Leaders Do Not Have the Right to Pretend it Didn’t Happen
It has been a little over 10 years since I was falsely accused of being a heretic by my former denomination, followed by the apparently more heinous sin of questioning the actions of that same “authority,” that made the accusations against me. There were thirteen individuals from the leadership of the denomination who sat in judgment over the leaders of our little church, and held tribunal over us. It all happened in fashion like that of an inquisition. Our substantial defense papers were never read, and we were commanded to respond only to the questions we were asked. In all this, we showed ourselves to be without heresy – except perhaps in the fact that we questioned their excessive and harmful actions toward us. But, that is the problem with challenging any powerful corporate body or the corporate leadership, isn’t it? Don’t mess with leaders and make them look bad – even if they ARE being bad.
So, I went to Wales from mid-May to late-June this Summer. It turns out that a couple of my accusers have now returned to their homeland, which happens to be Wales. And so, I wrote a letter reaching out to see if they were willing to meet:
I am coming to Wales. In fact, I have been coming to Wales regularly for a few years, developing teams of Christians to work in non-Christian festivals planting micro-churches in those festivals.
We need to meet face to face.
I will be in the UK from May 11 to June 24: At a festival outside Port Talbot in mid May, Hay-on-Wye late May to early June. Caerdydd and Caernarfon in the second and third week of June. Then we finish our time in the UK with an outreach to Stonehenge on the Solstice.
You can easily catch me during my outreach at Hay-on-Wye anytime from May 28th to June 5th. Or shortly thereafter we can meet in some midway point as I travel from Cardiff to Caernarfon.
Let me know what works for you,
I received an email response about a week later. It said:
I thought, this must be some kind of error on the part of someone who does not navigate computers well, so once I was in the UK, I sent another email to receive clarification, and a more complete response finally came to me:
The joys of technology, don’t know how that happened!
This what I had written:
What a surprise!
I would like to restore our friendship if that was possible Phil, but
I really do not want to discuss the past, and It is possible that you may not want to meet within those parameters.
Blessings to you and safe travels.
I considered the first email response weird. The second was weirder. This was a letter from someone who was party to helping ruin my reputation with falsehoods, and thereby causing unimaginable troubles. I was sitting with my friend Mike Stygal in his home in London, when I received the email, and I read it to him. Mike is the President of the Pagan Federation, and one of my favorite people in the world. When I read the email to him, he responded with a combination of mocking laughter and disbelief.
Someone might ask why I would torture myself by making these connections to a painful episode from the past. Well, let me tell you why. It is NOT because I do not forgive the hideous behaviors of those who wronged us, in fact, I do not feel anger toward these particular people. But, I do have expectations about those who call themselves leaders in the Christian community.
Wales is dear to me. I want those who lead the church in Wales to be good people, compassionate people, and not abusive leaders. I had hope that these particular people would be among the better characters of those who accused us, and so, I reached out in that hope. My reaching out was not for my benefit. It would do me nothing to hear, “I’m sorry, we were wrong.” The world found out how wrong they were on the front page of the Wall Street Journal that year. Rather, those words are necessary for their growth. Acknowledgement of our wrongs toward others is a part of our growth as individuals. Our lack thereof, is a lack of repentance, and the stunting of our own growth. For a leader, this is justification of abuse, which one can expect to occur and reoccur.
I may be forgiving, but on the other hand, I have an overly short fuse toward leadership behaving in hypocritical fashion. So, after thinking for a while about the absurd email I responded rather straightforwardly:
Sorry for my late reply. I have been extremely busy in festival outreach at Hay-on-Wye and am headed north to Caernarfon now.
Those parameters are not really an option, are they? The kind of things that occurred are answerable to God, and are best dealt with honestly, openly, and humbly, rather than under some kind of sweep it under the rug approach. I remember (fill in name) talking about bringing up an offense as some evidence of unforgiveness or not moving forward. That was simply for asking to speak with him about his behavior. Those are the words of an abuser and the offender. Scripture is clear about the dynamics and necessity of reconciliation. That is the way of Christ.
Still willing to meet – even on my extremely tight schedule, but I am not willing to play the pretentious games of non-relational Christianity.
May God Grant you Eyes to See, and Ears to Hear,
Can you guess what response I received? Of course you can. That was two months ago and the response I received was two letters shorter than the original, “Hi” – no response, at all.
I tell this story to highlight the fact that although I believe in God’s grace and forgiveness, I do not think that we can expect God to overlook heinous behaviors without an expectation of making things right, when we have abused people. The excessive ramifications of the actions of my former denomination can in no way be fixed, nor can they apologize deeply enough to make things better. But then, I don’t need that, and don’t care about it. I do care that they continue to lead others without acknowledging past errors – severe errors, because that lack of acknowledgment is evidence that they will merely repeat those abuses again. Apparently, that is how they believe leadership should act.
It seems that even my Pagan friend Mike understood this better than the so-called Christian leader.
But, perhaps I am being too hard. What do you think?