Three years ago, I was sued by my ex-pastor, Chuck O’Neal, pastor of Beaverton Grace Bible Church, for speaking out on social media about the abuse we and other families incurred.
The Shepherds’ Conference is going on right now in Southern California, and as I see tweets using the hashtags #shepconf and #shepconf2015, I am reminded of what was going on 3 years ago. My former pastor, Chuck O’Neal, requested to meet with pastors at the Shepherd’s Conference, allegedly to get their “blessing” regarding him suing me and 4 others. He (and the church) sued me and my daughter who was working and going to school full-time (read: broke). He sued another mother and her son. And later, he added Meaghan, another mother, to the lawsuit after she dared to leave a comment on my blog using her real name. (Now you know why I encourage pseudonyms or first names when posting abuse stories. I don’t want you to have to go through lawsuit drama.)
He was not interested in any mediation or discussion. Apparently he was interested in money, and a lot of money, enough to financially destroy families. That’s some Christian love right there, isn’t it?
Here is the original news story that went out Friday evening: Beaverton church sues family after they criticize it online. This was the original news article/interview that went viral over the weekend.
I decided to add to the Shepherds’ Conference hashtags by tweeting a couple of tweets:
Here are some men from BGBC, currently at the Shepherds’ Conference, pretending everything is fine when they are knowingly shunning former members.
I can’t help but think of the many lives shattered by this man who behaves like a spiritual bully. I am reminded of the many e-mails I received from former members who had attended the church long before we arrived and hearing how their families had suffered, their faith shattered, some hadn’t gone back to church since leaving.
I also remember e-mails and phone calls from extended family of BGBC members who are not allowed to see their grandchildren, nieces, nephews because their brand of Christianity doesn’t measure up to the approved Chuck-O’Neal-brand of Christianity.
I am free from this church, but the memories linger, the anniversary dates remind, and the heart aches. What a travesty in the name of “Christianity.”
Spiritual abuse sucks.
131 thoughts on “Flashback: This Week At the Shepherds’ Conference with Pastor Chuck O’Neal Three Years Ago”
Yea, the unquestionably correct seems a bit arrogant.
In your case, Rhonda, it was not private personal behavior that caused your concern but failure to follow by-laws and avoid conflicts of interest. These are organizational matters and also public matters given that churches have non-profit tax status.
You have been, and are, a target of spiritual abuse. No doubt there are many in the organizations we call churches who are the spiritual descendents of diotrephese. Where these operate in Baptist churches, they tend to be people who were instrumental in the founding of the church, or else their ancestors were. Sometimes, though not always, they bear the title of deacon.
Whoever, they are, they keep their pastors poor, the better to control them. However, this strategy only works for true shepherds who are willing to lay down their lives for their fellows. The hirelings move on to greener, more lucrative pastures.
You say you realize you sound bitter. Nah. You sound discouraged. Discouraged to the point of breaking. One of the marks of the abusers is that, after they have driven you to the point of despair, and maybe beyond, they lay on blame, guilt and shame with accusations of bitterness. Nobody should expect that the satan, or his minions, will play fair.
It is written in their Code of Discipline, also I felt totally led to do this, even though I was freaking out, I think this was God making sure they couldn’t come back at me later and say you didn’t do Step 1.
Thanks for reminding us of this painful anniversary, Julie Anne. The country where I live has a few of those coming up in short order. Next Wednesday marks the 4th anniversary of the East Japan earthquake and tsunami. Later this month, it’ll be 20 years since the terrorist attacks by the Aum Shinrikyo cult. And, of course, all kinds of war-related dates to mark this summer.
I expect to hear many stories of remembered pain and loss in the weeks and months to come, but also stories of courage and hope. Yours is definitely one of the latter. Thank you so much for your faith and perseverance, sister. May God give you much comfort and encouragement, as you have given to others here.
@Ann, Thanks for your kind words. I’d like to ponder what you said and offer some thoughts that might benefit you in seeking out a safe place of worship. I know they are out there. You are in good company with the countless spiritually frustrated people in the world.
@Gram 3, Thanks to you also for your kind words. I could use that vacation 🙂
@Michaela, God bless you for your kind and encouraging words and yes, I will receive your offer in the spirit it is given. I will email Julie Anne with my mailing address. This is an extremely sweet offer. I would love to read the book you mentioned. God bless you for your concern and desire to offer support – I believe God will use this to my benefit. Thanks so much.
@Gary W, Your thoughts truly touched me and are right on target – thank you. You gave me a blessed perspective in what you shared. I deal with many bitter people and I do not want to ever be like them. And yes, I have been spiritually abused at the hands of mean and hateful church members. When I reflect back on the last three decades, I am amazed I am still at it. Only God could give me the strength to keep me doing this – that and a burden to share Christ’s love. God called me to preach, so I hold to my calling and keep on. On the other hand, I have ministered to, and encounter many who are genuinely decent people who love the Lord and are very supportive and are blessed by my ministry. This inspires me when I feel like giving up.
One of you said that the church and Christians have gone crazy. I agree with that sentiment. Your thoughts and concern for me have touched me deeply. Please pray also for my sweet wife of 32 years. She is a cancer survivor whose faith inspires all who know her. God is faithful – all the time.
God bless you all.
Barnabasintraining – P&P in the house! will work for Phil Johnson. I’m sure you’ve filled that space already.
Julie Anne – A KSwan card?! I’ll need at least one glass of wine to do that!
A student I knew for 25 years and was very close with even after she left the program I work at passed early this morning. She was a caring soul that struggled with many disabilities in illnesses. God grant her peace and comfort to her family.
I’m so glad nothing was in my mouth when I read that. haha You crack me up.
Amen, Brian – and peace and comfort to you, too.
What do predators eat after they’ve run off all the prey?
What else can you do with all those “sales” ResultSource staged to juice the book onto the best-seller lists?
Please pray also for my sweet wife of 32 years. She is a cancer survivor whose faith inspires all who know her. God is faithful – all the time.
Dan, I will pray for both of you. Your wife must be such an encouragement for you. God is faithful–all the time. Amen.
Barnabasintraining – P&P in the house! will work for Phil Johnson. I’m sure you’ve filled that space already.
You is good to me, Kathi! 😀
Regarding Johnson’s apparent neglect of duty in calling us bitter, I am not worried. I have the utmost confidence in him. He will come through eventually. 🙂
Yes, I do believe in scalpels when used correctly despite the great pain they may inflict in the name of healing.
Based on your response, it seems as if you do agree with church discipline (Matthew 18) as long as it is done biblically.
How would that look if it actually went through all the steps as prescribed by our Lord?
I have only seen the excommunication of a believer once in my 25+ years as a believer and it appeared to have been done biblically.
Yes, I agree that Matthew 18 is referring to when an individual Christian sins against another individual Christian. Perhaps a more biblical term would be “winning your brother” since that is the motive (Matt.18:15).
I have not read all of the posts but it does seem as if the people on this blog would not go to the extreme to say all biblical efforts at winning your brother as according to Matthew 18 are bad.
Has anyone actually seen this process carried out all the way through the excommunication process biblically? If so, it would be great to post so that we can have a current example of how it looks.
“….Based on your response, it seems as if you do agree with church discipline (Matthew 18) as long as it is done biblically.
How would that look if it actually went through all the steps as prescribed by our Lord?”
The conservative American church has given birth to a resurgence, via controlling, unloving, ‘Church Discipline’ (demanding obedience and ‘submission’ on matters that are none of the elders/pastors’ business in the lives of church members and punishing members who won’t comply) to something akin to The Salem Witch Trials. It is a disgrace!
All of these seminary leaders and Christian leaders, like Mark Dever/9 Marks, mislead us (if not outright lied to us) when they claimed that we were missing ‘Church Discipline’. You know what Dever and the rest of them are missing? Biblical love! They DON’T love people. They are control freaks, authoritarian, abusive, who treat grown adults like idiot children and misuse the Bible and Matthew 18:15-17 as a bully club. They are tyrants who are running regimes. They are full of pride and arrogance.They don’t care who they destroy. They rationalize the enormous damage they do to Christians and they aren’t the least bit sorry for it! They should all step down!
They can’t, I discovered, claim to simultaneously be ‘loving shepherds’ while at the same time claiming that we ‘blindly obey them’ and ‘submit to them’. Those are mutually exclusive behaviors: choose one.
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I really love the Matthew 18 Process…
But, NOT as it was taught to me in “The Corrupt Religious System.”
That ole “Church Discipline” monster.
In Mat 18, WE, His Disciples, are to become as little children…
And, *The Humble* are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven…
And, church leaders, pastor/leaders, are NOT mentioned at all, in Mat 18.
“Church Discipline” is NOT mentioned at all, in Mat 18…
…Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?…
…Except ye be converted, and become as little children…
…Whosoever therefore shall *humble himself as this little child,
the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
*Humble – having a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.
Hmmm? Have I met any, who call themselves “church leaders,”
Who are humble? Having a modest, low estimate, of one’s own importance?
I mean, even the nice guys I’ve met in leadership, and ME…
Did NOT have a low estimate of their own, my own, importance. 😉
And, I was the most humble, and superbest, servant/leader you ever met.
Yes – I really love the Matthew 18 Process…
In Mat 18, Jesus asks WE, His Disciples, to forgive seventy times seven.
And have compassion on fellow servants, our brethren…
Even as Jesus has pity on us…
And forgives us our debt…
…Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me,
and I forgive him? till seven times?
…I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven…
…O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt…
Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant,
even as I had pity on thee?
Yeah, forgive “seventy times seven.”
Is that a lot???
Yeah, forgive “seventy times seven.”
Is that a lot???
But, “The Corrupt Religious System,” only gives the trespassing “brother” 3 shots at obeying their rules, their interpretation of Mat 18:15-17. Sheeeeesssshhhh! 🙂
1 – if **thy brother** trespass against you, go and tell him his fault
between you and him alone: if he hears you, you have gained your brother.
2 – if he will NOT hear you, then take with you one or two more…
in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
3 – if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church:
but if he neglect to hear the church,
let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”
And that means to “The Corrupt Religious System.”
To vote him out of the congregation, excommunicate him, shun him.
Three strikes and you’re out…
But Jesus said in Mat 18 – forgive your brother “seventy times seven.”
Is that a lot???
And, Jesus ends Mat 18 with verse 35…
35* So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you,
if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
Hmmm? Does Jesus want ME to excommunicate MY Brother???
When Jesus says…
“let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican”
Does anyone know what that really means???
How did Jesus treat a “heathen man and a publican?”
Oh snap. Holy Rotton Pharisees Batman, Pharisees complained when…
Jesus sought them out. Went to their home. Had dinner with them.
And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him
eat with publicans and sinners,
they said unto his disciples,
How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?
When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them,
They that are whole have no need of the physician,
but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous,
but sinners to repentance.
NOPE – I do NOT see Excommunication in MAT 18…
Biblical or otherwise…
I kinda see Jesus asking WE, His Sheep, to forgive and love…
From our hearts… Our Brother…
I’m curious why you posted a question to us about our beliefs about “Church Discipline”, but ignored its many abuses in the, primarily, conservative, evangelical church and pastors/elders destroying the lives, reputations, and relationships of countless upstanding Christians.
Care to answer? Would you address the abuses now taking place and the harms done?
Excellent points, as always. I’m especially picking up on what you say about the way we treat unbelievers. We can all be grateful that Jesus does not shun unbelievers. Rather “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
Yet it seems discernment and wisdom are called for. We read:
“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13 ESV)
It appears we are to break off fellowship with a brother who is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler. (Note that thought crimes, such as holding to a different interpretation of Scripture do not incur this drastic consequence. Neither does a refusal to submit oneself to the arbitrary authority of a man or “church” institution.) However, once that drastic step is taken, and given that we are called to treat the brother as an unbeliever, are we not then to quit judging him and, in fact, leave the 99 to pursue the one who is lost?
But that isn’t the end of the matter. Wolves, pigs, vipers, scribes, Pharisees, lawyers (of a certain religious type) and hypocrites would appear to fall into a whole different category. Certainly we are to avoid the wolves and pigs; and Dan has reminded us that sometimes it is the congregants who are the wolves and sheep, and that it is the faithful minister (a/k/a “pastor”) who is a true sheep that they devour.
Am I not right to understand that you were a “pastor” who found himself being devoured by false sheep? Yet they did not succeed in destroying you. Rather, they were the catalysts by which your true ministry of shining the light of Scripture, unimpeded by the traditions and vain philosophies of men, was born.
Michaela has put a question or three to you. I would join in petitioning you to share your thoughts. I suspect that any differences you and I have might not be that great. I like what you say about referring to “winning your brother” in place of church discipline.
One area where we may differ most may have to do with our understanding of the meaning of “church.” I no longer believe in church. At least I no longer believe in church insofar as it has taken on an organized form, complete with coercive authority structures, since, as I understand it, about the time of emperor Constantine. Church, to my mind, is simply a coming together of called-out followers of Jesus–and it is best if they aren’t like minded, that iron might sharpen iron. Their mutual relationships are defined by Love, not authority. There is no place for constitutions, by-laws, covenants, pledges or any such thing.
Such a gathering of believers has no authority to enforce it’s will on another, other than for protective purposes. Even in such an instance, the available sanctions are limited (basically, cutting of fellowship–without slander, shunning or such), and sanctions must be administered with a view to redemption, not punishment.
Happy thirdaversary, Julie Anne! Wow … what a journey — then and now … Glad to see how the Lord has made something redemptive from what seemed at the time unlikely to turn positive.
P.S. I think you should get three free spaces on your Biblical BINGO card …
Thanks, Brad. I so greatly appreciate how you have supported me over the years and especially your friendship. There’s nothing like having a friend who truly understands spiritual abuse and has the gift of . . . .listening. And to think we’ve never met IRL!
BTW – Thanks all for your patience with me. I had meant to get another post out this week, but this term has been a doozy. It’s going well, but I feel like I’m in a constant state of never-ending deadlines and cramming for tests. I will never be more happy to see Spring break.
Just a few songs of encouragement I wanted to pass on to you and your wife (and anybody else here on SSB!):
1. “Lord Help Me To Hold Out” Spencer Taylor & Doug Williams at The Gospel Legends recording in Miss. (All of the Gospel Legends performances here are AMAZING and EDIFYING!)
2. “Hold On” Lee Williams & The Spiritual QC’s
Ray: As regards church discipline, I see two problems which have occurred:
1) Some clergy (“leaders”) have cloaked personal animosity against individuals in the mantle of church discipline, and pursued an abusive/oppressive agenda against those persons.
2) Church discipline had fallen into disuse amongst “evangelicals” to the extent that most members and clergy found it an unusual concept. Its revival in certain circles is thus met with suspicion, and often rightly so, as the quelling of dissent from the agenda of the discipliners serves a purpose other than caring for the well-being of the sheep.
My view on church discipline:
1) I believe in church discipline, but it must be pursued with extreme caution and care. If a member abuses one of the sheep, such as molesting or assaulting them (here I am not referring to a fair fight at the church picnic, as long as no serious injury ensues, and the parties apologise to one another and the church for being knotheads)(insert smiley), that person should be removed from the church. If there is some personal sin, such as drug abuse, financial irresponsibilty, and so on,excommunication is not the aim, and should not be the subject of disciplinary action at all, but rather pastoral care.
2) As regards false doctrine, each denomination has the right to determine what amounts to teaching of false doctrine. Thus, if I were a member of the Metropolitan Community Church, and I believed and taught marriage was a monogamous arrangement between a man and a woman, they would be right in giving me the boot. However, if you read some of the accounts of folks involved in abusive churches, you will see the scriptural view that one should not gossip transformed into an information-choking “no talk” rule. Similarly, the idea that pastors are to be honored is used by abusive groups to shield the “leadership” from even mild criticism.
I may well be in a minority in this regard on SSB, but I really don’t know.
Chuck O Neal, YOU SUCK!!!!!! so sue me.
Obviously these are not Christians commenting. No grace and plenty of bitterness and dividing. The wicked always expose their hearts with what their mouths say.