Thursday, August 18, 2016

By Request: More on the Culture of Abuse within ABWE

I have been asked to comment on the steps ABWE has taken since the Pii Report came out.

I was told they have made changes.....specifically, 1) they have put a child safety officer in the home office, 2) they now offer training both in the home office and on the field for child abuse recognition and reporting, 3) both missionaries and churches are being invited to "town hall" meetings in MI to answer questions about the Pii Report and 4) survivors of Donn Ketcham's and ABWE's abuse are receiving counseling at the expense of ABWE.

These 4 things might appear to be a good start, but they are certainly not enough. At least one victim has said they are glad to see ABWE "moving in the right direction." However, understand that even if they are moving in the right direction, they are far from being completely changed as an organization.

1. They need to recognize that they are operating within a culture of abuse, not just dealing with one sinful man and a host of enablers. Donn Ketcham is an evil man, no doubt, but he relished in the glory poured out on him by ABWE. Throughout the Pii Report, notes of concern and abuse acknowledgements were often followed by awards and gratitude doled out by ABWE onto Donn Ketcham. So, even though there were reports of abuse back to the 1960's and others on the field knew about these reports, Donn Ketcham continued to receive praise and accolades while his victims cowered in fear and disgust.

This present and ongoing culture evidences itself within the language used by those associated with ABWE. They frequently call each other and their leadership "godly" people. I have seen this phrase used as a way to attempt to silence many who have tried to speak out against ABWE. The label silences by making people feel that, since they are "godly," it's wrong to question them or anything they do or say. It's as though they are the "appointed godly ones" so they get to determine who is godly and who is not and they always choose themselves. This is humanism through and through. And it's not godly. Godly does not announce itself.

This practice is very common within cults and other organizations which are known for controlling their members. ABWE needs to stop this type of dialog, realize that any and all of them, at any time, could fall into sin at the drop of a hat and disqualify themselves in an instant.

Right now, communication with some within ABWE indicates they do not recognize their own culture of abuse, thus denying its existence. They don't believe a culture of abuse exists and some don't believe a culture of abuse ever existed. They are not recognizing the culture that allowed Donn Ketcham to practice pedophelia for decades. This means abuse will likely take place again.

2. They need to address all questions, not just ones at town hall meetings where participants are invited. I know several people who have tried to contact ABWE with questions about the Pii Report and those people have been ignored. Not everyone is able to travel to MI to be part of a town hall meeting. Not everyone is invited, yet we might sit in a church pew and listen to an ABWE missionary ask for our money. How can we give our money when you won't give us time of day? For people's attempts to contact ABWE to go unanswered is disturbing. I, personally, have been ignored by "leaders" within Baptist organizations and it's a terrible feeling. It's downright abusive; it feels like the "silent" treatment. This has no place in the Christian world.

3. Male dominance has to go. The Pii Report says the following:

How is ABWE working to correct this? Their board has 16 men and only 3 women. This has to change. What about having 10 women, 9 men and a female president? What about an all-female board and a female president? Are they willing to "go that far?" It would certainly show the victims that real change is possible and they are willing to make those changes. There is no shortage of qualified women and there never has been. 

There is no Christ-centered practice in the Bible wherein women are so minimized as they are in Baptist organizations. There is no biblical foundation for its practice in a Christian organization. Male dominance was not something Jesus practiced, condoned or promoted. In fact, He practiced the very opposite, appointing a woman as the first evangelist after appearing to Mary Magdalene following His resurrection, assigning a woman to tell of His coming in revealing Himself to the woman at the well and using Priscilla to teach Apollos. The list goes on and on. Our mission boards, churches and other organizations need to look less like Fundamentalist cults and more like Christ. (At least Warren Jeffs went to prison for his pedophelia....)

4. Transparency has to be evidenced. When people are ignored or referred elsewhere for answers by ABWE officials, that shows a lack of transparency. A lack of transparency shows fear. A showing of fear makes one wonder what they are afraid of. Hence, a lack of transparency fuels a lack of trust.

5. Defensiveness within ABWE has to go. In talking to a few ABWE missionaries and one ABWE missionary appointee, I sensed a defensiveness with some which I found disturbing. In a sense of repentance, there is no room for defensiveness. Defensiveness indicates an unwillingness to hear more and an unwillingness to answer further. Every person who has ever given even a dime to help support  any missionary who serves with ABWE deserves answers, not defensiveness. 

6. ABWE missionaries, leaders and even office workers need to realize that trust has to be earned. After all that has happened, people are not going to just trust them again because they claim to now be humble. Abuse survivors recognize humility and don't need to be told who is humble and who is not. ABWE needs to realize that earning trust takes time and during that time, if they are defensive, trust will take even longer to earn. If someone tells you they are humble, you know they are not. 

I have indicated to those within ABWE who I have talked to that I have read the Pii Report (twice and some parts of it three times), yet they nearly always invite me to read it as though they assume I have not. Each time I review a portion, frustration and anger are rekindled. ABWE needs to realize that the report is relatively new, this information is new to most who are reading it and those with a conscience who are reading it need time to process its contents. This process takes time. It will take a good amount of anger and frustration to work through it and these are proper responses. ABWE has to show humility by being transparent, fixing the imbalance of power as a male-dominant organization and, if they financially survive the massive lawsuit brewing in MI, to proceed with obvious humility that is shown and not announced. 

They also need to show patience for those who are processing the contents of the report. Many of these people gave a whole lot of money, thinking they were giving to further the gospel. They had no idea that some of their money would actually be used as "hush money" to quiet people who might talk about Donn Ketcham's horrible crimes, then later to pay counselors to help victims. (Donn Ketcham and his many enablers should be paying that bill.) Many people spent hours in prayer, trusting ABWE to hold the Word out to a lost world. All Donn Ketcham did was take their money and hold himself up as a "demi-god" to young, vulnerable children, then ABWE spit on the prayers by covering it up. 

Processing this takes time. 
This is the tip of the iceberg.
More to come,

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