Friday, March 7, 2008

Interview with Xenos on membership and discipline policies


Since I have to be critical of churches all the time I’m delighted to be able to give a positive review of a church’s disciplinary processes. Xenos Christian Fellowship is located in Columbus Ohio near Ohio State. It was founded from an underground Christian newspaper and has exploded today into a congregation of around 5000 with 800 members that have received formal training and around 60 “home churches”. Home church leaders have had over 200 hours of classroom instruction, that is a level of training that would put them on par with most junior ministers in many denominations. This combination of a central organization with full minstrel training for “smaller churches” is the sort of behavior one usually sees in a denomination and not an individual church. So in effect Xenos is structured as a cross between a large church and a mini denomination, which is what originally led me to take an interest.

In addition to mixing the problems of a church and a denomination there are several other things that make Xenos a fascinating case study. The organization is almost entirely lay, and it is a point of pride how little a church of this size and accomplishment burns in terms of budget. Probably because the church is able to run so efficiently, they are able to afford having a young membership (young people can’t tithe very much) of first generation Christians. They mix a successful middle school and high school youth group with a successful college outreach. 75% of the church are people with no previous church background at all (a church of converts) and 15% transfers, and I would assume (though they don’t indicate) that the remaining 10% are children of current members. This is quite different from the 80-95%, transfer / children of current members commonly found in most evangelical churches. Xenos also practices church discipline frequently and effectively. They make it a core part of their leadership instruction (see links are below)

Finally, Xenos does not have a notion of formal membership, in the sense of a membership card or church covenant. Most church groups (as well as the law) differentiate quite heavily between attendance and membership. In fact leaders in the return to church discipline such as Mark Dever argue that a return to “biblical membership” is required for discipline. A great deal of the interview below will concern itself with the mechanics of how discipline is carried out without this clarity of formal membership.
It should be mentioned this membership informality includes no substantial differentiation between the baptized and the unbaptised, nor any sort of adult profession. This is genuinely unique for Xenos. And as my regular readers unique things generally are worrying signs. But again I’m hard pressed to see any intent to create an injustice in this system. It seems to be a reasonable attempt to address the community they are called to serve and I was unable to find any large gapping holes created.
I’m going to contact Mark Dever after this is posted and hopefully we can see a response. It appears we may have a counter case to his hypothesis.


Xenos provides information on their disciple:
Leadership and Authority discusses the scope of discipline at Xenos.

So to summarize the many ways Xenos is a truly interesting case study. In terms of discipline being effective they suffer from many of the worst possible problems:
• They don’t have a well defined membership in particular it is not a covenant church
• Their membership is young
• Their membership often did not grow up in conservative Christian homes
• Their membership does not have long term strong ties to Xenos
• They aren’t a member of a denomination
• They have no business ties linking their membership to the church

On the other hand they also have many of the problems of a denomination further compounded by the fact that:
• Home church leaders are inexperienced by pastoral standards and are often disciplining for the first time.
• The relationships with the home church are very close and personal.
• The home churches are informal and thus lack the sorts of institutional supports a denomination can often depend on

To investigate Xenos, I contacted a member of their staff Jessica Lowery to ask questions regarding the details of Xenos’ procedures on discipline. Dennis McCallum lead pastor and one of the founders of Xenos stepped forward and answered the questions. This discussion on discipline will be rather unique in that Pastor McCallum was being asked questions appropriate to a denominational leader (like cross restoration policy) as well general church level policies on discipline. Throughout the interview Pastor McCallum presented well thought out considered and rather humane answers to some of the most difficult question I could throw at him.

The original material is quite disorganized since there was multiple back and forth rounds. I have freely reorganized the order of questions and answers however I have quoted the answers exactly. Further, I have vetted these answers and corresponding questions by Pastor McCallum prior to publishing on the blog, to make sure these accurately reflect his views and even the phraseology he prefers. These statements should be seen as written responses to an “on the record” interview.

Statements of explanation will be in black, McCallum’s answers in blue and questions in green.

Membership:

You possibly killed a bunch of my questions, with the comment about "75% of our membership". It was my understanding that Xenos doesn't actually have a notion of membership; a person who regularly attends a home church is as much a member as they are ever going to be , is this correct? I'm going to assume in the below that this is the case (that is people are not "members"), but if there has been a change (or I am misunderstanding) then adjust responses according . I'll drop my disciplining a non member type questions till the next round however.

Yes. But we still call them members in the sense that they are members of the body of Christ, and have membered themselves with us. It's true that we do not have "membership". but we were interested in our composition after reading a Barna book, so we sent out surveys to home group leaders asking about the people who regularly attend their groups. that's how we got the composition information.

In terms of membership the question was how Xenos would handle borderline cases as it does not have a clear line between a member and a non-member. Below is a discussion of the basic policies. The discussion assumes you have read the links above, or are familiar with discipline. The focus, as mentioned above is on discipline in a non membership context. It consists of a series of closely related cases where I am attempting to draw fine distinctions by changing the parameters slightly. These sorts of questions are very difficult for church leadership since they are designed to lay on grey boundary between black and white. They are specific to the church, what is grey for one is not grey for another. They expose the underlying philosophy quite well and any contradictions in the policy. I think it’s worth commenting that Pastor McCallum and Xenos did an excellent job on these.

I'm not following. Do they at any point ask to be members or declare themselves to be members of Xenos? What can a member do that a non member cannot do? How does one become a member rather than just a regular attender...? Most churches would argue that a non member can't actually be excommunicated. I hope a hypothetical is OK, to sort of separate this out. I'm assuming unrepentant cocaine use is seen as an excommunicatable offensive (if not just change the underlying sin). Here are a bunch of situations all relatively similar. Can these people be excommunicated, excluded, would they be... (just trying to address the jurisdictional issues here so assume calls to repentance are fruitless if given):

First, we don’t use the term excommunication. It’s not biblical, but a Catholic concept having to do with not being allowed to take mass. We refer to removing people from fellowship, which seems to be the focus in the New Testament. But yes. Any professed believer who is attending and won’t leave off coke could be removed.

Alice has attended a small church 5 times and admits she regularly uses cocaine. She refuses to stop. Everyone considers her still visiting.

That would probably also be the case with us.

Beth only attends central meeting but others who attend know she regularly uses cocaine. She refuses to stop.

We usually don’t bother visitors at CT. Home church would be a different matter, but still it would take a longer period and more persuasion before formal discipline would come into play.

Cathy has attended a small church for 2 years, but claims she is not saved. Cathy has had an adult baptism. She regularly uses cocaine and has refused to stop.

This would probably be a case for intense counseling, but could eventually lead to more forceful confrontation.

Doris has attended a small church for 2 years has not had an adult baptism and claims she is not saved. She regularly...

Wouldn’t make any difference

Eleanor claims to be saved, has attended a small church for 2 years and has had an adult baptism but claims her membership is with her hometown church and she is just a affiliate member of your church. She regularly...

Not good enough. She would be given an ultimatum.

Francis claims to be saved, has attended a small church for 2 years and has not had an adult baptism but claims her membership is with her hometown church and she is just a affiliate member of your church. She regularly...

Same.

Evidence and standards for conviction

What is the standard of proof in terms of discipline? That is how much doubt can there be about the actual sin, before a person can be disciplined?

Most discipline cases involve someone who admits the sin. We would not feel comfortable disciplining someone if we doubted his or her guilt at all. Usually there are multiple incidents involved over a period of time. In some cases, someone else has ratted the person out. The fact that the person actually did the sin must be established, and I think it always is. I can’t think of a case where the person didn’t admit to the facts.

Let me clarify this a bit. Generally there are 3 types of disputes regarding guilt. Disputes of fact (which you addressed), disputes of law (is something a sin or not) and disputes of application (does this particular fact qualify under this particular law). Its interesting that you haven't had disputes of fact do you know why?

We have had disputes, but these would need to be resolved before any discipline meeting would occur. If the facts haven’t been established by admission or multiple witnesses, we would not move to formal discipline.

This one comes off sounding more like a criticism then a question. I apologize in advance for being unable to phrase it better. The standard for conviction seems rather low (simple majority, vote at the same meeting as the presentation of charges and evidence, informed that central leadership agrees with the discipline, non neutral venue, right of the leader to exclude members -- vote stacking, minority required to follow the majority, etc...), I think I could probably convict any attendee of Xenos of the Kennedy assassination with that trial procedure. Why has Xenos chosen such a low burden? Is the goal simply to block the most egregious abuses and otherwise give the home church leaders discretion, or is there some other reason?

Again, the question at the meeting is not whether the sin has occurred or whether the person did it. These are already admitted. The question is what is going to be the best response—counseling within the church, or exclusion. Majority is a standard established in 2 Cor. 2 as sufficient for making this decision.

Degree of Punishment:

There are claims that Xenos practices shunning which is unusual among Baptists outside the Mennonite tradition. On the website there does not appear to be clear guidelines for shunning. What is the reason behind this?

We don’t agree that we practice shunning. Shunning is usually interpreted to mean the person is left within the group, but nobody will talk to or fellowship with them. It also implies complete cutting off of communication and interaction. If the person is put out of fellowship, Paul says believers should not “eat with such a one” (1 Cor. 5:11ff) which we take to mean casual fellowship. We would not discourage meeting to talk, as advised in 2 Thess. 3, and remind people to “not treat him as an enemy, but to admonish him as a brother”

What is the extent of the disfellowshipping in practice?

Members are urged to not fellowship in a way that would bring comfort to the one under discipline, causing him/her to feel no reason to return to fellowship. This usually means not going out socially, etc. unless it is to discuss restoration. No rules about not doing business with the person. Also, families are usually considered an exception. We realize they will have social contact in the context of their family activities.

What if a member refuses to cut communication an excommunicated member?

Nothing we can do about that, but disapprove

Given that Ohio has case law is particularly hostile to shunning are there any additional legal protections you need to use when dealing with adults with their entire family and business associates in Xenos?

Breaking off casual fellowship is not an action taken by the church corporation, but by the individuals in a group as they feel led.

Discipline across churches

How much is each home church required to respect the decisions of the others. The website seems a bit back and forth on whether a person that is excluded from one home church are excluded from them all until such time as they are restored by the first. What if one of the home church leaders comes to believe another's discipline is genuinely in error? Can they cross restore even if the disciplining home church objects?

No, they cannot. They have to be resolved with the disciplining church. Only exception would be where discipline happened so long ago the original church is no longer intact.

Does Xenos respect the discipline of other churches? If so what churches qualify? (i.e. only Baptist, any protest, any Trinitarian Christian (Catholic excommunication), any Christian (LDS or JW churches), any discipline (a declaration of Cherum be upheld)).

In principle, yes, but only for evangelical Bible believing churches. Also their cause of discipline would have to be one we recognize as legitimate.

Does Xenos assume appellate jurisdiction (that is if the person argues they are wrongly excommunicated will Xenos investigate?)

Yes.

Will Xenos cross restore on repentance (i.e. allow a person who is genuinely repentant and willing to accept Xenos oversight that is however the excommunicated member of another church whose discipline Xenos respects to join a small group, without their original church restoring them).

We would call on them to seek resolution with the disciplining church. If we felt the church was being unreasonable, we would restore them.

Restoration

Can an excommunicated person be rebaptised at any point? That is if an excommunicated member believes they were not actually a Christian during the time of their excommunication can they request baptism or must they go through restoration? If they must go through restoration, do you recognize apostasy as separate from unrepentant sin or is apostasy just another sin?

They could be rebaptized if their testimony is that they were not a Christian at the time. Apostasy is just another sin.

Given that Xenos has a very young membership this one may not come up. How lasting are the effects of exclusion? For example, assume you discovered that a person who was a good quality member of a small church for 2 years had been disciplined 15 years earlier for a sin at the time (non reoccurring). Some church would excommunicate either on principle or for the deception. In others there would there be a general tendency towards restoration given that the underlying issue being so far in the past and that discipline in this case is likely to be harmful. Assuming you would go along with restoration what about things that might change within a decade. For example someone excluding as an undergraduate for persistent fornication that seeks to return during graduate school, now married to another woman.

We would respect someone's change in lifestyle as fruit in keeping with repentance; and show them grace.

Right to Appeal


One of the things I’m always writing about (example) is the importance of the appeals process for discipline. While its obvious there is quite a bit of oversight, I failed to note during the initial Q&A there was in fact an appeal. The correction is explained below.

There doesn't seem to be a genuine appeals process. Has this actually caused problems where people have continued to argue their innocence and church members (outside their home church) continue to believe it?

This doesn’t come up, because we would probably not exclude anyone who denied they have done wrong, unless there were eye-witnesses. The person does definitely have the right to appeal to the elders if they felt they were being falsely accused. We have never had a case like this. If they feel the discipline is wrong, they can ask for a grievance board to be convened. Current Ministry Teams at bottom. also mentioned in Leadership and Authority in the Church.

Have you had disciplinary schisms and if so what happened and how did you handle them?

If you mean schisms resulting from disagreement over discipline, yes. These have been small, and people usually either leave or get over it. We do not allow them to campaign in the church to overthrow what was decided.

64 comments:

Jennifer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jensgems said...

CD, thanks for an excellent interview. I appreciated hearing what sounds to be like an intent to truly follow biblical discipline procedures. I do think they are correct that the lack of fellowship alone is the main driving tool available and that formal membership is not necessary to enforce disfellowship.

One aspect of this interview I found interesting is that, in general, they don't discipline unless the person admits to their own wrongdoing.

I would have liked to have heard more about the process that takes place when someone does not admit to what they've been accused of.

I was also wondering how much they attempt to genuinely restore the sinner first, then how much counseling is provided before discipline. IOW, how long is the attempt at restoration before they discipline?

On a personal note, I wonder what types of sins they would consider for discipline. Would mine qualify? Just curious, of course.

Thanks, CD.

CD-Host said...

I would have liked to have heard more about the process that takes place when someone does not admit to what they've been accused of.

What I got from the interview was either there is overwhelming evidence or no discipline moves forward without a confession. The burden is on the prosecution.

On a personal note, I wonder what types of sins they would consider for discipline. Would mine qualify? Just curious, of course.

Which sin? Anyway the big difference would have been standards of evidence. If you could plausibly deny you were doing X then you don't punished for X.

I was also wondering how much they attempt to genuinely restore the sinner first, then how much counseling is provided before discipline. IOW, how long is the attempt at restoration before they discipline?

As for how long... the question is given that the sinner has admitted the act do they admit its a sin? If not then they would try and convince them, but if that didn't work they are essentially challenge the church's teaching authority. You can't be a part of the church and reject their positions on a major issue. If on the other hand they want to change the church would continue working with them until either the problem was resolved of the person gave up.


They aren't part of the patriarchy movement. They have woman in positions of leadership.

Sociological Zephyr said...

Hi CD:
I would like to respond to Dennis' assertion that Xenos does not discipline unless they confess their sin.

I was a "member" of Xenos for a number of years. I did see a case in which a brother was removed from participation in a men's bible study because of active alcoholism. He would not admit that he had a problem. The intent of removal was twofold. First it was designed to remove his negative influence from the group (as his alcoholism had attitudinal and behavioral repercussions) and secondly to have a hand in convicting him of sin. This is pretty close to a situation of discipline where no admission of sin was evident (in fact it took him over a year after that to admit he was an alcoholic).

*It should be noted that although Xenos attempts to maintain centralized control over the home churches the fact is that there is much discretion in practical fact among the home churches. As such, what Dennis says is mandated policy is actually applied in various ways at the ground level.

~korienblueye

CD-Host said...

What specifically was the charge? Alcoholism, bad behavior, excessive drinking, division...? Who was the presiding home church leader, I'd like to give them a chance to respond? Was there an appea

Sociological Zephyr said...

Hi CD-host, in regard to your query: the charge against the offender was that he was an actual and potential bad influence on our study group and that by tolerating his abuse of alcohol we were in effect enabling his problem.

*He was an actual bad influence because his abuse likely contributed to his cynicism and negative attitude--qualities that could hurt the morale and even cause division.

*He was a potential bad influence because his (increasing) negativity and drinking heavily could encourage others to be or do likewise.

The group leader confronted him about the problem and removed him from the group (I'm not completely sure if the removal was done at the same time as the confrontation; I believe it was however). I'm not comfortable divulging privately or publicly the identity of the group leader or others involved as it was a sensitive issue (a man's addiction!).

I don't want to leave you with the impression that I disagreed with this decision (I think it was right for both our group and for my friend the alcoholic). I just wanted to say that this experience did not fully correspond with what Dennis' stated policy was, if I understood his statement in the interview correctly.

I'm not aware of any formal appeals process that was allowed the friend. Yet I do know that had he sobered up and agreed with the leader's and group's decision he would have immediately been let back into the group. He did sober up and flirted some with attending the broader central teachings at Xenos but as far as I can remember he never returned to the bible study and eventually left Xenos altogether (he was bitter about that experience and several other things).

jensgems said...

Thanks, CD. I think you did a great job searching out and finding an example of a church that disciplines without church membership. That really flies in the face of the membership argument.

It was also good to hear a real life example from Xenos. That puts feet to the words.

So, based upon just your personal opinion, CD, do you think this would be both a biblical model of church discipline, and appropriate?

CD-Host said...

Hi Jen.

So, based upon just your personal opinion, CD, do you think this would be both a biblical model of church discipline, and appropriate?

Well I think its a reasonable model and it works well, under just about the worst possible circumstances. There is a lot to learn from Xenos. But in the end I don't think this model would work for a large denomination. It depends too strongly on


As for biblical is tricky for me to judge. I think the bible presupposes a judicial system capable or resolving problems, and the lack of focus on trial is IMHO not biblical. So I think the presbyterian or orthodox jewish models are much more biblical. In Xenos's case the young membership may help here. However I think Xenos offers a reasonable system baptists can adopt. They are nowhere near capable of the level of coordination required for the more biblical models.

Bill K said...

To korienblueye,

Was your friend removed from just your men's bible study (cell group) or from your homechurch?

I'm a current member of Xenos and the structure of the church is three-tiered. There are the large corporate gatherings, the homechurches and also small men's and women's bible study groups called cell groups. Most homechurches have both a men's and a women's cell group and may have more than one. The cell groups are generally stuctured according to the model presented on: http://www.xenos.org/classes/leadership/cellmod.htm

But the specific goals and membership requirements of cell group are up to individual homechurch and cell leaders to decide. In my homechurch the cell groups are structured for people who are Christians, have an expressed desire to grow with God (including the willingess to give an receive encouragement and admonition), and are willing to regularly attending meetings.

This is understood by or expressly stated to each member of the cell group (although over a period of years I have seen a few people come and go that may have slipped by without this getting told to).

If at a later time a cell member fails to meet this commitment they will probably be asked about it, they may be challenged about the particular behavior that is breaking this agreement, and they could be removed from cell group for braking this agreement and/or disrupting the accomplishment of the goals of the group. Removal from cell group has no necessary impact on fellowship status in the homechurch (You can be a homechurch member without being in a cell group).

Sociological Zephyr said...

Hi Bill:

My friend the alcoholic was removed from the men's cell group specifically.

I cannot remember if he was asked to leave home church as it was several years ago; I know he no longer came to home church shortly thereafter (how long after I cannot remember). I am confident he decided on his own to leave but I can't firmly state that he was or was not asked to leave by the home church leadership in specific.

I am aware of other scenarios in which people were asked not to attend even home church.

Bill K said...

It would unusual to ask people to stop coming to homechurch without the discipline process being worked through and without approval for disfellowship above the level of the homechurch leaders. The only exceptions to this would be immediate threat to life, safety, or criminal activity.

Even if the person doesn't admit fault in those type of incidents it would be something occuring at homechurch so there would be multiple witnesses. And talks might very well continue to try to win them over even while they aren't permitted at homechurch for the safety of others (violence, threats of violence, predatory behavior, criminal activity at meetings, etc.)

misty said...

The high leaders may not force a person to leave until this process is due; however, it is the unspoken word of the ordinary members and the house leaders to publicly shun and excommunicate the "sinner" based on personal judging and rumors spread via internet based forums/groups, cell groups, and HC.

CD-Host said...

Misty --

Just to repeat back to make sure I understand the claim. You are asserting that the general membership rejects the standards for the formal excommunication process and instead uses an informal process which results in shunning being applied well before home church leadership would have sanctioned it?

Assuming that was the claim:
1) What are the time frames in your experience for the 2 processes?

2) Why does the general membership (in your opinion) reject the formal process? Is it just time or do they see the standards of evidence as too high or some other reason?

3) Since you indicate punishment is inflicted based on internet rumor. How often is it inflicted based on entirely untrue rumors or rumors that are distorted enough that when the truth becomes known membership rejects prior acts. and when this does happen how is this handled, since by this point the member's relationship with the church has qualitatively and likely permanently changed.

Sociological Zephyr said...

Hi CD: I received an email indicating an "anonymous" left a post, an incoherent ramble as it were. This person I believe is dishonest so I ask you post this response.

One of the bizare claims she makes is "if you are asked to leave, or even choose to leave xenos, you can forget about keeping any friends you made there.....i have heard "its for the leavers own good, to realize what they are missing" seriously?!?!? "

1) I've known several individuals to leave Xenos; I kept in touch with them as did other Xenoids.

2) I left Xenos 9 months ago; I still keep in touch with Xenoids.

Anonymous also suggests that Xenoids are trained to refute the church's critics; this is a lie. There is no such "training" at Xenos, merely bible classes as in so many other churches.

She also lies when she says that when you're in the church you can't say anything bad about it. I've voiced in many public & private forms at Xenos some of my criticisms. I was never censored or shunned for doing so.

*CD, I really believe many of these anti-xenoids are emotional and irrational people having had a bad experience with some unwise Xenoid or Xenoid group and thus are generalizing their experiences to the whole church. I've seen similar visceral reactions in racists, homophobes and other biggots.

Sociological Zephyr said...

Oh I also missed this lie from anonymous: "they basically ensure that no one can complete college because they force you to have a full time job (a requirement to live in a ministry house) and they force you to come to meetings 5 nights a week."

1. I'm not aware of 5 nights of meetings at Xenos. I certainly never went to that many in one week. In fact, we were discouraged from getting together too often with friends at Xenos b/c that would mean we would be too much away from the rest of the world!

2. As for not being able to complete a degree b/c of over-involvement, I finished a masters and Ph.D. at OSU while in Xenos, my wife finished her second BA and a nursing degree and I know many, many Xenoids who finished their Master's while in Xenos. I would say that Xenos appears to have a higher education rate than most other churches I've been a part of.

This critic of Xenos has few truths to say of the church.

CD-Host said...

Hello. The anonymous post I think you are speaking about is at the other Xenos thread. Feel free to respond there.

As for abuses so far I've been unable to get any of the details from anyone making these claims. Now this contrasts strongly with groups Sovereign Grace or Vision Forum ministries where there systematic abuse and I was fairly quickly able to determine the mechanism for it. I don't have any personal knowledge at all of Xenos, as I've indicated I've never been to Columbus. But I have a pretty positive impression of Dennis and Jessica from my interaction. They most certainly answered difficult questions in ways that were both honest and well considered. They aren't canon lawyers and I certainly could poke holes in their theory of discipline pretty easily. But as Dennis repeatedly argued, Xenos has never had a single incident where those holes would have become a problem.

But I have a great deal of trouble seeing anything other than responsible church management doing an excellent job in a difficult circumstance. I'm hard pressed to think of much they could better given the structure and theology. And moreover even if I found such things I really haven't detected any unwillingness to make adjustments or changes to resolve problems.

Which doesn't mean I'm not open to hearing stories and helping people resolve any issues they have with Xenos or at least come to turns with emotional pain they may have. Xenos has an appeals process through the grievance committee. I'd be anxious to help someone prepare materials to go before the grievance committee if they have a grievance that they can state clearly.

E said...

Though I doubt people are still checking this actively, my two cents in the interest of defending poor 'anonymous' from the other posters...

For starters, shame on Mr. 'Zephyr' the sociologist. Always saddens me when I see social scientists channeling Herbert Spencer. Anonymous' writing ability has nothing whatsoever to do with the legitimacy of his/her arguments nor what he/she saw and experienced.

That said, I saw many, many people damaged by Xenos' boundary control mechanisms. I'm a little surprised at the argument made here regarding them - a good presentation of doctrine has nothing to do with the actual mechanisms present in a group. History is littered with groups that presented well but functioned much less well. Groups can represent the process removing people however they like, it doesn't mean it will actually match what takes place.

Xenos is a big, charismatic group. Charismatic groups ostracize those who don't toe the line b/c the line is what keeps people interested in the group. I don't know if this qualifies as an 'abuse', b/c a charismatic or highly cohesive group is what it is. Stories from those who've felt alienated and hurt after leaving Xenos are very similar to stories from those who left any number of highly cohesive churches or even the Moonies.

That being said, like the Moonies, Xenos has benefited plenty of people. One some levels it likely benefited me. Just please be cautious about attaching the label 'bad apple' or 'disgruntled' to those who leave. Lots have left, and various chunks of Xenos have used excessive levels of control many times. Accusations of insidious maneuvers and nasty social tactics made by those who've left, as well as their descriptions of the personal pain they underwent due to such tactics, have as much truth as Mr. 'Zephyr's' descriptions of his golden experience.

CD-Host said...

Hello E welcome to the blog and thank you for your comments.

I'm happy to discuss cases, like for example Misty made a specific charge I asked a followup and she left. Conversely the Xenos people have stayed and have defended their position well. The Anonymous- Sociological Zephry thread ended up being on at least 2 other boards I know of. SZ (or Korean-Blue as he called himself there) handled himself well, and tried to address legitimate issues when they were raised. Anonymous engaged in mainly personal attacks.

I have yet to hear a Xenos opponent detail the mechanism of abuse they claim occurs. At the same time Xenos has put a lot of effort into place to ensure that abuses don't occur or if they do they can be addressed. That's far better than most churches, and in all fairness I think that's the most I can reasonably ask for from a judicial system.

I'd be happy to discuss what you saw but the reason the presentation has been pro Xenos is that Xenos has convinced me, and I'm a critic.

Sociological Zephyr said...

Hi E:
You said: "I saw many, many people damaged by Xenos' boundary control mechanisms."

E, please specify by way of clear examples how exactly people have been damaged by "Xenos' boundary control mechanisms."

Also, please specify the nature of these boundary control issues and "excessive levels of control" used by Xenos.

As CD-Host suggests, almost all of the people making criticisms of xenos here and elsewhere have based them on vague and impressionistic experiences in which they cannot clearly articulate precise mechanisms of abuse. I wouldn't defend Anonymous, s/he is not even able to piece together a cogent criticism much less follow through on an argument.


By your invoking of Herbert Spencer I'm thinking you're referring to his idea of the "survival of the fittest." No one here or in other forums has suggested that Xenos preaches or practices a social Darwinism. The concepts of grace and mercy are clear contradictions of such thinking. That Xenos reaches out to alcoholics, the poor, pedophiles and other pariahs is evidence to an effective application of God's Grace that subverts a social Darwinism.

Also, Xenos is a not the best example of a Weberian "charismatic" organization as you suggest since it like many churches bases its organization and motivation on the bible and rational organizational principles (i.e., rational approaches to doing church based on fairly standard evangelical rational interpretations of scripture and tradition).

BTW: you should read my postings more carefully. I am about the only one here and in other forums who has come close to making specific criticisms of Xenos. You're wrong to insinuate that my experience of Xenos was only "golden."





SZ

E said...

I’ll repeat what I mentioned in the previous post – you can’t make a judgment about the group processes through an analysis of doctrine. This is especially relevant for CD Host, who is evaluating representations (!) of processes at a distance. CD Host surely would admit that how a pastor represents his own church at a distance does necessarily represent how things actually take place in the context of the church.

A question for both you – what are you expecting to see exactly? A J. Edgar Hoover-esque document indicating top secret church discipline processes? Some sort of investigative folder with interviews and evidence? A qualitative study? A better question for both of you – if so many people are saying such similar things, why don’t you believe them? I don’t get the impression SZ isn’t familiar with literature on groups, but CD seems to be. CD, don’t you know the patterns? Aren’t you familiar with groupthink processes and the correspondent control processes (in which ostracizing people is a central tool) inherent in highly cohesive groups? How on earth are expecting someone to quantify this so that it meets your satisfaction? Such processes are always inherently subtle.

Most stories from ex-members are similar, and are going to follow similar patterns. In essence, cohesive groups operate and stay cohesive by having a distinct party line. This is more than just theology, it’s a theology distinct to the church. And, btw, the substance of the theology is almost irrelevant in these contexts. Xenos certainly has a distinct perspective. Even the name – ‘Xenos’ – was originally intended to distinguish the church from others. It’s classic us vs. them thinking. When a church member doesn’t stick to the party line they’re ostracized. In my experience it has nothing to do with sin – as long as you stick to the party line you’re fine. People who are ostracized aren’t people who commit egregious sins, their those who disagree. You can represent this however you like and undoubtedly someone like McCallum will say “Members are urged to not fellowship in a way that would bring comfort to the one under discipline”, which sounds innocuous enough to you both apparently, but to someone who has experienced it isn’t innocuous in the least. It may or may not be biblical, I don’t know anymore and don’t care really. You two can argue about it. In the meantime, from a psychology standpoint, it’s destructive and manipulative. Certainly there is no love in it.

CD, did you not notice that Dennis mocked an ex-member in a meeting when they posted on the internet (early in the Byron Harvey thread)? What more evidence do you need? If this happens once, how many other times do you think it happens? This is typical McCallum, believe me. People who leave deserved to be mocked in his mind and his followers follow suit.

BTW, given both of your very high expectations of evidence, I can try to write more later, right now I can only write so much in one sitting. I’m a busy grad student. When I have more time I can go point-by-point in talking about group processes in Xenos, from whatever theory you like. Or give you references that formed my own beliefs, or whatever… in the meantime, please explain what standard of evidence you’re expecting. Are your standards fair?

On a side note, both of you disingenuously claimed not to have engaged in personal attacks. Both of you did, several times, and this really isn’t a fair way to evaluate people. For example, SZ quotes Dennis McCallum “I think the largest single source of complaints today come from those who depend on their group and leaders as though they were parents. This is also the least resolved area, and the least understood area. We know of many cases where people expected their home church to meet all their relational needs without any initiative from them. I have been confronted often with cases of people who are furious that others from their group (especially leaders) would not call them often enough. Many of the claims of abandonment, "neglect" and abuse we hear today are only compatible with addictive dependence.”

This still makes me angry. SZ, I’m not trying to get carried away here. I’m sure you’re a decent guy outside of arguments about your faith, I’m sure you’d be ok guy to have a beer with, but come on. In this context you’re dismissing the experience of a whole group of people in your posts. You use a quote like the one above then claim you aren’t making personal attacks? Can you look at a quote like that and not understand why it made ‘anonymous’ foam at the mouth a little? What exactly do you two think the quote is saying? Though clothed as a concerned and thoughtful attribution, it really is an insidious attack. The meaning underneath is that anyone who leaves Xenos suggesting that something untoward has been done to them is inherently psychologically unhealthy and therefore untrustworthy. How would like it if someone told you your perspective is crap because you have pervasive personality problems? How could you be more abusive than that????? Such a claim is a foundational mechanism of abusive political control in other contexts – how does a sociologist not recognize this? You talked in a previous post about bigotry – dismissing someone’s ability to interpret their own experiences accurately is one of the foundations of bigotry, and both of you dismissed former members several times. This is the foundation of my upset. As for the Herbert Spencer comment, you also dismissed someone’s personal perspective because they couldn’t write well enough for your taste. Not everyone is blessed with the resources or the opportunity to pursue doctoral level study – it doesn’t mean you can dismiss their perspective wholesale by mocking their writing ability. You also openly dismissed people’s personal experience by referring to your own (several times ? How does that work? You’re more expert or inherently more honest? You can call someone a ‘liar’ because you see things so clearly?

I reiterate that I don’t believe Xenos is not a Jonestown-esque cult, and I think they do help people on occasion. But once again, they do have quite a destructive side at times, so please don’t dismiss people’s experience. Many, many people have been stung by Xenos.

E said...

Excuse me - Xenos is not a Jonestown-esque cult is what I meant to say.

CD-Host said...

E -

Well I guess this answers the question about whether you are SGM or CR. OK there was a lot of meat in what you said let me try and address it.

First off I agree completely there is a process on paper and a process how it actually works. I blast churches that violate their on paper process, for example Faith Presbyterian church in Follow up on Jen's Gems, FPC position and illegality. Now in the case of Xenos they have more documentation in more detail and of a more substantial nature than any independent church I've seen. Moreover they have more than many denominations do. Compounding that, what I've seen of their on paper process is pretty good. I have certainly attacked churches whose on paper process is lousy, like SGM. Moreover, when I asked followups: first off they bothered to answer which is unusual for cults, and then while there were things that were unusual I really couldn't find anything designed for abuse. And I have yet to hear about a violation of those processes.

Now it is certainly possible that a church could have some sort of informal shunning process totally distinct from their formal process. That is a "real process" that is highly questionable. But remember Xenos is a church of thousands and a rapidly changing community, not a few hundred with a stable community. Leadership would have a tough time creating such a system and maintaining it. Moreover the people who claim they had a bad time haven't said they were disciplined out of process. By and large the people who claim to be disciplined claim it happened via. the normal rules that I've documented. That means things like the appeals process were in place.

In terms of what kind of information do I want. Things like what Jen Epstein provided or look at my current dialogue with Debra Baker. I'm looking for:

1) What were the charges?
2) What was the evidence?
3) What was the process?
4) What happened before, during and after?

At the end of the day if someone: agreed to a rule, agreed to a process to resolve disputes, broke the rule, got a fair trial, got convicted and got kicked out of the church.... well that's church discipline.

What you seem to be arguing is that church/canon law in general shouldn't exist. And I just don't agree. I think a church has the right to kick someone out who violates their membership agreement. I think there is a need for people to have a defense. And during that defense I can help out a bit, and after the fact I can help out a bit if they want to go to a church in the same or related denomination. But this is not an emotional support group. I'm looking for people who are:
I did X, I don't want Y to happen I'd rather Z happen. And work through a process by which they can achieve Z. If they want support I can recommend places where they can get it. But this isn't that kind of place.

As for Dennis mocking people on the Bryon Harvey Board. The critics in general were:
1) Rude
2) Self contradictory
3) Irrational

I think Dennis won that debate fair and square. I got the behind the scenes story from Trink and at the end of the day, and while I want to support her privacy at the end of the day I think the problem was with her husband not Xenos. In other words I listened to her charge, thought about it, analyzed it and decided it was false. That happens there are two sides to every story and Trink's own story just didn't hold up.

Now I can understand from a CR perspective that might be seen as re-victimization, because on CR the church is always wrong. But at church-discipline churches are held to a very high standard, but what they meet it the member is in the wrong. And not only that when really evil churches do something right I'll compliment them, I complimented SGM, which is unquestionably an abusive church, about their compliance with Hancock, because there was one point of their discipline process which was good and was unusual for churches of their ilk. I'm a bit defendant biased but I'm not willing to suspend all reason.

(more to follow)

CD-Host said...

E --

A better question for both of you – if so many people are saying such similar things, why don’t you believe them?

Let me start by re-answering this one, by saying where their stories are similar I do believe them. The problem is where their stories are similar is in the fact that Xenos disciplines and does so regularly. That fact is undisputed, Xenos admits that, advertises it on their website, talks about it, and makes it part of their publicly available leadership training materials. The OPC, a hardcore but very legitimate church, also disciplines regularly also talks about it on their website and moreover one of the core religious manuals is "The Book of Discipline", that they encourage all members in any sort of ministry / leadership to own.

People get kicked out of Xenos a lot. I do believe that. Xenos means a lot to the people who get kicked out. If you read Dennis' interview they only discipline people who have developed a connection to the church. Who have built relationships. The majority of people who just attend central meeting and nothing more wouldn't be disciplined except for gross misbehavior (like screaming out in the middle of services). A person who is attending one of the home church fellowships wouldn't be disciplined until they got more involved. Which means something like 85% of the people who attend Xenos on Sunday can't get disciplined, only the ones who are connected enough for it really hurt emotionally are disciplined. That point is not in dispute. So I do believe that.

In essence, cohesive groups operate and stay cohesive by having a distinct party line. This is more than just theology, it’s a theology distinct to the church. And, btw, the substance of the theology is almost irrelevant in these contexts. Xenos certainly has a distinct perspective. Even the name – ‘Xenos’ – was originally intended to distinguish the church from others. It’s classic us vs. them thinking. When a church member doesn’t stick to the party line they’re ostracized. In my experience it has nothing to do with sin – as long as you stick to the party line you’re fine. People who are ostracized aren’t people who commit egregious sins, their those who disagree.

I see every evidence Xenos welcomes and encourages debate. Their materials have a Socratic feel, which leads one to a position through a series of questions and study. That is not the kinds of materials you see in authoritarian churches. the Christian hero in Dennis' novel holds positions that Dennis doesn't. Dennis is very critical of fundamentalist authoritarians. And when people write of their experience in any detail the people who got disciplined there were underlying acts that were major cause of problems.

I haven't yet seen a Xenos member argue that Xenos doesn't allow for a high level of freedom. Even Trink said that Xenos was no worse than Vineyard (which is a mainstream evangelical church on the border of fundamentalist).

You can even see this in the interview itself. A good example is where I was being critical of Dennis' procedures. He admit my critique was correct in theory, but said that in practice this has been a non problem for the church. I rarely get that kind of honesty or open mindedness from a right wing church leader. Generally you disagree, not only are you wrong but its because of your corruption by sin that you would even consider the possibility they might be wrong about something.

Take Tim and David Bayly. They were mistaken or blatantly lying about an event in history to make a point in a debate. I caught them on it. A normal person would agree that once you mis-site a fact which is critical to your point, time to change your mind, no big deal. That's not what happened, they banned me over it. So it became a deliberate premeditated attempt to falsify information. After all if I weren't so sinful I wouldn't have noticed the problem. That's the norm in abusive churches. I don't see any hint of that with Xenos.

The difference between the Stalinist purges and the US justice system is trial procedure not the underlying charges. People who were convicted of the things that the communist party officials got convicted of, like sabotage of military equipment or treason would have been executed/jailed in the USA too. What is different is whether the justice system is trying to determine guilt or trying to fabricate evidence against the innocent.

I'll pick an even simpler example. Mars Hill (a liberal EM style evangelical church) recently has a problem with The Shack. The Shack is a recent best seller that teaches in quite a bit of detail the heresy of modalism. It is supposedly very well written and people get a lot of joy from it. Mars Hill had to reiterate to its membership that passing this book along to a friend as a good book about God constitutes teaching a heresy. Mars Hill is anything but abusive. But all churches have to draw a line at some point. That is not unreasonable behavior.

Sociological Zephyr said...

E, you said "You also openly dismissed people’s personal experience by referring to your own (several times ? How does that
work? You’re more expert or inherently more honest? You can call someone a ‘liar’ because you see things so clearly?"



I use my personal experiences and other lines of evidence to demonstrate that Xenos cannot logically fit the simplistic, sweeping characitures that critics here have made. The difference between my use of personal experience and critics here and elsewhere is that unlike them I am NOT saying that my experience is reflective of EVERYONE else's. This would be classic egocentric thinking.

For example, a few critics have said flat out that Xenos is a cult. Others have said it is abusive. Thus I have to ask clarifying questions: which specific people or groups at Xenos are cultic/abusive? In what ways are they cultic/abusive? Yet the critics are not interested in clear details but in just name-calling and labeling a large group of people.

As for another example of sweeping comments, you make an inaccurate generalization about all of Xenos when you say: "When a church member doesn’t stick to the party line they’re ostracized. In my experience it has nothing to do with sin – as long as you stick
to the party line you’re fine. People who are ostracized aren’t people who commit egregious sins, their those who disagree."


This can not be wholly true. In fact as CD-host observes there is much debate and dissent at Xenos. Here's some evidence why I believe your statement is not accurate:

Xenos has a co-pastorate in combination with a board of elders that helps to serve as a checks and balance system in leadership. I
know that the pastors and elders disagree with each other. Many fundamental baptist churches have a single pastor and the buck pretty much stops with him--no debate even at the top echelons.

Xenos has guest speakers every year at the Xenos summer institute, some of whom have differing ideas than what the Xenos leadership acknowledges. I remember Erwin McManus coming and preaching some different ideas than what Xenos was accustom to. He was argued with but welcomed.

Moreover, I know of a Wed. class that discussed the history of Israel/Palestine. They invited a Palestinian muslim and Jewish Holocaust survivor to come and discuss their viewpoints. Both of whom contradicted in many ways the Christian perspective.

Yet perhaps the most damning evidence against your claim is that at the end of every CT meeting on the weekends there is a Q&A session where ANYBODY can get up with a mike in front of the whole congregation and question and challenge the teacher (Dennis
loves this). It was in such a forum that I challenged Dennis over something. In fact, it's during this time that I see the most
challenges to leadership come up. These people don't seem to disappear afterwards. Let me say confidently that I KNOW OF NO
OTHER CHURCH that allows this.

The degree of self-reflexivity & self-criticism is amazing at Xenos. Xenos has changed directions numerous times. They have reformated their meetings, dropped some, added others. They recognized a problem (the lack of retention and growth among adults)
and engaged in a campaign to change it. They dropped some of their Wed. night classes to encourage xenoids to be more out in the
world and less involved in groups at Xenos. In fact I've never been a part of a church that thinks and re-thinks it's organization and purpose more than Xenos.

And now I will employ my personal anecdotes as evidence that your statement cannot logically be correct. I don't agree with Xenos
policy in everything. I and others have voiced dissent against Xenos policies and have never been ostracized. See my postings on
haloscan and here. I even stood up in front of the congregation and contradicted Dennis himself. I was never ostracized as a result--I was never asked to leave a group or Xenos. I have also dissented in the Xenos main listerv/forum as recently as a year ago and I was never disciplined or ostracized. On another occasion, I told members of my group that I was a theistic evolutionist (some at Xenos are, some aren't which again suggests a tolerance of views) and was never "disciplined" or ostracized as a result...I wasn't even argued with actually. I've even publicly made fun of xenos in front of other xenoids and have received assenting laughter and not condemnation as a result. In the numerous bible studies and home group meetings I attended there were numerous instances of disagreement about a passage. Sometimes we could resolve it and in others we had to agree to disagree and that was OK. Of course, none of us went off the deep edge and embraced heresy either. On the other hand, in my last home group we tolerated a nice couple who held very heretical views: that Jesus was a lesser god and not God himself. We really loved that couple but when they became ever more overbearing in preaching their views to us we painfully and regrettably had to ask them to leave...after more than a year in the group. We hated it and were depressed about it but ultimately we had to because they were not team players. Yet here
even the very fact that we tolerated a heretical couple in our midst for over a year indicates that Xenos groups are not all the
intolerant ostracizers you suggest. In the end, I offer my personal experiences as evidence that at least some people/groups at
Xenos do tolerate a surprising level of dissenting views.


Understand what I'm saying here. Your statement that Xenos ostracizes dissenters is not true because it is a logically exclusive
statement that is easily contradicted even by a single case. (BTW it is this sort of careless writing style that I object too). At best you should qualify it by saying that SOME groups at Xenos are intolerant and ostracize over conscience and not just immoral behavior. A few of the critics have been careful to state that their bad experience was true of only a single group at Xenos and not all of Xenos.


As for criticizing the disgruntled, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that anti-xenoids here are the problem and not Xenos when their accusations & reasoning are sweeping, angry, sloppy, ego-centric (e.g., my bad experience=Xenos is all bad),
impressionistic and vague. A couple of critics were even a bit dishonest I think. It's this sort of "reasoning" that has led me
to make parallels to that of bigotry. I started reading the criticisms of Xenos in other lists and here originally with a more
sympathetic ear to the disgruntled, but after reading much of their "reasoning" I've concluded that many of the problems they have
had with Xenos are in fact their own. Not all are in the wrong but I've come to this conclusion unwillingly based on what I've read.


So, now I must return to my original question: can you please give evidence behind why you think Xenos is "destructive?" How it
has boundary-control issues and how it ostracizes others not on the basis of egregious sin? I still don't see any evidentiary details like the ones I gave above about how Xenos is problematic. Merely stating that Xenos "ostracizes" and that "many, many people have been stung" by Xenos is not evidence. These things could have a thousand different interpretations.

Sociological Zephyr (korienblueye)

Sociological Zephyr said...

I apologize for the sloppy paragraph breaks in my last post above; I'm not sure what happened to the formatting to cause that.

Anyway, for another (humorous) example of how Xenos tolerates dissent/debate: although I never witnessed this I understand that one at least one occasion Dennis' mother Martha McCallum got up during one of his teachings and corrected or challenged him on something (not sure what)! If that isn't tolerance of dissent, I don't know what is.

SZ

E said...

OK, three long posts to respond to. Not sure I’m going to be able to respond full tonight:

From CD: “while there were things that were unusual I really couldn't find anything designed for abuse.”

My original point CD. These processes aren’t explicit, nor would they be stated explicitly in any groupthink situation.

From CD:
“What were the charges? What was the evidence? What was the process? What happened before, during and after? At the end of the day if someone: agreed to a rule, agreed to a process to resolve disputes, broke the rule, got a fair trial, got convicted and got kicked out of the church.... well that's church discipline.”

Understandable you’re interested in this, b/c it’s the purpose of your website. It isn’t what I’m talking about though. Were someone in the church sleeping with young girls or drinking Robotussin in church bathrooms I would have no issue with them being removed. But you can’t measure processes of ostracization that occurs when someone is not following the proper beliefs, and it’s hard to point out evidence for it. It’s part of why people become so angry when their experiences are being denied.

I appreciate the purpose of your website, it seems well intentioned. I am not interested in participating in an emotional support session, I’ll find that elsewhere if I need it. I was in Xenos for the first third of my life and am now perfectly happy that I will never be going back. Did I suffer some leaving? Sure. In my case I chose to leave, however, and have not regretted that decision even for a second.

I posted here for two reasons: 1) I felt that SZ was abusing someone who has clearly suffered and neither of you were acknowledging it 2) in your discussion of Xenos I saw little acknowledgement of any kind of underground processes present in church contexts.

Anything else I could say reason-wise is pretty much either irrelevant to your website or to me. I’m not a big fan of Xenos, but it’s here to stay so my opinion doesn’t matter much. That aside, my response:

First, for CD, a curious choice in picking Stalin’s show trials as an example. Not to move too far outside of your argument, but most of Stalin’s victims didn’t get trials, so your history is actually wrong. Show trials were only used instrumentally when a need to make an example was felt, or when the person about to get killed was very high profile (i.e. Bukharin). People were regularly “disciplined” out of the ingroup through shunning or ostracization rather than having their show trials. Presumably they were happy they didn’t end their life working in a camp or in the basement of the Lubyanka, but their lives were destroyed regardless. Stalinist Russia is an example that supports my point more than yours, though certainly I’m not comparing Xenos to anything approaching that level of horror.

Second, how can a church be both Socratic and frequently disciplining for doctoral issues? Seems a tad contradictory.

Third, in a groupthink situation would any member actually claim not to be free? A quote from a Moonie (from Marc Galanter’s book), “Anyway, if there’s one thing we can do here it’s to do what each of us wants. Reverend Moon would never lead us astray…” Seems fairly similar to me…

Fourth, did neither of you see nor agree that SZ’s McCallum quote – in which it’s suggested that most critics of Xenos are people with personality or attachment problems – in of itself sets someone up to not be able to criticize the church? It isn’t an argument point, it’s a justification for ignoring people entirely. Isn’t this a public clue CD? If he’s doing that on the website what must it be like in the church itself?

Some specific counters to SZ’s statements (all are, of course, through my experience or through experiences of those I knew):

“Xenos has a co-pastorate in combination with a board of elders that helps to serve as a checks and balance system in leadership.”

Sure, there are the elders. I’m not so sure they can take away the fact that McCallum founded the church, however. While I was in church the ‘senior’ elders (McCallum and Delashmutt) had a double vote, while the less senior elders (at the time Gordon, McKewen, and Jody someone) has a lesser vote. I, of course, was never present in one of their meetings so this was reported to me second hand. Could be false, or changed. Even if it is, CD was right – people get regularly booted for doctrinal disagreements – so I would question your assertion that people can make serious disagreements with leadership at any level of the Xenos hierarchy.

“Xenos has guest speakers every year at the Xenos summer institute, some of whom have differing ideas than what the Xenos leadership acknowledges.”

Also true. I’ve seen J.P. Moreland there. But is this some sort of social validation argument? I suspect those speakers get paid to come to the summer institute, and obviously they aren’t participating in the church itself. I said explicitly that I don’t believe that Xenos isn’t a Jonestown. They aren’t killing anyone. So how would these speakers have any sense of what was going on? Also, just because McManus spoke doesn’t mean that people are free to adopt his views in church. Simply being willing to listen to someone like that, or to have them speak, means very little. Dennis once told a group of leaders while I was in church (over ten years ago) that people who left Columbus to attend Trinity Seminary in Chicago – by all accounts a very good seminary with great scholarship – were a waste for the church because they would have to be retrained when they returned. What does this tell you SZ?

“Moreover, I know of a Wed. class that discussed the history of Israel/Palestine.”

Laudable! Seriously. I went to a principles class once where an elder said he was frustrated with what bigots a majority of mainstream American Christians were to homosexual men and women. Laudable too. The Scientologists contribute to numerous charities. Laudable. The Latter Day Saints support even more charities, and explicitly expouse helping people who disagree with you. Laudable! These things say little about actual processes taking place in these groups, nor does it say much about what takes place in Xenos.

“Yet perhaps the most damning evidence against your claim is that at the end of every CT meeting on the weekends there is a Q&A session where ANYBODY can get up with a mike in front of the whole congregation and question and challenge the teacher (Dennis
loves this).”

Very ironic. You’re citing one of the reasons I left! I watched hundreds of these questions asked at the end of college CTs. Certainly they give the surface impression of openness, but most of the questions I saw asked were essentially fat pitches thrown out as if they were honest questions by people who were already leaders in the church. Dennis or whoever would smile, say something like “challenging question”, then hit a homerun with it. I was disgusted because it appeared to simply be a dishonest recruitment technique meant to impress newcomers in the audience. There is nothing impressive about watching Dennis’ son-in-law Ryan, or for that matter, his mother, ask him a question or disagree with him. Who cares? Also, simply asking these questions indicates nothing about toeing the church doctrine line or not. Perhaps the church has since become considerably more honest about this process. When I did see a few honest, hard questions from guests angry expressions would cross Dennis’ face and the responses would be controlled, terse, or mocking. Would you be impressed if there was a televised interview on Oprah where John Travolta and Tom Cruise disagreed, leading the Scientologists to say ‘look how open we are’?

“The degree of self-reflexivity & self-criticism is amazing at Xenos. Xenos has changed directions numerous times. They have reformated their meetings, dropped some, added others.”

-and-

“Of course, none of us went off the deep edge and embraced heresy either.”

This is the rub SZ. Heresy is such a loaded term, such a powerful term for denying people’s freedoms. It’s about being in an ‘ingroup’. Perhaps on some levels you were ‘in’. Perhaps Delashmutt’s groups are more free – I dunno, I was always in McCallum’s groups. You can’t use vague terms yourself then suggest I’m blameworthy because I use terms you find vague. You can’t suggest people you’re arguing with have psychological problems, then criticize them when they respond with their own assaults. Well, actually you can, and perhaps my rhetorical ability is weak, but this appears to be a double standard to me.

As for Xenos’ critics, you say that they are “sweeping, angry, sloppy, ego-centric.” I think I answered the angry and sloppy pieces – the anger is understandable, even you and CD agree with this (though obviously we have different perspectives on whether or not it’s fair). I don’t think it’s fair for you to dismiss someone because their writing is sloppy – you’ve experienced go only knows how much criticism and training of your own writing on your way through grad school. On the Byron Harvey thread, for example, there is plenty of argument sloppiness, emotional and otherwise, from Xenos people as well. I attempt to evaluate them on fair terms, even if they sometimes are crud writers. As for critics being ego-centric or sweeping, you seem to want to see this on some levels. You implied it of me when you criticized my generalization about group function even when I qualified my statements with “they do have quite a destructive side at times” and “various chunks of Xenos have used excessive levels of control many times”. I’m not making church wide generalizations. I am suggested this has happened many times, and that there is a culture present that allows it on some levels. It’s that culture that troubles me, and I don’t buy the few bad apples in a big hard to manage barrel argument you’re both making. You quote McCallum’s statement about people who leave, and you say “I really believe many of these anti-xenoids are emotional and irrational people having had a bad experience with some unwise Xenoid or Xenoid group.” This isn’t a sweeping generalization? This isn’t ego-centric?

Enough for tonight. Answer these questions if you like. Fair being what it is, and I’ll try to answer you and generate some examples tomorrow and support the subtle processes I’m referring to. I’m out of time, there was a lot to respond to. Long week, time for some human contact!

Sociological Zephyr said...

E- you say "But you can’t measure processes of ostracization that occurs when someone is not following the proper beliefs, and it’s hard to point out evidence for it."

I'd like to know if you think the couple I mentioned who were preaching heresy (i.e., not believing Jesus is God) at my Xenos group should have been left to stay within the group.

You really need to clarify what you mean by "not following the proper beliefs."

SZ

CD-Host said...

E --

This is turning into an excellent conversation. First let me clarify something:

Second, how can a church be both Socratic and frequently disciplining for doctoral issues? Seems a tad contradictory.

Xenos as far as a I know has to frequently discipline for behavioral issues, not doctrinal reasons. Dennis has never done a full fledged heresy trial, as far as I can tell he doesn't know how. There are certain advantages of being in the first generation where your authority is much less questioned by the leadership team.
This is probably a problem much more for Dennis' successor's successor.

Assume continues to thrive, Dennis has been dead for 50 years. Dennis' leaders lecture notes appear to disagree with a sermon on a point that has become critical and contentious. Evidence starts to pile up on both sides. Right now that can't happen because Dennis can just clarify his meaning, so he doesn't have to deal with these problems. He's the uncontested Bishop. When there were other founders (early 90's) they had a church split.
I even spoke with Dennis about the Lee Irons case (OPC minister who argued that the OPC's was putting undue weight on 19th century Presbyterians (because they had materials in English) and they had put undue weight on the Puritans. Had they had a more balanced approach of 17th century literature certain modern doctrines.... Lots of people inside the OPC think Irons very well may be right. In fact on 4 of the 5 original heresy charges the courts found for Irons he was only convicted on one and on that one a lot of outside scholars think he has a point.

And he was quite explicit nothing like that has ever come up. So far his heretics don't really understand history or doctrine very well. But again he is first generation, it really is unlikely during his lifetime to happen.

But you can’t measure processes of ostracization that occurs when someone is not following the proper beliefs, and it’s hard to point out evidence for it. It’s part of why people become so angry when their experiences are being denied.

Well I actually asked Dennis about this explicitly. I didn't bother with it in the article because he didn't say anything particularly interesting, in terms of the original purpose of the article. Remember the article from the blog's perspective was a counter example to Mike Dever's position that strong membership was a prerequisite for discipline and at the time not really about some Ohio church at all. I'm starting to attract a Xenos kind of crowd so maybe more of the material would be useful. Anyway here were the questions:

Question in bold answer in plain text
_______________

Irene – Admits to being a lesbian and admits to being in a long term committed sexual relationship. She emphatically believes lesbianism is not a sin and makes a strong biblical argument for it. While you ultimately reject her argument you cannot question that she is sincere in her belief (think Irene Stroud)

[Dennis] Regardless, we would go by the interpretation of our church. If she is coming to our church, she must accept our moral definitions and interpretations.


Jill – Is a member of Angela's home church. Jill considers the [homosexual] inclination itself to be sinful and refuses to fellowship with Angela [a celibate homosexual from a previous question]. Jill makes the standard 19th century argument about training one's inclinations to perversion. That is Jill is imposing her own excommunication in violation of her small church

[Dennis] This would not be permissible. Jill could come under discipline for division if she starts a fight over it.

Millie – Is a small church leader. To get away from Jill, Angela wants to switch to Millie's small church (which has lots of Angela's friends) Millie however has the same beliefs as Jill, and she refuses to admit Angela. You instruct her she must and she refuses (think Ed Johnson)

[Dennis] First, I don’t think this would ever happen here. But if it did, any leaders who weren’t in line with the views of the elders could be removed.

_________________

If you mean something even less formal like people just not inviting you to meals then yes. Then that's really a problem of what sort of cliques you join. Most cliques require you to agree with their core beliefs. So for example if you are a goth but come to believe that upbeat dance music is what people should listen to, you aren't likely to have a good time.

I guess maybe the best thing would be for you to clarify a little. Describe exactly what you think Xenos as an institution is doing here.

CD-Host said...

E --

I broke this out because here we aren't talking about Xenos specifically.

Second, how can a church be both Socratic and frequently disciplining for doctoral issues? Seems a tad contradictory.

This is actually how I used to teach math whenever one of the main goals was to build intuition. So College Algebra (where I was dealing with students who had seen a lot but had terrible intuition) or intro level proof classes (students knew how to do things but not why they were true).

The whole structure of the class was to watch how bad arguments collapsed. It wasn't an open discussion. I'll fake an easier example. Even though I might take 15 minutes of the class arguing that say 1/3 + 1/2 = 2/5, the point was that they construct the counter argument that simply adding denominators and numerators wasn't the right way to add fractions. That couldn't possibly be true. And the point was so it stuck in their head and even their intuition told them to do add that way the argument made them remember that they need to find a common denominator.... And if on the test they did something like

3/4 + 2/7 = 6/11 I'd mark them wrong without any sense of guilt.

So no I don't see a contradiction there. The purpose of my Socratic methods were to help them genuinely believe in "the truth" not to meaningfully encourage dissent.

What a Socratic method does show is a non authoritarian structure. Things were true in math because I could prove they were true and moreover prove the opposite were false. They weren't true because I said so and I'll take off your test if you disagree.

Do you see the difference?

CD-Host said...

E --

You had asked me about what kind of a dialog would I expect. Just to give an example right now on the SGM thread I'm having a dialog with Debra Baker which is exactly what I would expect from the Xenos critics. She's already come up with a 1/2 dozen clear cut violations of due process and tradition.

Brian Gardner said...

I would like to add my voice to this discussion, as one who has been a long time member of Xenos since the 1970's. First of all, I would say that, though the theology of discipline has never changed, there have of course been minor shifts in our theopraxy. What I mean by this is that church discipline is mostly carried out by lay leadership in home churches, of which there are over a hundred, with several leaders in each church. One of the advantages of having so many leaders is also one of its dangers. I am certain that over the last 38 years since its humble beginning there have been abuses of leadership in the home church. This does not mean that these abuses were approved by the elders, or that in some cases they even knew about it.

As a growing church you are always learning how to grow more effectively, and how to show the love of Christ to people within and without. Currently, there is a lot more oversight from the elders and staff of Xenos over how church discipline is administered. If you're leading a small home church you can't really just decide to kick somebody out because you don't like their attitude, or suspect that they are caught up in some serious sin.

Going over the thread that started in March on this blog, I would just like to make a few observations, and people can feel free to respond as they like.

1. From some of this discussion, one might get the impression that once a person commits a sin, like fornication, or drug abuse, they are immediately removed from the group if they refuse to repent. This is inaccurate. The process follows what Jesus taught in Matthew 18, and encouragement and admonishment often goes one for weeks and even months before the action is taken to remove someone from fellowship. Of course, this would depend on how damaging the sin is, and the response of the individual. As far as what I have seen in most cases, the tendency is to move slowly and allow the Holy Spirit to convict the person of their need for repentance. Most leaders consider it better to err on the side of restraint, rather than rush in to remove someone. The actual number of people who are removed from fellowship is quite low per annum.

2. At Xenos, we see the goal of church discipline as restorative, not punitive or protective. That is to say, that the goal of removing someone from fellowship is to give them an opportunity to repent by removing the support of the church for their rebellion against God, but not to punish them. Friends within Xenos regularly get together with people who have been so removed in order to encourage them to change their minds and return to a vital walk with God.

3. Shunning a person who is still in the church is not encouraged. In my own home church if I see people doing that to someone who is struggling with sin I will encourage them to look to restore that person, not shun them. Immature people will shun others when their feelings are hurt, of course. This is purely human, and unfortunate. There is no policy to do so.

4. On the subject of "groupthink". It's true that groups of believers hold certain beliefs in common, and that there is an "ethos" in Xenos. Some of that is Scriptural, since Paul encourages us to be of the same mind, intent on the same purpose, united in spirit, and so forth. The negative connotation that some posts here have communicated is that there is no room for dissent. I would categorically reject that assertion. First of all, I doubt that there is a single case where a person's theology caused them to be disciplined. Let's take the example of evolution and creation. There are a variety of views held, and if your view differs from mine, I would probably debate it with you, but I would never "discipline" somebody whose views differed from my own. I would be curious to know from those who have posted negatively what beliefs they thought would not be tolerated. Church discipline is about behavior, not about what you believe.

I could add more points, but four is enough for now. Please feel free to interact.

CD-Host said...

Brian --

3. Shunning a person who is still in the church is not encouraged. In my own home church if I see people doing that to someone who is struggling with sin I will encourage them to look to restore that person, not shun them. Immature people will shun others when their feelings are hurt, of course. This is purely human, and unfortunate. There is no policy to do so.

I agree with most everything you wrote. Let me ask you a follow up on this one. One of the charges which seems to be occurring frequently is permeant loss of friends and status. Now that isn't uncommon in any sort of social group, and again since Xenos has a young membership I think this frankly is unusually less serious with Xenos than most churches.

In your experience how well does restoration work? In other 2 years after restoration what percentage of the people are still active with Xenos? For college students you can use till graduation.

Brian Gardner said...

[cd-host] Let me ask you a follow up on this one. One of the charges which seems to be occurring frequently is permanent loss of friends and status. Now that isn't uncommon in any sort of social group, and again since Xenos has a young membership I think this frankly is unusually less serious with Xenos than most churches.

As far as loss of friends goes, I'm assuming that you mean when a person is removed from fellowship. The Bible instructs us not to associate socially with people who have been so removed. This is very painful, and I think that God determines that it should be so to heighten your focus on the issues. Friends of someone who has undergone discipline are encouraged to keep contact with them, and express their love for them, calling them back to a walk with God. Of course, there are times when church members don't do this. Often there are deep feelings of betrayal that they need to sort out, but most leaders will tell people to resolve their hurt feelings, and extend love for the person, while maintaining a stand against their sin. I have recently seen that work wonders in a case that I'm very close to, and the persons involved have repented, and been welcomed back to fellowship, discipleship, and full involvement. Praise God!

In the case where the person repents and returns to fellowship, we have to follow Paul's instruction in 2 Cor 2 - "This punishment on such an individual by the majority is enough for him, so that now instead you should rather forgive and comfort him. This will keep him from being overwhelmed by excessive grief to the point of despair. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him." If someone had repented in my home church, and others were giving them the cold shoulder, I would probably move in there to have that member resolve their feelings and call upon them to obey that Scripture in faith. We are all sinners saved only by God's grace, after all, and have no right to be bitter, like the brother of the prodigal in Jesus' important parable.

Loss of status is pretty obvious, as a person might be in a position of leadership, and will not be automatically trusted with that position upon returning. (I don't know what other status you could be referring to, so clarify this if I'm barking up the wrong tree) A leader who is removed and returns will have to demonstrate that he/she has repented of their sin, and probably have to be tested for a period of time before we would consider restoring his/her position. The standard for leaders is much higher, as taught by Paul in 1 Tim 3 and Titus.

I know of several home church leaders who were formerly disciplined, and who are universally thankful for the love that was shown them, even though it was painful. By the grace of God they have gained greater status, if that's the right word here, and been raised up to more fruitful roles of ministry. A lot of us have pretty gritty pasts, and are not shocked that people move away from God into sin.

In terms of it being permanent, I'm not sure what you mean. Can you help a brother out?

[cd-host] In your experience how well does restoration work? In other 2 years after restoration what percentage of the people are still active with Xenos? For college students you can use till graduation.

I have no statistics on this. I would hate to even venture an anecdotal guess, but I know that many are won back to fellowship. Jesus said "if he listens to you, you have won your brother," and that is the goal we seek, whether they repent and return to Xenos, or repent and go to another church. Each of these is a spiritual victory in their lives.

CD-Host said...

As far as loss of friends goes, I'm assuming that you mean when a person is removed from fellowship. ...

No I mean after restoration. I understand Xenos' policies pretty well. What I'm wondering is whether the loss of friendships and status are permanent in most or many cases? That is the person is restored with a much lower status, a sort of 2nd classes Xenoid :-)

So lets say a guy got into trouble 2 years have gone by and a group of friends who are active in Xenos, 3 years ago would have invited him to their barbecue are having a barbecue. What are the odds he is invited? That's the claim that Xenos is discipline is for all practical purposes permanent. That is people are never fully restored. They exist on the shadows they aren't part of the clique no one really trusts them or even likes them very much.....

Or to put this a third way, Xenos provides for the college kids a warm fellowship with other believers. A complete package of worship, study and activities. Once a person has crossed the line even if restored they no longer have that offered to them rather they have the possibility of going to central teaching and perhaps a home church where they can be alienated.

I should say this sounds unlikely to me personally, Xenos is just too big and membership changes too quickly, but this is, as far as I can tell, what is being asserted by the critics on this and the other threads. So I was hoping you could jump in on that point.

Now if you read up in the thread it is clear that Dennis' level doing this sort of after punishment is seen as division. The question is what happens with membership, particularly college students. Do they see it the same way?

Brian Gardner said...

[cd-host] What I'm wondering is whether the loss of friendships and status are permanent in most or many cases? That is the person is restored with a much lower status, a sort of 2nd classes Xenoid :-)

First of all, it's probably time I go ahead and say that I represent Xenos in no official capacity, and my observations are mine alone.

The kind of behavior you are describing sounds immature and petty. Each one of us is only about 3 decisions from entering into something as bad or worse than the sin that caused the excommunication. If the person has repented, and returned to fellowship, they should be given the same level of accord, friendship, and love as everybody else.

This does not necessarily imply complete trust, however. People who have entered into sin often lied about it for weeks and years, and we might be more probing in our inquiries about how someone is doing in a certain area. It's possible that someone felt like they were not completely trusted after they returned, and I was say that this is not the fault of the church. Trust can be gained back, however, as I have seen time and time again.

Add to this that it is natural to feel like "people don't accept me anymore". Many people don't trust others, or those in authority due to their pasts, especially in the high school and college ages. I'm not surprised when students express that, but then try to show them that they are accepted by the group.

Other members of the group can be hard, petty, judgmental, again depending on the maturity of the people in the group. This is an opportunity for the leaders to teach them about the grace of God, but we can't "control" how they will always behave.

Some of those who have complained come from High School groups, where the maturity of the members (hopefully not the leaders) can't be guaranteed. It's an error to place high expectations on a 15 year old, but we can on the leaders, who are mostly college age and adults.

My own experience has been that people have returned are not ostracized or given 2nd-class status.

[cd-host] Or to put this a third way, Xenos provides for the college kids a warm fellowship with other believers. A complete package of worship, study and activities. Once a person has crossed the line even if restored they no longer have that offered to them rather they have the possibility of going to central teaching and perhaps a home church where they can be alienated.

As I said in my previous post, there are current home church leaders who had been removed from fellowship in the past. There is nothing to prevent people who have returned from taking it all the way, if God wills.

Anonymous said...

As to the cult claims - here is my experience as a once potential recruitee. A friend of mine once invited me to a "party" which out of nowhere turned into a Bible study. This is simply deceptive which immediately raised a red flag. A few months later I was again "just hangin' out" when the girls I was out with started driving around the city with me in the car. I was like "where are we goin'?" and they said "aww just drivin'". Next thing I knew we were pulled over at a random parking lot and they were confessing AT me (not to me) how their new relationship with the lord had completely changed their lives. Again, this was a deceptive event because I had no idea things were going to get religious. Deception & the imbalance of people in "crisis years" of age had me thinking "cult!". Also, a member of the church several years later (probably on her way out of the group) approached me sexually in a way that I can only describe as someone who had been conditioned to feel guilty about sex in a really unnatural way - and that she was finally breaking free. All red flags. Finally, I know Xenos moves a lot of money - I have a source. You can say what you want - I'm not going to reveal the source - but I know it's true so I don't feel bad saying it. I've perused through some Xenos published text books and they seem squeaky clean and full of inspiring info - though, this doesn't mean that practices within the organization are just a cheery.

My 2c.

Bill K said...

CD Host -

Is there some way you could post a prominent, top-of-the page link that links the two Xenos threads together?

To the last anonymous post -

A lot of what you said was troubling, i am as sorry as I can be over this impersonal medium. The bait and switch type activites were what turned me off about my Campus Crusade experience but the straight forward approach I saw at Xenos was what attracted me to God there.

For biographical info - What decade did these events occur in? What approximate age were you and the people doing the bait and switch? Had these people talked to you about spiritual topics prior to these events or were these awkward circumstances these acquantainces brought up God or the Bible?

Can you describe the symptoms of the unnaturally guilty sex conditioning that you observed and perhaps also provide a short comment on what you categorize as healthy sexuality?

Even though these negative experiences drove you away from Xenos - I hope they did not sour you on God.

As Brian Gardner said earlier, my personal opinions are expressed here and do not necessarily reflect the views of Xenos.

I think Xenos' handling of money is astounding! Open accounting! Literally anyone can talk to the CFO and see what different church employees make and where the money goes. There is an open meeting each year which sums up how the church has done financially and otherwise in the previous year, and for people have comitted to give money - they each have an equal vote (not scaled by donation size) at making budgeting decisions for the next year. Details of this process are always in flux, but it is an open, honest, humble view of money. The church budget is something in the 5-6 million dollar range; of which approx. 35% goes to inner city or foreign missions/aid.

-Bill

CD-Host said...

Bill --

I have created a keyword Xenos. You can get to either post by clicking on that. Both posts also have their own pages (just click on the title) which you can bookmark.

Mike said...

I have been reading this thread for almost an hour and I am deeply saddened by what has been posted here. I have attended Xenos for almost seven years, and I have witnessed church discipline several times. There was never an incident where the person was wrongly forced to leave fellowship. Most times, the person had been given countless opportunities to address the sin issue.

A few years ago, I was having issues with alcohol and anger with my roommates. I was insulting people, destroying others belongings, and getting drunk at meetings. When they came to dish out discipline, I needed it badly. I can recall nothing short of loving concern for my well-being. They set me up with a counselor and showed me ways to get closer to God. That is all that happened.

If you think Xenos disciplines unfairly, then maybe you should consider how other churches discipline. I attended an Alliance church while in high school, and was a part of the youth group there. There was a teenage couple that got pregnant outside of marriage, and they were asked to leave. The guy quit college and came home to help support the child, they both repented, and were still told to leave. That's not legitimate biblical discipline, that is human-willed punishment.

It has been my experience with this church, that they wish only to reach the lost for the sake of Christ. Yes, they need to occasionally discipline people, because it is prescribed in the Bible. For someone receiving discipline, they should see it as an amazing opportunity to receive God's blessing. I think Hebrews 12:11 says it best, "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." How awesome is that? God is actively working to point you in the right direction.

To sum up what I'm trying to say. Try not to look at discipline as a bad thing. I know our culture hates that word, but try to see it the way God sees it, and how he uses it to love his children.

E said...

Sorry this took me so long, school got very busy for a few weeks.

Just on a side note, I’m not interested in getting into conspiracy stuff like one of the above posters. I don’t think there is some sort of sinister monetary conspiracy in Xenos, or anything like that. My main point has always been to defend the pain that those who’ve left feel, and to question the supposed freedom people have to express diversity of views in the church.

For CD Host:
Maybe we’re quibbling over terms again. In your math example you’re talking about a kind of discovery based learning, but your example specifically is fairly authoritarian. If you’re looking to make someone discover your truth exclusively it really doesn’t matter how you dress it – it’s still authoritarian. It isn’t Socratic.

For Brian Gardner:
In my experience of Xenos, they consistently constrain belief, and these constraints are much, much stronger then the constraints on behavior. Marc Galanter, in Cults: Faith, Healing, and Coercion, argues that in cohesive groups it’s rarely necessary to resort to overt discipline, and this certainly the case in Xenos.

You suggest that no shunning ever takes place, and that subtle or destructive practices aren’t present. Presumably this would mean that Xenos cultivates an atmosphere in which this type of practice frowned upon. Curiously, in another post about Xenos on CD Host’s site, one of the senior elders apparently feels perfectly comfortable openly mocking a former member who’d written on the internet in a CT. What effect do you think this would have??? Is it likely to make current members treat former members with love, fairness, and kindness? Does leadership mocking a person typically result in these behaviors in groups? Seriously?

A defense some Xenoids have made, and a defense that I think see present in your writing, is “we’re just people too, with all people’s typical flaws.” No doubt, but other people don’t necessarily claim to be making the absolute right and truthful decisions about reality. Xenos people do. Certainly your description of ostracizing people as a control mechanism is very human:



“As far as loss of friends goes, I'm assuming that you mean when a person is removed from fellowship. The Bible instructs us not to associate socially with people who have been so removed. This is very painful, and I think that God determines that it should be so to heighten your focus on the issues. Friends of someone who has undergone discipline are encouraged to keep contact with them, and express their love for them, calling them back to a walk with God.”

“Very painful” is very accurate. Just so you know, this does have significant psychological effects. It actually activates the physical pain centers of the brain, it causes depression, it makes people process things more slowly cognitively, it makes people process time inaccurately, amongst other things. It also is a technique consistently used by groups of teenage girls.

It is especially prevalent in groups with a high level of internal cohesion, which in my experience Xenos was certainly a one. In the college groups they especially encouraged this level of cohesion. In my time I went to five meetings a week. This is how groupthink happens, and this is also how the control mechanisms described by Galanter (as one example) develop. Once you’re at that level of cohesion any withdrawal of support is especially psychologically destructive, and I think that the core of many ex-members criticism lies here. When you encourage cohesion and then control by “removing fellowship” it is abusive. Necessary to maintaining group cohesion perhaps, but abusive in effect. People on this site seem to be looking for some sort of Masonic formal ritual of removal with candles, hoods, and slamming gavels. This isn’t what happens. It isn’t necessary.

Your “categorical denial” is especially disingenuous, though someone told me that if you wrote it you probably believe it. It actually makes me a little upset, however. For starters, evolution was never an issue anyone in Xenos cared about that I remember. Anything relevant would be more personal to the group. How about the “iceberg” theory of dating put forth by Katie-what’s-her-name in the college groups in the late 90s? What would have happened if you disagreed with this? And she later was reprobated for having put this forth, but that didn’t mean that it didn’t have significant effects. You’ve been in the church since the 70s you say. Are there a lot of people that were there in the 70s still around? Have a lot left? Do you have any sense of the pain those people went through? Did you explore it with them?

Sorry if this is over the top, but it upsets me a little. I don’t hate Xenos. I think it does some good things for people. But never doubt, even for a second, that people who have bad memories or negative experiences or who are filled with anger don’t deserve to be so. Xenos cultivates an atmosphere that results in a kind of control that can be especially destructive, and if you’re still in Xenos riding the cohesion high you may not get it.

CD-Host said...

E --

Maybe we’re quibbling over terms again. In your math example you’re talking about a kind of discovery based learning, but your example specifically is fairly authoritarian. If you’re looking to make someone discover your truth exclusively it really doesn’t matter how you dress it – it’s still authoritarian. It isn’t Socratic.

Well yes we are disagreeing on terminology or at the very least where to draw the lines. I think I successfully communicated my POV since your responses directly addressed the topic, except for the last clause. I would consider Socratic to be a method of instruction while authoritarianism is an attitude.

To continue with my math example. It is absolutely the case that I wasn't looking for mindless obedience, they had to genuinely understand the material well enough to act in a similar way on their own. But at the same time I wasn't looking for meaningful dissent, I knew how the method or the theory and my goal was at the end of the class they knew the method/theory and knew how to apply it. I wasn't looking to for meaningful open discussion. The kids don't know enough math yet to add to the corpus of knowledge.

And the reason I think its a fair analogy with Xenos is that theology has behind it a lot of learning. Xenos just doesn't provide depth or background in their education for people to really be able to carry on a discussion on theology as a peer. That is if you are taking classes there, you don't know enough to have a valid opinion yet.

I will admit that is a very illiberal view. But I don't think it is unreasonable for Xenos to hold that kind of view. The Catholic church welcomes theologians after years of profession training, similarly reformed churches, anglican churches, adventist churches... In a specific church unlike a seminary the bible study / sunday school is taught at the level of teaching you what the mainstream doctrines are, beyond that generally a Th.D, MDiv... program is required; neither the teachers nor the students are equipped to engage the material at that level.

Dennis and Gary have MAs in theology. They certainly know enough to train small church leaders, they don't know enough to write their own systematic theology. They don't know enough history to really defend their positions on history of Christianity. I don't know that it is reasonable to hold them to that standard. Dennis runs a church, he does really good quality research of 2nd-3rd party sources in putting together Xenos materials. But I've never seen him even quote 1st party sources. So let me turn it around. Why would you expect him to be able to field questions meaningfully beyond the "this is what Christian scholarship has taught about X, and here are the sources" level?

Mike said...

E: I'm open to hear your thoughts, but maybe this blog isn't the place for it. Sometimes we can get a little carried away on these blogs. If you are willing, email me at 2cor10@gmail.com.

Sociological Zephyr said...

E


"In my experience of Xenos, they consistently constrain belief, and these constraints are much, much stronger then the constraints on behavior. Marc Galanter, in Cults: Faith, Healing, and Coercion, argues that in cohesive groups it’s rarely necessary to resort to overt discipline, and this certainly the case in Xenos."

Again, what's the evidence you have of this? Any examples?

Also, are you really taking an issue with any group that adheres to a doctrine of beliefs members are required to acknowledge and confess?

The "heretical" couple I asked you about earlier--would you have agreed that they be removed?

Ed said...

Sociological Zephyr: You made a good point. Actually, I can recall many instances where people tried to manipulate the leaders. In fact, some of these people turned out to be criminals. One case in particular, the guy was stealing from other people in the church. When the leaders wouldn't bend to his will, he went on a vandalism spree. He was later arrested for other crimes he was committing.

What the heck, I'll mention another guy, different situation. His marriage was on the rocks and he wanted the church to help out. Long story short, he wanted the church to punish his wife for infidelity. We wouldn't do it, so he went on a slandering campaign attacking people in the church. This is after we had helped him through rehab and gave him a free place to stay.

I'm not saying all church leaders are innocent or that they can do no wrong. Rather, we should take a lot of these so-called abuse stories with a grain of salt. More often, it is angry, controlling people who feel rejected from the church because they wouldn't do what they wanted them to do. By the way, unlike a lot of these claims, I can base mine on real evidence.

Brian Gardner said...

e - I have been busy with other things and just read your post in response to mine. After preparing a rather lengthy response, I thought it best for the forum for me to take this offline with you. Please email me at bgsaxman@gmail.com for the full response.

E said...

For CD Host:
I think your either your analogy or your thinking is failing here. When it comes to issues in Xenos, we aren't talking about mainstream or obscure discussions of theology that break down into disagreements. We're talking about what happens in practice - why a group of people treats a person a certain way.

Do you believe human interaction happens outside the realm of open, formal discourse?

For SZ:
I don't know about the couple. Who benefited by them being removed? Them? You? Your friends? Or the group? I imagine the group benefited - everyone felt all lined in one direction again - but where is the love in such a maneuver?

No, I'm not taking issue with groups per se. I'm taking issue with groups that allow their effects to become destructive on people. Do you refuse to speak to a fellow sociologist who interprets a set of data or some phenomenon differently? Does he/she have psychological problems because they disagree with you?

I saw people asked to leave for legitimate reasons in Xenos. If you're seducing women actively and ignoring multiple requests to stop then you need to be removed.

I also, however, know people who were removed because they disagreed with leadership. One person even asked to come back, but was told he "hadn't suffered enough." His wife was still in the church.

I was asked to leave my ministry house because I wasn't "making disciples of all the nations". I WISH I had committed some dramatic sin. Instead I developed a strong concern for people who had lost their faith one year, read a bunch of apologetics and counter-apologetics, argued with people on the internet, and lapsed into profound doubt. In the end I didn't mind, I'm now glad I got out. But I committed no grand sin.

I knew several people who left when the ridiculous, controlling dating policy was present in the 90s b/c they wanted to date. Small wonder.

The easiest demonstration of all, however, lies in your own comments about people who've left, and especially in the slightly less well thought out comments of "Ed". Admittedly, my argument requires you and CD Host acknowledging that some social processes don't involve formal conversations or discourse - if you don't agree then I guess my point is moot. I'd think even an hour review of a psych or social psych textbook would persuade you.

You suggested, referencing Dennis, that people who leave have psychological problems. Dennis actually mocks ex-members in open CTs. Neither of you had the chutzpah of Ed, however, who insinuated that people who leave are often "angry, controlling people", criminals, or drug addicts. Wow, really?

Given what you're written, and assuming Ed is a typical member, how do you expect someone to be treated when people refer to them in these terms? Do any work on social status?

As for Brian or Mike, one of my emails is buddingagency@gmail.com. Email me if you like to continue the discussion, if not, thank you for the kind tone.

CD-Host said...

E --

At least in my several replies to you we've been talking about preaching. Basically we were discussing whether a method is still Socratic even if the outcome is known to the leader. I was arguing the purpose of the method is to get the person to believe / understand something not to actually engage in dialog.

That being said you are asking another question now. Which is about the informal environment being controlling. First off I don't know much of anything about their informal structures. This blog doesn't address those structures unless they are being manipulated by leadership as part of the discipline process.

And my guess it probably is. This sort of informal group dynamics may go on. But I don't see much evidence that they try and create a totalitarian structure at Xenos, nor that Dennis isn't open minded. That doesn't mean all the 20 year followers are as mature in their behavior. I can point to examples of churches that do create these sorts of structures I don't see the sorts of evidence I've seen in those cases. So yah I believe it happens, but I'm not sure what this has to do with a denominational head.

If you don't want young leadership with their enthusiasm and with their lack of experience why pick Xenos? If you don't want to have to use diesel fuel don't by a diesel car. This isn't something they hide in any way. So yes I believe their is peer pressure.

Finally as for the 90's. I think is unanimous bad stuff was happening in the early 90s. Dennis doesn't deny that. The church realized they had a problem with controlling group leaders and put in place mechanisms to correct it. I don't expect Xenos not to have problems. I'm sorry that before they corrected it you got caught in the mess they corrected it. But I don't see any reason to attack Xenos today for flaws from 15 years ago that they fixed.

Dennis respect transfer processes. I've talked to him about it. I don't think you would be treated badly if you went through a formal transfer. Your home church leader is going to be enthusiastic. But just leaving... yeah probably that breaks some of your social arrangements.

You seem to feel that tight knit churches shouldn't exist at all. I think it is fine they exist as long as people know what they are getting into before they tie their social lives to one of these groups. Perhaps we have to disagree on that.

Ed said...

Neither of you had the chutzpah of Ed, however, who insinuated that people who leave are often "angry, controlling people", criminals, or drug addicts. Wow, really?

Uh...Yes. Not everyone comes from the relatively affluent suburban, predominantly white areas. Xenos is a church that chooses to not be partial when it comes to their outreach. If you had stuck around long enough, you would run into people who had a much different upbringing than your own. They had serious problems before they met Christ, and they reverted back to their old lives towards the end. Also, I was not speaking of people who voluntarily left on their own accord. They were asked to leave because of serious issues they were unwilling to work out.

I'm sorry to hear you were asked to leave a ministry house. More than likely, you didn't follow the house agreement while you lived there. A ministry house is not just another cheap place for college students to stay in. You need to be actively involved with the ministry that is going on there. If they had not communicated that to you, then that is their fault. Here is a link to the house covenant: http://www.xenos.org/classes/papers/minhse.htm

This whole victim mindset constitutes profound immaturity on the person's behalf. It reminds me of the reaction a small child has when his or her parents justly disciplines them. They'll scream something such as, "you're a meanie!" This may be acceptable for a five year old child, but not for an adult. I suggest you ditch the habit of self-entitlement and grow up. Replace it with finding fellowship and an attitude of serving others. These character issues only get worse with age, and they wreak havoc in a marriage.

E said...

To CD Host:
I agree, we may have to disagree. I think the meat of what happens in groups, any groups, is informal, you do not. Please note that people almost inevitably present well, and this is true of a group as small as a marriage all the way up to much larger groups. Miss the informal and you miss the point. I respect the purpose of you website and your style of dealing with people. Please not though that people aren't math proofs, and change processes can't be described in such terms in any context.

In any case my point was to address the assaults against former Xenos members themselves on your website, which I don't feel like you've addressed in you responses. Perhaps you feel differently.

As for Ed:
First, don't reroute an argument by making an emotional assault. Neither of us was talking about who Xenos proselytizes, and instead I was talking about what you insinuated about everyone who leaves. It's clever to subtly imply that I'm affluent and petulant, but by doing so you're proving my original point:

You represent at pattern of presumption about people who've left. It's inaccurate, unrealistic, and damaging when high levels of cohesion are encouraged. With me alone, you presumed to:
- know how or where I grew up,
- know how long I was in Xenos
- I don't know what ministry house covenants are, or that there even was one for my house, or even that they're a good idea
- have an idea what I do for a living. I serve badly hurt people in my career, and I do it because I care about people, not to bring new members to a church like I suspect you do
- presumed to understand exactly what happened in my situation, then further concluded I have a victim mindset (try reading all the entries on the site, I explain why I'm here more than once, note I said I'm GLAD I got out, I just wanted to defend people who've been hurt by people like yourself)
- seem to be suggesting that human relationships can cause no damage. Where do you think drug use comes from exactly?

It is the pattern of automatic assumption you're engaging in that damages people in the first place. If everyone who's been hurt in a group of people is a "child", presumably you de-legitimize all human struggle?

CD-Host said...

E --


In any case my point was to address the assaults against former Xenos members themselves on your website, which I don't feel like you've addressed in you responses. Perhaps you feel differently.


I'd agree there have been some broad based claims that former Xenos members were having these problems because of deep personality / psychological flaws. And I would agree that is extremely insulting to those people. On the other hand, it would be difficult if I banned insults directed at groups of people. In general I'm handling ad-homonym issues on an ad-hoc basis.

The other issue here is that the debate between Korean blue and the anonymous poster you were offended about was occurring on 3 blogs / message boards and not just this one. This was the most regulated and frankly anonymous was the one who objected to the regulation I did do (when it became just pure insults directed at individuals).

I'm open to a better set of rules on this. I'd love to have a policy more objective than my gut about what is reasonable. So if you have a suggestion I'm all ears.

E said...

OK, thank you for acknowledging the broad statements some Xenos folks have made.

I see you're in a sticky situation - generalization is part of the arguments. I am embarrassed about the following generalization I just made yesterday: "I serve badly hurt people in my career, and I do it because I care about people, not to bring new members to a church like I suspect you do".

Ed's automatic assumptions and slightly more confrontational style got my back up. Perhaps there is some way to filter generalizations in service of an argument and generalizations in service of anger? And an occasional check of both parties?

Ed said...

You represent at pattern of presumption about people who've left. It's inaccurate, unrealistic, and damaging when high levels of cohesion are encouraged.

Yes, I can't make generalizations about everyone who has left. From my experience in these numerous situations, the majority of people who left all claimed to be victims of circumstance. I'm trying to make the point that people always have a choice, no matter what situation they find themselves in.

Ed said...

It is easy to blame the church. I think people forget that church leaders are capable of making mistakes just as anyone else.

First, don't reroute an argument by making an emotional assault.

I'm sorry that you took what I said personally. I took your argument straight on and seriously questioned it. You are making serious claims about my church which have very little weight. So, yes I am going to confront you on it.

It is the pattern of automatic assumption you're engaging in that damages people in the first place. If everyone who's been hurt in a group of people is a "child", presumably you de-legitimize all human struggle?

I'm not saying that there are not victims of true injustice in the world. Rather, I'm trying to argue perseverance, which is a common theme in the Bible. If someone wrongs you, then choose to love that person regardless. I used the analogy of a child to show the silliness of the victim mentality. How else can we effectively communicate truth in each others lives if we're too afraid of offending someone?

E said...

"It is easy to blame the church. I think people forget that church leaders are capable of making mistakes just as anyone else."

On some level no one is really responsible b/c we're all products of our environment. Certainly transcending maintenance of a victim mindset is necessary for growth. This doesn't mean, however, that:
- anger in someone who has wronged you is illegitimate
- that you remain in any situation where you feel manipulated or used
- that it isn't possible to be damaged by one of life's sharp little corners and to have the need to have someone validate that damage rather than criticizing it and attempting to shut you up about it

Not that it matters much in the end, but seems after all this discussion that Xenos members have used three central arguments against ex-members:
1)that the ex-Xenoids are victims, troubled, psychologically damaged, have attachment problems, were over-dependent on group leaders, etc.
-The insinuation here is that Xenos is so flawless that no one would EVER feel uncomfortable there unless they brought their own problems. I know people in Xenos aren’t dumb, they’d never say that the church is flawless, but you all sure do imply it in the way you discuss ex-members. The following (a member of the three) argument might then be presented:
2)that when problems arise the elders are "just human", that they didn't know what was going on in the home groups in certain eras of Xenos, and they were shocked and troubled to find out
- I can't speak to this directly, I wasn’t in meetings of elders, but seems unlikely. Dennis ran one of the groups subject to the most criticism. Besides, this seems to be used on these pages as an automatic counter to legitimate criticism.
3) that a group is a group is a group, and people always have disagreements with groups and come and go and come and go
- True on some levels, but there is some legitimacy to the notion that if group cohesion is encouraged and the people are "disciplined" through ostracizing, as acknowledged openly in this discussion, then it might be possible that some damage is being done. This belief is of course predicated on a belief in modern psychology, which people may or may not hold.

If Xenos is really so Socratic, open and comfortable with criticism, none of the above arguments would be necessary or even made.

Once again, I don't hate Xenos, but I think automatic negative reactions against ex-members are probably an argument themselves for some cohesion gone wrong, so people might consider backing off making the three arguments above if they’re interested is cosmetically appearing problem free. Being ostracized by any group is bound to be painful, but especially so by groups that celebrate there "love" and "open thinking" and openly encourage lots of participation. People deserve their anger at Xenos as much as people deserve to like it, and Xenos has hurt some people through some openly ugly processes. Perhaps the elders have since addressed this - guess I'll never know. Hope so.

I also hope I've made some argument that implicit processes are relevant in groups. If you don't believe this is that case and you're responsible for other people I think you're really foregoing some of your responsibility. Seems also that if you’re running a discipline website – obviously this if for CD - and are unfamiliar with these psychological processes you might want to investigate them.

Anyways, thanks for the discussion and thoughts, I enjoyed it (note that I'll debate more if people want to, but seems this is coming to a close).

E

Evan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
xianff said...

I would like to start with this, I do not hate this church, I still have some friends in it in fact. The unfortunate thing is that the discipline process does not always work right. I came forward looking for help and counseling on a sin that was affecting me. Instead of help,I was going to be removed from fellowship even though I was seeking to change this area of my life. The night before my disfellowship "trial", I was then falsely accused of something far worse than I had done, and no one was willing to listen to me. There wer no witness' to this so called "event", just rumors that had built up to epic proportions. When I realized no one was going to listen, I left. There was a lack of communication involved with the leadership which is how the false account came to be. I feel that one of the other biggest problems was the stacking of votes. Because everyone was in a predetermined mindset, they were unwilling to hear me out. It seems to me that if someone comes forward repentantly asking for help, they should not be removed for that sin, instead they should get the assistance, support, an love of the body in the matter. If anyone wants a more detailed story, contact me at christffdisciple@gmail.com

CD-Host said...

xianff --

Hi welcome to the blog. Let me repeat back to you the claim so that I understand what you are saying. BTW it would be much more useful if you were more specific.

1) You agree you were involved in sin A.
2) You requested assistance and counseling for sin A.
3) A discipline process was initiated for sin A.
4) During this process a charge was leveled against you of B.
4') B is some extension of A. So for example if A were verbal bullying B would be assault. If A was sexual play B might be illicit intercourse.
5) The evidence for your commission of sin B was rumors of your participation no one had any direct evidence.
6) Your trial was concerning B, and you believe you would have been convicted.
6a) This was based on the fact that no one listened to you during your presentation of evidence.
6b) You believe that there was vote stacking going on with the people in attendance.
7) You left prior to completion of the process, but believe you were disfellowshipped for B.

So first off is that all correct? Is there anything you would want to clarify in the above summary?

OK now a few other questions:

a) How long ago was this?
b) Since you didn't approve of the trial process did you make use of the appeal process (i.e. a meeting of the grievance board to be convened)?
c) You mention vote stacking. Were the people in attendance some unusual subset of your small church group and if so how do you believe they were selected?

We can talk about A leading to discipline in another post but I wanted to handle the issue of your bad experience with the discipline process separately.

RJVGII said...

Very interesting convo.

Background: I was involved in Xenos from 1976 until 1988. I was very involved at most levels of the church.I left the church because of major changes in structure that I and hundreds of others believed were not in the best interest of the church.

Note: As you have noted this is a youthful church compared to most churches but there is a wide variation in age and I know 100 or so members that have been there since 1980. Some before that.
also note that most members of this church who are in homegroups become very close with other members in the group. Much more so than in any church I have attended since. It seems that the closer people are, the more sins become obvious very quickly.

In my case Xenos was probably to liberal. I was an alcoholic who really should have been dis-fellowshiped. Instead I lingered on in that condition for a long time. Other members I was close to also had drinking problems. I know that the leadership began addressing this issue around 1988 because they knew of the problem. I also know that at that time they made every effort to provide for personal choice in drinking habits as long as others were not negatively affected.

In my years of involvement with the church I saw no abuse of authority. This may have been the result of immense respect for the leaders at the higher levels. However, I can see how someone could feel shunned and even be shunned by some members because of the family-like closeness.

I apologize for the dated nature of my recount. As far as I have been able to ascertain from my contact with members of Xenos since leaving, their practices have not changed.

RJVGII

chip said...

CD: I recently discovered and read this conversation with interest, even though some of these comments are a couple years old.

I’m interested in forms of discipline less severe than dis-fellowshipping someone. Namely, it has been a fairly common practice in xenos over the years to remove a lay leader from his/her role in leading a home church, for example, if that group doesn’t grow at the required/expected rate. Back in the day, there was an explicit requirement of 4%/month for such groups (failure to grow at this rate was considered a form of “pathology”); now this has been softened, but the basic policy is still in place: if the group doesn’t grow, it is at risk of being discontinued and the leaders removed. In at least some cases, particularly in the younger groups, this can create a pushy, legalistic tone, as people start to feel the heat if their group doesn’t perform to expectations.

I’m wondering how this sort of scenario is dealt with in other churches: how common is it for, say, deacons in other churches get kicked out of their office if the bible study groups they’re responsible for shepherding don’t grow, or don’t grow fast enough?

Thnx.

Madeline Schumacher said...

I attended xenos during middle school up to close to the end of sophomore year. When I began to notice somethings that bothered me about xenos I voiced my concerns to my college leader and mentor. She said that she was saddened that people would judge xenos based on the fact that they did huka and cursed instead of all the good that happened there. When my homechurch merged into a new group I did not feel at home and left. My collage leader told me that I had hurt so many people and she prayed that God would change me. No one from my homechurch who choose to stay will talk to me. Even those who were my closest friends. Since xenos I have started my own homechurch that is completly seperate from xenos. Many kids attend regularly and it has such a blessing. My advice is if you feel shunned, hang in there. It is people treating you this way, Not God. I left to serve God in a different way and God has chosen to bless me and he will bless you too!

CD-Host said...

@chip

Sorry for the very delayed response, somehow I missed this question. This sort of thing is common in groups with aggressive growth quotas. It is unusual but not unique to Xenos.

UberGenius said...

CD, enjoy your blog. You are professional in how you administrate the responses. I started attending Xenos back when it was known as Fishhouse. I was there for 7 years and the doctrine was thoroughly orthodox. There was a great sense of community and a sincere desire to love God in both intellectual and practical ways. However the immaturity of the Senior Pastor produced a very cult-like style. This has often been mis-attributed to the college ministry houses but it is not where it developed.

Typical leadership behaviors passed down from the Senior Pastor to local homechurch leaders seen at Xenos between 1980-1987:

Manipulative

They never recognized the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing members as merely an instrument to be used. They dominate and humiliate their members.

Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt

Often when manipulation or humiliation didn't work the leaders would expose a deep-seated rage. They didn't appear to see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.

Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature

Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for leader and member. Many of the leaders believe they were entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others. The followers see them as near perfect.

Leadership meetings would involve being cussed out and humiliated by the head Pastor for "not hitting your !@#$ing growth numbers." Much time was devoted to gossip about members of the home groups under the guise of "planning their spiritual development".

In short, they exhibited many of the qualities of antisocial personality disorder (Sociopathy) stemming again from the one central extremely influential leader.

I left knowing much more about scripture, evangelism, discipleship and community (all orthodox)than when I joined. These things I learned were also, to be fare, probably a result of this same Senior Pastor (and for that I am grateful). I also left with a notebook labeled "Abusive Leadership" filled with hundreds of things that I swore I would never do as a leader of a local church.

disclaimer: I have no idea to what extent these behaviors have continued in the 26 years since I have left Xenos. The head pastor has no doubt matured but the DNA of dynamic leaders infects leadership in churches for generations.

Also went to Vineyard in 1988-2008 leading home groups and planting a Vineyard church. I was at Cooper rd when the mass exodus of Xenos members arrived and there was no Xenos recovery group just unconditional acceptance and care for those hurt by the Xenos culture.

The scripture Xenos routinely broke was 1 Peter 5:2 ff " Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain (see Rod Parsley's and World Harvest for this sin) but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

Leadership was often hypocritical, one elder who was also my home church leader was berating people for not attending workers meeting and at the same time was addicted to porn and committing adultery.

Their love for the non-Christian world was fake and conditional (not all but large majority) on one becoming a Xenoid. I have had relationships with numerous people for decades before they came to accept the gospel but they all knew my care for them was genuine and not predicated on their worldview conformity to my thinking.

As Madeline mentioned above, one solution is to take the teaching ability you gained at Xenos and start your own home or bible study group free from the sociopathic traits at Xenos.


Komputer Professional said...

The author of the blog is obviously not a member of Xenos, therefore, he would have not seen some of the "behind the scenes" of how the management of Xenos actually operate.

My wife and I were members of Xenos from 1988 to 2002. In early 2002, We were in a home church that had used the term 'excommunication' if we didn't stop asking for financial assistance. The home group members who sat down with us that evening clearly stated that we would be excommunicated from Xenos if we didn't stop.

Wow... my wife and I cried so much that evening that we felt ashamed and shunned by the other members of that home group.

We left Xenos and went to a few other churches in the area.

About 5 years later, my wife and I decided to come back to Xenos. We attended a few central teachings and decided that we needed to join a home church.

We were placed with a person named Phil Franck, who at the time was the Home Church administrator (or something along those lines). My wife and I stated our case for us to come back to Xenos and find a home church, but did not want to go back to the home church that ashamed us.

For reasons that we do not understand, Phil Franck kept putting us off and finding one excuse after another. In one case, Phil Franck claimed to have found one person who stated that I had built her a computer, but she never received the computer. (I'm a computer expert) That was a blatant lie and I asked Phil Franck for proof of her claims. No proof was forthcoming.

Once again, Phil Franck kept on stalling us for 2 months, then I inquired why it was taking so long for him to decide to place us in a home church. Phil Franck never gave us a straight answer. Just another excuse after another excuse.

After multiple emails back and forth, I told Phil Franck that he was acting like a 'Xenos Nazi' and he should take a good hard look at himself spiritually and why he was not following the teachings of Jesus Christ.

At that point, my wife and I broke off any more attempts to return to Xenos knowing full well that the management of Xenos have not really changed at all. I have read the lastest responses to this blog and see that it is true that Xenos management still continues to disregard the Holy Bible and make up their own rules to fit their status quo.

Regards,

Richard

CD-Host said...

@Komputer Professional

The thing about the financial assistance sounds a bit odd. Were you on state assistance or were you asking for money at church?

As far as going to a different home church without going through a process of restoration in the original home church... honestly there Xenos was doing the typical thing. Churches in good standing with one another are supposed to recognize each other's discipline. They aren't supposed to encourage people to flee discipline and then try and go back as if everything is normal. From their perspective:

a) You didn't engage in a discipline process and got excommunicated

b) On excommunication you left and went to another church

c) When you wanted to come back to Xenos you wanted a "clean slate" not a process of restoration. Which is understandable but from the church's perspective undesirable.

The idea of a process of restoration isn't them making up their own rules it has been part of Christian practice for a 1800+ years.

As for Phil not being straight with you, that sounds bad. I don't know if Dennis is still monitoring this or not but if you want to use your real name he could inquire what really happened. You shouldn't have been lied to and avoided if, the answer was "no" they should have said no and explained why.