Year in Review

Here’s a montage of my twenty most significant posts on Facebook in 2013.

When Facebook created it, it brought many smiles and a few cringes:

My 2013 Year in Review

Feel free to take a look.

As this montage shows, it has been a wonderful, yet “interesting”, year.

I think my biggest struggle was seeing the power games, leadership abuses, lies and cover ups in the organic/simple church community at the national level – which far exceed anything I’ve ever witnessed in the traditional, “institutional” church – while still holding firm, despite their hypocrisy, to some related core principles.

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No Apologies

I know I have been posting a lot lately on sex abuse by church “leaders” – like author and “apostolic worker” Frank Viola, Sovereign Grace Ministry’s head C.J. Mahaney, and the recent case we helped wrap up at Christ Chapel Assemblies of God involving allegations of abuse by several pastors.

I know I have also been posting a lot about those – like Jon Zens, Bart Breen and even otherwise respected leaders like Felicity Dale – who condone such abuse by seeking to excuse or cover it up through threats, lies, slander and intimidation.

These are not issues with which I ever wanted to become involved.

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Making Sexual Abuse by Church Leaders Illegal

Sign A Petition to Change Virginia’s Fiduciary Code & Criminal Statutes to Include Clergy:

A ministry Marianne and I are part of, through our churches, is Nathan’s Voice. It has helped many victims of sexual abuse by church leaders, and hardly a week goes by that we are not assisting or counseling yet another survivor – both men and women.

PhoneyThis is a widespread problem, involving leaders in the church who use their position of trust to sexually prey upon men and women seeking their help.

It effects all kinds of churches, from highly structured traditional churches to loosely organized organic fellowships – and all kinds of church leaders, from local “pastors” to so-called apostolic “workers”.

Most people are surprised to learn that in the United States, this is not illegal in most jurisdictions unless it involves some other misconduct – such as a direct physical assault, a minor, or maybe employment discrimination (i.e., sexual harassment in the workplace against an employee of the church).

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Sex Abuse and Christian Mafias

Is Janet Mefferd Being Intimidated by the “Gospel” Mafia to Shut Up About SGM? ~ The Wartburg Watch

Finally, the truth is coming out!

For several years, Marianne and I have been deeply involved behind the scenes in helping victims of the Sovereign Grace Ministries sex abuse scandal. We’ve seen its impact on close friends, while also counseling survivors and their families through Nathan’s Voice.

I also know Boz Tchividjian, who is publicly confronting SGM about its history of sexual abuse and is mentioned in this article.

Although we can’t directly talk about all the underlying facts regarding SGM due to confidentiality, we believe that this exposé by The Wartburg Watch is spot on.

What’s happening in that case is very similar to what’s also happening in the ongoing scandal involving author Frank Viola and his team of self-appointed apostolic “workers” and his additional “accountability team” of other organic church “leaders”.

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Organic Hypocrisy, Organic Reform

hypocrisy_meterUntil they stop excusing a history of sexual predation within their ranks, their blogs and books on sexual equality by self-professed leaders in the organic/simple church community ring hollow.

And until they accept local church accountability and warnings about that abuse, their blogs and books on how to be the church likewise ring hollow.

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Leadership Abuse

The latest edition of HopeSpeak, a periodical by The Hope of Survivors (a international support network for victims of church sexual abuse), published an article by me on how to deal with leadership sins – including sexual abuse – in the church. It’s titled Leadership Abuses: Private and Public Sins.

Protecting the Victims

I’ve just learned that another international magazine also wants to re-publish it.

Lately, Marianne and I have become involved in more and more church abuse cases – including local private cases and also very public national scandals.

Sometimes our involvement is very confidential, while other times it involves publicly confronting the abuser and warning others under the dictates of 1 Tim. 5:19-21 where there has been no repentance.

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Slander or Coverup?

When Accusations of Gossip Become Gag Orders, by Wartburg Watch

Slander is a lie and the person making the claim knows that it is a lie. Unfortunately, many use the word to mean saying anything negative about an individual – and then accuse others of slander in order to coverup or excuse abuse by church leaders.

Speaking truth and warning about leaders with a history of abusing others in the church or condoning such abuse – whether C.J. Mahaney and his fellow pastors at Sovereign Grace Ministries, Frank Viola and his fellow “workers” in the organic church movement, or whomever – is NOT slander or gossip. Rather, it brings needed light to darkness, protection to others & healing to the hurting.

In fact, where there are multiple witnesses against an abusive church leader, we are commanded to expose and issue publicly warnings in 1 Tim. 5:19-21.

Misplaced Empathy: Loving the Perps

Crossroad Junction:

Finally… Someone is saying what needs to be said in the ongoing sex abuse scandals involving Frank Viola within the organic church community, C.J. Mahaney within Sovereign Grace Ministries, and others – and those who support them.

Like Marianne and me, licensed mental health counselor Carl Austin (the author of this piece) has ministered to many “perps” and seen amazing grace and redemption, but never without full and open confession and repentance. This is why we remain so resolute in opposing the proud abusers who never come clean. Unlike those who openly confess and repent, they are a blight on the church and remain a threat to others.

Originally posted on Diospsytrek's Blog:

    Part of the Christian life is being loving and forgiving. These are qualities I pray for daily because they are so much not a natural part of me. In my effort to distill down doctrine and make sense of it for me personally I go with the statement from First John 4: “God is love.”  Likewise, I understand that if we don’t forgive others (Mt. 6:14-15) then we are not forgiven. For me, these are two basic tenets of the faith that I have to remind myself of daily. Keeping statements like this utmost in my thoughts simplifies things for me. However I wonder if one can go overboard in trying to live out certain important aspects of the gospel like love and forgiveness, and are there some situations where those qualities were not meant to be applied?

    I haven’t read the recent Rob Bell book Love Wins but I know it’s sparked a whole lot…

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A Statement and Petition Against Sexual Abuse in the Church

A Public Statement Regarding Sexual Abuse in the Church

Part of the Statement – and a warning to “leaders” who continue to promote and affirm fellow “leaders” with a history of sexual exploitation just because they’re your friends and part of your mutual promotion network:

“To be told that wolves are devouring our lambs and fail to protect those lambs is to be a shepherd who sides with the wolves who hinder those same little ones from coming to Jesus. To fail to grasp the massive web of deception entangling an abuser and set him or her loose among the sheep is to be naïve about the very nature and power of sin. To be told a child is being or has been abused and to make excuses for failing to act is a diabolical misrepresentation of God. To know a woman is being raped or battered in hidden places and silence her or send her back is to align with those who live as enemies of our God. Protecting an institution or organization rather than a living, breathing lamb is to love ministry more than God and to value a human name or institution more than the peerless name of Jesus.”

Sign the Statement and Join Others in Taking a Stand

C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries, Frank Viola and his fellow apostolic “workers”, Bill Gothard and ILBP, and on and on…

It’s time to take a stand.

We’ve seen the carnage – and the cover ups – up close.

We’ve had enough. We choose to speak out.

Join us in bearing witness against sexual predation and abuse by so-called leaders in the Body of Christ – and those who try to cover it up through lies, threats and intimidation.

Two Recent Blogs Worth Reading

I’m recovering from a heart operation, so I’m taking it slow right now.

In the meantime, here are two blogs with timely insight on two very different but important issues – but both with broader implications:

Depreciating Humanity: The Importance of Being Best at Being Right, by Thad Norvell

Despite multiple witnesses who’ve confirm a history of sex abuse and exploitation within Sovereign Grace Ministries under C.J. Mahaney, several of his friends and national leaders came out supporting him.

By way of disclosure, Nathan’s Voice (a ministry of our fellowships) – and Marianne and I – know and have been involved in helping some of the victims of leadership abuse at SGM, so we’ve seen the carnage up close and personal.

In his blog about the SGM scandal, Norvell says:

I fear those public statements [of support for C.J. Mahaney] reflect the private thoughts of men who, whether by will or ignorance, are clustering around the spoils of the proud when their calling is to be of a lowly spirit with the poor and oppressed. Even if Mahaney is a victim of some false accusations, his rush back to the platform and the efforts of his friends to protect his place at the head table ought to prompt some deep, Gospel-driven questions about how insulated some of these men seem to be from the thousands of sincere, Gospel-loving followers of Jesus they lead, formally and informally.

As our own fellowships have confronted the history of sex abuse by Frank Viola in the organic church community, and watched the desperate efforts by those who are “clustering around the spoils of the proud” by defending him to protect their “movement” and their own status, we see the same thing happening.

I wept as I read Norvell’s blog. Change the names, but the story’s the same. I’ve seen it time and time again.

When will we ever learn?

It’s sad. Very, very sad…

Why do Word of Faith Christians Become Jaded?, by Eric Hyde

“After years of involvement with [Word of Faith] thinking this is often what the believer is left with – a unidirectional love affair with God where God does all the active-loving (i.e. ‘works’) and the believer does all the receiving. The trouble, of course, is this simply doesn’t work (and, it’s incredibly boring). God is not in the unidirectional love business.”

Ditto, it seems to me, with the faddish hyper-grace movement.

~ Jim

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Elitist Racism

Elitism and racism in the Body of Christ are very ugly things. Lately, they’ve reared their ugly heads in some very nasty ways that hit close to home.

Over the last several months, we’ve been promoting Crossroad Junction through some very limited, non-targeted ads by Facebook on Facebook.

stop_racismDuring the same period, we also have received a high percentage of new followers from the Philippines and other overseas places. Whether it’s due to those ads or not, we don’t know.

Regardless, this heightened overseas interest is not due to any directed or targeted effort on our part, and Marianne and I are thrilled to connect with other believers from across the globe.

Now, however, our increasing readership is provoking a very elitist and racist series of attacks – directed against us, our fellowships, and our new Filipino followers.

Some of our Filipino brothers and sisters have seen those attacks, and have been deeply offended.

In the face of those attacks, I want welcome to you to our blog – and offer my apologies for the ugly efforts by some of my countrymen to discredit you by questioning your motives and capacity to follow the somewhat intellectual and substantive articles found here.

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Bart Breen – A Public Response

Lately, some guy named Bart Breen – who according to author and “apostolic worker” Frank Viola is part of his “accountability team” – has been making all sorts of crazy allegations against me, our fellowships and others who have publicly confronted church sex abuse and cover up among his buddies.

More specifically, this is part of Bart Breen’s ongoing vendetta on behalf of Frank Viola after I, and others, dared expose Mr. Viola’s history of sexual predation in the church.

Unfortunately, whenever I try to respond to Mr. Breen at his blog or on Facebook, he blocks me and then posts mis-characterizations of what I tried to say. So I’m responding to some of his crazy accusations here.

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Jon Zens and Frank Viola – A Public Response

May 15, 2013 (updated)

Re:     Author and “Apostolic Worker” Frank Viola

Dear Mr. Zens:

I am providing this preliminary response, both personally and on behalf of our fellowships, to your letter of May 10th and to your many related statements on Facebook. I thus write for myself and as an elder within those fellowships.

Your letter was co-signed by Bart Breen and sent on behalf of Christian author and “apostolic worker” Frank Viola and his mutual promotion network of other so-called “apostolic workers” who – like you – enjoy his repeated public endorsements, including Milt Rodriquez and Felicity Dale.

The context of your letter, and this response, is our ongoing belief that the facts and public warnings asserted against Frank Viola for abuse and sexual exploitation by his former church were properly issued.

Furthermore, those warnings have not been factually refuted and thus warrant an open response by Mr. Viola. Any such response should be at least as public as his own public claims of being a leader in, and to, the Body of Christ.

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When Ekklesia Matters

Everybody’s all for “ekklesia” (the Greek word in the New Testament often translated to mean a local “church”).

Folks blog about it, post on Facebook about it, create online groups about it, and write books about it.

Yup. They all love “ekklesia”….

Except when a particular “ekklesia” follows Biblical procedure and issues a pubic warning under the mandate of 1 Tim. 5:19-21 against some leader the “ekklesia” boosters have placed on an untouchable pedestal – but who had been part of that church, only to then immediately leave and refuse to be accountable when it tried to address his issues of abuse and exploitation.

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The Predators Among Us

The Alchemist in the Pulpit

A good article that provides much needed perspective on sexually exploitive church leaders. In Marianne and my experience with Nathan’s Voice, a ministry of our fellowships which has helped literally hundreds of abuse survivors over the years, this is spot on. It describes the typical personality, motives and means of predation by those who use their emotional and spiritual position of trust to sexually exploit others.

Sexual Exploitation by Church Leaders – How Do We Respond?

PhoneyAbusive Church Leaders – Mandatory Public Warnings

It is always painful when we learn that a beloved church leader has used his position of trust to sexually exploit those under his care. The recent disclosures about Frank Viola are no exception. But when it’s confirmed by multiple witnesses, how should we react? Fortunately, the New Testament provides clear instructions.

How to Become a Cult (Part 6)

cult_image
Create a fractured persona. Falsely project empathy, expertise and success as a trusted church leader – while covering up a pattern of infidelity, sexual predation and exploitation, persistent detachment from any accountable local fellowship, and failed churches. Appeal to unity and loyalty, personalize everything as hateful attacks against you by spiteful people, and turn on your well-rehearsed charm (and if that doesn’t work, fall back on lies, threats and intimidation) to silence those who dare ask troubling questions. Work behind the scenes and through others to purge all dissenting voices and any contrary information – both in your churches and on public forums like the Internet. As you then bamboozle folks with your enticing but fraudulent persona and fictitious history, they’ll became compliant pawns to your narcissistic deceptions.

Related articles

The pattern outlined above is something I have seen time and again with inflated church leaders who learn to manipulate people and then cross the line into sexual exploitation and predation with what eventually becomes a personality cult – which they sustain through outward charm and behind-the-scenes intimidation. The documents found at this site are yet another example, involving Frank Viola.

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