Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kaelee's Story ~ A Follow Up

It’s been a crazy few weeks for me. After sharing my story on this blog I was asked to do an interview with a local news station about my experience at Mars Hill. I also finally made the decision to talk to the wife of the couple I spoke of in my story. After telling Sophia about my conversation with this woman she asked me to write a follow up post.
This is a poem I wrote after my experience at Mars Hill. I wrote it during the hardest part of recovery from my eating disorder:

I wish I could reach across the void between us,
I would fill it with all of the things we won’t say,
“You’ve changed,”
“You are judging me,”
“I envy you,”
Each tightly caged word, if spoken, could create a bridge,
We would meet in the middle.
But I am selfish and cowardly,
I hope you will do all the work.
So the void grows bigger,
Hope of crossing diminishes.

After reading the stories on this blog and choosing to share my own story, I began to find myself often thinking about healing, and what that would look like for me. Once again this brought up painful emotions, so I ignored them. I found it much easier to remain in an us-vs-them mindset regarding Mars Hill, and to simplify a very complicated problem down to Mars Hill and it’s mindsets.
After gentle encouragement from my therapist I finally decided to face my fears and speak with the wife of the couple who had hurt me. As displayed by the poem I wrote above, part of me always knew this is what needed to happen for my own healing. When I imagined this meeting I feared judgement, condemnation, and believed she would try and convert me or guilt me back into attending Mars Hill.
I am pleased to say how very wrong I was. Our meeting went wonderfully. We were both honest and open with each other about the events that had transpired and how they made us feel. She opened up to me about the religious pride she and her husband had struggled with. The flakey actions I discussed in my story had hurt her more than I realized. I also discovered that my own feelings towards Mars Hill turned out to be just as much to blame as their desire for my husband and I to attend. While she did say that Mars Hill preached the truth, and it was hard for her to see me rejecting the truth, she allowed me to disagree with her. For the first time she demonstrated that our relationship was more important to her than the matter of what church I attended. I don’t know if this attitude has always been there, or is more recent, but either way it is enough for me.
Virginia Woolf writes, “I have lost friends, some by death…others by sheer inability to cross the street.”
We have all been hurt. Some of those people who have hurt us will be unwilling to try and right their wrongs, they might try and shift the blame to you. If you risk it and try to talk to them you may leave even more wounded than you were before, but for me it was worth it for any amount of healing and clarification it could bring to my life. I can’t give anyone a formula to find forgiveness, I wouldn’t dare to be that presumptuous. Crossing the street happened to be the best decision I made during this process. My anger is gone and by pursuing my own healing I was finally able to forgive her in an honest fashion.
After my experience, I really just want to encourage everyone to be honest and open with themselves about what they need for healing and to trust that their own healing will lead to forgiveness. Don’t allow others to give you a formula for this process, and try to be realistic and understanding in your expectations of the people who have hurt you. There is always hope.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Something Beautiful

This is an amazing sure to listen all the way through.  It reminds me of two ladies I know, Dee & Deb, who helped me tell my story.  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Update to Speaks for Itself

Please read my update to Speaks for Itself

Psalm 37

**This really spoke to me yesterday**
    A psalm of David.
 1 Don’t worry about the wicked
      or envy those who do wrong.
 2 For like grass, they soon fade away.
      Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
 3 Trust in the LORD and do good.
      Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
 4 Take delight in the LORD,
      and he will give you your heart’s desires.
 5 Commit everything you do to the LORD.
      Trust him, and he will help you.
 6 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
      and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
 7 Be still in the presence of the LORD,
      and wait patiently for him to act.
   Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
      or fret about their wicked schemes.
 8 Stop being angry!
      Turn from your rage!
   Do not lose your temper—
      it only leads to harm.
 9 For the wicked will be destroyed,
      but those who trust in the LORD will possess the land.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A New Option for Those Hurt by Church

For those of you who are not ready to step foot in a church building yet, The Wartburg Watch and Wade Burleson of Emmanuel Church in Oklahoma have begun a new ministry:


Why eChurch?

"In our three years of writing this blog, we have become aware that a fair number of people have been so hurt and disillusioned by the church that they have dropped out of attending church altogether. After reading story after story about painful experiences, we don’t blame them. We both have been there.

Yet, many of these folks want to be around other Christians as evidenced by the numbers who visit blogs. Most of these have maintained their faith, but some have walked away or are seriously questioning if this faith is real.

So we wanted to provide a place in which a reader could get some of the benefits of church without the requirements that are often inherent in church attendance. We look at this place as a kind of halfway point between no church and church." ~TWW

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Gospel of Love

If you only do one thing today, watch this sermon by a pastor in California.  It is part of a series called "How to be a Good Christian and Other Religious Nonsense" which is a verse by verse series on the book of Galatians.


Friday, February 10, 2012

You Should Just Be Quiet

Please read Matthew Paul Turner's Me, troublemaker? post.

Over the last few weeks, my husband and I, like Matthew, have gotten many comments implying that we should not be talking about our experience at Mars Hill.  These commenters are knowingly or unknowingly employing the "Don't Talk" rule.

What is the "Don't Talk" rule?

David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen describe it in The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse like this:
"The can't talk rule has this thinking behind it: 'The real problem cannot be exposed because then it would have to be dealt with and things would have to change; so it must be protected behind walls of silence (neglect) or by assault(legalistic attack).  If you speak about the problem out loud, you are the problem.  In some way you must be silenced or eliminated." pg. 68

The authors point out that the people who talk about the problems don't CAUSE them, they EXPOSE them.  Johnson & VanVonderen

In Healing Spiritual Abuse by Ken Blue says:
"One of the most troubling abusive traits in the dysfunctional church or denominational family is the unwritten "no talk" rule. This rule implies that certain problems in the group must not be exposed because then the group might look bad and things would have to change. The "no talk" rule itself is among those things never talked about. Healthy groups thrive on the free flow of information. Members have ready access to each other's opinions and concerns. Sick groups generally suffer from confused, defective or controlled communication."

Most often, for my husband and I, it comes in one of the following forms:
  1. What you are doing is not contributing to the cause of Christ (so you should just be quiet)
  2. What you are doing is not edifying (so you should just be quiet)
  3. What can you do about it?  Pastor Mark is a big "celebrity" and Mars Hill is a huge influence on Christian culture.  You are just one person.  (So you might as well be quiet).  For fun, read  Judges 6:1-16
  4. I have had a wonderful experience at Mars Hill, you must have done something wrong. (So, please, just be quiet).
I have my moments when I feel like I should maybe, well, just be quiet.  I mean, what about the people who did meet Jesus through Mars Hill?  What about all the well meaning members who have nothing to do with all this?

And then I think of the people who have shared their stories, both publicly and privately.  Some have lost faith in church, some have lost faith in people, some have lost faith in God.  Some have lost family members, marriages, kids.  Most have lost dignity.

There are people who are afraid of retaliation!  Sometimes, I am one of them. This should not be happening in the church.  The human part of us should be able to see past our associations and have empathy for those who have suffered, even if it was at the hands of someone we love or an organization we are part of!

I am with Matthew when he says:
"In my opinion, Mark is one of the most influential “Christian figures” affecting today’s “Christian culture”. His reach influences various aspects of Christian life: church growth, ministry, gender roles in the church, relationships, and more. Furthermore, Mark proactively seeks to influence and nurture young male pastors, church ministry workers, missionaries, etc. If Mark’s theologies, actions, and church management style only impacted Mars Hill, I probably wouldn’t care. Well, I would care and certainly make note of it, but I wouldn’t keep coming back to it. But Mark’s “gospel” bleeds into and affects how pastors of churches all over the country (and world) are managing their churches and ministries, from missions to church discipline. His words affect how pastors teach and manage and control a woman’s role in the church, home, work, etc. If you think I’m crazy, go read a month’s worth of comments on his Facebook wall. These pastors watch Mark. They sometimes idolize him. Sometimes they hang on his every word. And it’s all intentional. Mark doesn’t accidentally influence these pastors, it’s his passion and calling. From what I’ve heard and seen, Mark wants to influence how churches all over the world function. And that’s scary in my opinion."

When we started looking for a new church, after "the shun", we went to church after church (not Mars Hill or Acts 29).  The first one was a bit far from us, and they asked us if we had heard of Acts 29 and that maybe we could find a church closer to home.  Then the pastor announced they would be implementing The City soon.

The next one we went to seemed fine.  We had been going for a few months.  We missed a few services, and later found out that one of the services we missed was preached by...none other than Pastor Mark.  A few weeks later they promoted his "Real Marriage" book as book of the week.

He is influencing all the Mars Hill campuses, 400+ Acts 29 churches, and countless other non affiliated pastors.  It is concerning.  It is harder to find a church, at least in our area, that is not a "fan" then it is to find one that is.

So, NO!  I WILL NOT JUST BE QUIET!  I am okay with being misunderstood.  I am okay with being labeled the "problem".  I am willing to lose a few friends. If telling our story and the stories of others helps one person, then it was worth it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Some Amazing Reading

I am super busy today...but I wanted to share some awesome blog posts I have been reading that I have found very encouraging!

I was validated by God's View of a Woman

I was encouraged by They Were Right About the Slippery Slope

I was deeply disturbed by Kidnapped for Christ

I was annoyed by Pastor Mark's Tweet (more on this later)

I was helped by When You Are Ready To Try Again: Going Back to Church

If you are a praying person, please pray for us as we make some important decisions!  The Lord knows!


Monday, February 6, 2012

Which Came First...The Berean or The Outcast?

I think most of us who find ourselves here can identify with both the Berean and the Outcast.  I was pondering the Bereans become Outcasts?  Or do Outcasts become Bereans?

Be·re·an  noun \bəˈən\

In the bible, the Bereans were the people who lived in the city of Berea (present day northern Greece).

Easton's Bible Dictionary describes Berea as:

“A city of Macedonia to which Paul with Silas and Timotheus went when persecuted at Thessalonica (Acts 17:10, 13), and from which also he was compelled to withdraw, when he fled to the sea-coast and thence sailed to Athens (14, 15). Sopater, one of Paul's companions belonged to this city, and his conversion probably took place at this time (Acts 20:4). It is now called Verria.”

In Acts 17:11-13 , Luke writes:
And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men. But when some Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, they went there and stirred up trouble. (NLT)
A Berean is simply a Christian that compares EVERYTHING they are taught to the Bible as the final authority.

Characteristics of the Berean:
  • She/he is eager for the Word of God (synonyms of eager: crazy, desirous, enthusiastic, excited, greedy, hungry, pumped, raring, thirsty, voracious)
  • He/she searches the scriptures daily (Doesn’t rely only on others for learning)
  • She/he uses discernment (He/she is not influenced by fame, prestige or influence of the preacher or leader, only the word, and judges things according to that standard)
  • He/she believes the Word, and influences others to believe the truth (v. 12)
  • She/he is willing to suffer for the faith (v. 13 and see below)

I recently read this old post, More Roles in a Toxic Faith System – Enabler, Victim, and Outcast, at  The Wartburg Watch  about the role of “The Outcast” in the book Toxic Faith by Stephen Arteburn and Jack Felton.

Outcast noun \out-kast\ defines outcast as:
  1. "a person who is rejected or cast  out, as from home orsociety: In the beginning the area was settled by outcasts,adventurers, and felons.
  2. a homeless wanderer; vagabond.
  3. rejected matter; refuse."
The Outcast (quoted from TWW which quoted the book):

"Of the five roles in the toxic-faith system, only one is not a religious addict or bound by toxic faith. In most toxic systems, someone can usually see the problem and confront it. Unwilling to play the games of the persecutors and co-conspirators, the person becomes an outcast.

The people who stand up for what is right and challenge the system lose their jobs, friends, and church. They become lone voices in the wilderness, crying out for change that will not come as long as the persecutor dictates power, the co-conspirators manipulate the system, the enablers allow it to continue, and the victims fall in line with blind faith. When outcasts surface, they are identified as TROUBLEMAKERS and pushed out of the system as soon as possible." (p. 201)

Characteristics of the Outcast: (p. 203)
  • Is not a religious addict
  • Does not possess a toxic faith
  • Willingly stands alone
  • Stands up for what is right
  • Is willing to be rejected by others in the toxic-faith system
  • Can discern right from wrong
  • Commits to leaders having integrity
  • Refuses to be victimized by false teaching and lack of integrity
  • Speaks out for truth
  • Usually loses a job within a toxic organization over concern for it
  • Suffers rejection by friends after challenging the leadership of those in the toxic-faith system
  • Often is treated as a leper
  • Is begged by others in the toxic-faith system to support the persecutor
  • Endures shame for actions
  • Refuses to respect or be manipulated by those in the toxic-faith system
  • Sees the truth and acts on it even if it produces great personal pain
  • Interprets reality for self
  • Is motivated to protect people from spiritual fraud
  • Is very dedicated to God and the people who seek a relationship with him
  • Commands respect of others for courage
"In a toxic faith system, no one is allowed to disagree.  If they ever try to speak out, they are labeled as complainers, negative thinkers, and not team players.  "Loyalty is equated with blind faith and complete agreement with the leader".  (p. 202) 
"Outcasts who challenge the delusion of the system are discredited immediately.  The toxic-faith system creates a lose-lose situation where the outcasts must give up perceptions of reality or be willing to face complete rejection.  Abandonment becomes the reward for trying to correct the ministry. 

Outcasts can interpret reality for themselves.  Even when their perception of reality contradicts that of hundreds and thousands of followers, they can clearly see the problems and press for solutions to those problems.  Outcasts are unimpressed by position or personhood.  They love God and want to protect his people and his institutions from spiritual fraud. 

Those who are so dedicated to God have little difficulty seeing others' dedication to ego and empires.  Yet they are forced to suffer for what they see because they refuse to watch people live a lie and abuse others.  No toxic-faith system can handle this keen insight and dedication to truth.  They must place their jobs and the church they love on the altar of sacrifice as they are forced to move on to a place free of toxic faith."  (p. 202)

I personally believe it can go either way.  My husband was a Berean first, and because he refused to submit to teaching that was not in line with the Word, he became the Outcast.  I think for me, it happened simultaneously!  As I began to question, I began to search the scriptures (Berean-ish), and soon became the Outcast as well.  I am forever grateful!  It is one of the most valuable life lessons I have ever learned, and I am a different (perhaps better) person because of it.

The authors of Toxic Faith offer this hope for us Berean-Outcasts:

"God honors those who are willing to sacrifice their comfort on the altar of what is right.  God has a special place in his heart for the heroes of a toxic-faith system.   Those who stand up for God and tell the world the emperor has no clothes will receive their reward sooner or later."  (p. 202)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Kevin Potts' Story

 I left in 2008 from Mars Hill Church. Their culture of abuse is frightening in its implications. Everything said on your blog [the Wartburg Watch], on Matthew Paul Turner's site, and on the Stranger is alarmingly accurate: the members are not encouraged to stand up to the leadership when it's acting with wrong motivations or wrong actions, they are told to remain quiet and to trust the leadership. There is no body to hold the leadership accountable to, and the church's authority structure is such that the only people to go to if you have an issue with one or more of its pastors is, unsurprisingly, another pastor. I can't imagine this being an environment, for anyone who takes a few moments to consider its implications, where anyone would feel safe expressing concerns about the leadership, let alone about Mark Driscoll.

For myself, my story is perhaps one of their earlier examples. At the time, I had been a member for nearly 8 years, having started at Mars Hill in 2000 and becoming a member just two months later with a much less rigorous membership process (which amounted to a quick 2-hour lesson from Driscoll on church leadership's structure, an indication of what being a member meant, handing out membership covenants to those attending, and letting us decide on our own if we wanted to become members). I had been having misgivings about the growth of the church and the increasing separation between the leadership and the congregation, but had largely kept this to myself.

Driscoll, in 2008, was preparing a sermon series entitled "Ask Anything", the intent being to set up a website where questions could be posted and voted on, with the top 5 questions (those that received the most votes) being the ones that Mark would build his preaching series on. Anonymous comments were allowed due to the software that was being used, and people used this to start bringing up questions about the firing of Paul Petry and probation of Bent Meyer that they felt they couldn't ask in the church itself, since they had been directly instructed by (then) pastor X, in an open letter to the members via the password-protected members' website (The City hadn't yet come into being, though it was close at the time), to remain quiet on the issue while the leadership worked to produce a unified document explaining their actions.
I made one comment on this site under the pseudonym of Kel, and had no further comments published. At the time, one person was using the title of "Concerned" in the comments, and was raising a bit more of a stink, though with some thoughtful and probing questions.
Around this time, I decided to transition away from the main Ballard campus over to the then-titled Wedgwood Campus, as it was geographically closer to where I lived (the campus became the Lake City Campus, which is now closed; its staff were largely absorbed into the Shoreline campus). I was serving as a stage manager in the morning for the Ballard campus, and had an exit interview with the head of the production department, XX. In this exit interview, a discussion of my discomfort with how the Petry/Meyer issue had been handled arose. I made a statement of "I have no interest in causing division. It would be easy to do so with how well connected I am in the church, but I have no interest in doing so."
This was communicated to senior leadership as "Kevin Potts indicated he's going to cause division in the church."
Shortly after that, I received an e-mail from the Pastor of Technology (and creator of The City). He asked me point-blank if I was "Concerned", the poster raising issues on the Ask Anything site. I indicated to him directly that I wasn't. A couple of days later he responded and indicated he thought I was, in fact, "Concerned", as that individual was making statements that echoed my exit interview with XX, as well as a statement I had made on the members' site in response to one member indicating it would be a shame if the leadership had to start tracking IP addresses between member posts and the anonymous comments on Ask Anything in order to figure out who were random posters and who were disgruntled members hiding behind pseudonyms. I indicated this wasn't a course that was wise to take, as there were people upset with the leadership, and such an action wouldn't engender the trust the leadership needed to get Mars Hill through the trying situation at the time.
This, according to Pastor of Tech, was me displaying an "unhealthy distrust for the leadership" at Mars Hill (eerily echoing the accusations levied against Paul Petry and Bent Meyer), and it was indicated that my membership was being put on suspension pending a meeting, as three elders had apparently concluded I was "in sin" (without ever having spoken to me first to hear my side of the story).
After much prayer and consideration, I chose to conclude my membership at Mars Hill Church. I sent an e-mail to XXX, as well as the then-head pastor of the campus I was transferring to. No "discipline contracts" were offered to me, as I don't think they'd have thought of something like that at the time. Some momentary communiques occurred between me and Pastor Q (who is now a Mars Hill pastor at their Albuquerque campus in New Mexico) shortly after both the Stranger and the Seattle Times had gotten ahold of me, as my name was on a list someone had circulated to those papers as people of interest to speak with regarding the truth, as we understood it, behind Paul and Bent's dismissals.
When I had spoken with Jonah Spangenthal-Lee from the Stranger, and Janet Tu from the Seattle Times, I had indicated in both instances that I didn't want my name used in their articles. I was still, at the time, living in a house owned by Mark Driscoll in Montlake, and didn't want my living situation jeopardized, as I didn't trust Mark or his assistant to do the right thing in light of this. In both discussions with the reporters, I only confirmed what they already knew, referring them to Mars Hill Church and Bent Meyer and Paul Petry for further discussion. Q eventually called me to find out if I was, in fact, the person who had spoken with the Stranger and the Seattle Times (and I doubt I was the only one who had), and I confirmed it for him, at which point he proceeded to lay a guilt trip on me, indicating I needed to go to the church and ask the forgiveness of the people I had harmed in talking with The Stranger (who he was sure to note to me "was no friend of Mars Hill, and no friend of Christ") and the Seattle Times.
Keep in mind I was already no longer a member at Mars Hill at this time, and yet he thought that he could still control me to the point of having me apologize to people I was no longer involved with in an attempt to repent of sin that it seemed he was the only one accusing me of, he and those he represented.
At a later point, Molly Worthen from the New York Times Sunday Magazine spoke with me. At that point all ties with Mars Hill were severed for me, and I would have suffered no ill consequences for speaking with her. I gave her my full permission to use my name in her article, which can be found at Curiously, she chose not to use my name, though on the 4th page of the article in the link I gave you, I'm the member she referenced in the third paragraph, the member who "complained on an online message board and instantly found his membership privileges suspended".
I was able to get out before they implemented the kind of behavior that Andrew is now experiencing. I'm horrified to hear he's experiencing it. Feel free to use my name and my story here (though you may want to remove the pastors' names, as I have no ability to authorize their use) in a blog post if it would be remotely helpful to anyone else who's going through the horrors of attempting to separate from Mars Hill Church.

Speaks for Itself

Based on the comment below, I have decided to remove the picture I had posted here (the kool-aid pic).  I removed it as I don't feel it contributes to what this blog is supposed to be about.  Understandably, I have my "angry days" and this was posted on one of them.  For those that don't know, the reason that many people refer to drinking the kool-aid specifically when it comes to Mars Hill is because of this Shut up and drink your juice box video.

However, the rest of that particular comment feels like another "You Should Just Be Quiet" comment, and so I invite you to read that blog post.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Letter to Our Sisters

One of the main reasons I am doing this is for the women who I left behind.  My heart breaks for and I continually pray for these wonderful ladies who did what was expected of them.  May you find your way to true life and freedom.  
My new friend,  Christine , has something important to say to our sisters at Mars Hill:
"So, to women within Mars Hill, or any other community, who struggle with pervasive feelings of guilt and shame, who find themselves confessing and repenting but never feeling any better, who struggle with wanting to submit to their husbands (or who perhaps find a relief in submitting out of a fear of their own competence), I offer this: You can trust yourself. There’s a strong Biblical basis for you trusting yourself. I believe that your discontent is telling you something important. I think your so-called sinful desires that never really go away are not actually sin, but the imprint of God, the voice of the Spirit you received at both birth and baptism, guiding you in that still and silent way towards true life and freedom. Many of your sisters and brothers in Christ have held this theology of self-love, self-trust, and original goodness throughout the centuries. It is as legitimate as the messages you hear from your pulpit, just preached a little more quietly.
Get to know your own wise and trustworthy heart. There will be times where your behavior is not in line with your heart, and other times when you act on your desires in a misguided and even harmful way, but the solution always lies in listening more closely to the heart, not modifying the behavior. The Spirit of God resides within you, the image of God is imprinted on you, so dig through the junk that covers it up, and pursue your own heart. And, let me know how it goes."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Kaelee's Story

My husband and I began attending Mars Hill at a very vulnerable time in our lives. We were newly engaged and had both recently moved out of our parents homes to start life in a big city. My husband's best friend and his wife had begun attending Mars Hill and loved it. They invited us along and we decided to go with them. At this point in my life I was surrounded by people that attended Mars Hill. My roommate was involved in a community group and they would be in our apartment often and pressure me to join. I had several coworkers who attended Mars Hill who very subtly would question my faith because I wasn't attending Mars Hill. I was very skeptical, but I also really wanted to fit in. I ignored my feelings and gave in to what people expected of me hoping it would help me avoid conflict. I was young, and I realize now how naive that mindset was.
       We were attending Mars Hill every Sunday but we weren't involved in any way. In fact I usually would subtly try and be late so we could avoid the, "Meet and greet" I felt so much subtle judgement every time I shook someones hand and told them that no, we hadn't joined a community group yet. I also saw fear in the eyes of others like me when they went to shake my hand and expected the same guilt trip for not joining a community group, for wanting to attend the church a few times and decide if it was the right fit. Every sermon was painful for me. It's really hard for me to explain honestly. I had been attending church since I was very young and with that church I had always felt a sense of peace. I didn't always see eye to eye with everyone there and sometimes I felt judged by other members, but it didn't change the fact that my heart felt like it was in the right place. With Mars Hill I just felt sick. The messages didn't move me like the messages at  my previous church had. The final straw for me was the sermon Mark delivered after going to Haiti for Earthquake relief. It really bothered me that he only focused on other churches during his trip. So many people were affected by that earthquake and he preached as though only other Christians there were worth his time. Then at the end of the sermon he yelled for 5-10 minutes about how people were not giving enough money to Mars Hill and if I remember correctly, stormed off the stage. The church I had spent most of my life in so far had never asked anyone for money. They didn't even pass around an offering bucket. We had a love box in the back and I never heard my pastor ask for money once. He would speak about projects they were hoping to undertake and how they were praying that God would provide the means, and God always did. After that sermon I talked to my husband (Fiancé at the time) and we both decided that Mars Hill wasn't the place for us.
       I wish that was the end of my story, but unfortunately it is not. At that time my husband's best friend and his wife were becoming more and more involved in the church. They were becoming members but we were still hanging out with them and everything seemed fine. Fast forward a month or so and this friend of my husband asks him out to coffee. My husband goes and comes back visibly upset. We go out for dinner where he tells me that his best friend had said that my husband loved me too much, was idolizing me, that I had gone off the deep end, and then started bad-mouthing everything Jeffrey had learned from a previous mentor in our old church. This was very hard for me to believe. I told my husband I thought his friend was just confused and even though his words were incorrect they were most likely spoken out of love. I told my husband he should listen to his own heart and tell his friend that he disagreed but not to let it ruin their friendship. They both loved and respected each other very much, I believed they could both move past this.
       Unfortunately that wasn't what happened. Weeks and months went by where we saw less and less of this couple, which is rather extraordinary since we lived in the same building and frequented the same coffee shop a couple of blocks down the road. Before this event the couple had named us the Godparents of their first child. They had helped us find our apartment. My husband got the job he has now with the help of his friend, and they still work together. The wife had designed and made my wedding dress. This wasn't a shallow relationship. We would text them and ask them to hang out and receive no response. I would see either of them in the halls of our apartment building and wave and they would awkwardly wave back and walk away with no attempt at conversation. I remember the Fourth of July last year we all stood on our roof to watch the fireworks. They were up there with their community group and ignored us when we walked past. At some point the husband did come over and talk to Jeffrey a bit, but I felt he did his best to ignore my presence, even when I spoke directly to him. After about five minutes his wife walked over and pulled him away without saying a word to my husband or myself. It was that night I realized it was actually over. They had cut us out because we didn't want to be a part of their church. I went onto Facebook to write a message to his wife only to realize she had removed me from her Facebook friends. I went onto Twitter and saw they had both unfollowed me.
       I don't want to act like I was a perfect saint during this time frame. I was at times a flakey friend, I would forget to call when I said I would or cancel plans last second. I completely forgot to ever write the wife a thank you card for my wedding dress, but had expressed my gratitude verbally numerous times. I looked at all of these things hoping to find something I had done wrong that would explain their actions, but it still never made sense. My value in myself was already dangerously low and I do believe these events helped the onset of my eating disorder. I am in no way blaming them, my eating disorder is my own personal responsibility, but when they looked at me and found me worthless it confirmed everything I had always believed about myself. I was worthless and I needed to find a way to become worthy. I shifted all of my focus in life to becoming thin. Thinking about anything else hurt too much.
       I am currently in recovery and it is going really well. I am happy now and no longer believe I have to hide my true self and feelings from people. I still have some anger for Mars Hill, but I am working on it. I am working on forgiveness. I don't know if I should try and talk to those friends ever again. I don't know if that would be helpful or harmful since it seems they have just gotten deeper and deeper in the church. I hope that someday there will be resolution or closure, but right now I just can't imagine how that would even happen.

Our Story

Here is are easy links to our story:

Sophia's Story

UnReformed's Story

The Stranger Writes: Church or Cult?

Brendan Kiley, writer for The Stranger (and indie newspaper in the Seattle area), addresses the question we have all been asking ourselves.

The Stranger Article: Church or Cult?

Dear Church: Shut Up and Listen!

Dianna Anderson wrote this over at MPT:

Makes me think of this: