Yesterday was a significant day for those of us who are fighting against wolves in sheep’s clothing and intimidating bullies. The judge sided with the victim in a $500,000 defamation lawsuit. The suit was launched against Julie Anne Smith after she posted a negative review about a church she attended 3 years ago and she has been courageous enough to talk about her experience, in hopes that others will be warned to steer clear of this unhealthy and destructive church.
Amazing the similarities. She began her blog in February of this year. Same time I started this blog. The church she reported as abusive was Beaverton Grace Bible Church where, just like Sound Doctrine, the pastor is very controlling and does not allow parishioners to question anything, if they do, they are shunned. They even had a sex offender in the ministry who had free access to the nursery. The abusive pastor knew about it and put no safeguards in place.
You can read more about her story at http://bgbcsurvivors.blogspot.com/.
Uncanny the timing of God. Just the day before I read a blog post by author-friend, Mary DeMuth. The title of the post was Spiritual Abuse: 10 Ways to Spot It. As I read it I was completely floored with how perfectly the 10 red flags she shared were exactly what I experienced at Sound Doctrine…you would think she had been a fly on the wall during my time in the cult. What’s equally uncanny is the fact that she grew up in Enumclaw, and she posted this about 2 months before I came to my senses and escaped the clutches of these wolves in sheep’s clothing (here I refer specifically to Tim Williams and Malcolm Fraser. I do not believe Joshua and Josiah Williams are wolves, I believe they are deceived).
I’m going to quote her 10 points and draw the parallel to what I experienced, but please do yourself a favor and go read the entire post here http://www.marydemuth.com/2011/09/spiritual-abuse-10-ways-to-spot-it/.
Spiritually abusive ministries…
Have a distorted view of respect. They forget the simple adage that respect is earned, not granted. Abusive leaders demand respect without having earned it by good, honest living.
By taking scriptures out of context and training us to respect and honor those in authority no matter what, they taught me a very distorted view of respect.
Demand allegiance as proof of the follower’s allegiance to Christ. It’s either his/her way or no way. And if a follower deviates, he is guilty of deviating from Jesus.
Anyone who leaves Sound Doctrine is told they are turning their back on God, they are a Judas, a betrayer, going to hell.
Use exclusive language. “We’re the only ministry really following Jesus.” “We have all the right theology.” Believe their way of doing things, thinking theologically, or handling ministry and church is the only correct way. Everyone else is wrong, misguided, or stupidly naive.
This is exactly how I was groomed into thinking Sound Doctrine had the truth and no one else did. They made sure they didn’t come out and say they were the only ones, but in fact everything they did and said proved that they believed that to be true!
Create a culture of fear and shame. Often there is no grace for someone who fails to live up to the church’s or ministry’s expectation. And if someone steps outside of the often-unspoken rules, leaders shame them into compliance. Can’t admit failure but often searches out failure in others and uses that knowledge to hold others in fear and captivity. They often quote scriptures about not touching God’s anointed, or bringing accusations against an elder. Yet they often confront sin in others, particularly ones who bring up legitimate biblical issues. Or they have their circle of influence take on this task, silencing critics.
I blogged about this in my “Shaming and Shunning” post. This is exactly what was done to me for 12 years and continues to be done to those still entrapped in the cult.
Often have a charismatic leader at the helm who starts off well, but slips into arrogance, protectionism and pride. Where a leader might start off being personable and interested in others’ issues, he/she eventually withdraws to a small group of “yes people” and isolates from the needs of others. Harbors a cult of personality, meaning if the central figure of the ministry or church left, the entity would collapse, as it was entirely dependent on one person to hold the place together.
This fits the actions of Tim Williams over the 12 years I knew him. He was very welcoming of all until people didn’t measure up or repent properly, so over the years he isolated himself with a small group, mostly his 2 sons and the pedophile Malcolm Fraser. Without Tim Williams calling the shots and telling everyone what to do (through Malcolm and his sons) it is true, the whole thing WOULD fall apart!
Cultivate a dependence on one leader or leaders for spiritual information. Personal discipleship isn’t encouraged. Often the Bible gets pushed away to the fringes unless the main leader is teaching it.
Exactly. The leadership at Sound Doctrine became my Holy Spirit. I could not hear from God for myself, and unless the leadership is teaching it, it isn’t true.
Demand servanthood of their followers, but live prestigious, privileged lives. They live aloof from their followers and justify their extravagance as God’s favor and approval on their ministry. Unlike Jesus’ instructions to take the last seat, they often take the first seat at events and court others to grant them privileges.
Oh my, if you’ve read my first post entitled “Not Afraid to Tell My Story” you’ve seen how I chronicle the greed that grew over the years, and the demands that all the minions serve the leadership. The minions at WinePress are paid minimum wage while the leaders are taking exorbitant salaries. Of course, whenever Tim Williams shows up at WinePress he takes the best parking spot and expects to have his demands met immediately.
Buffer him/herself from criticism by placing people around themselves whose only allegiance is to the leader. Views those who bring up issues as enemies. Those who were once friends/allies swiftly become enemies once a concern is raised. Sometimes these folks are banished, told to be silent, or shamed into submission.
Exactly! Because I continued to question over the years, I was continually labeled the enemy and shamed into submission. Tim and Malcolm both have buffered themselves from criticism to the point where the entire church is protecting a pedophile and declaring him innocent, while there is still at least one victim in the cult, and who knows how many others.
Hold to outward performance but rejects authentic spirituality. Places burdens on followers to act a certain way, dress an acceptable way, and have an acceptable lifestyle.
Oh yes. All you have to do is take a look at Sound Doctrine members (WinePress employees)…they all dress the same, talk the same, think the same. After being brainwashed that “being one in mind and spirit” is the goal, unless you follow suit and try to be like the leaders, you are blasted with condemnation that you are just trying to get attention, that you are in sin, and if you don’t repent you are going to hell.
Use exclusivity for allegiance. Followers close to the leader or leaders feel like insiders. Everyone else is on the outside, though they long to be in that inner circle.
This is a tool Tim Williams uses to manipulate and control his followers. You are either “in” or “out”…if you are “in” you feel special, like you’re really “getting it.” But if you’re “out” you are constantly feeling condemned, shamed, oftentimes publicly humiliated, sure that you’re going to hell. This inner circle can change on a whim, if someone messes up or does something that pleases Tim Williams. It’s an amazing thing to look back on in hindsight.
This weekend I celebrate God’s goodness in giving me a wonderful sanctuary to live in. I am moving on with my life and continuing to heal and trust God more and more. While there are still many unanswered questions and justice does not seem to be quick in coming against these evil men, I am working hard on leaving it in God’s hands. He does not need my help in bringing them to justice and freeing those who are still trapped.
And so I continue to pray for those still in. I continue to forgive those who spiritually, emotionally, and financially ravaged me and left me with nothing.
I don’t like to keep bringing this up…but when events occur that demand an acknowledgement, I am willing to go there, in hopes that those who are left in the cult will see the truth and flee. That those who have destroyed so many people over the last 35 years would repent and actually surrender their lives and hearts to a God who is full of grace and mercy.
I’ll keep speaking up as the Spirit prompts me. But for the most part, I’m loving the restoration God is working in my life and will continue to share that as the Lord leads.