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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Not a small misconception"

After posting Jerry and Marvin's testimonies about their experiences in Pittsburgh and Ft. Worth, respectively, I was contacted by someone from yet another diocese in "The Network", desperate for someone to hear another personal testimony and witness of abuse and oppression.

It took two emails to convince this person to allow me to reproduce this personal story - that is how fearful this person is of personal reprisal as well as that of this person's daughter.

I apologize for the tortuousness of this writing, but I am trying even to protect the gender identification of this person, to allay fears and anxieties.

This is a brave and courageous act on this person's part. I hope you join me in applauding this bold act as well as being appalled at what this person has had to endure.

For yet another testimony of institutional bullying see Louie Crew's natter on what's going on in the Diocese of SW Florida.

Blessed are the truth-tellers, for they shall liberate the human spirit.

I am an Episcopalian in an Anglican Communion Network (ACN) diocese. I have corresponded with you several times in the past and actually introduced myself to you at our Presiding Bishop's investiture last November. My daughter, a lesbian, is in a discernment process in a more open diocese. She was recently recommended by her COM to proceed to the next step on this journey. I have worked as a family system’s trained mental health professional for over 20 years.

I want to say that Martin's (Marvin) story, recorded by Katie Sherrod, is being played out in this diocese, as well. And, I imagine without much effort that this sort of blatant ostracism is happening in most, if not all, ACN or Common Cause dioceses across TEC. There are many, many similar and painful individual stories of solid, long-time parish and diocesan lay ministers and clergy persons who have been relegated to the back pew or the churchyard because we don't/won't/cannot submit body and soul to the local powers that be.

I won't trouble you much further with my experience, except to say it includes being accosted by three prayer warriors in the aisle after a parish meeting that was held (with the unstated purpose) to discredit anyone who disagreed with the rector and his supporters.

I had spoken out at the meeting, passionately, against a manipulative leadership and financial decisions the vestry had made. These prayer ministers literally backed me into a pew and blocked my exits, laid hands on me and prayed that I'd be healed of my anger and come to know Jesus as my Savior.

That was March, 2003. I stayed two more years....because of the sick, crazy, toxic system of this parish and because I was made sick by it. I thought, "If only I could say (..X..) in just the right way, then, they would understand what they were doing and change things and become a healthy hospitable parish again.....................

Not a small misconception.

I want to say from my place on the back pew that the organizational system of these radically conservative, fundamentalist and evangelical neo-Anglican churches seem more than a little cult-like, if not actually and fully cultic.

Are you familiar with the (rather fundamentalist, IMO) self-help book Toxic Faith by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton? I first learned of it by something Mike Russell (I think) posted to HoB/D a few years ago. There is a summary of this book by “b jackson,” posted online in several places. [ ]

I have no clue who “b Jackson” might be. The summary actually transposes the content of two paragraphs, I believe, on an essential topic: The roles of toxic faith: persecutor, co-conspirator, enabler, fearful enabler, victim, outcast. In spite of the errors, etc, there is enough TRUTH in this summary to describe in some detail the Episcopal Church that I've experienced in this ACN diocese.

Following Martin’s (Marvin's) story, posted by Katie Sherrod, I wanted to make folks aware of this link again and to add an empathic ‘me, too’ to Martin’s (Marvin's) experiences. Unfortunately, I’m not as brave as Martin (Marvin).

I am fearful of having my name posted, so I’m counting on you to protect my identity.

Perhaps my fearfulness will add something significant to the larger story of faithful Episcopalians in dissident dioceses that may be just emerging.

I pray TEC will pay attention to our experiences.

NB: Yet a third email:

These stories do indeed need to be told, for the telling and for the hearing of them. It's a healthy thing for TEC.

I don't think my name is important. I am pretty sure that the file I sent to you will find me labeled once again as an angry woman, but I no longer am angry. Just deeply saddened by the ripping of the fabric of this good church and the raw grief of it all.

I do have hope that all will be well, probably not in my lifetime, but, B033 notwithstanding, I think TEC is headed along more solid path under +Katharine's leadership.

I believe that Jesus is standing here and there in the midst of it all. No magic wand, just an empty cross and a gospel hope. Many small deaths have happened for faithful Episcopalians in these ACN dioceses, and the gospel promise is that good will be redeemed from evil and that new life will grow from the ashes and dust. That is my prayer. Amen.

And, thank you again. If ever you need a passionate storyteller who must remain part of the underground, the woodwork, let me know.


Mike in Texas said...

Elizabeth, Katie, and anyone who feels it is important for these stories to be told.

I am very interested in doing something to help these stories become more generally known in TEC. I have some thoughts about how it can be done. I am willing to create a website for the purpose.

Elizabeth has my e-mail address. I'm sure she will be willing to relay it to any else interested in this project or who has stories to be told.

M. Scott Peck reminds us that doing so is an important step in the healing of the victims.

DBW said...

Of course, you're probably not interested in the stories of faithful, traditional Christians and clergy who are being treated like crap in liberal dioceses... I imagine you're not interested in that at all. The ball swings both ways.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Elizabeth, for posting this... and Mike for your site initiative. It's a great (and much needed) idea.

All this rot needs to be brought out into the open. Then healing can begin.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

DBW said:

Of course, you're probably not interested in the stories of faithful, traditional Christians and clergy who are being treated like crap in liberal dioceses... I imagine you're not interested in that at all.

Response: My, my, my, we are not having a good morning are we? That's two snitty comments on two different posts - "Splinters" and here.

To answer your question: I am ABSOLUTELY interested in the stories of clergy who are being treated like . . . as you so indelicately put it . . ."crap."

Get them to write their stories. Anonymously. Get someone to post it on their blog and HOB/D and all over cyberspace.

I know I, for one, am very concerned with this kind of behavior. I know many others who are as well. It does not bring honor or glory to God. Indeed, it is conduct unbecoming.

The more stories of abuse are exposed - in any way, shape or form and from whatever corner - the healthier we'll all be.

Start writing, dbw. Put your pencil where your whine has been.

Anonymous said...

That's funny, DBW... I've always thought of *myself* as a "faithful traditional Christian." Or should that terminology be reserved for those who wish the Church to be an unwelcoming, exclusive club that turns its back on the infinite variety and wonder of Creation? But then... that kind of Church would be neither faithful, nor traditional, nor Chrisitan.

Jim said...

I know I am interested. I also know that both while Ressurection was a member parish and after the congregation left en mass for AMIA, that bishops, clergy and layity of Chicago have been and remain unwilling to loose them, sad that they left, and welcoming if they wish to return.

In fact, no one I know was the least bit happy about their leaving. I recall attending a 'learning session' they led at our convention a ways back. I know of several even more notorious liberals than I who were there. We appreciated their efforts and said so.

That single parish, by the bye, is the set of all who have left Chicago en mass. I do know we certainly do not wish to see people abused or leaving.

I cannot speak of our soon to be bishop, but I know Bp. Purcell would not tolerate abusive conduct.


Mary Sue said...

God bless this sister and all others who are marginalized in any shape or form.

Pen to paper (keys to monitor) is one of the greatest healing processes for people who have been victims. Hearing the stories is one of the greatest humanizing processes for the privleged, powerful, and oblivious. I've been all those at one time or another.

DBW, if you have a story to tell, tell it. But the flip side of having a story to tell is listening to the stories others tell with all your mind, heart, and soul. I'm trying, sibling DBW, and I'm sure you'll agree that the kinda annoying thing about free will is it makes it damn hard to make anyone else do what you want. So all I can do is ask that you try to listen.

And by the by, I firmly believe the only thing to do when anyone lays hands upon you against your will, in either a sacred or secular setting, is to break fingers in defense of your self. Not a good Christian thing to say, sure, but no one's ever accused me of being a good Christian (thank God).

Mike in Texas said...

DBW, if you're trying to accomplish something, you should pursue what interests you rather than worry about what interest me.

But then, maybe you're only trying to tear others down.

The choice is yours.

Jim said...

Sister Mary, you are a saint. My Rom upbringing would lead to more than broken fingers! My Rom heritage would be unleashed. Attempting what amounts to ritual magic on a Gypsy is a good way avoid retirement.

Which does lead to a question, do these dopes realize how far from Christian and how close to pagan practice what they did was? No, I did not think so. ;;sigh;;


Manny Publius said...

Shortly after Bishop Robinson was elected, I was invited by a friend to attend church with her. After many lovely Sundays I was unfortunate to sit through a 3-sermon tirade from a priest who supplied misinformation and urged his congregation to become known as the "healers of homosexuality." I didn't stay at that parish.

I ventured a short distance to find yet another conservative parish. The priest there was kind enough to explain to me how "according to Ericson" things go wrong when we are growing up and one of the many things that occurs is homosexuality. Oddly enough, I found that I agreed with him on many points of faith, so I stayed. It was a small parish with many good people. I never came out to my parish, though some knew. I was never accosted by the "healers" for I would have run, far and fast. I've met them before and it almost killed me by my own hand.

We are seeking a new priest and it scares me. Our last priest was even handed, gentle and faithful. What kind of person will this conservative congregation pick to lead them next?

Sunday morning comes around and I don't feel like I belong there. Being in the closet, being welcome if I don't say anything to rock the boat, well, it just doesn't feel right at all. I've been in harm's way before and I am determined not to put myself back there. I don't want to be somewhere that may or may not be good for me and it hurts so much! God Bless them all!