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

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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!

 

Lyvonne Picou’s Research on Black Christian Women Survivors of Male Sexual Violence

by Brad Sargent, aka brad/futuristguy,

and cross-posted at Spiritual Sounding Board.

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I am fiercely committed to addressing the taboo and stigma attached to childhood sexual abuse (CSA) in the Black community.”
~ Lyvonne Proverbs Picou

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Occasionally, I find out about surveys or other research related to specific groups in survivor communities. When I do, I encourage people to participate if they’re part of the group under consideration. Even if they’re not, such research findings always contribute to our greater understanding of dynamics involved in various aspects of abuse, violence, sexual misconduct, etc. So, I want to make people aware of Lyvonne’s important research work.

Mutual friends in the social entrepreneurship world of Do Good X recently connected me with Lyvonne “Proverbs” Picou, whose research focuses on African-American women survivors of male sexual violence. Her 13-question confidential survey is posted here:

https://goo.gl/Z42XwA

We got together this past week for coffee and conversation. She shared about her work in African-American churches to bring awareness about male sexual violence against women, about becoming “surthrivors” (a term she coined in 2009), and about how the church needs to shift its culture and language. Lyvonne has a lot of insight into personal recovery and how the arts can play into that, plus ideas and practices local churches can implement to make a positive difference.

Plus I asked Lyvonne to share some of her spoken word work (“Proverbs” is her handle for poetry slams and preaching). She performed a stunning piece about Rahab that I could only describe as “elegant”!

Lyvonne had asked me to share some about my work on systems and systemic abuse in Christian organizations. So, I talked about vastly different types of control systems I’d experienced in various churches, how these can interlock with other organizations to create a Christian industrial complex, and different roles people end up playing, from perpetrators to pawns, in getting an abusive system up and running, or keeping it going.

Then she asked about case studies I knew of on spiritual abuse or sexual misconduct in predominantly African-American churches and ministries. I could only come up with two situations at the time, and in the days since have come up with a few more that I’ve seen addressed on survivor-type blogs. I know there are more – I’ve seen blurbs in news reports or social media. Which leads me to a lot of questions:

  • Why don’t these seem to receive much coverage on survivor blogs?
  • Are we overlooking them?
  • Do we not attract a racially diverse readership, and if so, why?
  • Do we tend to focus on certain theologies, and so are missing some that may be more prominent in African-American churches?

Much to learn … So, I’m looking forward to hearing more from Lyvonne as she continues her research, because the communities she’s in touch with are ones we need to know more about. For instance, I’ve been aware of long-standing general estimates that one out of three girls will be the victims of sexual abuse before age 18. But from one of Lyvonne’s posts, It’s Not a Scandal, It’s a System, I learned of this specific research:

The Black Women’s Blueprint has an ongoing study that found 60% of Black women are sexually abused before they turn 18-years-old. Sixty. Percent. And, since the Black church is 85% women, that means that half of Black church congregations have been sexually abused.

If you’re interested in more about Lyvonne’s educational and theological training, “beautiful scars” ministry, and research work, you’ll find her website here: Lyvonne. The About page has links to her social media accounts plus YouTube videos of her as preacher, poet, and educator.

Meanwhile, thanks for considering participation in this important study – and please share the survey link!

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017: Part Four – Challenge #2

Continuing Challenges in Survivor Blog Communities

Challenge #2 – Listen for the Natural Limits

of Crowd-Sourced Fact Gathering.

A few years ago, I posted an article entitled, Is It Time to Tell My Story? It included suggestions and questions for working through our experiences as survivors of abuse. The two main goals behind doing this were (1) to gain insight by processing what happened to us, (2) so we could share it and hopefully help prevent others from likewise experiencing abuse or help them recover if they’ve been victimized.

One of the frameworks I presented was on different kinds of information. This is important for social media, because – as we’ve seen the trend increasing over recent years – it is full of inaccuracies and outright falsehoods. Some people naively post alt.facts as if they were accurate and legitimate, or disinformation that mixes a bit of truth but the rest is askew, or intentionally inflammatory theories designed to poke people and get a reaction out of them.

Bottom line: If we accept whatever we read at face value, we’re going to absorb a lot of garbage. We need to think critically so we can respond with discernment. Here is what I posted about differences between various kinds of evidences and critical thinking skills: Continue reading

A “Systems Approach” and Some Historical Background on Dealing with Abuse and Violence

To deal with “systemic abuse,” we must understand systems, victimization, and what makes individuals and institutions vulnerable.

By Brad Sargent with input from Julie Anne Smith.

Cross-posted as a guest post at Spiritual Sounding Board.

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How will our church serve those who’ve suffered the harm of childhood sexual abuse, and seek to prevent it from happening to others? On this difficult but foundational issue of human dignity and care, will we choose conscience and compassion – or corrosion and complacency? The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide and the range of other resources from GRACE equip us with clear definitions, well-organized knowledge, and practical skills to follow a right and righteous path on these global problems of violence and abuse.

In the previous post, I gave a brief preview of key features for The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide from a systems perspective, and listed other resources from GRACE and New Growth Press. In this post, I will add my thoughts on the big picture of systemic abuse, why we’ve needed a set of resources to deal with it, and share some personal and historical perspectives on how the Policy Guide and other books produced by GRACE represent answers to some longstanding prayers. Continue reading

Book Review: The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide, by Boz Tchividjian and Shira Berkovits

Key component in a system of resources on child sexual abuse for policy makers, survivors, educators, and advocates.

By Brad Sargent with input from Julie Anne Smith.

Cross-posted as a guest post at Spiritual Sounding Board.

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Spiritual Sounding Board was invited to participate in the Litfuse “blog tour” for the recently released Child Safeguarding Policy Guide. They asked us to post a one-paragraph summary of our overall response to this resource book, so that could be used as an excerpt on other sites. Here is what I wrote:

How will our church serve those who’ve suffered the harm of childhood sexual abuse, and seek to prevent it from happening to others? On this difficult but foundational issue of human dignity and care, will we choose conscience and compassion – or corrosion and complacency? The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide and the range of other resources from GRACE equip us with clear definitions, well-organized knowledge, and practical skills to follow a right and righteous path on these global problems of violence and abuse.

Available reviews of the Policy Guide share about its concepts and content from a variety of angles. Already posted on Amazon are great summaries, detailed insights from church leaders, poignant personal accounts from survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Litfuse Publicity Group has review excerpts and links to full posts, and New Growth Press, which published this book, has additional endorsements.

In this post, I will give a brief preview of key features from a systems perspective, and list other resources from GRACE and New Growth Press. In a follow-up post, I will add my thoughts on the big picture of systemic abuse, why we’ve needed a set of resources to deal with it, and share some personal perspectives on how the Policy Guide and other books produced by GRACE represent answers to some longstanding prayers. Continue reading