who is systemic now?

As a follow-up to the ‘systemic?’ post, I ran across another site discussing a church and abuse. I was researching a different topic and hit on this site due to one of the search terms I was using. The current top post is one that addresses a very similar story to those we have been faced with in the recent controversies involving ‘IFB’ churches. Here is a sample paragraph:

Here is a brief description of how _______________ has in the past typically handled sex abuse issues in their church.   This depiction can be affirmed by numerous former members who have had similar experiences.   The perpetrator of a sex crime and his family were brought under the care of a pastor.   This would involve counseling, accountability sessions and possible minor restrictions regarding movement in the church during services.   People “at risk” were not notified.   The victim and victim’s family however were usually confronted with opposition from leadership by minimizing and/or invalidating particular aspects of the victim’s story.

Sound familiar? Sound systemic?

Now… before you click on the ‘more’ tag and see the links, a few caveats.

  1. This is just one side of the story – the side of the victims. I can’t say everything in this side of the story is true.
  2. This story appears on a ‘____ survivors’ site: in other words, the people who write here have an axe to grind against _____. Everything posted here is from a disgruntled perspective.
  3. I don’t think the basic facts in this post are just invented or made up by someone who is merely disgruntled. According to the post, someone confessed to a felony in the case. However, clearly there is a lot of bad blood between those telling the story and the ones they are telling the story against. A lot of facts are left out and there is no independent verification. It is possible that some of the things complained about are the sins of the complainant, not the sins of the ones being complained against. However, some facts in this story appear to be true.

I should note that this is a fairly current story as you will see from some of the links I post below the jump.

Here is the link to the post on SGM Survivors: Wallace’s Story.

SGM = Sovereign Grace Ministries

At the moment there are 558 comments on this April 8, 2011 post.

Comment #11 is the first mention of the infamous ABC program on ‘IFB cults’. It is also mentioned in several ensuing comments: #12, #14, #39, and #238. Comment #14 is from someone who once was involved in an IFB church:

I just finished watching the 20/20 documentary on IFB churches which I was apart of before I joined my current SGM church. And I have to say that It sounds just like what everyone has been saying on this site. I’ve been reading this blog for a few months and I even commented. But I’m still torn, on one hand my heart goes out to everyone who has experienced abuse and control, and on the other hand when I go to church, I’m convinced that God is moving there. Like I said I went to a loving IFB church and I dont think they would have handled those situations in that way. I guess I’m hoping that my church would act differently. Even if they don’t I wouldn’t agree not to press charges with any case of abuse. I guess what I’m saying is that I have to see it for myself. I think things should be weighed on an individual basis. I feel that God has placed my family in certain churches for a certain season under certain leadership. I wouldn’t attend just any IFB church or any SGM or whatever denomination/Non-denomination. But I will start keeping my eyes open.

In comment #18, a commenter outlines a pretty good summary of what an abuse policy should be, as well as something of a good defense of some other SG church and the way situations were handled there.

The moderator of the site, clearly a disgruntled ex-SGMer, says this in comment #27:

It’s interesting to me how this supposed “Gospel” focus can actually create mind-numbed pastoral robots.


Well, I don’t want to bore you with more. There are 558 comments as I said.

Some concluding thoughts:

Remember that this is a ‘survivors’ site. It is heavily biased.

Some of the commentary tries to attribute the presence of problems like these to key teachings of SGM churches. That would be the systemic notion. Some of the teachings they mention would be ones I oppose in their substance, not because they necessarily foster abuse.

While you wade through anecdotes in the comment list, you might get to thinking that means abuse and cover-up is systemic to SGM also. Really, I don’t think that is true. In keeping with what I said in the previous post, for a particular system to systematically produce a phenomenon, the phenomenon would have to occur at a significantly higher rate in that system than in others.

For a trivial example, we Canadians (and other northern countries) tend to produce more hockey players than California or Florida. It is part of the nature of our country – both our climate and our culture (Mongolia and Japan don’t produce many hockey players, although they are cold countries.)

From what I have read, I think that the statistics show that incidences of abuse are no more prevalent in various church groups than society at large. Indeed, I think the statistics show that they are fewer.

That is not to say we should just dismiss it, fail to have good policies in place, fail to educate and screen our workers, and so on. Not at all. We need to be very diligent in these areas.

So… I strongly disagree with Sovereign Grace Ministries in theology, philosophy, and practice. There might be some areas of agreement, but for the most part we have pretty huge differences.

However, is abuse systemic to them? I don’t think so. And I don’t think it is of IFB-ism either.

But… you’ll never convince the ‘survivors’ of that.