“My position and the state will never allow me to become a dictator, but an authoritarian ruling style is characteristic of me.” Alexander Lukashenko
G.R.A.C.E was not influenced by those paying the bills
Years ago, I experienced a church that did an internal investigation. Of course, the pastors were let off the hook. Over the years, I followed the establishment of G.R.A.C.E. I was most impressed with their commitment to finding the truth, even when it went against what the hiring institution wanted. Here is what TWW reported back in 2014. (Sorry for the outdated links. I just can’t keep up with them.): Bob Jones University Fires GRACE & The New York Times Takes Notice
During the early days of the Sovereign Grace implosion, there were lots of “investigations” that usually turned out in favor of the leaders in Sovereign Grace. I consistently said that there was a money problem. It was quite simple. Church (and parachurch) leadership would hire an outside group to come in and investigate claims of abuse by church members. Church leaders were the ones to pay the bills. Do you see the conflict?
Church leaders pay the bills of a newish group investigating accusations of abuse. That new investigative group also wants to be hired by other churches whose leaders would also be paying the bills. The new group is possibly unduly influenced by their desire to become established. Therefore, they would tend, subconsciously or consciously, to feel kindly towards the leadership.
Over time, this was born out when it came to Sovereign Grace. When GRACE came on the scene, my fears were lessened since that group behaved honorably. Sadly, that did not mean other groups would have the same ethics as GRACE.
One Christian “peacemaker” was found to have abused her “authority.”
Christianity Today recently posted The Christian Peacemaker Who Left a Trail of Trauma It was subtitled: “Judy Dabler built a career helping reconcile the conflict within ministries including RZIM and Mars Hill. But a new investigation says she abused her authority to protect those with power.” Who is Judy Dabler? According to CT:
Judy Dabler founded two popular organizations for Christians needing a third party to help navigate conflict and broken relationships: Live at Peace Ministries (LAPM) and Creative Conciliation. She also taught more than 10,000 people how to do conciliation, which she described in presentations as the only biblical option for dealing with conflict.
I have been worried about something like this for years. My MBA course often discussed the potential for bias towards those who hold the purse strings. But it goes even deeper than that. For years, I was biased towards pastors over those in the pews. I believe that God slapped me upside the head and gave me a number of experiences that taught me that pastors and church leaders sin as frequently as I do. Recently, one of my pastors did a sermon in which he described himself as a sinner who struggles just like we do. It was well-received by those I spoke with after church.
Therefore, it would stand to reason that pastors and church leadership might, on occasion, use money to influence others. Vice Versa. It would stand to reason that even those who “investigate” might be swayed by money.
I was right and I give full credit to my MBA program and a bad experience with a church.
According to CT:
In her conciliation work, though, Dabler consistently favored the person paying the bills, siding with the leader or big-name institution. Again and again, interviews and documents obtained by CT show, it was the less powerful party—the victim of sexual harassment, the beleaguered employee, the hurt congregant—who was pressured to make confessions they weren’t comfortable with and settle for agreements they thought were unfair.
Judy Dabler was involved in the disturbing Sankey Orphanage case.
I wrote 6 posts on this matter. Here is a link to one that would be helpful to understand what happened: Justice for Sankey Launches a Comprehensive, Organized and Factual Website to Shine the Light on the Accusations of Child Abuse
According to Ministry Watch:
Christ Community Chapel’s elders say they have done all they can to reconcile with Chen and other Sankey justice advocates. But the church’s reconciliation process, which it describes on its Sankey Review web page, was flawed.
Here’s how the church described its efforts to reconcile with critics:
“The Elders engaged a third-party conciliator to aid us in the process of reconciliation. The conciliator (not CCC) required anyone engaging in the process of reconciliation to sign a nondisclosure agreement in an effort of creating an atmosphere of transparency and vulnerability. While the Leadership at CCC was willing to sign the NDA, the advocates were not interested in engaging in the process with the conciliator.”
The third-party conciliator CCC chose was Judy Dabler, who has reliably defendedministries against legitimate complaints. Dabler was an ombudsman for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, where she successfully deflected valid complaints about Zacharias’s long-concealed sexual activities in the years before the scandal imploded and brought down RZIM.
Her insistence that critics of Christ Community Chapel sign nondisclosure agreements is another bad sign.MinistryWatch reported last year on how ministries use NDAs to “silence victims and conceal sin.”
She has been accused of sexually abusing her staff as well as being a bully.
According to CT:
(according to interviews and documents) She bullied, belittled, and shamed her staff, and she sexually abused two seminarians she taught, supervised, and employed from 2007 to 2011.
Dabler got caught in her own trap.
Dabler apparently requested an independent group to review some of the complaints against her. It did not go well. According to CT:
An independent investigation by an ad hoc panel of three Christian conciliators—originally requested by Dabler in response to allegations of misconduct—concluded in July that she is disqualified for all further conciliation work. The panel found she was unethical, and her approach traumatized the very people she was supposed to help.
She should not mediate or train others “until she has completed an independently supervised process of therapy and conciliation that leads to a clear demonstration of authentic repentance,” the panel said.
Except, I disagree with the panel’s conclusion on one point.
She should never, ever, ever (ever, ever) mediate or train others again. She is not to be trusted. As for sexual abuse-keep her away from overseeing staff.
Dabler refused to speak to CT and said she would post her response on Creative Conciliation. At the time of the CT article, she had not done so. However, her response was posted at Creative Conciliation on 11/16/21.
After allegations of mismanaging a 2018 conciliation process arose earlier this year, I requested that Ken Sande lead a professional performance review of my services. He expanded his review into an investigation, and his report has been given to Christianity Today and has been made public. I do not agree with Ken’s conclusions about me, nor do I affirm the process he utilized. I also do not agree with much of the information reported by Christianity Today.
There are people that I have both hurt and harmed. I am truly sorry for the pain and damage that I have caused. I am and have been sincerely desiring to hear the stories of anyone who has been negatively impacted by me so that I can take responsibility for my failures. A possible process to pursue healing and resolution might be for any injured parties to contact Peacemaker Ministries at 1-800-711-7118 for assistance.
I am no longer serving in vocational ministry, nor am I looking for an avenue to be restored. I am sincerely seeking God’s guidance as I strive to live in a way that reflects my gratitude for all that he has done for me through Jesus Christ.
She disagrees! I think she’s not done yet. Think Tullian Tchividjian, Andy Savage, James MacDonald, etc. Is a comeback in the works?
Living at Peace posted their own “Statement of Acknowledgment and Public Confession.”
The organization that she founded, Living at Peace, posted a Statement of Acknowledgment and Public Confession It is far more humble. It’s long so I’ll post the beginning and you can read more if you wish.
In February 2021, a journalist, David French, wrote an article regarding the conciliation services of the LAPM founder, Judy Dabler, while she was working for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) in 2018 and 2019. The story highlighted how Dabler’s conciliation process was utilized by powerful senior leaders as a larger effort to conceal Ravi Zacharias’ abusive behavior. The release of this article, and resulting negative public attention, led to Judy Dabler requesting a professional performance review of the RZIM mediations pursuant to an established Conciliator Grievance Policy. This policy is designed to address complaints that a Christian conciliator may have violated the Standard Conduct for Christian Conciliation.
Judy Dabler asked Ken Sande, the founder of Peacemaker Ministries and RW360, to review the RZIM cases to identify any possible deficiencies in her conciliation methods and to recommend ways to make amends with anyone who may have been harmed by her services. The review was to be conducted by an independent Panel comprised of three attorneys who had also qualified as Certified Christian Conciliators.
The professional grievance process eventually expanded into a formal investigation beyond the scope of the RZIM mediations due to a number of Judy Dabler’s past clients, colleagues, and students coming forward to provide further testimony. Many of them had read the David French article and shared similar concerns about Dabler’s methods and practice of conciliation. Consequently, these witnesses felt compelled to come forward and volunteer to be interviewed by the Panel in hopes of protecting others from further harm. The Panel reviewed Judy Dabler’s records and interviewed 39 individuals, including Judy Dabler’s testimony and subsequent response. Numerous emails, photographs, and documents were presented to corroborate past clients,’ colleagues,’ and students’ responses.
On July 22, 2021, after receiving the final results and recommendations of the Panel, Judy Dabler officially withdrew from the grievance process she originally requested. She declined to accept and submit to the findings and recommendations of the Panel.
Wade Mullen: The conciliation model is too simplistic if it assumes that both parties bear responsibility for the problem.
Conciliation is sometimes described as the “Matthew 18 model” for dealing with conflict. Dabler, in a presentation she gave to the Missouri Baptist Convention in 2017, described the process of peacemaking as the “heart of the gospel.”
According to Mullen, however, the conciliation model is too simplistic to apply to all conflicts. It assumes, for example, that both parties bear some responsibility for the problem and are roughly equal. It does not account for the fact that one person may have the power to decide if the conciliator gets future business while the other will lose their job if they don’t participate.
Conciliations also almost always involve confidentiality agreements or non-disclosure clauses that prohibit anyone from seeking appeal. Defenders say this is necessary to allow people to be vulnerable and honest. In some cases, however, individuals are not even allowed to tell other pastors or their pastor’s spiritual authority if the process did not go well.
The problem: It’s all about the market and the pretty bow.
While there is no complete record available of all the conciliation work Dabler did, she held herself out as the go-to person for major conflict inside evangelical churches.
“There’s a market for what she provides, and she’s supplying what the market wants,” said Kyle Hackmann, a pastor in Canada who was training to be a conciliator and worked with Dabler doing conciliation.
“Conflict is really messy. We want it fixed,” Hackmann said. “I wanted a nice bow to wrap up the problem and make it go away. And that’s what Judy did.”
No, it’s not about the market. It is about people and the pain they experience in churches or parachurch organizations. And conflict is not always tied up in a pretty bow. Sometimes, it’s messy and we need to be able to support the people who are often being run over by the Evangelical steamroller.
Christianity Today wrote a superb article, giving many examples of how Dabler failed. It is well worth the read in its entirety. However, I am feeling a bit discouraged. Once again, the evangelical world jumped on a bandwagon and accepted a woman who seemed smart. She was smart and deeply flawed and many people overlooked what was going on because there was a “market” for this. There was never a market for what happened and it worries me that few people see this. There is a need for groups like GRACE and wonderful people like Wade Mullen. But we must remember what Martin Luther said: “Simul justus et peccator.” We are all simultaneously saints and sinners. And when someone looks too good, it’s time to explore their other side.