Our Journey Out of “The Truth”
Beginnings. My parents, Glen and Shirley Parish, professed early in 1970 in meetings held by Harry Brownlee and Ron Johnson in Arco, Idaho. I was 8 years old at the time. My parents left the Southern Baptist denomination where my father had been a pastor for 18 years. My father’s written testimony has circulated around the globe. My father was somewhat of a celebrity in the fellowship of the friends and workers. He always told his story in terms of a search for truth and dissatisfaction with “organized religion” and that resonated with a lot of people. He could tell of a lot of problems in the inner dealings of the Baptist churches. (Of course, the fellowship of the friends and workers is not free of such problems.)
I professed at a convention when I was ten but did not make anything of it. I later professed again at another convention at age 17. All of my five siblings all professed at some point, but not all remain professing.
My wife Sandy and her family professed in meetings held by Harry Brownlee and Gary Rathbun in Rupert, Idaho in 1975. She was 11 at the time and professed in those meetings. They came out of the Episcopal Church. All three of her three siblings also all professed at some point, but not all remain professing.
We both drank deeply from the well of the teachings of the fellowship. I believed with all my heart that the fellowship represented the “only way” and that it “began with Jesus” and was passed down through successive generations to this day. I upheld and argued these beliefs; presenting them to my friends as TRUTH. While I don’t distinctly remember hearing these ideas taught as a child, my faith and trust firmly rested on them. I reveled in the celebrity status of my father, a former Baptist preacher…quite a catch for the workers. I prayed about the work, opened my heart to it, but did not feel “called”.
Sandy and I were married in late 1982. She was 19 and I was 21. We had a “professing” wedding, believing we needed to keep it as small and simple as possible. We were so fixated on the small and simple idea that we did not invite some of our closest friends due to the number of family. We regret that today.
The Secret Sect and History
Just two months afterwards, the book The Secret Sect came into my hands via a brother who was in the work at the time. It was given to him by the owners of a Christian bookstore somewhere in Wyoming who connected him to it through conversation. It greatly disturbed him. He didn’t get many straight answers from the older workers. I read it and at first, it didn’t disturb me. I had no problem with a “revelation” being given to man to “restore” a lost method. But it did bother me to find out about the infighting and disagreement among older workers I knew and highly respected. I had understood that there was unity and solidarity in the fellowship. And even more disturbing was the knowledge of doctrinal differences and changes taking place at that time, when I had accepted what I had been told that “the Truth doesn’t change”.
Prior to reading The Secret Sect, I remember innocently asking various workers about the history. And while I was never quite satisfied with the vague answers, I accepted them and did not feel compelled to know more. After reading the book, I developed an active interest in the history of the fellowship. As I collected copies of convention notes from the early workers, I could see statements and threads of stories that confirmed what The Secret Sect asserted. I began to receive indirect warnings from the workers I talked with about the history…as if I was looking into things that were too high for me. I also began to hear testimony from people in the fellowship who knew the history that confirmed “The Secret Sect” as well. Later, the avoidance of the historical knowledge of the beginnings began to be evident to me. I even observed those who knew better let the real story be misrepresented in their hearing.
Children and Home Education
The real beginning of our journey out began in 1991 when we decided to educate our children at home. We made this decision because of our concern for the effect that public school was having on our children and how their hearts were being stolen away. Because the home school program we chose to use was Christian-based, we began to rub shoulders with other Christian people. Sandy was first to come to the realization that these people knew Christ and possessed the Holy Spirit. She realized that she could not judge the salvation of such people as she had in the past.
As we attended home school conferences we heard teaching from the Bible that challenged us and slowly began to work at us. We struggled with reconciling the truths we were hearing with our beliefs about the speakers we were listening to. The truths they presented were so compelling and satisfying that we soon found our spiritual sustenance and counseling were coming more from “outsiders”, who were preaching and teaching the Word of God.
From very early in our married life, we were secretly given books by the friends about child-rearing from Christian sources…secretly because no one wanted it to be known that they were reading such things. Since such teachings and real-life applications of God’s Word were so sparse in the fellowship, we most often found our help and encouragement for raising our children came from “outside” as well. We were disturbed by the lack of real-life applications of the scripture in the workers’ allegorized and spiritualized messages.
Our discussions with the workers about this were not fruitful. They asked us not to read outside books or spread them around. At the same time, they would either show us their own secret self-help books, or would present unbiblical ideas which were clearly gleaned from secular sources.
Something that highlighted this problem occurred in July 2003 when we attended a home education conference in Fresno. Since the home education movement is primarily a Christian movement, most of these conferences are profoundly Christian in content. At this conference, there were classes specifically geared to young people. Well, after the class prior to lunch my 12-year-old Simon came out of the room, looked up at me and said, “Why don’t the workers talk like that at convention?” He nearly knocked me over with that statement. He had just been listening to a man talk about the “kingdom of heaven” and repentance (rethinking the way we live) because the kingdom of heaven is at hand…repenting now…repenting today. Since I had sat through two other sessions that day listening to this man, I was very interested in what he had said. After listening to a tape recording of what Simon had listened to, I had to agree with his assessment. All this just pointed up the difference between what was lacking in the allegorized and spiritualized messages of the workers and the real-life applications of the teachings of Jesus and the apostles that these other men were teaching.
Sin and Psychology
In 1990 my father opened up about a serious gross sin that had plagued him his entire life. This revelation changed my entire perspective of what had happened in 1970 when my parents professed. I then understood that my parents’ story, considered by so many to be a confirmation of “the Truth”, had not been completely or honestly told. When all the facts were taken into consideration, a completely different story emerged. From that time on, I avoided sharing that story, because the real story was about a desperate struggle with personal sin and honesty, not about a search for “truth”, as defined by the fellowship.
My father had sought counsel and help for his sin from a wide variety of sources, without avail. At that time he was seeking counsel from a Christian ministry that devoted itself to helping people struggling with this sin. I was shocked to learn that the workers encouraged my father to pursue that counsel, saying that they had nothing to offer…thus they effectively agreed that help from outside was acceptable. Concerned, I began to look at what help there was for him “outside” and I did not like what I learned.
In 1994, I began an intense study of psychology and secular counseling. I was shocked to see how psychological theories have largely replaced, in both the church and society, biblical understandings of why man is the way he is and how he changes. I saw how God’s Word presents man as being innately sinful and inwardly wicked because of Adam’s sin, with change and help (salvation) coming from outside of man through conviction of sin, repentance toward God, faith in the atoning propitious death of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit progressively sanctifying us, leading us away from sin, and freeing us from the bondage of the inward sin.
However, psychological theories present man as being born innately good and inwardly innocent and pure, and that men only fail or have emotional/psychological troubles because of outside influences (environment, parents, abusers, wrong teaching, past experiences recorded in the unconscious, etc.), with change and help (salvation) coming though the means of turning inward, reliving pain, gaining inner insight…with professional help. Thus, the phrase “Christian psychology” is an oxymoron.
Psychological theories are completely opposed to the biblical truths about man. Psychological theories are set forth as scientific; however, these theories are not founded in what science exists. Psychology has redefined every biblical sin as a “sickness” for which man is not ultimately responsible. And “diagnosis” is based on the subjective judgment of a “trained” individual applying “experience” in the use of arbitrarily composed lists of “symptoms”, not on any objective test. These theories are cloaked in medical and scientific terminology, thus making them appear as if they are founded on a scientifically established body of knowledge. However, they are really just philosophical/religious beliefs about why man is the way he is and how he changes.
In stark contrast, the record of the New Testament is that there was real power in the preaching of the gospel which delivered men and women from the sins that modern man denies (I Corinthians 6:9-11), without the help of professionals, by the washing, sanctifying, and justification in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God.
Perhaps all this seems a digression from the purpose of this writing…it is not. It needs to be said that this type of counseling and all the psychological ideas about why my father was the way he was did not free him from his sin. On the contrary, it actually brought out in him an obsession with finding out why this sin flowed out of his heart, as if such knowledge would free him from having responsibility for it. And this search for a “scientific” answer, and all the things proposed by this world’s wisdom, only served to bring out hatred toward his own father, a rage against the consequences of his sin, and a lack of taking responsibility for himself.
This seems disrespectful of my father. However, I am confident that he would want me use his experience to open eyes and point to Jesus Christ as the only answer for victory over both the guilt and the power of sin. Dad left the fellowship in 1991. He died of leukemia in April of 1997. I am thankful for what I saw of the work of Christ in him, bringing him along the road of repentance and sanctification up until the end, partly through the agency of courageous Christian men who called my father to repentance. I deeply regret that I had nothing to encourage him with at the time of his death because we were somewhat estranged due to his decision not to attend meetings.
Psychology and the Workers
I found myself coming into contact with other Christians who were implementing biblical solutions and biblical responses to sin and problems of living. In contrast, as I discussed these ideas within the fellowship, I discovered that to a large extent, these pseudo-scientific psychological teachings have been accepted by the friends and workers. Thus, I slowly came to the realization that the fellowship, in general, had turned away from the hope of deliverance from sin in Christ Jesus, had embraced psychological theories about why man is the way he is and how he changes, and thus was largely powerless to help people struggling in sin.
In fact, the workers often and repeatedly admit that they cannot help people dealing with real issues of sin. My statement here is not idle speculation or exaggeration but is what I have often heard and is the testimony of my close family members, friends, and others. Confirmation of this continues to this day. As far as I am concerned, the lack of real biblical teaching in the fellowship, combined with a refusal to consider ideas from Christian people has created a vacuum into which secular teachings have rushed. In their rejection of “worldly religious” ideas, the workers have opened themselves to the false ideas of the world. And “the world” means much more about ideas, beliefs, and worldview than it does about outward appearance.
The workers, in their acceptance of psychological theories, also accept the notion that they have no expertise and should not get involved. It is true…they aren’t trained psychologists. And if psychological theories are true, then they shouldn’t get involved. Thus they have backed away from what has always been understood to be part of the function of leaders in the body of Christ. In fact, the ability to admonish and encourage (much of what counseling really is) is a hallmark of mature Christian men and women and fulfills some of the most basic teaching about older people teaching younger people.
My contact with other Christians reinforced the realization that “outside” some “worldly religious” people actually believed the scriptures and were putting them into practice…and were seeing real change through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. They weren’t claiming that obedience to methods was salvation. Rather, they were concerned with the scriptural declaration of the sinfulness of man’s heart and the answer of real hope in the gospel…the answer for even such sins as my father’s. I saw that the methods promoted in the fellowship as being salvation (church in the home and the ministry without a home) in and of themselves, had done my father no good. It had done no good to “just come to meeting”, as the workers advised. Nor had these methods saved or delivered me from the power of sin…either. And I could see the bankruptcy of psychological theories applied to the everyday lives of friends and workers all around me.
Lack of Biblical Church Discipline
Early in our marriage, we became aware of certain scandals and problems between people. But our underlying faith in “the way” remained strong. After all, this was a “perfect way” not a “perfect people.” And we also came to understand that the existence of scandals just showed we were all fallen men and women. We were aware that scandals existed in every group of people, even in the New Testament church. What really bothered us was the lack of any real resolution and the way these things were hidden from public view.
In 1997 a Sunday meeting was placed in our home. We tried to take this seriously. In May of 2000, we received the call from Virginia Boyd that Ruben Mata had been put out of the work and was being sent home because it had been made public that he had molested children. Since his mother attended the meeting in our home, he would be coming with her. Initially, I was hopeful that we might get to see a miracle of God’s power to overcome sin. But such was not to be. Open communication among the friends about the issue was strongly discouraged. Thus, feelings and misunderstandings grew up. How can you offer the love of Jesus Christ to an offending brother if you can’t deal in truth and openness?
We saw the gridlock as several different workers attempted to deal with the problem. We heard different and conflicting stories about why things were not ever addressed. We heard the anguish of the victims and their parents. We heard workers admit that they knew about Ruben’s sinful activities and allowed him to continue in the work.
We proposed to have a public forum of the friends in the area so that the whole truth of the matter could be explained and questions and concerns openly addressed. We proposed a gathering of the elders together, with or without Ruben, to pray for him and over him after the manner mentioned in James 5:13-16. But such was not allowed or wanted…” we don’t do things like that.” We proposed following Matthew 18, but…” we don’t do that.”
We were publicly rebuked in a Sunday morning meeting by the elder for daring to talk with the victim’s parents and for warning other parents. Our name wasn’t mentioned, but a number mentioned to us afterward that they knew we were being talked to.
Perhaps we were somewhat naive in our dealings with Ruben, as he came to our home for meeting. As I mentioned, I was hoping to see a work of God. But we were asleep at the wheel though because we had a foster child in our home. It was when we heard the horrendous details of how he had operated that we woke up and asked that he be removed from our meeting.
Because of a rising tide of concern and upset surrounding Ruben, in late February 2003, we participated with a few other couples in an attempt to call Ruben to repentance. This was done without the workers’ consent or participation. But it was undertaken because even after being appealed to, the workers refused to act. While this meeting was not productive, it did result in the workers finally moving to resolve some of the issues and slapping our hands, telling us firmly that this was their problem to resolve.
I would like to emphasize that this situation and how it was dealt with, as much as it concerned us, was not the reason we left the fellowship. I mention it because of what it revealed about inner attitudes within the fellowship, and because it presented such a stark contrast when we later visited a church which did address necessary discipline in a biblical, open and loving manner.
We, therefore, observed firsthand the unbiblical authority structure of the friends and worker fellowship, without accountability to the friends, without the ability to appeal, without due process, acting in ways which showed more of an interest in maintaining its authority than in protecting the sheep and lambs it claimed authority over. Of course, these types of authority structures and actions are not unique to this fellowship. Churches all over the world and in all times have struggled with these things.
Over the years, we continued to hope for reform and positive change, still resting our hope in the fellowship. But we were observing trends and practices in the fellowship that deeply concerned us, such as the promotion of secular understandings of gender, marriage and children…and we were going in the opposite direction, grasping for biblical teachings and counsel. We saw a refusal to speak plainly hidden behind a claim that the Holy Spirit would provide any and all teaching needed. And, the continual strident ridicule and condemnation of other Christian people were becoming extremely offensive.
So why am I mentioning problems of church discipline if, as I said above, it was not the reason we left the fellowship? Well, it is because it provided just another realization that this fellowship, which claimed to have all of its biblical ducks in a row, did not understand important biblical teachings about how people are to be treated in the assembly of believers.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ
The years 2003 and 2004 were a time of intense inner struggle, for there was a growing disquiet in my heart about my own salvation that I could not reconcile with my false understanding of salvation. Age had opened my eyes to my own heart and I saw my own failings in ways I had never seen when I was younger. Try as I might, I could not remove my inner sinful nature. I had no assurance of salvation, and I knew that if it depended on the strength of my choice, I would not end in a saved eternity. There was always a hidden “no” in my answer of “yes”. My good deeds were always tainted and soiled with my sinful nature. When I applied the “only way” theology, with its required works, to my trouble, I could find no hope. The light of Jesus was being projected into my heart and I could see no hope of my overcoming my inner depravity by “being more willing”, by my obedience, or by sheer willpower.
At the same time, God was beginning to open my eyes to see, even if dimly, the primacy of the cross in salvation, and I understand that the gospel proclaimed in the New Testament centered on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus. It then began to dawn on me that for the most part, the friends and workers do not teach or know the true gospel (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ), all it’s sobering and joy-filled implications, and the demanded response of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, from the earliest days, it appears that the workers had substituted something else in its place – the methods of meeting in the home and the ministry without a home. In other words, and to state it in its most basic terms, they had substituted the “dying ministry” for the death of Jesus Christ.
My wife could sense that changes in our life were coming and that we would eventually leave, even though I did not believe such a thing could happen at the time.
William Irvine and “The Ministry”
Sometime in 2004, I was shaken by a startling thought. I realized that William Irvine’s condemnation of the clergymen of his day, and his demand that they live according to the instructions of Matthew 10, were fundamentally flawed. He was comparing apples and oranges.
The instructions given to the apostles in Matthew 10 in no way relate to the same group of men who were appointed as elders in each assembly of believers. And, very few pastors and church leaders of our day would claim to in the place of an apostle. Rather, they would claim to come from the tradition of the elders. Thus, Irvine’s demand that the clergymen of his day should go out according to Matthew 10 is flawed in that he mistakenly applied the Matthew 10 instructions to the wrong group of people. The workers continue in that same false idea today, condemning the innocent.
To put it another way, Paul did not instruct that the elders go forth two by two to preach the gospel, not providing for themselves. No, it is clearly understood that the elders were called to teach and feed the local assembly of believers called out by the apostles’ message. So, if comparisons are to be made, let’s make the right ones. It may be that some ministry methods in use have elements that need realignment with scripture; methods are not value-neutral. Ideas and their implementation have consequences. At the same time, the Faith Mission methods adapted by William Irvine need to be examined in the same searching light.
The question how Matthew 10 applies to us today is important. The entirety of Jesus’ instructions to the apostles, taken all together and underlying the specific instructions regarding the Jewish mission of those 12 men, is of continuing validity and those principles are practiced by a wide variety of believers who proclaim the gospel all over the world. These principles are applied in a beautiful variety of ways across widely varying circumstances, places, and cultures. Many missionaries, itinerant evangelists, and preachers implicitly trust that God will provide for their needs as they devote their time to what God has called them to. The workers, while claiming to live according to the instructions in Matthew 10, do not and cannot live according to the literal words because they are not do not live in the same circumstances in which Jesus sent those first 12 to the Jewish people. They can only fall back on implementing principles. Thus their claim of being the only true servants of God based on this is a false claim.
William Irvine and the Hireling
All this then led to another startling thought…William Irvine had also missed the boat about the hireling in John 10 as well. A careful reading of John 10 revealed several things that challenged my usual interpretation. First, the people under the care of the “hireling” are called sheep…not goats, not unsaved, not blind…they are called SHEEP. Jesus was not making a statement about the salvation of people who were being watched over by the hireling. He was helping people to see and admit reality. That reality is that leaders in the church are to be examined and held accountable to the Word of God, that men are not to be worshiped or followed in the place of the Son of God, and that some men have loyalties to themselves and not the Master of the sheep, and…there is only one Shepherd and head of the Church.
Second, the focus of this passage is not on the transfer of money or the existence of a contract or guaranty of support, but on the heart of the hireling and object of his love and honor. This led me to the conclusion that Jesus is condemning not “paid preachers” per se, but at best pointing out that men fail, and at worst, some men are mercenaries who peddle the Word.
The workers cannot escape the necessity of monetary support, even though it is a subject not openly discussed. The issue of a guaranty of support versus no guaranty is splitting hairs. The workers are open to the very same condemnation of mercenary behavior and sometimes are guilty of pandering to those who give the most. Further, Paul addresses the financial assistance of elders who labor in the word in 1 Timothy 5:17-18 with the same Old Testament scriptures that he uses to support the evangelistic ministry of the apostles in 1 Corinthians 9:3-14.
And…does it say that most of these “paid preachers” are also held accountable by open financial books while the workers are absolutely silent and closed about financial matters?
The Texas Trip of 2005
Thus, in February of 2005 when we took a trip to Texas to visit family and friends, we were teetering on the brink. I had begun to want to leave the fellowship but didn’t know how to do it or where we could turn for fellowship. I was fearful.
A number of things happened on that trip that pushed us over the edge. First, during our visit with family in Dallas, we attended a gospel meeting held by Marilyn Frye and Crystal Lewsader. Instead of the normal preaching, they asked for people to express why they thought the fellowship was the only way. Not one testimony of the many offered that day referred to any scripture. Even worse, there was not a single confession of Christ, not a single word offered in thankfulness for his death and resurrection or for forgiveness of sin, not a single mention of the gospel…except in the false terms of the church in the home and the ministry without a home. Our negative inner reaction to that meeting showed us how far we had backed away from teachings and beliefs of the fellowship. We were not a part of it anymore.
We then traveled down to San Antonio. Our visit there had two purposes. The first was to meet with a doctor in the area who performed tubal ligation reversals. Sandy had a tubal performed after our fourth child and soon after came to deeply regret it. She desired to correct that mistake. Now, 13 years later, we had the financial resources to take care of it. So, during our visit, we were able to set up a time for surgery and finalize arrangements.
The second purpose was to meet our good friends Robb and Tamra Klaty of Fenton, Michigan, at the home of Rick and Joni Huber, an unprofessing family who lived southeast of San Antonio. Robb and I had become good friends in 2001, having a common outlook in many areas of life, including a desire to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The Katy’s had visited our home in early 2004 and had traveled home via San Antonio. They visited a local church there and met the Hubers, who invited them home for dinner…a visit that extended into several days. On their trip home to Michigan, Robb made the decision to leave the fellowship of the friends and workers. The spirit of love and the honor of Jesus Christ in the Huber family were so outstanding that Robb wanted us to meet them as well.
As we visited with the Hubers, we could not deny their love for God, their love for others, their joy, and the purity of their lives as they followed hard after Christ. What real fellowship we had, reading scripture together, praying together, and talking of our hope in Christ! That ended forever our tolerance for the condemnation of other Christian people.
We participated in the Huber’s family worship times, which included prayer for the needs of others they knew, all the children participating in their own humble way. This was challenging for us as the prevailing attitude in the fellowship is to avoid such open praying, except in meetings or at meal times, and certainly not to pray for the health or physical needs of others.
On that Saturday, Rick and Joni Huber spent the entire day with the other couples in their church to discuss how to address a serious issue in the church. On that Sunday, we sat amazed through a church service in which a couple was lovingly and openly disciplined and disfellowshipped – the end of a careful Matthew 18 process. Not lashing out or calling the offenders unsaved, but simply warning them, calling on them for repentance and earnestly praying for their restoration. What an astounding thing that was to observe after our recent experiences at home! We heard the elders of the church openly acknowledge their accountability to the people they served. We listened as man after man stood and gave testimony regarding this situation. What a contrast to our whole experience of church discipline in the fellowship!
As we continued our stay with the Hubers, our faith was challenged regarding the grace of God in salvation versus the works and obedience of man. I was strangely silenced, unable to undertake my usual earnest attack on the teachings of God’s grace. We all were shaken from our firm belief in the works and methods promoted in the fellowship as necessary for salvation and were challenged to look to the only rock on which we can stand – the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We chewed on these things on our drive home. Then, as a family, we carefully and prayerfully read through the entire book of Romans…for the first time. We opened our hearts to all the verses we had previously set aside or ignored. Our faith in the fellowship and its teachings was shattered as we heard and accepted, for the first time, the full truth of God’s grace in salvation, and we fell flat on our faces. God graciously replaced our faith in “the way” with faith in Jesus Christ alone.
In March of 2005, Sandy and I flew back down to San Antonio and stayed with the Huber’s again as Sandy underwent the tubal ligation reversal surgery. We again experienced their loving kindness and open prayers to God for Sandy’s speedy recovery and the blessing of more children.
While God has not blessed us with more children in the natural way, He has blessed us with three more children by adoption, which was finalized in June 2007. That makes our family filled up with eight children. One son of 23 married with two precious little girls of his own, one son of 21 just married, and six remaining at home with us – a daughter of 18, a son 16, a son of 12, a daughter of 6, a son of 5, and a daughter of 3.
After arriving home, we knew that the time had come to leave. We found that hearing the harsh exclusive condemnation of other Christian people from the friends and workers evoked an almost violent reaction inside us, like something we wanted to spit out of our mouths. To have openly refuted those condemnations would have created the situation of “going down in flames” which I chose to avoid. It would have brought me into immediate and open conflict with the friends and workers and the result would have been the same…us leaving, but with a boat load of conflict.
At the same time, our new faith and trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and God’s grace toward us in Jesus was directly at odds with the blatant demand for works as the basis for hope of salvation. We had to speak it openly and we knew that would cause conflict and eventual separation as well.
So, in April of 2005, we left the fellowship. Our leaving and the removal of our meeting were accomplished primarily through letters, as there were no workers in the area at the time. In our letters, we tried to express our beliefs and position as lovingly as we could. We weren’t upset or bitter at people, we just believed entirely different, could not continue, and did not want to create a huge ordeal for all involved.
In our letters, we tried to express our belief that salvation was not to be found in the methods of meeting in the home and ministry without a home. We said that we could no longer use those methods as a basis for judging the salvation of others. We presented this as our primary concern, saying that we had other deep concerns. We also tried to make sure we were clear that while methods are not value-neutral, salvation is not wrapped up in them.
At that time, I was hesitant to openly express my conclusion that the workers did not preach or even believe in the true gospel – the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, with repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ flowing out of them. We were weary and just wanted to slip out quietly; we could see only conflict and upset coming from attempts on our part to persuade the friends and workers of the truths we now believed. Today…we are more forthright in our expressions of the gospel of the one in whom our faith resides.
We were visited by Steve Pierson a few weeks later. He didn’t act interested in understanding why we left or what was in our hearts. He appeared to be more interested in indirectly apologizing for the way the Ruben Mata ordeal had been handled, but it was hard to understand what he was really trying to convey. He did tell us, knowingly or unknowingly, that the workers were doing everything they could to keep our leaving quiet, to not tell specifics about the reasons we offered to them. So, unless we were to initiate a letter-writing campaign, no one would ever know. At that point, we were not going on the offensive; we had lived through enough emotional upset and difficulty.
We did have a visit from two sister workers a few weeks later, but they mentioned nothing regarding our situation….
I thank God that my wife and children stood right behind me and we stepped away together as a family. Our son Max, age 19 at the time, was actually helping push me out. The night it was finished, we gathered together as a family and just cried – for relief that it was done, for sorrow over the relationships we knew would be broken, and for help from God for the future. God has been gracious and has provided much fellowship and many new brothers and sisters in Christ.
About 6 months later, our oldest son and his wife left the fellowship as well.
The response of our professing family members was mostly very negative. Unfortunately, most of the negativity fell on Sandy. Some of the responses were violent reactions. Others were more restrained. However, there were some common themes – “…you are making a very dangerous decision…” “…you are bitter…” “…we have decided to stay with those who are following the scriptures…” “…I fear that the effect of this choice will lead to some very hard things, both for you and your children.” “You can’t choose the consequences of this decision.” “…you are cowards…” This was hard to bear.
These types of discussions have now waned for the most part and we are thankful that we are more and more able to discuss our reasons for leaving and our hope in Jesus Christ. A few of the friends wrote us notes of concern and love. But there was very little verbal contact. From what we understand, the workers rallied the friends together and explained their version of why we left. We don’t know what was said.
We have heard through several sources that some prevailing views of us are that I am a male chauvinist tyrant and that we have been duped by false doctrine. Further, my two oldest sons have been called “wise and prudent”, with all the implications behind those words, because they have asked hard penetrating questions for which the workers have no answers…or at least, no biblical answers. It is amazing that this accusation is thrown at those who seek honest answers to their questions by those who don’t have answers…but yet they demand that people believe that they are the only servants of God on the face of the earth.
Jesus and the apostles did not put a premium on ignorance, but presented an entire worldview as part of their teaching, applying the gospel to daily living. God has not called us to ignorance or blind obedience of men; rather, he has called us to know about Him, and through that to know Him. By His Holy Spirit, He has granted His people the power of a sound mind. He has spoken to all mankind in a logical understandable way that we can grasp and comprehend, not in dark hidden meanings which only a few initiated have access to. He has now called men everywhere to repent and to believe the gospel, understanding that they will be judged by that man whom He has designated by raising him from the dead.
We continue to find an anti-intellectual mindset that accuses us of “heady theology” while at the same time denying or ignoring the clear words of scripture, setting forth a reliance on a revelation about “the ministry” that reveals that the real faith promoted in the fellowship is a faith in the workers, in the “dying ministry.”
We also find a strange dishonesty in response to our reasons for leaving, as if our experience was so isolated and limited that we didn’t know what was generally believed and taught by the friends and workers. This results in an outright denial of the foundational beliefs the fellowship of the friends and workers is built on.
A Later Summary
I participate on a “professing” e-mail discussion list. I tried to resign when we left the fellowship, but they asked me to stay…so I did. One topic of discussion was this question, “Would you profess again?” I was the only one to answer negatively. And I answered like this:
No, I would not profess again. Why?? I can no longer substitute faith in a method for faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I can no longer believe a ministry which preaches not Jesus Christ but the homeless ministry and it crucified. I can no longer trust in my choosing Jesus, but I trust in the grace of God to call, draw, and save me in Christ; I have no trust in my own works and choices, they are tainted. I can no longer participate in the ridicule of other faithful followers of Christ. I can no longer support unbiblical authority structures that protect authority at the expense of the torn bleeding lambs. I can no longer support a ministry that condemns others who meet in buildings but builds its own buildings (conventions). I can no longer support a ministry that ignores the scriptural command to take care of the poor, the widows and the orphans, but spiritualizes that command by calling itself the poor. I can no longer support a ministry which will not be honest about its history and allows lies to continue to prop up a faith in “the way”.
Perhaps that states some things I haven’t said above. But understand that this is not the cry of a bitter heart…it is just my stake in the ground about reality and where I now stand.
Our Hope in Jesus Christ
No more let sin and sorrow rule,
Nor thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
This stanza in the old hymn describes my hope and confidence in Christ. Romans 5:16 makes a comparison of Adam’s sin and Jesus Christ’s sinless life. It says that from one trespass many were condemned (including me). Then it says that the one free gift, which followed many, many trespasses (including mine) brought justification. Only one free gift is needed – it abounded above a multitude of wretched trespasses which cannot be numbered.
One well known Christian man said this a few hundred years ago, “The condemnation by Adam was for one sin; but the justification by Christ is an absolution not only from the guilt of that first offense, mysteriously attaching to every individual of the race, but from the countless offenses….. This is what it means by grace abounding toward us. It is a grace not only rich in its character, but rich in detail; it is a righteousness not only rich in a complete justification of the guilty, condemned sinner; but rich in the amplitude of the ground which it covers, leaving not one sin of any of the justified uncanceled, but making him, though loaded with the guilt of myriads of offenses, ‘the righteousness of God in Christ.’”
May every man and woman who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ bow their knee to him in humble admission of unworthiness. And let them also rejoice and shout for joy because he has defeated their enemy, he has satisfied forever the righteous wrath of God against them, he has bought and redeemed them from the curse of death, he has claimed them as his one and only bride, and he is sanctifying them, making them spotless and radiant with his own righteousness, laid over them like an unwrinkled garment, washing them with the water of the Word.
May we be obedient in every respect, repenting of our sins, seeking his mind in everything, always understanding that our salvation is his work…and his alone.
He hasn’t saved us by a homeless or “dying” ministry. He has saved us by his own death and he raised us up into new life by his resurrection, fulfilling the promise of inner renewal.
Worthy is the Lamb!
By Scott Parish
Orange Cove, California
Click Here to read Scott Parish’s Exit Letter
Dale Shultz’ Letter to California Workers
8557 Diamond Oak Way
Elk Grove CA 95624-1749
July 6, 2006
Included in this envelope, you will find the letter intended for the use of our staff concerning Ruben Mata and also the guidelines document which we hope can be of some assistance when future reports involving the molestation of minors are brought to us. A number of you have contributed to the content and wording of both the letter and the guidelines document and I want to thank each of you who have helped in the developing of both of these papers to their present form.
You will find enclosed one letter concerning Ruben for each field. The workers in the field will use the letter according to their own discretion. The letter can be shown to any of our friends who are questioning or are troubled concerning events which have involved Ruben or anything pertaining to the handling of his case in the past or present. The friends should read the letter in the presence of the workers in the field. We would rather that the letter not be left with friends over any period of time. It is hard to say who all might read the letter if that was done. If it is read in the presence of the workers, there can be further discussion and further questions can be asked. There may be rare cases in which it may be useful to show the letter to someone who is not professing – possibly to a victim. It may be well to check with us before using it in this way.
Of course, the guidelines just mentioned which apply to showing the letter to our friends would also apply if it was shown to someone who is not professing. We will ask you not to make any copies of this letter. To have one letter available in each field is certainly adequate. If we are not particularly careful with letters such as this, they can end of on an internet site for all the world to read. Also, to show this letter to people who do not need to see it may arouse concerns that they had not previously entertained. The purpose of the letter is to help those who have concerns, not to advertise a kingdom problem to those who either do not know about it or are not having a problem with it
There is a copy of the “guidelines” for each worker. It will be useful for all of you to have a copy for reference now and in the future. Over time, there may be changes to the suggestions that are made in this document. That is because legislation does change from time to time and also the available agencies to which reports can be made and the resources available to help victims and violators may also alter over time. It is good to remember that the legal framework in these guidelines is in the context of California law and that there may be variations to what is outlined here in other states and countries.
We have made a significant effort to ensure that the information provided both in the letter and the guidelines document is accurate and current. We hope that you will find both useful.
Yours in Him,
June 29, 2006
To Whom It May Concern:
Based on the information that we now have, we know that Ruben Mata sexually molested young boys during a period of at least 20 years prior to 2000. Ruben was in the work during this time. We have been informed of a half dozen cases for which Ruben is responsible and we wouldn’t know how many other cases there might be of which we have no knowledge. He inflicted this damage without his companions being aware of what was happening. One case came to the attention of a brother worker through a third party as early as 1996. This worker was inexperienced in handling this kind of problem and didn’t fully realize its seriousness and magnitude. No follow up action took place.
Word of another case was conveyed to sister workers but, again, they didn’t follow through with any definite action that would have brought the problem out into the open. A third case carne to the attention of another sister worker, apparently in November or December of 1999. During preps, in April of 2000, this sister told a brother worker about the report that had come to her. This brother passed the information on to Dick Middleton and Ruben was faced up with his problem at convention time. Ruben voluntarily relinquished his place in the ministry at Buttonwillow convention in May of 2000.
In June of 2000, Steve Peirson and Ray Bullick accompanied Ruben to the District Attorney’s Office in Tulare County where Ruben admitted to the offences that had come to light up until that time. The Assistant District Attorney interviewed Ruben. Dick Middleton asked Ray Bullick to help Ruben find professional help for his problem. A little start was made with counseling in June of 2000, but Ruben withdrew from any treatment program after a few months. Ruben was restricted initially to attending only designated meetings and was asked not to attend any meetings of our people sometime in 2002. Ruben was given to understand that he would need to further pursue a treatment program in order to facilitate any consideration of him attending meetings of our people in the future.
Another case surfaced within the past few months (this abuse occurred in 1999) which resulted in Ruben’s behavior again being reported to the authorities. This time, the authorities chose to investigate further and Ruben was arrested on Thursday, May 18. He is being held without bail. At a hearing in mid-June, an attorney was appointed to handle Ruben’s defense. We understand that his “guilty” or “not guilty” plea will be submitted at the next hearing which may take place sometime in July. Following this, the date of the actual trial will be set.
We feel very sorry that one of our fellow servants has caused so much harm to so many with its ensuing suffering, confusion and pain. This type of inappropriate behavior represents a very serious betrayal of trust and we feel keenly for the victims and their families who have experienced this betrayal first hand. We are also sorry that the ministry’s response to the problem was not as quick, definite and adequate as it should have been – especially with respect to what happened and didn’t happen prior to May of 2000. This was not due to deliberate irresponsibility on anyone’s part but can be attributed largely to the fact that those involved did not comprehend the seriousness and magnitude of what was taking place at the time and were inexperienced and uninformed regarding procedure. Nevertheless, we do wish to express our regret and offer our apology that such incidents ever happened and that the ministry’s response was not as quick, definite and adequate as we know it should have been as we look back over the situation now.
We have discussed this issue in our staff meeting at Mountain Ranch on Monday, May 22. We also discussed the appropriate course of action if any case involving the sexual molestation of a minor (17 years of age or younger) comes to the attention of a worker in the future.
A copy of this letter will be in the hands of each pair of active workers on the California workers list. It is to be used by the workers in their fields at their own discretion but primarily to help any who may have questions or are disturbed regarding this matter. We don’t want any further copies of this letter made and we want the initial copies to remain in the hands of the workers in their fields.
Dale Shultz CSA Guidelines for California Workers – July 2006
GUIDELINES REGARDING INCIDENTS OF CHILD SEXUAL MOLESTATION
(1) According to California law, workers fall into the legal category of “mandated reporters” and have a legal obligation to report any sexual abuse inflicted on a minor (person 17 years of age or younger) if she or he is still a minor at the time the information comes to us.
(2) There is no legal obligation to report a case where the victim is no longer a minor at the time the information comes to the worker (even though the abuse happened when the victim was still a minor), but there may be a moral obligation in some cases if there is reason to believe that other minors remain at risk.
(3) If you receive such information as a younger companion, take it to your older companion.
(4) The companions in a field are advised to take the matter to your regional overseer(s) or to your general overseer.
(5) The regional overseer(s) and general overseer will discuss the matter with the local workers who received the information with the option of bringing in any other consultants whom they agree may be helpful at arriving at decisions.
(6) We will discuss here four different directions to go with this information that comes from a victim, an offender or from a third party concerning the abuse. The selection of one of these or possibly a combination of two of these will depend on the particulars of the case you are handling and the level of cooperation you are receiving from the victim or offender. We need to remember that we have a legal responsibility as “mandated reporters” to report such cases and that the victim and offender would benefit from therapy. It is possible that other family members would benefit from therapy as well. While California law stipulates that a “mandated reporter” is required to report a case of child abuse within 36 hours of learning about it, we believe that the law would be flexible regarding the time factor. However, this stipulation does indicate the importance of dealing with the matter as soon as possible. Following are the four options regarding handling such information when it comes to us:
(a) There is a definite advantage in getting the victim and the offender to a certified counselor for help. This provides help for the victim in learning to deal with the experience. Therapy provides help for the offender in managing and overcoming his or her abusive tendencies. It also can transfer the responsibility of reporting the criminal conduct from the workers to the certified counselor. We are not freed from the responsibility of reporting a case simply because we have referred the victim or the offender to another “mandated reporter,” which in this case is the counselor. We should visit with the counselor and come to an understanding that he or she will assume the responsibility of reporting (if the case warrants it) rather than ourselves. The counselor has training and resources to better determine if the case should be reported. Also, it puts us in a better position to help people on both sides of the issue if we have not done the reporting.
(b) It would be possible to go to a counselor alone without the victim or offender and convey the information that has come to us. This would work best in cases in which the counselor already has had some experience with our group and has reason to trust us. In this way, the counselor (a mandated reporter) is receiving information from a third party (in this case, the worker also being a mandated reporter) and then there would need to be an understanding and agreement that the counselor accepts the responsibility to “report” or “not report” rather than the worker continuing to have that responsibility. This is one of the optional routes in cases where the victim or offender is unwilling to see a therapist.
(c) Another option is to report the incident to Child Protective Services which is part of the county Social Services Department. They will keep the name of the reporter confidential. There is a difference in reporting the case to Child Protective Services rather than directly to a law enforcement agency. The difference is that Child Protective Services will send a social worker to evaluate the case and determine its severity. This is one step removed from the law and does not put the responsibility of determining the validity or severity of the case on the workers. Child Protective Services has “mandated reporter status” and will report the case to the law if the decision is made that way. Child Protective Services will also refer the victim and/or offender to therapy (counselors). However, the victim or offender would also have the option of seeking out therapy on their own.
(d) The fourth option is to report the incident to the Police Department, the Sheriff’s Department or the County Probation Department. The initial report can be by telephone or in person followed up by filling out a required form issued by the California Office of the Attorney General.
Options (a), (b) & (c) would usually be the preferred ones – and sometimes a combination of two of them. In more severe cases, there may be instances when option (d) seems preferable.
(7) An offer to help the victim, victim’s parents or the offender in selecting a certified counselor would be in order unless they choose to let Child Protective Services look after that. We have friends who can help us in making these choices because of their associations in the work place. There may be instances where it would be helpful to offer to accompany the victim or the offender on their initial visit to a certified counselor.
(8) If a police report is filed, the family can apply for help with expenses through the California Victim Witness program. If their request is approved, the state of California will pay for counseling sessions for the victim and each member of the victim’s family plus other services and reimbursement for certain costs related to the incident, to the extent to which they are not otherwise covered by insurance.
More information is available online at www.boc.ca.gov or by contacting
California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board
Victim Compensation Program
P.O. Box 3036
Sacramento CA 95812-3036
(9) People who fall into the broad category of “clergy” can receive information of criminal conduct from a person of their congregation which could be legally classified as «penitential communication” and the failure of the clergy member to report this can be legally excused. There is quite a bit of grey area here and room for private interpretation. If an offender brings information about himself/herself to us in a spirit that we deem to be truly repentant, this would be the most clear cut category of “penitential communication.” On the other hand, if a victim brings information to us but doesn’t want it to go any further for reasons that seem valid to us, this could also be classified as this type of communication. If either a victim or an offender asks you to be completely confidential, it would be well to press the point that you would really prefer to discuss it with a very confidential fellow-worker or fellow workers. You may be in a position where you would say, “I cannot keep this completely confidential and still have a clear conscience before God.” That is something you would need to weigh up prayerfully, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Your decision may be influenced by the age of the victim as well. You may be more inclined to respect the plea for confidentiality from a 16-17 year old and less inclined to respect the plea for confidentiality from a 5-10 year old.
(10) Proverbs II: 14 “In the multitude of counselors there is safety.” There is an element of safety involved in a small group of people evaluating any such case. At the same time, it is very important that these matters (along with many others) be handled in a wise and confidential manner so that sensitive matters are not spread indiscriminately among people who do not need to know. We would soon lose the trust of the Lord’s people if we are not wise in this area.
(11) If information comes to us from a third party (neither the victim nor the offender), there is still an obligation (legally and morally) to follow through if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the abuse has occurred.
(12) As workers, we are trusted with our friend’s homes, children, spouses, cars, financial gifts, etc. It is a serious and damaging betrayal of trust if our conduct inflicts the kind of damage described in this paper on any person and family. We also need to recognize that parents may have apprehensions regarding their children being with workers – particularly, in a one on one situation. We should be sensitive to “appearances” and sensitive to the particular apprehensions that some parents may have. Of course, there are other areas of betrayal of trust that can be equally damaging. We need to live within safe parameters. We want to preserve our consecration as workers and the testimony of this ministry.