The New Church Militant:  Why the Wheaton Summit on Sex Abuse Is Doomed Before It Even Starts

  “The only summit meeting that can succeed is the one that does not take place.” —Barry Goldwater

This post was a collaborative effort between Dee Parsons and Ryan Ashton.

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December 1st, a group known as The Media Project posted an article titled, “Protestants also face #ChurchToo scandals. Reporters: Here’s a Handy Way to Assess Them” authored by Richard Ostling. Upon further investigation I wasn’t surprised by the tone of negativity—noticed by many others—given The Media Project’s ties to a tribe with which we have history.

The central claim in Ostling’s piece is that yours truly, and others I work with in the advocacy community, are “militant” and untrustworthy sources of information on abuse in the Church. I was called “sharp elbowed,” but there were no corresponding quotes or explanation for that pejorative. In contrast, “mainstream” organizations, such as the upcoming Wheaton Summit on Church Abuse, were presented as better alternatives.

We will examine those claims, but first, some context.

What is The Media Project?

Before we begin, let’s examine The Media Project itself.

According to their website:

“The Media Project is a network of mainstream journalists who are pursuing accurate and intellectually honest reporting on all aspects of culture, particularly the role of religion in public life in all corners of the world. TMP welcomes friends from other faiths to join us in our discussions and training.”

There is a great need for an entity such as The Media Project since I like the idea of accurate and intellectually honest reporting. I am disappointed, however, in their failure to exercise basic journalism before writing about me or the organizations I work with.

For example, I have been studying the Christian counseling movement for some time. Go to this post and see how I quote directly from their materials.  In fact, I received correspondence from academics thanking me for using the exact words of those within the movement to define what it is I am talking about. It’s not just journalistic integrity—it’s good manners.

The partners of The Media Project/Joe Carter

Regular readers know that I regularly write posts which encourage people to read the websites of religious organizations prior to visiting in order to avoid unforeseen problems. So, I decided to look at the partners of The Media Project to investigate why the tone and negativity towards us. It is very quickly apparent that the journalists of this organization might be relying upon the information given to them by their partners.

The aforementioned tweet from Scottie Day was rather remarkable since Joe Carter, the editor of The Gospel Coalition, is involved with the Acton Institute as a Senior Fellow. Joe Carter is also a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, as well as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicatorand an editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible.

For those unaware of Joe Carter’s history with TWW, Joe Carter is a huge supporter of CJ Mahaney and accused me of libel in my ongoing coverage of the Sovereign Grace Ministry scandal. There was a particularly nasty exchange that The Christian Post covered when Joe Carter leveled the charge of libel as well.

Joe Carter’s history with me, calling The Wartburg Watch ”a hateful, lying blog, centers on Carter’s following claims: (Remember, he is an expert of arguing like Jesus)

  1. That I was pathologically dishonest because I believed that CJ Mahaney had participated in the cover up of child sex abuse,
  2. That I was defaming Mahaney by publishing posts that said I (and others) believed the victims’ claims were true,
  3. That I was guilty of “slander” because I believed in the victims’ claims,
  4. That I could be sued because I believed the victims.

TWW Responds to Joe Carter, Editor for The Gospel Coalition, Who Called This a Hateful, Lying Blog.

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See also: The Gospel Coalition, Christian Bloggers Spar Over Sovereign Grace Ministry, C.J. Mahaney on Twitter

“Parsons defended herself, claiming that “everyone has a right to express their point of view. Also, I tend to believe the victims.”

“Slander/defamation is well defined as deliberately telling a lie in order to hurt another. I have never knowingly told a lie at TWW & have never said anything to deliberately hurt another. When I have been confronted with an obvious mistake, I have apologized and corrected it,” continued Parsons on Twitter.

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Carter has concentrated his wrath on TWW for years, regularly attempting to classify me as a “liberal Christian” while remaining supportive of CJ Mahaney, whose ministry imploded due to the voluminous amount of credible allegations that sexual abuse was enabled and covered up within Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Therefore, it is not surprising to see associates of Joe Carter, whom I do not know and have never been acquainted, immediately seek to smear the work I and fellow advocates do.

The Wheaton Summit on Sex Abuse

Going back to The Media Project’s article, “Protestants also face #ChurchToo scandals. Reporters: Here’s a Handy Way to Assess Them,” this is how the upcoming Wheaton Summit is introduced:

“…the host, Ed Stetzer, a trend-watcher who directs Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center…”

To begin, until recently, Ed Stetzer was the church planting expert for the Southern Baptist Convention and was part of the in-crowd, following in the footsteps of Al Mohler. Stetzer never spoke out against the problems in Sovereign Grace Ministries. But now suddenly, Stetzer is the new authority on sex abuse in the SBC. Why? He never paid much attention to it until it became an issue that garnered press. It is obvious from his choice of participants in the Wheaton GC2 Summit—lacking survivors, advocates, and professionals that survivors trust and who have been confronting church abuse for years—that he has little understanding of the #ChurchToo Movement.

  1. He did not invite Emily Joy and Hannah Paasch, the women who started the #ChurchToo hashtag, a tag that was co-opted for the summit until various media groups pointed out those who were missing,
  2. There are few, if any, experts in attendance,
  3. Christine Caine plagiarized from an abuse survivor for her new book and settled out of court, but has not apologized. Moreover, she remains silent over her longtime colleague, Hillsong founder, Brian Houston, who covered up his own father’s pedophilia. .
  4. Belinda Bauman, a “visionary” of the #SilenceisNotSpiritual movement has been dead silent during the Jules Woodson/Andy Savage story. Perhaps #SilenceIsSpiritual when it’s your friends who are accused?
  5. Thankfully, Nancy Beach is scheduled to appear. A victim in the Willow Creek disaster, Ms. Beach has credibility within the survivor community.

The Wheaton GC2 Summit is part of the “Well-Meaning Establishment”

It is obvious to many observers that this summit has been poorly planned. Organized by someone unknown to abuse advocates, featuring compromised speakers with a history of abuse and cover-up themselves, it is worth asking why the Wheaton Summit should be considered part of the “well-meaning establishment” in The Media Project’s article. Of particular concern is the way seasoned advocates have been smeared in the process.

The Courage Conference is Militant and Comprised of Progressives

Read this following quote carefully.

“Wheaton’s confab represents the well-meaning establishment, in contrast with the more militant Courage Conference led by Easter, who is affiliated with the theologically ’inclusive’ Progressive Christian Alliance. Parsons, Tchividjian and Woodson were among speakers at the third annual Courage Conference in Raleigh (NC) Oct. 19-21.

Courage involves evangelicals and believers from all religious communities. Importantly, it rejects “any ideology that places women in a more vulnerable position and reinforces men to a unilateral position of power and control.”

In case you missed it, that language is a direct shot at complementarians, who will doubtless be represented at Wheaton.

Is the author implying that those who confront sex abuse in the Church, helping survivors like Jules Woodson by amplifying her voice, are militant? At what point is confronting abuse worse than the abuse itself?  Since when has this become an issue between liberals and conservatives?

This is the part where Ostling reveals his lack of understanding of sex abuse and survivor advocates. The Courage Conference had indeed invited me as a speaker. I am a conservative Lutheran. Ashley is a progressive Christian. This conference is like the advocate community it serves: an all-inclusive cohort of people from many backgrounds working together on a common, pervasive problem. Advocates don’t limit people due to their theological viewpoint—theological doorkeeping is what abuse enablers do. We do not engage in idealogical bias. Instead, The Courage Conference makes it quite clear in their value statement that an ideaology—such as patriarchy—has an alarming amount of abuse inherent with its theology. Those who participate at The Courage Conference do so with the understanding that confronting abuse means we have to take a hard look at our theology as well. That’s it.

Quite simply, we all agree that church abuse is evil and must be confronted. It’s amazing how much people who differ in theological perspective can find in common when it comes to standing up for those abused in the Church.

Mr.Ostling did not do his research when he made this statement. If he did, he would realize there were many conservatives at The Courage Conference, like myself, who decide to love survivors and work with advocates because abuse is a worse problem than people who do not agree with me theologically.

If egalitarianism was an issue, then why include Nancy Beach in the Wheaton Summit? I know Nancy Beach who was part of the Willow Creek Church, which has women as pastors.

Again, this isn’t a war between liberals and conservatives. This is a confrontation between those who take abuse seriously and those who want to uphold the system that enabled it to begin with.

Yours Truly is “Sharp Elbowed”

One of the more laughable epithets in Mr. Ostling’s piece was calling me “sharp elbowed.” I do admit I can get testy when people are being abused in the Church and the “well-meaning establishment” looks on and does nothing. I have a great deal of experience with the “well-meaning establishment” doing anything but being well-meaning. Does Ostling know how many nights I have a hard time sleeping when I think about stories like the fourteen kids molested at NewSpring Church? My response is to write about it and pray for the children. If that’s “militant,” I’d hate to see what Ostling would do with stories like that.

Abuse survivors are pouring out of the Church like a deluge, and it isn’t the “militant” exposing this travesty that are the problem. The establishment that allowed it to begin with—for decades—is far more culpable than Mr. Ostling dares to realize.

I would love Ostling to visit my church and see me participating in a conservative worship service. I would bet he would find my church suitable when it comes to his definition of the ”well-meaning establishment.”

As for being “sharp elbowed,” I invite Mr. Ostling to re-examine the issues Joe Carter has with me, as stated  above. I have to be strong because the establishment has run over too many people without care or compassion. I stand strong because the victims deserve it. Until blogs, victims were  voiceless and powerless. Is that militant?

It is the height of journalistic malpractice to frame these current struggles for decency and integrity in the Church in the way The Media Project has. Abuse survivors deserve better. The advocates and professionals working to serve the hurting deserve better. Most of all, the truth deserves better, which is trodden underfoot every time the advocate community is smeared so the establishment can call itself “well-meaning.”

Ostling forgot some folks.

The advocate community is deep and diverse, full of characters I would have liked to see added.  Julie Anne Smith, Amy Smith and Todd Wilhelm are investigative bloggers of the highest caliber. They are doing some really great work on exposing abuse in the Church. None of them would be invited to speak at Wheaton’s Summit, but any survivor who attends would doubtless know of these bloggers and their hearts for the wounded.

The work GRACE does, with Boz Tchividjian at the helm, is enormous. He has assembled a team of professionals that are beyond compare when it comes to addressing abuse in religious communities. Among them, Mike Sloan, a former pastor who travels the country, educating churches on how to prevent and respond to abuse. GRACE Board Member Dr. Diane Langberg has worked with trauma survivors for over 45-years and has a Twitter account that is a gold mine for those looking for encouragement, help, and ways to address abuse. Justin and Lindsay Holcomb, also GRACE Board Members, wrote a book, God Made All of Me, which educates children on age-appropriate ways to identify their anatomy and establish proper boundaries.

Wade Mullen’s PhD dissertation on how toxic religious environments seek to control the narrative and manage their image when scandal hits is a must read, as is his Twitter, which regularly features educational tips any leader would do well to know. Christa Brown, an advocate for abused within the SBC, has for decades been working to establish a database of abusive pastors within the convention, and has paved the way for many of us. Brad Sargent, a blogger and frequent collaborator of Julie Anne Smith, regularly unpacks how abuse works in a system. Rachael and Jacob Denhollander are conservative Christians making inroads within the secular world of sports and fighting to see the statute of limitations changed in our country. Claire and Peter Roise of Moscow, Idaho, have established a network called “Awaken,” seeking to address domestic violence in their region. Joy Forrest has done the same in North Carolina with “Called to Peace.” Jimmy Hinton is a pastor who turned in his pedophile pastor father—unlike Hillsong’s Brian Houston—and has a must-hear podcast which regularly addresses abuse.

Rebecca Davis is a blogger and conservative Christian who has deep ties with many of these advocates, regularly analyzing theology that has been destructive but in a way that doesn’t tear apart Christianity as a whole. David Pittman serves male survivors of abuse with his ministry “Together We Heal.” Stephanie Tait, Cyndie Randall, Kimberly Harris, and Sarah Smith are writers, poets, and journalists who work to see justice and healing for all. Ryan Ashton is a graphic designer who has collaborated with many of these survivors and advocates, and is building a website to bring abuse advocates together. Jules Woodson has become a leader in the #churchtoo movement.

There are so many others I have not had the chance to name. But we all work with one, overriding purpose: to see voices amplified that have been silenced, to see justice roll down the mountains, to see a Church that is safe—a refuge from abuse, rather than a predator’s paradise.

If these people, conservative and progressive alike, seem a threat to you, then you are on the wrong side.

The New Church Militant is not here to fight anything but abuse and those who enable it.

Strap yourselves in. The world is changing, and my sharp elbows have barely gotten started.
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Post Script:

North Carolina is about to get hit with a pretty bad winter storm. My son in law sent this video to me. I found it amusing. Even us sharp elbowed types have to laugh.

 


Comments

The New Church Militant:  Why the Wheaton Summit on Sex Abuse Is Doomed Before It Even Starts — 130 Comments

  1. The way I see things, reporters should be committed to unearthing and organizing *information* to make it accessible to readers, with as little bias as possible.

    Mr Ostling’s article came across to me more as veiled *ideology* instead of reportage.

    As your article shows, Dee and Ryan, Mr Ostling doesn’t seem particularly knowledgeable about the depth or dynamics within survivor communities. It also looks like he didn’t interview any of the survivors, advocates, and activists listed in this TWW article.

    While I am glad for his article giving some attention to the issues involved, it was highly flawed and biased rather than objective. And, if it was meant as a guide for mainstream media in exploring religious issues, it used a very old map, one drawn long before the #MeToo movement came to Church.

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  2. “Ed Stetzer was the church planting expert for the Southern Baptist Convention and was part of the in-crowd, following in the footsteps of Al Mohler”

    A “church” planting expert?! When he was at SBC, he helped plant reformed theology. Stetzer has been elusive in his exact theological leaning, but he was clearly buds with the who’s who New Calvinists which wrenched control of the SBC from the mainline non-Calvinist majority of Southern Baptists. I was shocked when I learned he left SBC to direct Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center … but the New Calvinists are taking over everything, I suppose.

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  3. dee:
    Divorce Minister,

    Yes!!!!

    My cat-like reflects won the medal…this time!

    I found the article rather annoying (to put it mildly). With how Ostling is portraying the groups, he is essentially branding the “militant” as heretics/extremists while endorsing the Wheaton crowd as the “orthodox” Christian group. I have little patience for such portrayals.

    Plus, I didn’t understand the run-on sentences about Boz T and Rachel D. He cited who they are but did not put that information in sentence form. Kind of sloppy for journalism, IMO.

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  4. I truly love the adjective “sharp-elbowed.”

    There are a few clergy out there I wouldn’t mind poking once or twice with my bony elbows, But most are too well-fed to make any real difference, LOL

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  5. Informative post, once again. Appreciated.
    The list of the folks standing tall against evil through thick and thin (gas lighting, etc.) is especially heartening.

    Wheaton – if this is the same Wheaton – has their own list of another kind:
    Donald Ratcliff. A former Wheaton College professor now incarcerated, for one.
    https://esmartinonline.wordpress.com/ a professor, Dr. B, noted on this link, another.

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  6. Dee,

    What “sharp elbows” actually means is that these guys are really starting to feel the effect of the work you’ve done! 🙂

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  7. Richard Ostling has been reporting on religion for a very long time. He is 78 years old (the same age as my mother). I distinctly remember reading his articles as a teenager and young college student, because we subscribed to Time magazine. He has a Wikipedia.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_and_Joan_Ostling

    I was stunned by his description of Dee as “sharp elbowed.” I’ve met Dee, she’s a wonderful person, but the fact of the matter is church child sexual abuse is a hill she is going to die on. Do NOT get in her way on that. Do NOT throw out excuses, she will not stand for them. I admire her spine of titanium on this issue. Ostling and his party (that’d be the Joe Carters, Ed Stetzers and the rest) don’t get Dee. I think it’s because Dee is supporting the little people, the children and adults who were abused by people acting in the name of God and seeking justice for them. In that, Dee is stepping on the toes of the powerful. They think she’s kicking them in the shins!

    I completely agree with Dee’s assessment of Stetzer’s Summit next Thursday. I have publicly called it an exercise in butt-covering. There will be a lot of pretty words said but nothing will happen, because to do something means you have to call out the power structures. These power structures include the second-class role of women in many of these churches and organizations, along with the well-known predilection of the powerful to protect others in power. (See: Mahaney, C.J.)

    Why this week, there was a report of an alleged abuser at Perry Noble’s old church, NewSpring, and I saw a Tweet from a reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram where that paper will be publishing a story (or stories) beginning Sunday about church sex abuse among the fundamental Baptists–over 400 incidents at churches in 40 states and covered up by a culture of fear.

    #MeToo and #ChurchToo is not going away and Ed Stetzer’s crowd really ought to address the issues square on instead of trying to pretend they’re doing something. On the other hand, Dee and the people she mentioned in her article, and others, they are doing all sorts of things to bind up the brokenhearted and bring them justice.

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  8. Divorce Minister: With how Ostling is portraying the groups, he is essentially branding the “militant” as heretics/extremists while endorsing the Wheaton crowd as the “orthodox” Christian group.

    That’s been the M.O. of the Institutional Church since it was first institutionalized via Constantine. It’s all about controlling the narrative, the people and, of course, the money.

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  9. Hi, I am Elizabeth Ostling, Richard N. Ostling’s daughter.

    I am a big fan of Dee Parsons, The Wartburg Watch, and all of the victim advocates Dee mentions in her above blog post. I follow many of them regularly on Twitter. I happen to care quite passionately about fighting abuse, and deeply admire those of you who are on the fighting lines of this terrible and terribly devastating evil.

    I completely agree with Dee and other victim advocates’ concerns over the upcoming GC2 Summit.

    So I brought them to my dad’s attention when he was visiting over Thanksgiving, and encouraged him to write a memo on it for http://www.getreligion.org, where “Protestants also face #ChurchToo scandals” first appeared on November 29.

    (By the way, GetReligion only publishes memos, not feature articles that involve interviews, etc. GetReligion is a blog devoted to critiquing how the mainstream media cover religion. Similarly, Dad’s Religion Beat Tips over at The Media Project are just that–tips. They’re meant to encourage other journalists to dig further.)

    In any case, whatever my dad’s memo’s flaws, the idea for the memo originally came from me–again, because I agree with the victims’ concerns over GC2 and think they deserve greater mainstream media attention.

    My dad’s memo has absolutely nothing to do with ties with The Gospel Coalition, much less Joe Carter.

    Dad contributes Religion Beat Tips to The Media Project, because he is a veteran religion journalist–one of the most highly respected in the U.S.–who used to be religion reporter for Time and then the Associated Press, and is now retired. (If anyone’s interested, here’s his bio: https://www.getreligion.org/richard-ostling/).

    During his decades-long career, he covered the Catholic abuse scandal in 3 waves: the 80’s starting with Fr. Gauthe, the 90’s with Fr. Porter, and then all of the news that exploded following the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team in 2002. He said that those were the most devastating stories he ever had to cover in his entire career. As part of his reporting, he went to SNAP meetings and got to know some of the key victim advocates (such as Fr. Tom Doyle and David Clohessy).

    Dad also wrote a book in the 70’s called Secrecy in the Church: A Reporter’s Case for the Christian’s Right to Know.” I read that book after the Spotlight investigation broke in 2002, and was astonished at how prescient it was, in terms of diagnosing the culture of secrecy and power that made the sexual abuse coverups in the church possible.

    Secrecy in the Church was published a whole decade before the Fr. Gauthe case even broke in Louisiana.

    Anyway, I didn’t write the memo, but if anyone would appreciate the need for sharp elbows and militancy in getting justice for victims and preventing future abuse out of decades spent the religion news business, it would be my dad. (Btw, doesn’t Rachael Denhollander describe herself as part of the “army” that brought Larry Nassar to justice?) Also, as far as his use of the word “well-intentioned” is concerned… isn’t there that adage about the road to hell being paved with good intentions?

    And by the way, my dad happens to be strongly egalitarian.

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  10. An agenda of “protect the public reputation of a church (or ‘the Church’)” can easily become a form of suppression of truth. I don’t think that believers or churches are immune to the “under the Sun” wrath dynamic, described in Romans 1, that overtakes those who suppress truth. Believing that “Jesus saves us from ‘the wrath to come’ ” might tempt one to suppose that we have also passed beyond the purview of the Romans 1 wrath dynamic. I think it shouldn’t.

    Abuse of power and abuse of flock did not start in the churches in our lifetime. It has surely always been there; that we know almost nothing about this in the past may be testament to a long history of effective concealment. That’s ending. How much wrath will have to be manifested for the concealers to stop concealing?

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  11. “It is obvious to many observers that this summit has been poorly planned.”

    But they’re “doing” something. They can talk amongst themselves, say more should be done, get press from their various surrogates, and proclaim it a grand success, whether or not the facts bear any of that out. It helps when you control the horizontal and the vertical.

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  12. Eli,

    “My dad’s memo has absolutely nothing to do with ties with The Gospel Coalition, much less Joe Carter.”
    +++++++++++++++++++

    he comes across as either uninformed or misinformed.

    it feels like propaganda, of sorts. subtle messages, intended to foster good feelings about one group and ideology and suspicion about another group and ideology.

    it simply reads as though he’s as impressionable as so many other TGC contributors and those in their orbit of influence — people who have been told what to believe, and that all those in the in-group believe this. and told that all who see things differently are the out-group, the liberals who are to be viewed with scorn if not fear.

    the presumptions they make and lack of scrutiny are laughable.

    but it is not a laughing matter.

    these impressionable masses follow the party line wherever it leads, even to the point of siding with the abuser / predator / enabler and rejecting those whose lives were destroyed and their advocates.

    even to the point of destroying lives themselves.

    i suspect your father is a good person. but this is what his article reflects.

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  13. The Summit is a publicity stunt for Wheaton to smooth their reputation and also a way for Christian celebrities to sell more books. I don’t think it’s been “poorly planned”. I think it’s planned exactly for those two reasons, and abuse is just the way for two institutions in deep trouble for abuse to improve their image.

    There are clearly some bad ideas in their planning, such as Christine Caine. I am certain there’s probably a book publisher as a sponsor and that is why Caine is there. But I think it has everything to do with money and not planning. Of course, not inviting key individuals mentioned has everything to do with money and not planning. Those people won’t bring in the big bucks from sponsors, though they would certainly help with Wheaton’s image problems.

    Like most Christian colleges, Wheaton has a problem reporting and properly handling sexual abuse. Christian colleges and seminaries have very low reporting rates for rape and sexual violence. We’ve already seen this on TWW about Master’s and of course, SEBTS, where three of my former classmates have been convicted of child molestation.

    Overwhelmingly, Christian colleges blame rape and sexual violence on the woman. She was “asking for it”, she “chose to sin by letting him in”, or horribly, the New Calvinist theology “we’re all sinners, so women shouldn’t be casting stones” (sadly, just saw this one recently). They hide the incidents, expel the students (often expelling the woman and not the man), and basically pretend like they have some righteous holy place where nothing bad happens when it’s all a big lie.

    Wheaton is no different:
    http://www.wheatonrecord.com/news/happens-overview-sexual-violence-wheaton/

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  14. elastigirl:
    i suspect your father is a good person.but this is what his article reflects.

    elastigirl said most of this better than I could this early in the morning.

    His “memo” was not reflecting the journalistic standards that he merits himself with at the end with all his credits. It was highly unbalanced, and he didn’t give a fair view to each side. All those words like “militant” and “sharp-elbowed” could be explained away, but most people are still going to read them as an insult.

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  15. Quite relevant to this discussion is the fact that Ed Stetzer, Beth Moore, and Christine Caine are ignoring and even blocking people on Twitter who question them about their lack of survivors at the Summit Conference.

    For example, Jules Woodson:
    https://twitter.com/juleswoodson11/status/1071232342814089216

    “Would you please respond to the valid concerns of so many survivors and advocates, including myself, with regards to your upcoming summit? You say you want to be part of the solution yet your deafening silence is heartbreaking…”

    The whole thread there is worth reading, because almost everyone in it got blocked by one of those people.

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  16. Samuel Conner: Abuse of power and abuse of flock did not start in the churches in our lifetime. It has surely always been there; that we know almost nothing about this in the past may be testament to a long history of effective concealment.

    Excellent comment. I recall, back in my (greater) ignorance, asking a few elders about the history of persecution by the Church, the Crusades, persecution of Anabaptists, etc. and the best I got was that ‘Calvin was not exactly a nice guy’. It is time that we went to better sources than our public grade school text books, or our pastor in the pulpit for a fuller, more accurate story of the past. Most will be surprised at what we were never told. The scholarship has been done on most significant topics and events, and if we invest the time, we can be much better informed. I get weekly emails from Academia.edu, listing more than I have time to read. But every little bit helps, and the more perspectives one is willing to consider, the better equipped one becomes to form educated opinions.

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  17. elastigirl: these impressionable masses follow the party line wherever it leads

    A background in Major media suggests the possibility that the subject has long been tasked with crafting the stories that lead the impressionable masses to wherever the party line dictates. We need to be aware that interests carry across political and religious lines.

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  18. elastigirl,

    Elizabeth Ostling here again.

    Is there an “in-group” vs. “out-group” dynamic in Courage vs. GC2?

    Which group really knows how to handle abuse?

    Which group is seen as the evangelical “establishment?”

    Are there any theological differences between the 2 conferences? (Fact: yes, there are. According to Dee in the above blog post, Courage is more theologically inclusive.)

    Does one need to fight the evangelical establishment (celebrity culture, power dynamics) in order to fight abuse?

    For instance, Rachael Denhollander has said that the evangelical church is one of the worst places a victim can go for help. Is Denhollander is correct on this? If so, why? Are some of the church’s blind spots coming to the fore in the GC2 Summit?

    Reporters: this is newsworthy. Go forth and dig.

    That was the point of the memo.

    Again, it was intended as a brief memo on the significance GC2 vs. Courage. It was not intended as an in-depth look at the history of #ChurchToo or the survivor community (which has already been covered elsewhere).

    By the way, “well-meaning” is a condescending phrase. Whether or not one happens to know my father, that is how the phrase is used. (“He or she ‘meant well,’ BUT…” etc.) The phrase means that the “well-intentioned” person (or group) isn’t *getting it.* It is not a compliment. That’s not me “explaining away” my dad’s word choice. That’s simply what the phrase means.

    Speaking of research, it’s worth checking out http://www.getreligion.org on both Protestant and Catholic abuse. As seasoned religion reporters, they are very savvy about the cultures and structures of abuse within religious communities. It’s a great team. Former GetReligionista Sarah Pulliam Bailey (friend and former GetReligion colleague of my dad) did a terrific reporting job on Paige Patterson in The Washington Post back in May-June. (Speaking of the exposure / downfall of an “establishment” figure.)

    Anyway, um, yeah. My dad is well aware that abuse dynamics cross all kinds of ideological lines.

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  19. ishy,

    It’s all about keeping it “in house” ……….. not a peep about reporting attacks to the police and filing charges.

    Let me summarize what Wheaton is saying in the overview:
    “Just tell us if you think you have been assaulted, sweetie. We’ll give the accused a little rap on the wrist and make everything okay.”

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  20. now THAT really did provide a welcome laugh — THIS website is one of the most hateful on the internet??? uhhh, don’t think he’s looked around the internet much, or something…. Is he sending you a trophy? –I am in Hamilton and I appreciate this website

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  21. Eli,

    If what you claim is true, your dad really missed the mark with this memo, IMO.

    The vibe I get from it: Dee and her cohorts are just a bunch of militants (please look up the def. of “militants”) who are taking potshots at Complementarians any time they get a chance. Blow these people off and come join the true Christian team at the GC2 and learn how to handle indiscretions in a Godly manner.

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  22. Nancy2(aka Kevlar),

    Pretty accurately depicts what I heard on the ground in country. ‘Stay away from those discernment blogs. Nothing there, keep walking, they only seek to destroy The Church!’

    Which is, of course, what led me to wonder what ‘discernment blogs’ were, and just how they could expect to destroy the indestructible Body of Christ. How just a bit of ‘discernment’ allows one to see through the programming, once its hold on the mind has been loosened.

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  23. “this isn’t a war between liberals and conservatives. This is a confrontation between those who take abuse seriously and those who want to uphold the system that enabled it to begin with.”

    Oh how lovely are those “sharp elbows” to abuse survivors and their families when sitting in the ruins of abuse discovery! I would have traded all the well-meaning, but ultimately evil, ignorance of church folks for just one person to stand with my family and point out that I wasn’t unforgiving, bitter, cruel, punishing, violating the teachings of Jesus for demanding that the molester of my child be held accountable by secular authorities and for rightly labeling him a liar.

    The Wheaton Conference will be lauded by those in the system as groundbreaking and indicative of evangelical progress, just as the trend of advocating against sex trafficking was an opportunity for more evangelical pats on the back. The refusal to humbly listen to survivors and those who have toiled with them for years, has already robbed this event of its credibility and impact.

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  24. Nancy2(aka Kevlar):
    ishy,
    Let me summarize what Wheaton is saying in the overview:
    “Just tell us if you think you have been assaulted, sweetie.We’ll give the accused a little rap on the wrist and make everything okay.”

    I think it’s much worse than that, because I’ve seen it in person. If a female student is raped or assaulted, she must have done something to deserve it. And if the guy is an athlete or future pastor, how dare a mere woman ruin his reputation and future because he just did a little “messing around”.

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  25. ishy: I think it’s much worse than that, because I’ve seen it in person. If a female student is raped or assaulted, she must have done something to deserve it. And if the guy is an athlete or future pastor, how dare a mere woman ruin his reputation and future because he just did a little “messing around”.

    Or, as it was put to me, “My son will go to jail for touching a woman.” No, your adult son will go to jail for repeatedly assaulting and terrorizing a 14 year-old while she was sleeping. The lack of empathy in evangelicalism, combined with the arrogance of thinking their every belief is approved by God is, IMO, The root of great evil in the church.

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  26. Eli,

    thank you for your reply.

    i should have expressed that i have to believe he is very very informed and aware. I’ve been puzzled as to why the article (or memo) rings the way it does.

    but i’m very glad to hear the back-story you provided.

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  27. Joe Carter and Wheaton College: “We’re gonna hold the world’s most meaningless, pointless, and useless summit on clerical sex abuse.”

    Pope Francis and Cardinal Cupich: “Hold our beer.”

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  28. Lydia,

    To quote Dee, “At what point … is confronting abuse worse than the abuse itself? Since when has this become an issue between liberals and conservatives?”

    Everybody can find excesses on the other side. Everybody can try to discredit others by sticking a label on them. This prevents people from working together to defeat actual problems, such as sexual abuse in the church.

    Personally, I’d like to see Protestant conferences about abuse always include Catholic survivors, who have been fighting the good fight in the open for a couple of decades now.

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  29. IMO “well meaning” is more favorable than “militant” and it seems to me that “militant” was reinforced with “direct shot at…”. And any time I read material where Complementarian groups, supposedly peaceably and unbiasedly, define the egalitarian/CBE perspective it seems a bit off an unbiased balance. But then I am not unbiased on these issues. I am egalitarian and I wonder what journalistic practices would help to work against “not the best that could be done”(Katherine Bushnell’s phrase) to help deal with abuse issues and harboring abusers in the church? Advocates for the abused, like Bushnell, TWW and CBE, have helped many and I, too, am grateful for their work and the information they’ve offered.

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  30. Eli:
    Hi, I am Elizabeth Ostling, Richard N. Ostling’s daughter.

    ….

    And by the way, my dad happens to be strongly egalitarian.

    I appreciate hearing the back story as I would have never guessed this background from just reading the memo.

    When I read it, I was left with the impression that egalitarianism is a fringe position as opposed to complimentarianism. That is what happens when it comes up as a distinctive during the discussion as to why members of the Courage Conference were not asked to speak. It all gets painted as extreme (“militant”) or out of the mainline, orthodox evangelical stream of theology–i.e. non-establishment.

    Regardless of one’s position on the matter, inserting the egalitarian vs complimentarian debate into this coverage certainly creates a very strong in-group vs out-group impulse to the coverage. It signals to the informed evangelical community certain things that it sounds like your father probably does not want to signal? [e.g. opposition to egalitarianism or characterizations of egalitarianism as extreme, fringe theology]

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  31. Don’t forget the incident with the Wheaton football players from a couple of years ago where several players abused another in some sexualized hazing ritual gone awry that got the police involved. The abused player’s parents pulled their son out of Wheaton College.

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  32. “So, I decided to look at the partners of The Media Project to investigate why the tone and negativity towards us. It is very quickly apparent that the journalists of this organization mightier be relying upon the information given to them by their partners.”

    Dee, The Media Project is based in New York City at The McCandlish Phillips Journalism Institute at The King’s College.

    https://themediaproject.org/partners/

    Who’s guided The King’s College in recent years (president 2013-2017, chancellor 2017-2018)?

    9Marksist Greg Thornbury!

    Stetzer gushing in 2013:

    https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/july/morning-roundup-071513.html

    “Last week, Dr. Gregory Thornbury was named as the sixth president of The King’s College in New York City. I am excited for Greg, his wife, Kimberly, and for The King’s College. New York City is [sic] plays a vital role in shaping our culture…It is my prayer that The King’s College will play a vital role in impacting NYC and, ultimately, the world, and Greg’s leadership could do just that. Greg is a friend”

    “Let me add that King’s College is doubly blessed as it will have the fine leadership of Dr. Kimberly Thornbury, who was…a part of the advisory council for The Gospel Project.”

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  33. Greg Thornbury was there with Dever and Schmucker and the ‘generous neighbor’ (since identified as wealthy tech entrepreneur Chris Vizas) almost from the beginning:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20000621144315/http://www.churchreform.org:80/employeebios.html;$sessionid$MKQQSJAAAACINWGIHUUUTIWYZA4S1PX0

    Owen Strachan exulting over one of their own taking over at The King’s College in NYC:

    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/thoughtlife/2013/07/the-nations-first-hipster-president-and-the-promising-prospects-of-the-christian-mind/

    “the recent appointment of Dr. Gregory Alan Thornbury to the presidency of The King’s College in lower Manhattan…I’m eager to see what the Lord will do at King’s under my dear friend, a genuinely inspiring figure.”

    “King’s took a major step forward, naming Gregory Thornbury as its president. Thornbury was formerly dean of the School of Theology…at Union University in Tennessee. Union is itself a major evangelical academic success story, having undergone a holistic transformation under outgoing president David Dockery. Thornbury worked closely with Dockery, a master fundraiser and statesman”

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  34. Divorce Minister: I appreciate hearing the back story as I would have never guessed this background from just reading the memo.

    When I read it, I was left with the impression that egalitarianism is a fringe position as opposed to complimentarianism. That is what happens when it comes up as a distinctive during the discussion as to why members of the Courage Conference were not asked to speak. It all gets painted as extreme (“militant”) or out of the mainline, orthodox evangelical stream of theology–i.e. non-establishment.

    Regardless of one’s position on the matter, inserting the egalitarian vs complimentarian debate into this coverage certainly creates a very strong in-group vs out-group impulse to the coverage. It signals to the informed evangelical community certain things that it sounds like your father probably does not want to signal? [e.g. opposition to egalitarianism or characterizations of egalitarianism as extreme, fringe theology]

    Such focuses carry the danger of taking focus off of the real issue of abuse. Willow Creek certainly had a different outlook on the issue than some others where abuse took place and was not dealt with appropriately.

    We’ve had a long time where abuse issues in the RCC were springboarded to criticisms of theological aspects of Catholicism from non-Catholic Christian circles. As we see this spread into many places regardless of issues like egal/comp, it’s become evident to me that a focus that should be more primary is the priority of the entities of themselves as far as accountability and oversight.

    As some have noted, we see things happening that would not have been able to perpetuate in a secular business which has checks and balances on authority as well as sunlight on basic operations. A common theme in these church/para-church outrages seems to be the top-down exercise of authority and the willful ceding of authority and funding from the supporter apparatus.

    The more there is of a concentration of power and limits on checks (often coming with wresting of Scripture to one’s own advantage), the more potential there seems to be for abuse of that power on an ongoing basis, as well as protective action. Just see how in 2018, regardless of egal or comp operations, massive fails abound when ranks are closed by authoritarians. Also note how often any legit inquiry into the facts, let alone merit-based charges along the lines of Galatians 2 where ones actions stand to be condemned, are cast as slander, gossip, divisiveness, not acting in the the way of the Christian, and other straw man as it relates to the issue at hand.

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  35. Looks as if ‘The Media Project’ is a project of Ahmansons?

    http://www.phillipsjournalism.org/blog/2017/10/10/the-media-project-announces-15-international-journalism-coaching-leadership-fellows

    “Roberta Ahmanson…philanthropist and chair of the board of The Media Project.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Ahmanson_Jr.

    “Howard Fieldstad Ahmanson Jr. (born February 3, 1950) is an heir of the Home Savings bank fortune built by his father Howard F. Ahmanson Sr. Ahmanson Jr. is a multi-millionaire and financier of many Christian conservative cultural, religious, and political causes.”

    “He has Tourette syndrome. His wife Roberta Ahmanson usually communicates with the media and others on his behalf.”

    “Ahmanson’s wife Roberta, a former religion reporter and editor for the Orange County Register, has funded and been directly involved with some programs of the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities (now known as the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities). These include the Washington Journalism Center, its Summer Institute of Journalism, and its Fieldstead Journalism Lectures. Fieldstead has funded other Christian journalistic projects such as Gegrapha and GetReligion.”

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  36. I’d just like to comment on the idea of keeping #ChurchToo in house, as the Wheaton GC2 Summit is attempting to do.

    It is entirely TOO LATE for this. And it was entirely too late on the day that Hannah Paasch and Emily Joy introduced #ChurchToo on Twitter. That’s because #ChurchToo involves people who left Evangelicalism (and other churches) behind for various reasons, including the way the churches treated the abused.

    If Ed Stetzer really wanted to do something about #ChurchToo, he would have invited people who are now outside of Evangelicalism to speak about how the power structures of Evangelicalism make it almost impossible to deal with child sexual abuse. But no, we’ve got this butt-covering operation which is going to do nothing, absolutely nothing, for those whose hearts have been broken by Evangelicalism’s general protection of abusers.

    I’d also like to thank Jerome for his work on digging up the connections between The Media Project, Get Religion, and the Ahmanson family. I was trying to do that on my phone while waiting for a blood draw this morning and not being very successful. Based on my knowledge of Howard Ahmanson Jr., it does not surprise me in the least that Ostling and The Media Project would come across as hostile to those of us trying to get the churches to deal with their child sex abuse scandals. Based on what I know, it makes all the sense in the world that Richard Ostling would defend the power brokers as against those who are working to bring justice and bind up the brokenhearted.

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  37. elastigirl,

    “i should have expressed that i have to believe he is very very informed and aware.”
    +++++++++++

    oh cr@p, 2 very’s. (sounds just like a certain “very very” public figure)
    meant to say ‘very well informed’.

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  38. I’ve started posting the segments in my “Cultural Geography of Survivor Communities.” I’ve been writing about survivor blogging and trends since 2007, and have been working on some parts of this specific series for over six months.

    This series will profile the broader Christian wing of the #MeToo movement, including the streams being discussed on this TWW post — The Courage Conference, #ChurchToo, and GC2 Reflections Summit — along with many other aspects of this being a combination of subculture emergence and complex social movement. I plan to get most of the series completed and posted before the end of the year, and have as many articles as possible done before the upcoming events of #ChurchToo and GC2 on December 13th.

    I’m hoping this series provide analysis and insights that suggest various directions and better questions for those called to deeper research on these topics. There are many perplexing questions that arise as we are in the midst of some massive changes within the Church, when it comes to abuse survivors, advocates, and activists. Such as:

    * Where did this movement come from, where is it now, and where does it seem to be going?

    * Who owns a social movement? Or is the real question who has legitimacy to participate in it and be considered a leader?

    * How did “conservatives” and “liberals” come together to support survivors? What tenets do they hold in common ground, and what issues (theological, social, organizational, etc.) will they likely continue to differ on?

    * What are the limits of tolerating differences? Will substantive paradigm differences permanently fragment the movement and lead to some streams exiting? Or can a theological-broad-band collective co-exist, and if so, how?

    * Why have abuse victims turned to “survivor blogs” to share their experiences, instead of to Christian news media?

    * What has motivated representatives of organizations that have shown themselves laggards in support of abuse victims to now act as if they were leaders? Or is a better question how can a broad-based movement seek to include those who’ve not been so interested before but are expressing interest now?

    * Why do survivors, advocates, and activists give so much attention to how investigations into abuse are conducted, and who does them?

    * How did some situations and individuals (e.g., C.J. Mahaney, Willow Creek Church, Nadia Bolz-Weber) become “litmus tests” for considering whether someone’s or some group’s interest in abuse survivors and in this advocacy/activism movement has legitimacy or just expediency?

    * What kinds of pressure from insiders and outsiders can corrode or co-opt a social movement? How can we protect it from that happening?

    So that’s the scoop on the series. Hope you find it of help. Here’s the link to the Introduction:

    https://futuristguy.wordpress.com/2018/12/08/a-cultural-geography-of-survivor-communities-0-introduction/

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  39. Dee, he is actually calling you a prophet in an indirect way, and is possibly part of a faith stream that does not acknowledge modern day prophets (yet), so they will say things like this instead, but would never use the word prophetic or call anyone a prophet!

    there is another analogy… the ox goad/cattle prod, which I jokingly call an ox-goad anointing… which prophetic types tend to have… to move the Church from over used, unsafe and unhealthy areas to healthier, safer, and more nourishing areas… the words of the wise are like goads/cattle prods, painful but helpful… Eccl 12:11 Congratulations!

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  40. The damage that the quest for religious orthodoxy can do to child protection is enormous. We need to get cross-church, cross-theology, cross-cultural, cross-everything agreement on the basics of how to protect children, how to report & deal with abuse, & how to deal with abusers, so that everyone sings from the same hymn sheet. I know it will never happen, but I am sick to death of those who expect people to serve their orthodoxy, not their orthodoxy to serve people. And of people who claim wisdom, but somehow that doesn’t extend to their child protection policies.

    Vulnerable children are ‘the least of these’, & we ignore their wellbeing at our peril.

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  41. Bev Sterk:
    Dee, he is actually calling you a prophet in an indirect way, and is possibly part of a faith stream that does not acknowledge modern day prophets (yet), so they will say things like this instead, but would never use the word prophetic or call anyone a prophet!

    there is another analogy… the ox goad/cattle prod, which I jokingly call an ox-goad anointing… which prophetic types tend to have… to move the Church from over used, unsafe and unhealthy areas to healthier, safer, and more nourishing areas… the words of the wise are like goads/cattle prods, painful but helpful… Eccl 12:11Congratulations!

    I was kind of wondering the same. “Well intentioned establishment” could imply “but not very effective at dealing with the problem” (think of the derogatory connotation of “establishment” in contemporary politics, for example). “sharp-elbowed”, “militant” could be a compliment, if the writer believes that is what the present emergency warrants.

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  42. brad/futuristguy: * Why have abuse victims turned to “survivor blogs” to share their experiences, instead of to Christian news media?

    Are those the ideas that occur to most? People could consider going to the police, a lawyer, newspaper, or TV station. If “to share” means to seek comfort, they could go to a therapist, rape crisis center, or hotline.

    But a lot of people have old experiences and/or no chance of calling abusers to account. The hierarchy in which I was harmed no longer exists. The villain has vanished. Afterward I was more vulnerable and had experiences which, although less serious, did further damage to my psyche—but none of that was illegal, and it was all in an obsolete fellowship.

    I can’t imagine a way to seek amends. Healing, though, that I can imagine and try to effect.

    TWW has helped me make sense of things, among people I could never find in real life, who earnestly struggle with their beliefs after harm. I try to return the favor, and to learn enough here to help safeguard people around me.

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  43. Todd Wilhelm: Aren’t we all members of the “church militant?”

    According to the long-standing traditional use of the term (the one that has a Latin version), then yes, you are. And the term is an interesting one: it refers to saints who are engaged in the struggle against sin, old earth creationism, and the devil. Militancy is a necessary lifestyle in a world in which [generic] you don’t belong and which will hate you the same way, and for the same reasons, it hated Jesus.

    The article quoted in the post above, where militancy is contrasted with good intentions (specifically, with the well-meaning establishment), is a bit odd. The phrase “well-meaning”, in common usage, isn’t always a resounding compliment, but it’s hard to tell what the author is really saying. Put another way, the article contains a fair smattering of what are, by most standards, loaded terms. Most of them stop short of an actual, overt, expression of opinion. It’s not a style of writing I personally like, but it is a style of writing, and I get that other people will like it.

    To be fair, the article begins with the words “Loathsome #MeToo scandals” and the context is unambiguous. I think the Wheaton “summit” itself is far more problematic than Mr Ostler’s article; as he points out, they’re not likely to accomplish a fat lot in a single one-day conference.

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  44. Friend:
    TWW has helped me make sense of things, among people I could never find in real life, who earnestly struggle with their beliefs after harm. I try to return the favor, and to learn enough here to help safeguard people around me.

    I think this is a good way to put it. Some of us also have family and close friends who are still in harm’s way. Some of them insist we are wrong or going against God. Others think they can fix it from the inside. Some are harming others now, having gotten baited by promises of power or money. All of those are clearly suffering harm and we can see the repercussions of that harm in their lives.

    I can only imagine what kind of harm happens to those and those around them who are told that their submission will make the harm go away only to see it get worse and worse.

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  45. Richard Ostling, who? I’ve never rubbed shoulders (or sharp elbows) as I’ve been working on abuse cases.

    BTW, Dee, you don’t have sharp elbows. I surely would have noticed them when we were getting pretty cozy while taking selfies in front of Patterson Hall!

    Great article, btw.

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  46. My, my, such big words being thrown around on this subject. People sound like politicians trying to distract voters from how much the lobbyists have been giving them. Why is there such a problem with such a simple subject? If a public school sends a letter saying they have received allegations that a staff member molested one of the students but they are going to keep the staff member at their job without supervision until they decide who is telling the truth, are you going to sit still for it? If your teen comes home from their fast food part time job in tears because their boss groped them in the storeroom, do you just tell them “Hey, life happens, just don’t go in the storeroom with them anymore?” What is wrong with people? What does it matter whether it happens in a church or is done by church personnel? If ANYONE (male or female) causes pain – physical, emotional, or spiritual – to another, especially someone more vulnerable, it is UNCHRISTIAN and must be investigated immediately. If physical and emotional, it is ILLEGAL and must be dealt with at the secular level. Such abusers are not Christian and any attempt to use religion as an excuse to delay, coverup, deny, and otherwise block any punishment for them and support and help for the victims means you are acting as the tool of Satan AND as an accessory to a crime and deserve to share the abusers’ punishment. Jesus wept, indeed. Pray God He soon stops weeping and pulls out that whip again to cleanse His church.

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  47. There are arguably different kinds of “militancy”. Jesus was very hard-nosed and sharp-elbowed — “militant”, if you like — in his opposition to and criticism of injustice within the religious system of 1st century Israel. What would that look like today? IMO (in the context of this problem in the churches) it would look quite a bit like what Dee, Deb, Todd, and other abuse-survivor advocates are doing.

    Perhaps one could call that “pastoral-hearted militancy”. Good shepherds spend themselves — lay down their lives — for the sake of the well-being of the sheep.

    But there is also “institutional-minded militancy”, in which the interests of the institution (and especially current institutional officers) may be assigned higher priority than the interests of individuals who have experienced harm because of the institution and its officers.

    Over the long-term, institutionally-minded militants in control in the churches who do not have the hearts of pastors will destroy the public reputations of their institutions, and eventually quite possibly the institutions themselves. To the extent that the institutions have taken on the character of leaders of this kind, it might be a righteous thing to applaud that destruction.

    The abuse-survivor advocates are quite literally, as Bev Sterk suggested above, standing in the place occupied in past by Spirit-anointed prophets who called the people back toward less idolatrous forms of religion.

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  48. Long before my family experienced the smarmy insincere love of Driscoll theology I was a survivor of sexual abuse. A little girl in pigtails and ruffled six molested in a stairwell at church. The deacon who hurt me is long dead but I dragged that abuse behind me on old Marley’s chains. It informed every response to authority, made me highly unwilling to trust godly men and it was heartbreaking to discover I was not wrong most of the time. Thank God I got into therapy and began speaking about this publicly. I cut my hair off after my abuser praised it and kept it above my ears over 30 years, but two years ago I said enough. I decided in order to continue my healing I had to once again feel my hair on my shoulders.This blog has been a huge encouragement to me, knowing that there are people actively fighting for change. When I felt weak or the damage tried to immobilize me I came here and read the stories. It renewed my resolve to keep moving forward. What started with a story about church abuse morphed into life bringing change for me. I cannot thank you enough. My hair I am happy to report hit my shoulders this August. Yes, I did it. Still have random panic attacks from it but I am pushing through. When it hits my waist I will know I have beat it, my victory complete. Thank you to all those who fight.

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  49. Rebecca Lynn: A little girl in pigtails and ruffled six molested in a stairwell at church. The deacon who hurt me is long dead … made me highly unwilling to trust godly men …

    Rebecca Lynn, I am so sorry you experienced this in church. I am pleased to hear that you have been encouraged by this blog and continue to move forward.

    The deacon who molested you obviously wasn’t a “godly” man. From my assessment, few who hold that office in the organized church meet the necessary Biblical qualifications to do so as outlined in 1 Timothy and Titus. Just because a man is a church leader (pastor, elder, deacon) doesn’t always mean he was called to occupy that sacred office. Paul warned us not to be too hasty to pick church leaders: “Never be in a hurry to ordain a man, or you may be making yourself responsible for his sins” (1 Timothy 5:22). Those who put leaders in place because they are prominent or powerful in a community, wealthy, popular, etc. are accountable when they fail the Body of Christ.

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  50. Friend,

    “The hierarchy in which I was harmed no longer exists. The villain has vanished. Afterward I was more vulnerable and had experiences which, although less serious, did further damage to my psyche—but none of that was illegal, and it was all in an obsolete fellowship.”
    ++++++++++++

    you state a few things so well.

    the incident of sexual abuse/assault is the horrifying thing. it doesn’t stop there. it sets in motion complex damage that affects so many aspects of life going forward. a tangled mess that grows into a bigger matted mass of tangles all knotted up together and pulling ever tighter.

    and sometimes the abuser vanishes. as well as the community in which it happened. poof. any possibility of resolution, justice, restitution vanishes.

    just isn’t a strong enough word to express, here.

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  51. I don’t know how you have a Christian summit on overcoming abuse and don’t get Boz or someone from GRACE to appear. It’s the leading organization on the topic. #justsaying

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  52. Greek Orthodox nuns have joined the #ChurchToo movement, protesting the reinstatement of their convent supervisor: https://nypost.com/2018/12/08/long-island-nuns-push-for-change-amid-growing-churchtoo-movement/

    Rev. Gerasimos Makris “— an imperious figure who insists on his parishioners kissing his hand — confessed to “inappropriate interactions with two adult women” and an archdiocese “spiritual court” recommended he be banned. But church higher-ups put him back anyway.

    The scandal is the latest black eye for the Greek Orthodox church and the Holy Cross parish, whose former leader, the Rev. George Passias, was defrocked…”

    It seems to me that sectarian divisions prevent Christians from working together to end abuse. Does anyone on TWW know of a survivor blog that might help amplify these nuns’ voices? Deebs, you already have an infinite supply of stories… any ideas?

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  53. Peggy Perry: What does it matter whether it happens in a church or is done by church personnel? If ANYONE (male or female) causes pain – physical, emotional, or spiritual – to another, especially someone more vulnerable, it is UNCHRISTIAN and must be investigated immediately. If physical and emotional, it is ILLEGAL and must be dealt with at the secular level.

    Take heart, the courts are rapidly losing their squeamishness in going after 501-c3 religious entities when they break the laws governing the physio-sex-abuse of minors.

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  54. elastigirl: the incident of sexual abuse/assault is the horrifying thing. it doesn’t stop there. it sets in motion complex damage that affects so many aspects of life going forward. a tangled mess that grows into a bigger matted mass of tangles all knotted up together and pulling ever tighter.

    Yes.

    “To be is to be perceived.
    And so to know thyself is only possible
    through the eyes of the other.
    The nature of our immortal lives is in the
    consequences of our words…
    and deeds that go on apportioning themselves…
    throughout all time.”
    — Sonmi-451 (an illegal broadcast) –-
    From the film adaptation of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas

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  55. Rebecca Lynn,

    You broke my heart, just a little bit more. I am so sorry. Sometimes I beg God to please put an end to all of this, and to show me if there is something I can do, besides praying, that would help bring this to pass sooner. I am sorry for the innocence and trust that have been destroyed by selfish, vile people who view others as instruments for their own pleasure. I am thankful that you have found people and means to bring some healing to a wound that should not have been.

    As painful as this reality is, we need to help people see that there really is no such thing as a ‘safe place’ in which no safeguards are necessary to keep innocent ones from being victimized. I did not realize this when my own children were small, and I fear many still do not recognize this to be true.

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  56. elastigirl,

    Literature and film are purely subjective deals.
    I thought both were top notch.

    The film version took some artistic liberties with Mitchell’s book, but he didn’t object too much, otherwise he never would have sold the rights to the Wochowskis.

    Film reviews were mixed, from critics who slammed it, to Roger Ebert who loved it.

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  57. Dee, how much snow did you get? We missed it in the DC suburb where I currently live but nearly a foot of snow fell in the part of central Virginia where I grew up.

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  58. elastigirl:
    singleman,

    so…the steamy, languid south gets snow (?)

    Yes, occasionally. And in this case, a lot of snow in some places. Others got a mix of snow and freezing rain.

    It’s been unseasonably cold in my area for about a month and the Washington, DC area got anywhere from 1-4 inches of snow, or mixed snow and sleet, on November 15. As much as 8 inches of snow fell closer to the Mason-Dixon Line.

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  59. singleman,

    Can’t speak for Dee, who’s in Raleigh IIRC(?). But here, just north of Winston-Salem, we got over 14 inches!

    My son lives in Raleigh close to Cary… haven’t asked him yet how much he got.

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  60. I am not a frequent reader of TWW but on occasion I like to see what’s the latest from that perspective. Love Wade Burleson and much of what I glean from the blog is informative and interesting to say the least (and alarming as well). This I think is my 2nd time to comment. I first read this particular TWW article without any knowledge of @mediaproject.org or Ostling’s #ChurchToo article. And with no dog in any fight (any sympathies would lie with TWW) I failed to see the negative tone nor surmised the central theme you espoused from Ostling. In fact, I took the mention as a compliment (not complement – pun intended) as well as “sharp elbow” as to TWW’s pointed and serious no holds barred approach re: to all things abuse. Just my unbiased opinion. Perhaps TWW is being (understably so) a touch sensitive.

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  61. Darrin Chatham,

    “I failed to see the negative tone nor surmised the central theme you espoused from Ostling.”
    ++++++++++++

    it seems to portray complementarian as the historic christian norm, the standard, the baseline from which suspect fringe groups deviate.

    aside from being entirely false, it is the exact message which the purveyors of the invented doctrine have deviously strategized to weave into the collective consciousness.

    it is what christians who abort the critical thinking process (either by choice or because they don’t have the skills) have easily believed.

    Mr. Ostling is not this kind of person, so i’ve been greatly bothered a reporter of his caliber would infer as true something that is absolutely not true.

    and a bit perplexed. The Ahmanson connection bothers me even more. well-meaning folks who use their wealth surreptitiously to manipulate society in the name of God.

    so discouraged — i’m fast approaching the point where even the mere association with the word “christian” means “beware, not a trustworthy source. you will be conned.”

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  62. Friend,

    pastrix

    “Well now, there’s a new word I didn’t need to learn.”
    +++++++++++++++

    it’s just way too cute, isn’t it.

    leave it to Americans…. who “take themselves sooooo seriously”, as my friends & relatives from another country observe with chuckles and amazement.

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  63. Friend: FREEATLAST: pastrix
    Well now, there’s a new word I didn’t need to learn.

    English does have feminine forms of most of its nouns, just they’re hardly ever used. Their heyday seemed to be in or around Victorian times. Most of them tack on the Latinesque feminine ending “-ess”, but some use the Greek “-trix’. Much more consistent than the ad-hoc constructions you see coined today (like “Womanpriest” for “Priestess”).

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  64. Headless Unicorn Guy,

    mmmmm, they just chose it cuz it sounds catchy. a new marketing buzzword. isnt’ christianity great?!? 😐

    i think i’m about ready to make that move to Alaksa and build a cabin on the tundra. fish…go blueberrying….plant tubers….read books….

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  65. Max,

    CHRISLAM AT WHEATON COLLEGE

    http://www.manifestedbythelight.com/rick-warren/islam-and-the-bible-god-are-one-

    Roy Oksnevad (Institute of Strategic Evangelism at Wheaton College)
    ‘A Common Word Between Us and You’
    This document says that Muslims and Christians worship the same God and claims that “the future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.”

    STETZER ISLAM WARREN
    http://apprising.org/2012/03/05/rick-warren-ed-stetzer-and-watchbloggers/

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  66. Relevant to this TWW article … I posted the following thread on Twitter:

    This week, I’ll be posting articles in my series on Christian survivor communities in the #MeToo movement. Here are few observations about who’s in, who’s out, who’s suspect, and why or why not when it comes to those who want to be taken seriously as survivor advocates.

    1. Christian survivor communities value expertise. Practitioner advocates and activists who contribute media content and create resources based on their observations and experiences, are valued more than theoreticians without a track record who state what supposedly “should” be.

    2. Listen to longer-established abuse survivor advocates/activists and you’ll hear their heart to demonstrate transparency, credibility, and sustainability. Interested parties who don’t yet understand or demonstrate those qualities should invest in asking, listening, learning.

    3. Credible advocates willingly critique their own home-base paradigm, leaders/role models, institutions, and systems. Those who passively ignore or openly refuse to look at what’s happening in their own church, denomination, or organization can expect to be considered poseurs.

    4. Certain reportedly malignant public figures and toxic institutions have become litmus tests of trustworthiness. Unresolved, unrenounced complicity with them is seen as disintegrity that tends to disqualify you from being taken seriously about survivor recovery and advocacy.

    5. Expect vigorous push-back from these communities if you block survivors, advocates, and/or activists on social media – especially when they have credible evidence to question a litmus test person or situation in your realm of influence, or challenge your reported complicity.

    These are some of the planks in my analysis of the common-ground paradigm that shows up in online Christian survivor communities. There are more such guidelines, but these especially help explain points of conflict about who gets listened to, or not, as thought leaders and why.

    https://twitter.com/futuristguy/status/1072206409498943488

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  67. FREEATLAST: This document says that Muslims and Christians worship the same God

    Just taking this phrase in isolation (with NO reference to the people you cite): is that not what is meant by “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”?

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  68. Friend: Just taking this phrase in isolation (with NO reference to the people you cite): is that not what is meant by “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”?

    I concur.
    This does not mean that Christians and Muslims don’t have VERY different views of and takes on the same God, and hostility over which one is the correct one.

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  69. I think you’re being thin-skinned and paranoid, Dee. Ostling’s article seems like nothing more than a tip-sheet for national reporters (most likely secular, never-churched people) who might know very little or nothing about how evangelical American churches operate, and how their structure contributes to and exacerbates the horrors of sex abuse. In its context, I didn’t see anything about Ostling’s use of the adjectives “militant” or “sharp-elbowed” that should be offensive to you. In fact, by the end of your own blog here, you are “owning” those ideas. Fighting sex abuse and cover-ups in the power structure of the evangelical American church IS a battle, isn’t it? The fact that Ostling included you and other sources of victim advocacy in hist article is a good thing, isn’t it? I don’t see anywhere in his article where Ostling is telling reporters to steer clear of you or other victim advocates. In fact, if you knew much about journalism, you would know that conflict sells, that the best stories are the ones that show adversity, David v Goliath, truth to power. If reporters don’t flock to your door as a result of Ostling’s article, I’d be surprised. And that would be a good thing for the cause of victim advocacy, wouldn’t it?

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  70. Eli,

    I just discovered that you sent me an email last week. Sadly. I didn’t read it until today due to a mess with TWW emails and snowstorm which is rare in NC.

    I am glad to hear of your father’s background. I am not . a trained writer by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, my lowest grades in college surrounded two required courses: composition and swimming. To this day I despise swimming since it took place on Monday and Wednesday mornings in winter in upstate New York.

    For years I avoided writing until I began to get letters to the editor selected for publication. Then I watched my former SBC church mishandle a pedophile situation and this blog was born. Your father’s piece struck an off note-not only in me but in some of the other advocates.

    Here is how the post reads to me.

    1. The well meaning establishment who are nice people trying to do something nice within the nice evangelical world. There was no mention of Ed Stetzer’s ties to the crowd who supported , and continue to support CJ Mahaney along with other Reformed Baptist church which really screwed things up.

    2. The other group is militant, progressive and I am sharp elbowed.

    Can you see why that might strike a negative note?

    However, if your dad would like to clarify his views, I would love to publish them here.

    Thank you for your kind comment. I will make sure you get this by emailing it to you as well. I will also give you you my super secret cell phone number in that email.

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  71. FREEATLAST: Another church died near us.

    This always saddens me (unless the church was rotten). What caused that particular church to die? Discord, aging, diaspora, parking? Building upkeep costs are now a much bigger threat to congregations than in the past. In my region, sharing a church building is now the norm.

    It’s not just churches. Tree of Life Synagogue is a previously merged congregation, with two smaller Jewish congregations on the premises.

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  72. Brent Thompson: national reporters (most likely secular, never-churched people) who might know very little or nothing about how evangelical American churches operate

    Maybe, but I’m not convinced that reporters would need such a tip sheet or use it as intended. Religion reporters know their beat, and most national reporters (assuming they would find this event enticing) have heard of “Spotlight.”

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  73. Friend: The only one I miss is seamstress. Yes, it excludes men, and tailor is a different line of work. But I can’t get used to seeing people called sewers.

    “Sewist” is the word to be used, at least according to Threads Magazine. It’s a portmanteau of “sew” and “artist.” But yeah, sewers is right out.

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  74. Headless Unicorn Guy: This does not mean that Christians and Muslims don’t have VERY different views of and takes on the same God, and hostility over which one is the correct one.

    It ain’t just Christians and Muslims.
    Greek Orthodox and Armenian monks actually got into a fistfight in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre over who has what rights to what territory in the sacred site.

    Jesus Wept. (shortest verse in Scripture)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yznFT4-2dKI

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  75. dee,

    As I reread this posting I am reminded of the new split in those calling the Catholic Church to reform over sexual abuse by priests. Suddenly, anti-gay groups are involved and making this a problem caused by gay priests instead of just pedophile and straight but abusive priests. Are we seeing this playing out in this instance as the “right thinking” Evangelicals vs the “militant” progressives. Is this an attempt to circle establishment wagons while appearing to care about abuse?

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  76. Headless Unicorn Guy:

    Friend: Just taking this phrase in isolation (with NO reference to the people you cite): is that not what is meant by “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”?

    I concur.
    This does not mean that Christians and Muslims don’t have VERY different views of and takes on the same God, and hostility over which one is the correct one.

    Am I the only one that wonders if ‘the pew’ of Islam (and every other big R Religion) has not been appropriated, misled and abused by false teachers in the exact same manner that so much of the Christian Church has? They appear to all use the same methods. Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to think that the average individual does not wake up with hate-filled, murderous thoughts; it seems to require a good deal of programming. I can’t help but believe that most people, in whatever country or religion they find themselves in, just want to raise safe, healthy and happy families and live meaningful and productive lives.

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  77. Loren Haad: dee,

    As I reread this posting I am reminded of the new split in those calling the Catholic Church to reform over sexual abuse by priests. Suddenly, anti-gay groups are involved and making this a problem caused by gay priests instead of just pedophile and straight but abusive priests. Are we seeing this playing out in this instance as the “right thinking” Evangelicals vs the “militant” progressives. Is this an attempt to circle establishment wagons while appearing to care about abuse?

    Very real possibility, and in keeping with historical moves. Circle the wagons and blame the outsiders.

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  78. TS00: I can’t help but believe that most people, in whatever country or religion they find themselves in, just want to raise safe, healthy and happy families and live meaningful and productive lives.

    I’ve often thought this very thing.
    How is it then that such a small contingent of evil men call the shots for all of us and make us dance to their tune?

    As you’ve put it, ‘the great and vast all of us’ who have no interest in complicated theology and spiritual horse poo-poo, but who just wanna’ work decent jobs and raise decent kids.

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  79. Muff Potter,

    I sometimes think that if we figure that ‘mystery’ out we will perhaps someday put an end to the ‘conspiracy’ of Evil.

    The fundies I know believe every little child is a totally depraved sinner, who needs to have the wickedness beat out of him. I simply don’t buy that picture any longer. I no longer see God as Edward’s monster, dangling us over the flames, but as a loving Father, who wants nothing more than to restore us to a good and healthy place in his vast and glorious estate. I imagine his love and compassion for us as much the same as when we look at our out-of-control toddlers, or finding-their-way young adults: he sadly allows us to have our own way, while ever seeking to show us his merciful love and a ‘better way’.

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  80. TS00,

    The ‘conspiracy of Evil’, it seems to me, is the deception that the powers of darkness present, distorting all that is good, beautiful and true and persuading us to accept that which is inherently not good for others or ourselves. And yes, I believe that this deception only requires a few, well-placed good, er bad, men to carry off. The rest, thoroughly deceived, do much of the dirty work, albeit sometimes with good intentions. Other times, they are simply serving their own desires.

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  81. TS00,

    Thanks — glad to know that was of some help.

    I have 3 segments dealing with a paradigm profile of the Christian #MeToo movement forthcoming, and the first is almost ready to post and the second not long after that …

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  82. TS00: most people, in whatever country or religion they find themselves in, just want to raise safe, healthy and happy families and live meaningful and productive lives.

    Agreed. I also think it’s daunting to raise children in an age when puberty starts sooner, and young adults launch later and marry later for a host of reasons. Some extremists resort to child marriage, while most parents spend 25 or more years instilling values, phasing in independence, listening, supporting, guiding, hoping, and above all loving. Oppressive religion is as limited as a hammer.

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  83. TS00,

    “They appear to all use the same methods. Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to think that the average individual does not wake up with hate-filled, murderous thoughts; it seems to require a good deal of programming.

    I can’t help but believe that most people, in whatever country or religion they find themselves in, just want to raise safe, healthy and happy families and live meaningful and productive lives.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++

    living beings are initially cautious & curious about other living beings who look different.

    it’s natural and normal, and is part of survival.

    intelligence & reason plus maturity (or simply direct experience with how harmless differences can be) helps us get beyond that caution for the greater good.

    people on a quest for power exploit this survival instinct to benefit themselves. some religious leaders deliberately do this.

    many other religious leaders unknowingly do this simply by following the program set for them by powerbrokers.

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  84. brad/futuristguy,

    I’ve just posted Part 1A in the series on “A Cultural Geography of Survivor Communities.” I should have Part 1B posted tonight or sometime Wednesday.

    1 – A Paradigm Profile and Cultural GPS of the Christian Wing(s) of the #MeToo Movement. This two-part article is the most technical in the series, but foundational to all else in analyzing this movement’s paradigm, problems, and possibilities.

    PART 1A applies aspects of paradigm profiling, subcultural emergence, and social transformation tracking to the punk rock subculture and “emerging ministry movement.” This gives us a robust historical example as a framework to consider what brings people together into movements, and how things tend to change over time in it.

    PART 1B applies these frameworks to give an initial profile for the Christian version of the #MeToo movement. I base this description primarily on my own personal experiences, online interactions, and other sources. It includes my initial analysis of key elements of common ground that unify this movement. I also identify issues where there are considerable doctrinal differences that may have the power to fragment the movement if participants choose strict conformity over stepped collaboration.

    https://futuristguy.wordpress.com/2018/12/11/a-cultural-geography-of-survivor-communities-part-1a/

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  85. Appreciate this post. I just came up for air after writing a book about how the church can (hopefully) reform and move toward redemption in the way they shepherd sexual abuse victims. It’s so great to see many of those I respect highlighted in this piece.

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  86. Great article! Thank you for sharing the many helpful resources and recommendations of those who are in the trenches working to advocate for victims of abuse in the church environment.

    I stumbled upon your blog back in 2014 when abuse at my childhood church first hit the media (“Fight Church – Victory Church in Henrietta, NY). Your posts helped me to realize I was not alone, that people like you believed stories like mine, which gave me the courage to find my voice and ultimately face the decades of trauma I endured.

    I’ve connected with and followed many of those you mentioned in your article and have learned so much in the process. Thank you for the work you do! I can finally say I’m on the road to healing thanks to you and many of the advocates you named.

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  87. Mary DeMuth:
    Appreciate this post. I just came up for air after writing a book about how the church can (hopefully) reform and move toward redemption in the way they shepherd sexual abuse victims. It’s so great to see many of those I respect highlighted in this piece.

    I am so excited about and can’t wait to read this book Mary!!!!

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  88. Hi Elizabeth – Thanks for weighing in. I’m a fairly conservative Christian and former journalist (yes, we do exist ;), and I’ve admired your dad for a long time. I was surprised by the word “militant” because I attended the Courage Conference this fall and experienced nothing of the sort. Your father and Sarah Bailey are fantastic journalists and people. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about other members of the Media Project (based on my own personal experience). And I think the Courage Conference is a million times better than anything Ed Stetzer could come up with. Of course, I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

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  89. ObserverCN,

    …trying to figure out if any professionally christian entity can actually be trusted to choose what is truthful, honest, fair, ethical, transparent. Whether the choices are easy or hard.

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  90. Friend,

    Friend:
    Lydia,

    Personally, I’d like to see Protestant conferences about abuse always include Catholic survivors, who have been fighting the good fight in the open for a couple of decades now.

    That was one of my favorite parts of the Courage Conference this year. Amazing testimonies from men who survived horrific abuse by priests.

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