Aimee Byrd

Inside the word. Outside the box.

On June 19th, I shared some screenshots from a website with church officers in my denomination and other Reformed denominations, comparing the behavior revealed there to the biblical qualifications of an elder. The screenshots were from the Genevan Commons Facebook group (GC). Since then, I have received numerous encouraging messages and notes of support. Officers in my denomination wrote an open letter . I have also received numerous messages from women who have suffered under spiritual abuse. It’s overwhelming. The question is, where do we go from here?

I’m thankful to have some church officers advising me and asking some good, critical questions about what I hope will come out of all this. It’s caused me to do a lot of reflection. I’m thinking deeply about the role of social media, responsibility in how we use it, the distinctions between the weight and value of informal and formal ecclesial processes, and the complexities of how they may work together in this case.

I am listening and feel the weight myself of what the formal process can and cannot accomplish. I am grateful for the open letter signed by ninety plus officers in my denomination. This was an informal act, yet I believe carries an important weight. The public abusive behavior of church officers in our denomination was rebuked publicly. Finally.

But it continues.

A month after the Genevan Commons website exposed the behavior of these church officers, the Presbytery of the Southeast (PSE) of the OPC passed a motion to investigate the behaviors from officers in their presbytery in this Genevan Commons group, as some of the worst offenders leading the way were in their presbytery. However, one of the members they appointed to this committee is/was a Genevan Commons member who has written critical articles of both Rachel Miller’s work and my own. This is a conflict of interest to the investigation, especially when no signers of the Open Letter were appointed to the committee. It also made no sense to me that no one from the committee had contacted the victims with any questions. They seemed more concerned about investigating the signers of the Open Letter than caring for victims of harassment from their own church officers. This is curious, as they are not only gathering information here—real people in their denomination are still under spiritual abuse from church officers in their presbytery. You’d think you’d want to hear from them. Instead, my session was contacted by a member of this committee, asking that they silence me. This is re-traumatization 101. Silence the victims as they work on image control rather than protecting and ministering to the hurting sheep.

Two months after the committee was formed, I was contacted and asked to meet with the committee via Zoom. Two months. I declined, as the next day charges were filed against Bennie Castle, Shane Anderson, and Michael Spangler. These charges were not filed by the committee.

Who Pays the Price?

The painful and difficult part of coming to terms with what is and isn’t happening right now is that everything that has furthered the process has been at my cost. Waiting for men with authority to act came at my cost. I kept waiting. The abuse escalated. In sharing the screenshot website, I provided the public exposure that had to happen for the hope of justice and reformation. Years have gone by with this harassment increasing, church officers seeing it, and nothing happening. It’s still continuing. It’s blown my mind to see what church officers can get away with on social media (and how quickly they try to use their authority to silence the victims). Over this time, it has even infiltrated my own church. While I didn’t want to publicly comment on this situation, it was exposed with a false narrative by an administrator of GC, Shane Anderson, after one of my own elders, a GC member, fed him this information and shared a letter written by our elders to our congregation. This is much more painful than the public stuff. I’ve lost friends over this. I’ve moved back to my own blog. And just like all the other times I’ve confronted GC members, they have responded by digging in their heels and turning on me. I am what’s wrong. They are the gatekeepers, sacrificially saving the the OPC from me.

Every attempt to have this abuse addressed has been at my cost. And the cost of other women—women doing the work to get this far. We are the ones accused of slander, deepfaking, manipulating data, of not waiting on the church courts for due process. We are being intimidated, threatened with civil charges, and it’s been suggested that I may think I have a free pass to sin against the ones who have hurt me. Apparently it is sinful to bring darkness to light. Meanwhile the behavior and the responsibility of the members of GC has been minimized and downplayed, as “we all get our hands dirty with inappropriate speech online sometimes.” Public reviling and nefarious plotting from church officers has been discounted as a mere imbroglio news story that has now passed—the heat is now out of the kitchen. Everybody move on. Aimee, stop talking about it. Let the church do her work.

Even listing these things seems so reductive because they are all so incredibly weighty, each adding another level of betrayal and pain. And that won’t be satisfied in charges.

Charges do not address the community protectionism, where those who could take a stand to rebuke this behavior, and follow through if it still continues, have repeatedly chosen to evade responsibility. How many church officers have stood by in silence when they could do something? When they could do the very protecting they champion that men are supposed to do?

Women have had to do it.

And then the opposite of male protection happens, and they turn on us. I’m constantly on the defensive, constantly having to do the work where I’m misrepresented, slandered, etc. Just the other week, I was traveling to a two-cop town to a wonderful RCUS church in Nebraska, only to find out that Shane Anderson had repeatedly contacted the pastor there to warn him how dangerous I am. I cannot escape it. The well keeps being poisoned against me and my work and I keep having to point out where the drops of poison are in the water, even as it should be as clear as day. It’s exhausting, painful, incredibly stressful, and non-stop. And there is this underlying accusation from some, “Well you are the troublemaker who asked for it.” Like I deserve this for talking about women and discipleship! And for speaking truth about abuse!

I am constantly receiving detrimental messages about my value as a person. Often by officers in my own denomination. And I have to continuously ask, “Am I crazy?” “What is wrong with me?

I know there are some who have done a lot of work, and I don’t want to discredit that any here. I am so grateful for those who have come alongside working not only in the behind the scenes ways that are so needed, and without which none of this would be addressed, but also in truly shepherding me throughout. I am so grateful for that. I am also grateful for my pastor and some of my elders who have shepherded me through some painful moments. I know that without them I would probably have given up and just left the OPC. I love my local church. But even so, I sit in despair with the latest developments.

I look at the formal process, the work that those in authority to govern the church need to do, and see that is really just the minimum of what needs to happen. It should be basic that we should not have spiritually abusive pastors and leaders in our denomination. Think of how fast our leadership would move if a church in our denomination ordained a woman. Why are we not moving as fast for the other qualifications of eldership? Why would we not be just as swift to use the masculine representation of the Bridegroom to protect the bride from abuse?

As my husband says, after merely one day’s experience with Genevan Commons, you don’t even have to be a believer to know how vile it is. And an unbeliever would ask, “What is the matter with Christians? Why are they so full of hate? Why do they treat their women like this?” And we are talking about church officers here. It’s basic.

What Do We Really Want Out of This?

Even so, I see clearly how charges, even if filed, even if victorious, do not address the heart issues. They also do not address all of the pain and destruction that is left behind. I think this is a real issue that reformed denominations need to look at. In a sense, formal charges should be a last resort because we first want to informally address these heart issues, hoping for change. Hoping for repentance. Hoping for reconciliation. That’s what we really want. Firstly, restoration to Christ. Secondly, to his people. And in a case when spiritual abuse is involved, the repentant person in spiritual authority should see that they need shepherding at this point and not to have this kind of authority over God’s people. They have so violated trust with God’s people, that a sincere apology would include action that is sensitive to this. Voluntarily stepping down would be an action that shows the weight of their responsibility to God as an office bearer as well as putting boundaries in place out of respect for the victims of their abuse. Because they are valued.

By the time charges are filed, it means hearts are hardened at destructive levels. But the victims of this destruction must continue at this point to move through the destruction to pursue justice. The “i’s” that must be dotted and the “t’s” that must be crossed in the formal process are but symbols and reminders of how their value has been trampled upon. The informal process to get this far can often be traumatic for the victims, as they put themselves out there with the truth, only to be gaslit by the perpetrators, watch them manipulate others that should be helping the victim, and sabotaging the process as much as possible, likely trying to reverse the order of the victim and the offender. So while charges may be a necessary part of the process, the process itself hurts the very people it is set up to protect. This is something that needs more discussion in our churches. This is where the leadership in the churches should consult the people in the margins, as those who are leading the process can gain perspective to better care for the sheep. So charges, even if filed, even if victorious, and even if they supply a small amount of justice, are executed while the wounds of the hurting are still very open, exposed, and vulnerable.

The church should care about this.

I do see God’s providence at work in my own situation. I see how even these painful steps have driven me to Christ, given me more resolve, a space to breathe, and to think more about my goals in writing. There are so many layers to this. With all of the backlash from my writing on women as disciples, whether from ACE, CBMW, or GC (which are not in the same boat when it comes to destructive behaviors), there is a connecting theology of the ontology of male and female that “justifies” their actions. This theology itself devalues women. It even robs them of their personhood. It’s all so ironic, as it is their understanding of the nature of authority that makes them abuse the authority that they do have—using it not in benevolence to serve and invest in the growth of others, but to hold over others. They insist in power OVER rather than power TO. And so you’ve got seminaries and parachurch organizations pumping this theology of an ontology of male authority and female subordination out. (And I have seen a distorted view of the nature of authority used against men in the church as well. They do turn on their own.)

Another layer is that as seminaries are pumping out ministers, making sure they have their theology all “right” (and given the above paragraph that sometimes includes this unbiblical theology of man and woman), they just let known character issues slide. Multiple people have expressed to me that the behavior in GC is a result of what they’ve already observed about the pride issues of some of these offenders while in seminary. This is so unscriptural, as the majority of qualifications for office in the Bible have much to do with character.

So yes, I think charges filed is the minimal action that needed to happen. But we should not be aiming for the minimum that needs to be done. Big conversations need to happen in our church denominations about community responsibility, character in leadership, and the nature of authority. We need to talk about how to train pastors to spot and navigate through confronting abuse and how to care for victims well. Our governing church order should support this. It’s time to examine our theology of man and woman and what effects that has on discipleship and even our dignity as brothers and sisters in the church. We also need the freedom to disagree within the bounds of our confessions and discuss the way we treat those whom we have differences with. Church officers should model this best! We can have all our theology right and not have love.

And then we’ve missed Christ.

One benefit of a formal process, such as this committee formed by the PSE, is that it is now open to public scrutiny. That’s a good thing. But from my end, when I heard about this committee, I feared more protectionism, image control, and no tangible care for the women in their denomination who continue to be harmed in the process. Read on, and you will see that confirmed.

I understand that the formal process takes time because we want to protect the constitutional rights of the accused. But what we haven’t addressed is how this time is taken at the expense of those who are harmed. How do we get protected? If it takes years to begin the formal process, and another year or so to see it through, what is left of the reputation and dignity of someone like me, Rachel Miller, Valerie Hobbs, and many more in this process?

The church needs to consider what the formal process does not accomplish. Charges don’t address the heart issues and all the destruction that is left behind to get there. They don’t address the infected system that has enabled spiritual abuse. They don’t address what all the dotted “i’s” and crossed “t’s” in their process symbolize—dehumanized, broken women. Is the PSE going to investigate all that? 

Genevan Commons is just case in point of an entire culture. All of these layers that need addressed won’t happen if the women are told to be quiet now and let the church handle it. We should never stop talking—our denominations need to be like Christ and say, “Let me hear your voice” (Song of Songs 2:14).

So where does the church go from here?

Let’s see what action has been taken.

This weekend the PSE met and ruled to receive the recommendations from the report that this “committee” submitted. Additionally, the Judicial Matters Committee ruled on the charges against these three church officers in my denomination.

Dr. Valerie Hobbs, a linguist who specializes in religious language,  analyzed the report of this committee’s recommendations. I highly recommend that you read it—especially if you are in the OPC. You can read it here. I just want to make a few comments to highlight what is going on. The committee’s recommendations are a public document and you can access it here.

What you won’t read about are any real victims, not even a thought about them. Instead:

“It is the united perspective of the committee that the work of Mrs. Byrd warrants thorough, substantive, and careful review and critique by the OPC. Regardless of one’s position on the merits of Mrs. Byrd’s publications, they are obviously closely related to this present disruption to the external peace and order which Christ has established in the Church (WCF 20.4).”

I am a disruption, the one who is causing division in the church! Not the abusers. What could I have written that deserves that kind of reviling and abuse?! They also rebuke the 90+ signers of the Open Letter. Michael Spangler is a scapegoat, but they still paint him in good light, emphasizing how “readily to meet” them he was. And according to them, Shane Anderson was so “honorable” in his interactions with the committee. They use the word “brothers’ a lot. They minimize the reviling and harassing behavior on GC as a narrow set of issues from the wide scope they supposedly discuss. Instead of calling out misogyny, they refer to it as sarcasm and disparagement, saying it’s mostly not from men in their presbytery (one man would be bad enough, but two of the men charged were administrators of GC leading the way). More space was taken to condemn the creator of the screenshots website and the signers of the Open Letter than any of the church officers exposed in it.

Then there’s the sin leveling:

“Throughout its work the committee has encountered a similar theme with respect to all parties involved. Each ‘side’ in this controversy has been very quick to point the finger of accusation to the other, while seemingly very slow to engage in careful, humble, self reflection. Let us remember that our standards define sin as ‘any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God’ (WSC 14).”

Can someone please point out to me where I have participated in spiritual abuse? Or where calling out abuse is sinful? And how is it that the very basics are missed here—the great responsibility of those in spiritual office?

So the recommendations were approved—

  1. That the PSE erects a committee of three presbyters to contemplate bringing a charge or charges of an offense against Rev. Spangler (BOD III.8.a).
  2. That the PSE asks Mr. Shane Anderson to meet with the Committee on Shepherding to discuss his online conduct.
  3. That the PSE petitions the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic to erect a study-committee to examine the writings of Mrs. Aimee Byrd and publish its findings.
  4. That Presbytery dissolves this committee.

Michael Spangler is the only one being considered for a charge, Anderson gets a talking to, and let’s investigate Byrd.

*Correction: The recommendation asking Shane to meet was defeated. Even worse. No need for the talking to.

And the Judicial Matters Committee’s ruling on the charges?

  • Presbytery approved the recommendation to augment the session of Greensboro (Shane Anderson’s church. He is one of three elders. Spangler is another of the three.) with additional interim elders to handle the charges against Anderson. 
  • Presbytery approved the recommendation to decline the charges against Castle, saying there’s not of sufficient weight to warrant a trial.
  • Presbytery approved the recommendation to ask the JMC to conduct a preliminary investigation regarding Spangler and report back.

So this is how Presbytery meetings go? No discussion about the character of church officers? As one friend put it, instead of outrage over the dignity of their sisters that they are called to shepherd, pastors have become lawyers. The real issue is trapped in a web of convoluted rules and regulations that protect abusers.

Where does the church possibly go from here? How is it even safe for people like me—who are mistreated by church officers—to be in the OPC? This presbytery meeting speaks volumes on what is valued. It isn’t the people under their care. It is their own authority and secrets. And the procedures that protect them.

41 thoughts on “Who is Valued in the OPC?

  1. janetlynnem says:

    Aimee, wow…I’m so glad you’ve taken the time to examine this and expose the behaviour of the “shepherds” who are supposed to be caring for the flock. If I were them, I’d be shakin’ in my boots. God is watching. Ezekiel 34. He sees, He cares, He is like a mother hen protecting her chicks. Hide in Him, and wait. You may not get satisfactory justice in this life, but you can be sure that God is JUST and He will bring justice to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so sorry for the abuse you’re enduring. These church leaders who use their power to harm others are only “leaders” in name. They are not shepherds; God calls them wolves. May we continue to be courageous enough to keep exposing the wolves and shining light in dark places.

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  3. Fellow OPC Woman Who Wants to See Peace says:

    For crying out loud, don’t claim they didn’t try to listen to you when you ignored their request to talk. And I don’t know what you want. The role of the church court is simply to use judicial action to guide churches into spiritual action. If you have a problem, go talk to the elder getting added to Anderson’s session. That’s where the actual work is being done. They are all members in good standing just as you are and like to remind everyone and so they will receive similar treatment as you will until things get determined. What do you want? Mourning and gnashing of teeth? Not excusing what they’ve done, I disagree with it completely, but They’ve sought to reconcile with you and you’ve ignored it. That’s it’s own form of spiritual abuse. You’re committing massive general slander against your denomination. If you don’t like the system they’ve put in place, go where you get what you want.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m curious. If you have a case in court. And the investors spent more than two out of three months talking to the accused. Yet not once getting your side of the story until the last month, when charges were being filed and not reaching out to any of the other affected members, would you feel as if the investors were doing an impartial job.

      To me it sounds like the commitee had learned that charges were being drawn up, and then quickly reached out to her. Otherwise, why wait till the very last minute to reach out to her and no one else.

      Like you said that the role of the church court is to provide spiritual action, why then did they not take action to reach out to the accusers in the beginning to get the story and their side of the issue? Why wsit till the last minute and only attempt to contact one after charges had already been in drafting in the works?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Cynthia W. says:

    Mrs. Byrd, you ask a very interesting question. From your discussion and Valerie Hobbs’s analysis, it sounds as though *what* is valued is “a status quo free of public conflict,” and *who* is valued is “members of the official hierarchy and bureaucracy.”

    The fact that “brother” Shane Anderson is still, months after the original GC revelations, contacting hosts of your speaking engagement in an attempt to harm you is … extraordinary.

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  5. sarahsharp7 says:

    Where do we go from here? As with almost every abusive and narcissistic relationship, the only solution is to leave. I’ve experienced many similar things on a smaller scale in my own reformed church, sadly. I suspect many, many women will relate to what you’re feeling, Aimee, and have hesitated to use big words like abuse or neglect to describe their experiences in reformed circles. But that’s exactly what it is! I’m grateful to you for sharing so openly and for giving us some framework to name and discuss our experiences.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Kevin says:

    Why not leave and join a denomination that will care about you? Is fighting *in the OPC* worth slowing down your over all ministry for Christ? Life is only so short. The PCA and EPC would love you. Even the URCNA. There are options. Don’t get caught in lawyer games. Serve the kingdom.

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  7. Presbyter says:

    Correction: Committee recommendation #2 failed.

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  8. Becky E says:

    Aimee, it’s concerning to see the Committee’s call to study your writings as “related to this present disruption” but zero reference in their report (unless I missed it?) to the OPC’s 1988 Report on Women In Office or to how the GC leadership’s position is divisive compared to that 1988 report. The content of that report is relevant to the behavior and teaching of the officers, I think. For example, Michael Spangler’s definitions of patriarchy and feminism clearly place the complementarian position of that 1988 report in the category of feminism! Those who rally with Spangler are generally agreeing with his definitions, best as I can tell. I do wonder if Spangler et al would label the authors of that 1988 report as wolves due to their complementarian position?

    Clearly the 1988 report should be considered as a guiding document in investigating the current “disruption” and identifying the true disruptors, though I understand the report itself is not a binding standard.

    I also wonder to what degree we are seeing a geographical divide in the OPC. I guess I am hoping that the PSE is an outlier and will submit to wiser/broader counsel outside the presbytery. My own experience in the OPC was in PA and NJ, where I was treated as a beloved sister or daughter in the faith and it was always assumed by church leadership that I had gifts with which to serve the local church. I’m not sure I ever heard “patriarchy” articulated by my beloved pastors and elders in those 11 years in the OPC. I personally know several good men who signed the Open Letter to GC. The attitude reflected in the PSE and in GC stands in stark contrast to my experience in the OPC elsewhere. I pray that wiser saints prevail.

    Thanks for this informative update, Aimee.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. DragonLady says:

    I am so sorry you are going through this. I’ve been following you for a few years, and you do not deserve abuse for speaking truth.

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  10. joepote01 says:

    This is heart-breaking, Aimee! 😦

    I have no advice… just sorrow for this situation… and admiration for your courage.

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  11. luxveritasvirtusdg says:

    You have two choices. You submit yourself to your governing church authority and trust that the due process has been handled appropriately as you’ve vowed to do when vowing membership in the OPC, or you leave and break fellowship causing a host of problems for yourself and others.

    I would implore you to investigate further the inner thoughts of “am I crazy?” that you’ve been having. Not that you are in fact crazy, but don’t discount the author of lies ability to spin conviction that way. If you leave your denomination, the way it seems your planning to already, you will exist in perpetual victimhood hereafter. Don’t do that to yourself.

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  12. Carol Noren Patterson says:

    Glad I didn’t join the OPC here in Alabama. I am in the EPC.

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  13. Cris A Dickason says:

    Aimee – you are valued in my OPC, that is in the OPC as I wish it would be, and hope it may yet be. An OPC that puts serving one another as a valued way of expressing fidelity to Christ and his church. An OPC that sees ministers & ruling elders tending to the (local) flock in their care, and not seeking to lord it over the reformed world by means of social media. An OPC that finds our common confessional standards, and their high view of Scripture, to be a source of strength for reaching out to the stranger welcoming them into our fellowship. An OPC that finds our common confessional standards, and their high view of Scripture, to be a source of strength for reaching across the pew, aisle, lunch table to lend an encouraging hand brother to brother, sister to sister, brother to sister, and sister to brother, so that we can display that we are all living stones, being built up into a spiritual house and holy priesthood, as a people for God’s own possession we might proclaim the excellencies of the One who called us out of darkness and showed us mercy.

    As an OPC ruling elder, with the slightest of chances that I could be involved in the now public process (appeal to a higher judicatory), let me assure you, those you are dealing with do not represent the monolithic opinion of the OPC. I pray you’ll take heart, as I pray that ministers and elders will be courageous for the Church and discipline offending members of Presbyteries and sessions AND actively reach out to those victimized by sin.

    Parting thought: If church discipline has a goal of restoring the offender, it surely also needs to have the goal of upholding and restoring the victims of sin.

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    1. Cris A Dickason says:

      Meant to write >> As an OPC ruling elder, with the slightest of chances that I could be involved in the now public process (appeal to a higher judicatory), this is all I should say<< Let me assure your….

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  14. dtetheman says:

    The response of the SE presbytery does represent the historic OPC. This is not the denomination of Machen, Stonehouse, Murray and Van Til. This is the response of Reformed extremists who love power and to hear their own names mentioned and extolled. it sounds like what Jesus said about the scribes in Matthew 23.

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  15. Carol says:

    I am sorry you are going through. My family left the OPC over some issues regarding elders misleading the flock. When challenged about their lies they fabricated what they said in the past and tried to gaslight us with a new account of the situation. When anyone (which was quite a few families)brought up the real facts they would deny it and say we just had to follow them as they were are elders. We put out feelers to the presbytery about addressing the issue but the well had already been poisoned. To top it off the women were blamed for leading their husbands astray . The whole affair made me so grieved and to this day I find it difficult to trust leadership.

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  16. Suzanne says:

    Reblogged this on The View From the Sidelines and commented:
    This is sad but not surprising. A lot of bad ideas and teachings have become so entrenched that it’s hard to deal with things honestly downstream from them. I do not think the solution will be found within corrupt organizations, but through a new Reformation, that corrects many of the bad ideas that have taken such deep roots.

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  17. “Let the church do her work.”

    I find it an incredible irony here that the church is referred to as “her” and that this body of people is biblically known as the bride of Christ. If men in the church talked about Her the way they talk about other women…

    As a side note, Aimee, I’m nearly done reading “No Little Women” and it has been both challenging and encouraging. Thank you, sister, for using your words to edify and strengthen the body of Christ.

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  18. Bev says:

    So sorry. So wrong. Toxic authoritarian leadership. I have experienced and witnessed similar patterns in the CRC… There is something twisted re power and control, especially when challenged by women that brings out a hostile response…

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  19. Lucas Baumbach says:

    I reached out to you in brotherly love as a student of GPTS, letting you know we aren’t all Facebook warriors. It saddens me that you are speaking low of the actions of discipline which are meant to reign in uncharitable behavior. You risk letting Rev. Spangler off the hook by lashing out at the efforts at discipline; being above reproach you are more likely to get your desired outcome. I think it is time to reach out to heal wounds and be forgiving of those who persecute us, like our Saviour who asked that those who killed him be forgiven.

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    1. Cynthia W. says:

      “I think it is time to reach out to heal wounds and be forgiving of those who persecute us, like our Saviour who asked that those who killed him be forgiven.”

      Mr. Baumbach, wouldn’t this view allow abusive leaders to remain indefinitely in positions of power, continuing to cause harm to others? Is there a limiting principle that would allow any temporal relieve to the victims of abuse?

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    2. Mark Schaefer says:

      Lucas, you demonstrate a low view of OPC church discipline yourself. You say “You risk letting Rev. Spangler off the hook by lashing out at the efforts at discipline”. If, as you claim, the OPC leadership may decide the case, not on the merits, but whether the parties present themselves well, then you are arguing that these men are not being guided by the Holy Spirit.

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  20. annaandbrent says:

    As I read about recent developments, it seems both predictable and incredible. I have many ideas about how many NAPRCs have ended up here. One is an overconfidence and overemphasis on Christianity as the object of academic inquiry — that great strides lay ahead if only we apply our mind to the objective data. Yes, we apply the gifts God gives us to whatever our hands (minds) find to do, but we must always consider the fruit of our studies. God gives us a measure to help us, for the law is summed up in love of neighbor. Is love the tone of the OPC PSE report? Or does the report evidence that the accused men in the OPC PSE have been further entrenched in convictions which they are ready to guard at all costs. In other words, is there anything in the report that evidences humility and asking, “Is there any wicked way in me (Am I vindicating my own vindictiveness)? Lead me in the way everlasting.” As you have mentioned, Aimee, Machen started the OPC in the aftermath of his own experience of gross injustice in the PCUSA ecclesiastical courts, and the BCO reflects his desire to assure the protection of OPC officers from similar injustices, but officers are a small percentage of the denomination. I find it notable that the word “woman” does not seem to appear in the BCO, whereas Mosaic civil law shows an awareness of the social vulnerability of women to the abuse of those in power over them, a concern echoed in the gospels in Jesus’ earthly ministry. Finally, if (as one of your commenters suggested) the PSE is unique, and its uniqueness is preserved by unique seminaries feeding its pulpits, why has this been overlooked by other presbyteries for so long? Can busyness be used as an excuse? We are not yet under our own vine and under our own fig tree. Is it true that in the entire history of the OPC no woman has ever successfully pressed charges in the OPC at the level of the GA? If that is true, it is a statistic to be concerned about for the sake of future OPC daughters and granddaughters. I think you are right to see that there are foundational convictions about women rooted in natural theology that must be investigated. It is my prayer that serious consideration might be given to the ontology of woman, that lends itself to greater charity.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Mark Schaefer says:

    The trouble I have with the actions of the committee is that lack of wisdom may be an appropriate defense against willful malice, but “full of wisdom” is still a qualification for the office of elder. Acts 6:3 – “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.”

    1 Tim 1:6-7 – “For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.”

    So, taking the most gracious view of these men, they are simply lacking wisdom about how to talk lovingly and respectfully with and about women. As such, they should repent of their lack of wisdom, resign their ordination and seek wisdom.

    Again, speaking graciously, the committee’s misquote of WCF 20.4, is probably not spiritually abusive, perjury and making a claim of guilt about someone’s writing while claiming a refusal to judge it. It’s probably, likewise, a simple lack of wisdom that makes them take a quote, out of context, that “disruption to the external peace and order” is somehow a problem. Interesting that the same Christ who established this peace and order said “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matt 10:34)

    Keep in mind, that in WCF 20.4 “ecclesiastical authority” is not decided by votes. The authority comes from Jesus and is, in the pure church, recognized by the sheep.

    I find this much more telling about the concern of WCF 20.4: “In response to the committee’s request (August 13) for a temporary abstention from social media posts about matters related to our work, Mr. Anderson replied that he would
    think about it, stating he would be more cautious in his posting. However, for example, on both August 20 and 23 he posted on Twitter directly about Mrs. Byrd.”

    The conclusion is the same, regardless of the level of grace applied. Either these men are willfully and openly misogynistic, or they are so lacking in wisdom about treating women with love, dignity and respect that their speech is indistinguishable from open misogyny. The OPC is not a safe place for women.

    Like

  22. Cynthia W. says:

    Assuming an average of 100 members per congregation, the denominational mean, the OPC Presbytery of the Southeast has about 3,000 members. It’s quite a small pond. I wonder if the intensity of these men’s urge to control others is related to the very small size of their field of influence. I’m not au courant on the structure of an OPC congregation, but if each church has multiple elders, it seems as though the denomination may be very top-heavy with men who have a highly-developed sense of their own “spiritual authority.” They would also have plenty of time on their hands to scrutinize every word and action of the other participants in their own congregations and the whole denomination.

    I’m imagining a situation in which I had written books with the same texts as Mrs. Byrd’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” and “Recovering From Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.” (Don’t worry: I’m not planning to try that!) I could walk into my pastor’s office and say, “Father Paul, I wrote a book about men and women getting along, and another about women in the church.” “Oh, really, that’s very nice, Cynthia. Put copies on the shelf in the conference room, and I’ll look at them when I have time.” (Father Paul is a reader, and people often leave books they think will interest him on the shelf in the conference room.) If he got around to reading them – what with their not being history books, his true enthusiasm – he would find descriptions of the way our church works.

    In economics, it has been said (not without counter-argument) that, “Supply creates its own demand.” Is it possible that the oversupply of “authority people” in the OPC is creating “disruption” which in other circumstances would be considered normal human interaction? After all, people are attending these churches of their own free will. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that most have a disposition to get along with what the denomination teaches? Instead, it seems that there is an intentional search for “rebelliousness” in some cases.

    Like

  23. Robert Zeurunkl says:

    “It also made no sense to me that no one from the committee had contacted the victims with any questions.”

    Uhm forgive me for asking, but “what victims?” In people who are obsessively focused on abuse, I often find that the “victims” are people (usually wives) who are not being abused so much as they are just unhappy, or unsatisfied in their marriages, or their churches, or their lot in life. And their husbands refusal to admit to “abuse” because their wives don’t have everything they want, and just perfectly, is proof of systemic toxic maleness and abuse thereby.

    There are FAR too many claims of abuse, and scant little actual investigation to see whether these claims actually rise to the level of abuse or if they are simply women who are unsatisfied. Or if they are investigated, and the authorities do not rule in their favour, THAT becomes even more abuse.

    Real abuse probably happens here and there. But it is far from rampant in the Church, in my opinion. Which is where I started. What victims? And I do not mean that we should take the FEW cases of legitimate abuse, and use them to validate “He won’t buy me a nice house” (or “He won’t let me preach the Sunday morning sermon”) as abuse.

    Like

    1. Mark Schaefer says:

      Jesus says that the defining characteristic of secular rule is domineering. Calvin says that our tendency is to make idols, including idols of our self, and so domineering is expecting “inferiors” (WCF/WLC) to give us respect that we do not deserve. When we “discipline” those inferiors for their lack of proper “respect”, that is abuse. When we create an environment where undue respect is enforced, that is an abusive environment.

      When Reformed pastors like Doug Wilson think it’s a matter of church discipline when the wife refuses to do the dishes, it’s pretty clearly an enforcement of abuse.

      Michigan State University repeatedly received reports that Larry Nassar was sexually abusive, but the leaders there said “What victims?” Jimmy Hinton’s father was charged with 200 counts including sexual assault. He pled guilty to three counts of “aggravated indecent assault”. Jimmy Hinton says that even after the conviction, people in the church came to him asking “What victims?”

      An in court, according to one write-up: ‘She said it is hard to describe a typical child molester, but there are some common behaviors.“He’s doing the same thing,” she told the judge. “It’s always I, I, I.”’ So, I would say that it is far, far more likely that abusive husbands and abusive leaders are going to find their home in NAPARC churches, where the authority and preeminence of the husband/leaders is protected, and there are plenty of people like you to tear apart the victims on their behalf.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Cynthia W. says:

      Forming a group to attack another person, including making active attempts to destroy the person’s career, is abuse. It would not be tolerated in a place of business or a school situation and would almost certainly be legally actionable. The fact that it’s being accepted by the OPC is truly remarkable and indicative.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Mark Schaefer says:

    “There are FAR too many claims of abuse, and scant little actual investigation to see whether these claims actually rise to the level of abuse or if they are simply women who are unsatisfied.”

    This is the root of your problem. You should watch Spotlight. It chronicles the work to expose clergy sex abuse within the Roman Catholic church. The system protected the priests and the church. When they finally uncovered all the players in the system, they found that their own newspaper was part of the cover-up. Whistleblower reports were ignored or published where they would not be read. The church KNEW that there were pedophile priests and covered it up. Victims would call the police. The police would bring in the police and call the DA. The DA would broker a deal where the victim was compensated and given an NDA. The priest would get sent to recovery for a year and then reinstated to a new parish. Each player in the system was protecting the system and not the victim, and those who were outside the cycle were completely unaware that there was any issue whatsoever.

    According to statistics:
    – 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. This includes a range of behaviors (e.g. slapping, shoving, pushing) and in some cases might not be considered “domestic violence.”
    -1 in 7 women and 1 in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner.

    So, if there are 3000 members in the PSE, assume 50% women, that is 1500 women. If each woman has a 1/3 chance of experiencing physical violence, then we would expect 500 women in PSE have experienced abuse (I assume that a husband “slapping, shoving or pushing” would meet your definition of abuse, but probably not). But, since you say that the occurrence is far less likely. The odds that 10 or less women in PSE have experienced DV is about 1 in 10^264. The odds that 100 or less have experienced DV is 1 in 10^135. Stated a different way, it is nearly 100% likely that between 27% and 40% of (400 to 600) women in PSE have experienced DV. Taking the injury numbers, it is 85% likely that between 200 and 300 women in PSE have been injured by their partner.

    If DV and injury by a partner appears so widespread societally and so unheard of within the church, is it because the church has some sort of spiritual barrier of protection against DV, or that the church simply refuses to acknowledge abuse in her midst. Based on your comment, I suspect the latter.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. There are a lot of blatant misrepresentations here of the committee’s work. Perhaps the worst is the claim that they were trying to silence you when they asked the same of Elders Spangler, Castle, and Anderson. For those interesting in reading the full report:

    Click to access genevan-commons-report-2.pdf

    Like

    1. Mark says:

      On silencing, you’re mistaken. The committee “requested” that Spangler, Castle and Anderson refrain from posting on social media. If they are the same as the RPCNA, a committee has no authority to compel on behalf of the presbytery. A session does have the authority to compel.

      So, essentially, the committee asked, pretty please, that the three refrain from posting, to which one said hell, no, the second said, I’ll think about it, before continuing to post, and the third said, I’ll agree to it.

      The commission didn’t contact Ms. Byrd directly to request that she stop posting, but instead, they asked her session, pretty please, that the session forward the request to her. This may seem the same, but the session acts with authority towards members, unlike the committee. The committee could easily have sent the letter directly to Ms. Byrd, which would have carried the same weight as their request to stop, but instead, they asked the session to forward the letter, which, at a minimum, carries the weight of authority. Note that this is different than “the committee sent a request to Mrs. Aimee Byrd asking her to speak with us”. So, why did the request for silence specifically go through her session, while the request for interview go directly, if it wasn’t an attempt to use the authority of her session to compel behavior?

      Like

  26. rfwhite says:

    Your narrative above prompts me to offer five observations.

    First, before you entered the arena of theological and academic debate, particularly on the issue of women in the church, I hope that you were told what could happen in it. That arena—whether found on social media, in print, or in person—can be rife with violations of God’s moral law, stifling thoughtful interaction and consensus formation. It seems to me that, more and more, online interaction, in particular, is dominated by trolls, like too many of those who posted at GC.

    Second, it would seem clear enough by now that our denominational processes of discipline, written into our books of church order by lawyers for lawyers to deter frivolous accusations and unjust trials, are too frequently unworkable for yielding, in a timely manner, outcomes that glorify God, purify His church, and keep and reclaim disobedient sinners. In my opinion, our “rules for discipline” need to be rewritten and simplified. Officers of church courts should not have to consult experts to understand and apply the rules. This observation dovetails with the next.

    Third, our processes, like other similar procedures, are liable to errors by well-meaning but fallible men or to manipulation by corrupt men. At the same time, all in the church should recognize that there is no human process that cannot be inadvertently mismanaged or purposely distorted. In that light, we should do all we can to promote confidence in our disciplinary process. After all that, I ask myself, Do I trust the process? Do others? Admittedly, it depends. I have come to trust it only in the hands of men of the highest integrity and of professional-level legal skill at applying the rules of discipline as currently written. I have to say, however, that it is a shame that such expertise seems to be a prerequisite for the administration of discipline in our churches.

    Fourth, even without the serious deficiencies mentioned above, it looks to me that good advice is hard to come by when dealing with the ugliness of either debate or discipline. That is not meant to slam our trusted advisors. I mean only that experience in these areas is likely not a recurring feature of their lives and, as a result, good lessons from our advisors are few and far between. In any event, the scars and disappointments of these experiences are decidedly very hard to live with. It is clear from your narrative that your wounds are very deep and not likely to heal quickly. Even so, I hope you’ve been told that church disciplinary processes are notoriously slow—so slow, in fact, that they may effectively nullify the interests they were designed to serve.

    Fifth and last, I do get that the only remedy that you might countenance now is removal from office—and yesterday is not soon enough. That said, I hope that someone has told you by now that the remedies available to you as a victim are not likely to be satisfying. Based on my own experience as a victim and that of others, don’t make the mistake of thinking otherwise. Call and pray for repentance as you will. Call and pray for whatever penalty is just, as you will, be it removal from office, indefinite or definite suspension from office. But also push yourself to leave your case with Christ to work His will, when He will, in all who are involved in this fiasco. God will set all things right in His time. Pray for yourself and those who have scarred you, for confession of sin and repentance, and remain ready to forgive.

    Like

    1. Mark Schaefer says:

      “After all that, I ask myself, Do I trust the process?”

      This is absolutely the question to ask, and more specifically, is the process designed to give non-ordained members a voice, or silence them?

      As a former RPCNA member, I can say that the process is designed to silence members:
      – Any complaint against a session decision must first go to the session, which gives them the time to prepare their defense.
      – There is no right of a complainant to speak at presbytery, but a session member attending is either a delegate, or given speaking privileges
      – If a presbytery committee/commission is appointed to investigate, they, as we see in this report, spend the majority of the time understanding the issue from the perspective of the alleged offender, not the victim.
      – Because the investigation is a quasi-case, quasi-study committee, there are no procedural protections of the victim. For example, Anderson was given a complete bye and right hand of fellowship simply because of his conduct during the interview. Keep in mind that a primary characteristic of wolves is being able to appear as sheep. So, which is the true Shane Anderson? The one spewing hatred behind closed doors, or the one who looks holy and unassailable when questioned by men with authority? Would have have been able to hold that cool if every self-portrayal was subject to the victim saying, “but didn’t you say exactly the opposite in this post, and I quote…”

      Like

    2. Cynthia W. says:

      “I hope that someone has told you by now that the remedies available to you as a victim are not likely to be satisfying.”

      Not speaking for Mrs. Byrd, of course … It seems to me that a reasonable remedy would be for the men involved to stop what they are doing. Dissolve their “club,” desist from misogynistic badinage and juvenile meme-ery, and cease their attempts to damage Mrs. Byrd’s publishing and speaking engagements and her personal relationships. (For extra points, they could sincerely repent and, with genuine remorse, apologize to her, but let’s not get crazy here.)

      This doesn’t mean they couldn’t disagree with what Mrs. Byrd says and writes: just do it in a civilized fashion. This means specifying points of disagreement and making counter-arguments using (as Mrs. Byrd does) Scripture and other sources of Christian instruction.

      *Speaking of the GC “club,” I noticed that Shane Anderson addresses his ideological cohorts as “spais.” Does anyone know what this means? I Googled it, but all I found was various business/organizational acronyms using SPAIS, nothing relevant to this topic.

      Like

      1. Spais is a comical misspelling of spies, and refers to the people who enter through false pretenses to spy on the group and take screenshots of our private conversations.

        Like

      2. Cynthia W. says:

        Thank you, Mr. Johnson.

        That reminds me of how posters on a political website I frequent would joke about government surveillance: “Your NSA officer called. You left your car keys in your pants pocket; they’re in the dryer now. And the tv remote is under the recliner.”

        Like

  27. just ... K says:

    Oh Aimee. I hear you and see you and in your writing can tangibly feel your pain. Pain for what you are enduring, pain for your denomination, pain for the Kingdom of Christ. You are in my prayers.

    I sometimes think of this lady when I watch you: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Suzman

    Although you may not have agreed with her on everything, your clarity of vision, your sense of justice and your devotion to the truth sound equally clear. She wasn’t deeply loved and appreciated by the majority in her day, either. That didn’t make what she was fighting for, wrong.

    May you be strengthened and encouraged. You are very much appreciated.

    Like

  28. Dave Sarafolean says:

    Aimee,

    After reading this post along with Scott McKnight’s post, I am very sad. I can understand your discouragement but I encourage you to take the long view and allow the process to play out. As Presbyterians, we can take heart that other eyes will be reading the minutes of this presbytery as well as its reports. Much good has already been achieved in that this stuff has been exposed for the broader church to see.

    I found the following article to provide helpful perspective:

    https://www.michaeljkruger.com/the-worlds-easiest-theological-question/

    Like

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