Kerrin’s Story, part ii

June 21, 2011 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

Here is part ii of Kerrin’s story.  For part i, click here.

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My Marriage

During all of this, my relationship with my wife began to deteriorate. Things I said—supposedly in confidence—made their way back to her parents and the rest of the group. My words and thoughts were often used against me (in a divisive way). There were times when I could no longer speak with my wife. It just all became too much for me mentally/emotionally, as time and time again things that I said made it back to the group, her parents, and then were used against me. Perhaps a better way of describing it was my words/thoughts were used to try and control me and my decision to try and leave/take my family elsewhere. When I confronted this behavior it was denied that it was occurring. That further alienated me and displaced my trust even more. It was a betrayal. Of course in SGMville this behavior is called “faithful” because the ends justify the means: the ends being get the person who is not conforming to conform (i.e., control them). Lies and betrayal are “faithful” because, in SGMville, this person needs to be brought back into the fold and whatever means will accomplish that end are considered “faithful.”

I challenged and questioned some of the things that came back to me via my wife, but I was never violent or abusive in any way. Sometimes my tone would have been elevated as I questioned things with passion and became irritated by what was going on. I did see that it was becoming too much for her also, so I backed off and began to think about other ways to escape the grip of CLC/SGM. I started visiting other churches (Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian, United Church of Christ, Universalist, etc.).

A co-worker who also attends CLC asked me to go to lunch one day. He then proceeded to challenge me to keep my vows and said I needed to practice “effective communication” by bringing my wife into my world. I found out this manipulative attempt to make me talk was in collusion with Eric [Simmons], which would be prior to them “church disciplining” me. I responded with, “Name the vow were I agreed to ‘effective communication’ (whatever that is). Has anyone in your group challenged my wife to live up to her vows, namely, ‘I will forsake all others, where you go I will go, and your people will be my people’?” He said, “No.” Then I said, “You have no basis on which to bring this to me!”

During all this, my work performance began to take a toll, as I had difficulty concentrating. Later I discovered I was showing signs of PTSD, which is typical for someone who has left a cultic or high-demand group. As my work performance started to suffer I came across a book called, Take Back Your Life: Recovering From Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich (a victim of an abusive cultic group herself). Many things in this book resonated with me and many of her insights helped in identifying what I was experiencing. She encouraged someone to seek out a trauma specialist, which I did. This therapist helped me tremendously. But it was too late for my employment situation.

I was working for a publicly traded company in a high-demand, stressful position. Even though they were quite sympathetic to my situation and current circumstances, they had certain standards I wasn’t performing to. So I was given a “Personal Improvement Plan” and told I could take it or leave with severance. If I didn’t meet the satisfaction of the plan my employment would be terminated at the end (45 days). Being under the microscope at CLC, I simply couldn’t take an additional microscope at my place of employment so I left with severance. This additional microscope would have broken me.

I began looking for new employment in the States right away. Anywhere really. If I could find something that would move me away from CLC, that would be great! As I was doing this, it occurred to me that since I was a UK citizen I could also look for employment there. So while looking for work in the States, I started looking into the viability of moving overseas. After doing extensive research and putting a lot of thought into moving to the UK, it began to seem like a great solution for the current problems I was facing (SGM not leaving me alone, mounting financial problems, being emotionally spent from dealing with everything going on, etc.). My plan started to formulate.

After consulting with a lawyer and how my plan might be used against me (at this point, based on some of the things I heard and knew about SGM I was anticipating a pending divorce case. I wanted to make sure I could defend myself). A few days after this I announced my plan to my wife in this way: “I am moving to the UK for employment and as a last ditch effort to remove the family from the cultic group. Once I establish myself I hope to move everyone there within a year.” This plan, as was anticipated was not well received. There were a few questions, such as: “Where will we stay while you’re establishing yourself?” To which I responded, “At your parents’ or my parents house.” I was completely upside down on the mortgage (purchased in 2006 at the height of the housing bubble), the mortgage was solely in my name, and since I didn’t have a job I thought it best to save the cash we had. So at this point my mortgage company was threatening foreclosure, although, it still has yet to go to foreclosure because it is on the market as a short sale.

About a month later, on April 2nd, my wife moved out with the kids into her parents’ house. The next day, a private investigator was trying to serve me a Court Summons for Divorce (all paid for by Bob Kauflin).

Here is the complaint against me as it reads in the court summons (divorce papers). The parenthetical statements are my comments:

8. The Defendant has voluntarily quit his employment (This is not entirely true. I had a choice to leave with severance or go on a “Personal Improvement Plan” resulting in termination if not followed to the company’s satisfaction) in which he earned over $110,000 per year, unbeknownst to the Plaintiff, stopped paying health insurance coverage (Uh, I didn’t have a job), used the overwhelming majority of the family savings to attend concerts, yoga, eating out, and enlightenment classes (This is an embellishment of the facts), over the past year, has left the home, early in the morning and returning later in the evening (Uh, it’s called a job. Most people who work hard do this), wrote a check to an overseas account in an attempt to divert marital money (this was because I was planning on moving to the UK and naturally you take your money with you when you leave a country), diverted his mail to a P.O. box unbeknownst to the Plaintiff, cashed out his retirement accounts, commenced filling out citizenship applications for some of the children for the United Kingdom, told the Defendant that he is relocating to Scotland to pursue employment, exposed the children to inappropriate actions on his part against the Plaintiff including his refusal to acknowledge Plaintiff’s existence and/or presence, having unilateral discussions with the parties’ children regarding his plan to move overseas, and ceased to co-parent with the Plaintiff on almost all issues.

Count I (Constructive Desertion)

15. The aforesaid conduct of the Defendant was willful, purposeful, deliberate, intentional and final, was undertaken by the Defendant without just cause, justification or excuse whatsoever, and was intended to represent a final termination of the marriage relationship therefore existing between the parties.

16. There is no reasonable hope or expectation of reconciliation.
 WHEREFORE, the Plaintiff, _______, prays as follows:

a. That the Plaintiff be granted a Judgment of Limited Divorce from the Defendant on the grounds of constructive desertion as set forth hereinabove, and

b. That the Court award sole physical and legal custody of the minor children of the parties to the Plaintiff;

c. That the Court order a custody evaluation through the Court;

Count II (Mental Cruelty)

18. That although the conduct of the Plaintiff toward the Defendant had always been kind, affectionate, and above reproach, nevertheless, the Defendant, on divers days and times since their marriage, has treated the Plaintiff with extreme mental cruelty and has been guilty of cruelty of treatment toward the Plaintiff, endangering Plaintiff’s safety, health, and happiness, has assaulted the Plaintiff verbally, has humiliated her on numerous occasions, rendering continuation of the marital relationship impossible if Plaintiff is to preserve her health, safety, and self-respect. As a result the Defendant’s conduct there is no reasonable hope or expectation of reconciliation between the parties.

That is the meat of the Court Summons. Obviously, I left most of the legalese out, but you can access the full “Sovereign Grace Ministries Divorce” Court Summons for Divorce that Bob Kauflin paid for and Initiated (a SGM sanctioned divorce) here if you’re interested. I have appealed numerous times to forgo Litigation and instead use a Mediation Lawyer, which costs considerably less than Litigation (about $2K compared with $20K). It’s also more civil and doesn’t require aggressive “finger pointing” and keeps the best interest of the children in mind. I don’t know, but that seems like the more Christian thing to do.

In the State of Maryland in order to file for divorce and get the courts involved you must state reasons (as seen above). Constructive Desertion and Mental Cruelty are the two most commonly used by women, especially when they have so little to build a case on.

One commenter offered the following request:

As long as you are going semi public, what’s your response to this, just curious…“his refusal to acknowledge Plaintiff’s existence and/or presence, having unilateral discussions with the parties’ children regarding his plan to move overseas, and ceased to co-parent with the Plaintiff on almost all issues.”

My response to that is: I’m not perfect. After having my confidence betrayed and having been lied to, I found it difficult to greet my wife in the same way I typically had. As to the charge that I “ceased to co-parent on almost all issues” that’s a load of crap! I put the kids to bed just about every night, I was taking the two oldest to school every day, and I was quite involved in their lives. Perhaps it depends on what they mean by “co-parent”…i.e., I wasn’t parenting the SGM way? I mean I took spanking off the table a couple of years ago (through much wrangling and heartache). So yeah, I wasn’t into spanking my kids and therefore in SGM’s world I wasn’t being the “perfect parent”…I wasn’t “obeying God”—bollocks!

I personally know wives who have been “strongly encouraged” by SGM/CLC pastors to stay in their marriage when the husband was physically abusive. What should be blatantly obvious is the double standard and hypocrisy (things I’m sure many of you have seen throughout your time at SGM/CLC). There seems to be one set of rules for the sheep and one set for the “higher-ups,” the elite of the elite Christians.

All of this started with my desire to leave SGM/CLC. I may share more in the future because I do have a lot to tell, but this is a good start on the current issues. If you’re interested I wrote a short essay/letter to the leaders of CLC/SGM titled, “A Polemic for Pastors of Present Purgatory“. It was more of a cathartic exercise for me than anything else, but I’ve been told by people who have read it that they can identify with my sentiments.

For those interested in SGM’s policy on divorce and marriage take a look at the following document that begins with an email exchange between some of the leaders at SGM. I received this document from Brent who also sent it recently to Josh and Bob.

A Note To Those Still Propagating The SGM System: Wake up!

At one point, I received this email from Bob Kauflin:

On Dec 23, 2010, at 12:49 PM, Bob Kauflin wrote:

Subject: Question

Hey, Kerrin.

I recently reread your email from March [2010] on “The Situation.” It’s evident that since then our relationship has deteriorated.

Would you be willing to tell me, either by email or in person, what specific grievances you have against me?

Let me know what you think.

Thanks.

Bob

To which I responded:

On Dec 23 2010 16:22:47 -0600, Kerrin wrote:

Subject: Re: Question

My grievances are broad and deep, and are systemic in nature. All I know is the more people from your social group come at me, the more they pull at me and tell me what I’m doing wrong or they patronize me, the more distrusting I become and the greater sense of isolation and dismay I have. I’ve asked you, and others, repeatedly to let me have space to figure things out in my own way. But you, and others, continue to dishonor my wishes, increasing my isolation, distrust, and sense that I am being discounted.

A friend of mine sent him this paragraph, which was written to all leaders that continue to propagate the SGM system; taken from the essay I wrote and linked to above:

By elevating yourselves, your “wisdom,” and the group “wisdom” or groupthink, above the process by which individual people are able to develop their conscience, and decision making faculties, you rob them of what was naturally given to them: freedom and personal development. This process, whereby you subjugate individuals to your “authority,” results in individuals that are dependent on you, not on God, people who are slightly mentally handicapped when it comes to being their own individual representation of the imago dei. And since they are dependent on you and your Institution the replacement of God occurs in their psyche and you and your Institution become God. This can cause extreme and life-altering psychological damage to individuals. Personal growth and maturity, gained through the experiences and failures that come from living in freedom and true grace as a saved soul before a gracious God, are replaced by conformity to social norms and the imposed standards of your Institution. Even mild divergence from these norms is met with social ostracization and is labeled as sin. Thus explorative personal development is stunted, individuals are crippled as living under your system robs them of the ability to make thoughtful and wise personal decisions, and ultimately none of this is pleasing to God. Without the ability to make sound personal decisions, you leave people defenseless in their own lives, resulting in terrible decision-making with consequences left squarely on the individual alone to bear. The dissonance between personal freedoms and your imposed norms also creates an inner turmoil, which when coupled with the social pressures to conform, can be overwhelming, especially if one doesn’t fit or conform well to your prescribed rules and social standards. Sadly, this has even resulted in suicides and suicidal thoughts, where individuals see no other way out of the purgatory you’ve created than extinguishing their lives from it.

Bob’s response to my friend:

On Dec 29, 2010 5:20 pm, Bob Kauflin wrote:

I’m not sure what Kerrin means by “broad, deep, and systemic” because we haven’t talked about it. I don’t agree that Sovereign Grace or Covenant Life, or me, for that matter, have pervasively practiced what’s written in the paragraph [above]. Have there been occasions of legalistic teaching and application? No doubt, as there have been in many churches. But it’s something we’ve specifically taught against for decades, and many people have testified to how they’ve been freed from dependence on people to living in the good of the gospel. So it would be difficult for me to apologize to Kerrin in any kind of formal way when I don’t agree with what I understand to be his premise. Which is why I asked if I had sinned against him in a specific way.

Of course CJ outright teaches other “pastors” that their “task” is “the most elevated task God can give a man.” And if that isn’t teaching that elevates your social status, authority, and mindset above others then I don’t know what would be. If you’d like to hear the audio clip where he clearly teaches this check out this YouTube clip of cult leader, CJ Mahaney, teaching why an SGM pastor is more important than other people.

Most still within the SGM system would like to say this is simply a relational thing; it’s just my relationship with Bob, etc. Well, if you are reading what I have outlined here you will see that this is quite a bit more than one relationship; it is a system. These issues, these problems are systemic, and they are broad and deep! I could recount many instances with other “relationships” that all point to the same thing: the system is corrupt! The SGM pastoral mindset is one that believes they are to be trusted in all cases and if you don’t trust or agree with what they are saying there is something wrong with you!

Bob’s sentiment in the email above is indicative of the SGM pastor’s mindset: “it would be difficult for me to apologize to ______ in any kind of formal way when I don’t agree with what I understand to be [their] premise.” Anyone who disagrees with the way things are run in SGM and is unable to label it as a specific “sin” then there is no apology from SGM leadership coming their way. This is clear in Josh’s non-apology apology where the blame is placed right back on the congregation for following the leaders too literally. It is “difficult” for these guys to apologize because they are blinded by the system they continue to propagate and drunk on their “success” as an organization.

Of course many people have been “helped” by the SGM system. This also has been documented to happen in many other cultic groups in recent history: people with drug problems, mental problems, etc. have had life-changing experiences in a totalist systems that often represent a significant “emotional change” and are then labeled by society as “getting their life together.”

“Identification with the aggressor is relevant here because it helps us better understand the monitoring process in charismatic groups. Members of these groups are often effectively under assault by their leaders. That is, in the consensual view of their surrounding society, they are pressed to participate in unpleasant activities, and are sometimes subjected to abuse. Members nonetheless have their own psychological need for maintaining affiliation with the leader and the group, since they are captives by virtue of the pincer effect, which makes their emotional well-being depend on involvement in the group that inflicts distress. In a sense, they have no choice but to unconsciously make peace with the potentially threatening agenda of the leadership and comply with its expectations to achieve emotional relief.”—Marc Galanter, Cults: Faith, Healing, and Coercion

There is an old saying that represents inductive reasoning: “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck it’s probably a duck.” In this case the same thing can, and should, be said about SGM: “If it looks like a cult, quacks like a cult, and walks like a cult it’s probably a cult.” Conduct yourselves appropriately in light of that revelation.

My Demands of SGM

SGM, I’ll leave you with this: reign in your boy Bob, call off the Litigation or I will post more (and not just here). You think I’m playing around? Guess again. My kids and survival are more important than any thing or relationship in the world. Don’t make me do it. As my friend Chuck used to say, “Don’t grab a tiger by its tail!”

As a supplement to my demand above, I would also like to see a formal apology to the public that addresses the following:

  • Hero worship of “The Pastor”
  • False teaching about the authority of pastors
  • Institutional Self-Aggrandizing/Elitism
  • Information Control
  • Manipulation tactics and attempts to control behavior and thought
  • Spinning from the pulpit; covering up what most people would deem negative

When you’re through with that apology, I’d like you to address each of the points in the list I provided above. Include how you see each of these at work historically within the movement and how you plan to insure these don’t take place anymore.

Is the day of reckoning upon you? Will you rise to the challenge or will you further entrench yourself?

By the way, SGM, if you’d like to know the non-cultic way to deal with someone who desires to leave your ranks the answer is, “Oh, that’s fine this place isn’t for everyone. How can we help facilitate your departure?” It’s in the manual of We’re-Not-The-End-All-Be-All-of-Christianity. Check it out sometime.

What you reap is what you sow: that’s clearly a “biblical principle.” Is it not evident that there are damaged lives and families that your system has reaped? So what are you sowing? Would “the gospel” really reap the amount of damage that is being reported here and elsewhere?

A Note To My Peers Still in SGM

If you’re contemplating leaving SGM, just do it. Walk out. Don’t bother telling them why or coming up with reasons. Just leave and find a place you’re comfortable with, a place that isn’t quite so hypocritical, two-faced, manipulative, controlling, authoritarian, etc. Maybe you can leave together with a group of trusted friends. Have fun exploring other church denominations and groups. Enjoy making your own decision about where or where not to worship.

If you’re still convinced that “changes” can, and need, to take place and you want a voice in those changes. Stop tithing and they will listen. They will have to listen to you if you stop tithing. As it is right now, the average layman has no say in the goings on. Let your voice be heard with your checkbook. At least you have that power.

I realize acknowledging any characteristics in the above list will be difficult. Take your time. If your “gut” tells you there are some things that resonate; that there are things that are “off”—listen to you gut it’s the Spirit in you! It’s your intuition, or Holy Spirit, speaking to you that has been long oppressed. Free yourself, follow your intuition: you need to listen to your intuition before “the pastors”—they are just men and not you!

Thanks to the SGM Survivors Community

I would like to personally thank all of you who have contacted me, encouraged me, and show solidarity with my situation. Since I started to become more vocal there have been times when I just want to give up and forget it all. Each time I’ve reached a low point recently, someone has called or emailed and I’ve found renewed strength to continue pressing on. So thank you all!

Sincerely from another town,

Kerrin

Email: FirstNameLastName [at] gmail [dot] com

Matthew 10:16-23:

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”