Simple Organic Church and the Existential Fringe

Haven’t the repeated failures by the existential fringe of the “organic” church movement – with authors like Felicity Dale, Frank Viola, Milt Rodriguez, Jon Zens, Keith Giles and their buddies – made it abundantly clear?

Without the plenary authority of Scripture, simple participatory churches don’t succeed.

Snake Oil SalesmenThese fringe authors dismiss the plenary authority and discipline of Scripture – and in some cases even deny that the Bible is His written word – to peddle a Jesus of their own perception.

Their false Christ – who is little more than a projection of their own “deeper life” angst, post-modern sensibilities and trans-Biblical agendas – inevitably leads to dysfunctional, insular and anemic “communities”.

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Why Is Bart Breen Stalking My Wife?

I need your help to stop a stalker who has been harassing and threatening my wife.

Bart Breen - Stalker

Bart Breen – Stalker

For over a year now, an obscure blogger named Bart Breen has been acting on behalf of a cult that’s upset and trying to silence me (and others) for daring to warn folks about their history of sexual predation, abuse and cover up.

As more and more people learn the truth about that cult – centered on narcissistic “Beyond Evangelical” author Frank Viola and his mutual promotion network of self-proclaimed “apostolic workers” – they’ve become more and more shrill in a desperate attempt to hide their history of shame, failure and abuse.

As a result, Mr. Breen is now stalking my wife in a perverse bid to silence me. He’s even openly boasted about it on Facebook and in his various blogs.

Why? By harassing my wife and publicly boasting about it, Bart Breen and Frank Viola are sending their victims – and those who stand with them – the clear message that they too will be attacked if they don’t toe the line and remain silent about what has been going on within their “Beyond” Cult.

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Truth, Justice and Church Sex Abuse

Finally, the truth comes out and justice prevails.

Over the last several years, Marianne and I have ministered through Nathan’s Voice to five families devastated by abusive church leaders at Sovereign Grace Ministries and it’s network of churches – including Covenant Grace.

Now one of the abusers has received a 40 years sentence, after years of denial, cover up and shunning of his victims by the leadership structure at SGM. See Child Sex Abuser from Gaithersburg -area Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison.

House2House Ministries and Magazine

Lies, Cover Up and Abuse

Let this be a warning to all who respond to leadership abuse in the Body of Christ with the same kind insular mentality that “circles the wagon” through denials, cover up and attacks to preserve their own power, influence and ministries.

Just like what we saw over the years with SGM, the so-called “apostolic workers” and their “Beyond Cult” over at House2House Ministries (including Felicity Dale, Jon Zens, Milt Rodriquez and Keith Giles) have done the same thing.

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Felicity Dale, Hypocrisy and Power

Author and “simple church” advocate Felicity Dale over at House2House Ministries is personally charming, and I generally agree with her views regarding simple church and gender equality within the Body of Christ.

But my own experience with her over the last year has been very troubling – especially when it comes to the contradiction between her public positions and private actions.

Sex abuse and cover up: C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries, Frank Viola and his band of "apostolic workers", Bill Gothard and his Institute of Basic Life Principles... When will we ever learn?

Felicity Dale: Do as I say, not as I do.

Felicity Dale is part of the self-appointed accountability team of Frank Viola, who is an author, an itinerant church leader and one of her fellow so-called “apostolic workers”. He also has a troubled history of sexual predation against young women and teenagers.

After Frank Viola rebuffed all efforts to communicate directly with him by those with detailed knowledge of the facts, some of us contacted Felicity Dale last year in an effort to resolve our growing concerns about Frank Viola’s history of abuse.

She also was given a lengthy private statement on behalf of one of Frank Viola’s multiple teenage victims, with details about how he abused that young woman and others.

That victim’s statement fully confirmed the separate warnings issued against Frank Viola by his former church. Among other things, his past church established through multiple witnesses and documents his pattern of predation and abuse – including his long-running exploitation of a teenager in that church who was half his age and a former high school student of his.

This new written statement, however, involved an additional teenage victim.

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Organic Cults and So-Called “Apostolic Workers”

T.A.C.O.s Anyone? By Roger E. Olson

This article provides a sober warning by Dr. Olson that increasingly applies, unfortunately, to certain segments of the so-called “organic” or “simple” church community here in the West – which have come under the influence of so-called “apostolic workers” and their books, blogs and magazines.


Self-Proclaimed “Apostles”

Often, when you find an evangelical cult, you don’t have scratch very deep to find some self-professed “apostle” just below the surface.

Unfortunately, the “apostolic workers” now peddling their influence, books and conferences in the organic/simple church community – like we’ve seen with other so-called and often dead-end “new apostolic reformation” movements – are self-appointed, self-proclaimed and unaccountable (except to other “apostolic workers” who are part of their own mutual promotion network).

They also have been aggressively seeking to silence – through threats and slander – all who dare mention the history of sexual predation, abuse and coverup among them.

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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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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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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

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.

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.

Frank Viola: It’s Time to Come Clean

Frank Viola:

Numerous witnesses, who know you, have confirmed your history of using your position of leadership and influence to sexually groom and exploit young women.

Your own former church, who knew you, issued public warnings after you sexually exploited a teenager over many months, who was half your age and had been your high school student.

Your first wife, who knew you, divorced you for these and other reasons.

Mr. Viola: Those are “facts”, not “slander”.

Until you stop the sanctimonious blogs, cover up and deception – and openly confess and repent – you remain a danger to all.

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


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 and Frank Viola – Lies, Sex Abuse and Cover Up

Last updated 1/10/2015

Lately, some guy named Bart Breen has been attacking, with increasingly shrill and outlandish behavior, anyone who dares expose the history of sexual abuse and cover-up in a cult he’s involved with.

Bart Breen

Bart Breen: Stalker

That cult centers around author and so-called “apostolic worker” Frank Viola, who has used his position and influence to sexually prey upon and exploit teenagers and other young women.

Rather than protect folks from Frank Viola’s misconduct, Mr. Breen and their network of self-appointed “apostles” at House2House Ministries (including Felicity Dale, Jon Zens, Milt Rodriquez, Keith Giles and Ken Eastburn) have engaged in an ongoing campaign of intimidation and cover up.

Bogus Press Releases and Stalking My Wife

In all my years helping church abuse victims as an attorney (now retired) and as a local church elder, I have never seen anything as nasty or as vicious as the cultish efforts by House2House – and its mutual promotion network of self-appointed “apostles” – to attack and personally destroy anyone who dares reference their history of abuse and cover up.

It is ongoing and gotten so bad that Bart Breen, a frequent House2House Magazine co-contributor who is associated with a struggling Frank Viola affiliated “church” near us, has been stalking my wife while also putting out false blogs and press releases in a desperate attempt to silence me.

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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 this response are the facts and public warnings issued against Frank Viola for abuse and sexual exploitation by his former church.

To this day, 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.