A slice of my own story

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?

15 thoughts on “A slice of my own story

  1. It sounds very much like Doug Wilson and his church community are involved in racketeering, extortion, obstruction of justice, and a number of other serious felonies. Hacking someone’s email account is wire fraud and computer fraud, both of which are federal offenses.

    If your ex was pressured by Doug into obtaining this information to use against your sister, and the administration of Doug’s church subsequently passed these emails around and used them to coerce people, Doug and his church are accessories to these crimes.

    What sort of grip does Doug have on his community collectively that forces people to bow to his every whim? Are there financial pressures? Threats of violence? What could it possibly be? I wouldn’t stand for that crap for a minute, and I have been in similar situations a number of times. I don’t understand how one man and his followers could possibly have that much influence. It’s similar to Scientology, and I scoff at those bozos.

    1. I don’t think Doug did any pressuring, at least in this case. He was merely receiving information handed off to him by someone acting on his own whims. What he did (or didn’t do) with that information is the problem. He didn’t inform anyone who was being hacked, and he didn’t even bother to answer whether hacking was acceptable in a “Matthew 18” process. (if you’re not familiar, this passage explains how to confront someone if he or she is sinning)

      1. The argument can be made that Doug acted as an accessory to the crime of wire fraud. If this sort of thing is going on routinely on a large scale involving numerous people in the church, it’s also racketeering.

  2. Anything you can do to explain to me why people don’t just bail out of CREC churches in droves would be very helpful, because I am immensely puzzled by this situation. It’s really bizarre.

    1. Doug tells everyone that his “critics” and “enemies” are “feminists” and “intoleristas” who are out to slander him because he’s just so good and godly and they can’t take it because they love their sin too much. He buries himself in long-winded prose and “humorous” jabs and insinuates that anyone who questions him is satanic.

      In short, if their experience isn’t personally terrible, they have a hard time believing that anyone else’s is, or at least for legitimate reasons.

      1. Based on what you describe with the hacked email account, it’s not that simple. There is actual blackmail and coercion taking place here based on illegally hacked, protected information. I wonder just exactly how much of that is going on. It should be investigated and prosecuted.

      2. And for the record, I’m not much of a feminist, so that criticism doesn’t apply to me. I think Doug Wilson is a despicable person committing criminal activities. I don’t care what he believes.

  3. I’ll make one more point here, and then I really need to unplug and go for a bike ride and get back to work.

    It’s not the single large wound of a bold, visible offense that destroys people. It’s the endless torment of a thousand hidden, invisible cuts that wrecks lives, causes people to live in perpetual fear, and drives the victims mad.

    It is obvious to me that Doug Wilson appears to be a master manipulator and a criminal of numerous categories. The time has come for action, not speculation.

    Anyone who has a legitimate criminal grievance against Doug Wilson needs to come forward, now. Tell your stories and press charges. Stop knuckling under to this coward and his crew. Stop living in the fear of your fellow men.

  4. Katie,
    Any divorce is filled with some portion of sadness, pain and grief. To have this CREC craziness layered on to that is distressing to even read about. I’m so glad you have come out on the other side grounded, healed and wiser. I especially wanted to commend you for speaking the truth on this issue with sincerity, discernment and utmost clarity. You rock!

    I tried to read Doug’s latest blog post, and there is something in the way that he is nattering on that makes me think there is a tiny bit of unraveling going on. More likely, it is his typical way of blathering about this and that without ever making a salient point, leading you to believe that, as a lesser being, you just missed the point in the midst of his charmingly erudite missive.

  5. In response to Dash, it is difficult to explain, or believe, how brainwashed seemingly intelligent, functioning people can be. These charismatic leaders know exactly how to read people, how to meet their deep individual needs of acceptance, feeling important, etc. Sadly, most people are very lonely and needy, and it is very simple for a clever, manipulative individual to win them over and exert nearly complete control over them.Truth told, potential blackmail is hardly necessary. The needy people in these churches are unwilling to open their eyes to the truth, even after strong and repeated evidence is given them. They listen to messages that would disturb any thinking christian, and never hear the inconsistencies, distortions of scripture and completely illogical conclusions. Should an issue arise, they believe the explanations, the denials, the ‘I’m being persecuted for my righteousness’ story. Their beloved leader can do no wrong. One of the most chilling comments I read on a blog post was an individual who said he got the feeling that if the pastor in this particular church told the elders to slaughter the congregation, they would have willingly done so. It is hard to wrap your mind around, but I know exactly what he was talking about. And though I like to think that I maintained my independence and ethics, I was once pretty blindly loyal myself, until God finally managed to shock me awake.

    1. While I appreciate what you are saying and there is no doubt a great deal of truth in your assessment, the fact remains that what Ms. Botkin is describing is profoundly criminal activity, activity that is prosecutable. When the spirit fails us, it is earthly law we must appeal to.

      1. I would agree that any documented criminal activity should be prosecuted. Personally, I would never meet with a group of elders without at least two supportive witnesses, a recording device or a lawyer. I just wanted to point out that, for the typical church, it is more the cult of personality surrounding a charismatic leader and loyalty to the doctrine/community that holds people than actual threats. The mostly unspoken prospect of ‘discipline’ or withholding communion is horrible, but probably not ‘criminal’. It may be different in Moscow, with a growing awareness of ‘issues’ and so many potential ‘troublemakers’, but the more typical control mechanisms are emotional rewards given or withheld and the fear of being ostracized.

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