens: I don’t know if this is do-able, and totally understand if it can’t be done, but if we are going to follow these stories as they come out, it would be really helpful to those of us who have no connection to these places and people to have some sort of chart of these churches and their interconnections, and even more of these ministry ‘dudes’ who are key players: who’s got which role in what church and how they’re connected to each other. Otherwise this little black duck will never keep up with it. Besides, my experience is that sometimes when you diagram out these things (especially the lines of authority/influence) you start seeing links you hadn’t seen before.

    But I totally understand if that’s not on

  7. Lynne T, I believe that has been done. I did see something like that linked on survivors a while back. A sort of visual timeline. Perhaps they would allow TWW to link to it?

  8. I agree with Lynne. With the exception of ‘SGM’, I couldn’t keep abreast of all the acronyms in the above story.

  9. Phoenix, you are a very brave woman, and my hat's off to you for being so honest and shedding some light on what went on at FCC. (I have friends who were members back in your day, and who are there still… and I worry about them and their kids.)

    As for the content re. how FCC "handled" everything, am speechless.

    Re. your background (lead-up to involvement in FCC), we're all human and stories like yours are more common than anyone would ever guess (imo).

  10. Phoenix,

    Thank you for sharing your experience so transparently. I am keeping you and those hurt by SGM in my prayers.

  11. Thank you for the kind responses to my story!

    Muff and Lynne,
    Apologies and my bad on the acronyms and terminology. It should help to explain that both the church I was part of and the denomination have changed names. Fairfax Covenant Church or FCC is now Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax or SGCF. It is located in Fairfax, Virginia. People of Destiny Internation or PDI is now Sovereign Grace Ministries — SGM. Home group is/was also called care group and was a local group that met together regularly in the evening for fellowship and later for rehashing the week’s message. You might call them the cells of the church. Each home group had a leadership couple and those couples along with the pastoral staff were the elite of the church. Each member of the pastoral staff (except the Senior Pastor) was responsible for a geographical area of home groups called a sphere.

    The hierarchy within the church, then, was Senior Pastor and wife, Pastors and wives, home group leaders and wives, folks.

    Above the local church level it was CJ, then regional “Apostles” who oversaw groups of local churches.

    Fairfax Covenant Church was one of the founding churches of People of Destiny along with Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. They were two of the largest and most influential. CJ Mahaney was Senior Pastor of Covenant Life for many years and was nominally a member until he left after the scandal broke in 2011. Covenant Life was also the home church of Larry Tomczak. Larry was part of Fairfax for a while in the 90′s as well. Covenant Life has just voted to leave SGM (formerly PDI) and I believe that Fairfax is to vote to finalize their departure from SGM this month.

    Fairfax and Covenant Life pastors were named in the lawsuit and the three young plaintiffs were part of those churches. There are many more stories involving those and other churches.

    Eagle, I’m not free to say much more about the wife of the shunned individual who committed suicide. She was a lot easier to like than he was. His undeniably bizarre and inappropriate behavior and her ability to manipulate with her (literal and figurative) big blue eyes caused people (God help me, including myself) to take her side. She was also very, very cooperative with the leadership–very good at playing the game. He was unable or unwilling to play the game.

  12. Eagle, that is very encouraging to hear and I wish you peace as well. I admire your active seeking of truth!

    Evie, thank you for asking. I am one of the nones and may very well stay that way; but my relationship with God is the center of my life. I was raised in church and sometimes I miss it. I have a good job where I can make a positive difference and good friends, including my grown daughters.

    I want to add here, as well, that my long-term singleness and celibacy is not a result of God’s inattention :) but part of his specific purpose for my life and a calling. Aloneness is one of the things that many people (Christians definitely included) prefer to remain invisible; because it’s uncomfortable. It’s my fearful joy to demonstrate that life can be full and that I am complete. I definitely don’t have everything I want but I have everything I need.

  13. Phoenix, thank you for sharing your story. It will encourage others hopefully to stand on the “right” side!

    It makes me so mad when so many leaders try and keep things quiet, brush it up under the rug. Finally people will trip over that rug that is hiding so many lies! As painful as all of this can be for those who have suffered in the SGM situation, I am so grateful for this blog and the other places where the truth can be told! Letting the light shine in the dark places will bring freedom to those who have been hurt.

    I am also a None and may stay that way too. I was a single mother for about 10 years and the things I saw and the way I was treated was horrible. I am now remarried recently and have two boys still in the home. But I can relate to your satisfaction of your singleness. I lived my life as making the best of where I was at and enjoying all that was around me. It has almost been a year since I walked out of the doors of a Reformed Pres. Church in Fayetteville, NC. I too can relate to the system, small groups led by certain leaders and the cover ups. I am so thankful to be out and I am so glad to have found this blog and other groups I can fellowship with.

    You and all that have to walk through the pain of any type of abuse from so called Christian leaders are in my thoughts!

  14. Phoenix, thank you so much! As a non-American (Australian, actually) I try hard to keep abreast of what goes on in the USA, because it really does have a trickle down effect to the rest of the English speaking world. Piper and Driscoll (and, to a lesser extent CJ) are well known in Sydney evangelical circles. Besides, I know something from first-hand experience about abusive churches, and if there's one thing that angers me more than injustice and abuse in general, it's injustice and abuse committed in the name of Jesus!!

  15. Phoenix – thank you for posting your story.

    While the main (and most important) point is your commentary on Noel’s terrible story and the SGM child abuse cover-up scandal, I have to say that your description of the treatment of and attitudes toward single career women in the evangelical church is spot on.

  16. I realized during a bit of a restless night that there is an inaccuracy above. I did go back once for an exit interview with Mark Mullery. A description of that would be tedious, I think. Standard SGM stuff.

    The only interesting thing about it is that just days after my last Sunday at Fairfax I collapsed at work and spent five days in the hospital being tested from my scalp to my toenails. (I was and am fine–I just fainted.) Didn’t hear one word from anyone in Fairfax except Noel and the other friend I mention in the story. As a result of that incident, I couldn’t drive for six months and had to take a cab to and from the Fairfax building for the interview. No one offered to pay for it or to meet me somewhere closer. No surprises there, either. (This is me shaking my head:)

  17. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    We believe these stories that we post have a ring of authenticity to them. Time will tell. Could these stories really be a vast conspiracy against the leadership of SGM? We doubt it. Dee hates conspiracy theories. Are we part of a conspiracy?
    By the axioms of Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory, yes you are.
    Anyone who denies The Conspiracy is part of The Conspiracy.
    Anyone who doubts The Conspiracy is part of The Conspiracy.
    Any evidence against The Conspiracy PROVES The Conspiracy.
    Lack of evidence for The Conspiracy PROVES The Conspiracy.
    “If your Conspiracy Theory doesn’t fit the facts, Invent a Bigger Conspiracy.” — Kooks Magazine
    “The Dwarfs are for The Dwarfs! We Won’t Be Taken In!”
    – C.S.Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia, Volume 7: The Last Battle

    Since I don’t believe in Conspiracy Theory either, I guess that makes me part of the conspiracy?

  18. Eagle

    The church, in ages past, has been known for its willingness to sacrifice themselves in situations such as the plague. Leprosy was another disease that some Christians willingly sacrificed themselves to care for the afflicted. I think the thing that surprises me the most is the unwillingness of today’s church members to even reach out to victims of abuse in their own churches, like SGM. When these things are hushed up, iti s for the benefit of the pastors ONLY. By their insistence on secrecy, they serve themselves. Well, they are now being served-by the court system and they must tell the truth or perjure themselves, before the law and God.

  19. Phoenix wrote:

    Home group is/was also called care group and was a local group that met together regularly in the evening for fellowship and later for rehashing the week’s message. You might call them the cells of the church. Each home group had a leadership couple and those couples along with the pastoral staff were the elite of the church. Each member of the pastoral staff (except the Senior Pastor) was responsible for a geographical area of home groups called a sphere.
    The hierarchy within the church, then, was Senior Pastor and wife, Pastors and wives, home group leaders and wives, folks.
    Above the local church level it was CJ, then regional “Apostles” who oversaw groups of local churches.

    This sounds very much like the organizational structure of the Boston Movement, a branch of the Churches of Christ. I was part of the group they morphed from, the Crossroads Movement (I now attend a mainstream Church of Christ in the Atlanta area.)

  20. Eagle

    That comment in Google review needs to be highlighted-”the cult around the corner.” I think everyone in Fairfax probably knows to which church it refers.

  21. Eagle

    The worst thing anyone can do is to post the stories of SGM. This morning I listened to John Stossel who said that blogs are trumping all of the major news services. He alos said that blogs bring more depth to the stories since they are often run by people who understand, personally, the subject matter. The best thing we can do is shine a light into SGM via making this forum available for those deeply woudned to tell their stories.

    I also have one thing to say to the SGM pastors and hired guns who are reading this. Go ahead-go after the families who have been wounded. You will be deeply wounded in the court of public opinion. The Detweiler documents are deeply embarrassing. I do not know how men like Mahaney can go on pretending that all is well. I also do not know how his fanboys continue to prop him up. if I were you, I would come clean, say that I am sorry, resign and go slinking off into your nice house and spend a few years figuring out how you turned  God’s ministry into this mess.

  22. “I do not know how men like Mahaney can go on pretending that all is well. I also do not know how his fanboys continue to prop him up.” – dee

    Do they not have consciences or any fear of God?

    Aargh… and now they are coming to South Africa to peddle their toxic brand of Christianity.

    http://www.rezolution.co.za/Home.html

  23. MM – AARGH indeed!

    Despite the little Union Jack that somehow popped up today on my post (must be that my VSAT service provider is U.K. based) I’m located on the African continent (note: “Africa” is not a country!).

    Anyway, I have a lot of great friends in South Africa who may get adverts for the “Rez” conference series – if I get the opportunity to talk to them about it, I’ll be sure to send a link to TWW. In the interests of being “fair and balanced” don’t ya know.

  24. Phoenix — thank you. How brave to share that you were not the perfect goody-two-shoes before coming to SGM. Most SGM’ers I know have sanitized their pasts, and they certainly sanitize their present, because anybody with problems is NSE, to coin another acronym, Not Spirtual Enough.

    Care groups/home groups were also called cell groups for a while at our local SGM, which sounded awfully cold and prison-like to me. They went back to using ‘care group’ when the word ‘cell’ began to carry a militant connotation. The last time I attended one, the cold, prison-like cell term fit perfectly as they went around the circle asking people to confess sins. Everybody squirmed, trying to think of a sin that was so innocuous it made them look good.

    Eagle asked why a business owner didn’t just hire on qualifications. Well, in the SGM mindset of building a theocratic society, being an SGM’er WAS a qualification. So sad — God has placed talents in every person, whether they’re Christian or not, whether they’re SGM or mainline Christians. Would you rather be operated on by the non-Christian surgeon who is the best in the world at his craft, or by the Christian who was at the bottom of his med school class and whose is a surgical novice? Interestingly, some people think that the Christian is somehow a better choice. Personally, I’d rather have the guy who is best at his job, knowing that God has gifted him — but if he’s a praying Christian, too, that’s even better.

    Again, Phoenix, thank you. You’re not alone, and you’re not crazy!

  25. Phoenix -

    Thanks you for sharing your story. I’m sure it is never easy to recount that painful time, and I’m not assuming the pain is always in the past. There are so many things that are concerning about your story. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised (but I am), in light of how the stories continued to unfold for Noelle’s family and many other people in PDI/SGM. I’m sorry for all the pain. I pray that it will be turned to good in your life.

  26. Nickname, sharing that history wasn't exactly easy to do; but I thought it was important to be transparent. I was telling Noel that some of the more dramatic and complex stories just don't leave room for much backstory; and mine did. People need to be reminded that we didn't just pop into existence at the door of an SGM church (or out of existence when we left one, for that matter :); but had histories and issues.

    You said "trying to think of a sin that was so innocuous it made them look good." Oh, wow, was that a favorite game; especially among the elite. I can remember hearing a pastor's wife confess in heartfelt tones, near tears, that she had longstanding sin. It was doing a little something selfish every day. Actually, that sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

  27. A Survivor friend and I have a phrase for that "not spiritual enough" mindset. It is "holier than Jesus." Towards the end of my time at Fairfax the last of my Home Group leaders decided to step down. When his wife was saying her "parting words," she said that she couldn't deal with the pressure of being an HG leader's wife because she could see the sin (and potential sin) in the hearts of others so clearly and they wouldn't listen to her when she told them how to fix it. In other words, she was just too holy for the job. Sheesh.

  28. dee wrote:

    The court system might help in the humility department.

    I can just see Cee Jay sending his armorbearers into court before Him, blowing long trumpets to announce How Humble He Is.

  29. Phoenix,

    It is important to be transparent with the story and even the backstory. If you aren’t they will make sure everyone knows of it to marginalize the person and distract from their own wrong doing. But it is also hard and awkward. I cannot thank you enough for being so brave. A lot of people victimized/deceieved in these systems just walk away at some point and never warn others. So, I thank you.

  30. “The court system might help in the humility department.”

    I doubt if it will get there but I am wondering if the curricula of the Pastors college will come into play with the depositions. Where did the SGM pastors learn what they taught and advised the victims? Was it unwritten policy? Was it a result of the belief in total depravity after claiming to be born again and that all sins are equal so the victim must forgive right way, too? Can SGM claim this was their religious beliefs and get by with it?

  31. Anon 1 -

    From what I have gathered about SGM pastors college training, counseling is not addressed in much detail. How could it be in a nine month timeframe? It is mainly addressed from the standpoint of getting at people’s sin issues — no surprise there. When you combine the lack of training in the area of counseling, the young (inexperienced) age of many graduates, and the teachings from CJ and others against secular counseling of any kind, you have created breeding grounds for harming people.

  32. Anon 1,
    Re being transparent, you are quite right about the marginalizing. One of the backup stories in the lawsuit (in the class action portion) is that of a wife who was directed by SGM leaders (at the Sterling church, I think, or maybe Fairfax, or both) to allow her husband to stay in the home after he molested her young daughter. She was told to have sex with him more frequently (which she did, and vomited afterward) and to put a lock on the inside of the child’s door. When she shared her story on SGM Survivors under a pseudonym she got a huge backlash because her current lifestyle is not conventional. Numerous people e-mailed Kris at Survivors to report on it and former in-laws made public accusations and harassed her.

    I decided that if folks desire to judge or marginalize me they can –I would just put it right out there.

  33. Phoenix: Thank you for your humility and courage. No one can marginalize the simple, honest truth!

  34. Nickname, good explanation for the SGM mindset about hiring and so forth. It was considered to be “holier” (or something) to go to a Christian doctor, or a Christian mechanic, or a Christian carpet cleaner…you get the picture. And in SGM, even a non-SGM Christian business was definitely second best. I remember hearing repeated laments about how Fairfax Covenant Church didn’t have a plumber. (Meaning as a member so other members wouldn’t have to use a questionable plumber.) Rant Alert! Businesses and books and music and theme parks and toys and radio shows and toilet paper are not Christian. People are (or not.) I talk this way, too (as above) for clarity, but it’s vacuous. I have issues with this to the point that if I see a fish on a business card or ad I tend to shy away. That’s terrible but true.

  35. “Christian” businesses: I remember going to a trade show for Christian-owned businesses (gag me now.) One very stern looking couple — not SGM, I’m thinking probably IFB, ran a booth that with a big sign over it that said, “Don’t you want your next general contractor to be a tithing Christian?”

    Uh, no, not necessarily. Basically, I want him to be able to build well, on time and on budget. So the fish on the business card, the sign, the truck, brings up mixed feelings in me. I’m glad they’re serious enough about faith to put it out there; but if they’re using it as a marketing tool, forget it.

  36. Phoenix wrote:

    Thank you for the kind responses to my story!
    Muff and Lynne,
    Apologies and my bad on the acronyms and terminology. It should help to explain that both the church I was part of and the denomination have changed names. Fairfax Covenant Church or FCC is now Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax or SGCF. It is located in Fairfax, Virginia.

    FYI, I just checked SGCF’s website and they still promote their affiliation with SGM.

  37. Phoenix,

    “…if I see a fish on a business card or ad I tend to shy away. That’s terrible but true.”
    ***********

    Not terrible at all (at least where you’re’ concerned). The “fish” says that quality of workmanship, skill, and service do not factor in to how they win their business.

    That’s the terrible part.

  38. Tina
    This sounds very much like the organizational structure of the Boston Movement, a branch of the Churches of Christ. I was part of the group they morphed from, the Crossroads Movement (I now attend a mainstream Church of Christ in the Atlanta area.)

    I thought of this movement as well, since I have a family member in it. The ICOC seems to have lost the hierarchy and gone more mainstream over the last 10 years, but the home/cell/care group as discipleship nanny is still alive and well. I saw this SGM-like statement from deposed head eVangelist Kip McKean (now leading the ICC as the “sold-out” remnant of the Boston movement) describing an apostate leader gone “astray” into “crumbling” and “dead” mainstreamism: ” (he) came out and vehemently opposed a central leadership with a central leader for a family of churches.” Family of churches… Hmmm where have I heard that before?

  39. singleman

    Rumor has it that they are on their way out the door (SGCF). Is it true? My understanding is that after CLC, Fairfax was the most influential SGM church. Is that a correct assumption.

  40. When my Dad did real estate, he hated working for the Christians, they were the most likely to try to get a deal. We are subcontractors and we find a lot of that too. My husband and I try to do the opposite of getting a deal, we want to make sure everyone gets what they worked for. The church itself when they hire tend to be very scrimpy when they should be the most generous. I remember one church that my husband painted, wasn’t even our church, they paid him minus 10 percent for the tithe!

  41. Nickname

    True story. I called a painter 20 years ago because he had a fish symbol in his ad. I asked him if he was a Christian and he went on and on about his faith. Well ,he sanded and repainted our cabinets and you would not believe how awful they looked. When I confronted him about it, he said “It was Satan. Satan caused it to look like that!” I fired him and got a really nice Hindu guy who knew how to paint.

  42. I believe it was shared on SGM Survivors that Fairfax will be voting this month; although I may have the timing wrong. When Covenant Life Church did it; the Pastors shared their recommendation of separating from SGM with the congregation at a family meeting and announced the dates and process for the vote to affirm that decision (or not, of course.) I think a similar process is taking place at Fairfax. It’s certainly worth noting that this doesn’t indicate that the culture at Fairfax has changed. It might, but I think it’s more likely that Mark Mullery, Dave and Vince Hinders, Lou Gallo, et al. have decided that SGM is a liability and they’re big enough to go it alone. They’ve certainly demonstrated no real repentance for their horrible actions in the cases of Noel and HappyMom.

  43. Phoenix

    Repentance is only for the little guy in SGM. Mullery, Gallo, et al, should be ashamed of themselves.

     Maybe they will be more ashamed when they go before a judge? How about having their names put in a newspaper article, along with the description of what went on under their watch? I wonder if the stories will be picked up by Bill O’Reilly who hates people who do not deal strongly with child abuse? 

    My guess is that they are having trouble sleeping at night, right guys?

  44. elastigirl wrote:

    “…if I see a fish on a business card or ad I tend to shy away. That’s terrible but true.”
    ***********
    Not terrible at all (at least where you’re’ concerned). The “fish” says that quality of workmanship, skill, and service do not factor in to how they win their business.

    Only “I’m one of Your Tribe.” (With the possible corollary of “You don’t want God to PUNISH you for Heathen contamination, do you?”)

  45. dee wrote:

    True story. I called a painter 20 years ago because he had a fish symbol in his ad. I asked him if he was a Christian and he went on and on about his faith. Well ,he sanded and repainted our cabinets and you would not believe how awful they looked. When I confronted him about it, he said “It was Satan. Satan caused it to look like that!” I fired him and got a really nice Hindu guy who knew how to paint.

    So the guy was channeling Flip Wilson’s Geraldine: “THE DEBBIL MADE ME DO IT!”

  46. Dee – It’s always about sin – not theirs – the sin of the person asking for help or bringing up issues. I’m sure SGM leaders are praying for all those suing them – - – that they (survivors) would repent, that God would show them the error of their (the survivors’) ways.

    Same story, just change the church name . . yada yada.

  47. “Anon 1…why don’t you think this will get to court?”

    I have been following SGM stuff for quite a while now. I read the wikileaks docs. CJ is one of the most slippery eels out there and I doubt much will happen to him personally as far as the lawsuit and paying out anything. Dimantling SGM means little. It is basically being dismantled anyway. CJ just starts another one in another city.

    Then as that does not grow he will hand what is left over to Mohler and poof, they are SBC. There will be fall guys who take the hit because CJ is only loyal to CJ and his family.

    CJ will obfuscate, shred documents, get character witnesses and lie his head off. CJ won’t go broke it just won’t be flowing in like it used to and my guess is he has made preparations for this long ago maybe even before he stepped down. CJ will do whatever it takes to keep CJ from ever going on a witness stand to be cross examined publicly. My guess is that the depositions won’t see the light of day. Brunson’s were never made public. It was part of the deal.

    I still cannot understand the folks who think he is a minister just because he calls himself one.

  48. Eagle, one more thing. I learned a while back that when it comes to mega ministry the guy at the top has plenty of “cushion” layers when it comes to this stuff. That is why I asked about the pastors college curricula.

    Amazing how often they plead ignorance on CERTAIN things while enjoying the benefits of being the king.

  49. Dimantling SGM means little. It is basically being dismantled anyway. CJ just starts another one in another city.

    Humbly, of course.

    CJ will obfuscate, shred documents, get character witnesses and lie his head off.

    With Godly Humbleness, of course.

  50. Dee, I never thought of suing, now that I think about it, we should have told our church to sue that church for stealing our church’s tithe, lol.

  51. Oh my, friends. Do NOT get me started on “Christian” businesses. Quite frankly, I believe “business” is one reason mega churches became so popular in the 90′s.

  52. Numo

    Rats deserting a sinking ship is a phrase tha comes to mind. Some rats may not want to be burdened with the other rats luggage. Anyone who does not go all out to reach out to victims of abuse is a rat. One local woman said  she wasn’t “called” to be concerned about boys who were injured by a pedophile. I decided that I wasn’t called to be a friend of anyone who believes that God makes such a “call.” 

  53. Eagle/Former SGM members

    I bet that there are many “leaders” who not only know damaging information but my also have been part of the problem and are covering up baggage in their own lives. Does anyone know when SGM started doing background checks for childrens’ volunteers and pastors? When they finally started doing them, did they do them on people who were already working? If there were any questionable checks, was the membership informed?

  54. HUG

    He totally freaked me out. I haveheard a lot of excuses in my life, that was the first time I heard that one outside of a comedy forum. 

  55. “One local woman said she wasn’t “called” to be concerned about boys who were injured by a pedophile. I decided that I wasn’t called to be a friend of anyone who believes that God makes such a “call.”

    Oh my. I thought I was the only one who was told something similar by a friend who wanted to look the other way when someone was being spiritually abused badly. She told me she was not ‘called’ to call out or confront pastors. I could not believe it. She is not my enemy but, like you, no longer called to be friends. I do not consider such thinking ‘safe’.

  56. @Eagle – I will pray for you in your request for the truth and for peace. I have been a Christian for many years, but lately peace in my faith eludes me. Hopefully it’ll return through participating in blogs like this. I am currently attending a church where, even if I don’t comprehend or absorb everything, I always leave feeling uplifted, so I feel I am going in a positive direction.

    **********

    As for avoiding Christians who have businesses. I have a similar type of story. I used to work with children with disabilities in peoples’ homes. Often my coworkers and I worked with Christian families, and they were often the ones who had crazy issues that embarassed the heck out of me (e.g. extreme submission, feeling like the government was out to get to you and refusing to sign paperwork to get services for their children, etc.) I ended up hating working with the Christians. However, in my current job in SE WAshington, D.C., the people who don’t have two nickels to rub together and profess to know the Lord are often the ones who really have the true faith.

  57. Anon1

    Just to give you a bit of hope on the lawsuit situation, all is not yet revealed. We will keep everyone posted as events unfold. I would not want to be the one to handle the press situation for SGM this year.

  58. There was a guy at Covenant Life Church who hadn’t been married long to a single gal who was closely connected to several families in “leadership.” I didn’t know him but I got the impression he was determined to make an impression. He was put in charge of a great big Valentine’s Day Dinner at the church which I helped serve at. I happened to be attending his table and I was taken aback by how exacting and demanding he was. He seemed really wound up.

    Not too long after this I learned he had committed suicide, which of course was sad to hear and shocking. I mentioned this to a caregroup leaders wife, how sad it was…and she abruptly stopped me and asked where I had heard that. I honestly didn’t recall who had then she said angrily, “You aren’t supposed to know anything about that, that’s just for people in leadership to be aware of.” I thought…what is her problem??

    Apparently the leadership wanted to keep his suicide a secret – super hush, hush – so people wouldn’t talk about it (he hung himself in the woods.) But I found out he had been bi-polar. And at that time, Covenant Life Church had just completed a loooong series on the evils of the “Therapeutic Movement” discouraging members from seeing professional counselors & taking medication, claiming it all was “incompatible with the gospel.” I had a Pastor say to me, after my doctor had recommended I take anti-depressants, “You know, all the medical community can offer you is drugs. That’s it.” So I took Zoloft for three days and stopped I felt so conflicted.

    My guess is that’s what happened to this bright, young, ambitious bi-polar guy. I think I encountered him in a manic state the night I served his table. He was probably off his medication. I’m guessing the influence of the church was a huge factor in why he committed suicide. He was probably getting a lot of grief for his condition. And the leadership wanted to cover it up so they wouldn’t be implicated in his demise. True story.

  59. Evie -

    That is so incredibly sad. Mental illness is so very difficult on those who have it and those who love them. There is no easy fix for any of it. I can’t imagine the leaders of CLC having a clue how to help anyone inflicted with mental health issues.

  60. I’m so glad I’m a cold fish New Englander. I always envied those big churches in the South, but NO MORE! I’m so sorry you had to go through such pain in the name of Christ. Makes my problems seem minuscule.

  61. I try with great discipline to avoid posting these days but I need to say how blessed and proud I am to be Phoenix’s friend. Phoenix, I wanted to share the closing line from your exit letter to SGM. I hope you don’t mind. I am not sure who is credited with the original quote but with dignity and humility you reminded the pastors…..

    “‘Christ endured three humiliations, the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the church’. I am part of the later and so are you.”

    You always were classy!

  62. Patti wrote:

    When my Dad did real estate, he hated working for the Christians, they were the most likely to try to get a deal. We are subcontractors and we find a lot of that too. My husband and I try to do the opposite of getting a deal, we want to make sure everyone gets what they worked for. The church itself when they hire tend to be very scrimpy when they should be the most generous. I remember one church that my husband painted, wasn’t even our church, they paid him minus 10 percent for the tithe!

    Did you take him to small claims for the missing 10% ? I would.

  63. Phoenix, thank you for sharing your story. Every voice that bravely speaks up and shines light into the darkness causes the darkness to retreat just a little. The more that speak, the more it shrinks.

    As to the ‘Christian business’ thing. I have come to the place where I think that if someone feels the need to use ‘Christian’ logos to ‘brand’ their business, their conduct isn’t not to be trusted. The most dishonest, whiny, abusive experiences I have had with businesses were all ones that had ‘branded’ themselves ‘Christian.’ To me, the whole culture has turned God into a marketing tool to built your own empire. It is sick and I would not want to be in their shoes when they meet the One they claim to represent.

  64. Jeannette Altes wrote:

    As to the ‘Christian business’ thing. I have come to the place where I think that if someone feels the need to use ‘Christian’ logos to ‘brand’ their business, their conduct isn’t not to be trusted.

    Yes. Bible placed strategically on the desk upfront and in your face? Turn around and exit the building…

  65. @Evie – I believe there was a piece in the paper about that unfortunate circumstance so everyone knew about it. It was incredibly sad. Of course none of us know all the details. He could’ve been influenced by the messages (which were hard for me to hear, as I was going to counseling and taking medication at the time!) I want to say I heard that he had taken himself off his meds and that wasn’t advised by pastors, but who knows. I also heard that this incident forced CLC to rethink how they counsel people. They now have counselors who come to the church to meet with people.

  66. Oasis

    Be that as it may, it would still be good for this story to get out to the media. My point was not Bill O’Reilly specifically-fill in another name-Greta Van Sustren, Nancy Grace, The View whatever….Just get the story talked about.

  67. Evie

    I would like to get the particulars of the story on that poor man’s suicide to certain people. Can you email me with any info and I will fill you in?

  68. Phoenix,
    Thanks for clarifying the acronyms! Sorry to hear of all the spiritual abuse you’ve suffered under those particular religious regimes. I’ve often wondered what it is in the human psyche that causes people to abandon reason and allow themselves to be bullied and beaten down by aberrant religious teaching, rather than allowing Jesus himself to cultivate the divine patch of the dirt we’re made of so that the poisonous vines can’t take over.

    In my own journey out of fundamentalism (I spent nearly 20 yrs. in the Calvary Chapel cult) I’ve learned to live by a new credo:
    1) Be kind
    2) Do no hurt to others
    3) Let the Almighty sort out the details

  69. Dee, definitely agree! I just can never pass up a chance to speak up on Shawn’s behalf whenever O’Reilly is mentioned in a good light. Sorry!

  70. @ Evie:
    Have you shared this with the SGM victim’s lawyer? It may help their case – the amount of mind control the church had on it’s congregants. That said, I certainly know other churches were the congregation members have made disparaging remarks about psych medications/conditions – but if the leaders were speaking out against it, that could backfire on them, big time.

    I am worried Anon 1 may be right, and Cee Jay may not have to make a court appearance – wouldn’t want a stone left unturned in this debacle.

  71. Hi Former CLC,

    The conversation I had…wait, I can’t call it a conversation…it was a chastisement session…happened before the story hit the newspaper. It was clear to me CLC leadership did not want people talking about it. At. All.

    I would be curious to know at what point CLC “brought in” outside counselors to work with people. I was there for quite a while following the suicide and I was never aware of any outside counselors getting involved in ministering to members, and I would have known. And if that was the case, I can say with certainty no one knew or was made aware of this option, or knew of any form of counceling beside that offered by the Pastors alone. It doesnt make any sense either considering the climate at CLC. SGM Leadership thought they had a lock on everything “gospel” and I cannot imagine them opening themselves or their ministry up to anyone else from the outside, especially when getting in to the “inside circle” of leadership was so difficult, exclusive and demanding.

  72. Val, I havent thought about it and I admit it just came to mind as I was reading this thread of comments and Phoenix mentioned someone’s suicide. Then it jogged my memory. Do you think I should do that?

    Dee, sure thing

  73. Dee, I hope you are right! Does anyone know if they knew a lawsuit was coming before they fled to Louisville?

    I will be watching from this end on how many speaking gigs or appearances Mahaney has at SBTS.

    Perhaps for once and for all, we can prove Mohler has no discernment.

  74. @ Evie:

    Well, you could ask Dee how to e-mail the lawyer directly and let her decide if your story would help or not – she would keep it (names, details) confidential – so there is no threat and nothing lost if she chooses not to presue/ follow up. It just gives her a broader range to include in the submission of the case. I am not a lawyer by any stretch, but her job will be to show the court/judge the amount of control the church had over it’s parishioners – and that can come from sources beyond just sexual abuse. It paints a life inside the church others need to see.

    At least in Canada, few outside evangelicalism/charismatic churches see how much sway a leader really has – most people’s experience with churches is for weddings, funerals and Christmas (Easter too, if Catholic), so they don’t see how much time the average evangelical spends at extra-sabbath functions in a typical evangelical church. My grandparents – Anglicans – spent Sunday mornings at church, and maybe one other night a month, and that was normal for a full attender/member. When I became an evangelical, family members worried I was in a cult (I wasn’t) because of the number of extra church activities I participated in – Bible Studies, social events, etc. And that church (Alliance) didn’t even have church wide events like Valentine dinners, area pastors, or mandatory home group attendance.

    To outsiders, evangelical subculture looks like it takes over one’s social life – and that is the non-cultish groups. SGM and Mars Hill and some others not only provide extra sabbath venues, it seems they insist on them for membership. Essentially, they made all home-group leaders libel – since they forced members to be accountable to them, thus setting home-group leaders up as pastors.

    Oh, and Phoenix’s “HGL” reference was Home Group Leader – I caught that anacronym doing a read-over.

  75. Eagle – I too am leaning towards Mennonite Brethren right now (but the people sitting behind us last Sunday had a John Piper book at Church! Yikes!). One thing I would do, is try to only come to Sunday functions – maybe a Christmas dinner or something annual, at most -for a while. If the sermons help, draw you closer to God, etc. then it would be a good sign, whereas if everyone insists that the only way to grow is to go well beyond Sunday morning, I would take it as a red flag. The Sunday morning is a gathering of the body – if it isn’t honouring God, helping you in your growth, then more commitment is not the answer – a new church is.

    If we all insisted on this as a basic requirement, I suspect there would be far fewer Mega Pastors out there these days.

    Any church will feel wonderful if you find a great home-group and a great circle of friends, but Church is about rubbing shoulders with people you wouldn’t normally rub shoulders with. If your whole church looks like you, talks like you, works the same types of jobs as you – it will probably feel great even if they quote the Bhagavad Gītā, since, as I’ve posted before, we are tribal creatures, us humans and we like to belong in a group – instinctual nature from prehistoric hunting times. This is why these Mega churches focus on small groups, it makes people more committed, but the question for me is, more committed to what?

  76. “Why do I need Christianity at all?” – Eagle

    Eagle, my tuppence worth…. I don’t think you need Christianity at all but I believe you do need God in Christ. He is not bound to the bible, the church, or anything “Christian”…. He is not far from any one of us, He is nearer than our breath….

  77. Dee, wish I could’ve seen those Christian cabinets!

    In restaurants, it drives me crazy to see the way Christians do not tip. When they hold hands and pray, order nothing stronger than water to drink, it’s pretty obvious to the servers that they’re Christians. And then they don’t tip worth a flip — they probably think they’re being so careful with God’s money — but in reality, they’re missing a chance to bless a server and show God’s generosity and loving spirit.

  78. Nickname,
    Yes, and then we take up their tables for hours sometimes. If I do not order much to eat or drink I always tip per hour that I sit there gabbing and if my friends don’t do that just I tip theirs also as if they and I ate an average meal per hour. Oh, and also also detest public bowing to pray unless there is an urgent need. Every thing else feels like a show just so my Christian friends don’t judge me for not thanking God publicly for my meal.

  79. @Evie – in my circle of friends and acquaintances in CLC at the time this suicide happened, it was common knowledge. I’m not sure where the leaders were coming from. And what a horrible thing to not want people to know the facts, although perhaps it was to protect the wife. I know she really struggled, but last I knew was still at CLC.

    As far as the counselors at CLC, it has been in the last few years (5-6 at the most I”m thinking). One of the newer pastors (Don DeVries maybe is his name) has brought some more openness about this. My understanding is that they’re still biblical counselors, but my friend who has some personal experience with them and comes from a similar perspective as me on this subject has been really happy with them. I left CLC in 2000 and there was no openness on this topic, and it was one of the reasons I left.

  80. Anon 1,

    I can’t be sure, of course, but I don’t believe that the SGM corporate or the churches involved had any idea that the lawsuit was going to be filed(other than their constant CYA paranoia about being sued.) Those involved were very, very careful to keep it confidential. The only folks in THAT inner circle are those that have “earned” their way in by being victims or having earned the trust of people who don’t trust. Also, I think if SGM had known they would have tipped their hand in some way. As we’ve seen their arrogance leads them to be clumsy and transparently self-serving. I get the sense that all the “leaks” are going the other way (from SGM out) and I think they know it,too. I’ve heard that they’ve hired private investigators to try to find out who the “moles” inside SGM are.

    Again, I could be wrong, but I keep reading that a certain document or meeting is to be kept confidential (within the “family”) and then it is shared online. SGM leadership are in a tricky bind. They have to appear to be open with the remaining members (and maybe there is a degree of actual increased openness.) But there is a group of members still inside SGM who no longer feel guilty about making things public. I think their “gossip n slander” slugger baseball bat has lost a lot of its swing.

    That said, the folks involved in the lawsuit remain rightfully very cautious (and protective of their families.)

    Also, I think it’s very, very unlikely that the plaintiffs will accept an out-of-court settlement or any resolution that keeps things hidden. Their motivations is not financial. And, like TWW ladies and a lot of other people; I know that there are many stories that have not yet been told and will be told.

  81. Patti,

    Re tipping. What has been a wonderful surprise about posting my story and the ensuing discussion is how many of my other “pet” issues have come up independently. I remember an excruciating evening at a restaurant with some other SGM women when one of my companions insisted on “witnessing” to the waitress at some length. The poor girl was busy; she was clearly exhausted and wanted to finish her shift, close out, and go home to her kids. She was too polite to say so. It’s partly remembering that incident when I didn’t intervene that I now tip very, very well; especially if my friend(s)and I have taken up a table for a long time.

  82. I get the sense that all the “leaks” are going the other way (from SGM out) and I think they know it,too. I’ve heard that they’ve hired private investigators to try to find out who the “moles” inside SGM are.

    Phoenix

    It’s possible that the “moles” are within churches that have/are/might be leaving SGM. In that case, they won’t be privy to future information coming from SGM. I’m sure this will delight and relieve SGM. On the other hand, it will make them seem more like a cult than they already seem. And and as to the possible hiring of a private investigator — that’s starting to sound like Mafia talk. What would be the purpose of that? If they were behaving like a real church body, they would be totally transparent and everything would be open for people to see.

  83. Nickname wrote:

    In restaurants, it drives me crazy to see the way Christians do not tip. When they hold hands and pray, order nothing stronger than water to drink, it’s pretty obvious to the servers that they’re Christians. And then they don’t tip worth a flip — they probably think they’re being so careful with God’s money — but in reality, they’re missing a chance to bless a server and show God’s generosity and loving spirit.

    They say that Jerry Falwell made it a point to tip big in an attempt to make up for all of that. The staff at his favorite restaurants in Lynchburg really liked him because of his rep as a big tipper.

  84. “Again, I could be wrong, but I keep reading that a certain document or meeting is to be kept confidential (within the “family”) and then it is shared online. SGM leadership are in a tricky bind. They have to appear to be open with the remaining members (and maybe there is a degree of actual increased openness.) But there is a group of members still inside SGM who no longer feel guilty about making things public. I think their “gossip n slander” slugger baseball bat has lost a lot of its swing. ”

    yep. This is typical. A few wake up and think,’I have been givig my hard earned money to these folks’ and decide to have a ‘say’ in any way they can. Calling negative truths “gossip and slander” can only work so long before you need new recruits who will buy it for another 10-20 years before they wake up. It is always more cost effective in the long run to get rid of those who no longer drink all the kool aid.

  85. Eagle wrote:

    My SGM friend talking passionate with an elevated voice about how much he loves God and how his SGM church is different and the healthiest church he’s ever been a part of.

    As in “LONG LIVE BIG BROTHER! LONG LIVE BIG BROTHER!! LONG LIVE BIG BROTHER!!! THE CHOCOLATE RATION OF TWENTY GRAMS HAS BEEN INCREASED TO TEN GRAMS!!!! LONG LIVE BIG BROTHER!!!!! LONG LIVE BIG BROTHER!!!!!! LONG LIVE BIG BROTHER!!!!!!!”?

  86. Anon 1 wrote:

    Amazing how often they plead ignorance on CERTAIN things while enjoying the benefits of being the king.

    Just like classic Communists, where the guys on top in the Inner Party often went out of their way to be “just one of the Masses” in appearance while enjoying Absolute Power.

  87. Eagle, I don’t know the answer to that question except that you are correct and there is a lot going on. Susan Burke is a very savvy lawyer with a passion for human rights and I trust that her strategy will continue to be sound. I know that she asks for and receives a lot of feedback from the families involved. I think it was always clear that stories like those (once we knew there were several across more than one SGM church and spanning several years) were not isolated incidents but part of a pattern. That being true, I think it was predictable that more victims would come forward after the suit was initially filed. (I think that usually happens as with the Catholic Church and Penn State.) I also think even those of us who know there are many more stories will be surprised HOW many and I think there will be even worse revelations to come. I expect to be shocked and I don’t shock easily.

    Also, I believe that spousal abuse will become more of an issue as will the issue of suicides in which SGM is morally if not legally culpable. There are two of those mentioned just on this thread.

    Finally, I think everyone (like me) who shares their own story or even remembers and shares incidents (like Evie’s recollection of the Covenant Life coverup of a suicide) takes a lot of care with their knowledge. For example, I wouldn’t have been able to share my story in this form if Noel hadn’t chosen to share hers.

    This will be a big, big story in 2013.

  88. The fact that the plaintiff lawyer in this big case against SGM is a saavy woman totally amuses me. There is a poetic justice about it.

  89. Anon 1 wrote:

    The fact that the plaintiff lawyer in this big case against SGM is a saavy woman totally amuses me. There is a poetic justice about it.

    Yeah. I’d like to see the SGM pastors demand she keep silent in court because she’s a woman. (Humbly, of course.)

  90. Phoenix, etc.

    Is there a danger in compromising the case by not keeping cards close to one’s chest here?

  91. Elastigirl,that is a great question.
    Yes, I get that impression. And I don’t mean to imply that I know a lot of super-secret stuff, any more than any of us knows things we hold in confidence. What I share is mostly just my own logical conclusions/opinions from what I’ve heard and observed. I find it a bit darkly amusing that the people inside SGM who DO know the stories that haven’t been made public are probably shaking in their boots. In any case, I think we can all be encouraged that SGM is going to be sifted to the very bottom and many, many things that were done in the dark will be dragged out into the light. And I think there will be a ripple effect that will effect the whole American evangelical church.

  92. “…many things that were done in the dark will be dragged out into the light. And I think there will be a ripple effect that will effect the whole American evangelical church.”
    ***********

    Deep sigh, daring myself some degrees of preliminary satisfaction.

  93. Eagle, no apology necessary. Your skepticism is probably merited. In any case, it’s yours! Good people have always agonized over why the wicked prosper and, so often, continue and continue to prosper. I do, too. There’s a line I love in Tolkien, Galadriel the elven queen speaking to the wizard Gandalf, “Together… we have fought the long defeat,” and another, Gandalf, speaking to Frodo about the history of the One Ring, refers to “great deeds…not wholly vain.” Maybe that’s something even a skeptic can hold on to along with an optimist like me, that whatever happens to SGM in the next couple of years, good people will continue fighting the long defeat and their deeds (prayers,tears,faith,risks, sacrifices) will not be wholly in vain!

  94. Phoenix

    The story:Far bigger than the ever silent TGC could have ever imagined. The silence about the victims continues. At this rate, they will look like schmucks if they do not ackowledge there is a problem. Instead it appears that TGC and all of their friends are totally, absolutely, resolutely, indubitably pretending it does not exist.

    In the meantime,  a few of the boys will write some more articles why all of these guys are just super duper. And the girls at Girl Talk will be so grateful. And Mahaney and wife will tweet some more about how they start their day with all of their buddies at TGC. 

    They will stand before God one day and give an account as to why they ignored the cries of the wounded. Shame on all of them.

  95. Dee,
    Ah, yes, they’re all so grateful. Such a shame — anytime I hear someone say they’re ‘grateful’ these days, I wonder if they come from an SGM background.

  96. Eagle

    I think that you want to say that you want to see SGM brought to justice and the polity that contributes to silent suffering destroyed. I would have no problem with SGM if they were a loving, supportive church environment that stressed kindness and teaching as opposed to the “dirty rotten sinner” approach. It is my hope that the SGM churches who are leaving the “family” will become that sort of a church environment. 

    Such a change happened in the World Wide Church of God which I consider a stunning turnabout that happened in our life time. You can read about it on Wikipedia but here is an excerpt. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Communion_International

    Founded in 1934 by Herbert W. Armstrong as a religious broadcasting radio ministry named Radio Church of God, the Worldwide Church of God had a significant, and often controversial, influence on 20th century religious broadcasting and publishing in the United States and Europe, especially in the field of interpreting biblical end-time prophecies. Within a few years after Armstrong’s death in 1986, the succeeding church administration modified the denomination’s doctrines and teachings to be compatible with mainstreamevangelical Christianity, while many members and ministers left and formed other churches that conformed to most, if not all, of Armstrong’s teachings. In 2009, the church adopted its current name.

  97. Dee,
    I have personal experience with the WCG as I began attending in the late 80′s here in Canada and saw first hand the changes. The understanding of grace has been a wonderful gift and the interviews with many theologians on the “You’re Included” page on the website are a great resource.
    I had been raised in the Mennonite Brethren church for the first 12 years of my life and looking back the leagalism and shaming there at the time in the 60′s was not healthy. After separating from my stepfather, my mom and we 3 kids attended several denominations until she decided on an AOG church. I was a “none” until I began attending the WCG in my thirties but I think God brings us each on a journey with lots of turns along the way and all of our experiences contribute to who he is making us to be for his kingdom.

  98. Former CLC’er, thanks for the reply. Somehow I’m not surprised the wife is still at CLC considering the intensive “therapy” they gave her. Did she remarry, do you know?

    With all the hardcore Mahaney/SGM loyalists that remained in CLC after the departure of the Mahaney Clan, I cannot imagine that CLC will go through any kind of real turn-around. Plus, I’m no fan of Josh Harris. I have to question the courage of his convictions. There’s not enough evidence to suggest he’s made a clean break. On the contrary, for years he was CJ’s Yes Man, willingly going along with it all. CLC is too full of Troglodytes.

  99. Dee, you asked about when SGM started doing background checks. I’m not sure about corporate, but I remember that our local then-PDI church started doing background checks on Children’s ministry and nursery workers around 1991 at the urging of the couple who voluntarily ran the children’s ministry program. However, 1 guy who later became a perp passed the check because he had no previous record. The other two local perps would not have passed; however, they did not sign up for any kind of official position, so no checks were done. Both were previous offenders; one with family members and the other as a teacher/coach. Both of those are in prison today, but one is subject to release in a week or two after serving 20 years.

  100. @Evie – yes the widow did remarry. Not sure if they’re still at CLC.
    Most of the folks I’ve talked to are happy that CLC has left SGM, but I was talking to a few last night who aren’t, so who knows what’ll happen with the church.

    @Dee – I sent you an email about the suicide at CLC; not sure if you received it.

  101. About the Worldwide Church of God, I have a good friend who was involved in that group, and the transformation was truly amazing. Interesting that the friend left that church and went into CLC. I guess once a legalist, you’re drawn to those environments.

  102. “With all the hardcore Mahaney/SGM loyalists that remained in CLC after the departure of the Mahaney Clan, I cannot imagine that CLC will go through any kind of real turn-around. Plus, I’m no fan of Josh Harris. I have to question the courage of his convictions. There’s not enough evidence to suggest he’s made a clean break. On the contrary, for years he was CJ’s Yes Man, willingly going along with it all. CLC is too full of Troglodytes.”

    Evie, this is the part that blows my mind after all that has happened and what folks should have learned they would even consider that Josh has made some huge change. This was how he was raised in the same environment. Can they not see that much of what took place was simply his breaking with CJ slowly. Many protege’s do that with mentors. CJ is not a mentor one moves on from willingly. This is why I have a hard time reading over at survivors. I don’t think most of them are really out of the cult thinking at all.

  103. @ dee:

    I had friends who had been educated at one of the WWCoG in E. Texas. They really knew the OT but had little understanding of the NT, prior to coming to the realization that they had been terribly mislead and mistaught. I met them in a CBF church, and they both subsequently got degrees from Truett Seminary at Baylor. He pastored in a Texas Baptist church for a while and they are now Baptist missionaries.

  104. @ Anon 1:
    I know what you mean, I do think though, that a few of their liberated commenters tirelessly try to get the others to see where the cult mentality is still entrenched in their thinking. So many wise bloggers have come through there, tried to help, get exhausted and move on, even ones who have been pastors of these kinds of cults and have repented and try to tell them exactly what is going on in the hearts of these leaders.
    Sometimes I wonder how many people were constantly told that people who were mean to them when they were little didn’t really mean what they said or did. I think that is a mistake that we as parents make in trying to protect our little one’s hearts against bullies but in doing so we don’t neglect to teach them discernment of character and they grow up trusting too much.

  105. Former

    I did. i plan to write back soon after I process something. I have a couple of questions.

  106. Doubtful- I’ve downloaded that book- looks interesting!

    Have you ever read “The Visitation” by Peretti? It manages to capture many, many ways in which people do churches wrong, including the “make it a business with no real message” church.

  107. I have read the Visitation as well. Have any of you read Peretti’s short autobiography. He suffered from a rare condition, I forget the name, of the lymphatic system which caused his tongue to swell and ooze. It was called The Wounded Spirit. He used the pain he experienced in this condtion to help him write his books.

    I am anticpating that some might point out problems with Peretti’s theology. However, I will temporarily suspend my exacting theological standards for the higher goal of a good read. (Dee ducks…incoming……)

  108. I’m sure I’d disagree with a lot of Peretti’s theology, and honestly I haven’t been a fan of a lot of his books, but in The Visitation he deals with very difficult subjects (getting burned and abused by the church, and dealing with suffering) and gets it right. Whatever else he does, the protagonist in the story is about real changes in real lives through the love of Jesus. That speaks volumes to me (honestly, I cannot read the majority of Christian fiction, so The Visitation is a large exception for me).

  109. @ dee: Have you ever read any of his early books? They are REALLY awful, from both a theological and literary standpoint.

    And i cannot begin to tell you how much influence they’ve had in NAR/third wave/strategic-level spiritual warfare circles. it’s sickening, as people treat the stories as if they were factual. (I know, I know…)

  110. I agree with numo that his earlier books were awful theology in so many ways. He’s also a bad actor, especially his ill conceived children’s video series.

  111. Numo, I read his early books and while I thought they were a bit silly, I didn’t see there being much theology in the, at all. That is, I really just saw them as books with a pseudo Biblical fantasy element. From what I understood, Peretti didn’t intend people to take those books as manuals in spiritual warfare, though that’s what a lot of people turned them into.

    I do remember reading The Visitation and being so impressed that I bought all his other books and just read them through really quickly. At some point I realized I wasn’t enjoying them very much at all. I think there’s something in the Visitation that was from a different place than the rest of his books- like he was tapping into something very personal. So many of the stories about how the protagonist was burned in churches that were focused on ungodly things or overly spiritualized things just resonated with me.

  112. doubtful

    I totally agree that the theology was bad. That being said, I found This Present Drakness a scary read even if I disagreed with the premise.  I once read a fantasy book involving a being called a Nephilim. Now, I do not agree with the theology that there are half demon, half human beings running around the earth. But, the book was fun, albeit ridiculous.

  113. Not to change the subject, but is anyone else having trouble accessing the SGM Survivors site.

    Just wondering if anyone knows what’s up?

  114. doubtful/Bridget

    I just tried with 3 different browsers and I can’t access it either.

    Bridget-do you know what is happening?