This blog post is a response to the EFCA’s Eastern District co-superintendent Dr. Cedrick Brown who asked the question should the church ask the world to forgive them? This blog is impressed with the question and offers some feedback which comes from a person who learned why spiritual abuse is a problem. Its my hope that this discussion with start to happen more often.
“In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.”
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice[a] at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
Matthew 5:23-24 NLT
On Saturday June 27, 2020 I was stuck at home and then a burning thought pressed upon my mind. What happened to him? What became of him? I have tried to move forward from a dark spiritual abuse situation in my life that never had closure but from time to time it still pops up in my mind. I don’t write too much about the individual as I have been trying to move forward. But on a Saturday night it popped up in my mind again. What became of Andrew White?
For those who do not know Andrew White (pseudonym) was a community group leader at Eric Simmons Redeemer Arlington. In a faith crisis he reached tried to get me involved in the last church plant of Sovereign Grace Ministries in the Washington, D.C. area. We clashed and fought over the corruption. Andrew was a Kool Aid drinker who defended his church as the most healthy he has ever been a part of. For me all the corruption bleeding from Sovereign Grace really justified atheism. He also was an Air Force Captain who graduated from the Air Force Academy. His main spiritual influences were Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler and John Piper. Man I remember the time I told him C.J. Mahaney was a fraud, he got so upset that he could not work for a day. He identified with Sovereign Grace and then Acts 29. On May 8, 2013 Andrew triggered a false accusation that claimed that I was a threat to his family. Whereas in March he asked me to in his home for a night and to change the password on his computer so he could not access pornography later he triggered a false accusation that dealt with stalking and threatened to report me for a crime that was never committed. After he broke the relationship he focused on proselytizing another person. The situation was never resolved and an attorney advised me that I was sitting on a defamation of character lawsuit. Andrew moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado when the USAF performed a personal change of station. Last I heard is that he gives his testimony for the Navigators out west and helps fund raise for his former Navigator director at the Air Force Academy. The false accusation caused my family deep pain and when I realized it was not going to be resolved led me to look for employment in a new job. Watching a military officer abuse his rank and position taught me why rape and sexual abuse is a problem in the United States military. The situation dragged into my Mom’s hospital room during a terminal illness in 2017. It was one of the things I learned about spiritual abuse is that it just drags on and hovers and defines your life. If you want to read more you can read the following post which compiles other posts about the situation written here at this blog, “Unless You Experience Spiritual Abuse Then You Won’t Understand How Painful it is.”
So on Saturday June 27 I was curious as to what became of him? So for the first time in years I looked up where he was at and found out the latest information. In my research I found a picture of him and his wife. Just staring and smiling. When I saw the picture of Andrew I felt sick. I wondered if he realized the pain he caused my family? I wondered if he cared about the frustration of my Mom in a terminal illness? Did he reflect on what he did? Or does he have any remorse? Here I am still dealing with the consequences of what happened and trying to move forward. If he actually sought me out and wanted to resolve it I would work to do that with him. And at the same time Redeemer Arlington screwed up an opportunity to resolve the conflict. What I learned is that in the Neo-Calvinist movement there is more of an emphasis on having the right beliefs instead of having the right behavior to back it up. You can treat a person like garbage but as long as you had the right beliefs and signed a membership covenant all is okay.
Dr. Cedrick Brown
Dr. Cedrick Brown’s Post on Asking For Forgiveness
After seeing the picture of the individual who triggered the darkest season of my life and showed me what spiritual abuse was I felt sick. I had a number of feelings going through me due to the unresolved conflict. But before I was going to bed and getting ready to power down the computer I cleaned out my email. I saw a blog post that was emailed out by the Eastern District. In it I saw Dr. Cedrick Brown’s post about the church asking for forgiveness. I did a quick blog post about it asking people to read it in, “Dr. Cedrick Brown of the EFCA’s Eastern District on Asking the World to Forgive the Church.”
I found Dr. Brown’s post encouraging and taking a step in the right direction even though there is one concern I need to point out. And there is another aspect I would add that can make this better.
Evangelicals Never Ask For Forgiveness and Leave People Broken
Today I have moved into the done category. You can read about that in, “Reflecting on My Decision to Reject Evangelical Christianity. Its Too Corrupt, Political and Intellectually Shallow.” My experience with evangelicalism and what I encounter when I tell people’s stories is that evangelicals don’t ask for forgiveness. They don’t as individuals. Churches do not do that nor do denominations. As a result many people are left stuck. That explains me and countless others This problem is why I view much of evangelicalism as being sick and cancerous. It cheapens the Gospel, and it creates enemies who are often needless. Many people don’t want to stand up to a church or organization and recall what happened. The evangelical church not asking for forgiveness is the biggest crutch that exists today.
Dr. Cedrick Brown’s Approach is Impressive and to be Congratulated
Since evangelicals do not believe in forgiveness or asking for it, Dr. Cedrick Brown’s blog post at the Eastern District deserves to be congratulated. I think he is on to something that most of evangelicalism just does not practice. To steer a discussion in this direction takes courage and its to be commended. This is a way to help multiple people and organizations. It can help the corporate EFCA if the Eastern District models this successfully. It can help those who are hurt by churches. It can help the communities where many of these churches reside in. In order for this to work though it needs to be a process. Its not a simple check the box and all problems are erased. Instead it takes time and effort. But it can be quite rewarding. What is important is that it can’t be limited to just words instead actions need to back up behavior. That is key as well.
Most People Want to Forgive…and Let’s Add Matthew 5:22-23 to the Process
Now here is the key aspect to this that Dr. Cedrick Brown would discover. Most people want to forgive. I wanted the guy who taught me why rape and sexual assault is a problem in the military to approach me and ask for forgiveness. They want to let go for psychological reasons. They want to move forward and find a way to live again. Many people want to be asked for forgiveness. Many people who are hurt want the person or organization that hurt them to understand what has happened. Its a process that is healthy. I think the main reason why this doesn’t happen is because many churches or denominations are advised by attorneys who look at situation through a legal perspective and counsel not to admit error. In the end who is more important? Jesus or the attorney for some people they would counsel following the attorney is most important.
But here is another component that needs to be considered. Matthew 5:22-23 is absent from Dr. Cedrick Brown’s blog post. From my perspective I think is should be the paramount verse to guide people in this area. Jesus wants people to put down their worship and resolve issues before they are to approach him in worship. Why is this commandment almost always missing from these discussions? If it were added it would be quote helpful if it were practiced.
And Yet…The Right People Need to Ask for Forgiveness
This blog respects and is impressed with what Dr. Cedrick Brown has proposed. I will also say that in the course of writing thos blog I have gotten a few pastoral notes from different pastors in the United States who have read this blog and apologized. For me that is moving.. But here is the problem, in some cases the wrong people are apologizing. In my mess an Air Force Captain at the time needs to apologize. He was the one who triggered the false accusation and let the pain occur. He needs to own it. Maybe what Dr. Cedrick Brown and the EFCA should do is play the role of peacemaker. To work with two parties and help bring closure. I would ignore Ken Sande’s Peacemakers by the way as a flawed theological approach. Plus when money enters the picture that warps everything. But maybe what should happen is that the EFCA should play the role of peacemaker when necessary and appropriate.
The EFCA Should Listen to Wade Mullen in This Area
When it comes to spiritual abuse and problems Dr. Cedrick Brown and the Eastern District should reach out to Wade Mullen. Wade is at Lancaster Bible College and is one of the few that I think understands this issue. He has spoken about spiritual abuse and has his own story and publishes it as well. In November of 2019 I traveled to Restore Chicago to take notes, and blog about that spiritual abuse conference. Present were people from the Harvest Bible Chapel debacle and Willow Creek Community Church scandal. You can listen to Wade’s story in the following post and read what I have written as well. The post composed is called, “Why Wade Mullen Found Peace and Why I Never Will.” But if I were Eastern District leadership I would reach out to Wade. He’s not that far from the Eastern District headquarters of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.
One Word of Caution to Dr. Cedrick Brown
First let me re-print a section toward the end of Dr. Cedrick Brown’s blog post. I think he needs to be careful as to what is being said. Please read what is below.
We are so dysfunctional – and it has to end, now! We are commanded to love each other, not to publicly humiliate or combat each other. We are literally taking our cases before the unrighteous under open-air courts, behind a screen on social media, through open letters and more – this is already a defeat for us (1 Corinthians 6:1-9). We must learn that in our unhealthy public battles we are far from defending the cross of Christ but closer to defaming His name to a world who needs Him more than ever. We are to make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3)! This does not mean we will not disagree -we will, this is what families do.
Love tells the hard truth – but does it respectfully (Romans 12:17). Love always maintains a correct estimate of oneself – you don’t know everything – and you can be wrong (Romans 12:3). But healthy families, in their most heated moments always seek to protect and preserve the family unit. If we say, we are disciples of Christ, it is time to start acting like it. This proves to the world the amazing love of God which they desperately need, now!
James MacDonald said the same thing before suing The Elephant’s Debt blog and a Christian journalist in Chicago. This can be misconstrued to suggest that talking about things publicly can be gossip and slander. Writing about Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago was necessary. Writing about different churches in the EFCA is necessary. Writing and publishing stories about Community Evangelical Free Church of Elverson; Evangelical Free Church of Blairstown, New Jersey; Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina or First Free Wichita in Kansas is essential. Sometimes the EFCA will not be able to police itself or work on these issues by themself. Congregationalism as a model of church governance can be both solid and it can be both corrupt. The way it can be approached is the problem. But its important to write about these issues as its good in the end. Sometimes in the end the person with the best focus who can see things is an outsider. In part that is why this blog exists.