Over the past decade, there has been a pattern of dealing with abusive people in the CREC and affiliated churches, and the pattern hasn’t been good. The pattern, in fact, has allowed abusive people to flourish and re-offend. I am not the first to have commented on this, and I will not be the last. And this is the thing: if it’s one instance, or two, or even three, and it gets resolved, then maybe you should drop it and let bygones be bygones. But if it happens over and over, and nobody admits there’s anything wrong with it, that’s serious. And you should not drop it. You should air it out until something changes.
Doug Wilson says that he does what he does to protect his congregation, but he’s shown very little public concern for the victims of many abusers in his care. And there have been cases where people within his congregation were being indirectly threatened, and he didn’t stop it or even alert the people that they were being threatened.
This is a serious allegation, and I am aware that what I am writing here could potentially even land me in a libel suit. Which is why I’ve ensured that every word that I write here is concretely provable as true, using clean primary documents and data that I have immediate access to. Because truth is a defense in libel suits, but you need to be able to prove it’s true to definitely win the case.
Specifically, I’m talking about something that happened in the course of my divorce. After I filed, my ex-husband was going down to Moscow to meet with Doug Wilson, as well as other pastors in the area, ostensibly to get church counsel. In reality, he had his own agenda, but this story is not really about him, so I’m going to leave out the vast majority of the details where he is concerned.
Just as some background, however, my ex was not someone that Doug had previously been a big fan of. In fact, I remember attending a CREC Bible study on campus years prior, and listening in on students’ imprecatory prayers asking for his destruction. Doug’s dislike of him was well-known. Doug himself spoke derisively about him on his blog after the NSA zoning complaint was first filed, and privately accused him of “participating in a conspiracy to make the Sitler issue a public scandal,” among other things.
Before we were married, my ex had a change of heart about all this (coinciding with his interest in women in the Christ Church community) and asked for Doug’s forgiveness for “wrong motives” with the NSA zoning complaint. Doug wanted my ex to prove his repentance by publicly confessing he was wrong, via a letter to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (which Doug was assuming they would print). My ex actually started drafting such a letter, and was even sharing the drafts with members of the Christ Church community to see if what he was writing was sufficient to prove his repentance, but he moved on to other things before the thing was completed.
When my ex once again started meeting with Doug during our divorce, Doug asked the same thing of him: he wanted that letter sent to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Because that would prove he was repentant and acting in accordance with morality.
In the meantime, one thing my ex did was access a hacked email account (someone else did the actual, physical hacking; my ex was not a hacker) and get an email my sister had written to another woman. My sister goes to a CREC church and so did the recipient of the email. My ex complied an extensive Excel file and passed it around to the pastors for their perusal, and among the many documents and photos there was this email (helpfully highlighted and commentated on), which had very obviously been obtained without my sister’s permission.
Honestly, I can get why the pastors of these churches wouldn’t go out of their way to protect me, personally, in this circumstance. But these other women were innocent bystanders having their emails stolen. And they were in these pastors’ congregations.
So why didn’t the pastors do anything about it? At the very least, why didn’t they alert these women that their emails were being stolen? Was this not “need to know” enough? Do these pastors think that hacking is just not that big of a deal? Do they maybe even think it’s justified if they’re worried about “gossip”?
I want to stress, there was a lot more going on that this one email being taken. My sister was having more than that done to her, unbeknownst to her. I don’t know if the pastors knew about the rest of it, but if they had any wherewithal whatsoever, they should have been asking the kinds of questions that I eventually started asking. And they should have done more — anything, really — to protect the innocent.
I personally did not know most of this at the time. I knew something weird was going on, or lots of weird things were. But every time I tried to bring it up, they (the coterie of pastors, not Doug Wilson specifically) said I was being “bitter” and uncooperative. And, you know, I was being uncooperative, in that I was not about to admit to the sins my ex was accusing me of and then drop the subject. Additionally, and this is important: none of them were my pastors. I was not going to their churches. I had never been a member of any of their churches, didn’t even live in their town. I’d gone to Doug’s church a grand total of one time, years before.
But back to the hacking. Once I found out that my ex had involved my little sister, I was furious in ways that I was not when it was just my sanity on the line. She had just announced that she was pregnant, and I honestly thought that if my ex went after her like he was threatening to, she might get so stressed out that she would miscarry. So I found a way to stop him. Where the pastors did not curtail his behavior, I found a way.
Sometimes I look at my oldest niece, who is beautiful and smart and now going to Logos kindergarten, and I remember all of this. And I remember begging for answers from her pastors and getting nothing. Almost the worst part of it was, my ex was telling me that everything he was doing was under approval of the pastors as part of some sort of bizarre, church-approved Matthew 18 process. I wasn’t sure that this was true, but when I asked them about it, I got literally no response (in Doug and Toby’s cases) and a roll of the eyes and a wave of the hand (in the case of the other two pastors). And a re-doubling down on how that was totally not the issue, the issue was my sins.
This is part of the email I sent four people about it, including Doug Wilson and Toby Sumpter, on December 22, 2009:
“Forgive the awkwardness, and please see into what I am really asking of you: if this should be how women are treated in the course of being Matthew-18ned…
[redacted because the point here is not what my ex-husband did to me, or even what I did to him]
And you may say: I had nothing to do with any of this; any mistakes, any lies, any blackmail or criminal activity, was done by another man, by other men. Perhaps this is true. I do not know. I only know that Scott told me many times that ‘the pastors’ ‘approved’ this behavior. I have been told repeatedly that all of this is totally biblical and right and rubber-stamped.
And this is the question I have been trying to ask myself. This is also the question that has not been answered by anyone. Was this behavior approved as a routine Matthew 18 exercise? And if so, why? Can you point me to scripture that would support it?
It is my understanding that Matthew 18, the verb, should not give you nightmares. It shouldn’t wake you in a cold sweat weeks and months after, when the snow falls off the roof, when someone yells on the street, when the furnace comes on…”
After this email, I went to Moscow meet with one of the pastors and a CREC elder. I didn’t get any answers then either. I never have.
So, the question still remains: should hacking or other shady information-gathering be part of the Matthew 18 process in CREC churches, and what should CREC churches do if they discover their congregants’ emails are being hacked using Matthew 18 or “church discipline” or “prevention of gossip” as an excuse?