After the alleged ethical violation by James Walden of Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina; Matt Boedy then contacted the District Superintendent of the Evangelical Free Southeast – Glen Schrieber. Today’s post is a review of Glen’s decision. These are the questions that need asking…does Glen’s decision – which went against the licensed professional counseling community – validate Mark Noll’s thesis of “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind?” Or is the EFCA District Superintendent merely a tool of the Acts 29 network?
“The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”
Urban Dictionary – Tool : One who lacks the mental capacity to know he is being used.
How Urban Dictionary Defines Tool
Stay away from fools, for you won’t find knowledge on their lips.
Proverbs 14:7 NLT
Glen Schrieber Southeast District Superintendent EFCA
After leaving Riverside Community Church Matt Boedy then turned to the next person in the chain of command in the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA). You can read Matt’s resignation letter here. The narrative of Matt Boedy’s story can be read here. The next person Matt approached is the District Superintendent of EFCA Southeast, Glen Schrieber. Matt contacted him and explained his situation. The ethical violations that James Walden allegedly committed, and the alleged spiritual abuse that occurred. On September 16, 2015 Glen Schrieber wrote his response and the decision that he made. Let Glen’s decision be a warning to you if you are in an EFCA church. The EFCA has systematic problems and if you are in an EFCA church and trouble occurs, you are on your own. In Glen’s decision he claimed that he consulted with licensed counselors and others in the know. He also said that the EFCA takes charges of pastoral misconduct seriously. However, Glen also said that James Walden did not commit an ethical breach in contacting Matt Boedy’s counselor. In the letter Glen also said that in regards to discipline on James Walden he needs two or more witnesses to take such action and Glen accepted what the leaders of Riverside had said. You can read Glen’s letter down below.
How Glen Schrieber’s Decision Went Against Licensed Professionals and Counseling Organizations
When Glen Schrieber ruled on behalf of an Acts 29 church his decision went against established and known protocol that has long been the rule in mental health counseling. That rule is that in the relationship between the patient and the counselor there is confidentiality and that confidentiality cannot be broken. My family has worked with mental health counselors and I am aware of this rule. But let’s stop and look back at what the organizations themselves state when it comes to confidentiality.
The American Association of Christian Counselors in the 2014 Guide of Ethics states the following about confidentiality. In section ES1-400 the following is said about confidentiality. “Confidentiality recognizes that every client has a fundamental, moral and legal right to privacy and to have a wide range of personal thoughts, opinions, beliefs and behaviors that are protected from public knowledge. The therapeutic alliance between counselor and client is enhanced whenever there is an environment that offers an appropriate level of confidentiality, privacy and safety. This dynamic helps promote strong and effective trust relationships and is an essential factor in facilitating self-disclosure and the potential for personal, relational, and spiritual growth and wholeness. “ In section ES1-410 about the need to protect confidentiality is states the following: “Christian counselors maintain client confidentiality, privacy and privileged communication to the fullest extent allowed by law, professional regulations and ethics, and church or organizational rules. Confidential client communications include all verbal, written, telephonic, audio or videotaped, electronic, or Internet and web-based communications arising within the helping relationship. Apart from consented to, regulatory, mandatory or legally required disclosure, counselors shall not break confidentiality regarding client communications without first discussing the intended disclosure and securing written consent from the client or client representative.”
Meanwhile the American Association of Pastoral Counselors has their own rule of ethics. This is what is said in the introduction. “As members of AAPC we respect the integrity and protect the welfare of all persons with whom we are working and have an obligation to safeguard information about them that has been obtained in the course of the counseling process. We have a responsibility to know and understand civil laws and administrative rules that govern confidentiality requirements of our profession in the setting of our work.” In regards to giving out information the following is stated. “We do not disclose client confidences to anyone, except: as mandated by law; to prevent a clear and immediate danger to someone; in the course of a civil, criminal or disciplinary action arising from the counseling where the pastoral counselor is a defendant; for purposes of supervision or consultation; or by previously obtained written permission. In cases involving more than one person (as client) written permission must be obtained from all legally accountable persons who have been present during the counseling before any disclosure can be made.“
So I have looked at what two Christian organizations have stated on confidentiality but lets look beyond those statements. For example what does the American Psychological Association (APA) code of ethics say about confidentiality? This is what is stated about confidentiality. “Psychologists have a primary obligation and take reasonable precautions to protect confidential information obtained through or stored in any medium, recognizing that the extent and limits of confidentiality may be regulated by law or established by institutional rules or professional or scientific relationship.” In regards to disclosure the APA the following is said. “Psychologists may disclose confidential information with the appropriate consent of the organizational client, the individual client/patient or another legally authorized person on behalf of the client/patient unless prohibited by law.”
So as we can see Glen Schrieber’s decision went against the established ethical guidelines of many established organizations and what licensed and credentialed counselors subscribe. Bur why would the District Superintendent – one of 17 District Superintendents in this denomination do such a thing? Why would he go against common sense and knowledge?
Does Glen Schrieber’s Decision Validate Mark Noll’s Claim about the “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind?”
In 1994 a landmark book was published that would become one of the most important books in modern church history. Written by Mark Noll, the book is called “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” The book opens up with an incredibly blunt assessment of modern evangelicalism. “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” In that book Mark Noll writes about the anti-intellectualism of modern evangelicalism. And he writes about it from a frustrated evangelical Christian. While there are many possible ways one can take this I would like to take Mark Noll’s thesis and look at the inability of evangelicals to practice discernment and exhibit healthy and good critical thinking skills. This comes from a guy more to the edge of the movement who is also frustrated with it. In the case of Matt Boedy I am astounded that the District Superintendent of the Southeast District would issue a decision that goes against established norms and embraced behavior in the counseling community. It begs the question…when such a leader in the EFCA makes such a decision, does his behavior and the inability to illustrate logic and healthy reasoning validate Mark Noll’s thesis? Despite what Glen said this is a pretty open and shut case, and ethics were indeed violated. I believe that James Walden had violated all the ethics rules and regulations up above. And in this situation you have his poor behavior reinforced by the EFCA District Superintendent. This raises deep concerns for me about the quality and capability of other EFCA District Superintendents. But it also raises other concerns as well such as this one. Does Glen Schrieber have a good understanding of ethics? Does he know and is he aware of issues such as conflict of interest and confidentiality? Many of the above organizations felt so concerned about confidentiality that they made ethics a primary concern. In some cases its so important that ethic violations can be reported and investigated. The EFCA District Superintendent apparently does not have such a concern. Glen apparently doesn’t give a damn. In the Eastern District Steve Estes practiced church discipline on an alleged rape victim who his son allegedly domestically abused. That has major ramifications for the EFCA in what can a pastor get away with. In the case of Matt Boedy’s his situation also has deep ramifications for the EFCA. Can a pastor be allowed to get away with an ethical violation? What does this mean for others in counseling situations in the EFCA? Do you think a woman who is being abused in an EFCA church will want to open up to her counselor and talk about that abuse if she is in an EFCA Church and she knows her pastor could try and get such information? Matt Boedy’s counselor followed the protocol and did the right thing in notifying him.
Now here is another point of contention that I find deeply troubling that is not at all being discussed in this situation. Did Glen Schrieber realize or indeed care that James Walden’s action not only hurt Matt Boedy but also threatened the career of his counselor? What would have happened if the counselor made a mistake? Could he have lost his license and his ability to practice? Why doesn’t Glen have any concern or care for that action? What type of Christian acts like this? In the end Glen Schrieber’s decision not only reinforced James Walden’s unethical behavior it also raises another question about Glen Schrieber, especially in the context of an Acts 29 network church which will be discussed in the next section. Finally when Glen uses the two witness rule I also have this one question. In cases of child sex abuse or molestation do two witnesses need to witness a pastor or church volunteer in raping a child? I would really like an answer from Glen Schrieber. Just something I want to throw out for discussion.
Is Glen Schrieber A Tool of the Acts 29 Network?
This situation happened in both an Evangelical Free Church of America and Acts 29 model. I like to call these a hybrid and plan to write a post about these kind of churches next week. Here in the Washington, D.C. area there is a similar model to Riverside Community Church. Its called Redemption Hill and led by Bill Riedel. You can read about that church in “Acts 29 Bill Riedel’s Redemption Hill in Washington, D.C.; How Healthy is It?“ Here is the question that needs to be asked in a church that has intermingled DNA. In the end who is ultimately responsible in these models? It becomes complicated when funds are intermingled between the EFCA and Acts 29. When things go wrong which denomination is responsible? In this case we are speaking about ethical counseling breach. But what would happen if a child was sexually abused in this church model. Who would be ultimately responsible in the end…the EFCA or Acts 29?
When I read Glen’s letter to Matt Boedy I was puzzled and wondered what type of work did Glen do in the end? In writing this story I have consulted with another person I know who is in the loop about these issues and she believed that James violated the ethical rules and that Matt’s counselor handled it in a professional way. So why would Glen act then in such a way? In these Acts 29 models it begs the question how much sway does Glen have? Is it less than just regular EFCA churches? But there is another question that I also have as well. In the decision that Glen Schrieber made did he become a tool of the Acts 29 network? But you may be asking what is a tool? A tool in the context of a religious organization is someone who is being used, manipulated and they do not even realize it. Hear me out as I say this…in this story did Glen basically became a rubber stamp for James Walden and Riverside Community Church? Was Glen James Walden’s personal tool? After all in his letter to Matt Boedy he claimed he is open to hearing more evidence. However, its my understanding that Glen ignored Matt Boedy’s email after the decision. There was little in terms of discussing or examining the situation. For example why didn’t Glen ask for a third party outside the organization who is neutral to study and look into it? It makes me wonder if Glen set out to exonerate James Walden and set out to find the evidence needed to do so. In the end was Glen Schrieber being used by the Acts 29 network especially in such a loose theological model? Is it possible that the EFCA needed money for church plants from the Acts 29 network and Glen didn’t want to upset any future deals or model? To tie it back to the main question in this section…is Glen Schrieber a tool of the Acts 29 network? I don’t have any definitive answers these are just questions that I have about this situation.
I have to say in researching and looking into this that Glen’s decision is disappointing. In the end Glen didn’t hurt Matt Boedy only but he also hurt the EFCA and people who attend the EFCA who may be using a counselor. Glen’s decision also showed a lack of professionalism. If this is the best that an EFCA District Superintendent can do then it shows the deep systemic problems that exist. In the next post we are going to look at Matt Boedy’s response to Glen Schrieber. With that let me say that I love you guys !