Unfolding My Story: The Dangers of Peacemakers

By Tim Butler | Posted at 11:41

I said the time had come to start unfolding my story of the last year. It is a tale that added to my vocabulary the phrase “my old church,” as I was given no substantive choice but to leave the church my family had been in for generations. The cost has been painful and severe in numerous ways. The whole generational thing never seemed all that important until all of these events transpired and I realized all that had to be given up.

Why talk about it now or even at all? I have wrestled with that. As I reveal bits and pieces, it will be for two reasons. First, abuses in churches happen far more frequently than I think any of us would like to believe; people need to share these things to help them from happening again and to let those currently going through them know that they are OK, that they are not alone in facing abuse and just because a church is doing these things doesn't call into question God's love for them. It is perhaps one of the greatest scandals of the Church that we attempt to cover the evidence of our failures; I am convinced frank, open communication is far more in line with God's love of truth in the light and would do a great deal to restore the world's view of the Church.

While I have no idea why what happened had to happen, I do not think I could possibly be a good steward of my experiences if I did not write about them, given that I am a person blessed with outlets to speak out so effectively.

Second, any experience as scarring as the one I went through last year will inevitably influence a person. I have different and new perspectives now than I did at the start — mostly ones I would not wish anyone the cost to acquire — and since this blog has always been a place where I've talked through things I have been thinking about, to omit the experience of the last year would be to omit a major component of my thought process I otherwise seek to dialogue about here.

The first part of my story is the tale of the dangers of “the Peacemaking Church.” While some of what transpired came before its tools came into play and the same sort of thing could have happened without Peacemaker Ministries' programs, that organization's approaches open up (unintentionally, perhaps) huge doors for abuse, some of which I now have personally experienced. What happened would have been much harder to accomplish without the Peacemaker program. Pulling together my own experiences along with the stories of others that I have learned since, I wrote a piece last week for Open for Business on the subject of Peacemaker Ministries and some of the legal matters that accompany it.

I am thankful not everything I describe in that article was in full effect yet at my old church when the ordeal I, along with my family, went through occurred. The damage would have been even worse if it had and given reliable reasons to believe all of what I describe will eventually be implemented there, the timing of events last year may very well have been providential.

My goal is not to pen tell-all exposés on the subject. In this post and the article on OFB, you will notice I do not note the names of those who were involved in my own situation. My purpose is looking forward to what can help prevent these sorts of things from happening, not digging into the past for the past's sake. The past is a necessary feature, but I am being deliberate on what I discuss — where that will lead I have not entirely decided yet, but I want to make clear my intentions from the start.

I sincerely hope it helps someone else going through this experience — or maybe even prevents them from having to go through it. As I said over on OFB, if anyone has experiences with Peacemaker Ministries, affiliated regional bodies or other Christian “mediation” or “counseling” services, I would welcome hearing about them. You can leave something in the comments or — if preferred — privately at tbutler@ofb.biz.


Re: Unfolding My Story: The Dangers of Peacemakers

Good writing, Tim. And you're right. Sharing the gist of this ordeal is a good thing to do.

Posted by Eduardo - Jan 14, 2010 | 18:54

Re: Unfolding My Story: The Dangers of Peacemakers

Tim, thank you for being willing to share your ordeal. Since the first article and our subsequent email conversation I have gone back and revisited some thing. You have helped me see some errors that, I think, can be avoided with some judicious modifications.

—JPF

Posted by Jason P. Franklin - Jan 15, 2010 | 0:19

Re: Unfolding My Story: The Dangers of Peacemakers

Thanks, Eduardo!

Jason, thanks for your comment. I think you are likely correct that it could be improved a lot with “judicious modifications.” Certainly some protections — or perhaps omission of the legal portions — would help…

Posted by Timothy R. Butler - Jan 19, 2010 | 5:34

Re: Unfolding My Story: The Dangers of Peacemakers

I took a seminary course years ago titled “Conflict Resolution.” Sande's book was our primary text. I learned a lot in the class and still use his materials in preparing myself for conflict situations. There's a lot of good in the processes.

That said, I had a lot of problems with the idea that a church /must/ have some form of official membership so that they can legally hold people accountable. It's simply a form of control with no biblical basis - a power thing.

I think that's the real problem you ran up against Tim - and a problem in many of our churches. We (white males, usually) deal with our fear and ignorance through power and control. It makes us feel secure when we can boss other people around.

Posted by Caedmon - Jan 19, 2010 | 23:42

Re: Unfolding My Story: The Dangers of Peacemakers

True, true, Caedmon. I think there may very well be commendable things in the program, but the problem is the good is mixed very deeply with the dross. Indeed, the concern with legal matters is the worst of that. Though I also think that Sande at times fails into prooftexting too and the incomplete picture of Biblical discipleship and discipline led to a number of problems in my experience.

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