Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Abuse/Abused, Excuse/Excused -- Kingdom Stuff

By way of a brief personal story I want to share how a few of the comments in support of Dr. Foster last night sounded to my ears. I know we kept being urged to put ourselves in Dr. Foster's shoes, but I wonder why none of them recommended putting ourselves in the shoes of Randy Thompson or Jan Swope or Bill West or other staff members repeatedly hurt by Dr. Foster's words and actions.

When I was starting out in ministry, I worked for a fairly large church in Houston. I was part of the student ministry. Without going into details, I underwent at that time, in the beginning and formative years of my ministerial calling, what I consider emotional and spiritual abuse from one, and occasionally two, pastors. This abuse was not manifested always verbally or in anger, but the condescension, belittling, self-worth draining, humiliation, dismissive, and argumentativeness might as well have been. One lunch meeting in particular I consider verbally abusive. I was a kid, really, looking for mentors in the ministry, not to mention just looking to my pastors to be pastors.
The resulting hurt almost made me leave ministry and almost made me abandon my faith.

What was more hurtful, however, was in the few times I risked my heart to share what I was going through, only to have the person I was talking to act like it was no big deal. "That's just how bosses are." "You misunderstood, he's just like that." "That's just so-and-so being so-and-so." "Yeah, so-and-so doesn't have very good interpersonal skills."

"No," I'd try to insist. "My experience with these guys is sinful."

More excuses. More dismissal. More spin.

No one -- besides my wife, that is -- took my hurt seriously. Nobody affirmed it. Nobody even suggested it was okay to feel the way I did. Instead I was told it was okay for these men to behave this way.

Do you know what that does to a victim? Do you know what that says to him or her?

I have never been in a situation of physical or sexual abuse, but I have heard from victims of such abuse that one of the most hurtful things they undergo is the excuses made by the abuser and his supporters. In fact, one of the worst things you can do, in seeking to "heal" the situation, is to coddle an abuser and treat his or her feelings with tender loving care. You, in essence, "echo" the abuse by affirming the central status of the abuser.

In our church, the elders believed they had a duty at a final, last-straw moment to put the healing and restoration of the church body and its shepherds in place of priority, putting Dr. Foster's feelings second. They did not do that from day one, and they did not always do that. But in the end, they had to. They had to.

Because one of the beautiful ramifications of the Gospel revolution is that the meek will be blessed, the grievers will be comforted, the thirsters for righteousness will be satisfied, the persecuted receive the power of the kingdom. In Christ's kingdom, it is the merciful who receive mercy (Mt. 5:7), not the merciless.

When I think back to the image of those courageous men standing before us last night, still trembling with emotion and wiping away tears, handling beligerent questions and accusations with calm and candor, I think, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God."

Peace.

9 Comments:

At 8:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo. As a former staff member, I saw this coming a long time ago and pulled my parachute. What was most difficult was to try and explain to everyone how not only could I not work there, but my family could no longer worship there, knowing the truth about the pastor. There is such an emphasis on authenticity at BCC which is so ironic, because who was onstage was not even close.

 
At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you so much for your eloquent writings, and sorting through things without truly pushing a side... you have truly helped me process through this... you are a blessing...

 
At 8:28 AM, Blogger gavin richardson said...

jared, i loved your last paragraph. if only more people embraced the beatitudes in day to day living.

i too have experience the abuse stuff. strangely enough, not from pastor, from committee folks. thus is the part of the umc. but i know people who have gained weight developed health conditions and fallen into depression because of abuse by clergy, it's sad. the "that's just the way they are" comments that frequent that behavior actually take me back to my mom, who make insensitive comments all the time. i jokingly say she has no internal regulators, but often i've had to put her in check for things said and it hurts both of us, but its not right for her to hurt one or more people just so that she can be "the way she is." people who let that slide are not protecting the people who need it...

and if you have a problem, and you can find them, maybe you can hire the a-team.

sorry, my add kicked in. blessings to you all as you seek through this
shalom
-gav

 
At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What no one seems to be asking is: why is a church that was running 2500 7 years in a Middle School still only running 2500?? Why did a church that opened at a beautiful 180-acre campus on Easter of 2000 with over 6,000 not grow? Why is there a church down the road of ex-BCC staff leaders that now are running over 1000? Why is that BCC has NEVER helped another church plant do what it is doing?

Just food for thought.

 
At 7:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"No one -- besides my wife, that is -- took my hurt seriously. Nobody affirmed it. Nobody even suggested it was okay to feel the way I did. Instead I was told it was okay for these men to behave this way."

Jared, I hope I've never given you that impression. If I haven't said it, what was said and done regarding you and your mentor still grieves me.

Forgive me if I've ever downplayed it. I certainly didn't mean to

Love ya, bro

De

 
At 11:25 PM, Blogger Jared said...

Bill, you never, ever gave me that impression. When I refer to "nobody affirming my hurt," I'm talking about the folks I tried to tell about that stuff at the time it was going on. I don't think I ever spoke to you about that stuff at that time. It was pretty private.
I think I only shared that info with you a few years after my exit from that environment.

You've never been anything but encouraging, comforting, and affirming to me. You've also gone out of your way to apologize for those offenses, even though you had no need to!

You should know that there are three men whose integrity and faithfulness I hold higher and more dear than any others -- Mike's, Bird's, and yours.

Rest easy, De.
Love ya back.

 
At 8:47 PM, Blogger salguod said...

Jared,

Excellent. Well said. My church has been down this road, some would say we lived this road. It is far, far, far too easily dismissed as 'personality' or what not. how one treats others says a lot of one's understanding of the gospel.

It is posts like this, although the circumstances are quite unfortunate, that make me miss your solo blog(s). You are doing BCC a great service here.

 
At 9:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To bring so much out into the public such as the elders have done is judging, condeming and persecuting a man who brought thousands of people to the Lord. ALL, too will be judged and it will not be by man. If it was as bad as some say why did they not leave? This makes no sense, this all seem so distrusting. So you are telling the entire community that the church has been built on deception and abuse. That all involved including the elders have lead people to believe one thing why they chose to invite people in on false pretenses. This makes no sense at all. May God bless the those who go into the world and spread the word. We are only trying to understand the excuses of the elders. God Bless.

 
At 10:31 PM, Blogger judas icarus said...

Anonymous above...

I don't think anyone is saying that at all... nor do I think that's what happened or how it happened... but you need to remember... a lot of people... and I mean... a lot... including staff and congregation.. HAVE left BCC ... exiting via a varying list of reasons... some good... some bad.

And, saying the church was built on deception and abuse is a major overstatement... because... whereas... (and it seems be clearly revealed... if you listen) there can be deception and abuse by one or more people within the church.... but the church is not built, as you put it... in such a simplified this-way or that-way process... limited to parameters of deception and abuse...

People are involved... people like you... people like me.... and I hope you aren't sitting there too high on a horse saying you are without flaws and imperfections.... because.... it is our humanity Christ died for... or our sins... or however you want to frame it.... and churches are full of humanity... trying their hardest to be the God/Jesus that is within all of us to each other... and who are hopefully reconciled to Him. And so... we rise and we fall... we succeed and we fail... in stages... in degrees.... some more than others.

What has been brought to the public was brought to the public by David Foster's hand. And, I for one... believe that David Foster may surely have taught and spoke of the Lord... but I choose to believe that it is Jesus who brings us to God.... not a man.... a preacher or a speaker. And, then there's the Holy Spirit.... and so on....

It says to come to the Lord with a broken and contrite heart... and He will forgive you and if you give that broken and contrite heart to Him.... you are saved... or reborn...

I have always felt that worship plows the field of the heart and preaching or speaking, if you will, plants the seed(s)... but what causes the fruit to sprout, grow and blossom... or someone to fall at the alter and give their life and heart to Jesus.... is not of man's doing.... nor should man claim responsibility and number the sprouts and blossoms as if they are owned by man... and boast of how many seeds that he planted.... came into the fullness of a authentic relationship with God... through Jesus Christ....

Given too much credit... it could appear that David Foster is responsible for thousands of people's salvation... which was paid for by the death and blood of Jesus Christ. David Foster is as you say.... a man.... a preacher.... a speaker... and what you state is condemnation and persecution.... is another major overstatement... if you know or will only really listen.

Let those that have eyes... see...
Let those who have ears... hear...

What has been a bully pulpit for some... is a flashy, technological production for others that is debatably pleasing... to the eyes and the ears in varying degrees.... but the show and the speaking is only a few hours a week during which you only see or catch a glimpse of what a person like David Foster might be like in total.... during the other many hours of the week. If you choose to believe what you've stated.... you certainly have the right... and I have nothing to say other than.... it's either all about God... or it's not. God wouldn't do or say the things that have been done or said that brought this whole situation to a head a week ago. Primarily, by David Foster over a period of months... many months.

The elders aren't making excuses... they are making us all re-evaluate what church really is and means... and what pastoring is and really means... to each of us... to a church body... to God... and the elders are standing by the by-laws of BCC... that David Foster was instrumental in creating. That is what they are biblically responsible to do... based on Scripture that is readily available for you and everyone else to read.

God Bless you, too!

C. Evan Leonard

 

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