Posts Tagged ‘when church hurts’

One year ago. It was a Friday. Last year it was the last day of school before we were to go on Christmas break. This year, while today is a Friday, we will have school for two days next week. So, it’s not quite the same. Yet today is much like that Friday one year ago.

On that day, my husband was trying to set up a meeting with church leadership to discuss the spiritually abusive treatment I had received for over a decade and the leadership’s angry response when they found out that I had broken their mandate to keep quiet about what they had done to me all of those years.

It was when my husband insisted that they would need to apologize to me if we were to continue as members of the church that he was told via email that there would be no meeting and we were no longer welcome in the church.

Isn’t interesting that in that church, something so important and life-altering as being tossed out of the church was not discussed in a face-to-face conversation? In fact, there was only one time over those many, many years of being told that I was not good enough to participate in church ministry that a person in leadership actually asked me to come into her office to deliver the news. It was a very brief meeting in which she told me that I would not be considered for a leadership position. Of the other conversations, one was made over the phone, another was on the sidewalk in front of one of the church entrances, and one from the same person with whom my husband was communicating, had also sent me an email several years ago indicating that I couldn’t even take a class.

I think about that today and am awed by the cowardice. This is a church that boasts over 2500 people crossing the threshold every Sunday. This is a church that has a multi-million dollar budget (the details of which are only known to the 3-5 people on the “executive team”). This is a church whose “weekly need” is well over $60,000 per week in order to pay the bills.

Yet, these leaders of one of the largest churches in the entire region – listed as a “mega” church on many websites, couldn’t face a humble, quiet, soft-spoken, sweet gentleman (my husband) and acknowledge that they had allowed me to be treated in such a way that my spiritual health had been massacred.

There is only one conclusion that can be drawn from their gutlessness.

They knew they were wrong.

They knew that if they had to sit down face-to-face and answer for what they had done, they would not be able to defend their behavior.

And they knew that if we were allowed to stay, there was a good chance that more and more people would become aware of the truth. And people would wonder. And people would remember others who left suspiciously. And people would ask questions that were embarrassingly difficult to answer honestly. And the pedestal would erode.

Much better to cut us off without looking either of us in the eye. Much better to order us away and tell lies and half-truths about us in order to placate people. Much better to convince anyone who might wonder or ask, that we are the bad guys.

And so I sit here, one year later, smiling as I write this. It’s a knowing smile. Because knowing the truth is emancipating.

It’s a delightful smile. Because telling the truth and putting shame in it’s proper place is joyous.

It’s a winsome smile – the smile of one who is innocent.

A year ago, on a Friday, I thought my world was crashing down. But now, I know that my world was just opening up. To freedom. To peace. To sweetness.

Welcome home, Ellen.

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It seems odd, doesn’t it, to say, “Welcome to When Church Hurts?

Many people are finding their way here through a link from the Spiritual Abuse Survivors Blog Network. So I must thank them for sharing a part of my story!

If you have come here from there, you have probably already figured out that the section of my story that appeared there on Wednesday, September 24, is only the introduction to what happened to me at my last church. If you are looking for my whole story, it is in four parts in the menu at the left on my blog.

Part 1 of my story here on the blog is about my childhood, how I became a Christian as a freshman in college and my early adulthood. Nothing too fancy going on there.

Part 2 is about my first abusive church. It was a non-denominational, fundamentalist, homeschooling church.

Part 3 is where the story on SASBN begins. But, it’s only the beginning of my story at our second and last abusive church. You can read the rest of that story by reading the rest of Part 3 and then Part 4.

Most of my blogging to date has been simply me working through the truth of what I experienced – because often, when you are in the midst of it, you can’t/won’t see the reality of what is going on around you. It was in leaving the church and seeing it from a distance (and through the lens of the Mars Hill debacle which has many parallels to my former church) that I have been able to see so much more than what I could see when I was immersed in the church.

I am so grateful for others who also share their stories, their wisdom, their outrage, their kindness, through their blogs, websites, books, and over coffee. They have been such an encouragement – and sometimes a lifeline – to me and it is my hope that my story and the journey that I share here will be the same for those who find their way to When ChurchHurts.