At Restore Chicago Wade Mullen gave a good talk about spiritual abuse. Wade even shared an abuse situation he walked away from and how a church responded to him and admitted he was correct. In the process they invited him back and spoke to the issue and reversed the abuse that happened. Wade’s case is an exception to the rule and is not the norm. I listened to Wade’s talk again this weekend and draw some comparisons with my own spiritual abuse mess from someone who was in a leadership role of a former Sovereign Grace Ministry church called Redeemer Arlington in the Washington, D.C. area. While Wade found peace, I will not nor will many other people who saw spiritual abuse.
“Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in.“
“Conflict is drama, and how people deal with conflict shows you the kind of people they are.”
For you are all children[a] of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.[b] 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[c] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:26-28 NLT
Jordan Kauflin from Acts 29 former Sovereign Grace Redeemer Arlington leading worship at EFCA/Acts 29 Redemption Hill Church in Washington, D.C. area.
Wade Mullen in Restore Chicago
I want to apply Wade Mullens’ talk at Restore Chicago to a dark situation I went through with someone who was in a leadership position of a former Sovereign Grace Ministry church called Redeemer Arlington. Redeemer Arlington is led by Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin and is based in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia. Eric Simmons has a long history with Sovereign Grace and Jordan Kauflin is Bob Kauflin’s son. Bob Kauflin wrote the music for then Sovereign Grace Ministries and today Sovereign Grace Churches. You can read the history of Redeemer Arlington in, “The History of Eric Simmons’ Redeemer Arlington: Formerly of Sovereign Grace Ministries now of Acts 29”
Wade Mullen’s Story at Restore Chicago and Why he Found Peace…
This blog attended Restore Chicago from Washington, D.C. I listened with interest to Wade Mullen’s talk of spiritual abuse and unhealthy communities. There is much to apply to a situation that happened in my own life. At Restore Wade, who teaches at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, shared a story from his own life. He spoke of being in a church and learning that there was abuse going on. He spoke about the decision that made to walk away from people he had loved. He also spoke of the uncertainty of leaving a job that paid his bills and of a career that he loved. Six months after he resigned he went back to the church and met with the board that covered up the situation in August of 2014. The abusive pastor was gone but the board continued to cover up the problem. Before the board for 45 minutes Wade shared the problems that existed. Later on that same board that was confronted called Wade back. They acknowledged all the problems and identified the issues one by one. They apologized for the systemic failure and covering up the problems. They then invited Wade back to the church and in many ways undid the and reversed the abuse. Wade told a beautiful and sobering story. Yet I also want to be clear that it is a story that is rare and the exception to the rule. As I will explain below many people will never find peace from their abuse situation. The walking wounded is plentiful and large and it will remain like that as well.
One of the notes Andrew White left at my desk at work when I was being evangelized.
Spiritual Abuse From a Small Group Leader at Former Sovereign Grace Now Acts 29 Redeemer Arlington in the Washington, D.C.
I don’t speak about him much these days like I used to but his name was Andrew White. Andrew is a pseudonym. Andrew graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 2005. He was married by Glenn Balsis who was the director of the Navigators at the time at the Air Force Academy. Andrew donated bone marrow to a young girl in the Portland, Oregon area, and traveled back to see the family. Andrew in his personal life listened to celebrity pastors and when he was deployed in Iraq was given a book written by Mark Driscoll. That led to a dark turn in his life. When he was being rotated by the Air Force from New Jersey’s Maguire Dix in 2011 to Washington, D.C. he was into Matt Chandler, John Piper and Mark Driscoll. He and his wife decided to get involved in Sovereign Grace Ministries which was hemorrhaging sexual abuse and other abuse problems. In the Washington, D.C. area Sovereign Grace had the reputation of being a cult. Andrew and I met and we became friends. He worked hard at evangelizing me and trying to get me into Sovereign Grace. He begged, pleaded and in the cafeteria at work even yelled at me as we discussed his church. On May 8, 2013 Andrew triggered a false accusation and sent me into the darkest season of my life. I don’t say that lightly especially after burying my parents. But the false accusation made no sense. He triggered a false accusation that stated that I stalked him and was a threat to his family. He used his rank as an Air Force officer to pull off the false accusation and in time resumed proselyting at work for Redeemer Arlington. I had to pick up the pieces of my life. When the false accusation hit my Mom at the time physically felt it in California. Without saying a word my Mom knew through motherly instinct that her son was threatened and in danger. The false accusation was psychologically terrifying and from the mess I learned what PTSD is. The situation dragged on and it took a great amount of effort to leave the environment where the abuse happened. The effects of the abuse were not realized all at once. It took time for me to understand that when I saw how a military officer abused his power, it revealed why rape and sexual abuse is a problem in the military. In late 2016 my Mom began to have a medical crisis and went in and out of the hospital in 2017 as well. When in the hospital she expressed her concerns about the false accusation and struggles l had in finding a new job I was livid. That had no business being in the hospital. Earlier on I tried to resolve the mess with Redeemer Arlington and spoke with both Jordan Kauflin and Eric Simmons about the mess. However, it all fell through and Redeemer let Andrew get away with the abuse. In my Mom’s terminal illness this did not have to be an issue. One aspect I learned about spiritual abuse is that it grows, it hangs over you life and it leaves you frozen. But that is why its considered trauma. If you want to read more detail about it you can do so in, “How I Managed a False Accusation Given Birth to by a USAF Captain and Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington for 408 Days.” , “Was Redeemer Arlington Removed From McLean Bible’s New City Network? The Wondering Eagle Asks Why? Plus how Spiritual Abuse from Redeemer Affected My Mother and Popped up in Her Hospital Room When She was Ill” and “Unless You Experience Spiritual Abuse Then You Won’t Understand How Painful it is.”
Applied Lessons from Wade’s Talk to My Experience
As I listened to Wade Mullen’s talk both in Chicago and in the car while driving around I remain struck by the many similarities in some of what Wade said. Wade addressed some of the behavior that I lived through from Andrew White. For example in leaning upon Wade’s talk there was constant flattery by Andrew. He came across as the nicest and most caring guy that I met in life. Later on I have wondered if Andrew was a narcissist in how he behaved. He also wanted to “overhelp” and get deeply in my life. Today I realize that parts of what he wanted to do were not healthy. In 2012 and 2013 I didn’t know that at all. He also flattered me with gifts, in this case a $60.00 ESV Bible. Andrew could not stand dissent. You could not speak ill of his church or pastor. To criticize Redeemer Arlington was to criticize Andrew White and his wife. In the false accusation and what he triggered he created alliances that worked against me, It was the military and former military versus a civilian. There was one side to be believed – his which he exploited. I was gas lighted in the false accusation and he re-ordered and broke my world. He confirmed why Sovereign Grace churches had a cult like reputation. His false accusation made me doubt many of my friendships in not knowing if they would do something similar. He made me doubt the military in abusing his rank as Air Force Captain. Today I often don’t know what to think of the military based off seeing the dark side of it.
When I tried to resolve the mess Jordan Kauflin created problems in how he handled it as well. I received a very brief apology in a conversation between Jordan Kauflin, Andrew White and myself, but it came no where close to what an attorney told me I should accept. The apology was short and defensive. It didn’t undo the mess he created and then he turned around and fled and warned me not to contact him. Andrew’s behavior was not remorseful but defensive. Jordan Kauflin basically said, “Well he said he is sorry….” and let him go. The apology led me reeling in that it played with my emotions. It left me high and dry and not knowing what to expect.
There is one other point that I would like to make. Wade’s talk about unhealthy people applies to quite a bit and not just the church. As I was listening his him describe toxic individuals I was reflecting on previous people I interacted with in life. There are also those on social media at times who can be toxic as well. Also what he said could very well apply to some work environments that some people have experienced. Wade’s talk was healthy and good in many segments of life.
In Contrast to Wade Mullen Here is Why I Will Never Find Peace
Wade Mullen in his story told of a situation in which a church undid the damage in naming the issues and repenting of it. They reached out to him and engaged him. Wade’s story is unique and to be clear its an exception to the rule. One of the issues I learned about evangelicalism is that evangelicals never own their mistakes. They never say they are sorry. What happened to Wade will not happen to me. It won’t happen to many other people. Redeemer Arlington never reached out and said, “Dave we screwed up and we were wrong in how we handled it.” They never asked for my forgiveness. Andrew ran and continues to run. Last I heard he is out in Colorado and probably in an elder role at his wife’s church which I believe is Wesleyan. So in addition to not getting a sincere and deep apology that could be discussed the other problem is my Mom. My Mom is dead. You can’t undo a burial, funeral and medical crisis to tell my Mom, that this situation will be resolved. The spiritual abuse affected the grieving process and added a component of anger to it. Fortunately, that never happened with my Dad when he died. But a loving and sincere apology and effort to talk over everything will just not happen. When this blog learned that Jordan Kauflin’s son Jack had a relapse of leukemia I extended an olive branch to Redeemer Arlington and even donated some money to their medical expenses. I did that privately knowing I was most likely going to be met with silence and have indeed been meet with silence. The leadership of Redeemer Arlington is incapable of doing the right thing. Is that due to both leaders growing up in Sovereign Grace and living in a cult? It very well could be. Honestly I don’t know. But what Wade described will never happen in my life. And while I am not at peace with it I also know that is just the reality. Life is not fair and abuse proves how it is unfair. My story will be a warning to people to avoid Evangelical Christianity. And the sad reality is that many people will never find peace and closure. Many people will remain stuck and trying to figure out how to move forward. In short many will not know how to move forward.