Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pastoral "Accountability"

One of the main reasons I left the IC was due to the incredible amount of hypocrisy and double standard I saw amongst the pastors and leaders. I always believed that those who were pastors were "appointed by God" to lead the sheep in a tender loving way, full of honesty, and held to a higher standard. That view changed dramatically as I saw the full extent of the corruption and dishonesty within the church pastorate. I begin to see a pastoral immunity amongst the other pastors that made me sick to my stomach. I'm sure my experience is a bit more extreme than most, in fact in speaking with people who have left the IC I've never heard a story quite as horrific as ours was!

When we went through the beginning throws of being removed from leadership an "area pastor" of the denomination we belonged to came to our town to try to help settle the issues at hand. He accused us of "touching God's anointed", (not the first time this phrase had been hurled at us), and that God would judge us for it. Each side expressed their feelings, and the entire leadership team had completely turned against us - we stood alone. Things I had told others in confidence were spoken publicly, and everyone had been "hurt" by us in one way or another. At the end of the meeting the area pastor told us that neither side had offered an apology. Out of that entire meeting I have to say that is the one thing he said that I feel was led by God. My husband was the only one who admitted to any wrong, and he apologized. He showed more humility than the entire leadership team and pastors. One person on the team apologized, but the pastors gave the "We're sorry if we did anything wrong" apology which we all know is NOT an apology.

Later on my husband corresponded with the area pastoral leader in depth. He showed him e-mails from the pastors who had mistreated us, and to our shock the area pastor supported the other pastor at every turn. I began to see that the supposed "pastoral accountability" I had been led to believe existed for so long was all a farce. That was the moment where my trust in the system was lost forever. We were in a position where we had no one in the Christian community who would stand up for us. It was our word against the pastoral institution - and there was no way in the world we would ever win against it because the pastors word is always "God's word" as we all know. Not only that, but the church we currently attended didn't want to see the evidence of what the leadership had done to us. They said , "We're here for you guys", but when the dust settled from the situation they wanted to charge us counseling fees for any further discussions. We found out that the church we were in the midst of leaving had put pressure on our current pastor and had instructed him in how to deal with us. It was a border line threat honestly, very ugly indeed. The pastor had a young church, and if he had gone against the other pastor's instructions much damage would have been done to that church's reputation, etc. I am sure. Hard to believe that this is the kind of control pastors have on people, isn't it?

It became clear that the powers that be had banded together against us. Some in leadership claimed that they had "been through it" because of us. What?!! They weren't the ones who lost their jobs, community, home, lives....they weren't the ones who had become ostracized from the entire local church community. They had the full support of everyone around them, but it became obvious that they were the victims and we were, of course, the enemy. Any hurt that happened in our lives was due us - it was all God's judgement. There was no way we could have heard from God regarding the decisions we had made! Who decided this? The pastors of course since they're the only ones God speaks to obviously. Those in leadership under them refused to speak to us. There were numerous times, (too many to count), that we tried to reason with them, but to no avail. These people were my friends...I can't begin to describe how hard it was to see them continue on in the system knowing the hurt and pain it would cause them. But I had to let that burden go or it would have eaten me alive.

I've wanted to write this post for a long time. I was held back though because I was still connected to the system, and were I to have told the truth of what really went on I would have received judgement and ridicule. I've asked myself many times, is it ok to tell the truth of what really went on behind closed doors....away from the happy clueless church people? The church instills this fear in you about criticizing leadership. It is the next worse sin besides homosexuality. But what this does is creates a safety net for pastors and clergy in which they become immune to correction and accountability. They all know they have each others backs, no matter what. Nobody will challenge the system most likely, and if they do, guess what?...they're labeled as sinful and disobedient. There is no way you can win against this people!!

We found out later that the pastors of the church who kicked us out had actually gone to other pastors in the area and told their side, how they had been through SO much because of us. We didn't know most of these pastors mind you. So if anyone in their congregations came to them with complaints about the pastors, then guess what the answer would be?? "Well, they did horrible things to the pastors at X church. They're horrible people, it's all them, believe me." Then the lie is perpetuated, on and on.

I personally don't believe the system is redeemable. The corruption and disease that lies within it has rotted to the point of no return. Does this mean that every person there is beyond redeeming? No. But the hierarchical system will always fail. When someone is set in total authority above everyone else, (and God), they will fail. God never created people to be in this place! Jesus is the only one who has the right to be there. Yet people claim up and down that Jesus is the ultimate authority in their lives, not man. They have convinced themselves that this is the truth. But when it really comes down to it, who will they serve? I realized that I had convinced myself of it as well. It took God yanking me out of the system, allowing me to go through the deepest pain, rejection, and betrayal, to realize it. I honestly think if this hadn't happened I would still be in the system today. I am forever grateful to God for taking me out of it.

Thousands upon thousands are leaving the church daily. According to the George Barna group, (who have polled thousands who have left the IC), the main reason people cite is abuse by pastors and leaders. I believe God is exposing what has been going on for generations. He's not allowing man to take His place any longer. The scales are being removed from people's eyes finally. I'm a rebel, a revolutionary, a history maker. I refuse to partake in a system that is wrought with corruption and injustice. I've left an entire Christian community because I refuse to compromise. As time wears on I find the tiny tentacles of connections I have with the IC evaporating. People can't relate to me, and as time goes on I can't relate to them. My identity continues to morph and I try to find my way in this strange new place. It's a place of uncertainty at times, yet it is a place of incredible freedom and joy as well. I see Jesus grace and love more than ever before. He isn't who I thought He was, who they had made Him out to be. In the midst of all of this I find forgiveness and's a great mystery. I can reach out and love those who crushed me. I can hear their continually hurtful judgmental words toward me and feel peace and freedom.


  1. And that is why I love "Off the Map" and the character William Gibbs. After he comes out of his fever (a state of delusion) he begins to realize the foundation that his world had been built upon was false and full of cracks. Later he is enraptured by the beauty of a sunset as if he had never seen one before. And in a way, he never had because his previous paradigm would not have included it. And like William Gibbs, we still have pain to deal with and healing to do. But the freedom that comes with such birth pains is worth it (though at times we may question that).

    Mixing metaphors and movies, I was much a perpetrator in the perpetuation of the Matrix. There was more "Agent Smith" in me than there was of Neo. But at the time I couldn't see that.
    And that is the deception of the Matrix; It keeps one blind to the reality and also to the pain that those who perpetuate the system cause.

    Thankfully Papa God is very good at unplugging us from the Matrix, bringing us into Freedom and healing. And while at times we may feel "off the map" (and totally lost) we are not alone on this Journey.
    Shalom and healing encompass you . . .

  2. It's so very true that it is impossible to see the deception of the institution while you're a part of it!! Much of the hurt I felt in the past has melted away because I can see that people simply had no clue of how blinded they were. It is possible that God was speaking to them, telling them to get out as well, that I will never know. But, the fact remains that while they're in the system there is a dillusion going on. This makes forgiveness SO much easier!! I now feel horrible for the things I did while in the system. The judgement I cast on people, the hyper spiritualism I had, etc. It's hard to see what we've done, but at the same time it helps us have grace for those still entrenched in it.

  3. April, it's terrible you had such a problem with your church, but don't write off the institutional church completely.

    I had a very terrible experience with the church that made me bitter towards it (and eventually towards Christians, and then God) that kept me from really connecting to the church for many years. A year and a half ago I found a really great church led by a really Godly leadership. I love them wholeheartedly, and while I know it is inevitable that after knowing people any length of time there will be area of hurt, in general it is trustworthy.

    So I'd encourage you to start to heal your heart, but you really need to deal with your hurt and come to forgiveness or it will make your heart hard and bitter if left unchecked as mine once was.

    And btw I found you from Naked Pastor's blog. I'm Lauren from .

  4. Thanks Lauren for your input. I'm happy for you that you have found a good church and that it's working for you. You say that in general the church is trust worthy. This has been your experience, but it hasn't been mine so I can't agree. I know many people who have been through it with the church over and over again like I have. As I mentioned thousands are leaving the church from hurt. It's a reality, it's out there, and it's not going away. Part of the reason I started this blog was to bring to people's attention what is really going on with organized religion. When you're a part of it you're sheltered from the rest of Christianity. You're safe in that bubble and what's going on with the rest of us isn't on your radar.

    As for me dealing with my hurt and forgiving others, how do you know I haven't done this? The Holy Spirit is fully capable of dealing with me, and will continue to do so. I don't mean to sound critical of you, but I'm so tired of Christians trying to play Holy Spirit in my life. I admitted I have dealt with hurt, anger, etc. and that God has brought me to a place of forgiveness. I can actually talk to and love on some of my friends who turned on me and betrayed me. If that isn't forgiveness I don't know what it.

    I have written off the IC for me. I know it still works for some, but I can't "go" there anymore. Blessings on your journey.

  5. I hardly know where to start on this. I so agree with you. Our experience has been similar, where the leadership of the church we were part of, decided we were full of sin and it was their job to fix it. Who died and made them Holy Spirit??? When we tried to tell our side of the story, we were labeled rebellious and cast out. It must have been what it feels like to be a leper. The leadership, circled the wagons, took aim and shot. Our only defense was to run. I feel like I barely got out with my life. But when I talked about it to other IC people their response was DO NOT be bitter. As if that is the worse sin ever. Sometimes a person needs to feel what he needs to feel in order to heal. God can only meet us in TRUTH and if that truth is, I am bitter, so be it, He will meet me there and I can trust Him to bring healing.

    Thanks for your honest post, there are too many of us who have experienced spiritual abuse and have not talked about it. One of the classic hallmarks of any kind of abuse is the "don't talk" rule, which just perpetuates the problem. I think it is especially bad in church circles, because if you tell your story then you are gossiping. How can it be gossip if it is YOUR story? So everything just stays in the dark. Again, thank you April for being brave and telling your story.

  6. Thanks so much for your post Louise! I know you've been in a similar situation and know what it's all about. I believe that if we're true followers of Jesus any bitterness, anger, etc. will be rooted out. For some of us it takes longer than others, and that's OK!! I think the fact that we both still love Jesus and still want to follow Him is a true miracle considering what we've been through. That's really what matters, isn't it?? He's fully capable of showing us our sin and rooting it out. Simply sharing my story and being open about my feelings doesn't mean I'm still stuck in the same place - and even if I were it wouldn't be the end of the world! God is bigger than bitterness, thank goodness.