OPEN LETTER TO LEAVERS ON WHY TO STAY IN THE NETWORK
This letter was posted then removed from LeavingTheNetwork Reddit community on 12.11.21
OPEN LETTER TO LEAVERS ON WHY TO STAY IN THE NETWORK
This letter, written by a poster who claimed to be a current, longtime member of a Network church, was posted to the r/leavingthenetwork community on 12.12.21. The post was up less than 1 day until the original poster deleted the message along with their Reddit account after receiving substantial negative feedback from the community of those who have left The Network. You can read the many responses from the Reddit community to this open letter here and here.
The following letter was posted to the r/leavingthenetwork Reddit page then removed by the original poster before deleting the account. A Redditor had taken a screenshot of this open letter and reposted as a second thread for further discussion. The original poster then appealed privately to the Reddit Mod to close the entire discussion and delete all trace of the Open Letter. The Reddit mod did not comply.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
This open letter matters because the arguments expressed within are reminiscent of the statements made to the abused as justifications to stay in The Network.
Had the moderator removed all trace of this interaction it would have made the Reddit community less safe for victims. It would have communicated that those from within The Network can operate in this digital forum much the same way they have treated their victims within these churches where they have control over communication between members of the group to ensure the "right" story is told within the confines of the group (See Information Control from our article "8 Signs of a Dysfunctional Church").
RESPONSES TO THE LETTER
Here are some relevant responses to this Open Letter written by the Reddit community which repudiate some of the assertions it makes:
- Relational hurt and spiritual abuse are different concepts
- A list of specific questions current members should ask themselves to understand the specific issues which leavers have documented
- Many who defend The Network often engage in DARVO
- Being willing to "take a hit" is not the same as recovery from trauma
- Is spiritual abuse ok if the ends justify the means?
- Numerical congregation growth does not equate health of a church
- The Network has been around too long to claim their abuse is caused by youth and inexperience
Note: This subreddit is in response to but not directly moderated by the contributors of this site.
Deciding to Stay
By: u/BirdIndependent2908, 11 December 2021
To those who have left the network: I wanted to write a brief letter in the hopes of seeking some level of unity and mutuality. For now, at least, I am choosing to remain anonymous because I know that this message board isn't necessarily for those who have decided to stay. I understand and respect that. I'm not here to plead with any of you to stop what you're doing- I understand how this forum can serve as a point of catharsis and I honor that.
I wanted to first say that I hear you. I hear your pain, I hear the sense of betrayal and disappointment and despondency you're sharing here. I don't in any way want to minimize or disregard that. I think your stories and perspectives are valid, even if they differ from my own. I've been a part of this network of churches for quite a long time now. I've seen probably 20 churches planted and I've seen droves of individuals come and go and come again. I've seen babies born and I've grieved loved ones who have gone on to meet Jesus. I've made lifelong friends in my church, and I've been hurt, too. It's so hard to stay when you've been hurt again and again.
I recognize that this network of churches is both young and growing. Its youth of course doesn't excuse any sin that's been exhibited, but maybe it helps at least to explain it. The growth is real though, and not just in numbers. I've seen my own leaders encounter deep changes of heart. Changes that have encouraged me to continue fighting for this small, awkward, unruly, and messy family of believers. I undersand and respect if you disagree with me, but please hear where I'm coming from. No one, and no church, is beyond redemption.
With where I am on my own spiritual walk, I feel I have the capacity to stay without taking any of the potential blows too hard. Personally, this took a lot of dealing with my own trauma (mostly relating to how I was raised), and therapy has helped me with that. I recognized how I projected my own abusive parents onto my leaders, which conditioned me to interpret any small act as some form of attack. When I was finally able to hash this out with them, everything changed for me. We wept and prayed together and I experienced a deep sense of freedom from the Holy Spirit.
Does my projection mean they were always innocent? Of course not- but I've noticed an increasing trend of softened hearts and quick, sincere repentence. I've been able to bring some of my own grievances into the light and my leaders have been quick to reconcile with me.
Even if none of you ever hear personally from any of the leaders in the network, I do believe change is happening, albeit slowly. I'm seeing an increase of communication, a deepening of relationships, and more genuine concern for how individuals are hurting.
If anyone feels inclined, I'm hoping that some of you might be open to the idea of praying for those who have decided to stay. Pray for me, because staying isn't necessarily easy, either. Especially when you see where the issues are. But this network is my family, and perhaps this is a long shot, but I feel that if enough people with the capacity to handle the rough terrain decide to stay, we can be a catalyst for change.
TLDR: I'm choosing to stay even though I see and validate much of what so many of you have shared. I believe this network is worth fighting for, that no one is beyond redeption. Though I've experienced some inexpressible pain over the years, it has not clouded the utter joy and friendship I've found with my church family. My hope in staying is to be some small catalyst for change. Please pray for me, if you feel any inclination to do so.
Also, please respect my privacy and do not try and figure out who I am. I likely won't be interacting much more beyond this post.
Original screenshot of post uploaded below:
BACK TO SOURCES:
PRIMARY SOURCES: Various documents used as primary sources for the information presented on this site