An Open Letter to the Victims of Abuse in SGM

To all who have suffered as victims of abuse in SGM,

For a month I’ve started and stopped writing this. Started because each time I see a child, I tend to think about you. And stopped because sometimes those of us who write even fail with our words. We fail to find them and we fail to find them adequate to the situation.

I will not pretend to understand. That would be impossible. After reading the Second Amended Complaint, I realize this acutely. And it’s a strange thing. Those of us who are concerned on your behalf about what actually happened and what continues to happen, want to hurt alongside of you. But I have not been through what you have, so I know there is a limit. Strange as it is, I want to honor you by not pretending to understand.

I wouldn’t even presume to write anything like this if I had not had contact with any of you. But I have and that contact has changed me in irreversible ways.

It has helped me move forward more in care for you and so many others who have been victims of the same treatment. More care for the victims and less animosity against those who seem to not care at all. Care and concern are better fuel anyway.

And it has rattled me. Reading your stories is painful. But even having the least bit of contact has shaken me to my core. If it can become more real, it has.

Some confession is in order, too. I have my fears. I’ve had them for a while. I fear saying “too much” and angering the influential people. I fear hurting my writing “career.” I fear reprisals. I fear being seen as crazy. I fear saying something that would get in the way of justice. And I fear not being taken seriously.

For these reasons and probably others, I have written things and then hit delete just so I could have a carefree day and not add to my problems, which sometimes seem Legion.

For all this I want to apologize.

When I stopped being a pastor and started working in a bank, many people told me I would never stop being a pastor. I blew off those words like autumn’s brittle leaves. And no one knows it better than I do now. So as a pastor I have believed you and prayed for you. And now as pastor-banker I believe you. I began reading your stories two years ago and have not doubted you yet.

I cannot speak for others.

But there are many others. Most of us not very notable. Most of us are not influential and we may not be who you would have chosen to speak for you.

But we are here.

Some of you will instinctively question our motives. We will continue to stand by you anyway. Some of you have left the faith because of what those who claimed to represent it have done to you or refused to do for you. And still refuse to do for you. We will still be here. You will wonder if there is anyone left listening to prayers. We will pray for you.

You need to know that throughout the world there are men and women praying for you and thinking of you and standing with you and they are in it for the long haul. I get emails, facebook messages, tweets and hear from some personally. I assume they represent myriad more.

We are all outraged at the abuse and the silence in the wake of the abuse.

We have lain awake at night hating the silence of those who are influential. In those same hours we have been your watchmen waiting for the morning and wanting the darkness to be dealt a deadly blow.

We are with you.

Matt B Redmond

10 Things I’m Learning

1. My fear lately – going back about two months – has been that I have let my secure position in Christ keep me from caring whether I am listening to his teaching in a few areas. Thankfully and providentially, he has put a few things in my life to help me think through these painful realizations.

2. If I can not handle well my book selling poorly, I cannot be expected to handle well it selling well.

3. I will never again be able to be a part of a church where I cannot expect to the sit down with the pastor who preaches to us.

4. A church that thinks money will solve its problems, must then be patient with those individuals who think the same way. Only a church that does not think money is the answer can compel the person in the pew to ask for daily bread.

5. I am glad Nathan was not worried about David’s friendship.

6.Last week I began praying for the people I work with. And when I say “began” I did so as a whining child not wanting to, on a visceral level. But God has been good to me in my weakness. Work is still very painful. But it has been more pleasant and I am sure I have been more pleasant. A small echo of Paul and Silas singing in prison, maybe? Maybe.

7.If a conviction costs me nothing, it is nothing.

8.Yesterday morning, I awoke tired and frustrated. Financial worries seized me immediately. And then the fact that I have never missed a meal struck me like never before. That is a remarkable thing and can turn fear into thanksgiving.

9.A small local church that loves each other and Jesus is a thing to be reckoned with.

10. The pull of notoriety is strong. It’s muscles are decorated with veins pumping promises of being liked and being secure.

Asking For Daily Bread From the God Who Is Hard to Get

You who live in heaven
Hear the prayers of those of us who live on earth

On Sunday night, my wife and I prayed that God would provide for us for the week. After thinking about Paul saying, “if we have food and clothing, we should be content” it is either the smartest prayer or the most frightening. Maybe both. I don’t know anymore.

But Monday frightened me. It went well and beyond its normal Monday-ness. After spending a significant amount of money to fix my car so I could sell it, it runs more poorly. The AC is acting up in the mini-van. And some bad news.

Do you remember when You lived down here where we all scrape
To find the faith to ask for daily bread

Part of me wonders if God is sticking it us. Another part is hoping he’s helping us be content with “daily bread.” Have I done something to be punished for? Am I reaping what I’ve sown? Or is this him saying, “I want to provide for you in a way that makes it obvious I am providing for you.”

Did You ever know loneliness
Did You ever know need
Do You remember just how long a night can get?

All I know is, it is not easy living by faith in his provision for daily bread when surrounded by so much wealth and ease. This is not an insult to the wealthy. My heart simply reaches out for those things and grabs at them the same way Bilbo grabbed at the Ring as it hung around Frodo’s neck.

And I know you bore our sorrows
And I know you feel our pain
And I know it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained

Intellectually, I can say to myself what I “know” to be true. Or at least what I would tell others if they came to me. You know, “Preach the gospel to yourself…” and all that. I would remind them of God’s love for his children. I know these things. But that story is playing on an old black and white 12 inch. The broken things are playing in high definition. I need those things to reverse at least on occasion. That would be nice.

And I know that I am only lashing out
At the One who loves me most
And after I figured this somehow
All I really need to know…

Regardless, I find myself more hungry for hope in the Scriptures than ever. I figure that if it cannot be there, there is really no hope to be found. Not in food. Or clothing. Or fixed cars.

Is if You who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can’t see what’s ahead
And we can not get free of what we’ve left behind
I’m reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt blame and regret

I can’t see how You’re leading me unless You’ve led me here
Where I’m lost enough to let myself be led
And so You’ve been here all along I guess
It’s just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get

*lyrics by Rich Mullins, Hard to Get

The Religious Leaders and the Least of These in the SGM Scandal

I have been writing about the mess within SGM for about 2 years. In the main, it was because it was symptomatic of what I saw as a larger problem within evangelicalism.

And I consistently get some variation on the question, “Why do you care about this?”

I simply cannot help but care about this. And silently I wonder, “Why don’t more people care about this?” Would that everyone heard from a victim and a parent of a victim.

Isn’t care for the” least of these” at the core of Christian ethics?

Jesus did not say, “Whatever you do unto the greatest of these, you do unto me.” He identified himself with the “least of these.” The greatest human to ever walk this earth, the one through whom all humans were made, identified with the least of them. The ones most likely to be ignored. The ones most likely to be ridiculed. The ones who labored under the thumb of the oppressor. The ones most likely to have no voice against the wealthy, influential and powerful. That is who he chose to identify with.

What we see in the SGM scandal is a naked attempt to hang onto influence and power. Money too?

What else could this be?

This is what we have to ignore: 11 plaintiffs going public with the most horrific accounts of sexual abuse you can imagine, leveled against a denomination, it’s former founder and leader, two churches, and a number of pastors and leaders within. We know for a fact SGM harbored abusers and has publicly stated accusations against them should be dealt with first by pastors. The one time founder and leader of this denomination never saw fit to subject himself to the discipline he enforced against all the pastors in his charge – when his own church saw fit to discipline him, he went to Mark Dever’s church, outside his denomination. We have highly detailed accounts of the unreported abuse and they will give you nightmares. Women and men willing to go on public record. We have a civil case that was not thrown out on the basis of the evidence but merely because the accusers find themselves in the unfortunate situation of having to file the lawsuit in a state with a statute of limitations for such crimes. And there is a criminal investigation also.

All of this has to be worth very little for the praise that breaks the silence to be seen as a wisdom.

A person would have to fall back on some esoteric principal of waiting for the court’s decision to think we should be quiet and continue on as usual with public support of CJ Mahaney.

But that is not all his colleague’s have done. They chose one angry comment to denounce what they call “discernment blogs.” Out of the thousands of comments they could have chosen from, they chose one by a woman who sounded as if she wished bodily harm on the defendants. That one woman was (allegedly!) a victim of rape at an SGM gathering at the age of 13. Once they were made aware of this, an apology should have been issued. But they did not apologize.

And then they said the case was thrown out because the evidence was paltry. No, the evidence was thrown out because of the statute of limitations. And they said no accusation has been leveled against Mahaney. This is also not true. He is accused of not only covering-up by not reporting the crimes (as required by law) but is accused of accepting lavish gifts by a wealthy member accused of abuse. To say he is accused of nothing is patently false and should garner an apology.

He pastored the flagship congregation where of the allegations took place. This was left out of the TGC statement and the now revised T4G statement.

But there has been no apology. Only repeated praise. No expressions of concern. In fact, the expressions of praise and admiration and support for Mahaney far outweigh expressions of concern for the victims.

At this point I know of no member of The Gospel Coalition (which overlaps with T4G) who has publicly expressed any concern over these allegations against SGM under the care of Mahaney or Mahaney himself. No one has asked him to step out of the spotlight.

Listen, I cannot speak for everyone, but I understand the need to support a friend accused of wrongdoing. But what we have happening with T4G and TGC is, “We will not believe your accusations against our friend till they have been proven in a court of law or he admits to them. And until then we will give no credence to the accusers and their accusations.”

I am not their theological enemy. I have attended T4G and written for TGC.

Jesus identified with the least of these. If we as followers of Jesus have trouble identifying who the least of these are in this story and then identifying with them by supporting them, what kind of discipleship have we bought into? One that is merely intellectual? One that is merely an agenda of ideas and rules?

If we side with those whose theology we agree with but have not love for the victims of abuse, we are nothing.

Question: If everything we know now was to be put in a film for us to watch, would we not at the very least, long for one of the religious leaders of our day to express some concern about how all of this is working out among the religious leaders of our day? Would we not look for a Nathan among our Davids?

No one reads a book, watches a movie or takes in a play to watch jet set influential leaders protect the reputations of other wealthy influential leaders. We long to see the wealthy influential leader empty himself on behalf of the least of these.

Empty themselves? The religious leaders of our day don’t even apologize for the factual errors of their statements.

Let me be clear, no one is suggesting it is irrational for Mahaney’s friends to support him. But it serves no one to change nothing, and then to elevate the praise heaped on him. It does not serve the present victims who allege abuse at the hands of men in his charge, and a cover-up of the crimes under his watch. It does not serve those who have yet to come forward about their abuse because they worry if they will be believed. It does not serve the guilty, who need to face their crimes or failures head on. It does not serve local pastors, who look to the the religious leaders of our day for leadership on everything. It does not serve the evangelical church, when the least of these are waved off with the same hand shaking the ones of the celebrity preachers.

And here’s the thing, every time we knowingly share their articles on social media and retweet them and quote them, we say, “Their silence and unwillingness to speak into this situation with the prophetic urgency they did with Paterno, Gosnell, and others is not meaningful. And I will give them a voice for everything else they will say besides.”

We would not accept such silence from the least of these. Indeed, one cannot escape the feeling the religious leaders of our day would prefer for the least of these – the accusers – to be silent.

Money: Reflections on 1 Timothy 6:8

My plan was to just post a number of reflections on the verse in 1 Timothy after meditating on it. But then I got home and started washing the car I just got repaired so I could sell it and then buy the truck I’ve been borrowing from a friend. And despair came over me because I worry how much I’ll be able to sell it for. And other financial issues came into play as the night continued.

I awoke at 3:20. Despair hung over me like a heavy blanket. And all the voices reminding me of my financial weakness kept me awake. I was reminded of how I should not talk to people about money till I really, really, really believe the things I say. And how until I get my act together, I should be quiet about what is going on in SGM.

In other words my weakness drove me to despair.

After two hours of trying to pray, another “voice” reminded of the words, “When Satan tempts me to despair…” I could not remember the rest, but it did not matter.

Really, money is all about strength and weakness. If we have it, strength. If we don’t, weakness. This is the way of American Christianity. And into the face of it the Apostle Paul looks up and tells me he is glad about his weaknesses.

I want to be.

Below are the reflections on 1 Timothy 6:8, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”

1. I could stand to lose a little weight so food is not really an issue. 

2. My main problem is I worry about tomorrow as if I will not have food and clothing sometime in the future. 

3. My clothes are a little tattered, except the ones that are a little too small. See above. 

4. I’ve never missed a meal (also see above) or had to go without clothing (to everyone’s great joy). 

5. I’d like to be able to afford a vacation this year but I have to keep reminding myself I get to enjoy a lot of things, even if that is not one of them. 

6. I have all these choices for entertainment, which is more than food and clothing, and I still want more. When I was a kid I only had 4 channels and was amazed. No cable. No internet. 

7. God doesn’t seem all that interested in me being able to look down the road and not have worry because of all the money we have. I think he has something else in mind. 

8. Being content with food and clothing does not mean it is wrong to have more than those things. But it does seem it is wrong to doubt God’s love and care if those are taken care of. 

9. Part of the difficulty is being surrounded by those who have so much more. 

10. If working in a bank has taught me anything, wealthy people are not happier people. Indeed, they are less than content. 

What Kind of Hard Heart?

 

“His heart is hard as a stone,
hard as the lower millstone.” – Job 41:24

What kind of hard heart are we witnessing in the SGM abuse scandal?

 

What kind of hard heart sides easily with a wealthy pastor against those who suffered at the hands of sexual abusers under his watch and then does so in the name of the One Who had no place to lay his head?

What kind of hard heart winks at a pastor who demanded an accountability of pastors and then ran from it to a church outside of his network of churches?

What kind of hard heart says we must not believe the accuser against the sexual abuser till all the evidence is put forward?

What kind of hard heart publicly says a pastor has not even been accused of wrongdoing when the truth is the very opposite for all those who are curious enough to see?

What kind of hard heart wants the statute of limitations to be in effect and not hear the evidence from 11 plaintiffs presented?

What kind of hard heart needs it to happen to them or their own children before they speak out?

 

What kind of hard heart says, “we will not go to the civil authorities for the sake of the abused” and then is relieved when the civil authorities dismiss a case in favor of the alleged abuser?

 

What kind of hard heart goes and preaches in the pulpit of the accused and seeks no audience with the accusers?

What kind of hard heart refuses to listen and then says those who would cry out for justice and help are divisive and gossips?

What kind of hard heart could read the Second Amended Complaint and not think the leader of such an organization should step out of the limelight?

What kind of heart is so hardened it would publicly insult the blogs that have given a voice to the sexually abused while publicly embracing one who is accused of conspiring to cover up and silence the abused?

What kind of hard heart are we witnessing?