UN-accountable: Case Study in Systems Analysis and Ministerial Accountability

I am a blogging team member at Spiritual Sounding Board. We are posting there a five-part case study that I developed in late 2017. (All segments will be posted on Spiritual Sounding Board, only my introduction will be on this futuristguy blog.) The series covers concepts about systems, systemic abuse, repentance/damage repair, and accountability. I used Tullian Tchividjian’s documented situation of clergy sexual misconduct and spiritual abuses of his role as pastor and speaker to illustrate the concepts.

The introduction and Note from Julie Anne Smith explain some of the providential reasons for publishing this material now, when it was finished almost two full years ago. An outline of the series, plus links to its posts and other key resources, follows the introduction.

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An Introduction to “UN-ACCOUNTABLE”

by Brad Sargent (aka brad/futuristguy)

I produced the first five parts in this UN-accountable series in late 2017. It remained completed but unpublished until now – other than Parts 1 and 2, which appear on one of my Futuristguy’s Field Guides blog. I originally intended to use it on one of my blogs as an extended case study to illustrate key concepts about systems, systemic abuse, forms of organizations with self-protective social controls, accountability, and taking responsibility for damages done through repentance and repair.

I used the situation of Tullian Tchividjian because our team at Spiritual Sounding Board had posted a substantial amount of information that included background material, personal experience narratives by women who were survivors of Mr. Tchividjian’s wiles, a resource bibliography, and various news updates and opinion pieces as the story continued to unfold over several years. He made himself a negative example of celebrity leadership, showing how someone can use their connections with leaders in multiple ministries to create a protective shell of a platform that promoted self and avoided accountability.

It seemed back then that Mr. Tchividjian’s influence was waning, as Christian communities became more aware of the serious nature of his misuse of office as a minister and writer. His opportunities to speak were curtailed. Publishers removed his articles and books. It seemed for a time that he could and maybe would potentially settle into a life apart from a celebrity ministry presence.

But, as it turned out, there began to be blips on the radar of social media that he seemed to be aiming for a comeback. Much of this focused on what he said he was learning about grace, about Jesus plus nothing being everything, about the importance of sins having been redeemed.

However, those of us who’d helped document his actual and apparent sexual infidelities, grooming, and hypergrace theology knew that he remained disqualified from roles of Christian influence and public ministry. There had been no more than vague apologetic stances from him, and he had not taken responsibility by apologizing in specifics to the women he victimized (several situations of which he had admitted to, after they’d been revealed publicly). Also, he had not repaired relationships with as many as 150 men and women whose trust he had betrayed – some of them his superiors whose authority he refused to submit to, others his ministry peers or subordinates.

Then, an exclusive article by Sam Howard in The Palm Beach Post on August 17, 2019, revealed that Tullian Tchividjian was starting a church: The Sanctuary. Unsurprisingly, survivors of sexual abuse, clergy misconduct, and spiritual trauma were not pleased with this development – especially those reportedly victimized by him. The reaction on Twitter was especially active, and many people had questions about his backstory and whether he had been “spiritually restored” or not.

Julie Anne Smith and I discussed how to make important details and documentation accessible, and we decided to publish the whole of my UN-accountable series. Not only does it give the concepts need to better understand how “the system” got worked, but it organizes in a different way what otherwise would be volumes of information on this blog and elsewhere about Tullian Tchividjian’s toxic behavior patterns and their destructive impact on people.

Our plan is to post the series as the original five individual articles as soon as possible. I will be making only minor changes – such as adding a few subheads, and replacing now-broken or missing links with links from the internet archive, or with screenshots if available. As I mentioned, I completed this series with materials available through late 2017. So, our Spiritual Sounding Board team will work to add a sixth article to bring things as up-to-date as possible.

We hope the concepts about systems, accountability, and damage repair will help our survivor communities better understand the dynamics in this case and others they have faced. And we hope that those who support Tullian Tchividjian will weigh the extensive evidence about his lack of qualifications of character to be pastoring a church.

~brad/futuristguy, August 18, 2019

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Note from Julie Anne: Many times when I am considering posting a new blog article, I have a sense that the timing of particular posts is not optimum. This was the case with Brad’s series. But providentially, I believe the time to publish is now with the advent of Sam Howard’s recent article.

Brad’s work in this series is exceptional. It’s important to note that Brad and I have completely different writing styles. Brad uses more academic style in writing, whereas I write in a way that is more informal and casual, kind of like I would communicate with you if we were sitting down for coffee. So, when you read Brad’s series, consider that he is a professor explaining the dynamics involved in systems of abuse.

It is helpful to have this knowledge to understand how all of the key players work together and create this system. So, read slowly and carefully. This is important information. See if you have experienced or know of other systemic abuse: in church groups, in political groups, in social groups. Systems of abuse can thrive in any social environment. 

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You can leave comments on the posts at Spiritual Sounding Board.

Many questions about details are answered in the Infographic, Partial Timeline, the Resource Bibliography, or other posts in the category on Tullian Tchividjian. Please avail yourself to those for your research.

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“Broken Chains” masthead designed by Ryan Ashton.

Quick Links to the Series and Other Key Resource Pages:

An Infographic on Tullian Tchividjian’s Pursuit of Women and a Public/Publication Platform 

Tullian Tchividjian – Partial Timeline of Alleged Clergy Sexual Abuse and Spiritual Abuse

Resource Bibliography on System Issues Related to the Tullian Tchividjian Situation

Part 1 ~ Systems, Systemic Abuse, and Repentance as a Systems Transformation Process

  • Introduction to Case Studies
  • 1-1. Systems and Systemic Abuse
  • 1-2. Systems Transformation through Repentance and Conciliation
  • 1-3. What Does it Take on Both Sides for Remediation Actions to Work?

Part 2 ~ Three Real-World Examples of Systems Remediation / Repentance

  • 2-1. Example #1 ~ Eerdmans Publishing: A Project/Product with Individual and Institutional Impact
  • 2-2. Example #2 ~ The Holistic, Systems Example of the Mennonites: Dealing with Sexual Harassment and Abuse by Top Denominational Theologian, John Howard Yoder
  • 2-3. Example #3 ~ A Social-Cultural-Political System Example: Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Part 3 ~ Elements in the “Industrial Complex” System Surrounding Tullian Tchividjian

  • 3-1. Introduction
  • 3-2. Introducing the Concept of an “Industrial Complex”
  • 3-3. Going a Level Deeper – And Listing Connections to Tullian Tchividjian
  • 3-4. Summary: The Key Problem That the Research Details Demonstrate
  • 3-5. For Those Interested in More

Part 4 ~ Types of Accountability and Patterns for How They Were Avoided

  • 4-1. A Four-Fold Framework for Accountability
  • 4-2. Tullian Tchividjian’s Responses to Systems of Accountability
  • 4-3. Subverting the System
  • 4-4. For Those Interested in More

Part 5 ~ Where Accountability Systems for Tullian Tchividjian Broke Down or Broke Through

  • 5-1. Introduction
  • 5-2. Summary of Opportunities for Accountability
  • 5-3. An Appeal for a Genuine Repentance Process
  • 5-4. An Appeal for Generosity
  • 5-5. Case Study on Accountability ~ Reference Sections
    • About the Reference Sections …
    • 5-5a. Academia, Seminaries, Training Programs
    • 5-5b. Associations and Networks
    • 5-5c. Businesses, Brands, Events; Media and Marketing Platforms
    • 5-5d. Ministry Platforms
    • 5-5e. Philanthropic Enterprises

Part 6 ~ Updates: 2018 and 2019

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