Earth enveloped in an airglow. NASA
“On October 7, 2018, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph while orbiting at an altitude of more than 250 miles over Australia.
The orange hue enveloping Earth is known as airglow—diffuse bands of light that stretch 50 to 400 miles into our atmosphere. The phenomenon typically occurs when molecules (mostly nitrogen and oxygen) are energized by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight. To release that energy, atoms in the lower atmosphere bump into each other and lose energy in the collision. The result is colorful airglow.”
“One of the things we need to do as adults and part of becoming an adult is accepting the reality of how adulthood feels – and adulthood feels, at times, like there is a hole in our heart- that there’s something missing. To live in this world has an anxiety associated with it, that there’s NO EDEN ELSEWHERE and that’s part of the struggle. We are searching for something that’s totally elusive in this world and impossible to find. We need to learn to sit in this discomfort and bring it into relationship.” Milan Yerkovich
(Warning: I’ve been experiencing some glitching on WordPress tonight. It erased my post and I thankfully had another copy. I apologize for any glitches.)
I am always grateful when new blogger hits the ground running. There is far too much material on abusive churches and pastors for just a few folks to cover. When I first started this blog, I wondered if I would find enough to write about. Now, I worry about how to cover all of the stories that need to be told. Today I met with one woman who was featured at TWW and I urged her to consider starting a blog to deal with the issues in her particular church/parachurch group.
“Wow! Such powerful words and an amazing perspective! When I first heard this on Milan’s radio show, New Life Life, I wrote it down as fast as I could! This concept was so profound to me. I believe that what he said is completely true – we will never find that absolute true perfect peace this side of heaven, therefore we must take the pain and anguish of this life and truly deal with it, then ultimately bring it into relationship. Having experienced a great deal of abuse and dysfunction in my life has caused me to advocate for abuse victims, particularly those who have been wounded in the church. I have spent many years learning to overcome a dysfunctional family system through talk therapy & support groups and want to equip others to cultivate the skills to take control of their lives.
Anna gets abuse and is a thoughtful communicator. She has recently written two posts about abuse in The Village Church.
For purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on Part II which I’ll call Allison’s story. Instead of repeating the post, I’m going to pull out some statements that particularly caught my eye. Readers of TWW will recognize some of these *counseling* tactics that can, and often do, lead to abuse. Before I begin, this is for the lawyers. Of course this story is alleged to have happened. But I want to stress that I believe the narrative because I have seen this stuff played out in other churches during my many years of blogging. It’s almost like there is playbook that is passed around the dudebros, especially those in the Reformed Baptist movement of which Matt Chandler is a key player.
The story begins in 2007 as Allison moves to Dallas to live with a friend who recommended The Village Church. Allison had suffered with bouts of depression and decided to join the Celebrate Recovery group.
Beware when a church begins to deviate from the suggested course material. It’s usually about the pastors and leaders wanting control.
Allison attended the program for about a year. However, things began to change. Participants should always ask why a change in a known program is being made; who were the people who made the change; what is the training and expertise of those who make the changes; and what is the proof that the changes being suggested are in the best interest of those attending.
It has been my experience that such changes made by churches have to do with the latest *trends* being touted by the dudebros which may have to do more with stressing church discipline and authoritarian control.
in 2009. It was around that time that TVC began to ‘customize’ the Celebrate Recovery program which then just became known as ‘Recovery at The Village.’
Beware when a church wants a person in a recovery program (or even In a small group) to outline their sins, shame and guilt.
The shift in recovery moved towards confession, which included completing an inventory list of GUILT & FEARS, SHAME, SEXUAL HISTORY & ABUSE (as in Christina’s case: From Recovery to Abuse: Part I).
I have written a number of posts about my concerns with the Biblical counseling movement. This post has links to all the posts I have written on the matter. Another Reason to Avoid Biblical Counseling: Confidentiality Is Not Guaranteed When Sin™ Is Involved
In my opinion, this counseling movement believes that many emotional struggles can be tied directly to the sin of the individual. This sin needs to be confessed. What makes matters even worse, the confession of this *sin* can be shared (no guarantee of confidentially when sin™ is involved ) with the church leaders and just about anyone else they wish to involve so that church discipline can be instituted. As you will see, this is precisely what happened here.
Since the earliest days of the shepherding movement, the confession of sin has been used to punish the individual who confesses such sin. It is used as a sledgehammer with little regard for the emotional well being of the individual involved.
As such, I do not recommend confessing any sins or serious emotional struggle in either recovery groups or small group Bible studies without a guarantee that this will not be shared outside of the group. In fact, unless you have known these folks for a very long time, I would not do any major confessions or admit struggles with sin. This can be dangerous. Most small group leaders and most *recovery leaders* are not trained to handle such issues and can cause terrific harm to a vulnerable individual as you will see in this story.
Red flag: You are asked to move in to a home with a family so you can be mentored.
I have a problem with mentoring relationships. Who sets the parameters? How does the one being mentored even know if the mentor has sufficient training in order to do what is being asked? How does the church guarantee that they are not putting a vulnerable individual in the hands of incompetent mentors?
Allison was presented with a list of requirements of her stay with this family and was given a car, a laptop and a camera to pursue her photography passion. Sounds good, right? Here is a list of what she was required to do. Be sure to focus on the last requirement.
- Go to Village Recovery every week
- Go to STEPS every Saturday
- Meet with a private counselor every week (counselor was Summer Vinson Berger, who is now the current ‘Director of Care’ at TVC)
- Get up early daily to help Leigh with the children (dress them, prepare breakfast, lunches, etc)
- Run errands as requested
- Be home for dinner 4-5 nights a week
- Participate in family outings
- Track her monthly cycle on the family calendar
Red flag: If something sounds bizarre, it probably is. Also, be careful with the required sexual history stuff. It will mark you forever in these groups.
Always pay attention to your gut. Allison had to track her monthly period on the Family Calendar(!) to prove she was not sexually active or pregnant since she had confessed some previous sexual activity. Besides being incredibly intrusive, it is next to useless to prove anything by this nonsense. Sexual activity can occur without pregnancy and with a regular monthly period and a monthly period can be late or skipped altogether when under stress.
And putting it on the family calendar for all to see? How absolutely weird is that? Something is wrong here.
Red Flag: If you feel uncomfortable with the behavior of someone, act on your gut.
So, it appears that the dad may have been acting somewhat inappropriately towards Allison.
Brett insisted many times on driving her to work in the mornings and picking her up in the afternoons, as a means to spend more one-on-one time with her. He would also occasionally take her out to dinner or for ice cream – without his wife or children present.
Red Flag: Instead of appropriate psychiatric intervention, Allison was told she had a generational demon and because of this demon was placed on church discipline. (I’m not kidding.)
First of all, I don’t buy *generational* demons. Which genius came up with this doctrine? Read The Covering by Hank Hanegraaff In fact, this teaching is so unusual that I think members of the church should ask Matt Chandler to address it. I wonder if Chandler was getting demon trial lessons from Mark Driscoll?
It appears that Allison struggled with cutting and also experienced a manic episode. Normal people would help the person to seek medical intervention. Instead, these folks got all weird on her.
The McLaughlins took her to see (now former) TVC staff member Chris Chavez and a deliverance pastor. They spoke to Alison and explained to her that the demon that was attached to her was generational and the reason it continued to stay attached to her is because she was entertaining it – by self-harming, drinking, thoughts of suicide, etc. They gave her some books to read about deliverance from demon oppression and told her to KEEP TRYING HARDER! (
…According to TVC, Alison’s ‘demon attachment’ was due to a ‘lack of waging war on her sin, failure to walk in repentance & failure to submit to authority in her life’, therefore she was placed under formal church discipline at the recommendation of the TVC pastoral staff, with whom Brett McLaughlin had close personal relationships with.
The police and forced psychiatric hospital stay.
A church which believes that demons, church discipline and confession of sins will lead to a cure for a psychiatric disorder is a dangerous church. I recommend that everyone look carefully what happened when. group of women decided that they would intervene to supposedly save Allison’s life.
According to Allison, she was not suicidal. This led them to contact who were told Allison was going to kill herself. These women even told the psychiatric facility that she was going to kill herself. However, Allison was finally brought to some people who actually know how to handle a psychiatric disorder. She was examined, released and given a bill for $800.
Alison is met downstairs in the kitchen by her home group friends. Mary informs Alison that she has two choices – let her and Alison’s home group friends drive her to a mental facility, or they will call the police. Mary tells her that she has already spoken with the police and that they told her if Alison refuses to go with them, to call them back and they would take her forcefully. Alison pleads with them to not make her go, because she can’t afford to miss work or pay for the hospital stay – and she promises to check herself into a facility if she feels suicidal. They all assure her not to worry about the money, that ‘one way or another it will all be taken care of‘.
With no other choice to make, Alison chooses to go with Mary and her home group ‘friends’ (at this point I can’t say they are her friends). On the way to the facility, Alison texts her friend James and tells him what is going on – that she doesn’t know where she is being taken, except that it is to a treatment facility – and that she would reach out to him when she could.
When they arrive at the facility, Mary begins to exclaim loudly, “My friend is going to kill herself!” so that Alison is taken back quickly to be assessed. Again, her home group friends & Mary keep reassuring Alison not to worry about the cost of the hospitalization.
Then they left.
Alison undergoes a psychiatric evaluation and is released. No one from TVC, except for her friend James, bothers to check up on her.
She was told she couldn’t leave the church due to her signed membership covenant and was put on discipline a second time. This is why I tell you to never, ever, ever sign one of these things. You can get out of it at anytime but they don’t tell you that.
When she returned to her home group, she was also told she didn’t look happy and that she shouldn’t return to her home group. How thoughtful of them…
For those of you who want out, here is a recommended course of action. However, if you are really concerned, consult an attorney. They didn’t tell you that you signed a contract with the church.
Thankfully she got out and got medical intervention (Yes, psychiatric training involves getting an MD) and is doing much better.
Sadly, things are not going so well at The Village Church these days. For example, there is the $1 million lawsuit against the church. Until churches like this get sued and called on the carpet for their ridiculous interventions (generational demon, my foot) they will not change.
Matt Chandler and his boys have lurched from controversy to controversy. It is my opinion that it is high time for new and better leadership at all levels.
In the meantime, I’m grateful to Anna for her thoughtful presentation of these two stories of abuse at TVC. I’m so glad to welcome her to the mind boggling world of blogging. Consider putting her blog on your must read list. I have.