What Will It Take for the SBC to “Clean House”? Four Suggestions from a Futurist.

SBC Cleaning House – Four Suggestions from a Futurist

Why would I give advice to leaders and members in the Southern Baptist Convention?

As a part of the larger Body of Christ, I am concerned about what seems to me to be a pivot point in the SBC’s trajectory. The SBC has many positive elements to its legacy. However, as an association of autonomous local churches and Cooperative Program entities, it has fallen short overall in systemic ways that corrode the credibility of the whole and the parts, the mission and the message. While some may dispute those conclusions, the details behind them have been making their way into the light for a very long time — and especially in the past few months.

As a futurist, two of my main concerns are always:

(1) to equip individuals and groups to discern and decide the most preferable pathway forward, and

(2) to give constructive reasoning and resources for having hope.

As a Christian futurist, I seek to have all I do steeped in an understanding of Christlikeness and what it means for us to serve as His disciples and as “people of peace” who treat all others with dignity as individuals; with impartiality toward any group demographics, whether those are socially considered preferred or stigmatized; and with hospitality in welcoming them to see who Jesus Christ is and what a community of disciples looks like.

From all I believe I know about organizational systems and problems of toxicity, I am convinced that the SBC is at a critical moment in its history. If destructive patterns that have become especially evident in recent times are not addressed, I do not see much possibility for health and sustainability going forward. I am venturing to give advice in these suggestions and links, because what happens with your body of believers affects us all.

Who am I to give advice to leaders and members in the Southern Baptist Convention?

Although I view myself as a Christian disciple first of all and an Anabaptist in theology second, for most of the past 25 years, I have been almost exclusively associated with SBC congregations. I was first in an SBC church plant in 1978, and have been involved on the teams of eight church plants and ministry start-ups, primarily SBC, since the mid-1990s. I was in the first cohort of Nehemiah Project church-planter associates, and later was certified as a Level 1 church planter candidate assessment and did the self-study materials for Level 2. For several years early on in the 2000 decade, I evaluated the speaking portions of candidates assessments. Continue reading

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Annotated Reader’s Guide to Futuristguy on Abuse Recovery, Advocacy, and Activism

Issues Involving Individuals, Institutions, Leaders,

Relational and Systems Repair Work, and Technical Research

INTRODUCTORY NOTES: Since 2007, I have done research writing on issues related to individual, institutional, and ideological elements contributing to abuse and violence. The materials I’ve developed draw from two main sources: (1) Personal experiences of participation in organizations that turned out to have malignant leaders and so were toxic, and (2) extensive experiences working with non-profit agencies, churches, and start-ups since 1973. Many of these materials linked to here are technical, some are more personal. I have been reorganizing these and many other articles into four Field Guides to improve the logical flow, and editing them for consistency and accessibility. In the meantime, here are select articles that offer some help on particular aspects of systemic abuse issues.

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Continue reading

Willow Creek and Rapprochement: Truth THEN Reconciliation; Accountability OR Consequences

I was reflecting on the recent update from the Elders at Willow Creek Church, and the responses from Betty Schmidt, Vonda Dyer, and Nancy Ortberg to it, as well as to the Elders having contacted these women about having hired Crossroads Resolution Group and wanting to seek reconciliation.

It occurred to me that the Elders were once again imposing their perspective and will onto the situation. They did not ask first what the women whom WCC has let be called liars wanted, or those WCC let be called colluders wanted, or what either still-stigmatized group of individuals were willing to consider in terms of a process of rapprochement.

No … they decided, they hired, they “reached out,” they left messages.

But they have not yet admitted to “sins,” at best, only to “missteps.” They have not yet bothered to apologize. They have not yet repudiated or retracted the public name-calling statements. As far as I can see, they are still trying to run the show.

And none of that models being conciliatory. It continues the control.

None of it opens the way for reestablishing harmony. It deepens the hurt.

None of it mends their image. It mars their identity even more.

It may look as if Willow Creek leaders are being conciliatory, but, I believe, they are compounding their offenses. By directing the process, they are being disrespectful to those whom their own employees and board members have publicly offended. I cannot see that Crossroads Resolution Group is the answer to Willow Creek’s damaged reputation or broken relationships. Instead, it has created more for Willow Creek to repair.

Ms. Dyer’s response is entitled, “The Cart Before the Horse.” Ms. Ortberg’s response is entitled, “Sequence Matters.” On these lines, there are lessons to be learned here from the formal process used in post-Apartheid South Africa by their Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

From all that I have studied about this process, the emphasis was to speak openly about what had happened – uncover the truth, raw and horrific though it was. That was necessary so it could no longer be covered up, so that the truth would be known, so that such human rights violations would hopefully never happen again. For if this remained in the darkness, surely it would repeat itself.

Truth must come before reconciliation, if you truly want restored relations.

The Truth and Reconciliation process also offered amnesty for those who had victimized their fellow citizens. However, this part of the process had its own requirements: There was no amnesty without taking responsibility for one’s actions.

Accountability for actions must precede release from consequences, and even then amnesty does not erase all forms of negative impact from misdeeds.

I confess, I am ambivalent about Willow Creek Church, and Willow Creek Association and their Global Leadership Summit. Don’t get me wrong – ambivalence is not the same as apathy. The former is strong emotions going in conflicting directions; the latter is not caring or giving up on caring.

I have hope that Willow Creek can change course and do things right. And I also think the longer they game-play this process, the worse they find it will be. But, that could either make the public pressure for them to come clean even more intense, or could harden them into complete recalcitrance. For the sake of the Kingdom, and for those who are survivors of their institution’s misconduct, I care which way this goes. Truth first, then reconciliation, and accountability or else more consequences – and achieving all of that requires Willow Creek leaders to release control and let those whom they have harmed lead the way from here.

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For those interested, my post on Surprises from Post-Apartheid South Africa shares some background on that era and their Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It includes links to other media resources, including the official TRC website.

Domestic Violence, Ministry, and Controversy in Conservative Christianity: Some Historical Context and Perspective

This article also appears on Spiritual Sounding Board as a guest post.

Although I am known for my more recent research writings on spiritual abuse from a systemic perspective, I have also written and edited on other forms of abuse and violence since the 1980s.

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Contemporary Conservative Christianity

and Questions About Abuse

Contention over abuse and violence in Christian communities has heightened in the era of #metoo and #churchtoo. However, controversies over theology, advocacy, and actions have been with us for a very long time. Recently, comments on abuse made by Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, resurfaced and ignited a social media firestorm. Continue reading

Some Thoughts on Supposedly Feminist Men Who Reportedly Abuse/Harass Women

Today, The Wartburg Watch (TWW) published a post about the ongoing Willow Creek/Bill Hybels situation: Nancy Ortberg Claims She Endured an Unwanted Physical Encounter with Bill Hybels and Raises Some Serious Questions About His Behavior.

This is Dee Parsons’ seventh post on related topics. (See Resource Bibliography on Willow Creek Church Situation and Bill Hybels’ Reported Misconduct, which includes her prior posts and other key statements and analysis.) Near the conclusion of the article, she notes:

I am going to ask a hard question. Is it possible that Bill Hybels encouraged the leadership of women in order to increase his own access to women who admired him within the confines of church business, giving him plausible deniability? I do not know the answer to this question but red flags are waving up, down and all around this situation. (emphasis added)

I think this is a crucial question, and I appreciate that Dee has put it forward for consideration in abuse survivor communities. I’ve been thinking along similar lines for a few days, and had thought about writing an extended article, but I don’t have time available to develop it right now, due to other project deadlines. So, I decided to post this short form version with two key thoughts. Continue reading

Only an Independent Investigation Can Remove the Cloud of Suspicion Over Sovereign Grace Churches

Be respectful toward all people, because all bear the image of the Lord God who made us.

But do not be a “respecter of persons” – showing partiality for, or prejudice against – based on their race, gender, social class, wealth, family connections, or other status.

~ brad/futuristguy

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I originally posted this as a Twitter thread on March 10, 2018, about Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC) and its former version, Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM). What follows is a compilation of 15 tweets and related links in that thread, slightly edited for better readability.

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Here are some thoughts I’ve had on justifications for an independent/outside investigation in the case of Sovereign Grace, et al.

CONCLUSIONS: It IS needed, since partiality toward key players and against key victims has been spotlighted over the lengthy course of alleged failures of SGM/SGC leaders.

Their leaders’ and members’ critiques focus on abstractions of theology and polity, and negations of questioners, more than responding to the witnesses of concrete evidence and testimonies by those claiming to have been harmed.

So, if SGM/SGC wishes this perma-cloud of suspicion to be lifted, an independent investigation by a trusted external agency may be the only action that could do it. Otherwise, they should expect the Kingdom Klieg lights and national news spotlights to continue.

SOME DETAILS: The way I see it, there are at least four domains in which entities external to SGC/SGM, et al, legitimately hold authority over them. Continue reading

Training Series Companion Website: Systemic Abuse Researcher Notes

Today I completed the first go-round for all pages on Futuristguy’s Systemic Abuse Researcher Notes. This is an important piece of progress in the overall Training Series system I’ve been developing. It’s the general research tools that go with the four Field Guides and its other companion website with resources specific to every chapter in the book series. So, things are pretty much ready to roll, once the first Field Guide has cover and interior design done.

Here’s some background and the purposes behind this Research Notes website, from one of the posts there:

Some of us bloggers in abuse survivor communities have periodically talked behind the scenes about our need for:

1. Some sort of research clearinghouse for resources on abuse and violence. We see the many underlying similarities among dynamics in all forms of abuse, and also the need for information sources on personal recovery, relational advocacy, and institutional accountability.

2. Some kind of listing about denominational policies, resources, and case studies. Both survivor experiences and research work show that situations of abuse and violence have emerged in every theological stream, every organizational form of church governance, and in both centralized and decentralized networks.

There have been some collaborate efforts toward those goals in the past, but getting a site together or maintaining it have been difficult. Since much of my work in survivor activism has involved research writing articles and case studies, I know the value of having go-to sources on the many complicated, interrelated issues that arise. I felt moved by the recent #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements that this was a providential moment when need #1 — creating a research/resource clearinghouse — was both urgent and important. (Need #2 is still important in the long run. But it would be a huge project, and I believe it would be more effective if core topics on systemic abuse get addressed first as a way to determine criteria to evaluate the efficacy of denominational resources.)

So, this is my attempt to set up a site that can serve as a comprehensive framework for crowd-sourcing additional resources on key research issues, and an accessible format for people to share the findings. (It won’t be a site for resources on recovery from specific types of abuse, violence, or trauma situations. I will leave that for others who feel called to take up that task.)

This new website updates and takes the place of some of the material that’s been on this Futuristguy blog for a while. Specifically:

Mars Hill Case Study main page and Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church Research Guide – Part 1 – Research Guide to Mark Driscoll’s Personal Issues (the first post in the original article series that was later compiled into a page).

The “Pyramid of Abuse” section in the Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse (Compilation of Posts) page and the Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse – Part 2B – The “Pyramid of Responsibility” in Toxic Systems post.

Spiritual Abuse Legal/Media Research page.

I’ve put notes on those posts and pages to alert readers to these updates, but left the original post or page intact.

I hope that having all the key research, statistical, legal information, etc., in one site will make it easier to navigate. Check out the Table of Contents page to see what gets covered!