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Письмена на стене, часть вторая: Годы в Сан-Диего

Продолжение истории жизни в МЦХ Этины Хиггинс.


НАЧАЛО ИСТОРИИ

Годы в Сан-Диего

Это было самое прекрасное время, это было самое злосчастное время

Моё время в Сан-Диего напоминает мне первую строку "Повести о двух городах" Диккенса - "Это было самое прекрасное время, это было самое злосчастное время..." Моё пребывании в Церкви Христа Сан-Диего было самым долгим из всего времени в МЦХ - в общей сложности я провела там пять лет. Кo времени отъезда я настолько привязалась к ученикам и полюбила их, что ощущала, как будто бы меня обратили там. Мне кажется, это очень хорошо, чувствовать себя так по отношению к какому-то месту. Однако, то через что я прошла в этой законнической и фарисейской свалке, травмировало и напугало меня.

Я жила вместе с моим отцом в первый год после моего возвращения в Сан-Диего. Это оказалось замечательным временем, и я очень рада, что сделала это. Я не забуду одного свидания с братом вскоре после моего прибытия. Мы начали спорить о моей жилищной ситуации; он был ошеломлён, что я жила с моим отцом и "вызвал" меня жить с учениками. Я ответили ему, что нет никакой Библейской заповеди по этому вопросу и что он поступает законнически. Он процитировал Псалмы, а я сказала ему, что псалм говoрит о том, что это благословление для братьев, жить в единстве. Я также упомянула, что большинтсво учеников жило в полной нищете, были дезорганизованны, безответственны и крайне "неедины".

Я также сказала ему, что моя терапия состояла и в общении с некотороми членами моей семьи, и укорила его в преждевременном выводе без выяснения фактов, добавив, что Лиза Джонсон подчеркнула, что мы не должны упорно утверждать, что ученики должны жить с другими ученикаи, потому что это не было заповедью Господа. И поэтому мы не имеем никакого права предъявлять такие требования!

Мы спорили в автомобиле, и я помню, что настолько разозлилась, что с удовольствием немедленно ушла бы домой, подальше от этого фарисея! Как распорядилась судьба, он позже стал лидером моей домашней церкви.

Однако, эта дискуссия оказалась типичным примером того, что я испытала в Церкви Христа Сан-Диего. Если бы мне пришлось охарактеризовать Церковь Христа Сан-Диего одним словом, это было бы "законничество"! Законничество изобилует в этой церкви - это ужасно.

Крещение Джима Хиггинса

Вершиной моего возвращения в Сан-Диего было посещение одного крещения 23-го сентября 1991 в бухте Ла Джолла. Тот, кто крестился был Джим Хиггинс, за кого я в последствии вышла замуж! Я помню, что он впечатлил меня во время своего крещения и я поклялась, что я сразу познакомлюсь с ним. Мы быстро стали лучшими друзьями, и я была его первым "свиданием" в "Царстве".

Меня поместили в домашнюю церковь во главе с "Аллисон Брукс". Она так же наставляля меня. Она мне сразу понравилась. Она была в церкви дольше чем я, была чрезвычайна естественна и немного циннично, что я просто обожала! Она наставляла меня в течении нескольких месяцев.

Это было счастливое время для меня. Я познакомилась с Джимом, общалась с моей семьёй, и мне нравилось находится в красивом, солечном Сан-Диего. Я также близко подружилась с «Аннетт Делэйни», которая позже появилась на 20/20 и выступила против церкви. (В то время я была опечалена этим. Теперь, она – мой герой.)

В конечном счёте меня поместили в лидерство, и Джим и я были в службе развлечений в кафе Лулу. Так как я рождена и выросла в Сан-Диего и была частью «сцены» перед переездом в Европу, я знала там многих. Это было потрясающее время. Зная, что моя семья рядом, я ощущала безопасность и надёжность. Я любила возвращаться домой и уходить от злоупотреблений и требований в церкви. Я чувствовала себя в безопасности. В Нью-Йорке у меня этого определённо не было.

Будучи подругой Джима

То, что Джим и я нравились друг другу, было очевидно, и кто-то, кого я наставляля, сказала мне, что нам позволят быть другом и подругой, начиная с 14-го февраля 1992 года. Но, благодаря наставнику Джима «Стива Престона» этого не случилось. Стив был рассержен, что Джим и я провели вдвоём время в кафе и сказал, что если это произойдёт ещё раз, то он позаботится о том, что мы никогда не станем другом и подругой.

Ирония этого в том, что Джим и я вели абсолютно чистые отношения, а Стив закончил тем, что сбежал и женился на дочери одного из старейшин Сан-Диего, после того как они «впали в грех нечистоты»!

Я сказала Джиму, что я играю главную роль в пьесе, но у меня нет ни одной строки текста. Каждый и дядя Ваня в том числе, не только обладают не только мнением, но и контролируют наши отношения. Джим ответил, что думает точно также. Он был так рассержен реакцией Стива, что немедленно позвонил Шерману Дэйвису и назначил встречу. В то воскресенье, Шерман подошёл ко мне и спросил, что я чувствую по отношению к Джиму. Я сказал ему, что он мне нравится, и он велел мне продолжать молиться. (Забавно, но если они всё устраивают и обо всём договариваются, то какое отношение к этому имеет молитва?)

Джим и я стали другом и подругой на моём дне рождении 27-го февраля 1992 года. Я была взволнована и чувствовала, что Джим был ответом на мои молитвы. На моём втором свидании с Джимом я сказала моему папе, что собираюсь выйти замуж за этого человека.

Пойнт Лома и молодожёны

Меня перевели в другую домашнюю церковь в Пойнт Лома. (Джим всё же был в другой домашней церкви.) Мне действительно понравилась эта группа – я была с молодожёнами, и нам было весело вместе. Я принесла «плод» в этой домашней церкви – женщину по имени Кэтрин Рили Шот (она предоставила мне разрешение использовать её настоящее имя). Мы стали лучшими подругами. Я наставляла её долгое премя, и она присутствовала на моей свадьбе. Мы вместе подвергались одной и той же тирании. (Я рада, что я самолично вытащила её из движения.)

Когда мы были другом и подругой, Джим и я ни разу не были в одной домашней церкви. Один раз я упомянула это Донне Харриган, она велела мне и не думать об этом, поскольку она и Рэнди были даже не в одном регионе, когда были другом и подругой. (Она думает, что её жизнь и опыт – это стандарт, т.е. если у неё не возникало проблем с чем-то, то у других тоже не возникнет.)

В МЦХ отношения друг-подруга (подобно всему остальному) сильно регламентированы и контролируются.Джиму и мне позволялось говорить по телефону раз в неделю. Субботний вечер традиционый вечер свиданий. Всё организованно – даже если Вы кем-то заинтересованы, Вы не можете встречаться с ним каждую неделю, пока не станете другом и подругой. В Сан-Диего (если интересно) ритуал отношений был следующий: сначала один раз в шесть месяцев, потом раз в шесть недель, затем раз в две недели, потом друг-подруга и т.д. Я знаю женщину, которая была подругой одного и того же человека в течении пяти лет! Другая моя подруга была подругой её (будущего) мужа четыре года! Кое-что изменилось с тех пор, но я хочу, чтобы читатель мог представить себе то железобетонное законничество, характеризуещее церковь Сан-Диего, которое оказалось практически невозможным поколебать.

Недостаток недоверия лидеров, которое это отображает, действительно беспокоило меня. Как-то раз, я помню, что сказала Линн Битти, что ей приходиться доверять мне, что я хожу на работу в CBS, т.к. при том что она знала, я могла лгать о своей работе там, и вместо этого работать «девочкой по вызову» высокого класса. Она признала, что это могло быть правдой. Или у человека есть убеждения, или их нет – и никакая охрана не поможет.

Так или иначе, приблизительно в течении трёх недель меня наставляла «Черил Мастер», кто, так же замужем, не была в моей новой домашней церкви. Мне нравилось быть наставляемой ею, и я не забуду одно из лучших тихих времён, проведённое с кем-то другим в движении. Это были потрясающие три недели. Она вызвала меня найти кого-то для изучения Библии. Это было то, как я встретила Кэтрин и мы всместе занимались с ней. Потом наша домашняя церковь и дерево наставничества поменялось.

Наставник из ада

Мэй заменили Дэйвисов, и Мэй решили, что все женатые пары должны быть в одной домашней церкви, и все холостые должны быть вместе. Я помню, что была расстроена этим, потому что это ограничило мой круг общения. Меня поместили вместе с братом, с которым я спорила, когда только переехала в Сан-Диего. «Лиза Дэниэлс» вела вместе с ним. Т.к. я знала Лизу через Эллисон (они когда-то были соседками в комнате), я согласилась с этими мерами.

К сажалению, меня поставили в паре с «Валери Найф». Валери была жестоким и манипулирующим человеком. Я находилась в этих отношениях с июля 1992 до 16-го января 1993 и это был чистый, 100%-ый ад.

Валери и я выросли в совершенно различных условиях и были очень разными. Она была матерью-одиночкой. Мы были одного «духовного возраста», но это и всё, что у нас было общего. Независимо от того, что я говорила или делала, я никогда не соответствовала её ожиданиям. Она всегда сомневалась во мне, у неё всегда были подспудные намерения, и она любила делать негативные намёки. Например, когда Джим и я были помолвлены, я спросила её, могу ли я посетить вместе с ним его родителей, которые жили за городом. Она ответила «Ладно, я думаю, что да, потому что я доверяю Джиму.» Она – тот тип людей, который затягивает Вас в беседу, а потом обращает Ваши слова против Вас, как в Иеремии 9. Я никогда не любила или доверяла ей.

Часть проблеммы в движении наставничества в том, что Вами управляют и заставляют Вас чувствовать себя так, что Вы должны не только имитировать Вашего наставника, но стать подобным ему. Кроме того, каждый полностью зависим от своего наставника, так что даже если у Вас есть проблеммы, то почти невозможно сказать что-то о низ без того, чтобы быть обвинённым в непочтительности и неповиновении. Каждого учат доверять своему наставнику, не смотря ни на что; даже если наставник полностью ненадёжен.

Ещё больше вызывает тревогу, что лидеры не в состоянии увидеть жестокость, манипуляцию и безбожность в так многих лидерах низшего уровня. Или, возможно они видят, но надевают шоры на глаза.

К несчастью, лидер домашней церкви, Лиза, была именно такой. Мне повезло, потому что она уважала меня и поэтому относилась ко мне хорошо, за что я благодарна. (Позже Вы выясните, почему.)

Чтобы ещё ухудшить ситуацию, лидером Лизы была Донна Харриган, женский лидер сектора в западном регионе. К сожалению для её подчинённых, её стиль лидера был тиранническим. Всё было настолько ужасно, что спустя несколько лет, когда Харриган вернулись вести западный регион, у так многих учеников было что-то против неё, что они буквально стояли в очереди, ожидая возможности поговорить с ней.

Жалобы достигли Гуиллермо Адаме, евангелиста, кто в конечном счёте сделал с кафедры предупреждение тем, кто «лишал мужества» Донну. Меня это настолько рассердило, что я почти подпрыгнула и, стоя на стуле, крикнула, взмахнув кулаком, «Прекрасно! Теперь она знает, как мы себя чувствуем!».

The House Church that I was in was the personification of legalism. We got together two mornings a week at 6:00 a.m. for quiet times. I commuted anywhere from thirty to forty minutes on these mornings for meaningless quiet times. The commute for me was a killer. Before I moved downtown, I lived at the end of a peninsula. It took me almost forty minutes to get from home to my house church leader's place. No matter how often I told my discipler that this was really inconvenient for me, she would snap, "You just need to do it!"

Months later she gave me a ride home and got very frustrated with how long it took to get to my house. I told her, "Now you know how I feel when I come to your house for quiet times." She looked really "convicted" after I said that.

After I moved downtown, our group decided to meet up north for quiet times. They were so insistent that we meet. It used to really bother me because, while I went to all of the quiet times, my discipler (who had a child) was exempt. It was a classic case of "do as I say, not as I do." Everyone in the group lived a long way from the new location.

One day I blurted out that we should meet in Presidio Park, since it was centrally located and closer to everyone. I told the house church leader that it was ridiculous to have everyone commuting at 5:30 a.m. Everyone agreed, and so the meeting place was changed. Years later, at our going away party this same leader came up to me and reminisced about our house church. "Wasn't it great?," he asked. I replied, "See all of these wrinkles? They came from that house church!" And I laughed. He looked stunned.

We also met on the evenings we had free to "go sharing." This was a complete waste of time. I remember thinking to myself that I hoped that no one at work asked me what I did last night, because it would sound so foolish and vacuous. I mean, get a life! I remember Valerie was mad that Catherine could rarely come, since she had school or work. I did all I could to protect Catherine from Valerie. I think I did a good job, because Catherine tells me that she always liked Valerie, and I am glad.

What made these "evangelistic" evenings so futile was that we used to meet at Valerie's house and wait for everyone to show up. Invariably, we would wait for up to an hour, and by the time we got together, talked and prayed, there was little time left for sharing. I also felt funny going to local shopping malls under false pretenses. I was not shopping, but recruiting. When I said this, though, Valerie would reply, "You just need to do it!"

In spite of all this work, our group was never "personally fruitful." We did convert a mildly retarded girl , and a young woman from a very troubled background, but they had been passed on to us by another group.

The church used to have devotionals dedicated to how to conduct a Bible Talk. The leaders would run a mock Bible Talk and say and do things that you are NOT supposed to say and/or do. The Bible Talks had become so much a matter of rote that they involved no study nor analysis of the Word. That meant the Talks were dull and uninteresting. I commented once that I felt like I was in a play saying the same lines over and over again.

After a few years of being in the movement, everything was recycled. We did the same Bible Talks, said the same things, and they were totally focused on visitors and had nothing for members. Yet we were instructed to act excited and raise our hands when the leaders asked questions. All the enthusiasm was manufactured.

If you didn't bring a visitor, then you had to go out sharing. The worst was having a Bible Talk on Friday nights. Even Sue Schoff once commented that, "No one who is cool wants to go to a Bible Talk on Friday nights!" We were even discipled on bringing food to Bible Talk and it had to be presented elegantly and you had to bring good quality items. I was in several Bible Talks where sheets were handed out with people's names and what they were assigned to bring. I remember being the person who typed this up, and telling people what to bring.

There was a tremendous focus by the San Diego leaders on authority. All of the leaders on down to my discipler demanded absolute submission from their subordinates -- it was disgusting. I was greatly bothered by Dave Weger, then the lead evangelist in San Diego, who constantly preached on Hebrews 13:17. In all honesty, I don't think that there is one disciple in San Diego at this time who does not have a problem with this Scripture. A friend of mine who was in the church for a very long time (from Boston's early days) spent a year praying every day that God would take the Weger's out of San Diego.

I remember one time Lisa said to her then roommate and me that, although we were well-educated, God had put her in charge of us as a House Church Leader. I immediately changed the subject, and asked her when she was going to get her GED, since not being a high school graduate was a shoddy example. I remember how her roommate smirked at this one!

The Reconstruction of the San Diego Church

The leadership decided that the church just wasn't growing and needed a revival. I remember talking to Edwin, who I had maintained my friendship with despite his having "fallen away". He responded, "The church is having a revival? I always heard them preach that, since it was God's church, it didn't need a revival." Being so warped in my thinking, I defended the church instead of asking questions.

In preparation for the revival, the Harrigans made people sign a sheet if they wanted to remain members. Since I was dating Jim at the time, I signed primarily so that I wouldn't jeopardize that relationship. The Revival started. Down came the fire and brimstone from Marty Fuqua. He reamed the tar out of everyone. He preached that we were all worldly and materialistic simply because we lived in southern California. (How ironic, so does he!) Marty is a Kip McKean wanna be -- he imitates every idiosyncrasy of Kip. He is so bizarre.

All of the leaders came forward and confessed their "sin" of not imitating their disciplers. The spiritual upheaval was just tremendous; this whole thing rattled a lot of people. I have some friends who still talk about it, and I have even more friends who had lived through the 1986 San Diego Reconstruction who are obviously still tormented by this experience.

I viewed the revival as a huge joke. It was so stupid -- I was so sick and tired of something like this happening almost every year. One can never have a good year in the ICC -- it is always struggle, strife and spiritual turmoil. The leaders are always testing the followers' commitment and discipleship, and are always intent on ferreting out anyone who doesn't fit the mold. The whole process is discouraging. We spend thousands of hours reaching out to and converting people and in one single event, be it Reconstruction or Revival, we lost several hundred people. What a meaningless, time consuming, and asinine cycle.

It is also unbiblical. Jesus warns us to not separate the weeds from the wheat, as you would run the risk of throwing out the good with the bad. This is the job of the angels at the Last Judgement, not people. (Matthew 13) However, since when did the ICC follow the Bible?

I know hundreds of disciples who lead dull and unfulfilled lives simply because they have had to postpone or abandon their personal dreams all for the sake of "the Kingdom." This supposed "Kingdom of God" then spins its wheels by recruiting members and then tossing them out again. When you really think about it, the whole process is utterly ridiculous. The leaders demand "total commitment" from the followers, but I doubt that any of the apostles would have made the cut, since they abandoned Jesus when he was arrested. Even Peter denied Him three times. If Peter had done this to Kip, Kip would probably have marked Peter for his "disloyalty."

One of the mistakes that Donna made in regards to the revival was that, after conducting "Life Talks" with her Bible Talk Leaders, she had these lower level leaders conduct the Life Talks for the rank and file members. [These "life talks" were assessments of each disciple's commitment to the church, and based on their outcome the leaders would decide who could remain a member of the church and who would be thrown out.] Most of the Bible Talk Leaders were unskilled women who completely lacked the necessary counseling credentials to do this type of thing, and also had only a rudimentary understanding of the Bible.

I always felt that Donna missed out on a prime opportunity to get to know her flock better. I suspect she never even knew my name. It is really disgusting to get paid (and well paid, I might add) to shepherd God's flock and not even know them on a personal level. There is something intrinsically wrong with this.

The revival lasted for several days. It was draining. Lisa was extremely cruel to two of the women in our group, and proceeded to "break them down." It was awful -- it was like watching a cat with a mouse. One woman, who had gotten engaged, was repeatedly told for weeks to not even think about getting married because it was not going to happen for a long time. Lisa yelled and screamed at her, and said belittling things to her. No matter how the girl responded, she was always wrong -- as far as Lisa was concerned, she could do nothing right.

The other woman was constantly subjected to yelling sessions where she was belittled and rebuked. Valerie kept complaining about how "hard-hearted" they were.

At one point, the engaged woman was told that she could plan her wedding, but that she wasn't to think about it! I am not sure how one does this! Her fiancé even told her that he would not kiss her until she was put back on the membership list.

Months later, after we were both married, I asked her if she ever confronted Lisa about her mistreatment of her. She got really nervous and actually started shaking when I asked this, and said nervously that she didn't really need to and was okay with things. Years later I learned that she had gotten cancer. I firmly believe that, because she internalized these events, it led to her illness. If anyone doesn't believe that discipling can be lethal -- guess again.

Luckily for me, Lisa left me alone. Knowing how she and Valerie operated, they were easy prey for me. I had them both figured out and it was ridiculously easy to tell them, "what their itching ears wanted to hear." By this time, I had moved into an apartment (my dad had moved to Massachusetts) and was living by myself (a "Kingdom" faux pas!). Lisa challenged me to find a roommate. I told her that I had already asked "Debbie Becker" to be my roommate. Lisa was pleased with this response. Since I was very evangelistic and had quite a reach out list, I wasn't hammered on this.

However, Lisa was hoping to nail me on my purity. Again, touché! I had been completely "radical" in this area and had no sordid details to recount. The forthrightness, fortitude and vociferousness of my response disarmed her and she seemed pleased. She challenged me to be more submissive to Valerie, and I told her that I was completely willing to do whatever it took to be a great disciple. Valerie added that she had seen some changes and I was put back on the membership list that night.

Since I was discipling Catherine, I had to be a part of her life talk. She was frightened about her "Life Talk". I told her that it was really no big deal -- that I would be there and vouch for her. I suggested to her that she just say what their itching ears wanted to hear and be very compliant. Ha! What the leaders don't realize is that, because of their constant teaching on deception, we all become master deceivers! How ironic -- and sad. Catherine's "Life Talk" went without a hitch and, she too, was added to the list that night.

I was also discipling another woman at this time, "Sheila." Things started out well with her, but as time passed, things began to fall apart. I felt that she needed therapy and got really uncomfortable discipling her. She literally hated Valerie. As time went on, she began to hate me as well. She was also unhappy in our house church.

I think things got to be too much for her and she started getting discipled by someone else in our group. I was present for one of her life talks (she had a few), and her new discipler literally threw her out of the church. She yelled at her and told her to go and to never come back. She did. I ran into her a few times, but I always felt really uncomfortable. I felt sorry for her, but in all honesty, I was glad that she left. Now I wish that I could tell her the truth about the church and how much it messes you up.

Jim also skated through his Life Talk, and was totally nonplused by the whole experience. Life in the church seemed so easy for him -- I always envied him for that. My whole experience was one of complete strife. At this juncture, I was beginning to get a little tired of dating. I was close to thirty and knew what I wanted. I also knew that it was getting close to my Columbia University deadline (I had deferred them) and I wanted to get on with my life. Jim and I had a few talks and it was apparent that our relationship was headed towards engagement.

In October, one of my closest friends got married. I decorated the reception hall -- Catherine helped me. That evening Jim had told me that the leaders had asked him if he and I would be willing to move to Los Angeles. I said, "When do I pack?", but Jim said no. He wanted to get married first, and then we could think about it. On November 7, 1992 we got engaged. That was a happy evening. My house church leader was in on the surprise, as was my mom, and it was a really great day.

Then came hell.

The Breaking Session

I had absolutely the WORST engagement ever. I would never wish this experience on anyone, not even a mortal enemy. (The irony of this statement is that I often said this while I was still in the church!) What made it so terrible was the abuse that I suffered under the hands of Valerie Knife and Donna Harrigan. Valerie was discipling me, and was also discipling a girl who got engaged the same day I did. Valerie's true colors came out -- it was obvious that she was intensely jealous of our situation. She intentionally made it a miserable time for us both.

She constantly challenged us, told us that we were losing our focus, and said that she was "concerned." She also mentioned that I needed to be more submissive to her and that she had concerns about me. Approximately three weeks into my engagement, she decided that, since I wasn't repenting in the way she felt I needed to, that she would call a meeting (ambush) with Donna, herself and me. I had absolutely no idea what this meeting was about; Valerie merely informed me that I was to go to Donna's house on Sunday after church.

I arrived at the Harrigan's house promptly. I was uncomfortable with this meeting, because I didn't know Donna, and felt certain that she didn't even know my name. She came to the door and invited me in. She offered me a piece of cake, but I declined. Something inside me told me to not take it, as she could use it against me and make it a weight issue. I'm not really sure why I thought that, but I did.

I went into the kitchen and was promptly ignored. Donna was making lunch for her family. (Campbell's Tomato Soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I am giving you precise details, dear reader, in order to demonstrate that I keenly remember things). Then she excused herself and she and her family ate lunch together, leaving me completely alone in the kitchen. Frankly, I was appalled at her lack of hospitality. She made absolutely no effort to converse with me or get to know me.

When she came back into the kitchen, I helped her with the dishes and began to tell her about myself. I talked about my conversion, gave a brief synopsis of my childhood and talked about my experiences in Paris and New York. I felt that there was some information about my childhood that she needed to be aware of which would give her insight as to why I behave the way I do. I kept thinking to myself about the ludicrousness of her discipling/counseling me without any information. That is just flat out stupid.

Valerie finally showed up and we went into the foyer for our talk. Since there weren't enough chairs, I had to sit on the floor and look up at Valerie and Donna. There is something symbolic there, I think.

Valerie launched into her diatribe as to how I am not submissive to her and that she "is concerned about this as it makes her question as to whether or not I could be submissive to Jim." After ten minutes of this, Donna turned to me and asked me for my take on things. I knew that if I defended myself, I would be dead in the water and if I agreed, well, that would be the kiss of death. Thus, I decided to keep my mouth shut -- that way I wouldn't give them any fodder to use against me -- and just shrugged.

Donna launched into her diatribe and rebuked the tar out of me. One of the things that she said to me was, "Well, Missy, I have the power to postpone your marriage!" I absolutely could not believe that she said that. Here is a person whom I do not know at all, threatening to postpone my marriage! I remember feeling like the air was knocked out of me. I was so overwhelmed with pain that I couldn't breathe. I was speechless. They told me what I needed "to do" in order to repent.

I was profoundly hurt and angry. My discipler was so smug. She embodied evil to me at that moment. I knew that she had orchestrated the whole thing and that her intent was for this to happen. Since she wasn't happy, she was going to ensure that no one else would be either. I had no one to turn to; I knew that I couldn't tell Jim, because he would have freaked out. My mother was out of the question. God knows what she would have done had she heard about it. So I suffered in silence.

I was so grief and panic stricken that I finally confided in Catherine. This threat was unbelievable to me since Jim and I had a model dating relationship by "kingdom" standards. Valerie got exactly what she wanted. I could tell that she had purposely instigated the whole thing, and that this outcome was exactly what she had hoped for.

The Rest of My Engagement

I had to set about demonstrating my repentance to Valerie and Donna. I actually thanked Donna for helping me and even dropped off a bouquet of flowers for her at her house. Since I lived under the threat of my marriage being postponed, my position was tenuous at best. I was being controlled like a puppet on a string. I had to be fake and pretend to like Valerie and enjoy her company. I also had to appear to be willing to learn from her and to be submissive according to her interpretation of it.

In reality, discipling basically boils down to being fake and behaving in ways that are contrary to what you know is right and true, in order to get the desired outcome. All of us become master deceivers and manipulators and all of us have hidden agendas. This is the only way to survive. You have to learn to play the game and the better you play it, the higher up you go in the pyramid.

At this point, the relationship between my discipler and me was extremely strained. On the video of our Jack and Jill shower, she shared. It was so insincere and shallow. Even she was convicted of her behavior, because she called me to apologize for how she came across on it. I remember that I got very sick at this time. I had acute bronchitis (which later developed into pneumonia). I remember explaining this to Donna, who just shrugged and said that she gets bronchitis every year and doesn't allow it to stop her. Since I had to demonstrate my repentance, I showed up at the ice skating rink on New Year's Eve just to demonstrate my support of church activities.

The week before our wedding (our engagement was short, thank goodness, only nine weeks!) the fun times began again. I lived in dread of my discipler, and no one but the girl I discipled even knew about it. My friend was coming in from out of state. She is the first girl I studied the Bible with and we have stayed in touch all of these years. I had wanted to spend some time with her, but wouldn't you know that our infernal house church had something planned. I had to figure out and get "advice" as to how to ask if I could simply not come to our little event so that I could spend time with my friend. Luckily, my discipler didn't mind and so I didn't go the event.

Two days before our wedding, Valerie gave me a call at work. "There's an all night prayer tomorrow night and you need to be there." "I am getting married on Saturday," I replied, "I'm not sure if that's a good idea." "I am well aware of when you are getting married; you still need to be there." "Well, I don't know," I said. "My mother is coming over early Saturday morning and she'll be furious when she learns that I stayed up all night. I don't really think it would give her a good impression of the church." "No matter what happened, your mother still wouldn't like the church!, " said Valerie. Boy, was I angry when she said that! Finally I told her that I would give Terry Jordan a call and get her input.

Luckily for me, Terry and Jerry Jordan (Elders) were doing our marriage counseling. Terry is a very kind and gracious soul. When I told her what was asked of me she said that she "appreciated my heart, but that she did not think that it was a good idea for me to attend." (I had to laugh about that comment on my heart as my heart had absolutely no desire to do this whatsoever!)

I promptly phoned Valerie and informed her what the elder's wife advised. However, she couldn't resist making her little dig. "I don't appreciate you going over my head like that. I also don't feel like you were being very submissive to our house church leader by not calling and asking her first". "Well," I replied, "the reason I didn't is because Terry is doing our marriage counseling and is married, and since our house church leader is also single I didn't feel that she would be the best person to get this kind of advice. I also feel that Terry would have been hurt had I not gotten her input on the matter." Since there was nothing left to say, she hung up on me.

I waited for a call telling me that my wedding would be postponed. No such call came.

The Wedding

Jim and I were married on January 16, 1993 and are happy today. (Actually, we're happier now than we ever were in the church!) I remember thinking on my wedding day how glad I was that I would no longer be discipled by Valerie Knife. The thought of this actually added to my joy! I even remember hugging Donna and feeling such a sense of relief that she had nothing to hold over me. Can you imagine thinking this on your wedding day? Can you imagine worrying over the last 48 hours that your wedding might be postponed because you hadn't effectively demonstrated your repentance?

Jim later pointed out to me that the Harrigan's never even gave us a wedding gift. Yet, the leaders constantly challenge the group to be supportive of one another and bring gifts. Hypocrisy reigns! Honestly, I'm glad that they didn't give me a gift. I do not want anything to remember them by.

Also during my engagement, Dave Weger had to give his input as to whether or not I could get married in January. Here is a person who doesn't know me (we had met once years earlier) deciding what day I could get married. The church leaders were not too keen on our date, since January is traditionally a "push" month. They finally decided that it was okay, since my mother had purchased our flight tickets and they would have felt funny telling my mother that we couldn't use the tickets because of their decision. (However, they did insist that I change the time of the wedding so that the disciples would have time for evangelism). Such a big deal was made about this, that we were made to feel as though we were extremely lucky to be getting married that day, as no one gets married in January.

Ironically, when we moved to the Central Zone (Gary and Paulette, full-time interns) were also married that day. Since he used to play football for the SDSU Aztecs, though, he had more clout then we did. The leaders are really into football players. (This is definitely a "Kingdom-wide" trait.)

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes before one gets married in the church. Don't let anyone fool you! The leaders constantly tout how wonderful it is to be married in the church. However, no one tells you about the pure unmitigated hell that one has to go through in order to make this a reality! In fact, Catherine was so disgusted by what she saw that she actually ran off and got married instead of allowing the leaders to toy with her! She told me that after she saw what "Christine", "Nadine" and I went through, that she vowed that she would never get married in this church! There were actually four people in our wedding party, who at some point, ran off and got married! The leaders can preach that getting married in this church is wonderful, but judging by the behavior of the members, it is obvious that this is simply not true.

There is also a feeling of safety once married. I think that that is why a lot of singles long to be married -- so that they can escape from their present tyranny and oppression. Almost everyone I know of who has gotten married in the movement has commented that it is a lot safer in the marrieds ministry than in the singles. This, too, is very telling.

Confronting my Abusers

After Jim and I got married, I went and talked to Valerie and Donna about their maltreatment of me. Valerie broke down and cried, and admitted that she had failed with me. She told me that she realized that I did not trust her at all and that she had gone about things the wrong way. At the time I confronted her, Catherine was running off to get married. I could tell that Valerie was being put through a lot -- it was obvious that the leaders were pressuring her and making her feel responsible.

I vaguely felt sorry for her, but I must admit I had some deep attitudes towards her and keenly disliked her. In fact, it took me years to get over her abuse and I didn't forgive her for it for a very long time. My lack of forgiveness demonstrates how unlike Jesus I am, too.

I also confronted Donna Harrigan and told her that since I had been around two World Sector Leaders, I had high expectations of her. I told her that I was disappointed in her lack of hospitality, and that I did not get the impression that she had wanted or had even tried to be my friend. I also told her that I felt that it was unwise on her part to try to counsel and disciple me with out knowing me. To which she replied, "How do you expect me to get to know you, if you don't volunteer information?" I retorted that I had volunteered information and that she failed to ask any questions.

The sad part with Donna is that she knows she can be hateful. I have seen her be humble. She was humble when I confronted her, but I have also heard reports from several others that when confronted by her sin, she refused to acknowledge it.

What has always amazed me is that her tyrannical behavior is so obvious -- she has a reputation for being cruel. As a former roommate of hers says, "her reputation will always precede her." I cannot understand why the Adames and other leaders don't see this. Or if they do, why they don't do something about it. Her behavior is abusive. This is wrong. Shepherds must protect the flock at all costs. That is their job.

To be fair, I heard reports that she has greatly changed. I even felt that she probably had until very recently, when a friend of mine who had been discipled by her in another ministry told me her story. Now I am not so sure.

Central Sector

After our marriage, Jim and I were moved into the Central Sector, which was led by Steve and Sue Schoff. I looked forward to getting to know Sue Schoff, as it was her sister-in-law who had met me and her brother who had baptized me. Alas, this never happened.

Initially, we were in leadership and we did really well -- we had a lot of visitors every week on a consistent basis. Steve wanted to know what was the secret to our success. Jim told him and the other leaders (this was at a Bible Talk Leaders Meeting) that our goal was to make sure that all of the members were happy. Thus, there was no mandatory attendance and we respected people. We believed in not putting pressure on people, but making sure that those in our group were happy and that their needs were getting met. When Jim said this, the other leaders looked at him like he was from planet Mars.

The following week, as we were driving to the meeting, I told Jim that I did not feel like going and pointed to the movie theater and mentioned that I would like to go to a movie instead. Jim felt the same way and took the exit; instead of going to the leaders' meeting, we watched a movie! This ended our leadership career and we have not led since. This was in the fall of 1993.

Although we were "encouraged" a lot to go back into leadership throughout the years, I never wanted to because I felt that it was factious and that the whole premise was wrong. I often said that if they would change the name to Bible Talk Servant, I might be interested.

After our brief leadership stint, Jim and I were put in with military folks. I cannot imagine a less appropriate group for us -- we were desperately unhappy. Jim and I disliked the Central Sector so much that we spent the next year trying to fall away. We battled it out each week. One week I would sit in the car and not go to Bible Talk and then the following week Jim would sit in the car. Our involvement in the church was not helping our marriage, either. We made few friends in that sector, although those who became our friends, have stayed our friends.

We Can't Afford to Be Disciples

While in the Central Sector, I remember feeling like I could no longer afford to be a disciple any longer. Steve Schoff planned so many events at the last minute that were both costly and time consuming. Our house church also asked for us to bring things every week. I used to get angry about this because I was in graduate school, Jim was working only part-time, and we couldn't afford to bring a pot-luck meal for 15 every week. Our house church also had a lot of single males who ate everything in sight and rarely contributed anything.

Someone dropped the ball while planning our annual New Year's Eve event, so our sector spent the evening at Chuck E. Cheese. (This is a pizza and video game chain on the west coast which appeals primarily to pre-teen children.) Every time I tell this story, people laugh, because Jim and I are the last two people that you would ever see at such a place, even if we had children!! I called our House Church leader (we were in a new group by this time) and told her that we would not be going. We had planned to have dinner with some disciples from the West Sector and then go to the Meridien Hotel for drinks.

When we got home that night, there was a scathing message left on our machine by Steve. I was so incensed that I decided to keep the tape and play it for Jerry Jordan. I have never had an evangelist (or anybody else for that matter) leave that kind of message on my answering machine. We called our disciplers (two of the most wonderful people) and told them what happened. They felt really bad and were very supportive of us.

A Bruised Reed He'll Definitely Break: Kip McKean Comes to Town

The next day Kip McKean was in town to "preach the word." The entire church was doing very badly. Everyone was hurting from past abuses and injuries and the disciples were basically depressed and epitomized the "walking wounded." I really believe that what the church needed was some tender encouragement and strengthening. The body needed to feel love, kindness and compassion. A dose of gentleness would have been nice.

Kip did not feel that way at all. He talked about his son who, although extremely ill with the flu, played in a tennis tournament anyway and won. He told us that we were a bunch of sissies who made him sick and that we called in sick at the drop of a hat. He said that "unless you are dead or are dying, you should be at all of the meetings of the body."

This was especially depressing to my discipler who struggled with major health issues. Frankly, the whole message was typical Kip -- totally insensitive. It was at that point that I turned off to him. I had met him on a few occasions in Paris and in New York and had tremendous awe, respect and admiration for him. All of that died that day.

Kip also admonished the church for its lack of fruit, saying that he had had just about enough of the San Diego church feeling sorry for itself, complaining and grumbling. It was time that we got over our hurts and evangelized the world!

What he apparently didn't realize is that everyone felt like, "Who would want this life anyway?" My faith was completely destroyed. I had been resigned to my involvement, saying to myself, "Well, this is okay for me, but why would I want to drag anyone into this?" Now, I felt like I could never get anyone to love Jesus enough to put up with the vagaries of the movement. It was awful.

The body broke for lunch and I spent the day grumbling and kicking the pavement. I saw the first woman who discipled me when I moved to San Diego. She asked me how I liked the message. I told her that I was mad at Kip and that I hated his message. She told me that she was mad at Kip, too. All of us needed comfort and instead we were getting kicked in the teeth for being low-life ingrates. Gee, isn't it, "Flat out awesome to be in the Kingdom?" (Forgive my sarcasm; I just couldn't help myself).

The meeting resumed for part two. Guillermo Adame preached. Jim and I were seated in the upper balcony with our zone. Five minutes into the message, our Sector Leader summoned us out of the fellowship. He made a big to-do out of it. I told him that I received his message on our answering machine. He lit into us, saying that he, "was sick of our pride and superiority." He was "sick and tired of little Miss Paris and her hoity-toity life."

I told him that our house church leader had said that it was okay that we not attend. He said that he never sanctioned such a thing and that he expected the body to be there. We told him that there were other couples from our zone who did not attend, and we wanted to know why we were being targeted. He responded that it was because we had the most pride, but that he would be getting to the bottom of it and talk to the other delinquents.

Even Guillermo Adame mentioned that there was a, "prideful couple in the Central Sector who did not want to go to Chuck E. Cheese." We could hear "oooohs" and "aaaahs" from the audience as if we had committed some heinous crime. No mention was made about the seven other couples in our sector who did not go. Moreover, the fact that Guillermo mentioned this demonstrates how information is fraudulently gathered by the leaders.

When Steve summoned us out of the fellowship he made it obvious to all that he had a beef with us and I felt like he was trying to humiliate us. After his comment about our pride, I eyed him and told him, "I am so sick and tired of all of the support that the disciples give you during the year. The trash-a-thons and graffiti wipe-outs, and all of the other stuff; and you people can't even plan one decent event for your disciples. You plan everything at the last minute and expect us to come running. Well, it is obvious that someone dropped the ball here, because December 31st comes around at the same time every year!"

I was so mad that I did not care if I was being disrespectful. My husband was even more incensed. Things escalated and got rather ugly. What finally calmed our Sector Leader down was that we mentioned that we knew that Kip McKean staying at the Meridien Hotel in Coronado! He got really nervous when we revealed that we were privy to this fact. Nonetheless, he defended his stance, saying that if Kip had to go to Chuck E. Cheese for New Year's Eve, he would have gone and with a good attitude!

"Yeah," Jim countered, "but he still would have been able to go back to the Meridien!" (The Meridien is the priciest hotel in the San Diego area).

By the time we got finished talking to the Sector Leader, he was like a little puppy walking away with his tail between his legs. I have to admit that Jim and I relished the moment. Our confrontation ended up having to be mediated by Martin Bentley, an elder in the San Diego church who happens to be Kip McKean's brother-in-law. We brought up the fact that we were extremely upset by Steve's message on our answering machine; and I noted that I had never had a message like that from anyone. Even Sue admitted that she had never heard her husband leave such a nasty message on anyone's answering machine. (I am glad to report that Steve did apologize for his behavior and I appreciate that).

However, I had always wondered why Martin was at that meeting. I wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that we knew so much and the leaders were afraid that we would blab to the other rank and file members. Just think, we get to go to Chuck E. Cheese and our leader is at the Meridien. Wow, Jesus didn't even have a place to lay his head.

Money and the San Diego Church of Christ

The church is always preaching about how their "finances are above board." However, I remember one year that the members were over-charged for the marriage retreat, which was held at the Embarcadero (1994). The whole event was tacky, particularly when contrasted with the year before -- nearly everyone was angry about it. Furthermore, there weren't enough seats for everyone.

Our discipler (who was George Havin's son-in-law -- George being a former elder in the SDCOC) discussed this with the financial administrator, who admitted that we were over-charged, but that the church would be using the money for something else. My discipler told him that this was not at all ethical and felt that Steve should have been honest with the members and reimbursed the funds. Then the members could decide whether or not they wanted to contribute the remainder.

I also have a friend who is a travel agent and arranges travel plans for many of the leaders. The leader of her sector had asked for a pair of tickets. After much research, my friend was able to find a pair at $200 a piece. However, the leader wasn't happy with this and insisted on a specific date, time and airlines which shot up the prices to $900 apiece. My friend argued with him and tried to persuade him to purchase the less expensive pair. It was to no avail.

She told me that later that week at devo, he talked about "Special Contribution" and she wondered if the leaders were ever accountable about the funds. She told me that she "had to get her heart right on that one!"

Back In West Sector

Not too long after our meeting with Steve, Jim and I moved back to West Sector. The Harrigans were no longer there and we were much happier. We had many wonderful friends in that sector and life just seemed easier.

The only things that I remember not liking were the meaningless d-groups and learning that the church keeps MIA lists. This really bothered me. The d-groups were so repetitive, time-consuming and meaningless. Another thing that always bothered me was that we needed to be "unified", which meant sitting together at every "meeting of the body." (I got admonished on this constantly, because I liked to sit with my friends and my friends were rarely in my d-group). We sat around and stats were taken on how many quiet times we had during the week, our evangelism and our "response to the message." I remember commenting to a sister that instead of coming to church, I would be glad to fax in my stats instead! She just laughed.

I remember the last several months of our involvement in the San Diego Church as a happy time, particularly since I had abandoned teaching high school, which had gotten to be too much with my church schedule. (Gee, this was the second career that I have given up for the ICC.) Things managed to work out for us (we got permission; oops! "advice"), and we were able to move to Seattle, Washington in January, 1997. It was our dream come true.




Автор: Этина Каррейро Хиггинс, Международая Церковь Христа с 1988 по 1998. (оригинал на reveal.org)
Перевод joan

Copyright © Церковь Христа, МЦХ Все права защищены.

Опубликовано на: 2003-09-12 (5255 Прочтено)

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