ABC District Review Task Force: First Report

It’s Monday, November 23 and, as promised, the ABC District Review Task Force released its first (preliminary) report.

This is the group that – for all intents and purposes – is trying to get to the bottom of the organizational/institutional issues that lead to the collapse of ABC District’s finances.

Document: ABC Disrict Review Task Force First Report – November 23, 2015

I haven’t read it yet because it just came out. But if we both give it a read, then we can compare notes. More to come on this in a day or few.

 

Andreas Schwabe is editor and publisher of SolaGratia.ca, and an Edmonton-based multimedia & communication strategist and producer. His focus for SolaGratia is on administration, governance, and issues of faith. For clients, he writes or produces just about anything.

26 thoughts on “ABC District Review Task Force: First Report

  1. Rudy

    I think some of the most relevant insights in this report are summarized on pp. 8 and 9, as follows:

    “Clergy tend to be given the benefit of the doubt by laity. Research tells us that clergy in
    authority positions can develop feelings of arrogance, exaggerated confidence, sense of
    rightness, and feelings of omniscience. They can develop the sense that they have the bigger range picture in mind, know what is for the best, and know more than laity.
    People in the church have inherent trust in clergy, defer to clergy and authority, and are
    loyal to clergy leaders and the larger church. This loyalty means that group needs are
    subconsciously put ahead of individuals by people in the church – especially when bad
    things have happened to these individuals (like CEF/DIL depositors) at the hands of
    the church and/or clergy. The church typically unites against the those rocking the boat
    (like people demanding accountability) and these people can become scapegoats for the
    organization. Churches in general are not comfortable with dissent or grievances, and denominational churches are among the least tolerant. In Protestant churches, research suggests that the most common responses are denial that anything wrong has been done and minimization of the seriousness of what has happened. Protestant churches tend to encourage people to see the different sides of the story, forgive, and just move on. This is even the case, however, when very serious things have occurred. Shepherds do not accept correction as readily as the sheep; sociologically, they need to reestablish credibility and authority. The sheep find it disconcerting to have their shepherds and their pasture under attack; they just want everything to settle down. Processes then occur to neutralize those with grievances so that authority and solidarity are restored. Churches, church leaders, and laity are not following these sociological processes purposely, but are all nonetheless acting out predictable sociological roles. ”

    It may be difficult for this denomination to change going forward when it appears that the underlying problems which led to this have nothing to do with formal organizational structures, but rather with the mindsets of both the clergy and the laity. Changing organizational structures is relatively easy, but from what I have seen at my church, there has been no change in the dysfunctional mindset which would be necessary for any true growth and improvement.

    • I was just thinking about that very thing: we’re going to change our structure, but to what end? What are the objectives of restructuring? I’m inclined to think that we have two problems on our hands one is a perfectly good structure that’s been abused. Whatever the new structure, we’ll be subject to the same kinds of abuses unless we address the root causes of the abuses themselves are addressed.

      We’ll have a clearer idea of the higher echelons of church culture (and its trickle downs) when the final report comes in.

      • Darlene

        By now we are all aware of the level of dysfunction in the church. Structure may change but if attitudes don’t change there will be no improvement in function.

      • Rudy

        I just wish that I had heard ANYTHING from members of the clergy, besides Michael Schutz and Andrew Craig, which would indicate an awareness of the “arrogance” which has so clearly been laid bare here. Instead, all I’m left with is the image of a standing ovation for Don Schiemann at the Convention, and the delusional (and discouraging) tirade from Pastor Keith Reisdorf on the CEF Investors Forum — “First Lutheran Kelowna paid CEF/DIL over Two Million Dollars” (“Take note, such benefit to the depositors was on the backs of the good and faithful stewardship of folks like those who gather in congregations around our district trying at all cost to service their debt…” does everyone remember that one? If not, go to:

        http://cefinvestors.freeforums.net/thread/114/first-lutheran-kelowna-paid-dollars

        Without some serious pressure from concerned laity, this report doesn’t stand a chance.

        • Larry

          Most clergy who had anything to say were bullied into silence.

        • ANO

          Without some serious pressure from concerned laity, this report doesn’t stand a chance.

          This is bang on.

          The church needs a strong accountability structure that can’t be bullied into silence ever again.

          The scary thing for me is – if this is what was going on at ABC – what about the other Districts? Is the same kind of bullying-behind-the-scenes going on there as well?

        • ANO

          I just wish that I had heard ANYTHING from members of the clergy,

          Clergy have to walk softly in public lest they offend the powers that be and bad things happen to them.

          As the report documented, behind-the-scenes bullying and intimidation was definitely an issue for ABC.

          • nic

            As a concerned member of the Church who is applauding the Clergy who are the Bold and Truthful, what bad things happening to Clergy are you referring to ANO… so we can address them properly?

          • Larry

            I suggest that the Task Force now turn their attention to the pastors who were vilified, marginalized, and bullied by our district leaders so that your questions can be answered. Perhaps our own version of the “Truth and Reconciliation” process needs to take place.

          • Michael Schutz

            Larry, your post above that most pastors with something to say have been bullied into silence is a serious claim indeed. The Task Force is open to talking with people who’ve had first-hand experience with the culture of our District over the past few decades. We can’t reach out to people if we don’t know who they are, but we’ve set up a contact form on our web site at abcreview.ca.

          • ANO

            Pr Schutz – it won’t be that easy. People who’ve been traumatized by the church, bullied by their fellow pastors, etc. aren’t going to be all that eager to forget everything that happened and volunteer their situation just because there’s a contact web page.

            You’re going to need to construct a framework where confidentiality and protection is assured, make it clear that anyone who talks to you about this topic will be safe, and then set about working to find these people.

            And once you do start getting their stories, you’ll need to do something about it – preferably an investigation by a neutral party who has the skill and ability to call a spade a spade, no matter which side of the tracks its on.

          • Michael Schutz

            I get that, Ano. I didn’t mean for my comment to come across as callous, so I’m sorry if it did. I know there are a lot of dynamics wrapped up in this, and that we can’t simply think that telling a story that involves pain would be as simple as sending an email. At the same time, the larger picture of care is something that we can only play one part in. We don’t have the resources to track people down and provide the full amount of care that they may need while at the same time finishing our report process.

            As suggested on the other forum, maybe we can fit into a larger picture with all of this. The reality remains, though, that we are going to need to rely, to a large degree, on people coming to us, for the purposes of our report.

            Speaking personally, regardless of our report process, for anyone who needs to be cared for in this way, I want to help in any way I can. Not sure what that looks like yet, but the care needs to be there no matter what ends up in our final report.

          • ANO

            Pr Schutz – you didn’t do anything wrong, I was just clarifying what its like for the bullied people you want to talk to, and what they’ll need from you in order to resurrect the trauma they’ve experienced and relate their experiences to you.

            Take myself for instance – I use ANO for a reason – because I’ve been down that road and the people that traumatized me are still in positions of authority, the authorities that should’ve stopped what was going on – didn’t, and in fact complained behind my back after I followed the policy book and went to them for counsel! I have no other means of protecting myself while taking a public stance short of maybe hiring a lawyer – at which time I’d run straight into the “Christians don’t sue!” crowd… 🙁

            In my case – if you really want to help – then fight to establish a framework that can hold any lay or clergy member accountable for their action, and make sure it’s actually implemented and followed.

            In this manner good people would be protected, bad people would be corrected or removed, nobody in the church would have to live in fear of their “fellow believers”, and nonsense like CEF would never happen again.

          • Larry

            “Take myself for instance – I use ANO for a reason – because I’ve been down that road and the people that traumatized me are still in positions of authority.”
            Well said ANO, we are still in that scenario as we converse. Furthermore, the reconciliation process that is being initiated by these same people is suspect because it has the District’s hand prints all over it. Besides that, why are we using any “programme” when we have the best programme of all; God’s Word?
            To Pr. Schutz and other members of the TF. If you are seeking to begin the reconciliation process, in my humble opinion, the only way that process can begin is with the resignation of the current District President. That would be the one small step that indicates true humility and an honest willingness to begin the process of reconciliation and healing so sorely needed in this church. I will happily co-operate with the process if and when this happens.

          • ANO

            why are we using any “programme” when we have the best programme of all; God’s Word?

            Because to do so is to make the same mistake that District made – which is to mis-apply Scriptures to things it doesn’t apply to.

            The Word of God is the Power of God – about spiritual things.

            It’s not a detailed instructional manual about how people can get from “A” to “B” as God’s left that up to people to figure out.

            This is why we have psychologies and sociologists – to identify the kind of psychological injuries suffered by a breach of trust, to discover how people work through the process of restoring trust, and then use that knowledge to help others in navigating these more difficult aspects of their lives.

            The Word of God being the Power of God can do what we can’t do – which is forgive what would otherwise be unforgivable, and it certainly has it’s place – but not to the exclusion of using every other available gift God’s given to all people in the form of the knowledge of medical science, physics, business, etc.

          • Larry

            Sorry ANO, I should have been more clear. That did come across as biblicistic. My apologies. My point is that we don’t need a programme to guide us through what would essentially be a public confession of wrongdoing. Especially when the “programme” is a more marketable, kind and gentle version of what we find in scripture.

          • ANO

            The thing with violations like this is that – even if District to make a full and complete acknowledgement of their culpability, and every involved person signed over all their assets in restitution, and some accountability board found them guilty of egregious behavior and permanently stripped them of any authority in the church – it wouldn’t be enough.

            My experience was that this kind of violations left me severely damaged – particularly in my ability to trust anyone – including the guy in the mirror. If people I knew and thought I could trust could be lying to me like that for so many years – what does that say about me? And my ability to judge people? Who else is not telling me the truth? And how am I ever going to tell?

            And it doesn’t stop there – pain like that can’t be shut in, it’ll find its way into professional and personal relationships, and it’ll affect a person’s spiritual life. I consider myself a strong believer, and yet I spent a lot of time wondering “why?”

            People walking along this path can be helped along by people who are trained in such things, who can recognize what is going on, and bring an appropriate form of assistance or counsel to bear on the situation.

            We agree that confession and absolution are absolutely required, what I’m saying is that there will still be a need for counsel and a helpful ear to help the affected sort through all this for years to come. And that’s where a ministry that specializes in such things can be of great assistance.

          • ANO

            Nic – I intend to have an answer for you in due time.

    • ANO

      I’ve seen this kind of behavior before – the observations are bang on.

  2. Darlene

    Wow! The report speaks to unparalleled arrogance and underhandedness. Where was the moral compass of our pastoral and lay leadership? Why didn’t the new board members who were appalled at the situation blow the whistle on what was happening? How can any of the folks who allowed this and covered it up even consider themselves worthy of continuing in ministry and leadership? Oh wait, I think I answered that in my first sentence “arrogance”.

    • ANO

      A good part of this was a complete lack of a strong accountability structure to ensure that people behaved themselves.

  3. ANO

    Page 70-71 should make everyone who reads it see red. EnCharis was in default and would take 25 years to pay the principal, never mind the interest, so the auditor said that District had a significant liquidity problem, to which the Chair replied:

    “Our history has shown that we have the ability to raise money in CEF without places to invest” so the Chair’s opinion was that District should be able to remain liquid.

    Hey, we’re insolvent, if we were a bank we’d have been taken over by now, but we’ve got all those suckers out there who’ll send us money, so no problem!

    🙁

  4. Larry

    I love the comment: DP “spoke on the theme that the District should be thinking BIG. The power of the Gospel will work with all of us to enable us to act in this.” It seems that most of what transpired in the years following was a result of this mentality. It would seem that when all is distilled in this report, ego, coupled with a theology of glory created a perfect storm. Is this pointing fingers? Yep.

  5. mk

    Hi Sharon,
    The TF members are volunteers and didn’t get paid, so no worries on that account.
    We hope that our information helps you and others understand how this happened.
    mk

  6. Sharon Steinwand

    Well….103 pages, and what does it say? Right hand didn’t know what left hand was doing, left hand was sweeping things under the table, everyone was making mistakes, didn’t really see what was going on, but sure approved a lot of spending- clear as mud to this little person. Do I want to know the cost of all this???? Can sleep better without hearing, I guess. Does that mean I deserve what happens to my little piece of the pie? Maybe.

    • ANO

      Sharon – nobody “deserves” to have their trust breached and abused like this. Absolutely nobody.

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