“Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.”Ephesians 5:11
There are a few posts and comments rising against my sharing the recent website of Genevan Commons screenshots because, along with the screenshots, standards, definitions, and a help and hope page, it provided the membership lists. And the membership list of the group also gives the information these members provided on their Facebook profile, such as their employers. I’ve been accused of both doxxing and slandering for sharing this website.
Since then the lists have been taken down on the website with this comment:
The membership lists were posted to prompt reflection on community responsibility*, especially that of church officers. The lists have hopefully served that purpose, and so have been removed.
Not all of those who were listed here as members were active participants in the Genevan Commons group. Some were added to the group and never participated. Some have since been removed from the group or have removed themselves. Some raised objections before leaving, and some left without saying anything.
Before those accusations came in, I made the statement on my blog post:
I have received a couple emails from people in Genevan Commons who were added to the group before it got belligerent, muted the group as the posts were frequent, and later were either purged when the group became more suspicious or removed themselves after the membership list you see on the screenshot website. It makes sense that not everyone on the membership list actually participated in the group or even paid attention to it. I was even added to the group originally (before Facebook updated the policy to require invitations that you need to accept) and paid no attention until I was tagged in a post where they were talking about me. After trying to reason with them and calling out their behavior, Shane Anderson kicked me out.
There are different levels to think about here, those like the above who aren’t really culpable, lurkers, and participants. Lurkers are guilty of breaking the nineth commandment as well. And of course, if anyone saw the behavior, it should have been rebuked before leaving.
There is a discussion to be had about both membership lists and also the way victims are treated. There seems to be a DARVO dynamic in the way some came after me for sharing that website which documented a sampling of how Genevan Commons obsessively slandered, inappropriately mocked, and plotted against me and others. DARVO is an acronym that describes spiritual or psychological abuse tactic when confronted: Deny, Attack, Reverse the Victim and Offender. I think the “Deny”can also be interchanged with “Downplay” (it was just a few out of the many, it was taken out of context, we’ve all got dirty hands, wait on the church courts to handle this…). So all of the sudden, in sharing the receipts of abusive and reviling behavior, I am called a slanderer who is ruining good mens’ reputations.
It does make me ask, is my reputation less important than the men who are members of this hate group? Are a group of members who have come to light more worthy of protection than me? Is telling the victims they are doing it wrong really the way you want to respond to this appalling behavior? Is it okay to call me out like this, bypassing the church courts, to protect these reputations, but not for me to address public abuse against myself?
But I do want to address this issue about membership lists and guilt by association that people are bringing up. What culpability does one have as a member of a group? What are we responsible for once we sign our name and include our Facebook profile? And does an officer in God’s church bear more weight of responsibility?
Like I said, I received a few emails from some who were added to Genevan Commons and paid no attention to what was going on in there. Some even muted them. I genuinely think there are a good number that were in the group that did not pay attention to them. They weren’t really culpable of breaking the ninth commandment, as they didn’t see the behavior. I was even one of those people over two years ago until I was tagged in the group. Nonetheless, these people who emailed me were still embarrassed and regretful for being associated with such membership. They apologized to me and said they have learned something about the responsibility of being a member of a group—especially as a church officer. They need to pay attention to what they join. We all have something to learn here. I will agree that many of us do have dirt on our hands. But rather than blame the people bringing it to light, shouldn’t we take this as a teaching moment? Can we not humble ourselves like these few who emailed me and take this as a lesson for the future? They don’t deserve a mob of vitriol. Sensible people can hear their explanations and sorrow and respect them all the more even. I know I really respected their reaching out to me. Thank you.
Then there were some who say they left the group over the behavior in there. Some confronted them about why they were leaving. Good on them for not wanting to participate in this behavior anymore. But their names were still on the list. Is that fair? That’s a good question to ask. In my post comparing GC screenshots with qualifications of an elder, I ended with this quote by Elie Wiesel: “What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.” Man, this is true. These people can safely leave the group while myself and others are continuing to be slandered, inappropriately mocked, harassed, and plotted against. This is why our confession is so detailed about breaking the ninth commandment:
Q. 145. What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?
- A. The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful or equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of the truth or justice; speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, talebearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vainglorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults; hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession; unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any; endeavoring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report, and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.
Good on those who confronted some before they left. But if the revilers were unrepentant and continuing their abusive behavior, why not inform the victims? And if you are officers in their denomination, it is your duty to pursue ecclesial action. Or, if they are officers in other denominations, bring this to light to those who can pursue it there. And for those who just silently left, the victims just don’t have that luxury. Isn’t this moment a good one to have this conversation? Where is the sorrow? This has all been traumatizing for the victims. Peter Levine is helpful in pinpointing how that is so: “Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold inside in the absence of empathetic witness.” It’s especially so for those of us who uphold male headship in the church. It is an extreme violation of trust.
Then there are those who have participated in the group. They are in the screenshots. There have been some arguments that the screenshots have some quotes taken out of context. However, in the website, you can click on any collage sampling to see the full thread. Some have parsed the individual comments to downplay what was actually said, as some commenters are not actually slandering or any of the above. But can one participate in a thread like that all nonchalantly as if there isn’t verbal abuse going on? Doesn’t that add another degree of complicitness? Again, we will use Martin Luther King Jr. this time: “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Just like the update I made, any members from Genevan Commons can make statements for why they were on the list. Some may not be culpable, but there is still a lesson for us all to learn about being members of these groups. Let’s have some profitable conversations here. If members or former members are concerned about their reputation now, they can defend themselves and speak against what has transpired at Genevan Commons.
But let’s be careful not to resort to community protectionism. I am grateful for those who have emailed me expressing their grief of being part of such a group, and even those who were not paying more attention to what they are members of. What an act of humility that we all can learn from.
I also need to be careful not to sin. Reading the confession on the nineth commandment breaks me. I have all kinds of heart issues to work through with these people. I have a community around me that I can be shepherded under, and many friends who are ministering to me. What a gift. I pray that I am not lashing out, encouraging “grievance mongering,” or seeking to destroy reputations of those who have hurt me. Yes, victims have to check their hearts too. And it is a vulnerable thing to do. What do we really want out of this? Well, the darkness needs exposed. We’d love to stop being harassed. And we want the men who are in spiritual authority over us to meet the qualifications of an elder and pastor. Those in the complementarian church who are up in arms over women in leadership need to be just as vigilant about qualification of the men in office. We want to be safe in our own churches.
We all need to grow. And I am not handling this perfectly. I’m stumbling along the way. I too want to be sorrowful where I am sinning. A friend really comforted me yesterday with the message that I am not expected to be perfect, or right about the Bible all the time, but to seek faithfulness in grace and truth. I am stumbling along, trying to be faithful here, fighting to love Christ’s church.
20 thoughts on “Fighting to Love Christ’s Church”
Thank you for your wise words. I think your comments can be expanded beyond FB groups and into our churches—imagine what our churches would be like if we felt responsible for the sins of our brothers and sisters.
Side note: i hate that this is happening to you—but had it not I would have never discovered your book and writing. God used their slander to bless me with your teaching. In no way do I wish to minimize your pain—but I do want to Glorify God because of you and how you are handling it!
I’m so sorry that you are experiencing this shameful behavior from those who call themselves followers of Jesus. I, too, have experienced abuse from churches and mission sending organizations. It certainly wasn’t at the international level that you are receiving because of the reach and power of social media, however, the pain, betrayal and trauma are real and deep. I get how thin the line is between righteous anger and sin and how one can wobble back and forth across it. I know first hand how difficult it is and how much conscious effort it takes to forgive and love like Jesus loves, My heart and prayers are with you.
One of the valuable suggestions from GriefShare for me grieving my third husband is to list ALL the losses in my life and pray about dealing with at least one of them.
So I did confront someone and it was very comforting. I was writing a seminary dissertation on counseling dementia caregivers, and my chair threw it in the trash and told me to go back to Alabama and write another chapter on dementia research. But I felt that wasn’t my audience.
I went back to that seminary the next morning and told Dr. ______ that I was depressed. He said I shouldn’t be—no further discussion.
So I went home and got a secular self-publisher Xlibris which did publish Getting Through the Dark Days of Caregiving but took money from me and I felt so abused by them. Now I have marketing reps and other publishers wanting my book for a fee!!!
Back to grieving that experience, I was able to call Dr. ________ and he said he still had the document on his computer and that seminary will offer me an honorary doctorate. I told Dr. ________
that I forgave him because Christ has forgiven me of my sins.
Meanwhile the LORD has used my book with others. One reader realized I wasn’t getting compensated and sent me a check for $150!
I SO admire your courage and the fact that you have a traditional Christian publisher.
Hugs and prayers,
Carol Noren Patterson
Whose late husband, incidentally, MD Dr. Charles C. Patterson, was helped with his late wife’s dementia by my Xlibris writing
Aimee, I’m sorry you’re enduring this. I appreciate your wisdom and humility here. I appreciate your work for the same reasons. You invite us to have reasonable and respectful conversations about hard topics. As brothers and sisters, we should be able to do that. I’m saddened that some refuse to do so. Keep doing the good work….many of us are listening and learning and fixing our eyes on Jesus. ” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved” Hebrews 10:39
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The entire fiasco makes me sick and angry and is a very condemning look at the way churches in general handle these kinds of situations. We MUST stop defending and shielding abusers and use church discipline appropriately.
I have left organized church because I saw how, within my very progressive and searching evangelical church, how church discipline was used as a power play- calling out a woman publicly for “not submitting” to church discipline, while her husband, who had also had an affair, was not publicly called out and shamed in the same way. Her sin? Refusing to reconcile with him and pursuing a divorce.
Either churches need to seriously examine the way “discipline” works and is applied within their communities, or stop the practice all together. Man standing in a place of judgement over God’s people is heresy. Discernment is good. Shaming, shunning, and mocking behaviors are *not.*
This entire community clearly needs to clean house. Any shaming of the victim of their abuse is complicit in the abuse.
I’m quoting myself here from my participation in a message board:
Unfortunately, in retrospect, Todd and Carl, if it was their choice, placed Aimee in a position that would open her up to scrutiny. The internet is toxic and brings out the indwelling sin of the saved and hypocrisies of the lost. Todd and Carl put themselves in a position that they had to protect her when they disagreed with her. And Amiee also put them in that position. Those who bashed Amiee may want to look very closely at what they said and take inventory as I do believe they really hurt her. I think Carl and Todd should seek to restore her. Carl is going to look like a bad guy here if he doesn’t reach out to her one more time with regret about the way she has been treated. I know he’s defended her but she really got hit hard with attacks about her looks, her demeanor, her intellect and her place.
I am guilty of questioning her intent because I think she did depart from established OPC practice and belief and I was surprised she didn’t think it was problem. ( Leading mixed bible studies, readings in church, instructing men. )
When called out she said she’s still learning. But when you write an authoritative type of book, there is responsibility that goes with it. Unfortunately, the theological and biblical discussion took a backseat to the politics which is a shame. I’m concerned with the denomination, not politics or a culture war… which is more of a devils domain at this point. Even though God controls all of it.
I think she (advocated) departing from established OPC practice and belief
Hi AJ, I do not depart from established OPC practice. If you read the OPC statement on women in the church, there is freedom for lay women to function in general office as teachers in mixed groups. I do not answer the question of women reading Scriptures in church and do say that it is the practice of my denomination to only have elders read. I have honored that, but my book is not only written for OPC. I bring it up as something to think about, not taking a position there.
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This was so well said. Full of grace and truth. You are quite an encouragement to us all by setting a godly example for us all to follow.
I am sorry this is happening to you. I pray God’s peace and protection for you and your family. I pray God’s justice on people who persist in abuse.
Thank you Aimee for being a righteous warrior.
This was very thought-provoking. I like having to go away and consider after reading.
Amy, it is good to be righteously angry over this. Remember how the only times we ever read of Jesus dealing harshly with others is when he dealt with the Pharisees. Jesus gives us a category for how we think about the outwardly religious, those who love their “theology” but show no fruit of the Spirit. Shame on those who are church leaders, they are “shepherds who feed only themselves, clouds without rain.” The qualifications of an elder are clearly to be Christ-like, not quarrelsome or contentious.
Unfortunately, the church is a magnet for abusers and narcissists. It shouldn’t surprise us when so much of the NT warns us of false teachers.
My husband is an elder in the OPC and is in seminary to become a pastor. He introduced me to your books and Podcast. I’m so glad he did. It brought me such encouragement. I met you at a conference in FL where you talked about one of your books… it was SO refreshing to meet such a woman of Christ (in the OPC!!) with such a LOVE and understand of the heart behind the doctrines and confessions we hold dear. You have been such an encouragement to me… I just wanted to write and hopefully encourage you.
May the Lord lift up your head and heart during this time. Loving sinners is hard. Loving sinners in the Church is harder! May you continue to KNOW you are loved and respected and appreciated and see more and more evidence that the cowardly voices on that fb group are NOT echoed by your true brothers and sisters in Christ.
So … Michael Spangler’s rebuttal posted today (link below) is about as connected to reality as Shane Anderson’s comments on this web site have been.
Just an FYI that if you click on the “22 Likes” to see who has liked Michael’s post, the number goes up by one, you realize you’re one of the ones who “liked” the post, you don’t learn who actually liked it (other than yourself), and then you think, “Oh, I see what you did there.” The only other option is to share the post. No disliking, no commenting, just liking and sharing.
Aaron I experienced the same. I clicked the like to see who was liking his article and it added another like. Then NO way to unlike it.
That article by Mr. Spangler was an extraordinary piece of self-justification and projection. I was particularly amazed by the author’s contention that disallowing vulgar personal rudeness, comments about appearance, and anti-female stereotypes would leave himself and his colleagues with no “weapons” with which to “attack” Mrs. Byrd, a fellow member of their own Christian denomination.
1 Tim. 5: 2 directs a clergyman (Timothy) to [treat] “older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity.” I don’t know the ages of the men of Genevan Commons, but I hope none of them speaks to or about his mother or sister in the terms they have directed toward Mrs. Byrd.
I intended to comment with a link to my reply. Thank you for doing it for me. I stand by my words and welcome anyone to contact me for further discussion.
Thank you, Aimee. If you are like me, you’ve told many pastors and elders about how badly you’ve been treated. You’ve told them about the problems you see and the areas of danger or concern you want addressed. You’ve even had pastors and elders approach you privately to tell you how sorry they are for what you’ve been through. And yet, little to no action is ever taken to prevent the continuation of sin and suffering. Nothing is done to protect others. No one takes initiative to call out the offender in any meaningful or official way. And then of course, there are the cynical, minimizing, or passive reactions of those who don’t think what’s happened is that big of a deal, and we must be exaggerating, or misunderstanding, and we need to stop being so sensitive. And we see the wagons begin to circle, and the ostriches reinsert their heads into the sand, and the evil men laugh and say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob takes no notice.” Psalm 94:7. These men have never kept their feelings a secret. They have reputations for being hostile towards women authors, branding anyone slightly to the left of their far right views as a “liberal” or a “feminist.” Those of us who know their names and are familiar with their reputations are unsurprised by anything in these screen captures. These screen captures simply confirm and expose what we already knew. I am praying for you, and thanking God that he is exposing your oppressors.
I do appreciate the response.
I don’t know what else to say.
Aimee, this was a well written explanation. Bless you. Hang in there. The pastoral Letters of John Newton may really minister to you during this difficult time.
It is clear you are shaking the principalities and the spiritual forces of darkness at work in the Church. I love watching how God is using you to rattle the chains of spiritual bondage holding so many men and women captive. I cant wait to see how God will move within you to empower and inspire so many more as you have inspired and empowered me as a survivor of the John Piper cult where I grew up. Stay strong, Aimee! World needs more like you!