I am sending this to let everyone know that I don’t intend to continue being in the work or to keep attending meetings. In making this decision I have no desire to do harm to anyone’s faith in God and Jesus, only to take my life out of the hands of overseers and place it entirely in God’s hands. I am not campaigning for people to leave the church but I fully support the ones who have and it is dead wrong to refer to them as “lost out”, being a part of the “falling away” or any of the other categories that they are often lightly thrown into when their decision was not made lightly. The church must take hold of its liberty in Christ and learn how to operate independently from the overseers before it can ever be healthy.
It sounds so inadequate to say, but I want to say thank you to Sheri Autrey, Lauren Rohs, and Cynthia Liles. I know hardly a fraction of what they have done over the past eight months and more, trying to help a church that refuses to help itself.
There is no end to what could be written, but many other exit letters have already said it far better than I could. Instead, I will paste some things that I have already written in emails to the NC/VA/MD/DE workers and some notes from things I said in NC and VA listening sessions.
Your friend and brother,
November 16, 2023
June 3, 2023 email to NC/VA/MD/DE workers:
“I think some of us have gotten too self-righteous about “not reading stuff on the internet” because it’s “not good feeding ground” and it has rendered us clueless in the current situation. The Bible itself gives a n unblinking, realistic account of some horrible things, including the failings of God’s own people. We all need to be aware simultaneously of what is going on and discussions that are happening so that we can face reality together. The cluelessness that I’m trying to call out is something I have been guilty of for a long time. I have “not gotten it” in every way there is to “not get it”, but there’s no need to stay that way.”
“Who is really happy and healthy among us, or do we feel we have to act that way, and that everyone else should too? I had a horrific nervous breakdown several years ago, simply from being a worker and trying to do what workers do and I often worry about the daily misery that my co-workers, especially the young ones, might be experiencing for reasons they can’t sort out. But there’s never time to really stop and think without the pounding drum of the next upcoming worker duty overtaking your thoughts. For many it has been far worse:”
“Eli’s sons were so despicable that the people abhorred the offering of the Lord. We should also acknowledge God’s displeasure that many have been robbed of the ability to enjoy fellowship among us. We have lived to the drumbeat of the gospel meeting, special meeting, convention routine for so long that we are hypnotized. We can’t tear ourselves away from this religious routine long enough to get together and address a very obvious crisis as the family that we supposedly are.”
June 5, 2023 email to NC/VA/MD/DE workers:
Are any of us interested in having a discussion about how we’ll communicate with our young families about keeping their children safe at convention this year?
Hodgie Holgerson molested a child in Hawaii before eventually moving to Virginia. We didn’t know this but it was whispered about among our friends for years that “something happened” with a hushed fearfulness that they might be gossiping or too judgmental. Hodgie has been attending Virginia conventions for years and using his beekeeping hobby to groom and gain access to children. There is now another allegation, from more recent years, that has surfaced since the one that prompted our letter. This game of “who can be the most spiritual” can be a dangerous one when we can’t say what we know or feel for fear of being considered not spiritual enough.
If being spiritual means never getting upset about anything, ever, then I have started to lose the game badly. When Jesus was turning over tables there was probably someone reminding him that it was a house of prayer and to calm down. (Written before Ron Thomke spoke this very thing at Downings this year)
This is the Lord’s war with Amalek in OUR generation, why is it so upsetting that some want to blot out his remembrance from under heaven, instead of sparing him for another generation?
It is hard to give yourself to evangelism when you’re unsure of how a vulnerable new babe might be treated, or what old and dead traditions might be thrust on them, like a yoke that neither we nor our fathers were able to bear.
The next time there is a septic problem during a convention I’ll remind everyone that God is on the throne, to not let their heart be troubled, and assure them that I’m going to go pray about it. If it’s really bad we’ll call in the help of the older brothers, who apparently have more access to the Holy Spirit than the rest of us, based on what we’re hearing back from some. If I live another twenty or thirty years, I look forward to the benefits of this extra dispensation.
Can anyone offer a starting point for coming together and having conversations and considering questions that are not the least bit new among our friends, who open their homes to us?
June 24, 2023 Holly Springs, NC listening session
Jared shared that he felt that this was an initially slow and personal process that began for him when the information was shared about Dean Brue r and became more intense with the news of more overseers having to step aside due to allegations. He felt very much that the Lord is purging His ministry and this began for him a process of self examination and then opening himself to God’s examination that He would reveal if there was anyone he had not listened to or not been there for in their time of need. More broadly, we should be asking, as a ministry, who have we failed and what can we do for them?”
July 11, 2023 Huntersville, NC listening session
● If I love someone’s soul, I want them to believe in Jesus. If they believe in Jesus, that will get them to heaven and eternal life. They don’t have to believe in a homeless, celibate, 2 x2 ministry. They just need to believe in Jesus.
● God knows who and where people are. God can keep them alive and feed them. That’s the kind of servant I want to be, to feed that faith. I don’t know what my future will look like, but that’s what faith is, isn’t it? Does it require more faith to do the same thing you’ve always done, or to do what you’ve never done before when God is asking for it?
Aug 3, 2023 Bolivia, NC listening session
I also think about realizing the experience of a survivor of abuse and how we have failed to understand the long term trauma they experience. We’ve had a goal of getting people in meetings, but now I can understand why they couldn’t bring themselves to come to meeting. Jeremiah 6:4-16 NIV “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.”
I feel like this is something we have done. People who have been wounded in the worst kind of way, just had their wound not taken seriously and we do need to feel ashamed of that. I wish I could take a walk back through my 21 years in the work and change things I may have said or thought about people who stopped coming to meetings in the past. As these meetings have been going on, things have been changing and one thing I have been thinking about recently is there is a strong possibility of a split and people pulling back from coming to meetings. That is not a choice that anyone is making lightly and it is quite agonizing for them.
Aug 8, 2023 Fredericksburg, VA listening session
Collectively we have not entered this process of repentance as a ministry. The reaction of some will be “I haven’t done anything.” Ask God what HAVE I done? Who have I harmed? Experience of a victim: not just what was done but years later processing, speaking up but not being believed, seeing nothing done to the offender, can’t go to meeting so others say they “lost out” or have gotten offended. This is an agonizing struggle. So we’ve all done harm at times by not understanding people and what they’ve gone through.
At recent sessions it has been pointed out that we ask, who is being brought into the fellowship? But should we be asking how many have we driven away? We’ve driven many away. So what does God want? God has given no guarantee that this ministry will continue like it is, but He and His Son will be there. Also there’s no guarantee what this fellowship will be. But put your faith in Him.
Referring to ourselves as the “kingdom” – it’s actually whoever is serving the king. Who’s submitted to the king. Can we say that we are the only ones on the earth that are right while all of this is going on? Seems foolish. The Lord knows who are his. Shameful that we have said our form is the truth, not Jesus. God has been very merciful to us as a people. Makes you wonder what he wants next. Maybe interact with others in our community who are also trying to be Christians.
Sept 2023 Greensboro, NC convention
I want to add my witness to Greg’s [Swenson], I have also had visits with people who have decided to stop coming to meetings for the time being and they are not losing out or falling away from God. A friend that I grew up with testified in court about a criminal act of abuse done to a child by an elder that she witnessed and the overseer made it known that she was not to be in meeting if she testified – that overseer is still in the work, and where does that leave her? It goes beyond that. We have brothers and sisters in Christ that have a relationship with God, believe in Jesus, are born again, are seeking to be led by the Holy Spirit, and will inherit eternal life who have never met or heard a worker. They don’t know this ministry or fellowship exists and they are alive to God. Something we need to chew on. Why aren’t we having fellowship with those people.