Bill Hybels, the Willow Creek “System,” and Why the Women Needed to Speak Publicly

Bill Hybels, Clergy Sexual Misconduct, Willow Creek Church


Bill Hybels, Willow Creek, Clergy Sexual Misconduct

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Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed wrote a very important article about the Bill Hybels/Willow Creek sexual misconduct scandal. This is a very important article that summarizes the system that was in place which allowed Bill Hybels to not only go unchecked, but to be protected and defended. You can apply this kind of corrupt system to many others where perpetrators are defended and protected. Simply replace the names/locations with another renegade high-controlling pastor who abuses (sexually or spiritually), and victims are silenced and their characters maligned.

The important take-home here is to note the universal pattern that keeps corrupt systems corrupt, and what it takes to stop this system so that truth can be revealed, and hopefully bring restoration to both victims and the church.

The women who spoke out are the heroes at Willow Creek. They were trashed, called all sorts of evil things, but truly, they were the heroes, trying to protect the church. We would do well to listen to survivors!

“We would not know any of the truth of this problem at Willow (Association and Elders) had they not gone public. Four years of silence, four years of nothing being known, four years when others may have spoken up. We know what we know only because the women had the courage to go public.”

Please read the article and try to apply the Willow Creek “system” to other abuse stories you are familiar with. I think you will see the pattern. This is the pattern we must learn, or we will repeat the same mistakes.

Scot McKnight’s article:  Willow: Why the Women Went Public?

 

Classical Conversations #3: Leaders Delete Comments and Block Commenters Who Don’t Toe the Line

Classical Conversations, High-Controlling Groups, Deleted Comments, Blocked Commenters, Noble Gibbens


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NOTE: This is part of a series that began with these earlier posts:

Please take a seat and join the conversation, even if you aren’t a homeschool parent. I think you might find it interesting. Continue reading

Classical Conversations #1: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Classical Conversations, Homeschool, Classical Education, #ClassicalConvMadeKnown

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wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.com

 

About 10 years ago, I was at a homeschool family camp with my family in Washington state, and it was talent-show night. Previous years at the talent show, children and families sang, kids performed skits, or danced a routine. However, this year, there were a couple of very young girls who recited historical passages. I cannot recall what was recited, but I remember being impressed with these girls, who were about 5 years old, reciting such long texts – texts that included vocabulary words with four syllables, using words I rarely use. Actually, I was blown away.

I later found out these girls were involved in a group called Classical Conversations (CC) in their area, and memorizing was part of their schoolwork. Along the way, I’ve run into several homeschool moms who have tried to encourage me to join Classical Conversations, especially when I expressed my interest in classical education.

Here is a brief description of classical education:

Classical education focuses on the great books of Western civilization, Latin, and lessons about morality and virtue, and is based on the medieval European curriculum that divided learning into the “trivium”: grammar, logic and rhetoric. The concept of fusing classical education into modern teaching was popularized by a 1947 essay by British author Dorothy Sayers called “The Lost Tools of Learning.”  (Source).

I had already been teaching my children and adopting some classical methods of learning after hearing a compelling lecture by Susan Wise Bauer who spoke at a HEAV convention in Virginia. I immediately bought her book and began implementing classical methods in my teaching. Prior to that, I used a hodgepodge of curricula, but now with Susan Wise Bauer’s recommendations, my children were on a tried-and-true academic track  – a proven educational method that had been used by students for centuries. It felt reassuring to have such a proven academic plan for my kiddos.

When we moved to a new state, many of our new homeschooling friends were supplementing their homeschooling with the Classical Conversations program. My new friends once again encouraged us to join. I asked questions, took a look at what we already had going on in our homeschooling plan, looked at the needs of our children, and my needs, and decided it was not a good fit for us at the time. Currently, there are so many options – maybe too many options – for homeschoolers. Parents need to use what works best for them and for their children to achieve optimum educational success.

Classical Conversations didn’t work for my family; however, it has worked for many families. For many families, CC has become a way for them to connect with other families who are homeschooling, and receive support. Children can grow up with other CC children through the years and gain solid friendships. Parents can encourage and support each other.

I’ve read accounts that using Classical Conversations has helped some inexperienced or perhaps unorganized moms/dads to stay on task and get all of the academic boxes checked, because someone else has made sure that the material is good and appropriate.

Students can participate in fun activities together from science projects, to memory work, speech and debate, and mock trials. Have you ever heard of a child reciting Newton’s Laws of Motion? When was the last time you heard of students learning Latin? Classical Conversations sounds like a rich and broad learning experience, doesn’t it? I have no doubt that many have benefited from this rich program.

CC also can benefit new homeschool moms who are overwhelmed with homeschooling options. It can give them a sense of security, knowing they don’t have pick books and programs when it’s already done for them. It’s a great way to get immersed into homeschooling without doing it blindly. Parents only need to cover reading, writing, and arithmetic (for the lower grades). The rest is covered at Classical Conversations which meets one time per week.

That all sounds great, doesn’t it?

It probably is great for many families/groups. But all groups do not run the same, nor do they have the same leaders or families, so there is bound to be different “looking” groups.

Unfortunately, I’ve been hearing negative issues connected with Classical Conversations. I’ve noticed them, too, as I have been in homeschool sites on the internet. And, recently, people have contacted me to share their experiences. I believe I’m in a position to do something that makes a positive difference, by hosting some conversations here at Spiritual Sounding Board, about apparent problems in the Classical Conversations system.

Julie Anne’s (yes, I go by both names or JA is fine, too) Background

Let me give new readers a little background so you can understand where I am coming from and the purpose of this blog. After starting BGBC Survivors, a blog about my abusive church experience, I, along with five others, were sued by the pastor there in 2012 in a defamation lawsuit. He lost the lawsuit and had to pay not only his attorney fees, but the defendants’ attorney fees, along with court and filing costs. Through that process, I learned a lot about First Amendment rights and responsibilities, and what people can and cannot say publicly.

When the lawsuit against me went viral, a lot of people came to my blog to send notes of encouragement. Along with those notes, many people shared their abusive church experiences. I continued to blog, changed the name to Spiritual Sounding Board, but now made it about spiritual abuse in general, and invited others to share their stories.

This blog is for survivors who have been harmed in church or Christian groups/organizations. Other stories covered here have included Doug Phillips, Vision Forum, Family-Integrated Churches; Bill Gothard, IBLP, ATI, and reports of sexual abuse; the Christian Patriarchy Movement, Stay-at-Home Daughters Movement, courtship, purity, and modesty teachings, etc. I do quite a bit of investigative reporting, have done interviews on these related topics, am quoted in major news articles, etc. I am not new to this gig. As a 23-year veteran homeschool mom, I know the Christian homeschool culture pretty well.

Let me get straight to the point: I have seen and heard enough about Classical Conversations that alarm bells are going off. This is going to be the first of probably many posts about Classical Conversations. For some who have not experienced any problems with CC, this will probably be shocking to you. I get that. I believe 100% that is has been good for you.  But there are others who have been harmed, and it is because of those people that I have decided to take this on (along with a team of others who were directly involved with CC).

I am working with a team of former Classical Conversations members who have done an incredible amount of research. Combined, they are connected with scores of people currently and formerly part of Classical Conversations. As typically happens with systemic abuse, once someone goes public and tells their personal story, others feel more comfortable sharing their experiences.

So far, here is a sampling of what I’ve seen/heard that I find troubling:

  • Mishandled child-to-child sexual abuse cases.
  • An atmosphere of: no talk, no asking questions, especially publicly if the question seems at all critical.
  • A blurry line between ministry and business aspects of the organization.
  • CC leaders using the Bible to control or silence people.
  • Misuse of Matthew 18 when dealing with conflicts.
  • A rigid atmosphere: “Classical Conversations is the only right way to homeschool” – others are inferior.

Sadly, these are not just normal issues, but issues that would represent systemic malfeasance

Apparently, leaders at Classical Conversations have made legal threats to members who post negative comments about their experiences. That is bullying behavior. Here at Spiritual Sounding Board (SSB), you have the opportunity to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. I do not reveal sources, e-mail addresses, or IP addresses of my commenters to anyone.


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Commenting Ground Rules

I have a minimal set of ground rules to keep Spiritual Sounding Board a safe place for people to share their experiences and expression their opinions.

  • My blog is set up so that your first comment is moderated. After that, all subsequent comments should go through fine unless there are ground rules broken (like language, personal attacks) or it gets stuck in spam. If you think your comment is stuck in the spam box, feel free to send another comment asking me to check the spam box, or send me an email at spiritualsb@gmail.com.
  • Pseudonyms are absolutely fine. In fact, I find that people often feel more comfortable to share when using a pseudonym. Your story is very important. It is very likely that your story has happened to others. By you speaking out, you will give others the courage to speak out.
  • I do not allow comments with the pseudonym. “Anonymous.” Mickey Mouse and Fred Flintstone are up for grabs. 🙂
  • While this is primarily a place for survivors, I do allow conversation from people with opposing opinions, but no personal attacks. You get one warning before Owen, the SSB watchdog, comes out. I’d like to introduce you to Owen:
  • If you violate the warning again, you will be put in the “dog house,” which means all of your comments will be moderated. They will eventually be approved if they are okay, or trashed if they are rude and attacking. Good behavior will get you out of the doghouse. This must remain a safe place.

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Note to Classical Conversations Leaders

Please do not be foolish and send me Cease and Desist letters from attorneys or threaten to sue me, as you have allegedly done to others. I am very aware of my First Amendment rights. The attorney who represented me in the defamation lawsuit taught me much; in fact, she also taught about First Amendment and SLAPP/anti-SLAPP law to other attorneys. She is probably the top attorney in the state on this topic. (SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.” Such frivolous lawsuits are basically designed to shut people up by threatening to tie up their time and resources. Anti-SLAPP suits counter those.)

I know how to make sure I am within legal parameters on what can or cannot be said.

I live in Washington State, which has anti-SLAPP laws. Discussion about Classical Conversations would qualify under the anti-SLAPP due to this phrase in the law: “in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public concern” (Wash. Rev. Code § 4.24.525 (4)(a-e)).

My blog is a public forum and the issues related to Classical Conversations are issues of public concern. And there you go.

Additionally, this is what will happen if/when I win a defamation lawsuit using anti-SLAPP statute:

If you win your motion to strike under Washington’s anti-SLAPP statute, the court will dismiss the lawsuit (or the parts of the lawsuit found to be SLAPPs). You will also be entitled to receive your attorneys’ fees, your court costs, and an automatic statutory damage award of $10,000. The court may also sanction the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney.

I recently noticed my vehicle is getting close to 200,000 miles. That $10,000 would come in handy. Just sayin’.

First #MeToo, Now #ChurchToo: Sexual Abuse, Harassment, and Mishandling in the Church

#MeToo, #ChurchToo, Sexual Abuse, Harassment, Church

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The hashtag #MeToo has been trending for quite some time on Twitter. Women who have been sexually harassed or abused have been identifying themselves as survivors of sexual harm, indicating it with the hashtag, #MeToo. But now, there is a new trending hashtag, #ChurchToo. The stories that you can read in one little tweet are heartbreaking.

I wanted to share some here, and also invite those who have been on Twitter to feel free to share more here if they like.

If you are new to Spiritual Sounding Board, this is a blog that deals with abuse in church or church groups. We have dealt with all kinds of sexual abuse: sex abuse of children, sexual abuse in marriage, sexual abuse by clergy, wives of pedophiles, church leaders who have failed to report sexual crimes, church leaders who have blamed victims for sexual crimes, and also spiritual abuse which often occurs when a church leaders are involved in any capacity (perpetrator, counselor, spiritual advisor).

If you have been harmed sexually, this is a safe place. If you would like to share your story in more detail, you can in the comments, or to me privately: spiritualsb@gmail.com. Please feel free to comment using a pseudonym. This is your place to use your voice where it will be heard.

~Julie Anne Continue reading

Pastor Chuck O’Neal Continues to Pull the Wool over His Evangelist Friends’ Eyes

Chuck O’Neal, Beaverton Grace Bible Church, Jeff Rose, Dr. Edward Delcour, Mike Gendron, Mike Stockwell, and Robert Gray, Evangelism Reformation Conference, Reformation Fire Conference

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Let’s Discuss: The Keepers, Netflix Documentary Series about the Murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik and Systemic Sexual Abuse

The Keepers, Netflix, Cathy Cesnik, Systemic Sexual Abuse, Catholic Church, Spiritual Abuse, Clergy Sexual Abuse



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The Keepers is a new documentary series airing on Netflix. I have watched 5 of the episodes and it is excellent. If you have seen Spotlight, it is similar, however, the investigative reporters in this case are two grandmas who have spent the last three years compiling details of the case and trying to get answers as to who killed their beloved former high school teacher, Sister Cathy Cesnik in 1969.

Like the movie, Spotlight, the series uncovers systemic sexual abuse of female students at Archbishop Keough High School in Maryland by Father Maskell who was a counselor on campus. When I refer to the word “systemic,” I mean it is a whole system of cover-up and abuse. Father Joseph Maskell was not the only one who committed the crimes. His friends in high places also committed sexual crimes and helped to conceal the crimes: police officers, businessmen in the community, etc.

The first episode lays the groundwork for the story and introduces the main characters. Then, the second episode goes into repulsive, unimaginable sexual abuse descriptions. This episode is definitely difficult to watch and I would caution those who get triggered by topics of abuse to be very careful watching it. The second episode was the most difficult for me to watch, but this is important information to know how insidious these crimes were, not only sexually, but spiritually.

Because this documentary series is being discussed so much, I wanted to have a post specifically to address it, and especially to be a place where people can discuss how it may have affected them.

So, let’s use this post to discuss how the show may have affected us and try not to include spoilers for those who have not yet watched it.

Below, I have gathered a variety of links that may be of interest. I encourage you to check out the first link, especially. It is excellent.

Note:  While this sexual abuse scandal – also connected with the systemic abuse cover up with cases around the world uncovered by the Boston Globe Spotlight team occurred in the Catholic Church, Protestant churches are not exempt from these types of scandals. We know of the  Sovereign Grace Ministries sexual abuse scandal which is still ongoing. I am personally aware of several others that are “under the radar.” No one church group is exempt from systemic abuse.

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Related Links

A website was set up for the movie here:  The Keepers. I am very impressed with the information presented at the site, from information about the series, to helpful resources for survivors, therapies, systemic abuse, how to help, etc.

The following links are related and may be of interest:

After The Gospel Coalition Staunchly Defended CJ Mahaney in Sovereign Grace Ministries Sex Abuse Scandal, They Now Promote the Movie Spotlight (Sex Abuse Coverup)

Continue reading

Sex Abuse Victim Natalie Rose Greenfield, the Timeline, Doug Wilson’s Attempt to Shift Focus off the Real Story

Doug Wilson, Christ Church, CREC, Sex Abuse, Natalie Rose Greenfield, Timeline, Jamin Wight

Continue reading

Doug Wilson Series: Introduction, Christ Church Celebrates 40 years and Background

Doug Wilson, Christ Church, CREC, Greyfriars Hall, Association of Classical & Christian Schools, Canon Press, New Saint Andrews, Steven Sitler, Jamin Wight

Continue reading

Some Pastors Think They Get to Control the Details of Your Lives, Even the Colors of Clothes You Wear

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Attempting to Set the Doug Phillips Record Straight: Part 1 – The Puzzle of Control

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Attempting to Set the Doug Phillips Record Straight:  The Puzzle, Types of Control by Church Leaders, Vision Forum, Boerne Christian Assembly, and a Characterization of Phillips

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Continue reading

When Your Religious Leader Falls Off the Pedestal

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Cindy Kunsman responds to fallen spiritual leaders and spiritual abuse after the Doug Phillips scandal.

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Facebook Comments Removed from Tony Miano’s Facebook Page When Commenter Asks About Donation $$

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Tony Miano put out a plea for donations on his Facebook page,  however, Tony’s admin guy, Chris H. deleted comments made by someone questioning about the money.  The commenter was accused of slander, defamation, and threatened to ban from posting on the Facebook page.  Bully, much?

Continue reading

Doug Phillips: His Power and Control Using “Godly” Patriarchy

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Doug Phillips was a powerful man.  He used “godly” power and control to silence, to man the ship of his business, ministry, church, home, women, employees, and everything around him.

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When Sharing Concerns or Asking Pastors Questions Leads to Spiritual Abuse

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Questioning authority or raising concerns can be the litmus test to see if your pastor is spiritually abusive or not.

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Harvest Bible Chapel Files Complaint Against Blogger Paul Dohse, Resulting in Loss of YouTube Privileges

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In a concerted attempt to control others, someone from Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC) filed official complaint with YouTube against blogger Paul Dohse’s YouTube account, resulting in blogger’s loss of YouTube privileges. Continue reading

Harvest Bible Chapel: #Spiritual Abuse 101 Tweets from Elder’s Letter

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Last week I posted a letter from Dave Corning who was a long-time elder at Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC), under Pastor James MacDonald.  I mentioned that Corning’s letter would be my go-to letter for describing spiritual abuse because it described some of the most common tactics spiritual abusers use. Continue reading