Questions on Criteria We Use for Endorsing a Ministry Influencer

SOURCE: Twitter thread from February 26, 2020.

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What do we do about endorsing an influencer who has a mixed track record on theology and impact?

“Can a bad person be a good theologian?”

“But I’ve seen him do so much good …”

“They’re messed up on [ABC], but they still have good things to say about [XYZ], don’t they?”

These are valid questions that I believe do not have easy yes-or-no answers. But, in light of recent sexual misconduct news of Jean Vanier of L’Arche, they require urgency on our part to consider our criteria–and potential positive or destructive impacts–of our endorsements.

Here are relevant questions for our discern-and-decide process on commendations.

* What are biblical criteria for someone who is qualified, UNqualified, or DISqualified from having a role of influence?

* Do these excluders apply when there are acts of sin, patterns of sin, both?

* What are biblical criteria for private confrontations with someone whose doctrine is in error, or whose lifestyle is destructive?

* What are biblical criteria for public censuring or even public removal from a platform of ministry influence?

* Is removal from ministry platform an all-or-nothing deal, i.e, we don’t pay attention to their other teachings?

* Or if someone has a mix of seemingly positive credentials plus some theology and/or actions that are clearly damaging to some or all others, what are we to do?

* Is restoration to ministry roles possible for someone who has been removed due to theology and/or sinful activities?

* If so, what criteria should we use for restoration, and for oversight and testing of this possibility?

* What positive and negative impacts on others could my unqualified commendation of someone with a mixed record of help/harm have?

* What other theologians, teachers, writers I could recommend wholeheartedly as an alternative and not have to clarify or qualify my endorsement?


Long-Form Case Study: Mennonites and the Legacy of John Howard Yoder

I have just posted a page on this blog with a long-form case study on The Mennonites and the Legacy of John Howard Yoder.

The past 3 years, I have been worked periodically on this extended case study about how the Mennonite denomination dealt with the aftermath of celebrity theologian John Howard Yoder’s sexual abuse and the systemic problems his misconduct brought about. It has three sections:

1. Overview of the denomination’s process for investigation, lamentation, and remediation.

2. Self-study resources — links to key sources for news reports, articles, and analysis from the denominational point of view.

3. Sources of critique on the denomination’s process, showing where there may be gaps, overfocus, and significant differences on perspectives and conclusions about Yoder and his legacy.

As I note at the end of the case study page, “I hope this study has helped clarify the main questions emerging in our Christian culture from the case of John Howard Yoder; emphasized important points toward developing nuanced answers; and encouraged you to dig deeper in dynamics of investigating, lamenting, and remediating situations of systemic abuse.”

I felt an urgency to complete the compilation and get this posted, as I believe it will provide a base of what is overall a constructive process for addressing systemic abuse in a sizeable institution. This becomes especially relevant in light of the news from this past weekend of the L’Arche International independent investigation into sexual abuse by its founder, Jean Vanier.

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What Sparks a Paradigm Shift and Where Can We Find Hope?

SOURCE: Thread started by Jeremiah Rice, and my response starting with this tweet. Although his thread began with a just-reported criminal case involving Mark MacArthur, I was also still thinking about the sexual misconduct investigation announced February 22nd regarding L’Arche International founder Jean Vanier. Both situations bring to the forefront questions about paradigm shifts, and finding hope and holding on when we face such traumatic news. Continue reading

*When Narcissism Comes To Church* by Chuck DeGroat — Download Free Excerpt of Chapter 1

Chuck is inspiring — glad to be on his launch team and eager to get reading my reviewer copy this weekend! I’ll probably be posting quotes and reflections as I work on my review …

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Meanwhile, stuff you can check out:

When Narcissism Comes To Church goes on sale March 17, but if you’d like to read an excerpt, here’s a link to grab Chapter 1.

For more details about Chuck DeGroat and this book, and thoughts from early reviewers/endorsers, check out the InterVarsity Press webpage.

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To follow Chuck DeGroat:

Website –

Facebook – Chuck DeGroat

Twitter – @chuckdegroat

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To follow quotes and quips from Chuck DeGroat and reviewer reflections as we read his book, check out social media hashtags:

#WhenNarcissismComesToChurch on Facebook

#WhenNarcissismComesToChurch on Twitter

Chuck has already been posting some intriguing stuff at the nexus of narcissism and Enneagrams that you might particularly want to note.
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How I Got Into Research Writing About Spiritual Abuse, Part 1

SOURCE: Thread starting with my response to a question that Andy Garber asked me in a tweet of February 17, 2020. This was in the larger context of posting about experiences in Pullman, Washington, and Moscow, Idaho–often called The Palouse Region.

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The bulk of my origin story about exposing abuse is in a case study entitled “A ‘Hostile Takeover’ and Resulting Trauma.” That happened in Pullman — a four-way church split in 1978 that had about a three-year build up. There were NO “recovery books” on spiritual abuse at the time. /1

Some of the split-offs wouldn’t talk with each other. Some people just totally dropped out of Christianity. So a lot of survival was just me plus Scripture plus the Holy Spirit. I had to decide whether Christianity was a crock, or whether something was terribly wrong in how we were taught or how at that church. /2

Continue reading

When Abusers “Controversialize” and “Gaslight” Victims to Deflect from Their Own Responsibility

INTRODUCTION. Controversializing is a form of social control accomplished through deflecting attention from the factual issue at hand by shifting the focus to the messenger who made people aware of the problem. This is done by shunning, eliminating, erasing opponents. It can include propaganda elements such as disinformation, PR spin, and outright lies.

Controversializing shows similarities to gaslighting, but — at least the way I currently see it — controversializing is aimed more at convincing the public that the messenger is mentally off, while gaslighting involves actions to convince the messengers themselves that they are mentally off balance. But I will save this level of looking at the broader field of such tactics for future analysis. This post brings together material from five “reflection chunks” about controversializing and gaslighting, posted on Twitter in 2017-2019. They likely will feel disjointed, but I will smooth out the bugs when I redo this material for Chapter 20 in my forthcoming Futuristguy’s Field Guide #2. Continue reading

SBC 2019 Annual Meeting Analysis: Commendations and Concerns for the Southern Baptist Convention

SOURCE: Twitter thread from June 19, 2019.

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THREAD: COMMENDATIONS AND CONCERNS FOR SBC. Here are main conclusions I’ve distilled from tracking recent SBC annual meeting, plus horrific news over the past few days about SBC abusers. Bottom line: #SBC19 was a positive milestone, but they’ve still got millstones to deal with.

Replying to @Holly4Hope and @ERLC. The way I interpret the big picture, some SBC entities are acting as if June 2019 marks their start-point of dealing with abuse and they’re good to go from here on out: just maintain, implement, keep moving forward. While it was a positive milestone, they’ve still got millstones. 1/

What we’ve seen in less than a week from the #SBC19 annual meeting is that there is no going forward as a whole body of local churches and SBC entities–until they’ve gone back and resolved all those specific cases and systemic problems they refused to deal with before. 2/

The SBC should be commended for many of the changes they’ve begun making: statements, resources, commitments. But these represent only partial course corrections along a trajectory based in some horrifically destructive “DNA” whose genetic characteristics have emerged in full. 3/

My opinion as one who’s spent over half of last 45 years as an adult in SBC churches: You need to recognize the corrosion in the roots and cover-ups in the fruit of at least 2 previous generational movements in SBC: Conservative Resurgence and Young, Restless, and Reformed. 4/You need to listen to those who experienced abuse within SBC entity or local church and left because of it–not just to those who found support in the SBC. You owe public apologies to SBC survivor advocates you shunned for calling you to account; they proved right, you did not. 5/

As a whole, you do not have a track record for wise self-critique, so I strongly recommend you listen *right now* to insights and cautions about the ERLC conference being voiced by survivor advocates with expertise on systemic abuse–a perspective you’ve demonstrated you lack. 6/

Yes, keep moving forward with positive overall course corrections you’ve set at #SBC19. But also repair past failures. Rebuke revered but corrupted leaders who enabled abusive systems. Consider outsiders; stop frat-boy antics that make SBC UNSAFE for survivors/advocates. Selah. 7/

A main phrase used by SBC Sexual Abuse Advisory Group, Caring Well resources, and Statements of Principles (Seminaries, State Conventions, Associational Leaders) = “safe for survivors and safe from abuse.” Immature antics seemingly designed to antagonize survivors create NOT “safe.”

In a system of individual autonomy plus institutional cooperation, the reputation of the parts infuses into the whole, and vice versa–like it or not. That is just the reality. A/

So, bad reputations from unwise or otherwise sinful actions of uncontrolled local churches and of sub-movements within the SBC–like Conservative Resurgence, Young-Reformed-Restless, Founders Ministries–accrue to the whole, negate SBC’s “Safe for survivors and safe from abuse.” B/

SBC entities and local churches, take heed: Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33; NASB) If you don’t rebuke current bad-faith actions that are abusive, why should we take you seriously that you’ll ever be “safe from abuse” in the future? C/

I’m a linguist by training. I do content analysis on concept words that are there and also *what is missing* that should be there. For an insightful study, check SBC Statements of Principles, press releases, news articles for items that show gap of confronting past situations. D/

See what words appear (and are missing) about repairing/resolving past cases of abuse that give concrete evidence of dealing (or not) with systemic abuse. (There may be mention of offering support during recovery to victims – but that is about individuals, not institutions.) E/

Re: those who want to maintain power and refuse transparency–if they “win,” the SBC will die. As a futurist, I watch for *survivability* of cultural shifts you can’t control. I don’t think SBC can survive external trend of #MeToo if they don’t repair their past and radically change.

I also watch for differences between *sustainability* (viability and flexibility to last beyond two generations) versus just *maintaining* (keeping on the same inflexible trajectory that leads to an unsalvageable system and eventual dismantlement).

SBC insiders AND outsiders need to monitor actions/inactions of SBC institutional entities, state conventions, regional associations, and local churches. Protection of predators, failure to report sexual abuse crimes, and lack of abuse prevention are ALL matters of public interest.

Re: monitoring. Worst case scenario = If SBC church or entity can’t prove it functions clearly and consistently in the public interest it has NO business being non-profit corporation. These are constituted for public benefit, not self-dealing, and shouldn’t inflict harm on the public

Best case scenario: Opposite of that. Accountability is about consequences. As I’ve noted before, ultimate consequences of failure to deal with systemic abuse by SBC entity or local church could/should result in (1) civil suits to hold accountable and (2) dismantling of corporation.

This is not a game. Abuse deeply affects victims for decades, reshaping their whole life. Such soul-wrecking actions get amplified when spiritual authorities in essence justify what happened by failure to deal rightly with survivors and righteously with perpetrators. Get it right, SBC!

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